Christians, Gnostics and Philosophers in Late Antiquity

Mark Edwards, London: Routledge, 2012, 330 p.


Gnosticism, Christianity and late antique philosophy are often studied separately; when studied together they are too often conflated. These articles set out to show that we misunderstand all three phenomena if we take either approach. We cannot interpret, or even identify, Christian Gnosticism without Platonic evidence; we may even discover that Gnosticism throws unexpected light on the Platonic imagination. At the same time, if we read writers like Origen simply as Christian Platonists, or bring Christians and philosophers together under the porous umbrella of « monotheism », we ignore fundamental features of both traditions. To grasp what made Christianity distinctive, we must look at the questions asked in the studies here, not merely what Christians appropriated but how it was appropriated. What did the pagan gods mean to a Christian poet of the fifth century? What did Paul quote when he thought he was quoting Greek poetry? What did Socrates mean to the Christians, and can we trust their memories when they appeal to lost fragments of the Presocratics? When pagans accuse the Christians of moral turpitude, do they know more or less about them than we do? What divides Augustine, the disenchanted Platonist, from his Neoplatonic contemporaries? And what God or gods await the Neoplatonist when he dies?

(Text from the publisher)

Table of contents


Part I Christians and Pagans in Dispute: Quoting Aratus: Acts 17.28

Some early Christian immoralities

Justin’s logos and the word of God

Satire and verisimilitude: Christianity in Lucian’s Peregrinus

Xenophanes Christianus?

Pagan and Christian monotheism in the age of Constantine

Notes on the date and venue of the Oration to the Saints

Dracontius the African and the fate of Rome.

Part II Gnostic Thought and its Milieu: Gnostics and Valentians in the church fathers

Neglected texts in the study of Gnosticism

Pauline Platonism: the myth of Valentinus

The tale of Cupid and Psyche

Porphyry’s Cave of the Nymphs and the Gnostic controversy

Part III Christianity and the Platonic Tradition: Socrates and the early Church’ Origen’s Platonism: questions and caveats

Ammonius, teacher of Origen

Birth, death and divinity in Porphyry’s Life of Plotinus

Porphyry and the intelligible triad

The figure of love in Augustine and in Proclus the neoplatonist



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