The Gnostic Bible

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A landmark work of scholarship and literary translation, The Gnostic Bible presents the most significant and beautiful sacred texts of gnostic mysticism. The gnostics were religious thinkers who believed that salvation is found through mystical knowledge and personal religious experience. Gnostic writings offer striking perspectives on both early Christian and non-Christian thought.

Dating from the first to the thirteenth centuries, the selections in this volume represent ...

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Overview

A landmark work of scholarship and literary translation, The Gnostic Bible presents the most significant and beautiful sacred texts of gnostic mysticism. The gnostics were religious thinkers who believed that salvation is found through mystical knowledge and personal religious experience. Gnostic writings offer striking perspectives on both early Christian and non-Christian thought.

Dating from the first to the thirteenth centuries, the selections in this volume represent Jewish, Christian, Hermetic, Mandaean, Manichaean, Islamic, and Cathar forms of gnostic spirituality, and their sources include Egypt, the Greco-Roman world, the Middle East, Syria, Iraq, China, and France. These texts show that gnosticism was a world religion that sought truths in a wide variety of traditions and expressed those truths in powerful and provocative mystical poetry and prose. This is the first time that such a diverse collection of ancient gnostic texts has been published in a single volume, and many of the texts have never before been translated into English.

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Editorial Reviews

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This 880-page compilation is the most comprehensive collection of Gnostic writings ever assembled. Poet/translator Willis Barnstone and Christian scholar Marvin Meyer have combined to present an anthology of Gnostic primary sources that cover 13 centuries. The Gnostic Bible represents the diversity and sometimes the contradictions of this divergent faith.
Library Journal
Poet and translator Barnstone and Meyer (Bible & Christian studies, Chapman Univ.) have joined forces to present a large collection of gnostic source literature. The nature and beliefs of gnosticism are hotly debated. Michael Williams (Rethinking Gnosticism) and Karen L. King (What Is Gnosticism?) have argued for the abandonment of the label as something artificially applied by Christian orthodoxy to heretical movements with widely varying beliefs. Others, including the editors of this volume, argue that certain specific ideas distinguish beliefs of the gnostic religions: salvation through knowledge and enlightened living, wisdom personified as a character in a cosmic drama, and dualistic creation stories positing a higher God of the spirit and a lower demiurge who created the physical world. Meyer's introduction presents highlights of this debate. The selection of texts that follows (most elegantly translated by Barnstone) ranges across two millennia and various cultures. Each work, some translated into English for the first time, is accompanied by a clear introduction and synopsis. This is an important sampler of relatively unknown spiritual literature. The publication by Shambhala gives an underlying sense of credence to the contents as, in Meyer's words, a "sacred literature attractive to free spirits." Recommended for all libraries with an audience interested in religions, alternative spirituality, and early Christianity.-William P. Collins, Library of Congress Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781570622427
  • Publisher: Shambhala Publications, Inc.
  • Publication date: 12/2/2003
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Pages: 880
  • Product dimensions: 6.51 (w) x 9.47 (h) x 2.08 (d)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2004

    Ancient Aquifers Resurface Again

    This book presents in one comprehensive volume a fascinating mixture of spiritual literatures that once rivalled what we now know and accept as orthodox Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Though I have not had time to read the whole volume yet, I have read the two main introductions and the epilogue closely, and plan on reading them again. They are models of detailed, accessible and articulate scholarship and have opened my eyes to the complexity, breadth and relevance of this ancient river of mystical and metaphysical wisdom that was driven underground so many centuries ago. I had heard of the Gnostic texts over the years, but had never approached them before. I am not Christian, Jewish or Muslim, but I am a practicing poet and translator with a deep interest in the mystical and sacred literatures of the world and in the Bible for its beautiful language, its millenia-long influence on our culture and civilization, and its equally long and fascinating history as a compedium of both sacred wisdom and literary styles. What this volume has borne home to me is how open to interpretation the Christian teachings were during the first three or four centuries of their existence. What I have come to accept as the main Christian tenets and beliefs were by no means the only approaches to this then radical spiritual teaching. In fact, there was a time when the Gnostic teachings were more widespread than the now orthodox version. Amazing!! What has become established as nearly irrefutable doctrine for true believers was created by repression and book-burning out of a much more fluid and diverse set of myths, legends, narratives and mystical teachings. I look forward to delving deeply into these readings, which will no doubt send me back to the Bible in its various translations to compare and contrast. I am an ardent admirer of Willis Barnstone. He is one of our master poets and translators and has rendered so many diverse poetries from world literature into lucid, poetic English that our debt to him will continue for generations. I am not familiar with Mr. Meyer¿s work, but look forward with eagerness to reading his translations as well. My impression of this book is that it is a perfect blend of art and scholarship. As Mr. Barnstone persuasively argues in his essay, 'Letting in the Light: Translating Holy Texts,' these texts need to sing as well as communicate their wisdom. That astute aphorist and commentator on the art of translation, Pierre Grange, says it all in the epigraph to this essay: 'Spiritual and mystical literatures survive on the fire of art. Without the fire the new word is dead.' I don¿t know if the word is ever entirely dead without the fire of art, but it is certainly dampened and obscured without it. Mr. Barnstone and Mr. Meyer, following Grange¿s dictum, have definitely rekindled the fires of art for these ancient literatures, presenting them in cogent and lyrical form for one of the uninitiated like me. I can¿t think of a better introduction to this material. This is definitely a volume to study, re-read and cherish.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted August 9, 2009

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