Alternative Scriptures: Theosophy and the Esoteric Tradition

I have been posting about the widespread knowledge of alternative gospels and scriptures that existed in Western culture over a century ago, roughly between 1870 and 1930. Whether we are looking at Gnostic and esoteric views of early Christianity, feminist interpretations of the role of Mary Magdalene, or the influence of Essene doctrine, very few [Read More…]

Alternative Scriptures: Melville’s “Lost Gnostic Poem”

In 1891, Herman Melville published his final book, a collection of poems entitled Timoleon. I want to focus on one of these poems, which initially seems quite mysterious. But it can be understood, if we appreciate the prevailing historical views of the time about heresy and sectarian religion. I also want to touch on a [Read More…]

Alternative Scriptures: Gustav Holst’s Hymn of Jesus

I have been posting about the quite widespread knowledge of alternative and apocryphal scriptural texts in the early twentieth century, long before most non-specialists would assume that this would have been possible. Today’s post concerns an extraordinary example of this phenomenon. The First World War years witnessed a wonderful flowering of music in Great Britain, [Read More…]

Alternative Scriptures: Beyond the New Testament

Many believe that only in recent times have we rediscovered the extraordinary breadth and complexity of early Christianity, with all the alternative gospels and apocalypses, all the heretical movements that vanished before the rise of the Great Church. As I have tried to show, that perception is just not correct. In fact, the great age [Read More…]

Alternative Scriptures: The First Discovery of Qumran

As I remarked, the early twentieth century was a thrilling time for anyone interested in the Bible or early Christianity, and especially for “lost” alternative versions of the faith. New textual discoveries were appearing, and were having an enormous popular impact. much less well known is the strictly parallel developments that were occurring in the [Read More…]

Over the Border

For some centuries, Jews of the Second Temple era lived in a world that was definitely multi-ethnic and multi-cultural. That was true of course in Diaspora communities, but between, say, 200 BC and the 60s AD, Palestine itself was a mosaic of different ethnicities and religions. No Jew there had to travel more than a [Read More…]

King Jesus

A classic book can change your life. Oddly, on occasion, a much lesser and truly flawed work can have a similar effect. Over forty years ago, I read Robert Graves’s daring 1946 novel King Jesus, which a later publisher’s blurb characterized as “one of the most controversial historical novels of all time.” Not once was [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…]

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

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…]