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McGrath Review in RBL

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  • Mike Grondin
    The current RBL (Review of Biblical Literature) includes a review by our own James McGrath of David Brakke s The Gnostics: Myth, Ritual, and Diversity in Early
    Message 1 of 13 , Sep 2, 2011
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      The current RBL (Review of Biblical Literature) includes a review by our own
      James McGrath of David Brakke's The Gnostics: Myth, Ritual, and Diversity
      in Early Christianity (Harvard Univ. Press, 2010).
       
      M. Grondin
      p.s.: Members can subscribe to the RBL newsletter, emailed about once a week.
       
    • sarban
      Hi Mike I ve just read David Brakke s book. It is well worth reading. I ll make two comments on different issues. Brakke suggests that Gnostic groups in the
      Message 2 of 13 , Sep 12, 2011
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        Hi Mike
         
        I've just read David Brakke's book. It is well worth reading.
         
        I'll make two comments on different issues.
         
        Brakke suggests that Gnostic groups in the Ancient World should be limited to Groups which called themselves Gmostics and Gnostic works are works produced by such groups.
        On this basis he classes the Gospel of Thomas as not a Gnostic work because it was not produced by a group which called itself Gnostic. The emphasis in the Gospel of Thomas on esoteric knowledge and its disparagement of the material world may well make it unorthodox but this is a different matter.
        This seems a sensible argument although I suppose one could make a (weak) argument that Thomas was composed by the Naassenes described by Hippolytus and a (weak) argument that these Naassenes called themselves Gnostics.
         
        Brakke's picture of the groups c 200 CE which called themselves Gnostics (roughly the group often called Sethian Gnostics) is heavily based on Zostrianos and Allogenes from Nag Hammadi which he regards as pre-Plotinian since works with such titles are mentioned in Porphry's Life of Plotinus.
        I did a series of blogposts "Neoplatonism and Gnosticism" archived at http://hypotyposeis.org/weblog/2009/07   about the difficulties with dating this material before Plotinus.
         
        Andrew Criddle
         
        ----- Original Message -----
        Sent: Saturday, September 03, 2011 3:12 AM
        Subject: [GTh] McGrath Review in RBL

         

        The current RBL (Review of Biblical Literature) includes a review by our own
        James McGrath of David Brakke's The Gnostics: Myth, Ritual, and Diversity
        in Early Christianity (Harvard Univ. Press, 2010).
         
      • Judy Redman
        Andrew, Thanks for this. My copy of Brakke s book arrived in the mail yesterday and I am looking forward to reading it, but this won t happen for some time
        Message 3 of 13 , Sep 15, 2011
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          Andrew,

           

          Thanks for this. My copy of Brakke’s book arrived in the mail yesterday and I am looking forward to reading it, but this won’t happen for some time yet.

           

          It’s good that we are gradually developing a tighter definition of “Gnostic” seeing it *is* a term that groups used of themselves rather than one we just made up for convenience of classification. It seems that the working definition that many people have of Gnostic is texts/groups that emphasised knowing stuff and didn’t make it into the Christian canon/orthodox Christianity.  So many people who ask me about my PhD hear the answer then nod wisely and say condescendingly “Ah, the *Gnostic* gospel”. I think I might start asking the more condescending ones on what basis they are classifying it as Gnostic. J

           

          Judy

           

          --

          Judy Redman
          PhD Candidate, School of Humanities
          University of New England
          Armidale 2351 Australia
          ph:  +61 2 6773 3401
          mob: 0437 044 579
          web: 
           http://judyredman.wordpress.com/
          email: 
           jredman2@...
           

           

          From: gthomas@yahoogroups.com [mailto:gthomas@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of sarban
          Sent: Tuesday, 13 September 2011 4:36 AM
          To: gthomas@yahoogroups.com
          Subject: Re: [GTh] McGrath Review in RBL

           

           

          Hi Mike

           

          I've just read David Brakke's book. It is well worth reading.

           

          I'll make two comments on different issues.

           

          Brakke suggests that Gnostic groups in the Ancient World should be limited to Groups which called themselves Gmostics and Gnostic works are works produced by such groups.

          On this basis he classes the Gospel of Thomas as not a Gnostic work because it was not produced by a group which called itself Gnostic. The emphasis in the Gospel of Thomas on esoteric knowledge and its disparagement of the material world may well make it unorthodox but this is a different matter.

          This seems a sensible argument although I suppose one could make a (weak) argument that Thomas was composed by the Naassenes described by Hippolytus and a (weak) argument that these Naassenes called themselves Gnostics.

           

          Brakke's picture of the groups c 200 CE which called themselves Gnostics (roughly the group often called Sethian Gnostics) is heavily based on Zostrianos and Allogenes from Nag Hammadi which he regards as pre-Plotinian since works with such titles are mentioned in Porphry's Life of Plotinus.

          I did a series of blogposts "Neoplatonism and Gnosticism" archived at http://hypotyposeis.org/weblog/2009/07   about the difficulties with dating this material before Plotinus.

          ._,___

        • E Bruce Brooks
          To: GThos In Response To: Judy Redman On: Gnostic From: Bruce I was interested in Judy s comments on this undoubtedly problematic term, and I like her sense
          Message 4 of 13 , Sep 15, 2011
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            To: GThos

            In Response To: Judy Redman

            On: Gnostic

            From: Bruce

             

            I was interested in Judy’s comments on this undoubtedly problematic term, and I like her sense that we should, at least at the beginning, allow the Gnostics to define themselves.

             

            As one who does not know the relevant literature at all well, I would like to ask: What is the earliest text that uses the term gnosis or its derivatives in a way that seems to be theologically definitional? Or less carefully worded, what is the oldest self-labeled Gnostic text?

             

            I have to think that things had been long underway by the time of Irenaeus.

             

            E Bruce Brooks / University of Massachusetts at Amherst

             

             

          • Bob Schacht
            ... What about Jewish gnosticism? You should take a look at the article on Gnosticism in the Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_Gnosticism as well
            Message 5 of 13 , Sep 15, 2011
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              At 03:35 PM 9/15/2011, E Bruce Brooks wrote:


              To: GThos
              In Response To: Judy Redman
              On: Gnostic
              From: Bruce
               
              I was interested in Judy�s comments on this undoubtedly problematic term, and I like her sense that we should, at least at the beginning, allow the Gnostics to define themselves.
               
              As one who does not know the relevant literature at all well, I would like to ask: What is the earliest text that uses the term gnosis or its derivatives in a way that seems to be theologically definitional? Or less carefully worded, what is the oldest self-labeled Gnostic text?
               
              I have to think that things had been long underway by the time of Irenaeus.

              What about Jewish gnosticism?
              You should take a look at the article on Gnosticism in the Wikipedia
              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_Gnosticism as well as
              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neoplatonism_and_Gnosticism.

              In particular, you might want to look at Philo of Alexandria.

              Bob Schacht
              Northern Arizona University

            • Judy Redman
              Bob asks: What about Jewish Gnosticism? and this is, of course, a very good question. In the circles to which I was referring (which are not what you d call
              Message 6 of 13 , Sep 15, 2011
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                Bob asks:

                 

                What about Jewish Gnosticism?

                 

                and this is, of course, a very good question. In the circles to which I was referring (which are not what you’d call well informed) Gnosticism is viewed as a Christian heresy which teaches that you get into heaven by knowing stuff rather than by faith in Christ –there is no knowledge of Jewish Gnosticism at all. J  I would therefore be very happy with a succinct way of explaining the complexities of Gnosticism to the politely interested so their eyes don’t glaze over during a short lecture on gnostic cosmologies. J

                 

                Judy

                 

                --

                Judy Redman
                PhD Candidate, School of Humanities
                University of New England
                Armidale 2351 Australia
                ph:  +61 2 6773 3401
                mob: 0437 044 579
                web: 
                 http://judyredman.wordpress.com/
                email: 
                 jredman2@...
                 

                 

                From: gthomas@yahoogroups.com [mailto:gthomas@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Bob Schacht
                Sent: Friday, 16 September 2011 8:51 AM
                To: gthomas@yahoogroups.com
                Subject: Gnosticism RE: [GTh] McGrath Review in RBL

                 

                 

                At 03:35 PM 9/15/2011, E Bruce Brooks wrote:

                To: GThos
                In Response To: Judy Redman
                On: Gnostic
                From: Bruce
                 
                I was interested in Judy’s comments on this undoubtedly problematic term, and I like her sense that we should, at least at the beginning, allow the Gnostics to define themselves.
                 
                As one who does not know the relevant literature at all well, I would like to ask: What is the earliest text that uses the term gnosis or its derivatives in a way that seems to be theologically definitional? Or less carefully worded, what is the oldest self-labeled Gnostic text?
                 
                I have to think that things had been long underway by the time of Irenaeus.


                What about Jewish gnosticism?
                You should take a look at the article on Gnosticism in the Wikipedia
                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_Gnosticism as well as
                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neoplatonism_and_Gnosticism.

                In particular, you might want to look at Philo of Alexandria.

                Bob Schacht
                Northern Arizona University

              • Bob Schacht
                ... You want over-simplification? OK, I m good at that. Gnosticism evolved from the work of Plato into something called Middle and Neo- Platonism. Plotinus,
                Message 7 of 13 , Sep 15, 2011
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                  At 07:06 PM 9/15/2011, Judy Redman wrote:


                  Bob asks:
                   
                  What about Jewish Gnosticism?
                   
                  and this is, of course, a very good question. In the circles to which I was referring (which are not what you’d call well informed) Gnosticism is viewed as a Christian heresy which teaches that you get into heaven by knowing stuff rather than by faith in Christ –there is no knowledge of Jewish Gnosticism at all. J  I would therefore be very happy with a succinct way of explaining the complexities of Gnosticism to the politely interested so their eyes don’t glaze over during a short lecture on gnostic cosmologies. J
                   

                  You want over-simplification? OK, I'm good at that.
                  Gnosticism evolved from the work of Plato into something called "Middle" and "Neo-"Platonism. Plotinus, and Philo of Alexandria, are examples. Gnosticism of the Sethian type seems to have evolved from Middle and Neo-platonism in the pre-Christian era. The Nag Hammadi texts are one of the best surviving Gnostic libraries. In a religious context, to be 'Gnostic' should be understood as being reliant not on knowledge in a general sense, but as being specially receptive to mystical or esoteric experiences of direct participation with the divine. Gnosis refers to intimate personal knowledge and insight from experience. When the Septuagint became available, it was frequently consulted by Jewish gnostics.

                  OK, maybe I'm not so good at that. Most of the above was filched from various articles on Gnosticism and related subjects in the Wikipedia.

                  Bob Schacht
                  Northern Arizona University
                • sarban
                  Hi Judy I agree about the importance of the esoteric tradition in early Judaism. eg the Hekhalot material. However, if we wish to define Gnosticism more
                  Message 8 of 13 , Sep 18, 2011
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                    Hi Judy
                     
                    I agree about the importance of the esoteric tradition in early Judaism. eg the Hekhalot material.
                     
                    However, if we wish to define Gnosticism more specifically than something like 'esoteric teachings about the divine realm', I'm not sure how far this type of esotericism can really be considered Gnosticism.
                     
                    Andrew Criddle 
                    ----- Original Message -----
                    Sent: Friday, September 16, 2011 3:06 AM
                    Subject: RE: Gnosticism RE: [GTh] McGrath Review in RBL

                     

                    Bob asks:

                    What about Jewish Gnosticism?

                    and this is, of course, a very good question. In the circles to which I was referring (which are not what you’d call well informed) Gnosticism is viewed as a Christian heresy which teaches that you get into heaven by knowing stuff rather than by faith in Christ –there is no knowledge of Jewish Gnosticism at all. J  I would therefore be very happy with a succinct way of explaining the complexities of Gnosticism to the politely interested so their eyes don’t glaze over during a short lecture on gnostic cosmologies. J

                    Judy

                    --

                    Judy Redman
                    PhD Candidate, School of Humanities
                    University of New England
                    Armidale 2351 Australia
                    ph:  +61 2 6773 3401
                    mob: 0437 044 579
                    web: 
                     http://judyredman.wordpress.com/
                    email: 
                     jredman2@...
                     

                  • E Bruce Brooks
                    To: GThos On: Definition of Gnostic From: Bruce I still like the idea of letting people define themselves. Let me therefore repeat an earlier question: What is
                    Message 9 of 13 , Sep 18, 2011
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                      To: GThos

                      On: Definition of Gnostic

                      From: Bruce

                       

                      I still like the idea of letting people define themselves. Let me therefore repeat an earlier question:

                       

                      What is the earliest text that uses the term gnosis or its derivatives in a way that seems to be theologically definitional? Or less carefully worded, what is the oldest self-labeled Gnostic text?

                       

                      E Bruce Brooks / University of Massachusetts at Amherst

                    • smithandp
                      ... I don t think there is a Gnostic text in which there is a self- designation as Gnostic, or even as Valentinian. There are Sethian texts in which the seed
                      Message 10 of 13 , Sep 19, 2011
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                        --- "E Bruce Brooks" <brooks@...> wrote:
                        > What is the earliest text that uses the term gnosis or its
                        > derivatives in a way that seems to be theologically definitional?
                        > Or less carefully worded, what is the oldest self-labeled Gnostic
                        > text?

                        I don't think there is a Gnostic text in which there is a self-
                        designation as Gnostic, or even as Valentinian. There are Sethian
                        texts in which "the seed of Seth" and similar terms are important. Identification of Gnostic writings depends on the extensive
                        similarities between these writings and the myths and doctrines
                        described by Irenaeus as Gnostic or Valentinian.

                        Best Wishes,

                        Andrew

                        Andrew Phillip Smith
                        Dublin, Ireland
                        http://www.andrewphillipsmith.com
                      • smithandp
                        Why not describe the sources and thought processes through which we come to identify the Gnostics? Irenaeus refers to Gnostics, Valentinians, Sethians and
                        Message 11 of 13 , Sep 19, 2011
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                          Why not describe the sources and thought processes through which we come to identify the Gnostics? Irenaeus refers to Gnostics, Valentinians, Sethians and others. The Nag Hammadi library contains texts which may be grouped according to their features and which generally match Irenaeus' categories of Sethians and Valentinians (plus some less easily categorisable texts.) Historically scholarship has picked features more-or-less common to Sethians, Valentinians and other writings, groups and individuals described by Irenaeus or in the NHL and other codices and created the category of Gnostcism.

                          Brakke argues that Gnostic was a self-designation for the Sethians, based on analysis of Irenaeus' use of the term, but doesn't believe that the term should be applied to the Valentinians. Incidentally, no Valentinian text refers to itself as such, or even refers to Valentinus.

                          Best Wishes,

                          Andrew

                          Andrew Phillip Smith
                          Dublin, Ireland
                          http://www.andrewphillipsmith.com
                        • Stephen Carlson
                          While I am very much in favor of the principle of self-identification, we do have to recognize that we have a number of texts in the Nag Hammadi library about
                          Message 12 of 13 , Sep 19, 2011
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                            While I am very much in favor of the principle of self-identification, we do have to recognize that we have a number of texts in the Nag Hammadi library about which we have almost no (reliable) information as to which person or group of people produced, transmitted, and/or used them.  The only thing to go on is their contents.

                            Stephen
                            --
                            Stephen C. Carlson
                            Graduate Program in Religion
                            Duke University
                          • Bob Schacht
                            ... What would be the result of applying this rule to the New Testament? Would any of it be considered Christian ? Bob Schacht Northern Arizona University
                            Message 13 of 13 , Sep 19, 2011
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                              At 08:43 AM 9/18/2011, E Bruce Brooks wrote:


                              To: GThos
                              On: Definition of Gnostic
                              From: Bruce
                               
                              I still like the idea of letting people define themselves. Let me therefore repeat an earlier question:
                               
                              What is the earliest text that uses the term gnosis or its derivatives in a way that seems to be theologically definitional? Or less carefully worded, what is the oldest self-labeled Gnostic text?

                              What would be the result of applying this rule to the New Testament? Would any of it be considered "Christian"?

                              Bob Schacht
                              Northern Arizona University
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