Re: What Is Gnosticism? by Karen King
- Hey PMCV,
Thanks for that! Seems those poor old ancient 'gnostics' have almost
been having a worse time of it from the scholars of the past century,
than they did from Irenaeus et al. :-P There is the history of
religion and then there is the history of the spin about the history
of religion. [Sigh]
Although the subject has a horrible kind of fascination. Sounds as
though your forthcoming book has all the makings of a cult classic!
--- In email@example.com, pmcvflag <no_reply@...> wrote:
> >>>Thanks for your comments! Yes I'd love to read your 'boiled down
> version' when you have time to post it. :-) I saw Dr. King
> interviewed recently and she had some interesting things to say, but
> perhaps I'll hold off ordering that book for now.
> Yes, I've run across Williams's 'Rethinking gnosticism' and I think
> maybe he has a point. When you consider that those ancient groups
> didn't call themselves Gnostics anyway, it's no surprise that the "g"
> word has led to some confusion...<<<
> Well, actually since you have already read Williams, you have the
> basics of Dr King's book as well. It really is an expansion of the
> same idea. She is a bit more concise... nails the lid on the coffin
> so to speak.... and leaves less gaps and questions than Williams
> does. She does not deal with questions of exactly what we can infer
> about the historical people themselves, so much as how bias has
> formed the word "Gnosticism" itself.
> For instance, she talks about the first known uses of the word in
> history (in the 1700s) and how they were used primarily for polemic.
> Inspired by the early heresiologists, these later usages assumed a
> sort of categorization that even the early heresiologists had not
> quite actually stated (except for the general one of "heretic").
> From that she then moves into modern academic usage, and how it was
> different, but effected, by the early sources, and then the later
> categorization. She goes especially into the effect that the German
> scholars and Existentialist philosophers like Harnack and Jonas
> (respectively) had in coining the category. She pretty conclusively
> demonstrates exactly how their biases caused them to pick attributes
> for the category of "Gnosticism" that are actually worse than
> questionable, but sometimes simply not demonstrated at all in the
> texts (or even in some cases by the heresiologists). Origins such
> as "the Hellenization of Christianity" imply a Eusebian paradigm,
> and a fall from a previous truth, and was intruduced with exactly
> that polemic intent in mind. The supposed "negative world view" was
> certainly an aspect of Existentialism, helping to imply the
> antiquity of that school, while the "antisemitism" certainly had
> more to do with a falling out with the former philosophical bent
> than anything demonstrated cohesively amongst the historical
> By the time we get to the long list of attributes of the category
> of "Gnosticism", we find hardly anything that seems to have been
> applied as a genuine critical attribute that would hold up to modern
> historical analysis... but instead simply religious and
> philosophical agendas attempting to use the ancient people to
> forward modern ideas. Quite a soap opera actually.
> Unlike Dr Williams, though, Dr King does not feel that discarding
> the category altogether is the only way... though she does say she
> is uncomfortable with the term. She doesn't accept Williams'
> term "Biblical Demiurgy", but doesn't offer any new ways of dealing
> with the subject either.
> Of course I DO have some of my own ideas about that... but you'll
> have to wait for my book on the subject ;) *lol*