Antony's letters and Nag Hammadi Codex I: Sources of religious conflict in fourth-century Egypt

Lance Jenott, Elaine Pagels

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations

Abstract

Scholars have explored Athanasius's conflict with other Christian teachers in Egypt who practiced "open-canon" readings and exegetical discussions on "the deeper parts of Scripture," and who encouraged their students to seek knowledge and heavenly visions apart from the parish clergy. Recent research has shown that many of these groups were not only urban study circles in Alexandria but also various monastic organizations throughout Egypt that admired the Alexandrian theological legacy associated with Origen and the teaching of such revered spiritual guides as St. Antony. By analyzing the tractates of Nag Hammadi Codex I as a fourth-century collection of Christian writings, and comparing its content with themes found in the letters of Antony, we find that the fourth-century reader of this codex, far from encountering teachings typically regarded as "gnostic" (dualism, docetism, a "world-hating spirit") would have found a number of themes strikingly compatible with Antony's letters. Finally, we discuss what appeal both collections would have had to monastic readers during the period of religious controversy that characterizes fourth-century Christianity in Egypt.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)557-589
Number of pages33
JournalJournal of Early Christian Studies
Volume18
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History
  • Religious studies

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