This volume gathers contributions from both junior and senior scholars whose studies have developed in dialogue with Elaine Pagels’ work on Nag Hammadi literature and ancient heresiology. Published initially in 1979, Pagels’ The Gnostic Gospels represents a landmark of scholarship in religious studies. It not only made the Nag Hammadi writings and Gnosticism popular topics in modern culture, it also invited scholars to rethink early Christianity from new perspectives. What were previously seen as dry theological arguments and intricate Gnostic mythologies received new interpretations in the Gnostic Gospels as echoes of political debates about orthodoxy and heresy, clerical authority, martyrdom and gender.
After The Gnostic Gospels, Elaine Pagels extended her research in various directions, from perceptions of sexuality in early Christianity and identity politics in the Christian creation of the "Satan figure" to ancient biblical interpretations, ritual in Nag Hammadi texts, and, recently, the Gospel of Judas and ancient apocalypses. The studies included in this volume engage each stage of Pagels’ vast trajectory, and provide critical evaluations of the field of "Gnosticism studies" as it has developed over the past four decades, in the subfields of the "Sethian" and "Valentinian" schools, and beyond. The studies include new interpretations of the Nag Hammadi texts and fresh analyses of ancient heresiological literature.