PUECH, HENRI-CHARLES (1902-1986)
Born at Montpellier (Hérault), France, chairman of the history of the early church and patristics in the section of religious sciences at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes (Sorbonne) for forty-two years (1930-1972), and for twenty years (1952-1972) that of the history of religions at the Collège de France. Puech’s contribution to Coptic studies relates essentially to Manichaeanism and gnosis, domains in which he was the undisputed master in his generation. His book Le manichéisme, son fondateur, sa doctrine (Paris, 1949), remains a fundamental work. In it, in addition to the classical sources and the documents discovered in Central Asia, he used the Coptic Manichaean texts discovered about 1930 in the Fayyum.
When it became known that a library of Coptic Gnostic writings had been discovered near Nag Hammadi in the winter of 1945-1946, Puech immediately realized its importance, and set out to make these new writings known and ensure their publication. In 1950, in Coptic Studies in Honor of Walter Ewing Crum, he presented the first inventory of them and attempted to identify each of these texts (“Les nouveaux écrits gnostiques découverts en Haute Egypte,” pp. 91-154).
Puech was a member of the international committee that, under the auspices of UNESCO, undertook the facsimile edition of the Nag Hammadi codices, and was also a member of the editorial board. He collaborated in the editing of the documents in Codex I, then called the Jung Codex, published by Rascher of Zurich: Evangelium veritatis (1956; Supplementum, 1961), De resurrectione (1963), Epistula Iacobi apocrypha (1968), and Tractatus tripartitus (1973, 1975).
Puech was involved in the edition of the Gospel of Thomas, a document from Codex II (Leiden, 1959). Of interest to Coptologists, since it concerns a number of writings preserved in Coptic, is his contribution to the third edition, edited by W. Schneemelcher, of E. Hennecke’s Neutestamentliche Apokryphen (Vol. 1, Tübingen, 1959; English ed., ed. R. McL. Wilson, New Testament Apocrypha, 1963): the section “Gnostic Gospels and Related Documents” was drawn up by him (pp. 158-271; English ed., pp. 231-362).
Puech’s principal articles relating to gnosis and Manichaeanism are collected in three volumes: Enquête de la gnose (2 vols.) and Sur le manichéisme et autres essais (Paris, 1978 and 1979).