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Title: The Historiography of Gnosticism
Keywords: Gnosticm, Historiography, History, Christianity
Issue Date: 2-Aug-2010
Citation: CHEE YAO RONG BRENDON (2010-08-02). The Historiography of Gnosticism. ScholarBank@NUS Repository.
Abstract: Media coverage of Gnostic texts such as the Judas Gospel and the popularity of The Da Vinci Code?a novel that draws on Gnostic themes?are symptomatic of a broader trend where scholars, the media and the public have become increasingly interested in alternative `Christianities?. One of the main features of the increased interest in Gnosticism is the argument by revisionist scholars of Gnosticism that the Nag Hammadi discoveries comprise Gnostic texts that should challenge the orthodox Church?s portrayal of the history of Christianity. In this thesis, I explore the historiographical issues inherent in the Gnosticism-Christianity debate. At the heart of the Gnosticism-Christianity debate is a battle of historical narratives, with the Church holding to a single, exclusive narrative that is incommensurable with the alternative versions of the history of Christianity found in the Gnostic texts. On the one hand, revisionist scholars of Gnosticism maintain that Gnostic texts contain legitimate `truths? that the Church unfairly excluded during the canonisation process, leading to an incomplete and inaccurate portrayal of the history of Christianity. On the other hand, evangelical scholars hold that the distinction the Church made between `orthodoxy? and `heresy? is legitimate and thus, the Church was right to exclude the Gnostic texts in their efforts to preserve a `true? narrative that accurately reflected the history and doctrine of orthodox Christianity. In the course of the thesis, it will be shown that historiographical concerns such as the `truthfulness? of the text, whether one `truth? can be inherently superior to another, and the validity of a master narrative for the history of Christianity figure prominently in the Gnosticism-Christianity debate. In addition, the positions of revisionist scholars of Gnosticism and evangelical scholars of Christianity in the debate are influenced by whether they identify more closely with deconstructionist or reconstructionist principles. As revisionist scholars display an inclination towards the views of deconstructionists, they believe that it would be unwise to exclude the multiple `truths? that Gnostic texts have to offer the history of Christianity. In contrast, the views of evangelical scholars cohere with reconstructionist ideas and these scholars believe it is both possible and desirable to arrive at an exclusive and objective `truth?. Within the context of the Gnosticism-Christianity debate, evangelical scholars thus believe the Church?s portrayal of the history of Christianity to be a valid master narrative that is incompatible with competing versions of it.
Appears in Collections:Master's Theses (Open)

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