Gnostic Religion in Antiquity

Roelof van den Broek, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013


Gnostic religion is the expression of a religious worldview which is dominated by the concept of Gnosis, an esoteric knowledge of God and the human being which grants salvation to those who possess it. Roelof van den Broek presents here a fresh approach to the gnostic current of Late Antiquity within its historical and religious context, based on sources in Greek, Latin and Coptic, including discussions of the individual works of preserved gnostic literature. Van den Broek explores the various gnostic interpretations of the Christian faith that were current in the second and third centuries, whilst showing that despite its influence on early Christianity, gnostic religion was not a typically Christian phenomenon. This book will be of interest to theologians, historians of religion, students and scholars of the history of Late Antiquity and early Christianity, as well as specialists in ancient gnostic and hermetic traditions.

(Text from the publisher)

Table of contents

Preface page vii

List of abbreviations viii

1 Gnosis and gnostic religion 1

2 Gnostic literature I: tradition 13

The Greek tradition 13

The Coptic tradition 16

3 Gnostic literature II: texts 25

Classification 25

Non-gnostic or hardly gnostic writings in gnostic collections 29

The Gospel of Thomas and related texts 37

The Barbelo myth and the gnostic exegesis of Genesis 44

The Barbelo myth and heavenly journeys 71

Valentinian texts 91 Polemical texts 108

Other mythological traditions 116

4 Anti-gnostic literature 126

Irenaeus 126 Hippolytus 129

Epiphanius 132

Plotinus and his pupils 133

5 Gnosis: essence and expressions 136

The gnostic experience 136

God and his world 150

Mankind and its world 168

Salvation 184

6 Backgrounds

206 The quest for the source

206 Greek philosophy (Platonism)

207 Judaism 211

Christianity 220

The spirit of the age 226

Bibliography 232

Index of ancient sources 248

Index of names and subjects 253


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