The Gnostics and Their Remains: Ancient and Mediaeval

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9781298897671: The Gnostics and Their Remains: Ancient and Mediaeval

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In the mid-19th century, eighty years before the chance discovery of a treasure trove of Gnostic manuscripts in a dump in Egypt, C.W. King collected what was known about the Gnostics in this book. At that time there were only three sources of information on Gnosticism: polemics against them by early Christian writers, the Pistis Sophia, and a jumble of confusing images and cryptic inscriptions on Roman-era gems and amulets. In spite of all of the missing jigsaw pieces, King managed to assemble a picture of the Gnostics which is still cited today as authoritative. Rather than one monolithic group, the Gnostics had very diverse beliefs. Some thought that Jesus was a man, while others thought that he was a God, and some believed that he became a God only after he was baptized. Some believed in a struggle between good and evil, others were non-dualistic. Most had widely-varying intricate systems of intermediaries between the ultimate deity and humanity. On the face of it, this looks polytheistic, but instead was an attempt to solve the problem of how a perfect God could create an imperfect world. Many of these Aeons later became the demons and angels of Medieval and Renaissance magic.

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