A History of Gnosticism
The 1945 discovery of a Gnostic library at Nag Hamadi has brought the study of this second- and third-century religious movement from the wings to center stage. Filoramo (University of Turin) has given us the most complete account of Gnosticism thus far. He is thoroughly grounded in ancient writings — classical sources and the Church Fathers in addition to the Nag Hamadi library — and in the scholarly literature. The result is an extensive and probing study of this religious movement, which had wide-spread appeal in the late classical world. Among the subjects discussed, although not necessarily in this order or under these titles, are the existential and religious issues Gnosticism sought to address; the origins of the Gnostic movement; the nature of Gnostic knowledge; the Gnostic savior; Gnostic eschatology; and, finally, Gnostic personal and social ethics. There is a sketch of the impact of Gnosticism on succeeding generations and its remnants in our own time; this is suggestive but too brief to be convincing. Filoramo has written several articles on Gnosticism and five books on the history of religions. Alcock has provided a graceful and readable translation. Helpful and illuminating index, notes and bibliography. Recommended for graduate students, faculty, and occasional upper-level undergraduates.