Concealed Knowledge: Ways of Producing, Protecting, and Sharing Knowledge in Antiquity as a Context for Gnostic Esotericism

Lautaro Roig Lanzillotta*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review

    Abstract

    Sharing and Hiding Religious Knowledge in Early Jewish, Christian, and Islamic Traditions Knowledge in Antiquity was cherished as a scarce good and its character and transmission tainted with an esoteric allure. The production and cultivation of knowledge not only took place within the limited circle of the “initiated”; its diffusion was also channelled through the close relationship teacher-disciple. The esoteric aspect plays a central role in scholarly, scribal, religious and philosophical contexts. Knowledge was not only intended for a limited group of followers; it also seemed to provide a higher form of consciousness that not everyone was willing or able to bear. If from an existential perspective, knowledge provides individuals with a holistic framework to supersede a fragmented reality, from a social viewpoint, it provides them with the means to advance in the social hierarchy. On the one hand, possessing or lacking knowledge determines social status; on the other, sharing or hiding knowledge is used in strategies of inclusion and exclusion that are highly productive both at the micro (within religious communities themselves) and the macro levels (within multicultural societies at large). Whether religious knowledge could or should be shared with others or, instead, kept to oneself was one of the central issues by which Jews, Christians, and Muslims defined themselves in relation to each other and the world around them. The formative stages of each of these traditions were characterised by a wide diversity of attitudes towards, and means of, knowledge sharing and hiding. Although this sharing and hiding could be textual, such as the Wisdom literature in the Hebrew Bible or the revelatory knowledge throughout Jewish tradition, this volume focuses on the cultural encounter between Jews, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, and others. With whom was religious knowledge shared or from whom was it hidden? Although the hiding of knowledge connotes an active strategy of concealment, it does not preclude the possibility of simply not sharing certain things. And the refusal to share aspects of religious knowledge may also illuminate the nature of specific cultural encounters. Is the transmission of knowledge geared toward internal consumption or is it shared with outsiders? With respect to Judaism, these questions have emerged in recent discussions about the position of rabbinic cultures within the Roman Empire: were they part of it or resistant to it?
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationSpreading Knowledge in a Changing World
    EditorsCharles Burnett, Pedro Mantas
    Place of PublicationCórdoba
    PublisherUniversidad de Cordóba
    Pages53-69
    Number of pages27
    Volume3
    Edition1
    ISBN (Print)9788499274744
    Publication statusPublished - 1-Feb-2020

    Publication series

    NameArabica veritas
    Volume3

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