Mystery and Secrecy in the Nag Hammadi Collection and Other Ancient Literature: Ideas and Practices

Studies for Einar Thomassen at Sixty


Mystery and secrecy were central concepts in the ritual, rhetoric, and sociological stratification of antique Mediterranean religions. That the ultimate nature and workings of the divine were secret, and either could not or should not be revealed except as a mystery for the initiated, was widely accepted among Pagans, Jews, and then Christians, both Gnostic and otherwise. The similarities and differences in the language of mystery and secrecy across religious and cultural borders are thus crucial for understanding this important period of the history of religions.
The present anthology aims to present and analyze a wide selection of sources elucidating this theme, reflecting the correspondingly wide scholarly interests of Professor Einar Thomassen in honor of his 60th birthday.

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Liv Ingeborg Lied, Dr.Art. (2007) in the History of Religions, University of Bergen (Norway), is Associate Professor in Religious Studies at MF Norwegian School of Theology in Oslo. She has published on the Pseudepigrapha and their reception history.

Christian H. Bull, is Ph.D-student in the History of Religions, University of Bergen (Norway). He has published on Hermetism.

John D. Turner, Ph.D. (Duke, 1970) in Religion, is Cotner Professor of Religious Studies and C. J. Mach University Professor of Classics and History at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, specializing in Biblical Studies, Gnosticism, and the History of Hellenistic/Graeco-Roman Religions.
"This substantial collection [...] focusing on Nag Hammadi and Gnosticism, [...] sources of Early Christianity, Hermetism, Greco-Roman religion, magic Manichaeism, and apocalypticism. [...] This volume will be of great use for scholars of ancient and early medieval esotericsm, as well as Gnosticism and ancient religions in general. Like all in the NHMS series, the volume is handsomely produced. Fine indices of ancient sources and keywords are provided." – Dylan M. Burns, in: Aries: Journal for the Study of Western Esotericism 14 (2014)
"a fitting tribute to the scholarship of Einar Thomassen. As a collection the essays have an inner coherence, while allowing sufficient breadth to tease out meaningful connections. While this is a volume for specialists in the area of Nag Hammadi and cognate studies, for such scholars it provides a rich fare." – Paul Foster, in: The Expository Times 124/5 (February 2013)
"To be recommended to those with an interest in mystery and secrecy in late antique religion." – Michael Kaler, York University, in: Studies in Religion 41/3
"This book will be of interest to students of Gnosticism and Greco-Roman religions in general." – Birger A. Pearson, in: Religious Studies Review 38/3 (September 2012)
1. Mystery and Secrecy in the Nag Hammadi and Related Gnostic Writings

April D. DeConick, From the Bowels of Hell to Draco: The Mysteries of the Peratics
Jean-Daniel Dubois and Flavia Ruani, Interprétation d’une formule barbare chez les gnostiques valentiniens d’après le Contre les hérésies d’Irénée, I, 21,3
Karen L. King, Mystery and Secrecy in The Secret Revelation of John
Antti Marjanen, Sethian Books of the Nag Hammadi Library as Secret Books
Louis Painchaud, «Joseph le charpentier planta un jardin …» (EvPhil 73,8-9): Sens apparent et sens caché dans l’Évangile selon Philippe
Anne Pasquier, Invocation et glorification du Nom divin dans le Livre sacré du grand Esprit invisible ou Évangile égyptien (NHC III,2; NHC IV,2)
Nils Arne Pedersen, The Term μυστήριον in Coptic-Manichaean Texts
Madeleine Scopello, Secrets et révélation dans le codex Tchacos
John D. Turner, I Tell You a Mystery: From Hidden to Revealed in Sethian Revelation, Ritual, and Protology

2. Mystery and Secrecy in Other Christian Practices, Text Traditions, and Material Culture
David Brakke, Mystery and Secrecy in the Egyptian Desert: Esotericism and Evagrius of Pontus
Ismo Dunderberg, Secrecy in the Gospel of John
Dimitris J. Kyrtatas, Living in Tombs: The Secret of an Early Christian Mystical Experience
Hugo Lundhaug, Mystery and Authority in the Writings of Shenoute
Birger A. Pearson, Mystery and Secrecy in Paul
Paul-Hubert Poirier, Mystère et mystères dans les Actes de Thomas
Tuomas Rasimus, Revisiting the Ichthys: A Suggestion Concerning the Origins of Christological Fish Symbolism

3. Mystery and Secrecy in Non-Christian Practices, Text Traditions, and Material Culture
Jonas Bjørnebye, Secrecy and Initiation in the Mithraic Communities of Fourth Century Rome
Jan N. Bremmer, Initiation into the Eleusinian Mysteries: A “Thin” Description
Christian H. Bull, The Notion of Mysteries in the Formation of Hermetic Tradition
Liv Ingeborg Lied, Those Who Know and Those Who Don’t: Mystery, Instruction, and Knowledge in 2 Baruch
Marvin Meyer, The “Mithras Liturgy” as Mystery and Magic
Jørgen Podemann Sørensen, The Secret Hymn in Hermetic Texts
Risto Uro, Cognitive and Evolutionary Approaches to Ancient Rituals: Reflections on Recent Theories and Their Relevance for the Historian of Religion

All those interested in the history of religions in the Mediterranean world of Late Antiquity, including the history of Early Christianity, Early Judaism, and History of Graeco-Roman Religions.
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