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Plotinus and the Gnostics

Plotinus and the Gnostics



Enneads II 9 [33] was given the title "Against the Gnostics" by Porphyry, who also informs us (VP 16) that the Gnostics were heretical Christians. Plotinus himself describes them as former friends (perhaps fellow-pupils of his Alexandrian teacher Ammonius Saccas) and treats them as deviant Platonists without any reference to Christianity. In this paper, I shall review attempts to identify the Gnostics with one of the groups to whom Christian heresiologists give that name, and will also consider their possible indebtedness to Numenius and their affinities with Celsus’ Christians. By the time of Plotinus, Alexandrian Platonists had already drawn sharp lines between their creed and those of both Christians and Gnostics, although the three “communities” emerge from a common ferment of speculation; in Plotinus we see the beginnings of a similar enterprise among the Platonists, which is carried to completion in Porphyry's Life of Plotinus.

Speaker BIO

Mark J. Edwards has been Tutor in Theology at Christ Church, Oxford, and University Lecturer/Associate Professor in Patristics in the Faculty of Theology and Religion in the University of Oxford since 1993. Since 2014, he has held the title of Professor of Early Christian Studies. His books include Origen against Plato (2002), Catholicity and Heresy in the Early Church (2009), Image, Word and God in the Early Christian Centuries (2012), Religions of the Constantinian Empire (2015), and Aristotle and Early Christian Thought (2019).

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