We explore the polemics and counter-polemics of Origen's Contra Celsum, with a particular eye toward the use (and abuse) of the esoteric as a strategy of tradition-building, exclusion, and totalising interpretation.
Podcast Episodes Themed "Esoteric Christianity"
An almost-unknown Middle Platonist philosopher named Celsus wrote the first-known anti-Christian polemical pamphlet some time in the later second century. This is The True Account. It is esoteric.
Professor Reppmann delves into Origen's self-castration (yes, really), anathematisation, and reappearance as the quintessential Christian esotericist.
As antiquity progressed, certain esoteric religious thinkers and philosophers came increasingly to doubt whether the nature of the highest reality could be expressed in words. They developed a new form of language to deal with the problem of talking about the ineffable: apophasis. We discuss speaking the silence in late antiquity.
We discuss Clement's endgame, where the Gnostic encounters god face-to-face after a lengthy transformative evolution into higher and higher spiritual forms. Things get seriously esoteric.
In the first of a two-part episode, we read through Book V of Clement's Stromateis, which contains, among other things, perhaps the fullest surviving exposition on types of esoteric discourse from antiquity. Come for the ainigmata and symbola, stay for Abraham the astrologer.
Clement stays esoteric. We examine the esoteric wisdom-lineages constructed by Clement, how he reads them, in the context of how he hides his reading of them. Plus, there seems to have been some genuine, contemporary esotericism going on in early Christianity.
We explore the esoteric writing methodologies of Clement's Stromateis – the innovative ‘public secrecy’, the reasons for Clement's esotericism, and the evocation of the mysteries and of the ineffable as aspects of esoteric rhetoric.
The surviving oeuvre of Clement of Alexandria hides some complicated textual issues. In this episode, not for the fainthearted, we discuss the various lost works, fragments, and alleged forgeries.
We introduce the life and thought of Orthodox Christianity's favourite in-house Gnostic, the great Clement of Alexandria. Come for the philosophical, esoteric Christianity, stay for the progressive postmortem deification.
Episode 84: Other Gospels and Alien Gods: Marcion of Sinope
We look at Marcion of Sinope, the final arch-heretic in our ‘unholy trinity’. Marcion compiled the first Christian textual canon – he wrote the first Bible – but this was not your grandma's Bible. Demiurgy, transcendence, and some interesting questions of textual hermeneutics abound.
In a further conversation with Geoffrey Smith we try to imagine what Valentinus' circle at Rome might have looked like, we discuss the esoteric in early Christianity, and we delve into the further horizons of future research on Valentinianism.
Episode 83: Geoffrey Smith on Valentinus and Valentinianism
Under the expert guidance of Geoffrey Smith, we explore the world-view of Valentinus – an elite intellectual Christian thinker of the second century – and his legacy – a reputation for the blackest heresy and a demiurgical Christian movement known nowadays as Valentinianism.
Basilides of Alexandria, one of the first Christian philosophers and scriptural exegetes, is known as one of the great Gnostic heresiarchs of the second century. But what did he actually teach? It's mind-blowing and it's esoteric.
We take a deep breath before diving into detailed discussions of early esoteric Christianities to consider a few key terms and their historical development. What was orthodoxy? What was heresy? Who were the heresiologists, and what were they doing?
We put a number of impossible-to-answer questions about ancient demiurgic traditions in proto-Christianity to Professor Williams, and receive some fascinating answers.
Professor Michael Williams leads us on a tour of ‘Gnosticism’, both as a term (used and misused by ancient heresiologists, Reformation-era polemicists, modern scholars, and even modern ‘Gnostics’) and as a group of late-ancient religious texts which are very, very interesting, but which should probably not be called ‘Gnostic’.
Episode 58: Justin Rogers on Philo in Early Christianity
Justin Rogers guides us on a tour of the afterlife of Philo's work. How did the great Hellenistic Jewish thinker become a father of the Christian faith (and of Christian esoteric scriptural hermeneutics in particular)? We find out.
Episode 52: Enoch, Apocalyptic, and Abrahamic Faith
In this episode we explore further the amazing work 1 Enoch, taking in along the way ruminations on the history of the west, debates about the identity of the Enochic authors, and some hints as to the development of the Enochic tradition as a western esoteric ‘scripture’.