How reliable is the story of the Nag Hammadi discovery?
James Robinson's narrative of how the Nag Hammadi codices were discovered is popular and compelling, a piece of fine investigative journalism that includes intrigue and blood vengeance. But there are several different, conflicting versions of the story, including two-person (1977), seven-person (1979) and eight-person (1981) versions. Disagreements include the name of the person who first found the jar. Martin Krause and Rodolphe Kasser both questioned these stories in 1984, and their scepticism is corroborated by the Channel 4 (UK) series, The Gnostics (1987), which features Muhammad 'Ali himself, in his only known appearance in front of camera, offering his account of the discovery. Several major points of divergence from the earlier reports raise questions about the reliability of 'Ali's testimony. It may be safest to conclude that the earlier account of the discovery offered by Jean Doresse in 1958 is more reliable than the later, more detailed, more vivid versions that are so frequently retold. © The Author(s) 2013.
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