Worship in second-century Gnosticism : studies in the ritual life of some early Christian minorities
This series of interconnected studies in the ritual practice of the groups associated with the early Christian movement which are now usually now described as 'Gnostic', is a modest essay towards a survey of the subject, last undertaken by Bousset in 1907 and Fendt in 1922. Of the three main groups of sects which became distinguishable during the investigation, these studies are concerned with two:- those here designated 'Cults of Power', and those showing signs of having their origin in the separation of church from synagogue. A consideration of the third group, here entitled 'The Gentile Counter-Churches', is omitted, to keep this dissertation within manageable compass; it would have been comparatively brief, because of the paucity of evidence. At the outset, it had been expected that general characterizations would be possible. However, the repeated discovery that the expectation of unifying characteristics, or even of some sort of underlying unitive rite, was not substantiated hy the material,each detectable ritual association on its own, with the minimum recourse to evidence from other contexts, except to note the clearest parallels and probable borrowings. Chapter One lists the questions asked; surveys the present literature and the sources (both patristic and sectarian); lists and classifies the sects to be examined; and discusses method. Chapter Two examines the 'Cults of Power', after a definition of that term and a characterization of such cults, past and present. The topics are:- Simon Magus; Menander; Satornil; Cerdo; the Carpocratians; Marcus and the Marcosiansj and Elchasai. In the course of this chapter, in connection with Marcus, a major suggestion is made as to the original order of Adversus Haereses I, which affects all presentations of Valentinian liturgy, and hence of all 'Gnostic' worship in general. Chapter Three argues liturgical continuity, combinin baptismal devotion with 'Ascentof- the-Soul' Ri aI, can be traced through the users of the Gosp of Thomas, the Peratae, the Naassenes/Chapter Three argues that a degree of liturgical continuity, combining a baptismal devotion with 'Ascent '-ritual, can be traced through the users of the Gospel of Thomas, the Peratae, the Naassenes/Ophites, Justin the Gnostic and the 'Phibionites' of Epiphanius, and certain Jewish-Christians who claimed a 'James'- tradition. (Apparently cognate groups, the users of pokryphon of John and of the Petrine apocrypha from Nag Hammadi, offer insufficient liturgical data to be incorporated here). It is argued that this complex of sects derives from the chaos of the separation of Christianity from Judaism.