While many of the Nag Hammadi books are highly esoteric in nature, some are very accessible to the everyday reader.
The Gospel of Thomas, for example, is a simple collection of the purported sayings of Jesus.
Many of these sayings are duplicated in the orthodox gospels, but some have a notably esoteric or mystical character.
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Thomas himself, who is known to the orthodox Christian world as "Doubting Thomas" for his skepticism concerning Jesus' physical resurrection, is exalted as the one disciple who truly understood the special knowledge imparted by Christ.
Scholars such as Elaine Pagels and others have concluded that the reason for Thomas' denigration in the orthodox gospels is that he had become a central figure for those Christians who stressed the teachings of Jesus rather than sacraments of the church and the doctrine of the Resurrection, which is not mentioned in Thomas' gospel.
Jesus, in this gospel, is not the savior, but the teacher of secret knowledge.
Other Nag Hammadi writings give additional insights into the nature of second-century Gnostic Christianity, its beliefs and traditions, as well as its struggle with the orthodox church.
The Gospel of Truth describes a Gnostic account of creation and the origin of evil through the fall of Sophia (wisdom).
It presents Jesus as having been sent by God to remove human ignorance.
The Gospel of Philip presents Mary Magdalene as the enlightened disciple who was most beloved of Jesus, fueling speculation that she may have been his wife.
The Apocryphon of John and other similar works describe Jesus reappearing and giving secret knowledge to the apostles after having spiritually ascended to heaven.
The codices are written in Coptic, although the individual works are probably all translations from Greek.