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Re: [GTh] McGrath Review in RBL

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  • 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 1 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 2 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 3 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 4 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 5 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 6 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 7 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 8 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 9 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 10 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 11 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 12 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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