Related Strangers: Jews and Christians, 70-170 C.E.

By Stephen G. Wilson | Go to book overview

7
GNOSTICS AND MARCIONITES

At first sight it might seem strange in a book on Jewish-Christian relations to find a chapter devoted to two movements, one of which may have been only partially Christian and both of which were firmly rejected by what was to become mainstream Christianity. That the two movements were resisted and eventually outlawed is an important observation. Indeed, it might be added, the way in which they were resisted made a significant contribution to the ingraining of negative attitudes toward Judaism in later Christian theology. This, however, is a story that falls largely outside our chronological limits. It is a commonplace observation that during the period we are interested in, especially the second century, Christianity showed great diversity and no settled sense of orthodoxy. It is thus important to recognize that the Marcionites and the various Christian gnostic sects were a significant, widespread, and visible component of the Christian movement. It is not inconceivable that they were as numerous as their Catholic opponents, though it has to be admitted that the demography of the early Christian movement is notoriously difficult to estimate with any precision. It is certain that in some areas they were the main, if not the sole, representatives of Christianity. Their attitude toward Jews and Judaism was therefore, from the perspective of an outsider, either the only attitude of Christianity or the attitude of a significant and vocal element within it. Thus, although both movements were condemned as heretical and subsequently marginalized, in their heyday they were not to be ignored.

We must, of course, recognize that many think that the Gnostics were neither originally nor solely a Christian group. The existence in the Nag Hammadi collection of non-Christian gnostic writings, and of Christian adaptations of some of these, is thought to provide graphic demonstration of the importance of non-Christian Gnosticism and to suggest that Christianity was a secondary rather than a primary influence.' Indeed, the origins of

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Related Strangers: Jews and Christians, 70-170 C.E.
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Abbreviations of Modern Sources viii
  • Abbreviations of Ancient Sources x
  • Introduction xiv
  • 1: The Political and Social Context 1
  • 2: Jews and Judaism in the Canonical Narratives 36
  • 3: Apocrypha 82
  • 4: Supersession 110
  • 5: Jewish Christians and Gentile Judaizers 143
  • 6: Jewish Reactions to Christianity 169
  • 7: Gnostics and Marcionites 195
  • 8: Patterns of Christian Worship 222
  • 9: Dialogue and Dispute 258
  • 10: An Overview 285
  • Notes 303
  • Modern Author Index 395
  • Subject Index 401
  • Ancient Sources Index 404
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