David Brakke’s book on the Gnostics is an indispensable contribution to the study of early Christianity and the debate about the nature and identity of Gnosticism. The skeptic reader ought not be put off by the size of the book, since Brakke managed to brilliantly pack an impressive amount of sound scholarship in five short chapters (which amount to less then 150 pages). Rather, the size of the book makes it more inviting to the beginners and advanced students of the period in question, and both freshmen and experts will find it unavoidable in the future study of Gnosticism.
Brakke’s view of the Gnostics and their origins challenges the established, conventional scholarship in many ways. He sees Gnosticism as a diverse movement that coexisted with a variety of schools of thought of early Christianity. Early Christianity in the second- century Rome is presented as a confederation of house- churches. This variety of churches brought about diversity in the interpretation of Jesus’ teachings. Thus, the Gnostic movement cannot be conceived as a sect that competed with a „mainstream Christianity“ or „protoorthodoxy“ for authority; rather, Gnosticism was one among a variety of Christian schools of thought in Rome (p. 90–1).