The works in this collection are heretical—a heretical counterpart of the holy Scriptures of Christianity and Judaism (which Gnostics also read). But despite their highly unorthodox character, these works shed great light on the theology, atmosphere, and literary traditions of ancient Christianity and Hellenistic Judaism. The Gnostic movement did not simply share in the culture to which early Christianity belonged. Gnostics in fact made up one of the earliest and most long-lived branches of the ancient Christian religion; it was only after centuries of struggle that they could be eradicated by the established church.
Orthodox Christian doctrine of the ancient world—and thus of the modern church—was partly conceived of as being what Gnostic scripture was not. For this reason, a knowledge of Gnostic scripture is indispensable for anyone who hopes to understand the historical roots of Christian theology and belief. Moreover, the Gnostic myth grew up in an intimate dialogue—though often a hostile one—with Jewish learning of the Greek-speaking synagogue. Thus the Gnostic scriptures cannot fail to increase, however obliquely, our knowledge of the foundations of classical Judaism.
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Bently Layton's The Gnostic Scriptures is the one indispensable book for the understanding of Gnosis and Gnosticism. No other translations are within light-years of Layton's in eloquence, pathos, and accuracy, while no other commentaries match his as an introduction to this perpetually relevant religious stance. Layton is particularly brilliant in his appreciation of Valentinus, the central Gnostic visionary, whose Gospel of Truth is marvelously served in this translation.
—Harold Bloom, author of The Book of J and The Western Canon