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Dylan Burns will give the lecture ‘Beyond the Abrahamic Religions: The Case of Sethian Gnosticism' in the programme Current Issues in Religious Studies and Western Esotericism.

Event details of Current Issues with Dylan Burns
Date 27 September 2021
Time 16:30 -17:30
Location Oudemanhuispoort
Room Humanities Lab


Following their discovery in 1945 and initial decipherment in the 1960s and 70s, the 4th/5th century Coptic Gnostic manuscripts found near Nag Hammadi (Upper Egypt) raised many stimulating questions for students of ancient religion and philosophy. A particularly difficult issue is a body of texts that seem to belong to a single, coherent literary tradition (usually named for its focus on Seth, the third child of Adam and Eve, as revealer and savior) that appeared to span several conventionally understood religious boundaries: Judaism, Christianity, and Hellenic religious philosophy. Thus, scholars began to write of “Jewish, Christian, and Pagan Sethianism” and even to write social histories of a “Sethian movement” shuffling between different religious confessions.
In my research, I looked for alternative models to make sense of the Sethian dossier, and one of the ones I experimented with was the construct of the “Abrahamic religions”—namely, the interface and mutual interpenetration and influence of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—in late antiquity, a line of investigation that achieved particular prominence in 2009 with the appointment of the great Historian of Religion (and pioneer of Gnostic Sethianism) Guy Stroumsa to a chair of The Study of the Abrahamic Religions at The University of Oxford. In this talk I will outline the issues posed by the Sethian literature for our understanding of the diverse landscape of religions in late antiquity, the genealogy and drawbacks of ‘Abrahamic religion’ as a historical category, and offer new suggestions for negotiating the study of biblical traditions in a ‘post-biblical’ history of religions.

Dr. D.M. (Dylan) Burns

Faculty of Humanities

Capaciteitsgroep Geschiedenis van de Hermetische filosofie en verwante stromingen

Location: on campus Humanities Lab

Our first seminar also takes place at a different location. We are the guests of the Humanities Lab, now located at Kloveniersburgwal 72. However, in order to reach the Humanities Lab, it is best to enter through the main entrance of the Oudemanhuispoort. Once you have entered, walk all the way to the back and then take a right. Just walk past the large lecture halls and up a small staircase. After the stairs, take another right and after a few more meters you find the Humanities Lab.

The aim of the Humanities Lab is to stimulate and support entrepreneurship based on knowledge and academic skills derived from Humanities Studies. The Humanities Lab offers working spaces and guidance to starters that are studying or have finished their studies in the Humanities. In addition to this, the Humanities Lab helps with the integration of entrepreneurial skills in the Humanities curriculum, organises extracurricular educational activities and cooperates in the valorisation of research.


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Room Humanities Lab

Oudemanhuispoort 4-6
1012 CN Amsterdam