Thursday, November 12, 2009

What is Gnosticism?

How much do you know about Gnosticism? This question is a little more difficult than what it first appears. While many would say Gnosticism goes back to the beginning of the current era (first century), its roots probably go back much further. There are different groups of Gnostics, each of which contain diverse subgroups.

I first became interested in Gnosticism when I learned its basic definition as “inner knowing”. As I strove to better understand its foundations, I found great diversity of tradition and belief. Some may be aware that in the early days of Christianity, the Council of Nicea excluded and even destroyed many of the early Christian Gnostic ideas and texts.

Carl Jung was one of the modern students of the Gnostics with the finding of the Nag Hammadi texts and the Dead Sea Scrolls. His studies along with modern scholars such as Elaine Pagels and Karen King have brought this early development of Christianity back into focus.

For those who would like to learn more, I recommend Stephan Hoeller’s Gnosticism, New Light on the Ancient Tradition of Inner Knowing, as well as Elaine Pagels’ The Gnostic Paul, Beyond Belief and Reading Judas, The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity written with Karen King.

Here is my personal list of books on Gnosticism:
Hoeller, Stephan A. Carl Jung and the Lost Gospels, Insights into The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Nag Hammadi Library. Illinois: Quest Books, 1990.
Hoeller, Stephan A. Gnosticism, New Light on the Ancient Tradition of Inner Knowing. Illinois: Quest Books, 2002.
Meyer, Marvin W. The Secret Teachings of Jesus, Four Gnostic Gospels. New York: Vintage Books, 1986.
Meyer, Marvin W. The Gospel of Thomas, The Hidden Sayings of Jesus. New York: Harper, 1986.
Pagels, Elaine. The Gnostic Paul. Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 1992.
Pagels, Elaine. Beyond Belief, The Secret Gospel of Thomas. New York: Random House, 2003.
Pagels, Elaine and Karen L. King. Reading Judas, The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity. New York: Viking, 2007.
Patterson, Stephen J., Robinson, James M., and Hans-Gebhard Bethge. The Fifth Gospel, The Gospel of Thomas Comes of Age. Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 1998.
Randolph, Kurt. Gnosis, The Nature and History of Gnosticism. California: Harper and Row Publishing, 1987.
Robinson, James M. general editor. The Nag Hammadi Library in English. California: Harper, 1988.

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