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Gnosticism: From Nag Hammadi to the Gospel of Judas

Discover the mysteries of Gnosticism-its worldview, rituals, and sacred texts-and reveal its remarkable impact on western religious history.
Gnosticism: From Nag Hammadi to the Gospel of Judas is rated 4.7 out of 5 by 98.
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Rated 2 out of 5 by from Inaccurate representation of Gnostisism The course isn't accurate or complete, including with no mention of Pistis Sophia in the course, which is accepted as one of the major books of Gnostisism. In opposition to the stronger Gnostic experts, Mary Magdalene and her leadership role in Gnostism is refused. Furthermore, the course is intensively sexist describing women as the subproduct of men. I have no idea how such a course can be accepted or approved for representation of Gnostisism.
Date published: 2024-06-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An informative and thorough study Professor Braake delivers a balanced, academic analysis of a religious system that has been regarded as 'dangerous' or 'misleading' for 2000years. The basic aspects of the theology of the system of belief called 'gnosticism' is carefully described along with significant variations and historic developments of the original 1stC AD beliefs. Prof.Braake makes it clear on the few occasions when he is expressing his own opinion of, or agreeing with, academic aspects, but nearly all the lectures deliver neutral nformation about the topic, not aiming to proselytize for or rail against the belief systems he describes. I am a practicing Christian in the Church of England and have found the lectures excellent in showing me that there is probably no single 'correct' interpretation of Biblical scripture but rather that western Christianity has evolved credal statements that may or not be 'the truth', and has rejected historic variations of 'truth' that were looking at basic Christian issues from a different perspective.
Date published: 2024-03-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating subject I have been interested in Gnosticism most of my adult life. The history is fascinating. This lecture series is an excellent overview of the subject. I do wish he had delved deeper into some of the writings (beyond the 3 or 4 he talks about). A few of the later lectures have little-- if anything-- to do with actual Gnosticism. But they remain interesting. Overall, an excellent series, but it could have used some tweaks to stick closer to the subject at hand. Still, I can't rate it lower than I do.
Date published: 2023-11-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This is the best course that I ever made It shows a philosophical Christianity. I path to wisdom. Shows us how some paths of spirituality were brutally extinct.
Date published: 2023-03-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Course One of the best courses on Wondrium I've watched so far. Very insightful and detailed. I would recommend having some background in religious history first.
Date published: 2023-03-23
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Elucidation of Gnostic school If one trans-literate some of the concepts of Gnosticism into modern Philosophy and Science, and cognition then we shift from Gnostic theology to address some of the implications of Thermo-Dynamics, Uncertainty Theory, and Relativity. Some of the most fertile developments in Philosophy seem to be anticipated in Gnostic thought and lost Christianities. I am not sure it is helpful to cling to earlier Gnostic terminology and Cosmology. Some of the most interesting aspects of this course are those that elucidate the meanings and intentions but when he starts to interpret modern cults as notions of reality. An essential antidote to some of the cults is the course by Alan Korse 'The origins of the Modern Mind'
Date published: 2022-11-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating! Truly a mind opening course. Highly stimulating, deep.
Date published: 2022-11-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from So interesting I started learning on the channel but there was so much to learn that I wanted to buy the DVD so that I could rewind and re-review. All the courses I've watched are very similar to my old college courses. Every teacher speaks intelligently and respectfully. I am a huge fan. But I am especially find of this course.
Date published: 2022-10-22
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Gnosticism, one of the most fascinating phenomena in religious history, sparked ideologies that competed and conversed with other religions of the time, including Christianity. Follow Gnostic ideology and its impact on Western thought through the centuries, from its role in early religions and emergence in medieval spirituality to its remarkable traces in modern popular culture.


David Brakke

What the people we will study would want us to do is to read their texts, to consider with open minds what they teach us, and-just possibly-to pursue our own quests for the truth about God and ourselves-that is, to seek our own gnosis.


The Ohio State University

Professor David Brakke is the Joe R. Engle Chair in the History of Christianity and Professor of History at The Ohio State University. He received his B.A. in English from the University of Virginia, his M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and his Ph.D. in Religious Studies from Yale University. He taught for 19 years in the Department of Religious Studies at Indiana University.

Professor Brakke has published extensively on the history and literature of ancient Christianity, especially Egyptian Christianity, early monasticism, the formation of the biblical canon, and Gnosticism. His books include The Gnostics: Myth, Ritual, and Diversity in Early Christianity; Demons and the Making of the Monk: Spiritual Combat in Early Christianity; and Introduction to Christianity, with Mary Jo Weaver. He has co-edited six volumes of scholarly essays and contributed nearly 40 articles to professional journals and volumes. From 2005 to 2015, he served as editor of the Journal of Early Christian Studies.

At Indiana University, Professor Brakke received recognition for his teaching and research, including the Outstanding Junior Faculty Award. He has held several important fellowships, including ones from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. He is currently preparing a revised edition of Bentley Layton's The Gnostic Scriptures.

By This Professor

Gnosticism: From Nag Hammadi to the Gospel of Judas
The Apocryphal Jesus
Understanding the New Testament
Gnosticism: From Nag Hammadi to the Gospel of Judas


Rediscovering Gnosis

01: Rediscovering Gnosis

Begin by exploring the key tenets of the religious movements of ancient Gnosticism, centered in the concept of gnosis, or direct, personal knowledge of God. Learn about the exciting 1945 discovery of the Nag Hammadi codices, a large cache of ancient manuscripts representing four diverse Gnostic traditions.

33 min
Who Were the Gnostics?

02: Who Were the Gnostics?

The 2nd-century writings of Irenaeus constitute one of the early sources on Gnosticism. Here, investigate whether Irenaeus's claim that the Gnostics deviated from an original Christian truth is accurate. Then learn what Irenaeus tells us about the Gnostics' beliefs, and how he helps us to identify key Gnostic texts.

31 min
God in Gnostic Myth

03: God in Gnostic Myth

The Secret Book According to John is the most important surviving Gnostic text. Explore the Gnostic conception of God in this book, as a complex intellect consisting of numerous aspects called "aeons." Learn how the God of Genesis, viewed by the Gnostics as a lesser, imperfect divinity, came into being.

32 min
Gnosticism on Creation, Sin, and Salvation

04: Gnosticism on Creation, Sin, and Salvation

Continuing with the Secret Book, study the text's retelling of the Genesis story, which presents the creation of humanity and the biblical Flood as the work of the false god Ialdaboath, who acts to prevent human beings from knowing their true nature. Learn also about salvation as envisioned in the Secret Book.

31 min
Judas as a Gnostic Tragic Hero

05: Judas as a Gnostic Tragic Hero

The Gnostic Gospel of Judas differs significantly from the portrayal of Judas in the New Testament. Discover the Gnostic account, which recasts both the actions of Judas and his role in God's larger plan, predicting an important role for Judas in the coming kingdom of God while criticizing the other disciples.

31 min
Gnostic Bible Stories

06: Gnostic Bible Stories

The Gnostic texts The Revelation of Adam and The Reality of the Rulers rewrite the early chapters of Genesis. Examine how the texts reformulate the story of the Creation, Noah and the Flood, and the question of who will be saved, placing the Gnostics themselves within Genesis and linking the stories to their salvation.

31 min
Gnosticism's Ritual Pathway to God

07: Gnosticism's Ritual Pathway to God

Here, explore Gnostic conceptions regarding direct knowledge of God. First, learn about ritual baptism and hymn singing in Gnosticism, and their promise of gnosis. Then study texts that illustrate two ways of knowing God; one, a journey upward through the cosmic heavens, the other through interior contemplation of one's own intellect.

33 min
The Feminine in Gnostic Myth

08: The Feminine in Gnostic Myth

Gnosticism is known among the ancient religions for its prominent number of female deities and divinities. Look at three examples of the feminine in Gnostic texts-the feminine divine, the feminine revealer, and the feminine heroine-to assess the nature and role of the female principle within the Gnostic tradition.

31 min
The Gospel of Thomas's Cryptic Sayings

09: The Gospel of Thomas's Cryptic Sayings

The Gospel According to Thomas is the most famous of the ancient documents discovered at Nag Hammadi. Learn how the text comprises sayings of Jesus that the reader must seek to understand. Observe how the gospel rejects the teaching of a future kingdom of God, contending instead that the kingdom is within us.

33 min
The Gospel of Thomas on Reunifying the Self

10: The Gospel of Thomas on Reunifying the Self

Explore core religious concepts in the Thomas gospel, highlighting its view of salvation as the overcoming of divisions, finding unity with oneself and with Jesus. Investigate the symbolic role of baptism in stripping away the old self and healing dualities, and study the gospel's advice on how to live in the world.

30 min
Valentinus, Great Preacher of Gnosis

11: Valentinus, Great Preacher of Gnosis

The second century theologian Valentinus used the Gnostic myth in creating a powerful Christian movement. Here, learn how Valentinus modified Gnostic teachings in ways appealing to early Christians. Grasp how his spirituality invited followers to find true gnosis in Jesus and to experience God directly, intimately, and joyfully.

33 min
God and Creation in Valentinian Myth

12: God and Creation in Valentinian Myth

Study how Valentinus's radical spirituality spread, and how the movement interacted with other contemporary forms of Christianity. Then investigate its mythological construct of the universe as composed of three elements: matter, spirit, and soul. One of these predominates in each individual human being, crucially influencing their spiritual destiny.

34 min

13: "Becoming Male" through Valentinian Ritual

This lecture explores the extraordinary power and import of the Valentinian sacraments. Grasp the symbolism of the Eucharist and the complex ritual of baptism, as they represent resurrection and salvation. Study the Valentinian conception of salvation as a healing of the schism between our angelic and human (or female/male) selves.

32 min
Valentinian Views on Christian Theology

14: Valentinian Views on Christian Theology

To fully comprehend Valentinian teachings, we must place them within the context of the diverse Christian beliefs of their time. Delve into the Valentinian views of the resurrection, the relevance of the Jewish Bible, and the authority of Valentinus's knowledge, noting essential differences with the Christian thinking that later became orthodoxy.

33 min
Mary Magdalene as an Apostle of Gnosis

15: Mary Magdalene as an Apostle of Gnosis

The figure of Mary Magdalene appears prominently in Valentinian and other so-called "heretical" writings. In assessing her significance within these traditions, contrast her portrayal in the canonical gospels with the non-canonical Gospel According to Mary, which reveals key evidence regarding the role of women in early Christianity and the nature of religious authority.

32 min
Competing Revelations from Christ

16: Competing Revelations from Christ

The Nag Hammadi codices contain numerous texts called "revelations" or "secret books." Here, explore three such texts, the Revelation of Paul, the Revelation of Peter, and the Secret Book of James, as they propound theological views that challenged and in some cases sharply criticized the emerging orthodox church and its leaders.

31 min
The Invention of Heresy

17: The Invention of Heresy

The teachings of the Gnostics and Valentinians were later condemned as heresy. But how did the idea of heresy arise within Christianity? Learn about the "invention" of heresy by theologians such as Justin Martyr and Irenaeus. Study what Irenaeus opposed in Gnostic/Valentinian spirituality, and the core features of his vision of Christianity.

33 min
Making Gnosis Orthodox

18: Making Gnosis Orthodox

Also opposing the Gnostics and Valentinians were Christian teachers who claimed to offer a gnosis that was faithful to the teachings of the emerging church. Encounter the work of Clement and Origen, visionary theologians who encouraged Christians to move beyond mere faith to a deeper understanding of the mysteries of God and the universe.

34 min
Gnosticism and Judaism

19: Gnosticism and Judaism

Begin to investigate the significance of Gnosticism for religions other than Christianity. Look into why some historians believe that Gnosticism began as a Jewish religious movement and only later included Jesus, as well as the arguments against this view, in grasping how emerging Judaism was part of the story of Gnosticism.

32 min
Gnosis without Christ

20: Gnosis without Christ

Two non-Jewish, non-Christian philosophical movements also responded to the ideas of the Gnostics. Study the tenets of Hermeticism, whose sacred texts offered an intellectual and philosophical path to gnosis. Learn also about Neo-Platonism, whose conception of gnosis emphasized our essential connection to God and the possibility of divine union now.

34 min
The Mythology of Manichaeism

21: The Mythology of Manichaeism

Historians have often depicted the religious movement of Manichaeism as the culmination of ancient Gnosticism. Investigate Manichaeism's extraordinarily complex mythology-envisioning reality as a struggle between cosmic forces of Light and Darkness-its conception of salvation, and the structural hierarchy through which Manichaeism became a highly organized international religion.

32 min
Augustine on Manichaeism and Original Sin

22: Augustine on Manichaeism and Original Sin

St. Augustine, one of the most important figures in the history of Christianity, was a Manichaean before becoming a Christian. Observe how Augustine, as a Christian, vehemently opposed Manichaean views of God, good, and evil, and how he developed his teaching on original sin in response to what he had learned in Manichaeism.

33 min
Gnostic Traces in Western Religions

23: Gnostic Traces in Western Religions

Key ideas from ancient Gnosticism persisted into the Middle Ages and beyond. Learn about Mandeanism, one of the oldest still existing religions of the Middle East; the mystical theology of Evagrius; the medieval Cathars; and Jewish Kabbalah. Trace the connections between these esoteric forms of spirituality and the Gnostics.

35 min

24: "Gnosticism" in the Modern Imagination

Finally, uncover Gnostic themes in the science fiction novels of Philip K. Dick and the films Blade Runner and The Matrix, and learn about the contemporary Gnostic Christian Church. Consider what truly links the religious movements we've studied, and what their ultimate message to us may be.

34 min