Can anyone help fact-check some writing on Gnosticism

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morbo3000
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Can anyone help fact-check some writing on Gnosticism

Post by morbo3000 » Tue Nov 19, 2013 5:36 pm

I'm working on a book. One section of it involves how the church dealt with gnosticism. Explaining that involves explaining gnosticism which is rather big. This is what I have. Some of it might be sketchy writing still in outline. And some are still long quotes. The help I need is fact-checking. Not grammar and spelling or whatever. Thanks!

Immediately following the birth of the church, her leaders had to address competing ideas about what constituted true faith. It was a never-ending battle moving from one controversy to the next about what to eat, how to live, and what to believe.

The church in Jerusalem provided some oversight to this fledgling movement. But the church dispersed was still very decentralized. Christianity spread through the work of itinerant preachers who moved from city to city, sharing the gospel, starting churches and establishing leaders. It’s native religion Judaism had survived for years through a collection of holy books and leaders. But without creeds, books or doctrinal statements, Christianity was vulnerable to distortions and misappropriation. And some competing religions attempted to hijack Christianity.

[[Christian History Magazine on gnosticism]] “His opponents were enticing members of his community away from apostolic faith with a message that sounded true
but wasn't. He therefore saw the Gnostics as false teachers who had cleverly and artfully clothed an unorthodox theological system in a deceitful, seductive costume. "Error," he noted, "indeed, is never set forth in its naked deformity, lest, being thus exposed, it should at once be detected. But it is craftily decked out in an attractive dress, so as, by its outward form, to make it appear to the inexperienced ... more true than the truth itself.”
he Gnostics sounded, and frequently acted, just like orthodox Christians. They read the Bible, used the Bible, and cited the Bible. But the way they understood the Bible, the way they put its pieces together, differed dramatically from the perspectives of Irenaeus, Pothinus, Polycarp, and John.]]







Gnosticism was one of the first threats to Christianity. Gnosticism was a strange mixture of Greek philosophy, Judaism, and Christian beliefs. We don’t exactly know the origin of Gnosticism. Some believe it predates Christianity. But there is no unanimity.


The gnostics saw reality as divided between two realms: the heavenly and the natural. These realms were completely separate and hostile to each other.

The heavenly was holy, perfect, and eternal. Only this spirit world was good. It was the home of the Supreme Being, an uninvolved god, who was unknowable and undetectable by human senses.

The material world on the other hand was fallen, imperfect, and unholy. It was created and ruled by a lesser god known as the Demiurge, who they believed was the same God the Jewish people called Jehovah. Gnostic beliefs about the character of this god varied from imperfect to evil, rigid, lacking in compassion and prone to genocide.

Because humans existed in this imperfect physical world their bodies were inherently earthy and evil. While the Gnostics thought the human spirit was divine and good, these sparks of divinity were trapped in their “evil” physical body.

For gnostics, the reason to practice religion was the hope that at death they could escape the prison of their bodies. Their souls would be free from the shackles of this lower, earthly realm. They would ascend into the heavenly realm to be reunited with the Supreme Being.

To accomplish this, the seeker needed to gain gnosis: divine knowledge about your spiritual essence. Knowledge, as the gnostics understood it, should not be confused with how we use the word. Gnosis was not the acquisition of facts. Rather it was acquaintance with the divine through mystical experiences.

Gnostics believed that you gain this knowledge through separating themselves from all earthly evil in order to avoid contamination ascetic practices. expressed most fluently in their sexual and dietary practice.[29] Many monks would deprive themselves of food, water, or necessary needs for living.

From these experiences came a deeper insight considered to be more spiritual. You would use this knowledge on a quest through the heavenly realms where you would meet guardians requiring you to recite the gnosis you learned while on earth. The goal was the eighth level, the place of perfection, where you would be reunited with the Supreme Being.

It is through this lens that the gnostics viewed Jesus

Gnostics believed Jesus was the greatest teacher who ever lived. His purpose was to teach people how to achieve gnosis and liberate their spirit from their flesh. Jesus educated His followers by explaining that all humanity is divine just as He is divine. Most people are just blind to it.

Jesus is identified by some Gnostics as an embodiment of the supreme being who became incarnate to bring gnōsis to the earth
while others adamantly denied that the supreme being came in the flesh, claiming Jesus to be merely a human who attained divinity through gnosis and taught his disciples to do the same




Their solution was that Jesus’ body was not a real body. He was actually a spirit that seemed to be human. He only appeared in human form and only appeared to suffer. It was an illusion. Thus Jesus could be a pure spiritual being in the midst of an evil world and not be contaminated by it.

The gnostics spread their ideas about Jesus through their own set of gospels, such as the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Philip, and the Gospel of Judas.
These gospels claimed to be secret teachings that Jesus gave to a specific apostle, hidden from the others. They differed in many ways from the canonical gospels. They were written much later than the four gospels. They were never considered Scripture by the majority of Christians. They did not tell the stories of Jesus life, or history. Rather they were concerned with revelations and explanations of Gnostic view of the universe, and spiritual advice.

This included a special understanding of the deeper spiritual meanings of doctrines, scriptures, and rituals.
When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.
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Re: Can anyone help fact-check some writing on Gnosticism

Post by dwilkins » Tue Nov 19, 2013 7:36 pm

It's my impression from a quick look at your list of points about gnosticism that you are making a big mistake in approaching the subject. I suggest that you carefully read the following books before continuing on:

"Against Heresies" Irenaeus

http://www.amazon.com/Against-Heresies- ... t+heresies

"Gnosis" Rudolph

http://www.amazon.com/Gnosis-History-Gn ... sm+rudolph

"No Longer Jews" Smith

http://www.amazon.com/No-Longer-Jews-Gn ... onger+jews

"Pre-Christian Gnosticism" Yamauchi

http://www.amazon.com/Pre-Christian-Gno ... m+yamauchi

"Rethinking Gnosticism" Williams

http://www.amazon.com/Rethinking-Gnosti ... gnosticism

"Hellenistic Philosophy" Long

http://www.amazon.com/Hellenistic-Philo ... philosophy

There was no coherent gnosticism in the time of the Apostles. What is attributed to them is more likely commentary on Epicureans and Stoics, or against 2nd Temple Judaism. Most Christian writing on gnosticism has been refuted since the Nag Hammadi discovery, so I'd be very careful relying on theologians who don't directly engage writings from that discovery.

Doug

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Re: Can anyone help fact-check some writing on Gnosticism

Post by Paidion » Wed Nov 20, 2013 12:05 am

It seems that even in John's day (or whoever wrote 1 John) that gnosticism or pre-gnosticism existed, and the writer recognized it:
By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. (1 John 4:2,3)
The gnostics didn't believe that Jesus was actually born as a human being. Rather they believed Him to be God who manifested Himself to appear as a human but He didn't actually have flesh — only appeared to have. The gnostics said that when He was but a baby, He stood up and gave great and wonderful discourses which amazed any who listened to them.
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Re: Can anyone help fact-check some writing on Gnosticism

Post by dwilkins » Wed Nov 20, 2013 10:41 am

Paidion wrote:It seems that even in John's day (or whoever wrote 1 John) that gnosticism or pre-gnosticism existed, and the writer recognized it:
By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. (1 John 4:2,3)
The gnostics didn't believe that Jesus was actually born as a human being. Rather they believed Him to be God who manifested Himself to appear as a human but He didn't actually have flesh — only appeared to have. The gnostics said that when He was but a baby, He stood up and gave great and wonderful discourses which amazed any who listened to them.
Which gnostic, specifically? In what year did he write? How would you summarize his system?

Doug

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Re: Can anyone help fact-check some writing on Gnosticism

Post by morbo3000 » Wed Nov 20, 2013 11:12 am

Doug et al,

Here are some specific questions to help clarify. I'm not debating, because I don't have skin in the game. I just need clarity so I'm not out on an academic limb.

1). Do you trust what we know through about Cerinthus from Iranaeus?

2). What do you think about the claim that they were harsh dualists, believing that only spirit and heavens was good, and that earth and matter were evil.

3). What do you think made up gnosis? How was it attained?

4). What was the hope/salvation/point of gnosis?

I will be reading Iranaeus for more clarity regarding this. However, I can't afford the books you recommended. And this is a transitional section of my book, so I don't need to go into it in that depth. I just need to be able to describe the points of heresy, and how the church dealt with it. I know it's fuzzy. And that people believe different things.

Thanks!

Jeff.
When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.
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Re: Can anyone help fact-check some writing on Gnosticism

Post by dwilkins » Wed Nov 20, 2013 12:29 pm

morbo3000 wrote:Doug et al,

Here are some specific questions to help clarify. I'm not debating, because I don't have skin in the game. I just need clarity so I'm not out on an academic limb.

1). Do you trust what we know through about Cerinthus from Iranaeus?

2). What do you think about the claim that they were harsh dualists, believing that only spirit and heavens was good, and that earth and matter were evil.

3). What do you think made up gnosis? How was it attained?

4). What was the hope/salvation/point of gnosis?

I will be reading Iranaeus for more clarity regarding this. However, I can't afford the books you recommended. And this is a transitional section of my book, so I don't need to go into it in that depth. I just need to be able to describe the points of heresy, and how the church dealt with it. I know it's fuzzy. And that people believe different things.

Thanks!

Jeff.
1. No
2. Not necessarily. If you only read two of the books I suggested then at least read "Rethinking Gnosticism" and "No Longer Jews".
3. It depends on the system you are addressing. See #2
4. See #3

If you aren't going to do the research I suggest you skip the section on gnosticism completely.

Doug

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Re: Can anyone help fact-check some writing on Gnosticism

Post by morbo3000 » Wed Nov 20, 2013 1:15 pm

Doug: I've done research. Tons. There are competing ideas. That's why I'm asking questions. But I can't choose books over bread at the moment.
When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.
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Re: Can anyone help fact-check some writing on Gnosticism

Post by corbinmcnabb » Sun Jun 29, 2014 9:39 pm

This may be a bit late, so if it is, my apologies. If not, you might check a book called "The Gnostic Religion" by Hans Jonas. Possible problem is that it was written in 1958. It may not be in stock.
It is worth noting, (again, if it isn't too late) that along with everything else involved with the Gnostics, is a degree of polytheism. The question of whether Marcion should be considered a Gnostic, seems to be an area of disagreement.
A question I have, and perhaps you can answer for me. The Gnostics, based on the same idea that matter is evil, broke into two camps. One that said essentially, "Hey, the body is evil anyway, let it do what it wants" and the other that said "The body is evil, anything that gives the body pleasure is evil."
My question: The second one seems similar to some of the things that went on in some of the monistaries in the middle ages, but I haven't found a direct historic connection. Have you? It might be an interesting direction to go, if such a connection is found.
Again, if I'm too late to help, my apologies.
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Re: Can anyone help fact-check some writing on Gnosticism

Post by Paidion » Mon Jun 30, 2014 11:49 am

Doug wrote:Which gnostic, specifically? In what year did he write? How would you summarize his system?
I did a quick search of the early gnostic writings which I possess, and couldn't find (in the short time I searched) statements which expressed either that Christ gave great orations as a baby or that He didn't possess a material body.

I did find in "the first Gospel of the Infancy of Jesus Christ" (believed to have been written in the second century) the following words in Chapter 1, verses 1-3:
The following accounts we found in the book of Joseph the high-priest, called by some Caiaphas: He relates that Jesus spoke even when he was in the cradle, and said to his mother: Mary, I am Jesus the Son of God, that word which you brought forth according to the declaration of the angel Gabriel to you, and my father has sent me for the salvation of the world.
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