The Jung Codex

The so called "Jung codex" is one of the Nag Hammadi volumes, which was exported illegally, published in a very dilatory manner (while scholars were prevented from seeing it) and eventually returned to Egypt.  Details of the manuscript contents are listed with the other Nag Hammadi volumes.

James M. Robinson has given the following account of this process:

Acquiring Codex I

Baptizing the "Jung Codex" : Publication Delays

A subscription to the whole editio princeps of the Jung Codex would have cost circa $308.62. If only twenty-six scholars had subscribed in advance, they could at that rate have purchased the Jung Codex itself (35,000 Swiss francs was then worth $8,009). The scholarship of the editors would not have been included in this price, but the scholars who subscribed would have obtained for themselves and the rest of the scholarly world access and publication rights as much as twenty-three years earlier than was in fact the case (1952 rather than in installments: 1956, 1961, 1963, 1968, 1973, 1975). During that elapsed generation they would, rather than waiting to buy the scholarship of the editors in deluxe volumes, have been able to do their own scholarship in cooperation with that of the rest of the scholarly community (including, though perhaps in more modest dimensions, that of the editors).


On September 10-15, 1958 Walter Till was a houseguest in Zürich of Dr. C. A. Meier, erstwhile Director of the Jung Institute and himself an analyst. The occasion is a proposal by Meier, who is seeking to administer the publication of the Jung Codex, that Till take over the assignment to complete the publication of the manuscript, which for six years has been in the hands of three scholars who have only succeeded thus far in publishing some 17 per cent of it. For Meyer everything hangs on getting the complete manuscript published promptly, since he has given his word to the Egyptian government to return the manuscript and the editors do not wish this to be done before they finish editing it. Hence Meier has turned to Till. The day after his departure Till writes a thank-you note and expresses his willingness to be the editor. Before he mails the letter he has a dream and delays mailing the letter until he can write up the dream and enclose it with the letter.

Walter C. Till to C. A. Meier, September 24, 1958:

I am clearly an inhabitant of the beyond, and in fact of a section where I can be certain that nothing unpleasant can happen to me. Just to the side is a large square antechamber that contains no furnishings at all. On the far narrow side of this antechamber is a black iron door without latch. It has only an iron handle for opening and is the entrance to hell. The floor near the door is quite black; in the antechamber there is an unpleasant odor. An acquaintance of mine (a fully undefined male person) asks me whether I have already seen the large snake that they have in hell; one could also see it at the cinema. I say I have not yet seen it. He thinks he will investigate whether it can now be seen. He goes through the entrance door to hell. I go after him. When I come to the black part of the floor I note that the floor is very sticky; it is doubtless tar. So as not to make the soles of my feet sticky I float to the door, which is of course quite possible for me without further ado as an inhabitant of the beyond. I know that behind the door is a deep abyss. But beside the door it stinks so much that I make a hasty retreat. Immediately thereafter a young devil comes out of the door. He has on a formless sack-like white garment reaching from his neck to the floor, with an indiscriminate olive green print. He is holding some kind of longish object (branch with leaves?). In this way he is dancing around as if he were a violin player. He is followed by two further quite similar devils. They all hop around as if they were playing the violin. They are distinguished from each other only by the slightly different coloring of their clothing, which, however, is dark for all of them. I look inquisitively at the activity; for I know that they can do nothing to me. Then one of the devils touches me lightly with his "violin bow"-branch on my sexual organ. I immediately have the thought that I could thus lose my masculinity and become feminine. But the thought of this possibility produces in me such discomfort that I (also in reality) give out an unarticulated sound of discomfort and wake up. 

C. A. Meier to Walter C. Till, September 30, 1958:

Your dream has in fact interested me in the highest degree. Without being in a position, due to the lack of more detailed familiarity with the dreamer, to give an exegesis that would only be half accurate, I would nonetheless like to recall that the situation with the manuscripts could be rightly designated as hellish. Consider yourself lucky that for you as an inhabitant of another world these circumstances could no longer do real harm to you. 

Walter C. Till to C. A. Meier, October 10, 1958:

… Also it is pointless, for I hardly believe that the three envisaged editors will give up their rights. Please do not assume that this circumstance somehow annoys or embitters me. Truly I have more than enough to do and it can only be agreeable to me if I am spared a very difficult task.

Now this hangs together with my dream of hell, or better with the tentative interpretation that you have given to it. I must admit that a connection to this matter would not have occurred to me. But you may nonetheless be right. On this assumption you would be the man who wishes to show me the giant snake in hell, who even courageously climbs down into hell to see how things stand with this giant snake. The giant snake is the matter itself: an endless story such as one does indeed often designate as a "snake." Actually I have nothing to do with the matter and am only looking on as a non-participant. The three friendly devils would be the three presumptive editors. They leap about in lively fashion and act as if they play the violin, i.e., as if they were doing something, without really doing anything. I believe this would be a meaningful and possible interpretation.

Walter Till did publish a report on the problem of editing the Nag Hammadi Codices, in which he expressed quite clearly his opposition to the procedures in vogue: [Walter C. Till, "Die Edition der koptisch-gnostischen Schriften," in Willem Cornelis van Unnik, ed., Evangelien aus dem Nilsand (Frankfurt am Main: Heinrich Scheffler, 1959), 151-60: 155]

In view of the great amount of material, it is quite excluded that the committee members alone do the whole work. All qualified forces must be enlisted for the joint work. It is also not possible that a single publishing house handle the editions. For when one monopolizes these works, they drag through more than a century. … Only one may not of course be content with photographing, one must fulfill the objective of photography, namely, to make the photographs accessible. … From the viewpoint of easier sale and also to assure an appearance of the texts as rapidly as possible, the individual publications should not contain all writings that are in one manuscript, but rather each publication should contain one of these writings. For the same reasons one must separate the edition of the text and the commentary.

Though Meier’s plan to replace Puech, Quispel, and Malinine with Till as the sole editor of the rest of the Jung Codex did not materialize, He had been able to publish the four pages of The Gospel of Truth that were in Cairo and had been published in Pahor Labib’s volume of facsimiles. Meier was able to achieve a partial success, in that Till was added to the list of editors, with special responsibility for Coptology and the German translation, in the volumes that appeared in 1961 (pp. 33-36, these four pages), 1963 (pp. 43-50), 1968 (pp. 1-16), but he was no longer able to do this in the longest tractate, but had to be replaced by Werner Vycichl, 1973 and 1975 (pp. 51-104, 104-140, 143?-144?, actually through p. 138 plus the front flyleaf).   

The " Forty" Missing Pages: The Return of the Jung Codex to Egypt 

Professor C. G. Jung himself had no desire to restrict access to the codex. When Quispel brought the codex from Utrecht to Zürich and turned it over to Meier on the occasion of the public announcement of the acquisition on November 15, 1953, Meier took it home and wrote Jung to inquire whether it should not be put in a safety deposit box until it was returned to Egypt. Jung replied on November 21, 1953:

It would perhaps be still better if it were to be deposited in the Central Library, where it would be accessible for scholars who no doubt will interest themselves in it and where it would be as safely preserved as in a bank safe.

On November 26, 1953 Meier wrote Ludwig Fohrer, Director of the Central Library, requesting permission to deposit it there:

We have turned over the critical work on the texts and their translation to Prof. H.-Ch. Puech and Prof. G. Quispel. The work of these gentlemen has progressed so far that they no longer have need of the manuscript itself.

It is indeed ironic that more than twenty years later Kasser would argue that the Jung Codex should not be returned to Egypt since the editors (where he would of course have had access to it in Egypt) needed it in a bank vault in Zürich. After all, Kasser lived near Geneva, not Zürich, and worked regularly in the Coptic Museum in Cairo as a member of the Technical Sub-Committee of the International Committee for the Nag Hammadi Codices, where the "missing 40 pages" of Codex I were available, as would be the bulk of Codex I once it was returned from Zürich.

The Director of the Central Library replied on November 30, 1953 that the library was willing to receive on temporary deposit only items with a permanent public interest for Zürich, such as family archives, and hence would not receive the codex. It was put in a safety deposit box in the basement of the Leu Bank.

What other than the monopoly was achieved by keeping the Jung Codex in the Leu Bank vault until publication? The obvious advantage would be in having it readily available for whatever work with the papyrus could be more readily done in Europe than in Egypt, which would have to outweigh the obvious advantage of reassembling the two parts of the codex in Cairo. On July 8, 1961 Walter Till proposed to Max Rascher, the publisher, and to Meier, that "a really reliable, careful and experienced papyrus restorer" such as Rolf Ibscher or Anton Fackelmann work on both the Cairo and Zürich parts of the codex.

… to determine the structure, the construction of the codex: which leaves were once double leaves [i.e. sheets], which double leaves were quires. In this way, and only thus, could one determine unequivocally at what placeOm the [rpcess, I thought to myself, an experienced papyrus restorer would certainly succeed in placing the fragments.;

On July 24, 1961 Fritz Baumann-Jung, spokesman for the heirs of Jung, affirmed Jung’s stance:

Today, as always, the papyri are at the disposal of every scholar who wishes to see them, and I have never refused or discouraged taking a look at them.

To support my access to the leaves still in Zürich I had to negotiate via Kasser. The most I could get from him was permission to study the fibers of the material in Zürich, not the text itself, in view of the fact that I was functioning as Secretary of the Egypt-UNESCO Committee whose responsibility was limited to the Facsimile Edition and hence had only a codicological function. On this condition, he set up a meeting with Baumannn-Jung and himself in the basement of the Leu Bank. The examination, lasting somewhat less than two hours, was carried out on October 30, 1974. At my suggestion, Baumann-Jung agreed to write to the signers of the publication contract that, unknown to him, had contained a clause to the effect that the papyri would be returned only after publication, Kasser, Malinine, Puech, Quispel, Vycichl, Wilson, Zandee, and the Franke Verlag, asking for their consent to my request that the remaining leaves be returned now without further delay. He wrote:

The heirs of Jung, owners of these leaves, are quite disposed to consent to this request, if the signers of the publication cont ract of June 30, 1970 between the seven authors and the Franke Verlag at Bern do not see any difficulty in this step.

On November 19, 1974 Baumann-Jung wrote to me:

Messrs. Zandee, Quispel, and Wilson have agreed. Kasser and Vycichl make a few reservations. From Paris I have no reply, no doubt because of the postal strike. The Franke Verlag has not answered. … From one side there was even a threat that the heirs of Jung would have to bear the financial responsibility if the publication were delayed by a premature release. … I leave it to you to intervene perhaps yourself with your colleagues, if that seems right to you.

Since Baumann-Jung had received no reply from Puech and Malinine, and the Franke Verlag, and positive replies from Zandee, Quispel, and Wilson, the threat to the heirs of Jung could only have come from Kasser or Vycichl. Since however Vycichl had only been added at the last minute, and was not even listed on the title page as one of the editors, but only as an assistant, he could hardly have taken such a bold, not to say provocative, position. By the process of elimination the threat to the heirs of Jung had to have come from Kasser----the same person who had initially told me that the reason the Jung Codex could not be returned to Egypt was that the heirs of Jung were aware of its financial value and hence did not want to return it! About all one can do in such a state of affairs is to shake one’s head in dismay, not to say disgust.

He adds:

This (the Gospel of Judas) is the second time that Zürich has succeeded in acquiring a manuscript with a Gnostic Gospel not found in the New Testament. Already on November 15, 1953 the Jung Institut of Zürich had a public celebration of its acquisition of a fourth-century Coptic codex containing "The Gospel of Truth." The Director of the Jung Institut, Dr. C.A. Meier, "baptized" the codex on that occasion the "Jung Codex". It is no doubt as a flash-back to that occasion that the newly acquired codex containing The Gospel of Judas has been named Codex Tchacos.

Actually, Carl Jung himself had resisted the codex being named after him.  On Oct 27, 1953 he wrote Meier: "Es war mir nie geheuer bei dem Gedanken, dass der Codex auf meinen Namen getauft werden sollte. … Ich will nicht der Mittelpunkt der Feier sein, noch will ich, dass der Codex auf meinen Namen getauft wird." ...

A similar arrangement (of exemption from legal prosecution in return for returning the codex after publication) had been made in the case of the Jung Codex, in order for the Jung Institut to get publication rights on the part of the Jung Codex still in Egypt, where it was known as Nag Hammadi Codex I. After 22 years, on October 12, 1975, the Zürich leaves of Nag Hammadi Codex I were taken from the Leu Bank on Bahnhofstrasse and deposited in the Coptic Museum in Cairo. Only then did scholars worldwide get access to it.

I was the Permanent Secretary of The International Committee for the Nag Hammadi Codices nominated by UNESCO and appointed by the Arab Republic of Egypt. It had been set up to overcome the monopolies on the Nag Hammadei Codices, first by the French, and then, after they were expelled at the time of the Suez Crisis, by the Germans. The last monopoly to be broken was that of the Jung Codex, when it was finally published and only then returned to Egypt.

The person in control of the Jung Codex with whom I negotiated, on behalf of UNESCO and the scholarly community at large, was Professor Rodolphe Kasser of the University of Geneva, aided by a small closed group of scholars. It is the same Professor Kasser, now Emeritus, who has been entrusted with publishing the Codex Tchacos. As in the case of the Jung Codex, its return to Egypt and accessibility to all scholars depends again on his final publication of the editio princeps. Therefore both the Coptic Museum and the Coptologists of the world await with impatience that event.

When the International Association for Coptic Studies was founded in Cairo, it passed on December 17, 1976 at its Business Meeting a resolution to prevent monopolies, such as had plagued both the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Nag Hammadi Codices, from occurring in the future. To quote the minutes:

A resolution was adopted to ask the Board to contact the responsible authorities of the collections of every kind of Coptic source materials in order to reach agreement with them as to free access, at stated conditions, for all the members, and the best possible facilities for their study. The International Association for Coptic Studies went on record as opposing giving or receiving exclusive publication rights, after approving an amendment offered by Prof. Kasser to the effect that a period of grace of twelve months from the date of this resolution be approved for editors presently in the course of preparing an edition.

Present and voting in favor of that unanimous resolution were two of the three names on the title page of the publication of the English translation of The Gospel of Judas: Rodolphe Kasser and Marvin Meyer.

Drs. Kasser and Meyer are said to be monopolising access to the Gospel of Judas manuscript at the moment, unfortunately.


Otto A. Piper, 1958 review of Jung Codex publication. Theology Today 15.1 (April 1958) pp.131-135.

Constructive feedback is welcomed to Roger Pearse. Corrections and additions are very welcome.

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