Gnosticism. If you’re like me, you have just enough “knowledge” of it to be dangerous (and to make really weak puns!). I’ve read commentaries and study Bibles which speculate that some of the later New Testament books were written with an early form of gnosticism in mind, while others argue that there is not enough evidence to make such an assertion. The notion that there were other “Christian” gospels which were suppressed by the orthodox church has been a favorite trope of conspiracy theorists, journalists, and popular novelists; yet they always seem to misrepresent what the gnostics really believed. Somehow, the gnostic label tends to get tossed around a lot, but only the experts seem to have a clear sense of what it really means.
The Gnostic Scriptures: A New Translation with Annotations and Introductions is an extremely helpful resource for sorting through all the confusion surrounding gnosticism. It’s highly readable and easy for non-specialists like myself to understand, but it’s a work of careful scholarship which avoids the distortions and oversimplifications typical of most popular treatments of gnosticism. The general introduction is extremely helpful in orienting the reader to the history and development of gnostic thought and the different kinds of gnostic Scriptures. The introductions to each translated work then help you to understand the work’s design, purpose, main characters, key assumptions, etc. Finally, you have the source material itself, which includes helpful explanatory annotations.
Whether you’re engaged in academic study of the gnostics, or you just need to be able to tell that Dan Brown enthusiast, “You know, that’s not actually what the gnostics believed,” you’ll find The Gnostic Scriptures to be an extremely helpful resource.
Layton’s The Gnostic Scriptures
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