RBL REVIEW by James McGrath: David Brakke, The Gnostics: Myth, Ritual, and Diversity in Early Christianity
(Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2010 pp. xii + 164. $29.95).
By the way, I share David Brakke's skepticism about the existence of ancient Jewish Gnosticism. The key problem is not so much that we lack actual Jewish Gnostic texts, but rather that the internal thought world of the surviving ancient Christian Gnostic texts makes sense as emerging out of Christianity, but is oblivious to obvious Jewish concerns. Where, for example, are the midrashic reflections on the implications of the Gnostic myth of a corrupt demiurge and an intrinsically evil material world for Jewish halachic practices? Contrast the letters of Paul, which are in the early stages of founding a new movement deriving from Judaism and which are very much concerned with such Jewish issues.
This does not mean that there wasn't some original form of Jewish demiurgic Gnosticism, but if there was, the positive evidence for it has been purged from our surviving sources. Unless and until that changes, I remain unconvinced.