Monday, June 12, 2006

The author of the Apocalypse of Peter writes, "Others....outside our number...call themselves bishops and also deacons, as if they had received their authority from God....those people are waterless canals".....talk about throwing down the gauntlet... The conflict between the Gnostics and their orthodox rivals was no doubt, in large part over the question of authority. The gnostics believed they possessed authority within their own spirit and souls and therefore didn't believe they had to obey or submit to the Church leaders....while....the church leaders at the time saw the Gnostics as arrogant and a threat to what they believed was an established order based on the nature of the relationship of the Godhead.....This concludes my brief exploration into the world of the Gnostics. I hope this helps. I will be heading off to Yosemite in a couple of days so you can all chew on this last round of Gnostic teachings and history for the next couple of days.....

The Gnostics practiced a "strict form of equalitarianism" whenever they gathered outside of the normal orthodox gatherings. Apparently they would caste lots to see who would lead and conduct their meetings and everyone, including women, were eligible to participate in the drawings.

The Gnostics were portrayed as rebels and arrogant for refusing to obey the church hierarchy simply out of obedience to God...but...where does that place Luther, George Fox, and Paul Tillich who criticized both Protestant and Catholic churches for going along with nationalistic and fascist governments?

The Gospel of Thomas says: "For whoever will make herself male will enter the Kingdom of Heaven".....O.K., so some of the Gnostics weren't all that liberated, or at least they don't sound like it....but, other Gnostic texts conclude that God is both masculine and feminine because both men and women were created in God's image while others claimed God is neither male and female and these are just metaphors...

Many Gnostic authors attacked martyrdom especially when associated with the purchase for eternal life (Tertullian) or as a human offering to God. "Such belief makes God into a cannibal"

Heracleon, a popular gnostic teacher "considers the question, What does it mean to confess Christ? He expains that people confess Christ in different ways. Some confess Christ in their everyday conduct. However, most people consider only the second type of confession---making a verbal confession ( I am a Christian) before a magistrate. Heracleon points out, even hypocrites can make this confession. What is universally required of all Christians is the first type of confession. The second type is reserved for some, but not all."

The Gnostics were radical dualists and believed the material world is evil and the world of the Spirit is good which helps explain their asceticism and "the strict regulation and harsh treatment of the body. Their logic was that since the body is evil, it should be punished".....On this condition alone I would have made a bad Gnostic...but...apparently their emphasis on an inherently evil world, struck a cord with alot of people and their experiences.

The Gnostics are often charged as spiritual elitists, and they were, but Ehrman reminds us that "Christianity in all its forms has always had its spiritual elite, the insiders who have special insight into the true meaning of the faith, a cut above the rest of us in their nuanced understanding of God, the world, and our place in it." Do popular Christian writers, radio celebrites, and mega-church pastors ring a bell?

Many have asserted or suggested that Gnosticsm's elitism and esoteric teachings doomed them in the end...but...apparently the early church wasn't as confident of their predicted demise, otherwise, it is diffifult to explain the "massive expenditure of time and energy devoted to rooting out the Gnostic heretics, spurning their views, maligning their persons, destroying their writings, and elimanating their influence"

William Blake once stated, "Both read the Bible day and night; But you read black while I read write"...This accurately describes the great gulf between the gnostics and orthodox when it came to reading scripture....According to Elaine Pagels the orthodox tend to look for "morals" in the narrative stories while the Gnostics assume there are deeper meanings in the stories.

1 comment:

Kansas Bob said...

Hi Bill,

Interesting reading. For clarification sake I was wondering if you could give me an example of what Pagels references by the 'deeper meanings'. Maybe I'm a gnostic because I also look for deeper meanings. I think that is the whole purpose of reading the scriptures is not to know the morals of the bible but to know the God of the bible. Hope the day is going well and you have (or had) a good trip.

Bob