Hans Jonas’s Work on Gnosticism as Counterhistory

Lapidot, Elad (2017). Hans Jonas’s Work on Gnosticism as Counterhistory. Philosophical readings, ix(1), pp. 61-68. Philosophical Readings

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In this article I propose a reflection on the basic meaning of Hans Jonas’ work on Gnosticism. This reflection carries implications not just for how to re-evaluate Jonas’ work on Gnosticism, but also for how to reevaluate Jonas’ intellectual project in general. I will not be able to fully and systematically develop here my reflection on Jonas’ Gnosticism project, much less to provide a full account of its broader implications. What I will propose is a paradigm, a basic hermeneutic perspective for reading or re-reading Jonas. My basic claim is that in his work on late-antiquity Gnosticism Jonas develops not just the conceptual or existential features of a specific historical-spiritual figure, but a narrative, a story, which suggests itself as an alternative deep intellectual history of the West, what I will call here a “counterhistory”. In other words, Jonas does not only re-tell the story of Gnosticism, he also re-tells the story of Western thought. Or more precisely, he lays the foundations for such a revised history. As incomplete and preliminary as they may be, these foundations – this is the broader implication I suggest for re-reading Jonas – will continue to inform also Jonas’ later, so to speak “post-Gnostic” project. I would even hazard to say that to a certain degree, Jonas’ late work is not fully comprehensible without his historical narrative. That is to say, the story of Gnosticism, as told by Jonas, may also provide a narrative structure for the story of Jonas’ own lifework.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


01 Faculty of Theology > Institute of Systematic Theology
01 Faculty of Theology > Institute of Jewish Studies

UniBE Contributor:

Lapidot, Elad




Philosophical Readings




Elad Lapidot

Date Deposited:

04 May 2021 13:42

Last Modified:

04 May 2021 13:42

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