What is Gnosticism? [vlog]

Depending on who you ask, the Gnostics were either evil heretics or enlightened sages plumbing the depths of divine knowledge. This latter romanticized view cropped up in the weeks following the publication of the Gospel of Judas back in 2006. For a public still basking in the afterglow of Dan Brown’s bestselling The Da Vinci Code, a fanclub quickly formed around the Gospel of Judas, attracted to the idea that Judas and Jesus were actually in league with each other unbeknownst to the rest of the disciples.

Though the hype from 2006 has since dwindled, misconceptions about the Gnostics still abound. Even among scholars, Gnostics escape easy classification. Were they overly-Hellenized Christians? Neoplatonists obsessed with the Christ myth? Manichees or Zoroastrians who had crept into Christian communities? The answer is of course none of these, but scholars have trotted out theories like these over the past 100 years, leaving scholarship on Gnosticism a somewhat confusing mess.

I purposely choose video blog topics that engage these messy situations. Although many may feel that they have a good handle on what Gnosticism is, I’m here to say it is never as simple as it seems. So check out my latest episode and let me know what you think! Can we actually define Gnosticism? Should we jettison the term entirely?

Andrew Henry is a PhD student in early Christianity at Boston University. His research focuses on the popular and domestic religion of the eastern Mediterranean, particularly the magico-religious rituals deployed to harness and direct ritual power.

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