A modern town in upper Egypt. It is the nearest town to Chenoboskion, where texts relevant to the early Christian Church were discovered in 1945, two years before the accidental discovery of the first scrolls by the Dead Sea. These twelve papyrus codices are as important for the study of early Christianity as the Qumran scrolls are for Judaism. They are Coptic translations of the original Greek; their literary genres are diverse—sayings, prayers, apocalypses, and epistles—and their theological stances as they wrestle with the problem of evil are also diverse. But notably they (especially the Gospel of Truth) are evidence for a flourishing Christian Gnosticism in the area, though some of the texts are not Christian at all, and in some there is a strong Jewish input. One work, the Valentinian Exposition, is named after the Gnostic teacher Valentinus (a native of Egypt who died in Rome about 165 ce). The codices themselves were probably copied and translated in the 4th cent.
Among the texts is the gospel of Thomas, which gives alternative versions of some of the sayings of Jesus preserved in the canonical gospels, together with new material. Some scholars have recently argued that Thomas is independent of the NT gospels and contains traditions of considerable historical value.