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What Is Gnosticism?

ISBN-10: 0674017625
ISBN-13: 9780674017627
Edition: 2003
Authors: Karen L. King
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Description: A distinctive Christian heresy? A competitor of burgeoning Christianity? A pre-Christian folk religion traceable to "Oriental syncretism"? How do we account for the disparate ideas, writings, and practices that have been placed under the Gnostic  More...

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Book details

List price: $24.50
Copyright year: 2003
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Publication date: 4/30/2005
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 366
Size: 6.00" wide x 9.25" long x 1.00" tall
Weight: 1.100
Language: English

A distinctive Christian heresy? A competitor of burgeoning Christianity? A pre-Christian folk religion traceable to "Oriental syncretism"? How do we account for the disparate ideas, writings, and practices that have been placed under the Gnostic rubric? To do so, Karen King says, we must first disentangle modern historiography from the Christian discourse of orthodoxy and heresy that has pervaded--and distorted--the story. Exciting discoveries of previously unknown ancient writings--especially the forty-six texts found at Nag Hammadi in 1945--are challenging historians of religion to rethink not only what we mean by Gnosticism but also the standard account of Christian origins. The Gospel of Mary and The Secret Book of John, for example, illustrate the variety of early Christianities and are witness to the struggle of Christians to craft an identity in the midst of the culturally pluralistic Roman Empire. King shows how historians have been misled by ancient Christian polemicists who attacked Gnostic beliefs as a "dark double" against which the new faith could define itself. Having identified past distortions, she is able to offer a new and clarifying definition of Gnosticism. Her book is thus both a thorough and innovative introduction to the twentieth-century study of Gnosticism and a revealing exploration of the concept of heresy as a tool in forming religious identity.

Preface
Abbreviations
Introduction
Why Is Gnosticism So Hard to Define?
Gnosticism as Heresy
Adolf von Harnack and the Essence of Christianity
The History of Religions School
Gnosticism Reconsidered
After Nag Hammadi I: Categories and Origins
After Nag Hammadi II: Typology
The End of Gnosticism? Note on Methodology
Bibliography
Notes
Index

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