Paradise Reconsidered in Gnostic Mythmaking

Rethinking Sethianism in Light of the Ophite Evidence


This book offers a new understanding of Sethianism and the origins of Gnosticism by examining the mythology in and social reality behind a group of texts to which certain leaders of the early church occasionally attached the label ‘Ophite.’ In the unique Ophite mythology, which rewrites the Genesis paradise story and is attested, for example, in Irenaeus’ Adversus haereses 1.30, The Apocryphon of John and On the Origin of the World, the snake’s advice to eat of the tree of knowledge is considered positive, the creator and his angels are turned into demonic beasts and the true Godhead is presented as an androgynous heavenly projection of Adam and Eve. It is argued that Hans-Martin Schenke’s influential model of the ‘Sethian system’ only reveals part of a larger whole to which the Ophite material belongs as an important and organic component.

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Tuomas Rasimus, Ph.D., Th.D. (2006–7), earned his doctorates from a joint degree between Université Laval and University of Helsinki. He has published articles related to Gnosticism, New Testament and Neoplatonism, and is the editor of The Legacy of John (Brill, 2009).
'most important book on Gnostic mythology in the last five years: almost bewilderingly comprehensive, brilliantly argued, thoroughly documented, and cognizant of all the relevant Gnostic scholarship. It is certainly destined to be - if it is no already - an indispensiable resource for the study of ancient Gnosticism.'
John D. Turner, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Numen 59 (2012)

'Paradise Reconsidered excels at stimulating new questions, [...] marks a decisive turning point in our understanding of Gnostic myth and its diverse permutations in some of its most famous literary traditions. It is necessary reading for any student of Gnosticism and of primary interest for scholars of Western esotericism. The notes and indices, whose editing is pristine, will also provide a weath of references and Forschungsgeschichte for the researcher.'
Dylan M. Burns, Aries 13 (2013)

'...nous ne pouvons que saluer la parution de ce livre qui deviendra très rapidement un incontournable pour les spécialistes du gnosticisme.'

Steve Johnston, Laval théologique et philosophique.

"..the volume is definitely one of the more interesting and creative books on the origin and development of gnostic mythology. A reading of this book will be worthwhile precisely for the challenges it poses and also for the
stimulus it provides scholars with different points of view. It is also worth consulting for the broad variety of sources studied and the works employed. The systematic and comprehensive analysis of the Ophite mythology is highly appreciated, no matter if one shares the explicit assumptions or not. The study is well-presented and makes a valuable contribution to important topics. I gladly recommend the book to everyone interested in those issues, but particularly to the specialists in the field [...] this book will be indispensable for and have a vital place in the future research on Gnosticism.

Gesine Schenke Robinson, RBL, June 2011

'It is to be hoped that this solid work stimulates further studies of the early development of the Gnostic thought world.'
Gerard Luttikhuizen, Vigiliae Christianae 66 (2012)
All those interested in Gnosticism and its relationship to the New Testament, the early history of the Church, Late Antiquity, creation myths and serpent symbolism.
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