What is Gnosticism?

Harvard University Press, 2005 - 343 pages

A distinctive Christian heresy? A competitor of burgeoning Christianity? A pre-Christian folk religion traceable to "Oriental syncretism"? How do we account for the disparate ideas, writings, and practices that have been placed under the Gnostic rubric? To do so, Karen King says, we must first disentangle modern historiography from the Christian discourse of orthodoxy and heresy that has pervaded--and distorted--the story.

Exciting discoveries of previously unknown ancient writings--especially the forty-six texts found at Nag Hammadi in 1945--are challenging historians of religion to rethink not only what we mean by Gnosticism but also the standard account of Christian origins. The Gospel of Mary and The Secret Book of John, for example, illustrate the variety of early Christianities and are witness to the struggle of Christians to craft an identity in the midst of the culturally pluralistic Roman Empire. King shows how historians have been misled by ancient Christian polemicists who attacked Gnostic beliefs as a "dark double" against which the new faith could define itself. Having identified past distortions, she is able to offer a new and clarifying definition of Gnosticism. Her book is thus both a thorough and innovative introduction to the twentieth-century study of Gnosticism and a revealing exploration of the concept of heresy as a tool in forming religious identity.


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LibraryThing Review

Avis d'utilisateur  - William345 - LibraryThing

This is sort of wonderful. King follows the ancient polemical and modern scholarly views of Gnosticism down through the ages. Her main point is that the late 19th-early 20th century scholars for the ... Consulter l'avis complet

LibraryThing Review

Avis d'utilisateur  - worldsedge - LibraryThing

This book was more a review of the academic controversies surrounding Gnosticism than an actual discussion of Gnostic beliefs. On that basis it went way over my head. Still, it was very well ... Consulter l'avis complet

Table des matières

Why Is Gnosticism So Hard to Define?
Gnosticism as Heresy
Adolf von Harnack and the Essence of Christianity
The History of Religions School
Gnosticism Reconsidered
After Nag Hammadi I Categories and Origins
After Nag Hammadi II Typology
The End of Gnosticism?
Note on Methodology
Droits d'auteur

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Expressions et termes fréquents

Fréquemment cités

Page xiv - Men can do nothing without the make-believe of a beginning. Even Science, the strict measurer, is obliged to start with a make-believe unit, and must fix on a point in the stars' unceasing journey when his sidereal clock shall pretend that time is at Nought.
Page xiv - No retrospect will take us to the true beginning; and whether our prologue be in heaven or on earth, it is but a fraction of that all-presupposing fact with which our story sets out.

À propos de l'auteur (2005)

Karen L. King is Hollis Professor of Divinity at Harvard Divinity School.

Informations bibliographiques