I have always been interested in gnosticism and the history of Christianity as a whole. I have also been immersed with the ever-growing debate over a mythical vs. a historical Jesus of Nazareth. As a student of ancient history, I quickly found myself reading the Bible in several translations, as well as in the New Testament original, Koine Greek. I also found myself up late at night reading other texts such as the Dead Sea Scrolls, apocryphal works and more importantly, the Nag Hammadi scriptures (translated by Marvin Meyer).
I will admit that some of my earlier perceptions of gnosticism were not 100% accurate because it seems the internet has provided a platform of inconsistencies regarding what gnosticism truly is, specifically, its roots. Upon reading Mr. Smith's treatise, I have a new found interest in Gnosticism and have accomplished a better understanding of Gnosticism as a whole. I personally feel that this book should be required before one reads any Nag Hammadi or Gnostic scripture. Case in point, I recently started reading the Nag Hammadi scriptures about two weeks ago and ended up going back to the beginning and starting over. I now understand exactly what is going on and could both see and understand the meanings and references of Sophia, Archons, Aeons, Ialdabaoth, gnosis, Demiurge and Pleroma. I also have a greater understanding of the true gnostics-the Sethians and Valentinians- and grasp that many mystery cults or sects (later developed) were not truly gnostic because of lack of a belief in gnosis. Furthermore, as an added bonus, when you re-read some of the Apostle Paul's epistles, you can clearly see gnostic overtones.
I thoroughly enjoyed all Eleven chapters, coupled with the historical background and information, which was greatly appreciated and is now understood. However, with every publication, there is always one thing a reader or student wishes to be in a book, but for whatever reason, the author chose to omit reference to it. My only complaint (if you even want to call it that) would be the lack of footnotes in specific areas. This bulk of this treatise comprises 226 pages and is accompanied by 105 footnotes, roughly one footnote for every two pages (not bad at all). For example, page 76 contains a reference by Irenaeus, yet the exact location of this passage is not given. Page 81 consists of the Valentinian interpretation of knowledge concerning the orthodox church view on the crucifixion with a passage, but no footnote accompanies the perceived quote. On page 118, Mr. Smith tells the reader that during the 1960-70's, roughly seventy new denominations of Christianity were formed daily (it would have been nice to see a footnote attached here to the source of this information/study). These are just several passages (amongst others), that I wished to have had an accompanying footnote, but in the overall scope of things, this is really minor, but has led me to rate the book four out of five stars.
Closing, I highly recommend this treatise to all laymen (due to the book's synthetic structure) and students, as well as even scholars. I have a new found appreciation for the Gnostics and especially Mr. Smith. I look forward to reading all of his published works and those to be published in the future. His work is greatly appreciated.