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Exploring Gnosticism - 20 credits (RT 1218)

Module Tutor: Dr Nic Baker-Brian

Summary of course content

This module offers an introduction to the study of the ancient gnostic movements which emerged in the ancient near eastern and Mediterranean worlds during Late Antiquity (ca. AD200-700).  Students will examine varieties of Gnosticism, including Greek, Jewish, Christian, and Manichaean forms of gnostic religious expression, through investigations of the textual (in transl.), visual, and material sources of evidence for ancient gnostic religions.

Credits: 20

Availability of module: Every Year


Necessary for


To study the historical and cultural contexts for gnostic religious movements in Late Antiquity, and early Byzantium.

Learning outcomes

  • Describe and critically expound the key issues arising from the study of gnostic religions.
  • Critically compare and contrast different approaches to reading gnostic, early Christian and Manichaean texts (in transl.) and evaluate the ways in which these approaches assist in the historical and cultural contextualisation of gnostic traditions.

Teaching methods

Lectures, Seminars, Tutorials


One 3 hr exam (75%), two essays (20%), one group presentation (5%)

Suggested book purchases

B. Layton, The Gnostic Scriptures: A New Translation with annotations and introductions (1995)
I. Gardner and S.N.C. Lieu, Manichaean Texts from the Roman Empire (2004)

Suggested preparatory reading

K. King, What is Gnosticism? (2003)
A. Logan, Gnostic Truth and Christian Heresy: A Study in the History of Gnosticism (1996)
N.J. Baker-Brian, Manichaeism: An Ancient Faith Rediscovered (2011)

Primary sources

Layton; Lieu and Gardner (see above, Suggested Purchases)