Now that I have said something about the Nag Hammadi library in general (the traditional scholarly account of its discovery; the contents) I can move on to a discussion of “Gnosticism” as we have learned about it from these texts.   This is a topic I covered over four years ago on the blog; the occasion, at the time, was that I had been forced to rethink my views because of a new publication I had been working on.  Here is what I said then:


On to a different topic for a bit. I am now in the process or reading the copy-edited version of the new edition of my anthology of ancient Christian texts, After the New Testament. In early posts, back in January (2014) I talked about what would be in this anthology and how it would differ from the first edition, which I published fifteen years ago.

In addition to adding some sections (full new rubrics, for example, on Women in the Early Church and on the History of Biblical Interpretation), I altered a few things – especially my entire section dealing with Christian Gnosticism. In my first edition I simply had one undifferentiated mass of texts that I called Gnostic. This is completely unsatisfying, confusing, simplistic, and, well, just wrong. This time I’ve tried to mend the errors of my ways. Based on my reading of more recent work in the field, I’ve rewritten the general introduction to Gnosticism in the text, and divided the primary text readings into four categories, each involving different “kinds” of Gnosticism: Sethian Gnosticism, Valentinianism, Thomasine Texts, and “Other” Gnostic Texts. In this post I will reproduce my new introduction; in subsequent posts I will reproduce my new introductions to each of the categories.



Gnostic Christian Texts: Introduction

Prior to the discovery of the Nag Hammadi Library, we were ill-informed concerning the beliefs and practices of early Christian Gnostics, since virtually all of our information came from attacks leveled against them by their proto-orthodox opponents. An enemy can scarcely be trusted to provide a fair or accurate portrayal of one’s views.

The discovery of the Nag Hammadi texts did not completely remedy the problem, however.  For one thing…

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