Thirteen fragments from a papyrus manuscript in the Yale University library have been identified as belonging to Egypt's ancient Gnostic Library of Nag Hammadi, which scholars rank alongside the Dead Sea Scrolls in providing information on the early history of Christianity.
Stephen Emmel, a graduate student in Yale's Department of Religious Studies, recognized the handwriting on a number of small pieces of papyrus in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. "I was astounded," said Emmel. "I had absolutely no idea they'd be there." Emmel was able to identify the Yale fragments as belonging to Codex III of the 13 books.
The 4th century books were found in 1945 by peasants digging in the desert near Nag Hammad. The manuscripts were sold to dealers, but as the significance of the books became known, the Department Antiquities in Egypt attempted to recover the pages. The books -- nearly completed and seven in fragments -- are in the Coptic Museum in Cairo.
The Yale discovery restores most of the text of two pages that otherwise were unintelligible.
The text of Codex III, to which the Yale fragments contribute, is called the "Dialogue of the Savior." It presents a conversation between Jesus and some of his disciples.
Gnostic teachings clash with crucial sections of the Bible, and the Nag Hammadi codices apparently were buried about 400 A.D. because they were considered heretical by orthodox Christians.