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The Valentinian Gnostics

In my previous post I reproduced my Introduction to the Sethian Gnostics from the new edition of my reader in early Christianity, After The New Testament, 2nd edition. One other highly important group of Christian Gnostics are known as the Valentinians. Here is what I say about them in the book *************************************************** Valentinians Unlike the Sethian Gnostics, the Valentinians were named after an actual person, Valentinus, the founder and original leader of the group. We know about the Valentinians from the writings of proto-orthodox heresiologists beginning with Irenaeus and by some of the writings discovered among the Nag Hammadi Library that almost certainly derive from Valentinian authors, including one book that may actually have been written by Valentinus himself (The Gospel of Truth). Valentinus was born around 100 CE and was raised in Alexandria Egypt. He allegedly was a student of the Christian teacher Theudas, who was in turn a disciple of the apostle Paul. Valentinus moved to Rome in the late 130s and there became an influential speaker and teacher. According to some of [...]

The Sethian Gnostics

In my previous post I reproduced the new discussion of Gnosticism in my soon to be published After the New Testament, 2nd edition (due to be out in the fall). In this post and the two to follow I will reproduce my new discussions of the various “types” of Gnostic texts that I include in the anthology. Many scholars would consider this first type the most important historically: it is a group of texts produced by and for Gnostics known by scholars as the “Sethians.” Here is what I say about them in the book. *************************************************************** Sethian Gnostics The group of Gnostics that scholars have labeled the “Sethians” are known from the writings of proto-orthodox heresiologists beginning with Irenaeus (around 180 CE) and from some of the significant writings of the Nag Hammadi library. They were a thriving sect already by the middle of the second century.   FOR THE REST OF THIS POST, log in as a Member. Click here for membership options. If you don't belong yet, THERE IS STILL HOPE!!! Members of [...]

Lost Gospels That Are Still Lost 2: The Gospel of Basilides

In my previous post I started a mini-series on Gospels that we know about but that are still lost. One of the early Gnostic figures mentioned by the late-second century heresy-hunter Irenaeus was a man named Basilides. As with the Cainites, we do not have any writings from Basilides or any of his followers, and so all we know about these people and their writings is what authors like Irenaeus tell us. That is somewhat like asking Karl Rove for a fair assessment of Obamacare. You have to take the description with a pound of salt. We don’t know if Basilides actually had a Gospel, but Irenaeus does tell us of an episode from the life of Jesus from one of the writings used by Basilides, so it’s completely plausible that this was found in a Gospel book available to him (alternatively, it could simply have been a tradition he passed along). It has to do with Jesus’ crucifixion. And it’s an amazing story. To understand Basilides’ account of the crucifixion, it’s important to realize [...]

Textual Problems in the Apostolic Fathers 2

In my previous post I discussed a textual problem in the writings of Ignatius, simply as a way of illustrating the kinds of textual decisions that need to be made when one publishes a new edition of any ancient text. There are lots and lots of textual variants in the various writings of the apostolic fathers. As with the New Testament (where there are thousands more manuscripts and hundreds of thousands more variants), most of the variant readings do not matter for much. But some of them are of real importance. Another important textual problem is found in the Martyrdom of Polycarp, our earliest surviving Christian martyrology – that is, the first account, outside the New Testament, of a Christian being martyred for his faith. It is a fascinating account – required reading for anyone interested in early Christianity! In it, the old man Polycarp, Christian bishop of Smyrna, is tracked down and arrested by the local officials, who take him to the arena for public judgment. When he refuses to renounce his faith, he [...]

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