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Religions of the Constantinian Empire$
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Mark Edwards

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780199687725

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199687725.001.0001

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Religions of Transformation

Religions of Transformation

(p.136) Chapter 7 Religions of Transformation
Religions of the Constantinian Empire

Mark Edwards

Oxford University Press

Chapter 7 observes that religions which might be described as esoteric or transformative acquire an unprecedented prominence in this period. The polemic of Alexander of Lycopolis against the Manichees is annotated from Manichaean sources, and it is argued that the author is likely to have been a Christian. The second section notes that, just as the Manichaeans (after Diocletian) survived as a Christian heresy, so the Gnostic texts discovered at Nag Hammadi suggest a symbiotic relationship between Gnostic thought and that of the monasteries. In the third section it is shown that the literature ascribed to Hermes Trismegistus is quoted chiefly in Christian sources of the fourth century; the fourth section maintains that Zosimus the alchemist is rightly characterized by W. B. Scott as a ‘Christian Gnostic’. Hence it appears that Christianity sometimes promoted innovation and diversity in religious practice, even outside the confines of the church.

Keywords:   esotericism, Alexander of Lycopolis, Manichaeans, Hermes Trismegistus, Gnostics, alchemy, Zosimus, Nag Hammadi

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