Marcel Mauss and Mary Douglas together offer a theoretical understanding of gift-giving that enables us to draw a crucial distinction between the crossing of the sacred-profane boundary in Gnostic systems and the Johannine one. This distinction is particularly evident when such crossing leads to transactions involving the offer of nourishment. The sacred and the profane do not easily mix in any system, but in Gnostic texts and John’s Gospel, the conflict between these dynamic forces of the two realms is presented as working itself out differently. This conflict is irresolvable in the former due to its substance dualism, but it is resolvable in the latter due to its ethical dualism. Gifts of nourishment accentuate this difference, such that the reciprocity and ambiguity that Mauss sees in gift-giving work out their implications differently. Conflict is shown to be accentuated in Gnostic systems, but ultimately resolved in the Johannine one.


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pp. 163-176
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