The Gnostics and the Interwar Crisis

The first thinkers we can find who probably did advocate complex Gnostic systems belong to the latter part of the first century AD, with a major efflorescence of activity in the first quarter of the second century – say, roughly between 70 and 130 AD. That chronology demands some explanation, but it does also offer [Read More...]

Asking the Wrong Question

I have been puzzling over the origins of Gnosticism, and we can certainly find some plausible answers to that issue. Jewish, Greek and Christian, (and possibly Persian), the building blocks were all clearly there. Perhaps, though, I have been asking the wrong question all along. Instead of asking why some people came up with that [Read More...]

Gnostics and Platonists

Although the origins of Gnostic thought are controversial, many of the core themes and terms undoubtedly stemmed from Greek philosophical thought, especially Platonism. That did not necessarily mean that early Gnostics were taking these ideas directly from Greek thinkers or schools, rather that they came from a Jewish (and emerging Christian) world that had long [Read More...]

Athens, Jerusalem and Nag Hammadi

Timaeus_trans_calcidius_med_manuscript

Through the celebrated discovery of many alternative gospels and scriptures, the word Gnostic has entered popular discourse almost as synonymous with bold or experimental religious thinking. Of course, the term Gnostic has a specific meaning as a movement, and one about which we now have a substantial body of written evidence. I have written recently [Read More...]

The Beginning of Wisdom

I have been posting on the subject of Gnosticism and its origins. By the early second century AD, Gnosticism was clearly in evidence as part the early Christian movement, but its history before that date is obscure. Undoubtedly it drew from multiple sources and influences, including Greek philosophical ideas and terminology, but we do not [Read More...]

Those Who Know

jerusalem.e.p100.300

Ever since my undergraduate years, I have been interested in early Christian history and Gnosticism. In the next few posts, I will talk about some of the things I have learned about Gnosticism, why it is so important, and some of the areas I am still trying to explore in my present book project. Here, [Read More...]

Determined

Rubens-Höllensturz

In his parable of the wheat and the tares, Jesus spoke of the Devil sowing evil in the world, so that good and evil grew up together until the Judgment. Such texts seem to provide solid support for doctrines of predestination, which are difficult to find in the Old Testament except through intense proof-texting. As [Read More...]

Creating Satan

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In the last centuries before the Christian Era, the Devil enjoyed an impressive rise both in his professional status and his assigned areas of responsibility. From being a minor official at the Heavenly Court, he rose to become a fully-fledged adversary of God, almost an anti-God, and like the deity he acquired his own institutional [Read More...]

Babylonian Baptists

I have been posting about the emergence of Christianity in Iraq/Mesopotamia, and its possible inheritance from sectarian Judaism. Other continuities from the older Jewish world lay beyond the realms of orthodox Christianity, and these likewise tell us much about the importance of those Mesopotamian lands. During the third century, Mani founded a Dualist-Gnostic religion that [Read More...]

Revolutionary Years 2

In a very short period in the second century BC – mainly between 170 and 140 – Jewish thought and religion changed swiftly and fundamentally, creating a world that is familiar to later historians from Early Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism. I have already described some of the scriptures that emerge from this world, but let [Read More...]


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