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The Gnostic Bible [Paperback]

Willis Barnstone , Marvin Meyer
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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The Gnostic Bible: Revised and Expanded Edition The Gnostic Bible: Revised and Expanded Edition
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Book Description

May 9 2006
A landmark work of scholarship and literary translation, The Gnostic Bible presents the most significant and beautiful sacred texts of gnostic mysticism. The gnostics were religious thinkers who believed that salvation is found through mystical knowledge and personal religious experience. Gnostic writings offer striking perspectives on both early Christian and non-Christian thought.

Dating from the first to the thirteenth centuries, the selections in this volume represent Jewish, Christian, Hermetic, Mandaean, Manichaean, Islamic, and Cathar forms of gnostic spirituality, and their sources include Egypt, the Greco-Roman world, the Middle East, Syria, Iraq, China, and France. These texts show that gnosticism was a world religion that sought truths in a wide variety of traditions and expressed those truths in powerful and provocative mystical poetry and prose. This is the first time that such a diverse collection of ancient gnostic texts has been published in a single volume, and many of the texts have never before been translated into English.

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From Publishers Weekly

This book may well be the most comprehensive collection of Gnostic materials ever gathered in one volume. After a dry introduction to current debates about gnosticism (by Meyer) and a luminous, marvelously literary introduction to issues of translation (by Barnstone), the bulk of the text is taken up with primary sources, which are drawn from three continents and span an astonishing 13 centuries. These are helpfully organized into various schools of Gnostic tradition: Sethian, Valentinian, Syrian, Hermetic, Mandaean, Manichaean, and--in an unusual move--relatively late Islamic and Cathar texts. Each grouping of texts is preceded by a brief introduction to that particular section's brand of Gnosticism. What is clear from this sourcebook is the tremendous diversity of thought that exists under the "Gnostic" umbrella, including Christian, Jewish, Muslim, pagan, Zoroastrian and Greco-Roman themes. Many of the texts are being published here in English for the first time, making this a valuable resource for students and scholars.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"This book may well be the most comprehensive collection of gnostic materials ever gathered in one volume. What is clear from the sourcebook is the tremendous diversity of thought that exists under the 'gnostic' umbrella including Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Pagan, Zoroastrian, and Greco-Roman themes. A valuable resource for students and scholars."—Publishers Weekly



“The selection of texts ranges across two millennia and various cultures.  Each work, some translated into English for the first time, is accompanied by a clear introduction and synopsis.  This is an important sampler of relatively unknown spiritual literature.”—Library Journal



“To read The Gnostic Bible is to witness something astonishing. . . . I read it with dizzy excitement.”—Ian Cant, Ascent Magazine

“A Godsend for anyone interested in alternative Christianity, the history of Christianity, or spirituality in general.”—Turk’s Head Review

"An enormously rich collection of sources—a wonderful achievement!"—Elaine Pagels, author of The Gnostic Gospels and Beyond Belief



"Willis Barnstone and Marvin Meyer's Gnostic Bible joins Bentley Layton's Gnostic Scriptures as one of the true critical sourcebooks for gnostic texts. Here, from China to Catalonia, from the first to the fourteenth centuries, gnosticism is seen as a global meditation."—Harold Bloom, author of Genius: A Mosaic, Hamlet: Poem Unlimited, and The Western Canon



“I feel as if I had been waiting for this book all my life.”—Carolyn Kizer, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet

“Everyone interested in the tumultuous origins of Christianity and in a mysticism of direct, unmediated communion with God should fall on this brilliant and ground-breaking book.  In it, for the first time, are assembled all the major texts of gnosticism, with illuminating notes and introductions, and in translations that radiate clarity.”—Andrew Harvey, author of Sun at Midnight, Son of Man, and The Direct Path

“These ancient texts have not lost any of their power to awaken higher consciousness.  Seekers of knowledge owe an enormous debt to Barnstone and Meyer for presenting these works to us in a fresh, clear, and accessible form.”—Richard Smoley, author of Inner Christianity: A Guide to the Esoteric Tradition

“In this wonderfully readable anthology the authors have brought together a large number of interesting selections from a wide chronological, geographical, and cultural range of traditions that nevertheless illustrate fascinating overlapping patterns in religious symbolism and worldviews.”—Michael Williams, author of Rethinking Gnosticism

“These two wise men have written an amazing book—the best of its kind, ever.  They bear lit matches in our dark tunnel—sometimes they are the matches themselves.”—Gerald Stern, author of American Sonnets and What I Can’t Bear Losing

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ancient Hidden Texts Come Into Contemporary Light Jan. 24 2004
Format:Hardcover
This is a fascinating volume. I have heard of the gnostic teachings over the years, but never realized that they were so widespread nor so diverse. These teachings extended in space from western China all the way to the Languedoc in southwestern France, and in time from before Christ until the Albigensian Crusade against the Cathars in the thirteenth century. It is interesting to note that, as Willis Barnstone states in his Epilogue, "(in) its territorial range, in its cultural multiplicity, no religion has been so internationally receptive as has gnosticism." In comparison, orthodox Christianity and Islam, while they now have a greater reach geographically, attained much of their extension through conquest.
From Marvin Meyer's Introduction and Willis Barnstone's Epilogue, both models of clear, accessible sholarship, one learns the reason why the gnostic teachings were so hated by the orthodoxies, especially in Christianity. The gnostic views ran so counter to the orthodox view that they represented a real theological threat to orthodox believers. It is no surprise that the early church set out to systematically destroy its major theological rival once Christianity became the state religion of the Roman Empire with Constantine's conversion in 1306. Despite the apparent logic of such a protective action, it is reprehensible nonetheless, equal in proportion to the later destruction of Mayan codices and other Pre-Columbian sacred texts by the Spanish in the Americas.
I am not Christian, Jewish or Muslim, but I am intensely interested in mystical literature and in the mystical experience.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Offering a veritable wealth of diverse sources May 15 2004
Format:Hardcover
Collaboratively compiled and expertly co-edited by Willis Barnstone (Distinguished Professor of Comparative Literature, Indiana University) and Marvin Meyer (Griset Professor of Bible and Christian Studies, Chapman University, Orange, California), The Gnostic Bible: Gnostic Texts Of Mystical Wisdom From The Ancient And Medieval Worlds is an 880-page collection of Jewish, Christian, Hermetic, Mandaean, Manichaean, Islamic, and Cathar writings concerning gnostic spirituality. Offering a veritable wealth of diverse sources, all of which are in full keeping with the Gnostic movement (and its promotion of salvation through knowledge and personal religious experience), The Gnostic Bible is a comprehensive, profoundly spiritual, and exceptionally accessible literary text, which is specifically translated in a manner that is designed to be clear and accessible to scholars, students, and non-specialist general readers of all backgrounds. No personal or academic Gnostic Studies collection can be considered truly comprehensive without the inclusion of this Shambhala edition of The Gnostic Bible.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Gnostic Bible Jan. 30 2004
Format:Hardcover
Fitting title for this book - Gnostic Bible. It brings together all the Gnostic Scriptures along with introductary commentary for each book. I spend a couple hours reading this book at the local book store and soon will order a copy. If you are interested in Gnostic literature, this book seems to be source for all within one hardcover book.
My favorite Gnostic books were the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, Gospel of Phillip, Gospel of Thomas, and Letter to Flora. Even though technology has advanced immeasurably since these Gospels were written, at least 1,800 years ago, one area that these ancients seems to have possessed that is timeless is their Philosophy, thoughts, and ideas which seem to be quite advanced in many ways even compared to us today 1,800 years later.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Disorganizaed but essential Jan. 28 2004
Format:Hardcover
This read bills itself as a collection of Gnostic readings, which is to say the Gnostic Bible. But the title is deceiving as the book is in fact not a Bible at all, it is just a collection of disorganizaed poetry and documents, none of which seem to form a story or a biblical narrative. In some ways the setup mirrors the Qur'anic setup where seemingly unrelated passages are jumbled together but at least the Qur'an as reason(its longest to Shortest in Surah's), this 'Bible' is not a bible but just a collection of unimportant little readings. The Gnostics and Gnosticism was a very important movement in the first centuries after Christ and this 'Bible' does not do them justice. Their should be better sources for an actual Bible used by the Gnosts rather then just a collection of Gnostic and pseudo-Gnostic literature.
Seth J. Frantzman
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  48 reviews
239 of 250 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ancient Hidden Texts Come Into Contemporary Light Jan. 24 2004
By Gary J. Schmechel - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This is a fascinating volume. I have heard of the gnostic teachings over the years, but never realized that they were so widespread nor so diverse. These teachings extended in space from western China all the way to the Languedoc in southwestern France, and in time from before Christ until the Albigensian Crusade against the Cathars in the thirteenth century. It is interesting to note that, as Willis Barnstone states in his Epilogue, "(in) its territorial range, in its cultural multiplicity, no religion has been so internationally receptive as has gnosticism." In comparison, orthodox Christianity and Islam, while they now have a greater reach geographically, attained much of their extension through conquest.
From Marvin Meyer's Introduction and Willis Barnstone's Epilogue, both models of clear, accessible sholarship, one learns the reason why the gnostic teachings were so hated by the orthodoxies, especially in Christianity. The gnostic views ran so counter to the orthodox view that they represented a real theological threat to orthodox believers. It is no surprise that the early church set out to systematically destroy its major theological rival once Christianity became the state religion of the Roman Empire with Constantine's conversion in 1306. Despite the apparent logic of such a protective action, it is reprehensible nonetheless, equal in proportion to the later destruction of Mayan codices and other Pre-Columbian sacred texts by the Spanish in the Americas.
I am not Christian, Jewish or Muslim, but I am intensely interested in mystical literature and in the mystical experience. After having initially read the beginning introductions, the epilogue and a bare smattering of the different entries, I can see how these teachings have exerted their influence through the writings of the major Christian, Jewish and Islamic mystics. Though these mystics often cloaked their teachings in the language of orthodoxy, and were persecuted nonetheless, their message has always come through to those dissatisfied with the strictures imposed by orthodox teachings. The gnostic principle of the individual's ability to achieve direct union with God without the intermediaries of church hierarchy has run like an underground aquifer through the centuries. With this volume, and the many others written in the last half-century at least, this underground source is once again coming to light. Its refreshing and revivifying message offers hope to those of us tired of the reigning orthodoxies with their increasing rigidity, exclusionary tactics and propensity toward fundamentalist, sectarian violence.
There is also the artistic beauty of these texts to consider, along with their historical, cultural, spiritual and theological implications . We are lucky to have Willis Barnstone, one of our master translators and poets, rendering many of these writings into lucid, rapturous verse and prose. His essay, "Letting in the Light: Translating Holy Texts," argues convincingly for translations that convey not only the sacred wisdom of the texts but also their literary beauty. Being an ardent admirer of Mr. Barnstone's work, I have complete faith in the quality and tone of the translations here, which is a good thing, because I doubt I will ever learn the original languages. I am also looking forward to reading Marvin Meyer's translations, with which I am not yet familiar, as well as all the introductions for each specific category of gnostic literature. For one of the uninitiated like me, I can't think of a better introductory text. This is definitely a book to study, re-read and cherish.
51 of 52 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Complete Bible for the Gnostics July 29 2006
By Steve Burns - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This is truly a complete Bible for the Gnostics. It contains every major writing that is considered Gnostic. It includes both and Ancient and Medieval writings. The writings are gathered from all religious branches of Gnostics Pagan,Jewish,Christian,Mandaen,Manichaen,Islamic and Cathar.

With in this volume we have early wisdom Gospels such as Thomas and even the biblical John, there is Sethian,Valentian,Syrian,and Hermetic Literature.

This is a great volume to use in referencing the original works as you read about them. I read this entire volume through from front to back when I had just began studing Gnosticism and had a hard time comprehending it.Some of the writings are hard to understand with out a full understanding of what the writer was trying to teach. For example the book Thunder teaches nondualism but makes no sense with out this understanding.While I believe the Gospels of Philip and Thomas are very easy to understand.This volume contains almost the entire Nag Hammadi text and so many other texts, it is like one stop shopping for all the texts you will need in your studies. If you are interested in Gnosticism this "Bible" should be in your reference library.
76 of 81 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Anthology of Gnostic Texts Jan. 19 2005
By P. Nagy - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The Gnostic Bible: Gnostic Texts of Mystical Wisdom form the Ancient and Medieval Worlds

edited by Willis Barnstone, Marvin Meyer (Shambhala) (Paperback) this anthology is by far the most poetic and generally accessible anthology of gnostic texts to be assembled. It utilizes the strengths of both editors. Barnstone has dealt with some of this material before in his 20 year-old The Other Bible. This new selection concentrates more on gnosticism and less on other biblical psudepigrapha, early Kabbalah, haggadah, midrash, christian apocrypha. Comparing where there is overlap Barnstone has offers some crisp poetic renderings in this new volume rather than the more technically dry academic copy present in some selection in the The Other Bible. Touches of barnes fine literary sense shine forth here and there in The Gnostic Bible. Marvin Meyer is best known for his generally accessible accounts of classic religions and popular magic during the rise of Christianity. His Ancient Christian Magic and The Ancient Mysteries provide useful entrée into current debates by religious scholars and historians. Both editors well serve their popular audience in this anthology and though the texts themselves may baffle and frustrate, they also can inspire to see how creative and varied salvific knowledge was conceived.
33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Offering a veritable wealth of diverse sources May 15 2004
By Midwest Book Review - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Collaboratively compiled and expertly co-edited by Willis Barnstone (Distinguished Professor of Comparative Literature, Indiana University) and Marvin Meyer (Griset Professor of Bible and Christian Studies, Chapman University, Orange, California), The Gnostic Bible: Gnostic Texts Of Mystical Wisdom From The Ancient And Medieval Worlds is an 880-page collection of Jewish, Christian, Hermetic, Mandaean, Manichaean, Islamic, and Cathar writings concerning gnostic spirituality. Offering a veritable wealth of diverse sources, all of which are in full keeping with the Gnostic movement (and its promotion of salvation through knowledge and personal religious experience), The Gnostic Bible is a comprehensive, profoundly spiritual, and exceptionally accessible literary text, which is specifically translated in a manner that is designed to be clear and accessible to scholars, students, and non-specialist general readers of all backgrounds. No personal or academic Gnostic Studies collection can be considered truly comprehensive without the inclusion of this Shambhala edition of The Gnostic Bible.
48 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gnostic Bible Jan. 30 2004
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Fitting title for this book - Gnostic Bible. It brings together all the Gnostic Scriptures along with introductary commentary for each book. I spend a couple hours reading this book at the local book store and soon will order a copy. If you are interested in Gnostic literature, this book seems to be source for all within one hardcover book.
My favorite Gnostic books were the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, Gospel of Phillip, Gospel of Thomas, and Letter to Flora. Even though technology has advanced immeasurably since these Gospels were written, at least 1,800 years ago, one area that these ancients seems to have possessed that is timeless is their Philosophy, thoughts, and ideas which seem to be quite advanced in many ways even compared to us today 1,800 years later.
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