A lot of people over the years have told me they are drawn to the Gnostic way of looking at things, but it’s pretty clear they’ve never actually read any Gnostic texts.   Gnosticism is a lot easier to like in the abstract than in the on-the-ground (or out-of-this-world) reality.

When scholars typically describe Gnosticism to general audiences (at least when I do), it usually sounds very weird, rather fascinating, and more-or-less sensible.   When people actually read the Gnostic texts, some of them are like that too (weird/fascinating/sensible) – but lots of the texts seem anything but sensible.  They are (or seem to be) completely incomprehensible.

I thought I’d illustrate the point by giving one form of the Gnostic myth as found in a relatively small but rather dense portion of the Gospel of Judas.

Some people find that if they have a basic explanation/sense of Gnostic thought (a weird, fascinating, but sensible one as I tried to several posts ago), it is often possible to get the gist of this kind of myth (although parts still seem incomprehensible to mere mortals).  But even getting the gist can take some work, or possibly a lot of work.  Other people give up before they get very far into it.

Again, this is the translation of my colleague Zlatko Pleše in our book The Other Gospels (Oxford University Press).  Give it a shot.  How’d you do?

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