A group of 12 papyrus codices plus eight leaves dating from the fourth century and inscribed in Coptic. The manuscripts were discovered in a buried storage jar by fellahin (farmers) in 1945 some 10 kilometers from Nag Hammadi, and are now housed in the Coptic Museum in Old Cairo. Publication of the manuscripts, some of which are very fragmentary, was completed in 1977, but work on the texts is ongoing.

Three international projects—based in Claremont, California; Berlin, Germany; and Quebec, Canada—have been preparing critical editions of the texts. Many scholars believe that the manuscripts belonged to monks of a Pachomian monastery near the site of the discovery and were buried as a result of the proscription of heretical books by Bishop Athanasius of Alexandria in 367.

Athanasius’ letter was circulated in Egyptian monasteries and was presumably enforced by local leadership. The collection consists of 46 different tractates (some in more than one copy), most of them unknown before the discovery of the codices. All of the tractates are Coptic translations of Greek originals dating to as early as the second century or even earlier.

Most of the writings represent varieties of Gnosticism: “Sethian” (a), Valentinian (b), and other types (c). There are two texts from the Thomas tradition originally at home in Syria (d), three from the Hermetic tradition of Egyptian origin (e), and miscellaneous other writings, non-Gnostic (f). Closely related to the Codices in terms of religious content is the Berlin Gnostic Codex, which contains two tractates also found in the collection.

A complete inventory of the and Berlin tractates is as follows (with religious affiliation in parentheses according to the preceding categories):

  1. The Prayer of the Apostle (NHC I, 1) (b);
  2. The Apocryphon of (I, 2) (c);
  3. The Gospel of Truth (I, 3; XII, 2) (b);
  4. The on the Resurrection (I, 4) (b);
  5. The Tripartite Tractate (I, 5) (b);
  6. The Apocryphon of John (II, 1; III, 1; IV, 1; BG, 2) (a);
  7. The Gospel of Thomas (II, 2) (d);
  8. The Gospel of Philip (II, 3) (b);
  9. The (II, 4) (a);
  10. On the Origin of the World (II, 5; XIII, 2) (c);
  11. The Exegesis on the Soul (II, 6) (c);
  12. The Book of Thomas the Contender (II, 7) (d);
  13. The Gospel of the (III, 2; IV, 2) (a);
  14. (III, 3; V, 1) (c);
  15. The Sophia of Jesus Christ (III, 4; BG, 3) (c);
  16. The of the Savior (III, 5) (c);
  17. The of (V, 2) (c);
  18. The (First) of (V, 3) (c);
  19. The (Second) of James (V, 4) (c);
  20. The of Adam (V, 5) (a);
  21. The Acts of Peter and the Twelve Apostles (VI, 1) (f);
  22. The Thunder, Perfect Mind (VI, 2) (c);
  23. Authoritative Teaching (VI, 3) (f);
  24. The Concept of Our Great Power (VI, 4) (c);
  25. Plato, Republic 588A-589B (VI, 5) (f);
  26. The Discourse on the Eighth and Ninth (VI, 6) (e);
  27. The Prayer of Thanksgiving (VI, 7) (e);
  28. Asclepius 21-29 (VI, 8) (e);
  29. The Paraphrase of Shem (VII, 1) (c);
  30. Second of the (VII, 2) (c);
  31. of Peter (VII, 3) (c);
  32. The Teachings of Silvanus (VII, 4) (f);
  33. The Three Steles of Seth (VII, 5) (a);
  34. Zostrianos (VIII, 1) (a);
  35. The Letter of Peter to Philip (VIII, 2) (c);
  36. Melchizedek (IX, 1) (a);
  37. The Thought of Norea (IX, 2) (a);
  38. The Testimony of Truth (IX, 3) (c);
  39. Marsanes (X, 1) (a);
  40. The (XI, 1) (b);
  41. A Valentinian Exposition (XI, 2) (b);
  42. (XI, 3) (a);
  43. (XI, 4) (a?);
  44. The (XII, 1) (f);
  45. Unidentified Fragments (XII, 3) (?);
  46. Trimorphic Protennoia (XIII, 1) (a);
  47. The Gospel of Mary (BG, 1) (c); and
  48. The Act of Peter (BG, 4) (f).