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This authoritative, fully accessible guide to early Christian movements sheds light on the hidden histories and intriguing mysteries that fueled the extraordinary success of books ranging from Dan Brown's blockbuster The Da Vinci Code to Elaine Pagels's critically acclaimed Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas. From its earliest days, Christianity has been marked by a rich diversity of beliefs and practices. Different interpretations of Jesus' life and mission, as well as conflicting views about worship and rituals, gave rise to numerous sects in the first centuries C. E. Condemned as heretical by the official Church, these early movements were lost to history until the twentieth century, when the discovery of ancient documents opened a new perspective on the evolution of Christianity. The Beliefnet® Guide to Gnosticism and Other Vanished Christianities is a fascinating look at the diverse strands of the early Christian church. It examines the alternative Christian ideas propagated by the Gnostics, Sethians, Valentinians, Marcionites, Encratites, and Montanists, illuminating the philosophical sources and religious traditions that fostered them. Special attention is given to sects that presented the greatest challenges to the developing orthodoxy: the Hermeticists, the Manicheans, and the Neoplatonists. There are also thought-provoking discussions about the secret Gospel of Mark and the Gospels of Mary and Thomas, and the newly discovered Gospel of the Savior. From the premier source of information on religion and spirituality, the Beliefnet Guides introduce you to the major traditions, leaders, and issues of faith in the world today.