The History of Gnosticism

The articles in this section of the site deal with the question of how Gnosticism first arose. Attempting to answer that question also means attempting to answer another, related question: how did Christianity first arise? This set of articles forms a single story that starts with the historical Jesus, moves through the creation of Christianity by some of Jesus’s followers after their leader’s death, and culminates in the creation of Gnosticism as part of early Christians’ attempt to define their fledgling religion:

The Historical Jesus
The Origins of Christianity
The Origins of Gnosticism

It’s ideal to read all three of these pieces in order, but for those who don’t want to do that, I’ve gone out of my way to briefly summarize the most pertinent parts of “The Historical Jesus” in “The Origins of Christianity,” and to briefly summarize both of those articles in “The Origins of Gnosticism.”

There are many competing theories of where Gnosticism came from, and while these articles do take one particular position on that question, I’ve tried to be fair to the other perspectives along the way. Some people will surely disagree with the schema I favor here, and that’s perfectly fine. My hope is that, whether or not you agree or disagree with the ultimate thesis here, you come away having learned something that you hadn’t known before, and having considered possibilities that you hadn’t considered before.