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The Gnostics

The Gnostics

Myth, Ritual, and Diversity in Early Christianity

David Brakke

ISBN 9780674066038

Publication date: 09/03/2012

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David Brakke

Who were the Gnostics? And how did the Gnostic movement influence the development of Christianity in antiquity? Is it true that the Church rejected Gnosticism? This book offers an illuminating discussion of recent scholarly debates over the concept of “Gnosticism” and the nature of early Christian diversity. Acknowledging that the category “Gnosticism” is flawed and must be reformed, argues for a more careful approach to gathering evidence for the ancient Christian movement known as the Gnostic school of thought. He shows how Gnostic myth and ritual addressed basic human concerns about alienation and meaning, offered a message of salvation in Jesus, and provided a way for people to regain knowledge of God, the ultimate source of their being.

Rather than depicting the Gnostics as heretics or as the losers in the fight to define Christianity, Brakke argues that the Gnostics participated in an ongoing reinvention of Christianity, in which other Christians not only rejected their ideas but also adapted and transformed them. This book will challenge scholars to think in news ways, but it also provides an accessible introduction to the Gnostics and their fellow early Christians.


  • Not since Elaine Pagels's ground-breaking and best-selling The Gnostic Gospels (1979) has there been a work that communicates so clearly the content and significance of the "Gnostics" for our understanding of early Christian history. The public and the academy need The Gnostics.

    —Denise Buell, Williams College


  • David Brakke is Joe R. Engle Chair in the History of Christianity and Professor of History, Ohio State University.

Book Details

  • 180 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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