Gnostic Sources

Although The Secular Gospel of Sophia is not primarily about Gnostic Christianity, the preservation of the early Gnostic gospels does play a principle role in the story. I have found the following sources helpful in beginning to understand the belief systems and practices of what we have come to call “Gnosticism.” The following are among the sources that I read in whole or in part during the writing of the book. There are literally hundreds of additional sources as any interested person will easily discover. The website, is perhaps the best place to start. I particularly recommend the books by Marvin Meyer, Elaine Pagels and Bart D. Ehrman, listed below.

The Nag Hammadi Scriptures – Marvin Meyer (ed.), Harper Collins (2009) – The Source. Translations of the 52 texts found near Nag Hammadi in Egypt in 1945.

The Gnostic Discoveries (The Impact of the Nag Hammadi Library) – Marvin Meyer (2005) – A very good, short history of the discovery, meaning and impact of the Nag Hammadi library.

The Gnostic Gospels – Elaine Pagels, Random House (1979) – An early and very good general guide to the subject.

Forbidden Faith (The Secret History of Gnosticism) – Richard Smoley, HarperCollins (2009) – A broad overview of Christian Gnostic thought and other, related esoteric religious thought through the years.

Gnosis (The Nature and History of Gnosticism) – Kurt Rudolph, HarperOne (1987) – Translated from German. Scholarship has come a long way since this was written, but it has some great illustrations and articulates what one scholar thought Gnosticism meant.

The Gnostics (The First Christian Heretics) – Sean Martin, Oldcastle Books (2007) – An orthodoxy-biased account. Not a very good source for someone trying to understand the subject.

Gnosis: An Introduction – Christoph Markschies, Bloomsbury (2003) – A pretty good introduction to the subject.

Mystic Christianity (The Inner Teachings of the Master) – William Walker Atkinson, The Theosophical Publishing Society (1908) – The subject is not “Gnosticism,” but early spiritual Christianity, which provides some insight into some of what the early followers of Jesus may have been thinking.

Esoteric Christianity (The Lesser Mysteries) – Annie Wood Besant, The Theosophical Publishing Society (1905) – An early, pre-Nag Hammadi attempt to explain the Christian Gnostic tradition.

The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot (A New Look At Betrayer and Betrayed) – Bart D. Ehrman, Oxford University Press (2006) – A good examination of the discovery and meaning of the Gnostic Gospel of Judas Iscariot.

Lost Christianities (The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew) – Bart D. Ehrman, Oxford University Press (2003) – An examination of the diversity in early Christianity and the 300 year effort by what became the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches to eliminate divergent beliefs about Jesus.

Corpus Hermeticum – G.R.S. Mead (tr.), Amazon Digital Services (c. 1905) – A translation of the core documents of the Hermetic tradition of Egyptian gnostic thought, supposedly written by Hermes Trismegistus, an obscure, perhaps divine Egyptian prophet or, in some accounts, a pseudonym for the Egyptian God Thoth. The Hermetic tradition was alive during and influenced branches of Christian Gnostic thought.

The Emerald Tablet of Hermes – Hermes Trismegistus, IAP (2009) – Supposedly from a tablet discovered in Egypt during the Middle Ages and consisting of some ten sayings of Hermes Trismegistus.

The Gnostics and Their Remains, Ancient and Mediaeval – Charles William King (1887) – Another, early, pre-Nag Hammadi attempt to explain Gnostic Christianity.


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