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The most important insight I gained from Prof David Brakke’s “Gnosticism: From Nag Hammadi to the Gospel of Judas” is that without Christianity’s fling with ancient Gnosticism the concept of the Trinity of God might not have come to full realisation. In the course he doesn’t say it, but when you think about it, it seems highly probable.
Though for most part Prof Brakke’s lectures follows the standard format of introducing Gnosticism in all its varieties, his contextualisation in the last two lectures, brought a different dimension to what one usually can expect of such courses. For that I commend this course series.
When listening to the lectures you will be introduced to Irenaeus, an early heresy hunter and church father. You will learn something of what other scholars calls “Sethian/Classic” Gnosticism (which includes their myth and an overview of the Gospel of Judas). You will also hear about Valentinus and Valentinian Christianity; the famed Gospel of Thomas and its relation to Gnosticism; the unifying teachings of Mani and Manichaeism; non-Christian Gnosis like devotion to Hermes Trismegistus and you will be given an overview of the beliefs of the Mandaeans. At the end Gnostic ideas will be linked to popular culture and films, such as The Matrix trilogy and Blade Runner.
Prof. Brakke has a way of breaking down difficult concepts and myths in congestible parts through succinct summaries. This facilitates easy understanding. Some of the lectures build on each other. At the end of the course you will understand the basic structure of various related Gnostic traditions.
Yet there are things about this course that I would have liked different. For one, Prof. Brakke’s pronunciation of Greek, Coptic and Hebrew are extremely Americanised. I found it very difficult to follow him when he referred to something in these languages and quoting it. I even got the impression that he might not know any of the languages he referred to. I think that using standard academic pronunciation will tremendously help me as a listener to follow him better. I am thinking of words like “psyche” and “trismegistus.”
I think the name of the course is a bit of a misnomer. Prof. Brakke doesn’t end with “The Gospel of Judas” but deals with it quite early on in the lecture series. Maybe the series should also have been called “Gnosticisms” as Prof. Brakke is of the opinion that only Sethian Gnosticism is true Gnosticism. He is not part of the older school that used Gnosticism as an umbrella term.
This aside, if you want to know what ancient Gnosticism is all about, why it was seen as heretical in the early Christian Church and what it entails, then this course is for you.
45 of 45 people found this review helpful
An excellent presentation of an oft-referenced but rarely understood collection of documents, subjects, and groups known by the catch-all term "gnostic". Professor Brakke provides overviews and analyses of the documents discovered at Nag Hammadi (and other finds) to illuminate and distinguish the diverse, rich traditions which produced them. He demonstrates an impressive level of expertise regarding the historical, philosophical, and spiritual backgrounds of each document and each tradition. He also provides a refreshing perspective on what happened to these groups, how they influenced faiths and concepts both ancient and modern, and how they might have developed from their unique cultural settings. Highly recommended!
6 of 6 people found this review helpful
Would you listen to Gnosticism: From Nag Hammadi to the Gospel of Judas again? Why?
As a PhD in Theology, who gets questions on Gnosticism, I found this comprehensive study excellent. Many years ago the topic perhaps got a couple of pages in a New Tetament introduction, today it s a subject attracting courses from many perspectives.
What did you like best about this story?
The scope and depth of the lectures.the discussion on the views of the Alternative Christianity school(s) of thought.
Any additional comments?
It will be interesting to. See what emerges next from the Great Courses religion and Theology departments
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
I found this lecture series to be of much interest. The depth was perfect for myself, someone who had some familiarity with gnosticism through articles, videos and podcasts, but not an academic level of knowledge.
If you have taken a course on gnosticism before, you might not learn much more. If you haven't, then this is a superb introduction.
I was appreciative that a number of related topics were covered here: Valentinus, Irenaeus, Mani, Cathars, Augustine. I might have enjoyed more references to nag hammadi texts.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
I listened to it all three times. Thoroughly enjoyed it. Well structured and insightful. Highly recommended.
Thoroughly enjoyed this. I realize that it is a difficult subject to present, however, I found it easy to listen to & somewhat humerous at times.
The many differing beliefs with all of their differing myth presentations was shared in an easy to understand pathway of the soul. The essence being that we are here to obtain 'gnosis' or hidden knowledge for the soul to escape this material world & using the easy to understand material of this Great Course of Gnosis -maybe we will. .
A first step for anyone who wants to look beyond the curtain of our lives & our purpose which jesus tried to convey. ..