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Gnosticism: From Nag Hammadi to the Gospel of Judas

Season 1
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.
201524 episodes
TV-PG
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Episodes

  1. S1 E1 - Rediscovering Gnosis
    February 5, 2015
    33min
    TV-PG
    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. #Music, Philosophy & Religion
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  2. S1 E2 - Who Were the Gnostics?
    February 5, 2015
    31min
    TV-PG
    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.
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  3. S1 E3 - God in Gnostic Myth
    February 5, 2015
    32min
    TV-PG
    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.
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  4. S1 E4 - Gnosticism on Creation, Sin, and Salvation
    February 5, 2015
    31min
    TV-PG
    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.
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  5. S1 E5 - Judas as a Gnostic Tragic Hero
    February 5, 2015
    31min
    TV-PG
    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.
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  6. S1 E6 - Gnostic Bible Stories
    February 5, 2015
    31min
    TV-PG
    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.
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  7. S1 E7 - Gnosticism's Ritual Pathway to God
    February 5, 2015
    33min
    TV-PG
    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.
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  8. S1 E8 - The Feminine in Gnostic Myth
    February 5, 2015
    31min
    TV-PG
    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.
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  9. S1 E9 - The Gospel of Thomas's Cryptic Sayings
    February 5, 2015
    33min
    TV-PG
    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.
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  10. S1 E10 - The Gospel of Thomas on Reunifying the Self
    February 5, 2015
    30min
    TV-PG
    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.
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  11. S1 E11 - Valentinus, Great Preacher of Gnosis
    February 5, 2015
    33min
    TV-PG
    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.
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  12. S1 E12 - God and Creation in Valentinian Myth
    February 5, 2015
    34min
    TV-PG
    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.
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  13. S1 E13 - Becoming Male through Valentinian Ritual
    February 5, 2015
    32min
    TV-PG
    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.
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  14. S1 E14 - Valentinian Views on Christian Theology
    February 5, 2015
    33min
    TV-PG
    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.
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  15. S1 E15 - Mary Magdalene as an Apostle of Gnosis
    February 5, 2015
    32min
    TV-PG
    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.
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  16. S1 E16 - Competing Revelations from Christ
    February 5, 2015
    31min
    TV-PG
    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.
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  17. S1 E17 - The Invention of Heresy
    February 5, 2015
    33min
    TV-PG
    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.
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  18. S1 E18 - Making Gnosis Orthodox
    February 5, 2015
    34min
    TV-PG
    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.
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  19. S1 E19 - Gnosticism and Judaism
    February 5, 2015
    32min
    TV-PG
    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.
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  20. S1 E20 - Gnosis without Christ
    February 5, 2015
    34min
    TV-PG
    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.
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  21. S1 E21 - The Mythology of Manichaeism
    February 5, 2015
    32min
    TV-PG
    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.
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  22. S1 E22 - Augustine on Manichaeism and Original Sin
    February 5, 2015
    33min
    TV-PG
    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.
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  23. S1 E23 - Gnostic Traces in Western Religions
    February 5, 2015
    35min
    TV-PG
    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.
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  24. S1 E24 - Gnosticism in the Modern Imagination
    February 5, 2015
    34min
    TV-PG
    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.
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Details

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Audio languages
EnglishEnglish Dialogue Boost: MediumEnglish Dialogue Boost: High
Subtitles
English [CC]
Producers
The Great Courses
Starring
David Brakke
Studio
The Great Courses
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