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No less than eleven of the fifty-three treatises of the Nag Hammadi Library fit the designation 'Sethian Gnostic'. They reveal the existence of a hitherto unrecognized religious competitor of early Christianity. With its own roots in second temple Judaism and in various first and second century sectarian baptismal movements, Sethian Gnosticism is now the earliest form of Gnosticism for which we possess a great deal of textual evidence. Like the Christian school of Valentinus (120-160 CE) and his followers - which it seems to antedate - Sethianism not only allied itself with the early Christian movement, but was also vitally indebted to the (Middle) Platonism of the first three centuries, even to the point that several of its theological treatises became the subject of scrutiny in Plotinus' third century Roman seminars. Although this book provides commentary on and analysis of the entire corpus of Sethian literature and goes on to develop a history of this movement and its literature and ritual practice in the first three centuries, its main focus is upon its striking engagement with the Platonic metaphysics of the second and third centuries, especially evident in four of its most distinctively Platonizing treatises, Zostrianos, Allogenes, The Three Steles of Seth, and Marsanes.
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