Gnosticism

From Conservapedia

Jump to: navigation, search

Gnosticism (after gnôsis, the Greek word for "knowledge" or "insight") is the name given to a loosely organized religious and philosophical movement that flourished in the first and second centuries A.D. Though the exact origins of this school of thought cannot be traced with any certainty, it is possible to infer that certain non-canonical sources dating from the first and second centuries A.D. were used to develop it. It had been considered a heresy by church fathers and so is by most modern Christians. Most Gnostic writings are exceedingly obscure and tedious.[1]

Literary critic Harold Bloom distinguishes Gnosticism from Christianity and Judaism in his book Agon[2]:

"Gnosticism polemically is decidedly not a faith, whether in the Christian sense, pistis, a believing that something was, is, and will be so; or in the Hebraic sense, emunah, a trusting in the Covenant. If religion is a binding, then Gnosticism is an unbinding, but not for the sake of things or persons merely as they are. Gnostic freedom is a freedom for knowledge, knowledge of what in the self, not in the psyche or soul, is Godlike, and knowledge of God beyond the cosmos. But also it is a freedom to be known, to be known by God, by what is alien to everything created, by what is alien to and beyond the stars and the cosmic system and our earth."

Generally, Gnostics believed that the Abrahamic God was in fact two separate and independent entities. They believed that the Demiurge was the God of the Israelites and the Old Testament. He created the world and man imperfectly, and was malevolent. This belief largely stemmed from accounts of the highly interventionist God in the Old Testament directly and indirectly killing large numbers of people. The Gnostics believed that the second god was a good, benevolent god who is embodied in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ came to save humanity from sin and suffering, the evils of the material world.

Today, Gnostic traits and Gnostic culture are declared to be a present-day phenomena, inherent in, for example, the Anthropological Revolution.[3] M.A. Smith claims that similarities between Gnostic heresies and some modern cults might be noted at the very minimum in cases of Mormonism (having secret writing in addition to the Bible) and Jehovah's Witnesses (special and very strange interpretations of the actual Scriptures based on a non-biblical system).[1]

Contents

Gnostic Manuscripts

Until the 1945 discovery of the Nag Hammadi texts near Luxor in Egypt, the only evidence about the existence of Gnostic groups and sects came from anti-Gnostic church fathers[4] who occasionally quoted large fragments of Gnostic writings or sometimes whole works in their rebuttals attacking and refuting the Gnostic heresy in defence of their Christian faith.[5][1] Those Gnostic heretical texts where Christ is conceived as a teacher and revealer of mysterious gnosis, i.e. a secret knowledge aiming to save people from ignorance and material world rather than sin, exhibit following characteristics in contrast to canonical Gospels[5][1]:

  • The texts contain only alleged sayings of Jesus often twisted so as to express the Gnostic theology
  • Jesus transmits these isolated sayings without being placed in any role within Israel's history such as Roman occupation or without any relation to it
  • The sayings of Jesus have no narrative or situational framework, there is no mention of any circumstances, topographical facts or historical events
  • The language of the New Testament survives, but the words used are merely connotation-words, having ascribed a totally different meaning
  • If there are the New Testament allusions, there is never an actual quotation
  • Tampering with the New Testament, for example, the Jesus' cry from the cross was rewritten as "My power, my power, why have you left me?". In The Second Treatise of the Seth, the Gnostic Christ, speaking in the first person, relates how he deceived the powers of this world by causing Simon the Cyrene to take on his appearance and to be crucified in his place, while he watched from above, laughing at the spectacle.[6]
  • The whole system often appears to be a game of numerology, using the New Testament as the quarry for the numbers
  • The overwhelming impression of most Gnostic works is vagueness, word-spinning and tedium. The "Hymn of Jesus" from The Acts of John is fetchingly cryptic.[6]
  • The common factor is imposing a foreign [belief] system on the biblical data[note 1]
  • Preaching the pseudo-Christianity in the form of esoteric or secret knowledge, obsession with mysterious and interest in secret doctrines and rites

The Fundamentals and Traits of Gnostic Doctrine

  • Pleroma: (in Greek, meaning the 'Fulness'); the divine sphere.
  • Aeons: divine powers arranged into different Gnostic systems with a great deal of variety in details depending on teaching of particular Gnostic school. A sort of precosmic community of divine beings.
  • Godhead: a highest God who within himself comprises several aeons.
  • Gnosis: (in greek); a certain secret knowledge subject of central belief of Gnosticism by the possession of which one could be saved from material thus evil world created in despair by mistake by one of aeons who, for some reason, typically due to the primordial catastrophe, fell out from the devine sphere (Pleroma).

Gnostic Elitism

One of the characteristics of gnostic heresy was that it had to do with making people feel significant. The Gnostics did not present their message as something destined for a layman, but rather as something that only an exclusive and highly elevated group of people should hear and could grasp. They considered themselves to belong to the elect part of humanity with extraordinary access to spiritual secret knowledge. From this perspective, Gnosticism was never meant to be, and probably never became, a mass movement. It may primarily have appealed to intelligentsia in the Roman cities. Gnosticism threatened to invade the leaders of the Church. The typical Gnostic community was a circle of initiates adhering to a charismatic teacher, rapidly dissolving with the disappearance of the leader. Irenaeus ironically remarked about them that everybody had ambition of being a teacher of others and establishing his own group. Due to their elite character, the Gnostics, with one significant exception of Manichaeism from the third century onward, never established a church of any duration.[5]

Gnostic Groups

Gnostic and Gnosticism are used as blanket terms to cover a variety of sects:[1]

  • Marcionites. Marcion's teaching was marked by a fundamental dualism that "looks like a combination of Christianity and Syrian gnosis". Marcion distinguished between the highest God (the merciful father revealed in Jesus Christ) and but just cruel God (the Creator and Lawgiver revealed in the Old Testament). He regarded matter as evil, denied the resurrection of body, advocated a strict asceticism, and held to a docetic Christology. Marcion's dualism led him to make a complete disjunction between law and gospel and entitled rejecting the Old Testament in its entirety and as well those New Testament writings he judged to be infected by "the Judaizing" error. The Marcionite 'canon' consisted of the ten letters of the "Apostle" - the Pauline corpus minus the Pastoral Epistles - and the "Gospel" - an edited version of Luke.[4] An uncompromisingly radical dualism between the wicked and incompetent demiurge or "world maker" (often identified with the God of the Old Testament) and god who acts to rescue his elect is native to the major Gnostic schools: Valentinian[7] (scholars who sought salvation through knowledge), Basilidean, and Sethian.[6] Justin Martyr is the first writer known to us to respond to Marcarion by name. He groups the Marcionites together with the:
  • Valentinians
  • Basilidians
  • Saturnalians
  • and others

who, though they claim the name of Christ, are in reality "atheists, impious, unrighteous, and sinful, and confessors of Jesus in name only."[4]

Gnosticism Today

Although there are no explicit declarations of any direct connections, it is still of great curiosity to find parallels of gnostic attitudes and traits in the modern history and society[note 2]:

Gnostic traits in Nazism

Examples from Nazi's Die Botschaft Gottes edited New Testament:[8]
Part of John 4 from Die Botschaft Gottes; v. 22 “salvation is from the Jews” was omitted.
In v. 25 “Messiah (called Christ)” was changed to “Promised one”.
Reference to Jesus being “a Jew” in v. 9 was changed to “who comes from Judea”.
  • Rejection of Old Testament and manipulating (editing) the Scripture by Nazists resulting in dejudaized version of the New Testament (NT), titled Die Botschaft Gottes (The Message of God)[8]. Wilhelm Busch, pastor contemporary to era of Nazism in Germany, witnessed:[9]

When Hitler was fighting for power, he published a program of his Nazi Party. There, in the article 24, it was declared: "We are all for positive Christianity."[note 3] Many genuine Christians got hooked for it. But when Hitler finally had acquired the full power in the country, it was suddenly disclosed what many had overlooked: The 'Positive Christianity' has been just disguised Nazism. At the same time, the fight against the Bible triggered its ramp. Especially the Old Testament was taken under the heavy fire. Everywhere you could hear and read: Well, the New Testament can be allowed to circulate for some time, because the teaching there in is about the God of love. Just one thing, the letters of Jew Paul must be eliminated from there, they smack too much of the Spirit of the Old Testament. As for the Old Testament itself - oh, that’s a terrible book, a dirty book, a horrifying book! There in, a voice of the Judeo-Syrian God of desert and revenge can be heard.

In 1936, Der Stürmer, anti-Semitic Nazi newspaper published by Julius Streicher, brought up the following anti-Old-Testament propagandistic slogan:

Den Geist, der aus dem Buche spricht, Versteht die deutsche Jugend nicht.[note 4]

Later Nazist forbade the study of "Jewish book" which was their reference to the Old Testament and its scholarship disappeared from German seminaries and journals. In 1940 Dietrich Bonhoeffer was fined for defiantly publishing a book on Psalms.[12]

Gnostic traits in New Atheism

"The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully."[note 5]

Gnostic traits in LGBT Ideology

  • Manipulating (editing) the Scripture, mainly the Old Testament, by proponents of LGBT ideology resulting in version of the Bible titled The Queen James Bible.[13] The name of the 'Queen James' version (QJV) is based on controversial speculation contested by historians that King James was homosexual.[14]
The QJV reinterprets several biblical verses in an effort to impose and advocate a foreign homosexual agenda on the original indigenous biblical data[note 6]:
In Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13, there is the superfluous sentence "in the temple of Molech" read into the levitical texts.[15] These texts originally did not mention the temple of Molech at all. The revisionism tries to make impression that the only reason why the text condemned homosexual behaviour was that it was practised in pagan temple. Authors of the QJV translation are trying to remove the condemnation of homosexuality out of Scripture entirely.[13]
Tampering with Romans 1:26-27 in the New Testament where the QJV changes the sense of original meaning referring to homosexual behaviour in general to pagan worship; also a new add-on expression “ritual lust” was introduced to eliminate the obvious universal condemnation of lesbian behaviour.

The QJV translation was denounced as spurious where every single change made was an inexcusable bastardization of the text violating translation principles.[13]

  • The 'mysterious gnosis' pertinent to a unique secret knowledge and sole access by pro-LGBT 'elite', is often in LGBT ideology referred to as "an evolutionary enigma".[16] The pseudo-Christianity as more "flexible" belief system made to fit the LGBT agenda is usually labelled as "progressive" [Christianity].[17]
  • Fr. Rutler, who holds a doctorate in sacred theology, and a master of studies from Oxford University, maintains that homosexual activists and secular liberals do not understand the relationship between the human race and nature because they are essentially Gnostics, in their dualism they see the natural world, i.e. the material world, as contrary to anything divine and the result of energies other than God. To say that the Word was made flesh, as in the New Testament, is a total contradiction to the Gnostic, because the Gnostic thinks the divine can have nothing to do with the flesh. As a consequence homosexuals do not see marriage as an essentially divine institution – they see it as a legal construction that can be changed at will. “They see a Supreme Court changing the law on marriage and say it is valid. But from the point of natural law, it would be like saying the Supreme Court could repeal the law of gravity.” The homosexual is a classic Gnostic, because the homosexual does not understand how gender is intrinsic to God’s will for the human race. Male-ness and female-ness are not arbitrary categories.[18]

Gnostic traits in Liberal Media

  • The contemporary yellow journalism and liberal media often misuse the Gnostic texts or even add uncritically accepted related discoveries or speculations, doubted and criticized by mainstream scholars, in their obsession with sensational. In 1996 the Time magazine, known for liberal bias, reported on the group of self-described 'experts and scholars' known as Jesus Seminar who declared to have special ‘knowledge‘ on origin of Gospels thus presented their own edited version of Bible with addition of Gnostic Gospel of Thomas as what they called ‘The Scholars Version‘. A. Boyd wrote a devastating critique of such liberal perspectives in his Cynic Sage or Son of God? - Recovering the Real Jesus in an Age of Revisionist Replies.[19][20][21]

Gnostic traits in Liberal Theology

  • The typical example can be Karen L. King at Harvard Divinity School who claimed that a scrap of papyrus she dubiously obtained[note 7] and that she refers to as "Gospel of Jesus's Wife" is "A New Coptic Gospel Papyrus". The following Gnostic traits and fallacies could be recognized in her attitude:
    • Vagueness, word-spinning:

"Thus, on the basis of the age of the papyrus, the placement and absorption of the ink on the page, the type of the handwriting, and the Coptic grammar and spelling, it was concluded that it is highly probable[note 8] that the fragment is an ancient text. Although a final conclusion about the parchment's authenticity remains open to further examination by colleagues and to further testing, especially of the chemical composition of the ink, these assurances were sufficient for work on the analysis and interpretation of the fragment to begin in earnest."[22] One cannot establish the age of papyrus and base on it anything if the scientific test has not been performed first. Damning alternatives such as opinions of Coptologists who pointed out serious problems with the paleography, the syntax, and the very troubling fact that almost all of the text has been extracted from the Gospel of Thomas (principally from logia 30, 101, and 114)[23]. Trying to make sensational declarations but then fail to make proper follow up and present the papers with scientific results[note 9] after these claims served its purpose to promote the Gnostic agenda leading to devastating consequence of heretical teaching to the genuine Christian belief.[24]

    • Faulty Logic: "It would be very difficult to reproduce the kind the damage from insects or moisture that the fragment indicates, but it could have been penned on a blank piece of ancient papyrus, which are available for purchase on the antiquities market. Such a papyrus would pass a Carbon 14 dating test."[25] Still, it is of great interest to find out whether the papyrus passes the Carbon 14 dating test, if not, the claim about ancient status can be falsified right away before further investigation of ink. Furthermore, the first media coverage relayed King claiming, without any peer-review from Carbon dating specialist, that the Carbon 14 method of dating cannot be performed at all: "Dr. King did not have the ink dated using carbon testing. She said it would require scraping off too much, destroying the relic. She still plans to have the ink tested by spectroscopy, which could roughly determine its age by its chemical composition."[26]
    • Taking position contrary to church fathers who opposed Gnostic heresy strongly, trying to make Gnostic positions attacking the genuine tenets of the biblical creed acceptable:

"Karen King says, we must first disentangle modern historiography from the Christian discourse of orthodoxy and heresy that has pervaded--and distorted--the story. King shows how historians have been misled by ancient Christian polemicists who attacked Gnostic beliefs as a "dark double" against which the new faith could define itself. to offer a new and clarifying definition of Gnosticism"[27]

    • Obsessive interest in non-canonical scripts such as the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Mary, and the Gospel of the Egyptians, contrarian approach to Christian history and trial “to integrate a whole set of [this] ‘heretical’ literature into the standard history”[24]
    • Replacing basic tenets of Christianity such as on personal God with word spinning around 'religion' and introducing terms like "religious identity": “Religion is absolutely central to who I am in every way,” she said. “I spend most of my time on it. It’s how I structure my interior life. I use its materials when I think about ethics and politics.”[24][note 10]

See Also

Notes

  1. cf. Syncretism
  2. cf."[Gnosticism] is by no means an outdated phenomenon of only historical interest"[5]
  3. cf.NSDAP Party Program (February 24, 1920) Point 24:"We demand freedom of religion for all religious denominations within the state so long as they do not endanger its existence or oppose the moral senses of the Germanic race. The Party as such advocates the standpoint of a positive Christianity without binding itself confessionally to any one denomination. It combats the Jewish-materialistic spirit within and around us, and is convinced that a lasting recovery of our nation can only succeed from within on the framework: The good of the state before the good of the individual." [10]
  4. Translation from German: The Spirit that speaks out of Book cannot be grasped by German Youth (meaning: The German Youth cannot understand the Spirit of Old Testament)[11].
  5. cf."To the faithful you show yourself faithful, to the blameless you show yourself blameless, to the pure you show yourself pure, but to the devious you show yourself shrewd." Bible, 2 Samuel 22: 26-27 (NIV)
  6. cf. False appropriation
  7. cf. "Nothing is known about the circumstances of its original discovery or early ownership, but there are some clues about its modern history"
  8. cf. Logic of possibility
  9. cf. "The chemical composition of the manuscript's ink will be tested at Harvard in mid-October [2012]" ... "As of late October, the results of a radiocarbon dating test and ink analysis were still pending."
  10. cf."In fact, it is only through the New Testament that we can learn just what Christian faith is. ... Open your Bible at any page you like, there is nothing about solving religious problems. Bible testifies that God exists and that he revealed himself through Jesus Christ. It shows too that the man who lives without God is not living right. ... All religions are human attempts to find God. But they all have this in common: they have all gone astray in the fog and have not been able to discover God." Wilhelm Busch, member of Confessing Church in the era of Nazism[28]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 M.A.Smith (1971). From Christ to Constantine. London: Inter-Varsity Press, 48, 69, 187, 191. ISBN 0-85110-570-X. 
  2. Harold Bloom (1982). Agon: towards a theory of revisionism. Oxford University Press, 24. ISBN 978-0195029451. 
  3. Vladimír Palko (2012). Levy prichdzajú (Lions are coming) (in Slovak). Prešov, Slovakia: Vydavateľstvo Michala Vaška, 248. ISBN 978-80-7165-870-2. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 David G. Dunbar et al. (1986 (Zondervan), 2005). "Nine: The Biblical Canon", in D.A. Carson and J.D. Woodbridge: Hermeneutics, Authority, and Canon. Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 331-333. ISBN 1-59752-118-3. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Oskar Skarsaune (2002). "12:Orthodoxy and Heresy", In the Shadow of the Temple: Jewish Influence on Early Christianity. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 246, 251-253. ISBN 978-0-8308-2844-9. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 David Bentley Hart (2010). Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies. YALE University Press, 134-143. ISBN 978-03-0016-4299. 
  7. Frederick Fyvie Bruce (1982). The New Testament documents, are they reliable?. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 Russell Grigg. Did Hitler rewrite the Bible?. Creation Ministries International. Retrieved on 2012-10-27.
  9. Kritik ohne Kenntnis? (Busch) (German). Christlichen Medienverbreitungsmission (1. October 2009). “Wilhelm Busch erzählt: Als Hitler um die Macht kämpfte, veröffentlichte er ein Parteiprogramm. In dem stand als Punkt 24: “Wir sind für positives Christentum.” Viele treue Christen sind darauf hereingefallen. Als aber Hitler an der Macht war, erfuhr man, was viele vorausgesehen hatten: Positives Christentum ist dasselbe wie Nationalsozialismus. Zu gleicher Zeit begann der Kampf gegen die Bibel. Namentlich das Alte Testament wurde unter Trommelfeuer genommen. Überall konnte man hören und lesen: Nun ja, das Neue Testament könne man noch einige Zeit gelten lassen; denn da werde der Gott der Liebe gelehrt. Nur die Briefe des Juden Paulus müsse man ausmerzen. In denen sei der Geist des Alten Testaments zu spüren. Das Alte Testament aber – oh, das sei ein fürchterliches Buch, ein schmutziges Buch, ein grauenvolles Buch! Da rede der jüdisch-syrische Wüsten-Rache-Gott.”
  10. Robert Michael and Philip Rosen (2007). Dictionary of Antisemitism: From the Earliest Times to the Present. The Scarecrow Press. ISBN 978-08-1085-8688. 
  11. Katholische Schulen im NS-Staat:Unterdrückung bis zum Ende, Karikaturen aus dem FORUM - Sonderheft 31 (German). Schulstiftung der Erzdiözese Freiburg (Educational Foundation of the Archdiocese of Freiburg) (March 2001). Retrieved on 24-May-2013.
  12. Philip Yancey (2002). Bible Jesus Read. Michigan: Zondervan, 24. ISBN 978-0-310-245-667. 
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Lita Cosner (21 February 2013). A ‘Wicked Bible’ for the 21st century? The Queen James Bible. CMI. Retrieved on 24 February 2013.
  14. New 'Queen James' Bible offers gay-friendly Scripture. msnNOW.com (12/18/2012). Retrieved on 24/02/2013. “According to the editors, King James I, the man behind the popular Bible translation, was a bisexual "known amongst friends and courtiers as 'Queen James' because of his many gay lovers." This new version, named in his honor, aims "to prevent homophobic interpretations," with several controversial verses strategically tweaked. "We wanted to make a book filled with the word of God that nobody could use to incorrectly condemn God’s LGBT children," the editors explain.”
  15. Meredith Bennett-Smith (12/18/2012). Queen James Bible Claims To Be First-Ever 'Gay Bible,' But Some Say It Rewrites Scripture. msnNOW.com. Retrieved on 24/02/2013. “This new version updates several passages from the original version that address homosexuality, including this passage from Leviticus 18:22: KJV: Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is an abomination. QJV: Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind in the temple of Molech: it is an abomination. (Page 75)”
  16. William R. Rice, Urban Friberg and Sergey Gavrilets (December 2012). Homosexuality as a Consequence of Epigenetically Canalized Sexual Development. Retrieved on 24-Feb-2013. “This paper argues that sexually antagonistic selection can also be involved in epigenetic effects and explain the enigmatic high prevalence of several fitness-reducing human characters. ... Homosexuality is frequently considered to be an unusual phenotype because it represents an evolutionary enigma —a trait that is expected to reduce Darwinian fitness, yet it persists at substantial frequency across many different (possibly all) human populations.”
  17. Michal Piško (8 June 2012). Schlesinger: Prestaňme sa točiť okolo hriechu (Slovak). SME.SK. Retrieved on 24 Feb 2013. “„Na Slovensku, žiaľ, neexistuje iný názor cirkvi na túto tému. V zahraničí je tento názor cirkví podstatne progresívnejší, žila som v USA, mám priateľov zo škandinávskych krajín a tam sa nevylučuje byť gejom a dobrým veriacim. Nie je to univerzálny názor každého cirkevného spoločenstva na svete.“”
  18. Michael W. Chapman (December 24, 2008). Gays Unable to Accept Pope’s Defense of Environment and Nature’s ‘Law,’ Says Top Theologian. CNSNews.com. Retrieved on 26-May-2013.
  19. David Van Biema (Apr. 08, 1996). The Gospel of Truth?. Time Magazine.
  20. Lee Strobel (1998, 2008). "6. section: Jesus and the "Mystery religions"", The Case for Christ: A Journalist's Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus. Zondervan, 120-125. ISBN 0-310-29604-8. 
  21. Gregory A. Boyd (1996, 2010). Cynic Sage or Son of God? - Recovering the Real Jesus in an Age of Revisionist Replies. Wipf & Stock Pub.. ISBN 978-1-6089-9953-8. 
  22. Karen L. King. The Gospel of Jesus's Wife: A New Coptic Gospel Papyru. Harvard Divinity School. Retrieved on July 26, 2013.
  23. Leroy Huizenga (September 26, 2012). Harvard Theological Review Rejects “Jesus’ Wife”. First Things. Retrieved on June 26, 2013.
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 Ariel Sabar (November 2012). UPDATE: The Reaction to Karen King’s Gospel Discovery. smithsonian. Retrieved on June 26, 2013.
  25. Karen L. King. “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife…’” A New Coptic Gospel Papyrus. Retrieved on June 26, 2013.
  26. Laurie Goodstein (September 18, 2012). A Faded Piece of Papyrus Refers to Jesus’ Wife. NYTimes. Retrieved on June 26, 2013.
  27. Karen L. King (2005). What Is Gnosticism?. Harvard University Press. Retrieved on June 26, 2013. “Quote from the cover of the book”
  28. Wilhelm Busch (2001). Jesus Our Destiny. Inter Publishing Services, 11. ISBN 0-86347-024-6. 
Personal tools