GNOSTIC TENDENCIES THROUGH THE CENTURIES

GNOSTIC TENDENCIES THROUGH THE CENTURIES

Thesis statement

Why many people regard Gnosticism as the most perilous unorthodoxy to the Early Christian Church and whether this belief exists in the contemporary world.

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Introduction

            Some institutes of Gnosticism argue that they are Christian Gnosticism while there is nothing like Christian Gnosticism. Certainly, there are two mutually exclusive concepts or belief system with the meaning of being a Christian being contradicted by the Gnostic philosophy.  Many people consider Gnosticism as the most perilous unorthodoxy to the early Christian church. This belief system is still evident in the contemporary world.  This paper seeks to examine the belief system as well as the history of Gnosticism and provide a conclusion about whether Gnosticism was truly the most perilous unorthodoxy to the early church and if it exists today.

Definition of Gnosticism

The Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary described Gnosticism as “The modern term for certain dualistic religious as well as philosophical views that existed before the development of Christianity and for particular belief systems characterized by these concepts that came about later and in the second century[1]. ‘Gnosticism’ is a word that is derived from Greek term gnosis (knowledge) since knowledge was an important doctrine in Gnosticism.”

 

 

According to Gonzalez Gnostics believe that they possess special spiritual knowledge, the knowledge about the secret door to salvation which is set aside for those who have this special understanding[2]. Henry Manselsuggestst that, in his 5th book of theRepublicc, Plato provided the difference between opinion and knowledge[3].  Henry stated that knowledge focused on what is real while opinion was all about what was seeming. He added to the meaning of knowledge the objects of logic those of the observable biosphere belonging to a class of phenomena as well as objecst of opinion, including the invisible which are real.

This is the thoughts which are associated with Gnosis.  This definition of knowledge in no way differentiates itself from the normal Greek idea; hence, it does not point out any specific philosophy. It was not till after the era of Christianity that the term as linked toa  particular religious idea. It is alleged that the word Gnostic might have originated from Christian bases or was influenced by the ideas of Christians. Furthermore, perhaps it is due tothe  Greco-Jewish idea in Alexandria.  But then, Mansel argues that they did not manage to find the term Gnostics or Gnosis related to any teachings[4]. On the other hand, Steve Fuller argues that label is applied in a disorganized way[5]. He provides an example of Marx not being categorized as gnostic inthe  early days of his writing. Although, later when Marxist called for rebellion, he as regarded asagnosticc.

Background: Setting the Stage

The Wycliffe Biblical Dictionary argues that Gnosticism is a wide range of religious movement and not one specific group[6]. Inthe  real sense, the terms gnostic, gnosis and Gnosticism are linked toa  group of theorists and thinkers who have differentiated themselves with an unorthodox misrepresentation of Christianity and an ontological slant.

Many attempts have been made to obtain background information regarding the history and origin of Gnosticism prior to Christianity. Yet, the attempts have not provided expected results. Various scholars have tried to relate Gnosticism with Iranian, Egyptian as well as Greek roots, but currentl,y there is a generally accepted belief that it originated from Judeo-Christian circumstances.  The tussles taking place between the Jews and Christians coupled with the pull from Judaizer, provided as room for the emergence of Gnosticism. Irenaeus, a Greek who was greatly influenced by Justin and who grew up pay attention to what Polycarp as saying said that “Gnosticism and orthodox Christianity are two dissimilar religions having two distinct set of scriptures” Irenaeus is recognized primarily from his denial of heresy as well as the account of apostolic Christianity.

Na Hammadi Gnostic writings were realized in 1945, giving a better portrayal of the Gnostic principle. This message was written in Sahidic language of Egyptian Coptic dialect in what is considered to be the 3rd and 4th centuries A.D, with translation from Greek writings[7]. These writings gave an in-depth examination of the principle of Gnosticism

The Historical Gnostic Concept

It is impossible to provide the full history in this paper but it is necessary to note that inthe  Christian realm Gnosticism is a perversion of Christianity. Hence, it is dissent. Despite the fact that the term Gnosticism is not stated in Christian Bible, there are various arguments presented in the gospels between John, Paul, and other Christians with those that were teaching the wrong Christian doctrine[8]. Examples of these arguments are found 1st Timothy 6:20-21 and Colossians 2:8. Some ofthe  people who were part of the early church like Marcin who were eventually expelled because of the developed perversion ofthe  Christian view. Pricopi assertss that most scholars in the contemporary word disagree when it comes to the definition of gnostic, arguing that it has become an ambiguous term[9]. Nevertheless, Pheme Perkins states that it is the principle of salvation that makes Gnostic Gospel[10]. He says that Gnostics was subject to a range of gospel behaviours being spread without specific Gnostic writing.

The identification of the Nag Hammadi scriptures in 1948 and the media hype concerning the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Judas and the Gospel of Mary served to capture Public’s attention[11]. The Nag Hammadi Scriptures are not of the same sense as the closed canonical collection like the New Testament or the Jewish Scriptures

Basic Beliefs of Prominent Gnostic Sects

As suggested earlier, Gnosticism was a broad term that covered a large group ofa  religious movement. Marcion believed that the universe was evil and since it is so, the creator is also evil and ignorant to make an evil place (world). Jesus’s father was not Jehovah, the creator and the God of the Old Testament. According to Wycliff,e the more noticeable sect did have some shared beliefs as well as practices[12]. Plato, the Greek thinker strongly influenced Gnostics. His philosophy was dualistic, placing two contrasting forces working within humankind, spirit and flesh.  In his world, the spirit denoted everything wholesome and good; the flesh all that is degenerative and evil.Gonzalez arguess thatthee basic Greek philosophy emphasizes that human beings are eternal spirits, or part of the everlastingspirit thatt is sleeping and trapped in a body which is evil and that all matter is evil[13]. The everlasting spirits in human beings ought to be redeemed or to escape from captivity, something that calls for a spiritual envoy to awaken the spirits so that they can be able to fight against captivity.  The envoy is the Gnosis, the encouragement for deliverance and the secret knowledge. Jesus Christ is the Gnosis, the envoy that came down on earth to remind people of their heavenly origin. According to Gnostics th, therefore,re denotes that because Christ is a heavenly and not an earthly being, He could not have a body like the body of a human being since our bodies are evil. In the same disposition, because all matter is regarded as evil, Elohim, the Almighty God could not have made the material world as described in the book oGenesisis 1:1. Hence, the Gnostics develop a demiurge, an emanation, the God othe f Old Testament whom they hate. The being (God othe f Old Testament) had enough power to make the material world. This approach to critical thinking brought about two dimensions.  The first onisng that since the body was considered evil, a strict asceticism ought to bpractiseded while some thought that because the body was evilall thatat was done in the body was allowable regarded spiritually inappropriate. It is assumed that Paul was addressing this attitude in the book of Romans 6:1-2: “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?”

Early Gnostic Sects

In the book of 1st Timothy 4:1 Paul disagrees with the unorthodoxy taught by deceitful teachers, stating how people would fall due to these the deceitful teachings. Jesus warned his disciples regarding sects that desire to destroy Christ followers by misleading them. The boom of Mathew 7:15 states that “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves”

Some of the early groups were thsethiteses, the Naasenes, Ophites, the Valentinians in Rome, the Marcionites as well as the Barbelo-Gnostics.  Almost all these groups were termed after the creator or object of their reverence. The Sethites adored Seth, the 3rd son of Adam and Ev e.The Marcionites worshipped Marcion, Barbelo laid emphasis on the role of Barbelo, a term which means the first thought of God in the structure of Gnostic beliefs about the background of the universe. In Gnosticisms, Barbelo is a goddess who is often depicted as the eventual female deity. These groups and others depictea d broad range of beliefs like Pleromathe , dualism between matter and the spirit and others.

The Modern Gnostic Concept

ThMandaeanan sect of Iran and Iraq is the only group that has survived since the 1st century into the current times. The group consists of more than 30,000 but less than 40,000 members and all of them assert that they belong to the oldest religion in the world[14]. The Mandaeans regard themselves as disciples of John the Baptist. They consider Adam as their first prophet and John the Baptist as their last prophet. Most of their beliefs have been carried throughout the centuries to date. This is evidenced by some moderGnosticic groups which have the same beliefs.  One of the beliefs is the dualism; thus light and darkness, a celestial Father and mother.Theyhe have faith in a supreme unstructured entity and that planets and stars have power over the fate of human beings. Further, they believe that the soul is an expelled captive of the universe. These beliefs are acknowledged in a few contemporary gnostisectsct.

Deception in Current Faith Groups

Paul wrote out to Timothy stating th   “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).  This was evident both in the past and today.

Most emerging religious groups in the West embraced some old Gnostic beliefs as well as practices. One of the most fruitful of these is Jesus’s Christ church of the Latter-day Saints, otherwise called Mormon or LDS church, situated in Utah, Salt Lake City. The Latter-day Saints have deviated in various ways from the widely accepted Christianity, though the most important way is their assertion that the church started by Jesus Christ and His disciplewereas destroyed form the history othe f human being by the Constantine[15]. As a result, they argue that the Mormon Church was created to savthe e Christian religion. The Mormons explain that there are many planets which are governed by men-gods who were once like human beings. They also believe that an anonymous god and a goddess (wife) conceived a divine son called Elohim who later given birth by human parents. Through obedience to the teachings of the LDS, Elohim was promoted to godhood and is currently the heavenly father. Mormon Apostle Hyde Orson explained that Jesus had three wives who gave birth to a number of children and the founder of Mormon (Joseph Smith) is an offspring.

The Unification Church depart from the teachings of the Bible in various ways. The most important way is their argument that the creator of the Unification church also known as Moonies the Messiah, the son of God. Sun Myung Moon, the founder argues that on the morning of Easter in 1936, Jesus went to see him and told hito m accompliswhatat He had failed to finish. Myung Moon claims to be mystic and spiritual. He believes that God made Adam and Eve. However, brought about the fall of mankind by engaging in sexuarelationsip with Satan. According to Moon, it is therefore important for the second Adam (the new Christ) to get married to a sinless fiancée and reproduce the kingdom on earth.

There is another sect known as the Way International which claims that their leader’s understanding of the scripture is the only acceptable interpretation and so he , in fact,ct the word.  Another group that some people claim to be Gnostics or cult is called the Free Masons. There are secrecies and mysteries about these group.  The group (Free Masons) seem to promote the worship of one true God but the only condition is the belief in a supreme creature which could be Hinduism, Buddhist, god of Islam or any other religious groupe Free Masons also support the idea that Jesus Christ is not the only way. They think that what is required is taking part in good work. According to them, the Bible is among numerous good holy laws. There are other well-known views that are not in line with orthodox Christian understanding. Some people believe that there are dictates that are not known outside the fellowship. There some members who takthe e blood oath, call a man Worshipful Master, bow before a man and tell him how they are lost in darkness yet they say they are Christians. The Scripture clearly states that when Christ is in someone, he has the light and that there is a single and the only master who is Christ Jesus.  Scientology is a group that has created a l ofot controversies and attention in the modern world. Perhaps, this is due to its high profile members like Tom Cruise, Charles Manson, John Travolta and Gordon Lightfoot. Scientology was founded by L. Ron Hubbard. It is a religion that providea s specific path thaleadsad ta o certain and complete understanding of a person’s true spiritual characteristics and the relationship to himself or herself, the family, mankind, groups, all forms of life, the spiritual universe, the material universe as well as the supreme creature.  Scientology is a religion of a higher meaning because it allows Man to reach a point of total freedom and truth. The key principles of Scientology accordi tong the online research (web info) include: You are an immortal divine being. Your experience goes beyond a single lifetime. And your abilities are limitless, even if not presently recognized. Moreover, Man is essentially good. He is trying to survive and his existence is depended on himself or herself, his companions and his realization of brotherhood with the world.

The Latter-daSaintsts, the Free Masons, the Scientology and many other contemporary age groups have their origin in the olden Gnosticisms. Mansel suggested that the Fathers of the early church almost unanimously recognized the birth of Gnosticism to a person, identified in the book of Acts 8 called Simon Magus[16]. Magus claimed to be the exceptional power of God. The reports by Irenaeus and Jerome which say that Simon assumed the designation of Logos and claimed to appear to the Samaritans athe s father, to the Gentiles as the Holy Spirit and to the Jews as the son. These were noticeable misrepresentations of Christian thoughts and terms which resulteinto Gnostic beliefs.

Conclusion[17]

            Gnosticism was the most perilous unorthodoxy to early Christian. It continues to be a powerful and misleading philosophy ie modern society. It is a destructive to a Christian or believer and the entire body of Christ (the church) because of how it deviates from the truth by bringing about a false philosophy[18]. The ancient Gnostic tendencies have been re-packaged and re-done for the current generati,n; but sti,ll they do not lead to a worthy life but to spiritual death and empty existenceApartrt from leading a believer astray, Gnosticism prevent those who are in darkness from hearing the good news. In the modern world, Gnosticism has the benefit of multimedia openings with the capability to almost promptly spread their message. The philosophy is currently having high celebrity envoy is well-known around the world, promoting their acts while reaching as many people as possible for the purpose of deception.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

Cabal, Ted. The Apologetics Study Bible: Understand Why You Believe. Nashville, Tenn.:

Holman Bible Pub., 2007.

Carlson, Ron and Ed Decker. Fast Facts on False Teaching. Eugene, OR: Harvest House

Publishers, 1994.

Fuller, Steve. “Demystifying Gnostic Scientism.” Rhetoric and Public Affairs 5, no. 4 (2002):

718-29. Accessed March 29, 2015. http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/rap.2003.0004.

González, Justo L. The Story of Christianity. Vol. 1, The Early Church to the Dawn of the

Reformation. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1984.

Hanish, Shak.  “Christians, Yazidis, and Mandaeans in Iraq: A Survival Issue.” Digest of Middle

East Studies 18, no. 1 (Spring 2009): 1–16. Accessed April 16, 2015. http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA228662416&v=2.1&u=vic_liberty&it=r&p=AONE&sw=w&asid=8f0070e453c7a47bbe91b3054e02999b.

Lane, A N S. A Concise History of Christian Thought. completely rev. and expanded ed. Grand

Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2006.

Mansel, Henry Longueville. The Gnostic Heresies of the First and Second Centuries. London:

John Murray, Albemarle Street, 1875.

Meyer, Marvin, ed. The Nag Hammadi Scriptures.  international ed. New York: HarperOne,

2007.

 

Perkins, Pheme. “What is a Gnostic Gospel?” The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 71, no. 1 (01,

2009): 104-29. Accessed March 27, 2015. http://search.proquest.com/docview/220242444?accountid=12085.

 

Pricopi, Victor-Alexandru. “From Ancient Gnostics to Modern Scholars- Issues in Defining tThe

conceptept of ‘Gnosticism.'” Romanian Journal for Multidimensional Education 5, no. 2 (December 2013): 41-56. Accessed March 27, 2015.

http://revistaromaneasca.ro/2014/02/from-ancient-gnostics-to-modern-scholars-issues-in-defining-the-concept-of-gnosticism//.

Scientology. Accessed March 27, 2015.

http://www.scientology.org/?utm_source=yahoobing&utm_medium=text&utm_term=scientology_beliefs&utm_content=truth&utm_campaign=csi#slide5.

Wycliffe Bible Dictionary, s.v., “Gnosticism.”

[1] Cabal, Ted. The Apologetics Study Bible: Understand Why You Believe. Nashville, Tenn.:

Holman Bible Pub., 2007.

[2] González, Justo L. The Story of Christianity. Vol. 1, The Early Church to the Dawn of the

Reformation. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1984

[3]Fuller, Steve. “Demystifying Gnostic Scientism.” Rhetoric and Public Affairs 5, no. 4 (2002):

718-29. Accessed March 29, 2015. http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/rap.2003.0004

[4] Mansel, Henry Longueville. The Gnostic Heresies of the First and Second Centuries. London:

John Murray, Albemarle Street, 1875

[6] Wycliffe Bible Dictionary, s.v., “Gnosticism.”

[7] Meyer, Marvin, ed. The Nag Hammadi Scriptures.  international ed. New York: HarperOne,

2007

[8] Carlson, Ron and Ed Decker. Fast Facts on False Teaching. Eugene, OR: Harvest House

Publishers, 1994

[9] Pricopi, Victor-Alexandru. “From Ancient Gnostics to Modern Scholars- Issues in Defining the

The conceptt of ‘Gnosticism.'” Romanian Journal for Multidimensional Education 5, no. 2 December 2013): 41-56. Accessed March 27, 2015.

http://revistaromaneasca.ro/2014/02/from-ancient-gnostics-to-modern-scholars-issues-iidefiningg-the-concept-ofagnosticismm//.

[10] Pheme Perkins. “What is a Gnostic Gospel?” The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 71, no. 1 (01, 2009): 123, accessed March 27, 2015,

[11] Meyer, Marvin, ed. The Nag Hammadi Scriptures.  International ed. New York: HarperOne,

2007

[12] Wycliffe Bible Dictionary, s.v., “Gnosticism.”

[13] González, Justo L. The Story of Christianity. Vol. 1, The Early Church to the Dawn of the

Reformation. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1984

[14] Shak Hanish. “Christians, Yazidis, and Mandaeans in Iraq: A Survival Issue.” Digest of Middle East Studies 18, no. 1 (Marh, 2009): 11, accessed April 16, 2015, http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA228662416&v=2.1&u=vic_liberty&it=r&p=AONE&sw=w&asid=8f0070e453c7a47bbe91b3054e02999b

[15] Lane, A N S. A Concise History of Christian Thought. completely rev. and expanded ed. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2006

[16] Mansel, Henry Longueville. The Gnostic Heresies of the First and Second Centuries. London:

John Murray, Albemarle Street, 1875.

[17]

[18] Carlson, Ron and Ed Decker. Fast Facts on False Teaching. Eugene, OR: Harvest House

Publishers, 1994

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