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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gnosticism encapsulated, 20 Jun 2010
E. L. Wisty "World Domination League" (Devon, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Secret Revelation of John (Paperback)
The Apocryphon of John was undoubtedly an important book amongst those of a gnostic persuasion, indicated by the fact that there are no less than four surviving manuscripts in various versions, three of these being in the Nag Hammadi library alone. It encapsulates many of the ideas of gnostic thought in the one work, and so is certainly worthy of study on its own as a window into gnosticism.

Early on whilst reading this I was a little concerned that King might descend into the usual Irenaeus-bashing which scholars seem to feel obliged to indulge in. However she thankfully allows the Apocryphon to stand on its own feet as a work with its own merits, rather than purely in relation to orthodoxy. The later section does consider the origins of the ideas in the work via Judaism and Hellenistic thought, but still avoids falling into the trap of analysing it purely in opposition to apostolic Christianity.

In the conclusion, King adduces the work of Williams in his Rethinking "Gnosticism", and notes his analysis of gnosticism in terms of "protest exegesis or hermeneutical problem-solving", "parasites or innovators", "anti-cosmic world-rejection or sociocultural accommodation", "hatred of the body or perfection of the human" and "deterministic elitism or inclusive theories of conversion". Williams, of course, flatly disagrees with anything and everything Irenaeus and the heresiologists might say, and chooses the latter option in each of these opposites. King however notes that the Apocryphon of John "can actually fit all of these alternatives", and "the fact is that none of these alternatives - positive or negative - describes the text very well".

Furthermore she states that "what I have tried to do in this volume is to try to set these typological categories to the side and show some of the ways in which The Secret Revelation of John can be read - as a story, as social critique, and as intertextual hermeneutics". This is certainly a valuable contribution to our understanding of gnosticism, and fully recommended to anyone interested in this area.

One note about the printing: the text goes right into the centrefold requiring the book to be bent right open while reading, which is a major annoyance as well as shortening the life of the book. Very poor.
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Secret Revelation of John
Secret Revelation of John by Karen L King (Paperback - 31 Oct 2008)
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