[This] book acquaints the beginner with the topic of gnosticism and early Christianity and presents to the specialist some of the new frontiers their colleagues are exploring. For the beginner there is a concise introduction to gnosticism. It covers the issues of origin, literature, leading ideas, and possible links with early Christianity. Each contributor has prepared a preface to his or her paper that points to its salient features and explains how the essay fits into the overall subject of the book. --from the Preface
Ferdinand Christian Baur (1792-1860) has been described as "the greatest and at the same time the most controversial theologian in German Protestant theology since Schleiermacher." The controversy was epitomized by a nineteenth-century British critic who wrote that his theory "makes of Christianity a thing of purely natural origin, calls in question the authenticity of all but a few of the New Testament books, and makes the whole collection contain not a harmonious system of divine truth, but a confused mass of merely human and contradictory opinions as to the nature of the Christian religion." The contributors to this volume, however, regard Baur as an epoch-making New Testament scholar whose methods and conclusions, though superseded, have been mostly affirmed during the century and a half since his death. This collection focuses on the history of early Christianity, although as a historian of the church and theology Baur covered the entire field up to own time. He combined the most exacting historical research with a theological interpretation of history influenced by Kant, Schelling, and Hegel. The first three chapters discuss Baur's relation to Strauss, Möhler, and Hegel. Then a central core of chapters considers his historical and exegetical perspectives (Judaism and Hellenism, Gnosticism, New Testament introduction and theology, the Pauline epistles, the Synoptic Gospels, John, the critique of miracle, and the combination of absoluteness and relativity). The final chapters view his influence by analyzing the reception of Baur in Britain, Baur and Harnack, and Baur and practical theology. This work offers a multi-faceted picture of his thinking, which will stimulate contemporary discussion.
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.
Originally presented as five lectures at Union Theological Seminary in New York, this volume by F. Crawford Burkitt considers the origins of Gnosticism within the context of early Christianity and apocalypticism. Burkitt thinks that Gnosticism was an expression of ordinary Christianity in terms and categories that suited the science and philosophy of the day. He holds that if we can make our way through the unfamiliar imagery to the ideas that they attempt to express, some of these forms will appear thoughtful to us and will show kinship with some modern philosophical and psychological conceptions. To him Gnosticism was a Christian product, albeit a heretical one. Nevertheless, he views Gnosticism as a serious attempt to fill the void left by the failure of apocalypticism and the eschatological hope
Eighty years ago, Walter Bauer promulgated a bold and provocative thesis about early Christianity. He argued that many forms of Christianity started the race, but one competitor pushed aside the others, until this powerful "orthodox" version won the day. The victors re-wrote history, marginalizing all other perspectives and silencing their voices, even though the alternatives possessed equal right to the title of normative Christianity. Bauer's influence still casts a long shadow on early Christian scholarship. Were heretical movements the original forms of Christianity? Did the heretics outnumber the orthodox? Did orthodox heresiologists accurately portray their opponents? And more fundamentally, how can one make any objective distinction between "heresy" and "orthodoxy"? Is such labeling merely the product of socially situated power? Did numerous, valid forms of Christianity exist without any validating norms of Christianity? This collection of essays, each written by a relevant authority, tackles such questions with scholarly acumen and careful attention to historical, cultural-geographical, and socio-rhetorical detail. Although recognizing the importance of Bauer's critical insights, innovative methodologies, and fruitful suggestions, the contributors expose numerous claims of the Bauer thesis (in both original and recent manifestations) that fall short of the historical evidence. With contributions from: Rodney Decker Carl Smith William Varner Rex Butler Bryan Litfin Brian Shelton David Alexander Edward Smither Glen Thompson
The Secret History of the Gnostics offers long-awaited illumination on the mystical movement that teaches 'gnosis' - knowledge of God as opposed to unquestioning faith. Acclaimed author Andrew Phillip Smith delves into the myths and practices of this ancient movement, exploring its popularity during 2nd century AD, its subsequent decline under the weight of orthodoxy in the Church, and its present-day resurgence. Gnosticism has travelled a fascinating path - from the Manichaeans in Modern Persia between the 3rd and 7th centuries AD, to the triumphs and tragedies of the Cathars in Southern Europe between the 12th and 14th centuries, to, finally, today's Mandaeans in Iraq. However, as the author points out, the revival of Gnosticism extends further than these narrow sects, offering inspiration to a legion of literary figures, including Dan Brown and Philip Pullman. Gnosticism's emphasis on personal over organized religion, in keeping with the doctrine of the early Christian era during which it thrived, has found particular resonance with today's multicultural world. The Secret History of the Gnostics is not simply an authoritative account of one sect's practical beliefs and customs - it is, in effect, a manifesto, an appeal to those inspired by or drawn to the Gnostic faith not to forget its origins.