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Early Christian Heresies by Joan O'Grady

Early Christian Heresies (1985)

by Joan O'Grady

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892135,585 (3)1
  1. 00
    A History of Heresy by David Christie-Murray (waltzmn)
    waltzmn: David Christie-Murray's volume on heresies is relatively short and non-technical, but it is quite readable and interesting -- highly recommended for anyone interested in unorthodox Christian thought.
  2. 00
    The Gnostics by Jacques Lacarriere (paradoxosalpha)

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The poorest book on Christian history I've ever read (glowing review on Amazon notwithstanding). The reasons are hard to pin down; most sentences *seem* to say something, but actually say very little. Entire paragraphs seem devoid of any memorable meaning. Donating it to the library, since it's of little resale value. ( )
  ecfidler | Jun 20, 2011 |
Gnosticism gets the lion's share of attention in this survey of Christian unorthodoxy in antiquity, and O'Grady carefully distinguishes its qualitative difference from later heresies. Where Arians, Nestorians, and Pelagians might divide from Rome on points of doctrine, Gnostics differed with the "Great Church" (as she terms proto-Catholicism) on the very nature of the social institution of Christianity. She also appropriately identifies Gnosticism with the Neoplatonic culture of late antiquity, although further speculation on the non-Christian origins of Gnosticism (not to mention the non-Judaic origins of Christianity) is decidedly muted.

O'Grady's book is not a piece of imposing scholarship; it's more of a reflective journalistic approach. She's almost painfully even-handed in her evaluations of heterodoxy and orthodoxy. To her credit, she does treat orthodoxy as a phenomenon demanding an explanation, rather than a mere given.

As an accessible, wide-angle treatment of its topic, it is better than passable. The author fails to disclose her own religious identity, but it's probably safe to infer that she is a believing Christian, based on the extent to which she valorizes the survival and development of the Christian tradition.
2 vote paradoxosalpha | Feb 23, 2009 |
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INTRODUCTION -- The ability to ask questions separates homo sapiens from the rest of the animal kingdom, and this ability is the foundation of his achievements.


In the last half of the first century AD in a small corner of the Roman Empire, groups of people were banding themselves together to follow the instructions of men claiming to be disciples of a teacher in Palestine.
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