For the title of this review I chose an excerpt from "The Dialogue of the Savior" which belonged to NHC III,5. On my quest to better understanding 'gnosticism' I first read Andrew Phillip Smith's book titled, "The Gnostics". His brief treatise on the overall scope of what gnosticism is really all about provided me with a more concise understanding of this exhaustive, scholarly translation of the Nag Hammadi text.
This book is by far the most complete and in-depth translation to date and will probably never be equaled. Scholars such as Marvin Meyer, Elaine Pagels, Madeleine Scopello, Einar Thomassen and John D. Turner are just a few of the names involved with the translation of the Nag Hammadi scriptures. There is an array of backgrounds involved which ultimately provide very different interpretations of the text, but this diversity only helps the reader to draw his/her own conclusions as to interpretation.
One positive aspect to this book is decision NOT to guess what the translation might have been. Quite frankly, much of the text within certain tractates were severely damaged and/or missing. Instead of guessing or including what the text may have said, Meyer and others, merely let the reader know that much of the text itself is missing. This is, of course refreshing, as many modern translations of either other Gnostic or Essene texts, such as the Dead Sea Scrolls, authors will simply insert modern lexicons assuming that it follows suit to what we have today. Meyer and company don't do this, instead they provide a well documented, heavily footnoted, scholarly work. On many occasions, they provide un-biased opinions of certain words and supply the several meanings to what the word could have meant, allowing for the reader themselves to feel as if they are partaking in the translation.
Many of the text can be deciphered as being either Sethian or Valentinian (the names of the two 'truly' gnostic Christian sects). In the beginning of each tractate, an in-depth analysis of the text is provided, supplying interpretation and the dating of the text as well as to the importance of each.
One such text that doesn't perceive to have an origin is the Gospel of Thomas. It has no markers of being either Sethian or Valentinian and as some scholars have suggested, could very well be the 'Q' source that the Synoptic Gospels themselves are based off of. This is by far a minority viewpoint, but nevertheless, an intriguing claim.
This is a must have treatise to any library and it is clear that the Gnostics were well ahead of their time concerning "gnosis," or knowledge, they had achieved with interpretation of the scriptures, something they felt no one else had.