Savior Goddesses in the Mystery Religions and Gnosticism

Rosemary Radford Ruether

in Goddesses and the Divine Feminine

Published by University of California Press

Published in print May 2005 | ISBN: 9780520231467
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520940413 | DOI:
Savior Goddesses in the Mystery Religions and Gnosticism

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This chapter looks at how goddesses and female symbols of the divine functioned in two major movements that sought religious salvation in the context of Greco-Roman society: the mystery religions and gnosticism. Although both have been passed down to us shaped by a male point of view, both included women as priestesses, religious leaders, and adherents. Unfortunately, we have no texts by women in which we can glimpse how women saw their relation to the goddesses of the mystery religions. Gnosticism is even more complex: despite its androcentric view of divinity, it had powerful female deities and suggested a kind of subversion of the whole dominant patriarchal society and cosmos. Perhaps we glimpse here a proto-feminist movement in the context of an international, colonized society of antiquity. After discussing the mystery religions in the Hellenistic world, this chapter examines eschatology in Hellenistic Judaism, female spiritual powers in gnosticism, and female disciples in some gnostic gospels.

Keywords: Judaism; mystery religions; gnosticism; goddesses; female symbols; divinity; eschatology; female disciples; gospels; spiritual powers

Chapter.  12318 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Religious Studies

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