Gnosticism was a wide-ranging religious movement of the first millennium CE—with earlier antecedents and later flourishings—whose adherents sought salvation through knowledge and personal religious experience. Gnostic writings offer striking perspectives on both early Christian and non-Christian thought. For example, some gnostic texts suggest that god should be celebrated as both mother and father, and that self-knowledge is the supreme path to the divine. Only in the past fifty years has it become clear how far the gnostic influence spread in ancient and medieval religions—and what a marvelous body of scriptures it produced.
This is the first time that such a rich and diverse collection of gnostic texts have been brought together in a single volume, in translations that allow the spirit of the original texts to shine. The selections gathered here, in poetic, readable translation, represent Jewish, Christian, Hermetic, Mandaean, Manichaean, Islamic, and Cathar expressions of gnostic spirituality. Their regions of origin include Egypt, the Greco-Roman world, the Middle East, Syria, Iraq, China, and France. Also included are introductions, notes, an extensive glossary, and a wealth of suggestions for further reading.
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Willis Barnstone, Ph.D., former O'Connor Professor of Greek at Colgate University, is Distinguished Professor of Comparative Literature and is in the Institute of Biblical and Literary Studies at Indiana University. A Guggenheim Fellow, poet, scholar, and memoirist, his many books include The Poetics of Translation, The Other Bible, The New Covenant, With Borges on an Ordinary Evening in Buenos Aires, Life Watch, and Border of a Dream: The Poems of Antonio Machado. He has received numerous awards for his work, among them the Emily Dickinson Award, the W. H. Auden Award, and a PEN/Book-of-the-Month-Club Special Citation for translation.
Marvin Meyer, Ph.D., is Griset Professor of Bible and Christian Studies at Chapman University, Orange, California, and is one of the foremost scholars of Coptic and gnostic studies at work today. He is Director of the Albert Schweitzer Institute, a fellow of the Jesus Seminar, and a Pacific Coast regional past president of the Society of Biblical Literature. He is the author of numerous books, including Ancient Christian Magic, The Gospel of Thomas, Secret Gospels, Jesus Then and Now, The Magical Book of Mary and the Angels, and The Ancient Mysteries. Dr. Meyer appears frequently in documentary television programs for ABC, BBC, A&E, and the History Channel.From Publishers Weekly:
This book may well be the most comprehensive collection of Gnostic materials ever gathered in one volume. After a dry introduction to current debates about gnosticism (by Meyer) and a luminous, marvelously literary introduction to issues of translation (by Barnstone), the bulk of the text is taken up with primary sources, which are drawn from three continents and span an astonishing 13 centuries. These are helpfully organized into various schools of Gnostic tradition: Sethian, Valentinian, Syrian, Hermetic, Mandaean, Manichaean, and--in an unusual move--relatively late Islamic and Cathar texts. Each grouping of texts is preceded by a brief introduction to that particular section's brand of Gnosticism. What is clear from this sourcebook is the tremendous diversity of thought that exists under the "Gnostic" umbrella, including Christian, Jewish, Muslim, pagan, Zoroastrian and Greco-Roman themes. Many of the texts are being published here in English for the first time, making this a valuable resource for students and scholars.
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