Manual Living Gnosis: A Practical Guide to Gnostic Christianity

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Consequently, the present overview does not aim to be a complete summary of all the possible meanings and uses of gnostic ideas, neither aims to have the right categorization about related ancient phenomena.

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The main purpose is to highlight some ideas present in particular texts in Christian biblical texts, e. Gnosticism as an organized social movement with a coherent and uniform message is an unconvinced category; 21 nevertheless, the existence of distinct elements that are simultaneously present in gnostic texts and New Testament writings is unquestionable.

As a result, a brief scholarship review about some dimensions of Gnostic ideas in the ancient Mediterranean context provides historical and literary grounds to some textual analysis in the Jewish-Christian writings in order to highlight the possible presence of some elements that later would be associated with gnosis. There is a primeval milieu shared among particular communities based on several literary receptions in which different ancient religious phenomena, gradually, became consolidated.

The modern interest in Gnosticism emerges together with historical investigations about Christian origins which instigate respective apologetic consideration. This occurs throughout exegetical methodologies and hermeneutical speeches. This idea of an intra-Christian development shifted within some approaches in the History of Religions School.

Instead of a gradual expansion from Greek philosophy, passing through Christian traditions into gnostic appearance, scholars suggest extra and pre-Christian roots for Gnosticism.

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Richard Reitzenstein asserts common features between some ancient religious practices and those that may be associated with Gnosticism , and he attempts to trace gnostic origins to Persian myths Reitzenstein, , p. The main critique about these ideas relies on the lack of concrete evidence for inferences, which provides a very similar depiction to the patristic apologetic or, at least, within the same framework.

Hans Jonas attempts to understand the ancient Zeitgeist while analyzing gnostic ideas through contemporary philosophical considerations, especially the phenomenological existentialism of Martin Heidegger. Consequently, he discusses how myths express objectivity through their symbolical constructions and mystical experiences Jonas, , p.

Therefore, individuals find meaning for their existence in the transcendence Jonas, , p. Consequently, Gnosticism is different, independent and with points of contacts with early Christian movements, providing answers to similar situations. Kurt Rudolph assumes these mainstream considerations about the dualistic structure present in the gnostic movements while highlighting the variety of gnostic systems within their particularities. In addition, he asseverates the relationship between Christian and non-Christian elements together with Jewish and Platonic traditions while accentuating the theological judgments in the creation of boundaries Rudolph, , p.

Gnosis is a historical category to comprehend a particular worldview that involves dualism, cosmogony, soteriology, eschatology and cult, having immediate moral consequences Rudolph, , p. Jonas and Rudolph reflect, in different ways and generations, the resolutions attempted in the Messina conference, since they distinguish between gnosis and the different movements around this notion, including cultic and sociological aspects. Social location deserves special attention to better understand the pragmatic consequences of gnostic ideas in their respective contexts.

Smith summarizes these positions in the three following characteristics Smith, , p.

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In conclusion, following the enthusiastic and triumphalist approaches that relate some New Testament writings with gnostic texts, there is a rejection of gnostic movements in the first century. Therefore, those who aim to analyze gnostic elements in the ancient writings must carefully determine the context and define the terms in order to avoid ambiguity and misunderstandings.

New approaches should be created in order to dismantle the artificial distinctions among such categories and open new spaces for integration.

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Consequently, it is possible to re-mantle these ancient religious horizons by taking into consideration the reception of the New Testament writings as well as the gathering of different textual traditions that gradually stipulate social boundaries, theological barriers and terminological bounds that did not exist during the primal composition periods. BARR, J. The Synchronic, the Diachronic and the Historical: A triangular relationship? Synchronic or Diachronic? Leiden, Brill, , p. Beyond the Synchronic Versus Diachronic Controversy. Leiden, Brill, p. Nashville, Abingdon Press. Cambridge, Harvard University Press.

A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. Anchor Bible. New York, Doubleday. Complete Works. Edited with Introduction and notes. Indianapolis, Hackett Publishing Company. Atlanta, SBL. Rethinking the Study of Gnosticism. Religion and Theology 12, p. Nag Hammadi texts and the Bible. Leiden, Brill. History of Biblical Interpretation. Grand Rapids, William Eerdmans Publishing, p.

Gnostic Christianity And Orthodox Christianity

Cambridge, Blackwell. Apocalyptic and gnosis in the book of Revelation and Paul. Jornaul of Biblical Literature 92, p. Gnosticism and Early Christianity. New York, Harper and Row. The Economic and Social Origins of Gnosticism. Atlanta, Scholar Press. History of Dogma.

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    Perspective in Religious Studies 20, n. Delimitation of the Gnostic Phenomenon: Typological and Historical. Leiden, Brill , p.

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    Boston, Beacon Press. JUNG, C. The Symbolic Life: Miscellaneous Writings. London, Routledge and Kegan, p.

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    New York, Norton and Company. KING, K. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Versuch einer Soziologischen Verortung des Antiken Gnostizismus. Numen 17, p. Prolegomena to the Study of Ancient Gnosticism. The Social World of the First Christians. Minneapolis, Fortress, p.