Feminine imagery in Gnostic-Christian literature

Cerioni, Lavinia (2019) Feminine imagery in Gnostic-Christian literature. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Abstract

This thesis investigates the use of feminine as an intellectual category in Gnostic mythologies. In particular, it shows what aspects of God Gnostic theologians intended to convey through feminine imagery.

In Part I, I discuss the methodology employed in the textual analyses and the difficulties proper to the study of Gnosticism, starting with the elusive definition of Gnosticism and of its manifold movements. Parts II and III focus on Ophite, Sethian and Barbeloite Gnostics and on Valentinian Gnostics respectively. In analysing a selection of primary and heresiological sources, I explore three different aspects of the Gnostic feminine imagery: the intra-pleromatic feminine, the fallen feminine and the incarnated feminine. In this way, I isolate the most important features of Gnostic feminine imagery, thus underlining their similarities and differences. In part IV, the value of the previous investigation is demonstrated by applying my discoveries to understudied Gnostic texts that have not yet been classified under a specific Gnostic movement or are not even considered Gnostic – though, as Part IV demonstrates, they should be. In particular, I present three case-studies: Helena in Simonian gnosis, the Book of Baruch of the Gnostic teacher Justin and the Nag Hammadi treatise entitled The Exegesis of the Soul. In all these cases, feminine imagery is essential to understand the Gnostic features of the texts.

Thus, this thesis contributes to scholarship by adding new elements to numerous debates. On the one hand, it demonstrates that the study of feminine imagery brings new knowledge about Gnosticism and its development. On the other hand, it proves that the use of feminine imagery conveys pivotal soteriological and ecclesiological aspects of the Gnostic God, some of which will be even absorbed by subsequent Christian theologians.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: O'Loughlin, Thomas
Cunningham, Mary
Keywords: Historical Theology; Gnosticism; Feminine Imagery; Early Christianity
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BR Christianity
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Arts > School of Humanities
Item ID: 56867
Depositing User: Cerioni, Lavinia
Date Deposited: 18 Mar 2020 13:30
Last Modified: 06 May 2020 10:00
URI: http://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/56867

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