By Nicola Denzey Lewis

In 'Cosmology and destiny in Gnosticism and Graeco-Roman Antiquity,' Nicola Denzey Lewis dismisses Hans Jonas' mischaracterization of second-century Gnosticism as a philosophically-oriented spiritual stream equipped at the conception of the cosmos as destructive or enslaving. A centred examine at the proposal of astrological destiny in “Gnostic” writings together with the Apocryphon of John, the recently-discovered Gospel of Judas, Trimorphic Protennoia, and the Pistis Sophia, this booklet reexamines their language of “enslavement to destiny (Gk: heimarmene)” from its origins in Greek Stoicism, its deployment by means of the apostle Paul, to its later use by way of quite a few second-century intellectuals (both Christian and non-Christian). Denzey Lewis therefore deals an educated and revisionist conceptual map of the traditional cosmos, its effect, and all those that claimed to be freed from its almost certainly pernicious results.

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Extra resources for Cosmology and Fate in Gnosticism and Graeco-Roman Antiquity: Under Pitiless Skies (Nag Hammadi and Manichaean Studies, Volume 81)

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Cosmic Pessimism and the History of Religions School in Germany The perspective expressed by French and English scholars—that the people of Greek and Roman antiquity were terrorized by specters of their own creation—also reflects the earlier scholarship of the influential religionsgeschichtliche Schule of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. 37 The religionsgeschichtliche Schule had first developed the idea that ‘cosmic pessimism’ pervaded the worldview of Rome from Babylonian or Iranian religion by way of Gnosticism.

One treatise from Nag Hammadi, The Hypostasis of the Archons (NHC II, 4) begins with a quotation of Ephesians 6:12. But Hypostasis of the Archons remains undated and undatable; even if it could have reasonably been composed in the third century, it still never precisely equates the “cosmic powers of the darkness” with astral fate. ”28 Here, his prevarication is revealing: far from being a prominent theme, the rhetoric of an inexorable, enslaving Fate is strikingly rare among extant primary source composed during the first four centuries.

3 Jonas believed that the gnostics, like the Stoics, had borrowed their concept of heimarmene from astrology. But unlike its Stoic 1 2 3 Hans Jonas, The Gnostic Religion, 261. See also 254–255. Jonas, Gnostic Religion, 259. Jonas, Gnostic Religion, 254. 7 Jonas understood gnostic heimarmene as a grotesque perversion, or perhaps an inversion, of Stoic pronoia, and thus a manifestation of religious Angst in the Age of Anxiety. His assessment would have resounding effects on Gnostic studies. Long after Jonas had put down his pen, Kurt Rudolph summarized ‘the’ Gnostic perspective: The whole worldview of Late Antiquity, with its idea of heimarmene which dominates the gods, the world, and men, is here as if bracketed together and marked with a negative sign.

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