Brakke writes a pioneering study of the way the demon role relates to religious thinking and to cultural anxieties. The author’s sources include biographies of exceptional monks, collections of monastic sayings and stories, letters from ascetic teachers to their disciples, sermons, community rules, and biblical commentaries. When monks imagined the resistance that they had to overcome in cultivating their selves or the temptation that offered an easier path, they saw supernatural beings that could take the shapes of animals, women, boys, and false angels in their attempts to seduce monks away from their devotion to God. And when they considered the inclinations in their own selves that opposed their best intentions, they concluded that demons introduced such problematic “thoughts” to their minds. Although the last twenty years has seen an explosion of scholarship on early Christian asceticism, producing brilliant explorations of the body, sexual renunciation, fasting, and gender, combat with demons has been left relatively unexplored.
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Review: The Gnostics: Myth, Ritual, and Diversity in Early ChristianityUser Review - Steve Wiggins - Goodreads
Maybe a little too sophisticated for an introduction, but Brakke is an able guide to the multiple schools that have come to be known as the Gnostics. Further reflections may be found here: Sects and Violence in the Ancient World. Read full review
Review: The Gnostics: Myth, Ritual, and Diversity in Early ChristianityUser Review - Mike - Goodreads
Clearly and concisely the author argues that Gnosticism started out as a school of thought embedded within early Christian communities and only later, when doctrinal issues became a source of conflict, did Gnostics assume separate and heretical identities. Read full review