From Qumran to the Gnostics

I have been describing the emergence of some key ideas of sectarian Judaism that continue into Christianity, and to some extent in Rabbinic Judaism. My argument is that the era in which those ideas appear, roughly the last two centuries BC, is one of the most creative and influential in Western religious thought. Many of [Read More...]

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...]

Gnostics and Other Christians

It is very difficult to find much evidence of Gnosticism before the start of the second century, and the earlier traces seem strictly confined geographically. In admittedly simplistic form, I want to explore some of the implications of this. (For present purposes, I am taking a very broad definition of Gnosticism). A Christian Heresy? Early [Read More...]

Dating the Gnostics

In recent posts on Gnosticism, I have been tracing possible linkages with older Jewish movements. To understand some of these connections, it helps to have a chronology of Gnostic ideas and movements, something which is not as straightforward as we might think. And if we don’t know when these ideas arose, then it is very [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...]

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...]

Seth and the Alien God

Plotinos

The origins of Gnosticism are normally discussed in terms of debates within Christianity. However, one richly informative conflict occurred beyond the familiar realm of church history. One of the great minds of Late Antiquity was the Egyptian-born philosopher Plotinus, the leading figure of Neoplatonism, and a younger contemporary of Origen. Around the year 263, in [Read More...]

SHENOUTE AND THE GNOSTICS

NagHammadiCodices

I described the Egyptian monk Shenoute and his fierce wars for orthodoxy in the fourth and fifth centuries. If we look at his struggles against Egypt’s still continuing Gnostic movement, it helps us understand the context of many of the key books and documents that have surfaced in modern times, revolutionzing our understanding of early [Read More...]


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