Saturday, January 06, 2018

Some Recommended Works for the Study of Gnosticism

Brown, H. O. J. Heresies: Heresy and Orthodoxy in the History of the Church. Peabody: Hendrickson, 1998

Burgess, S. M. The Holy Spirit: Ancient Christian Traditions. Peabody: Hendrickson, 1984.

Frend, W. H. C. The Rise of Christianity. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984.

Grant, R. M. Gnosticism and Christianity. New York: Harper and Row, 1966.

Green, Henry A. The Economic and Social Origins of Gnosticism. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1985.

Jonas, H. The Gnostic Religion: The Message of the Alien God and the Beginnings of Christianity. Boston: Bacon Press, 1963.

Pagels, E. Gnostic Gospels. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1979.

Riemer, R. Gnosis and Faith in Early Christianity. London: SCM Press, 1999

Rudolph, K. Gnosis: The Nature and History of an Ancient Religion. Translated by Robert M. Wilson. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1983.

The work which was originally a dissertation produced in 1985 by Henry A. Green entitled The Economic and Social Origins of Gnosticism is quite helpful and approaches the socio-religious phenomenon of Gnosticism from a socio-economic point of view. Green is quite methodological and thorough in his book, offering insights that will probably not be found elsewhere. His study, as he writes, "should be regarded as a pilot study, an attempt to apply social-scientific paradigms to the examination of ancient religions, and specifically Gnosticism" (p. 18).

You may also remember me saying that ancient Gnostics usually were libertines or ascetics. Some went for the gusto while others abstained from certain foods, drink and they lived celibate lives. For these thinkers, the world of matter was thought to be evil, alienated from God, and produced by intermediate aeons.

22 comments:

Duncan said...

https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=5Rx0oruxQg0C&pg=PA4&lpg=PA4&dq=The+Economic+and+Social+Origins+of+Gnosticism&source=bl&ots=7a1gEeJagg&sig=v8YaQyZIM3wVdq8psVANvHz-kLk&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjGgLas3cXYAhXjBcAKHZs6DvE4ChDoAQguMAU#v=onepage&q=The%20Economic%20and%20Social%20Origins%20of%20Gnosticism&f=false

Duncan said...

https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=8CVviRghVtIC&pg=PA458&lpg=PA458&dq=first+century+brahmins+in+rome&source=bl&ots=lWz5MGu6xV&sig=VOfblv-YFrAZaJ_nh-CsCVPna88&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiMtZuq38XYAhVpI8AKHQ7qCvcQ6AEIVzAG#v=onepage&q=first%20century%20brahmins%20in%20rome&f=false

Duncan said...

https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=gviEAgAAQBAJ&pg=PA137&lpg=PA137&dq=they+drank+no+wine+not+ate+any+animal+food+clement&source=bl&ots=5z2Yzvpp-M&sig=SBdqnED19WldtM_sGPzNmZ7GbsQ&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwivmZXH6sbYAhUpK8AKHZ0BASMQ6AEIPTAF#v=onepage&q&f=false

Edgar Foster said...

Thanks, Duncan. I still think there was a great chasm between the early church and Gnosticism. The major Fathers/leaders of the church all waged ceaseless warfare (spiritually) against Gnosticism until its demise. In this instance, I think they were right to eschew Gnosticism.

Edgar Foster said...

OLne problem with tracking interaction of cultures is understanding how it possibly occurred. Tertullian was in Carthage (North Africa), a province of Rome. His dates are circa 160-220/240 CE. How would he have instigated personal contact with Brahmins or gymnosophists? Even tying Origen personally to these thinkers is problematic.

Duncan said...

I am not tying them personally to anyone. From the first century they were around & if culture had a fascination with them, then the ideas would have been adsorbed therefore they were mentioned buy Tertullian for comparison.

Brahmins went to Rome itself in the first century - Pagels also notes this.

I am pointing out that some of the later Gnostic doctrine could have included Hindu thinking.

As I understand the rise of trinitarianism in the late forth century, that many of the eastern churches attributed this to valentinian tampering so it might be that Gnosticism did not die out but was actually assimilated. This though is not to be confused with Hermeticism with is a mixture of Jewish & Egyptian thinking.

Duncan said...

https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=B0EnolOr0YsC&pg=PA79&lpg=PA79&dq=alexandria+to+carthage+brahmin&source=bl&ots=Z5Zh7huL5w&sig=bc2OimKnsfoQBa9qcOZt0XLEQZA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiQ3cuyn8jYAhVcFMAKHb2XAPsQ6AEINzAC#v=onepage&q=three%20cities&f=false

Duncan said...

The trade ties across north Africa including Carthage and Alexandria.

http://www.bollettinodiarcheologiaonline.beniculturali.it/documenti/generale/3_Keay_paper.pdf

Duncan said...

https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=UU3XAwAAQBAJ&pg=PA547&dq=%22Alexandria+Commodiana+Togata%22+carthage&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjEmqnxpMjYAhXjC8AKHd9yCMgQ6AEIODAD#v=onepage&q=%22Alexandria%20Commodiana%20Togata%22%20carthage&f=false

Edgar Foster said...

Absorption of ideas can be a difficult process. For example, Chinese philosophy has existed for more than 2,5000 years, but it could not spread much outside of Asia until non-Asians learned how to traverse formidable terrains belonging to Asia. Many people also have written about things with which they had light acquaintance personally. E.g., Immanuel Kant made sweeping statements about "all black people," but I wonder how many black Africans he actually met.

As you know, Hindu thinking is diverse. Maybe some parallels exist between Hinduism and Gnosticism, but I see plenty of substantial differences between the two.

We can be pretty certain that Gnosticism as a movement died out in the middle ages. While I'm not a fan of the Trinity doctrine, I don't believe Valentinianism greatly influenced its development. My book on Tertullian discusses Valentinianism to some extent, but I have not checked it lately for content. However, yes, I know Hermeticism and Valentianism are not the same. Did the church assimilate Gnosticism? I don't think so. It's basic claim about the evil nature of matter and the inherent value of spirit causes it to be untenable as a Judeo-Christian teaching.

Edgar Foster said...

Before concludint that Carthage was involved in these trades, please see note 79 of Keay's paper. Some of this information could be apocryphal.

Edgar Foster said...

Even if trade occurred between Rome and Carthage, that is a long way from saying Hindu ideas were exported to Carthage in this process.

Duncan said...

The nature of the title is irrelevant for my purposes. He was referring to Carthage as a point of Roman food supply no need to worry about renaming.

Duncan said...

The information I have referenced indicates brahmin or hindu traders, not Roman.

https://www.treehugger.com/green-food/2000-year-old-food-forestoasis-feeds-800-farmers-video.html

This may be the last example of what may have been numerous in the area.

Duncan said...

I remember this connection from a few years ago:-

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/a-meeting-of-civilisations-the-mystery-of-chinas-celtic-mummies-5330366.html

Duncan said...

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/how-third-century-china-saw-rome-a-land-ruled-by-minor-kings-3386550/

Edgar Foster said...

My point about Keay's paper is that he said the whole story about Carthage and Commodus might be apocryphal. I'm not focusing on the renaming, but on the authenticity of the story. In any event, I don't see strong proof that cultural interaction occurred between Tertullian (since he was quoted) and Hindus. I also don't see much impact of Hinduism on Roman thought in general.

Interesting Smithsonian article and it seems that the Chinese knew how to reach Rome, but how accessible was China for non-Asians or non-Chinese? For another perspective, see https://books.google.com/books?id=9qeBAgAAQBAJ&pg=PA68&dq=did+romans+travel+to+china&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj6wsGk4cnYAhWp7YMKHfQsBaQQ6AEIOzAD#v=onepage&q=did%20romans%20travel%20to%20china&f=false

Even if third-century CE China and Rome interacted (or even 2nd century CE), that is till a number of years that Chinese thought existed untapped by the Romans.

Duncan said...

Trade is mostly concerned with desirable goods. China did not have them in the same way as India in terms of spices.

http://www.mccormickscienceinstitute.com/resources/history-of-spices

China became an importer more than an exporter.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sino-Roman_relations

As for Carthage are you claiming that "We are not Indian Brahmins or Gymnosophists, who dwell in woods and exile themselves from ordinary human life." is NOT a genuine saying?

Duncan said...

My point has still not changed regarding the apocryphal quote as someone still went to the effort to make it regarding Carthage & it's surrounding ports as a point of trade. - there is evidence of significant historic food production in this area.

Edgar Foster said...

No, I believe the saying in Tertullian is genuine. My only question is how much he personally knew about Hindus/Hinduism.

The quote about Carthage might represent matters accurately, but there isn't sufficient evidence that allows us to determine its accuracy.

Keefa Ben Yahchanan said...

I will read Frend, W. H. C. The Rise of Christianity. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984. Somebody else can read the rest(lol) I appreciate the reference

Edgar Foster said...

I don't blame you, Brother Keefa. To the making of books, there is no end. We have to make choices about what to read or not read--as the case may be. :)