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Ancient Gnosticism: Traditions And Literature Paperback – June 20, 2007

4.1 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"A useful introduction ... a judicious treatment of numerous thorny issues." -- Harold Attridge, Yale Divinity School

"A useful introduction...a judicious treatment of numerous thorny issues." --Harold Attridge, Yale Divinity School

About the Author

Birger A. Pearson is Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and editor of The Roots of Egyptian Christianity (Fortress Press, 1986, with James E. Goehring), and author of the forthcoming Ancient Gnosticism: Traditions and Literature (Fortress Press, 2007).
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 362 pages
  • Publisher: Fortress Press (June 20, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0800632583
  • ISBN-13: 978-0800632588
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #982,751 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Written by Gnosticism expert Birger A. Pearson (Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies, University of California Santa Barbara), Ancient Gnosticism: Traditions and Literature is an overview of all primary literary evidence for ancient Gnosticism, offering a crystal clear introduction to each writing, including the recently published "Gospel of Judas". Chapters cover the classic schools of Christian Gnosticism, Hermetic Gnosis, Manicheism, and the Mandaeans. Chapters are keyed to standard translations of Gnostic writings, including "The Nag Hammadi Scriptures: The International Edition" edited by Marvin W. Meyer, for easy cross-reference. Maps and recommendations for further reading round out this comprehensive introduction to who the Gnostics were and what they believed, accessible to religious scholars and lay readers alike.
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"A lucid summary of a vast body of ancient literature...One can hardly find a better guide to the various movements active in early Christian centuries and the vast array of literature that they produced." Harold Attridge, Dean of Yale divinity

Prolegomena:
"Orthodox Christianity was deeply and profoundly influenced by its struggles with Gnosticism in the second and third centuries," wrote Lance Owens, editor of The Gnosis Archive website. This may be evident, but Owens was misled by Walter Bauer's conclusion, of (Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity, 1964/71), that orthodoxy was just one of many forms of early Christianity, stating that "Gnosticism was, at least briefly, in the mainstream of Christianity."

Ancient Gnosticism:
Birger Pearson, one of few experts on early Christianity not taking Bauer theory for granted, pursued a unique approach to ancient gnosticism mystery that changed the conception of many, including some Copts who followed with fascination an aspect of their own culture, expressed in Alexandrine Neoplatonic religious fantasy. In his survey of the Gnostic traditions and literature, ancient Gnostic thought may have preceded Christianity, flourishing in B. C. Alexandria. Pearson's study of primary literature emanates from a non disputed platform, of the Chenoboskion Coptic library, discovered near Nag Hammadi. In the preface he recounts how he was hooked on Gnosticism after a seminar held in Harvard by Utrecht eminent scholar Gilles Quispel on the Apocryphon of James before its publication in 1964.
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Great overview in first chapters, then it is so detailed many will not enjoy it.
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I met the Gnostics through Hans Jonas, "The Message of the Unknown God", a book that left a profound impression on my whole way of looking at our religious heritage. Pearson's book, based as it is on the Nag Hammadi library throws a whole new light on this perspective,placing the Gnostic revolution in a Jewish context. It is interesting and eminently readable. However, I am personally convinced that the impact of oriental ideas, especially the doctrine of No God (what we term Buddhism) and the meeting of these, of Greek rationalism, Egyptian mystery cults, and Judaism are the ingredients that better explain the extraordinary appearance of the conception of the "unknown God". I'm only halfway through the book as yet. Great reading!
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