Antti Marjanen

in The Oxford Handbook of Early Christian Studies

Published in print September 2008 | ISBN: 9780199271566
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Religion and Theology


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The state of research into what is traditionally called ‘Gnosticism’, a religious phenomenon of late antiquity, is opaque at the moment. In a recent collection of essays on the topic, two prominent scholars approach the topic in very different ways. Birger Pearson states that there was a gnostic religion, and that it still exists. Michael Williams, in turn, comments that related texts will be realized only when one ‘dims the switch’ on the category of Gnosticism. The two views presented above illustrate that, in the current scholarly discussion, no consensus prevails as to how the religious category or phenomenon of ‘Gnosticism’ is to be conceived or even employed. This article describes how the phenomenon has been perceived in the past. In the history of the study of ‘Gnosticism’, there have basically been three ways to approach it. The first represents an ancient view, contemporary with the assumed genesis of ‘Gnosticism’. The other two are later scholarly products.

Keywords: Gnosticism; religious phenomenon; Birger Pearson; Gnostic religion; Michael Williams

Article.  8399 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Christianity ; Philosophy of Religion ; Religious Studies

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