The Gnostics: Myth, Ritual, and Diversity in Early Christianity

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Overview

Who were the Gnostics? And how did the Gnostic movement influence the development of Christianity in antiquity? Is it true that the Church rejected Gnosticism? This book offers an illuminating discussion of recent scholarly debates over the concept of “Gnosticism” and the nature of early Christian diversity. Acknowledging that the category “Gnosticism” is flawed and must be reformed, David Brakke argues for a more careful approach to gathering evidence for the ancient Christian movement known as the Gnostic school of thought. He shows how Gnostic myth and ritual addressed basic human concerns about alienation and meaning, offered a message of salvation in Jesus, and provided a way for people to regain knowledge of God, the ultimate source of their being.

Rather than depicting the Gnostics as heretics or as the losers in the fight to define Christianity, Brakke argues that the Gnostics participated in an ongoing reinvention of Christianity, in which other Christians not only rejected their ideas but also adapted and transformed them. This book will challenge scholars to think in news ways, but it also provides an accessible introduction to the Gnostics and their fellow early Christians.

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Editorial Reviews

Choice
Perhaps the finest aspect of this book is the way that Brakke successfully nuances the conflict models of early Christian history that remain current in most introductory texts. Rather than merely keying students to the varieties of early Christianity, Brakke introduces beginners to a more open narrative that has emerged recently. This model focuses on the agonistic production of orthodox and heterodox identities through processes of textual production, interpretation, ritual, and so forth. Brakke accomplishes this through a style that is lucid without falling into oversimplification.
— J. Schott
Times Literary Supplement
Brakke has a growing reputation for his studies on the history and literature of ancient Christianity, and he moves easily among the sources, making good sense of the sometimes scanty evidence...The Gnostics is a book to be warmly commended to those who have an interest in the development of Christianity.
— Nicholas King, SJ
Times Literary Supplement

Brakke has a growing reputation for his studies on the history and literature of ancient Christianity, and he moves easily among the sources, making good sense of the sometimes scanty evidence...The Gnostics is a book to be warmly commended to those who have an interest in the development of Christianity.
— Nicholas King, SJ

Choice

Perhaps the finest aspect of this book is the way that Brakke successfully nuances the conflict models of early Christian history that remain current in most introductory texts. Rather than merely keying students to the varieties of early Christianity, Brakke introduces beginners to a more open narrative that has emerged recently. This model focuses on the agonistic production of orthodox and heterodox identities through processes of textual production, interpretation, ritual, and so forth. Brakke accomplishes this through a style that is lucid without falling into oversimplification.
— J. Schott

Denise Buell
Not since Elaine Pagels's ground-breaking and best-selling The Gnostic Gospels (1979) has there been a work that communicates so clearly the content and significance of the "Gnostics" for our understanding of early Christian history. The public and the academy need The Gnostics.
Stephen Davis
A model for how to engage in careful social historical reconstruction.
Times Literary Supplement - Nicholas King
Brakke has a growing reputation for his studies on the history and literature of ancient Christianity, and he moves easily among the sources, making good sense of the sometimes scanty evidence...The Gnostics is a book to be warmly commended to those who have an interest in the development of Christianity.
Choice - J. Schott
Perhaps the finest aspect of this book is the way that Brakke successfully nuances the conflict models of early Christian history that remain current in most introductory texts. Rather than merely keying students to the varieties of early Christianity, Brakke introduces beginners to a more open narrative that has emerged recently. This model focuses on the agonistic production of orthodox and heterodox identities through processes of textual production, interpretation, ritual, and so forth. Brakke accomplishes this through a style that is lucid without falling into oversimplification.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674046849
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 1/1/2011
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 180
  • Sales rank: 1,130,843
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

David Brakke is Professor of Religious Studies, Indiana University.

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Table of Contents

Preface ix

Abbreviations xiii

1 Imagining "Gnosticism" and Early Christianities 1

2 Identifying the Gnostics and Their Literature 29

3 The Myth and Rituals of the Gnostic School of Thought 52

4 Unity and Diversity in Second-Century Rome 90

5 Strategies of Self-Differentiation 112

Notes 141

Selected Bibliography of Primary Sources in Translation 155

Index 157

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