A distinctive Christian heresy? A competitor of burgeoning Christianity? A pre-Christian folk religion traceable to "Oriental syncretism"? How do we account for the disparate ideas, writings, and practices that have been placed under the Gnostic rubric? To do so, Karen King says, we must first disentangle modern historiography from the Christian discourse of orthodoxy and heresy that has pervaded - and distorted - the story. Exciting discoveries of previously unknown ancient writings are challenging historians of religion to rethink not only what we mean by Gnosticism but also the standard account of Christian origins. King shows how historians have been misled by ancient Christian polemicists who attacked Gnostic beliefs as a "dark double" against which the new faith could define itself. Her book is thus both a thorough and innovative introduction to the twentieth-century study of Gnosticism and a revealing exploration of the concept of heresy as a tool in forming religious identity.
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(235mm x 155mm x 22mm)
The Belknap Press
Publisher: Harvard University Press
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Author Biography - Karen L. King
Karen L. King is Winn Professor of Ecclesiastical History at the Divinity School, Harvard University.