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Ancient Gnosticism: Traditions And Literature Paperback – June 20, 2007
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"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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"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."
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.
After introducing Gnosticism, through quotations of early Church fathers, its famous teachers, and recorded 'heresies,' the author, proceeds with a lucid selection of the Gnostic writings from the book of Allogenes all the way to the Codex Tchacos, part of which became a recent best seller as the 'Gospel of Judas.' In his procession through the vast array of breath taking literature, he captures the reader's imagination in a tour de force of Gnostic fantasy.
In the Epilogue, Pearson describes 'The persistence of Gnosticism,' as his evident conclusion on manifestations of ancient Gnosticism survival, from Herod's Syria/Palestine to the contemporary Iran. He even posts a recent wedding photo of Mandaeans remnants taken on the banks of Karun river in Ahwaz, that brings them back to life as a surviving relic of ancient Gnosis.
Birger Pearson is an outstanding Coptologist, and a leading expert on Gnostic literature. His books, The roots of Egyptian Christianity and 'Gnosticism, Judaism, and Egyptian Christianity' offer clues to the roots of Coptic Monasticism by its Jewish Therapeutae founders.