What evidence is there that gnostic views were original to apostolic Christianity?

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What evidence is there that gnostic views were original to apostolic Christianity?

Post by rakovsky » Sun Sep 09, 2018 7:11 pm

Do you think that Jesus may have selected apostles whom he knew had different views representative of those in Judean society and who could fulfill different tasks? For example, maybe he chose Levi/Matthew for his knowledge of phariseeism and Judaic traditions, Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot for their Jewish nationalism, Peter and Andrew for their closeness to John the Baptist, and Thomas and Mary Magdalene for their closeness to gnostic movements?

The reason I mention Thomas and Mary here is because Thomas seems to show up in gnostic traditions like the gospel of Thomas, as does Mary. Mary and women like Salome seem to get a serious emphasis in books like the Gospel of Mary and the Gospel of the Egyptians. Plus, Thomas seems to demand to see Jesus in the flesh, suggesting he was drawn to docetism or a nonfleshly view of the post-death Jesus. And Mary Magdalene was known for having 7 demons as well as the vision of Jesus at the tomb, suggesting a visionary mindset that could show up in the movement of prophetesses favored by gnosticism. The Ebionites and Essenes were major groups, and just as Paul evangelized the Greeks, it makes sense that Jesus may have wanted to have disciples evangelizing the Ebionites and Essenes too.

My research on the prophecies of the Messiah's resurrection: http://rakovskii.livejournal.com


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Re: What evidence is there that gnostic views were original to apostolic Christianity?

Post by MrMacSon » Fri Sep 14, 2018 2:06 am

rakovsky wrote:
Sun Sep 09, 2018 7:11 pm
... Thomas seems to show up in gnostic traditions like the gospel of Thomas ... Thomas seems to demand to see Jesus in the flesh, suggesting he was drawn to docetism or a nonfleshly view of the post-death Jesus.
The Gospel of Thomas is not now considered to be gnostic. Many people have stated Thomas is a "gnostic" gospel because it was found along with gnostic texts at Nag Hammadi (and perhaps because a separate hyperbolic, gnostic-like Book of Thomas [the Contender] was found at Nag Hammadi). And/or, as almost half of the 114 sayings (logia) attributed to Jesus resemble saying found in the Canonical Gospels, it has been speculated that the other sayings were added from Gnostic tradition.

From April DeConick -
Is The Gospel Of Thomas Gnostic?

The quick answer to this is "no." The spirituality in this gospel has been misunderstood and mislabeled from the very beginning of its interpretative history. The reason for this has to do with the fact that until the Nag Hammadi texts were found, we didn't know what Gnostic really was. Scholars tended to apply it very loosely to any text or tradition that they believed to be dualistic and anti-world or body, which expressed the opinion that within the human being was "light" redeemable through gnosis or knowledge. After studying the Nag Hammadi texts for fifty years, we now realize that this is a nonsense definition because it is so broad as to be useless. Instead we have come to realize that Gnostic spirituality is marked by a distinctive set of features including direct contact with a transcendent God through specific ritual practices, an innate spirit that is consubstantial with God, a transgressive attitude toward established religions and their scriptures, and seeker orientation that was very inclusive, spanning a variety of philosophies and religions in antiquity.

The spirituality in the Gospel of Thomas is a form of early Christian mysticism. It was a contemplative type of Christianity that grew in Syria1 as well as Alexandria. The idea was that each person had the choice to grow into God's Image or to remain stunted due to Adam's decision. If the person chose to grow, then the divinization process was gradual and included not only ritual activities like baptism and eucharist, but also instructional and contemplative activities. Part of the process then was living as Jesus lived - it was imitative. The other part was contemplating who and where Jesus was. This contemplative life led to heavenly (or interiorized) journeys and visions of God. Eventually the faithful would become like Jesus, replacing their fallen image with the image of God. This contemplative Christianity is not heretical, but an early form of eastern orthodoxy!


Why Wasn't The Gospel Of Thomas Included In The New Testament?

The process of the canonization of the New Testament was long and involved. It took almost four hundred years. The date we traditionally give to its closure is 367 CE, when Bishop Athanasius of Alexandria records the books in the NT as being those we have in it today. There are many reasons for Thomas' exclusion, not the least among them political - it was a text that in the third century was used by the Naassene Gnostics (who rewrote it for their own purposes) and the Manichaean Gnostics (who used it liberally in their liturgies). Once a text began to be used by a heretical group, it became suspicious, especially if this happened in the third or fourth centuries ...

http://aprildeconick.com/gospel-of-thomas-articles-1/
  1. There is evidence that the Coptic Nag Hammadi text is a translation from Syriac (prior to the discover of the Nag Hammadi 'Library', at Nag Hammadi of course, Greek-text fragments of the Gospel of Thomas had bee found at Oxyrhynchus (the Oxyrhynchus Papyri).
April DeConick says -
... The Gospel of Thomas began as a smaller gospel of Jesus' sayings, organized as a speech handbook to aid the memory of preachers. I call the earliest version of the Gospel of Thomas, the Kernel Thomas. The Kernel Thomas originated from the mission of the Jerusalem Church between the years 30-50 CE. It was taken to Edessa where it was used by the Syrian Christians as a storage site for words of Jesus. Its main use in the Syrian Church was instructional. The Kernel sayings were subjected to oral reperformances, which was the main way that the text was enhanced with additional sayings and interpretations. Later sayings accrued in the Kernel gradually as the gospel moved in and out of oral and written formats. The Gospel of Thomas can be read as a document that reflects shifts in the consistuency of its caretakers (from Jew to Gentile) and its theology (from apocalyptic to mystical). The Gospel came into its present form around the year 120 CE.

http://aprildeconick.com/gospel-of-thomas-articles-1/

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Re: What evidence is there that gnostic views were original to apostolic Christianity?

Post by rakovsky » Fri Sep 14, 2018 8:42 pm

perseusomega9 wrote:
Thu Sep 13, 2018 7:34 am
:eh:
Somewhere I remember Peter Kirby proposing the possibility or likelihood that the gnostics better represented Jesus' teachings or desired religious group in the mid 1st century than the orthodox church (eg. Irenaeus and Paul) did.

My research on the prophecies of the Messiah's resurrection: http://rakovskii.livejournal.com

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Re: What evidence is there that gnostic views were original to apostolic Christianity?

Post by MrMacSon » Fri Sep 14, 2018 10:34 pm

rakovsky wrote:
Fri Sep 14, 2018 8:42 pm
Somewhere I remember Peter Kirby proposing the possibility or likelihood that the gnostics better represented Jesus' teachings or desired religious group in the mid 1st century than the orthodox church (eg. Irenaeus and Paul) did.
The current view is a "varieties of early Christianity" model with people like Walter Bauer having argued that "in some locations, such as Egypt and Mesopotamia, forms of Christianity that would later be deemed heretical actually predated what would later emerge as orthodox."

The term ‘gnostics’ (γνώστιкоι) was first applied, with approval, in early Christian communities to Christians who sought for ‘gnosis’, or ‘the knowledge of insight’, which was perceived, in the words of Clement of Alexandria, as "a kind of perfection of man as man, harmonious and consistent with itself and with the divine world, being completed, both as to the disposition and the manner of life and speech, by the science of divine things".

It had, Clement maintained, been "handed down by tradition according to the grace of God",1 and it is only those possessed of the true gnosis who deserve the name of ‘gnostics’, for, he wrote the gnostic alone, having grown old in the study of the actual Scriptures, guards the orthodox doctrine of the Apostles and the Church and lives a life of perfect rectitude in accordance with the Gospel, being aided by the Lord to discover the proofs he is in search of both from the law and the prophets. For the life of the gnostic, as it seems to me, is nothing else than deeds and words agreeable to the tradition of the Lord.2

In this sense the gnostic and his 'gnosis' were wholly orthodox: an inspired Christian, who had studied the Scriptures deeply and so gained a profound insight into the nature and relationship of God and man, in both this world and the next.

But another meaning of these terms also gained currency as the somewhat fluid forms of the earliest Christian communities gradually coalesced into one dominant form, with the essential doctrinal features that would become, despite its multiplicity of warring denominations, the ‘orthodox’ Christian faith that has survived to the present day.

This other form of gnosis was, in the view of the proto-orthodox, those ‘opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge (γνωσις)’, which St Paul warned Timothy to avoid because "some have professed [it] and in so doing have wandered from the faith" (1 Tim. 6:20-21).

Gilbert, R.A. Gnosticism & Gnosis: An Introduction, Imagier Publishing (Kindle Locations 97-116).

1 Stromateis Bk VII. X. section 55

2 Strom. XVI section 104

Many recognize or acknowledge Irenaeus as the person who set up or tried to set up the dichotomy between 'orthodoxy early Christianity' and various heretical groups who supposedly had or were then 'teaching' fabricated "miserable fables" - false gnosis - foreign to 'true doctrine'.
Last edited by MrMacSon on Sat Sep 15, 2018 2:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: What evidence is there that gnostic views were original to apostolic Christianity?

Post by rakovsky » Fri Sep 14, 2018 11:20 pm

MrMacSon wrote:
Fri Sep 14, 2018 10:34 pm
rakovsky wrote:
Fri Sep 14, 2018 8:42 pm
Somewhere I remember Peter Kirby proposing the possibility or likelihood that the gnostics better represented Jesus' teachings or desired religious group in the mid 1st century than the orthodox church (eg. Irenaeus and Paul) did.
The current view is a "varieties of early Christianity" model with people like Walter Bauer having argued that "in some locations, such as Egypt and Mesopotamia, forms of Christianity that would later be deemed heretical actually predated what would later emerge as orthodox."
What were those forms of Christianity in Egypt and Mesopotamia predating the orthodox forms? What were their writings and leaders?

The Gospel of Thomas I think might not be in real conflict with Orthodox teachings or representative of a different form - alot of it shows up in the gospels.

Marcion
was a leading gnostic from the early 2nd century and his big idea about theology was that Jehovah was the bad demiurge and the Old Testament was the deity's bad book. Many Gnostics picked up this idea and called Jehovah Yaldabaoth. But I think that this "anti-Old Testament" theology was not really the theology of Jesus or his desired circle. Matthew's gospel, James' epistle, and even Paul's epistles honor Jehovah as the supreme, one true God and they believe in the Old Testament as legitimate and God-given, even if the New Testament is not in effect and of greater and supplanting authority.

I understand that Christianity, including the orthodox gospels, teach the importance of "wisdom" (Sophia) and use the concept of divine knowledge occasionally. Plus, the teachings of Christianity are a kind of "knowledge" of divine, holy facts (eg. the Resurrection of Jesus) that bring salvation. So there is an element commonly associated with gnosticism in basic Christianity. But the strongly gnostic writings seem to go off into a very different theological system, like their idea about the Demiurge.

My research on the prophecies of the Messiah's resurrection: http://rakovskii.livejournal.com

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Re: What evidence is there that gnostic views were original to apostolic Christianity?

Post by MrMacSon » Sat Sep 15, 2018 1:26 am

rakovsky wrote:
Fri Sep 14, 2018 11:20 pm
MrMacSon wrote:
Fri Sep 14, 2018 10:34 pm
The current view is a "varieties of early Christianity" model with people like Walter Bauer having argued that "in some locations, such as Egypt and Mesopotamia, forms of Christianity that would later be deemed heretical actually predated what would later emerge as orthodox."
What were those forms of Christianity in Egypt and Mesopotamia predating the orthodox forms? What were their writings and leaders?
The earliest forms of gnostic religious beliefs are generally accepted as having originated within dissident communities of the Jewish Diaspora, especially in Egypt, likely influenced by Hellenism and probably Egyptian mystery religions. Gnostic 'systems' appeared with the rise of Jewish messianic communities in these and other regions, notably Syria, Asia Minor and Rome itself, during the first century AD/CE.

Many early names are probably lost. Meander, is supposed to have been a teacher of both Basilides (who was active in Alexandria) and Simon Magus; and perhaps Glaucias was also a teacher of Basilides. The Acts of the Disputation with Manes state that for a time Basilides taught among the Persians.

Valentinus, considered one of the most influential gnostics, was born in lower Egypt and studied Greek philosophy in Alexandria before he developed his own school using Platonic and Pythagorean philosophy in developing what was said to be Christian gnostic thought, perhaps mostly eventually in Rome. Theodotus was an early Valentinian, though he is said to have been most active in Asia Minor.

Clement of Alexandria must have emerged from an early Alexandrian Christian tradition, and Origen was originally from Alexandria.

A lot of gnostic texts are Coptic eg. Pistis Sophia; the Book of Jeu and 'The Untitled Text'; a Coptic manuscript discovered at Akhmim in Upper Egypt in 1896 contained four gnostic texts, The Gospel of Mary, Apocryphon of John, The Sophia of Jesus Christ, and the Acts of Peter; the large collection of Greek-text papyri found at Oxyrhynchus; the Coptic Nag Hammadi library (13 codices including 49 gnostic texts.

Dualism is a key feature of gnosticism, but it differed in different places -

Gnostic dualism is, however, unusual in that it views the non-material, spiritual world as good but treats the visible, material world of matter as irredeemably evil. This separates it completely from Iranian dualism, in which there are equal and opposite gods of good and evil, and Platonic dualism, which sets the eternal world of the One over the finite world; neither of these forms rejects matter as being essentially evil ...

.. The gnostic view was that within the Pleroma the transcendent God undergoes a process of self-realisation, which results in a complex series of pairs of qualities and attributes: heavenly beings – the aeons – that emanate or unfold from him. The first of these emanations is female, Ennoia (Thought), or Barbelo; with her the transcendent God generates Light, or Autogenes. Then follow further successive pairs that variously unite and separate in descending levels until a final aeon, Sophia (wisdom), is produced. Sophia desires to create a being herself, apart from the divine Pleroma and without divine authority, and so gives birth to the evil Demiurge (Greek δημιоυργóς, craftsman or artisan), who, ignorant of his divine origin and in unknowing imitation of the divine realm, fashions the worlds of matter – the Earth and the material heavens above it – and populates them with archons (rulers), angels, humans and all lesser forms of life.

Gilbert, R.A. Gnosticism & Gnosis" An Introduction (Kindle Locations 566-583). Imagier Publishing.


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Re: What evidence is there that gnostic views were original to apostolic Christianity?

Post by DCHindley » Sat Sep 15, 2018 4:04 am

rakovsky wrote:
Sun Sep 09, 2018 7:11 pm
Do you think that Jesus may have selected apostles whom he knew had different views representative of those in Judean society and who could fulfill different tasks? For example, maybe he chose Levi/Matthew for his knowledge of phariseeism and Judaic traditions, Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot for their Jewish nationalism, Peter and Andrew for their closeness to John the Baptist, and Thomas and Mary Magdalene for their closeness to gnostic movements?

The reason I mention Thomas and Mary here is because Thomas seems to show up in gnostic traditions like the gospel of Thomas, as does Mary. Mary and women like Salome seem to get a serious emphasis in books like the Gospel of Mary and the Gospel of the Egyptians. Plus, Thomas seems to demand to see Jesus in the flesh, suggesting he was drawn to docetism or a nonfleshly view of the post-death Jesus. And Mary Magdalene was known for having 7 demons as well as the vision of Jesus at the tomb, suggesting a visionary mindset that could show up in the movement of prophetesses favored by gnosticism. The Ebionites and Essenes were major groups, and just as Paul evangelized the Greeks, it makes sense that Jesus may have wanted to have disciples evangelizing the Ebionites and Essenes too.
For a long while scholars had been looking for a "smoking gun" that would demonstrate that gnostic-like ideas existed in Judaism or Egypt before Jesus' time. That has not yet turned up, except perhaps in the Hermetic literature. I do not mean the alchemy sort, which is medieval, but the philosophical treatises where Hermes Trismegistus is made to discourse with his disciples in a manner similar to how Plato has Socrates engage in Dialogues with his friends. I am not at all sure that we have fragments of these Hermetic tractates, though, datable to the 1st century CE or earlier. I noticed that these sometimes make indirect allusion to Judean literature, mainly Genesis.

However, we do know that the Platonic traditions (including the modifications of Aristotle), which go back to the 5th century BCE, contained all the elements necessary to rework into most gnostic myths. There were also myths related to local gods, which might include dying & rising symbolism (being projections of agricultural cycles). Gnostic interpretations melded these with Christian symbols in the 2nd century CE, and we have documentary data for this kind of speculation. The Gnostic tractates that have survived from Nag Hammadi in Egypt come from the 4th or 5th centuries, I think. Some of these tractates are not Christian at all, and many show Judaic influence such as use of Genesis and Aramaic/Hebrew words.

Now scholars like Birger Pearson have proposed that Jewish sages, disheartened by the tragic results of the revolts against Rome in 6-73 CE, Egypt & Cyrene and Judea again in the early 2nd century CE, lost their faith in the Judean God and began to speculate that he was ignorant and selfish, so there must be a higher principal of good, and the creator God must have originated through some cosmic tragedy, which is the Sophia myth. There is actually quite a lot of evidence for this Judean Gnosticism in the Nag Hammadi tractates.

This was picked up on by some Christian teachers and they in turn created Christian Gnosticism, in which the myth of a rescue mission by the higher God to save souls trapped in the world of matter ruled by a creator god was modified into a divine aeon called Anointed (Christ) does the job by thwarting the creator Gods own mechanizations to keep souls enslaved. It would make a good plot for a spy novel. Where is John le Carré when we need him?

IMHO, it is also possible that Christianity as we know it (with a divine redeemer replacing a Judean messiah) developed in parallel with Judean Gnosticism, and are two faces of the same coin.

DCH

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Re: What evidence is there that gnostic views were original to apostolic Christianity?

Post by MrMacSon » Sat Sep 15, 2018 5:26 am

MrMacSon wrote:
Sat Sep 15, 2018 1:26 am
Valentinus, considered one of the most influential gnostics, was born in lower Egypt and studied Greek philosophy in Alexandria before he developed his own school using Platonic and Pythagorean philosophy in developing what was said to be Christian gnostic thought ...
David Brakke has a lot to say about Valentinus in his book 2011 The Gnostics -

Irenaeus reports that "Valentinus adapted the fundamental principles ciples of the so-called Gnostic school of thought to his own kind of system."8 We are right to be suspicious of this claim because it is Irenaeus's strategy to denigrate Christians whose views he rejects by portraying traying them as the intellectual successors of other false Christians. Still, an exhaustive study of Valentinus's surviving works by Anne McGuire confirms Irenaeus's report.'9 Valentinus was not a Gnostic, and it appears that he took some pains to distinguish his views from Gnostic teachings, which were only one among many sources of his own thought. But he did not simply reject those teachings; rather, he created a new myth that was less elaborate and more centered on Christ. In addition, he eschewed the pseudonymous apocalyptic mode of Gnostic writing and instead claimed his own visionary insight and philosophical authority.10

Valentinus taught in Rome from the late 130s until the 160s, nearly thirty years. According to a much later account (by Epiphanius of Salamis in the fourth century), Valentinus was born in Egypt and educated in Alexandria. Although we cannot be certain of this claim, there are several reasons that it is likely to be true, among them that it is Clement of Alexandria who has preserved many of the excerpts from otherwise lost writings of Valentinus.11 From these writings it is clear that Valentinus received a very good education and was well read in Platonic, biblical, Jewish, and Christian literature. In Rome Valentinus emerged as a prominent Christian teacher. Several of his students became important tant Christian theologians in their own right, most prominently Ptolemy of Rome, and a Valentinian school of Christian thought (with two distinct branches) continued well into the fourth century ... Rival Christian teachers criticized Valentinus and his students sharply, but there is no evidence that Valentinus himself was ever formally condemned by any organized Christian group with power to enforce force its judgement.12 After the mid-160s Valentinus disappears into the fog of history, and we have no information about his later life and death.

Discovering what Valentinus taught is a formidable task, and scholars disagree about many important points. Unlike in Marcion's case, where nothing of what he wrote appears to survive, we have some fragmentary quotations from Valentinus's lost works and an entire (if short) poem. It seems almost certain that the anonymous sermon The Gospel of Truth can be attributed to Valentinus, and a portion of Methodius of Olympus's On Free Will may represent his views.13 Irenaeus provides an extremely brief summary of the myth that Valentinus taught: because Valentinus adapted the teachings of the Gnostics and because Irenaeus's real targets are the students of Valentinus, he seems concerned to present only highlights of Valentinus's doctrines, rather than the complete myth (if there was one). With so little to work with, scholars debate how much they can use the teachings of Valentinus's followers, especially Ptolemy, to reconstruct his thought.

For example, did Valentinus's myth include a single divine figure of Wisdom ("the Mother"), as the Gnostic myth did and Irenaeus's summary suggests, or two manifestations of Wisdom (a "higher" and a "lower" Wisdom), as his student Ptolemy taught? However these questions are answered, we can see the ways in which Valentinus responded to Gnostic teachings by transforming them, rather than by rejecting them outright. For example, Valentinus took from the Gnostics the idea that the created material world is the result of some sort of mistake or error by a feminine figure. He did not, however, portray this world in unrelentingly negative terms, but stressed its dependence on God and its ultimate meaninglessness, even unreality.

According to Irenaeus, Valentinus agreed with the Gnostics that the ultimate God unfolds himself into a series of emanations, one of which "revolted" or "turned away" and "became lacking," resulting in the generation of the material world. In The Gospel of Truth, this turning away from knowledge of the ultimate God is personified as 'Error', the feminine origin of materiality. Valentinus's 'Error' combines and adapts the figures of 'Wisdom' and 'Ialdabaoth' in Gnostic myth.14

Because the material world has its origin in error or ignorance, it is ultimately not real, for the only true reality is God, and other beings are real only to the extent that they participate in God through knowledge edge of him. God, then, underlies and is present in and with all things that truly are. Valentinus's poem or hymn "Summer Harvest" evokes the dependence on God of everything that exists:

I see in spirit that all are hung
I know in spirit that all are borne
Flesh hanging from soul
Soul clinging to air
Air hanging from upper atmosphere
Crops rushing forth from the deep
A babe rushing forth from the womb.15

Valentinus's strong emphasis on the immanence of God differentiates him from the Gnostics and supplements the Platonist distinction between tween spirit and matter with a kind of Stoic pantheism (although the Stoics were materialists and would not accept that matter is not ultimately mately real). 16

Two fragments show Valentinus in dialogue with Gnostic accounts of the creation of Adam.17 In one passage, Valentinus considers how it is that statues, paintings, and other artifacts become representations of gods and thus "objects of awe" for the human beings that made them. He adduces as a parallel example the creation of Adam by angels: Adam's speech terrified the angels because it indicated the presence of a seed of higher essence deposited in him by the Word of God. Adam represented the divine archetypal human being in a powerful way, so that the angels were amazed and frightened.

Valentinus inherited from the Gnostics the ideas that Adam was created by lower divine beings, that the higher divine power placed within him a seed of divinity without the knowledge of the lower creators, and that Adam's speech or upright stature displayed played his superiority to his creators. But Valentinus's creating angels are not as demonic and hostile as are Ialdabaoth and the rulers of Gnostic myth, and Valentinus emphasizes the divine presence that makes up for the imperfection of the material creation. Moreover, it appears that the divine agent who transmits divine essence to humanity is not Wisdom or Forethought, but the Son or Word of God, whom Valentinus refers to also as God's "name.'' The lower angels may have failed to reproduce produce the eternal form of divine humanity in creating the material Adam, "yet the name completed the lack within the act of modelling."

Although he accepted Gnostic ideas that the material creation is highly imperfect and the work of lower beings, Valentinus reduced the antagonism between humanity and its creators, and he stressed the work of God's Word to complete or fill the imperfection of materiality.

In comparison to the Gnostics, Valentinus placed Jesus Christ much more at the center of his thought. The Word of God is a prominent aeon in the divine fullness as Valentinus envisioned it, and according to one ancient source, Valentinus saw a vision in which the Word appeared to him in the form of an infant.18 He had such a strong sense of the divinity of Jesus that he considered the possibility that Jesus' body did not digest foods in the same manner as did ordinary human bodies.19 The sermon The Gospel of Truth includes an extensive meditation on the relationship ship between the Son and the Father. As the name of the Father, the Son reveals the Father to created beings. Jesus' crucifixion is the climactic moment of divine self-revelation:
"He was nailed to a tree and became fruit of the Father's acquaintance. Yet it did not cause ruin because it was eaten. Rather, to those who ate of it, it gave the possibility that whoever he discovered within himself might be joyful in the discovery of him. And as for him, they discovered him within them-the inconceivable, uncontained, the Father, who is perfect, who created the entirety."20
Here the crucifixion, as the moment in which 'gnosis of God' becomes possible, looks backward to the Fall in Eden and forward to the Christian Eucharist. By eating the body of Christ, Christians participate in the crucifixion of Christ and gain knowledge of God and of themselves, for God is within them as the inconceivable origin of all that truly is. In contrast to the Eden story, this knowledge brings joy and life, not regret and ruin. The Gnostic author of The Gospel of Judas mocked the Eucharist as ignorant worship of a false God, but Valentinus celebrated it as the means of joyous discovery of God and self.

Valentinus differed from the Gnostics as well in how he presented his teaching as authoritative. The Gnostics, we have seen, attributed their literary works to authoritative figures of the past, whether very distant (Adam, Zoroaster) or more recent (John the Apostle), and these works were mostly revelations from divine beings. Even though it must have been the Gnostic authors themselves who received the visionary insights that they sought to communicate in their literature, they did not claim these insights for themselves, but presented their works as wisdom from above or from antiquity. Valentinus, however, invoked his own mystical experience as the basis for his teachings. As we have seen, he reportedly had a visionary experience in which the Word of God appeared to him as an infant.21

In The Gospel of Truth, he announced, "I have been in the place of repose"; true children of God, he said, "speak of the light that is perfect and full of the Father's seed."22

For Valentinus, the Christians who have gained acquaintance of God have discovered themselves, for they are in God and God is in them: such Christians can speak the wisdom that all God-inspired philosophy teaches, which is "the utterances that come from the heart, the law that is written in the heart."23 They are themselves "texts of truth, which speak and know only themselves." 24 The visionary insight that Valentinus claimed was available to any who follow the path of knowledge that Jesus has made available.

According to Clement of Alexandria, Valentinus's students promoted his authority in another way. They asserted that he had been a student of Theudas, who had been a disciple of Paul.[25; Strom. 7.17] If this report is true, then Valentinus presented himself not only as the recipient of an extraordinary level of the insight that Christianity makes accessible to all, but also as a trained philosopher. An ancient teacher often legitimated his or her teaching by producing an intellectual pedigree that traced his or her academic tradition through a succession of brilliant teachers back to a founder whom many others admired, such as Plato or Zeno or, for Christians, Paul or Jesus himself. This succession was sometimes the conduit for a secret oral tradition that contained doctrines more advanced than those found in available written texts of the school.26

Rival teachers competed with one another, often through personal attacks on another's lifestyle and academic pedigree; this kind of polemic is not surprising, given the personal nature of the teacher's authority.27 The teacher's authority could continue after death through the dissemination of his or her philosophical treatises and scriptural commentaries and the publication of idealizing biographies by his or her students. In Valentinus's case, his disciples and their communities seem to have conducted worship using hymns that Valentinus had composed, and to have drawn from and commented on his writings.28 In distinction, then, to the Gnostics and in competition with rival versions of Christianity, Judaism, and philosophy in general, Valentinus cloaked himself in a highly personal type of authority, combining visionary insight and an impressive academic lineage.

Although we know that Valentinus and his teachings aroused opposition from some other Christian leaders, Valentinus himself evinced an optimistic openness, even missionary zeal, toward others, whether they were Christians outside his immediate community of followers or not Christians at all.

"Unto those who are weary give repose; and awaken those who wish to arise," he exhorted his followers. "For it is you who are unsheathed intelligence." On the other hand, he counseled neglect of those who had fallen away from the group: "Do not focus your attention upon others, that is, ones whom you have expelled." [29; Gospel of Truth 33:5-15]

It is unlikely that Valentinus saw himself and his followers as a special or elite group within a wider Christian community; rather, he believed that he was teaching a message for all people, or as he might put it, for everyone whose name is written in the book of the living.30 Indeed, unity and harmony are major themes of The Gospel of Truth: the aeonic emanations of the Father enjoy a gracious unity with each other and with God, who is their completion; only ignorance of each other and of God disrupts this unity. The analogy with human beings (themselves emanations of the Father) is clear:
"For now their affairs are dispersed ... It is by acquaintance that all will purify themselves out of multiplicity into unity ... it is fitting for us to meditate upon the entirety, so that this house might be holy and quietly intent on unity." [31; Gospel of Truth 25:7-25.]
Valentinus then tells a parable about how the coming of the Word causes a great disturbance among a set of jars in a house: some break, some are found to be empty, some are full. Einar Thomassen has plausibly suggested that this parable can be read as an allegory for how Christians groups responded in diverse verse ways to the stirring message of saving gnosis that Valentinus offered.32

Valentinus's near election as a bishop (if true) indicates that at least some Roman Christians outside his own school acknowledged him as a gifted Christian teacher, even if others condemned his views. We shall see in Chapter 5 that the later school of Christian thought that was indebted to him would have a subtle and complex relationship to other Christian groups, but Valentinus's vision was one of unity. He himself was never condemned for his teachings both because many Christians found them acceptable and because at the time there was no central Christian authority that could have issued and enforced such a condemnation. Recall that no central authority condemned Marcion, either. Rather, he and other Christians discontinued fellowship after a meeting that he initiated.

Valentinus illustrates another possible response to the Gnostic school of thought - adaptation and inclusion. He drew insights from the Gnostic myth, adapted it to his own views, and articulated a visionary method of unity that sought to include all Christians. His own personal authority of insight and learning gave his message its persuasive power.

David Brakke, The Gnostics (Kindle Locations 1429-1512).

8. Irenaeus, Against the Heresies 1.11.1.
9. Ibid.; Anne McGuire, "Valentinus and the Gnostike Hairesis: An Investigation gation of Valentinus's Place in the History of Gnosticism" (Ph.D. dirs., Yale University, 1983).
10. For an excellent treatment of Valentinus's thought, see Dawson, D,, Allegorical Readers & Cultural Revision in Ancient Alexandria (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1992), 127-182.
11. Bentley Layton, The Gnostic Scriptures: A New Translation with Annotations and Introductions (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1987), 217.
12. Thomassen, "Orthodoxy and Heresy," 241-246.
13. Gospel of Truth: Beniot Standaert, 'L'evangile de verite': Critique et lecture,' New Testament Studies 22 (1976), 243-275; On Free Will: Ismo Dunderberg, Beyond Gnosticism: Myth, Lifestyle, and Society in the School of Valentinus (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 2008), 67-72.
14. Irenaeus, Against the Heresies 1.11.1; Gospel of Truth 17:4-18:11; Dawson, Allegorical Readers and Cultural Revision, 145-147.
15. Layton, Gnostic Scriptures, 248.
16. Dunderberg, Beyond Gnosticism, 60-67; Layton, Gnostic Scriptures, 222,250-251.
17. Fragments C and D, Clement of Alexandria, Stromateis 2.36, 4.89-90, in Layton, Gnostic Scriptures, 234-237. For discussions see Dawson, Allegorical Readers and Cultural Revision, 136-143, and Dunderberg, Beyond Gnosticism, 46-59.
18. Fragment A, Hippolytus, Refutation 6.42.2, in Layton, Gnostic Scriptures, tures, 230-231.
19. Fragment E, Clement of Alexandria, Stromateis 3.59.3, in Layton, Gnostic Scriptures, 238-239.
20. Gospel of Truth 18:24-34.
21. Fragment A, in Layton, Gnostic Scriptures, 231.
22. Gospel of Truth 43:1-15.
23. Fragment G, in Layton, Gnostic Scriptures, 243.
24. Gospel of Truth 23:8-10.
25. Clement of Alexandria, Stromateis 7.17.
26. Hans von Campenhausen, Ecclesiastical Authority & Spiritual Power in the Church of the First Three Centuries (London: Black, 1969), 157-160, 201; Elaine Pagels, "Visions, Appearances, & Apostolic Authority: Gnostic & Orthodox Traditions," in Barbara Aland, ed, Gnosis: Festschrift fur Hans Jonas (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1978), 415-430, at 426.
27. Bentley Layton, "The Significance of Basilides in Ancient Christian Thought," Representations 28 (1989): 135-151, at 135-36.
28. Einar Thomassen, The Spiritual Seed: The Church of the "Valentinians," Nag Hammadi and Manichaean Studies 60 (Leiden: Brill, 2006), 492; Dunderberg, Beyond Gnosticism, 63.
29. Gospel of Truth 33:5-15.
30. Ibid., 19:34-23:17. 31. Ibid., 25:7-25.
32. Thomassen, "Orthodoxy and Heresy," 253-254.

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Re: What evidence is there that gnostic views were original to apostolic Christianity?

Post by rakovsky » Sat Sep 15, 2018 11:36 am

In Acts, I think the orthodox apostles evangelize the gnostic Simon Magus and then he goes off on his own thing. Maybe this is analogous to the creation of Christian gnosticism.

My research on the prophecies of the Messiah's resurrection: http://rakovskii.livejournal.com

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