Cosmology and Fate in Gnosticism and Graeco-Roman Antiquity, Nicola Denzey Lewis dismisses Hans Jonas' mischaracterization of second-century Gnosticism as a philosophically-oriented religious movement built on the perception of the cosmos as negative or enslaving. A focused study on the concept of astrological fate in “Gnostic” writings including the Apocryphon of John, the recently-discovered Gospel of Judas, Trimorphic Protennoia, and the Pistis Sophia, this book reexamines their language of “enslavement to fate (Gk: heimarmene)” from its origins in Greek Stoicism, its deployment by the apostle Paul, to its later use by a variety of second-century intellectuals (both Christian and non-Christian). Denzey Lewis thus offers an informed and revisionist conceptual map of the ancient cosmos, its influence, and all those who claimed to be free of its potentially pernicious effects.
Nicola Denzey Lewis, Ph.D (1998), Princeton University, is Visiting Associate Professor in Religious Studies at Brown University. A specialist in Gnosticism, her publications include
Introduction to 'Gnosticism': Ancient Voices, Christian Worlds (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012).
"focused study that seeks to rebut the characterisation of second-century Gnosticism as a religious philosophy that apprehends the universe as an enslaving force. [...] a rich study, which offers a new way of thinking about the concept of face in Gnostic texts. ...it promises to be a valuable and provocative contribution." – Paul Foster,
University of Edinburgh, in:
The Expository Times 126/2 (2014)
"...concise and convincing, [...] the book is clearly-argued [...]. Its critical engagement with the research of the old school dispels scholarly myths and provides a new starting point for debate about how we are to understand the problems of fate, providence, and salvation in late ancient religious life.[...] worthwhile reading not just for students of Gnostic and Hermetic literature, but the New Testament, early Christian studies, and religion in the later Roman Empire as well." – Dylan Burns,
Leipzig University, in:
Numen 61 (2014)
"...excellent overview of the primary sources whilst producing numerous thought-provoking arguments [...] It is a useful book for anyone interested in second-century thought patterns and is suitable for a wide audience with a range of interests." – Sarah Parkhouse,
Durham University, in:
Reviews of Biblical and Early Christian Studies (
Table of contents
1. Were the Gnostics Cosmic Pessimists?
2. Nag Hammadi and the Providential Cosmos
3. This Body of Death: Cosmic Malevolence and Enslavement to Sin in Pauline Exegesis
Heimarmene at Nag Hammadi: The Apocryphon of John and On the Origin of the World
5. Middle Platonism,
Heimarmene, and the Corpus Hermeticum
6. Ways Out I: Interventions of the Savior God
7. Ways Out II: Baptism and Cosmic Freedom
8. Astral Determinism in the Gospel of Judas
9. Conclusions, and a New Way Forward
Those interested in placing Gnosticism within the context of the intellectual history of the Roman Empire and scholars of emergent Christianity and the religions of Graeco-Roman antiquity.