Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Gnosticism, a sect associated with early Christianity. The Gnostics divided the universe into two domains: the visible world and the spiritual one. They believed that a special sort of knowledge, or gnosis, would enable them to escape the evils of the physical world and allow them access to the higher spiritual realm. The Gnostics were regarded as heretics by many of the Church Fathers, but their influence was important in defining the course of early Christianity. A major archaeological discovery in Egypt in the 1940s, when a large cache of Gnostic texts were found buried in an earthenware jar, enabled scholars to learn considerably more about their beliefs.

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  • Martin Palmer 22 episodes
    Director of the International Consultancy on Religion, Education, and Culture
  • Caroline Humfress 4 episodes
    Reader in History at Birkbeck College, University of London
  • Alastair Logan No other episodes
    Honorary University Fellow of the Department of Theology and Religion at the University of Exeter

Reading list

  • The Gnostic Bible: Gnostic Texts of Mystical Wisdom from the Ancient and Medieval Worlds
    Willis Barnstone and Marvin Meyer (New Seeds Books, 2003) Google Books →
  • The Gnostics: Myth, Ritual and Diversity in Early Christianity
    David Brakke (Harvard University Press, 2010) Google Books →
  • A History of Gnosticism
    Giovanni Filoramo (Blackwell, 1992)
  • Gnosis on the Silk Road
    Hans-Joachim Klimkeit (HarperCollins, 1993) Google Books →
  • The Gnostic Scriptures: A New Translation with Annotations and Introductions
    Bentley Layton (Doubleday, 1987) Google Books →
  • The Gnostics: Identifying an Early Christian Cult
    Alastair Logan (T&T Clark, 2006) Google Books →
  • Gnosis: An Introduction
    Christoph Markschies (T&T Clark, 2003) Google Books →
  • The Nag Hammadi Scriptures: The Revised and Updated Translation of Sacred Gnostic Texts
    Marvin Meyer and James M. Robinson (HarperOne, 2009) Google Books →
  • The Gnostic Gospels
    Elaine Pagels (Phoenix, 2006) Google Books →
  • The Jesus Sutras: Rediscovering the Lost Scrolls of Taoist Christianity
    Martin Palmer (Wellspring/Ballantine, 2001) Google Books →
  • Ancient Gnosticism: Traditions and Literature
    Birger A. Pearson (Fortress Press, 2007) Google Books →
  • The Nag Hammadi Library
    James M. Robinson (ed.) (HarperOne, 1990) Google Books →
  • Jesus, Gnosis and Dogma
    Riemer Roukema (T&T Clark, 2010) Google Books →
  • Gnosis: The Nature and History of Gnosticism
    Kurt Rudolph (HarperOne, 1987) Google Books →
  • Rethinking "Gnosticism": An Argument for Dismantling a Dubious Category
    Michael A. Williams (Princeton University Press, 1999) Google Books →

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Programme ID: b01s4rhz

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Auto-category: 270.1 (Christian heresies and sects)

Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello. In 1945, an Egyptian farmer walked out into the mountains near his home looking for fertiliser.