Jack,

I agree with you that gnosticism was pre-Christian, and part of the Jewish
tradition. Philo was pretty gnostic. 

But everybody should read this book:

   AUTHOR: Williams, Michael A.                                  
                                                                 
    TITLE: Rethinking "Gnosticism" : an argument for dismantling 
               a dubious category / Michael Allen Williams.      
PUBLISHED: Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, 1996.   
   PAGING: xix, 335 p.                                           

Williams is saying that the term "gnosticism" should be abandoned as
ahistorical, since nobody in the ancient world called him/herself "a
Gnostic". Since there's no agreed upon definition of "gnostic" anyway, the
whole term is pretty meaningless. 

In ancient times there were plenty of different groups who were interested
in syncretistic speculation, and in trying to combine elements of various
religions. But this doesn't make them "gnostic". This whole concept was
created by Irenaeus as a polemical tool. Williams suggest that the term
"demiurgic speculation" will be more accurate.

re: Philo school. 

Quite a bit of demiurgic speculation there. Williams is basically saying
that the idea that there were "gnostics" in the early Church who can be
clearly set aside from the "orthodox" is a myth created mostly by
Irenaeus. In fact, these ideas were accepted widely by commentators we
generally think of as orthodox. It is with Irenaeus that these lines of
separation were first drawn clearly perhaps. And with Irenaeus, it was
already the lines of authority and the politics of the Church that were
paramount. 

Regards,

Yuri.

Click here to go one level up in the directory.