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God Measuring the World With Compass, Bible Moraliseé (circa 1250) [Public Domain Image]
God Measuring the World With Compass, Bible Moraliseé (circa 1250) [Public Domain Image]

Fragments of a Faith Forgotten

by G.R.S. Mead


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This is one of the best books about the Gnostics written prior to the Nag Hammadi discoveries. G.R.S. Mead, who also translated the Pistis Sophia, summarizes what was known about the Gnostics at the turn of the 20th century. At that time, a better picture of the Gnostics was emerging, based on several papyri which had been recently discovered. Although there had been a lot of academic research on this subject, most of the key works were in German or French. Therefore this book and The Gnostics and Their Remains are the only two major books in English on this subject currently in the public domain.

It was becoming increasingly obvious that early Christianity was a wide spectrum of sects, the record of which had been subsequently forgotten or suppressed by the Church. The Gnostics had deep connections with ancient Mystery religions, Pythagoreanism, Hinduism and other ancient beliefs. Most of the sacred texts of Gnosticism were long lost or survived only in small quotes.

Mead draws on information provided both by the Early Church Fathers hostile to Gnosticism, and the available corpus of actual Gnostic documents at the time, cryptic and fragmentary as it was. He includes excerpts from previously untranslated manuscripts, and extensive summaries of the Pistis Sophia and the writings of the critics of Gnosticism. This book is required reading for anyone who wants to understand Gnosticism and the development of early Christianity.

Title Page
Synopsis of Contents



Some Rough Outlines of the Background of the Gnosis

Preliminary Considerations
Philo on the Contemplative Life

General and Gnostic Christianity

The Evolution of Catholic Christianity
The Ebionites
The Essenes
The Tendencies of Gnosticism
The Literature and Sources of Gnosticism

The Gnosis According to its Foes

The Gnosis According to its Foes
Some Gnostic Fragments Recovered from the Polemical Writings of the Church Fathers
The ''Simonians''
''Simon Magus.''
The ''Ophites''
An Anonymous System From Irenæus
An Early ''Ophite'' System
The Naasseni
The Peratæ
The Sethians
The Docetæ
The So-Called Cainites
The Carpocratians
The Basilidian Gnosis
The Valentinian Movement
i. From a Letter
ii. From a Letter
iii. From the Letter to Agathōpus
iv. From a Homily
v. A few Sentences preserved in the Controversial Matter of Clement...
vi. From the Letter on the Community of Friends
vii. A very doubtful Fragment from Eulogius of Alexandria writing at the end of the Sixth Century
viii. The Myth which Valentinus made
ix. From a Psalm
Some Outlines of Æonology
Hippolytus’ account of One of the Variants of the Sophia-Mythus
The Number-Symbolism of Marcus
The Hymn of the Robe of Glory

Some Traces of the Gnosis in the Uncanonical Acts

From The Acts of Thomas
From The Acts of John
From The Acts of Andrew
From The Travels of Peter

The Gnosis According to Its Friends

The Gnosis According to Its Friends
The Askew and Bruce Codices
Summary of the Contents of the So-Called Pistis Sophia Treatise
Summary of the Extracts From the Books of the Saviour
Summary of the Fragments of the Book of the Great Logos According to the Mystery
Selections from the Untitled Apocalypse of the Codex Brucianus
Notes on the Contents of the Bruce and Askew Codices
The Akhmīm Codex
Some Forgotten Sayings