'The Original Gnostic Apostles'

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'The Original Gnostic Apostles'

Post by MrMacSon » Tue Nov 17, 2020 10:02 pm


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5. The Original Gnostic Apostles

Elusive epiphanies

Walter Schmithals argues[1] that the concept of an apostle was not native to either Judaism or Christianity but instead grew up in oriental Gnosticism. Gnosticism had a pessimistic world view[2] embraced by those who saw themselves as strangers in a strange land, isolated, and superior to the slobs and fools around them.[3] It had an ingenious answer to the perennial problem of theodicy, or how to get God off the hook for all the evil in the world. How could this world be the creation of a righteous God and be ruled by his justice? Whence all the tragedy and evil? Gnostics chose to resolve the dilemma by positing the idea that the true, unknown God, hidden away within the fullness or pleroma of unapproachable light (1 Tim. 6:16), did not create the world. Instead, he emanated from himself a whole series of paired divine beings, or syzygies. At the end of this process, there emerged a single divinity, Sophia, or Wisdom. She felt alienated from the godhead, from which, of all the divine entities, or aions, she was farthest removed. She was also frustrated about having no partner with whom to beget further aions.
  1. Walter Schmithals, The Office of Apostle in the Early Church, trans. John E. Steely (New York: Abingdon, 1969), 114-97.
  2. Eric Robertson Dodds, Pagan and Christian in an Age of Anxiety: Aspects of Religious Experience from Marcus Aurelius to Constantine (Cambridge: CUP, 1965), 23-24.
  3. Hans Jonas, The Gnostic Religion: The Message of the Alien God and the Beginnings of Christianity, 2nd ed. (Boston: Beacon Press, 1963), 320-40.
However, the divine essence was running out by this point, diminishing much like the picture quality of a tenth-generation videotape. So when Sophia contrived to bear offspring through a virgin conception and birth, the result was a brutish and malign entity called the demiurge (which means creator, carpenter, or craftsman). This character was borrowed from Plato, who had posited him as a mythic link between philosophical categories of eternal matter and eternal spirit. The celestial gods were too aloof to get involved in creation, leaving it to the demiurge, whose job it was to ceaselessly impose the likenesses of the eternal Forms, the spiritual prototypes of all things, onto hunks of unstable, shifting matter for as long as they could hold it.

The Gnostics, heavily influenced by the allegorical Hellenistic Judaism of Alexandria, interpreted the Genesis creation and fall in Platonic categories, the same as Philo of Alexandria did. But they went much further. Their shocking result was to identify the demiurge as evil, yet at the same time as Jehovah, or Yahweh, the Hebrew God. Religious modernists have made essentially the same move by saying that the Old Testament writers depicted God according to their limited, primitive conceptions, while the more abstract concept of the New Testament is superior. H. Wheeler Robinson comes close to a Gnostic position when he says that “the limitations of the Old Testament idea of God ... may be compared with those which attach to the Carpenter of Nazareth. As the Christian may see the manifestation of the Eternal Son of God within those limitations, so may be seen the manifestation of the Eternal God Himself through the limitations of ‘Yahweh of Israel.’”[4] We just speak of different God concepts, where the Gnostics and Marcion spoke of different gods.

The demiurge, imitating the ultimate godhead, of whom he was nonetheless ignorant, proceeded to create matter and a series of material creations, a kind of mud-pie substitute for the pleroma of light. He created a world, but it was inert and chaotic, “without form and void.” To get some action going, he managed to steal some of the spiritual light from the pleroma. According to whichever Gnostic text you choose, this might have been accomplished by waylaying and dismembering the Man of Light, the Son of Man, Primal Man (Fourth Ezra 13:1-4), or another of the aions, or the light might have been taken from the reflected image of Sophia. In any case, the demiurge and his evil lieutenants, the archons (the fallen sons of God or angels from Jewish apocryphal versions of Genesis 6:1-6), used these sparks of alien light as something like DNA to program self-replicating order into the otherwise stillborn cosmos of matter.

The descendants of Adam and Eve from their son Seth possessed a divine spark of light inherited from the heavenly Eve, while the offspring of Cain were the bastard spawn of the archons. This is the version of events put forth by the Sethian sect, who regarded Seth as a messianic revealer and redeemer. Later, upon assimilation into Christianity, they reinterpreted Seth to be a previous incarnation of Christ; in other words, Christ was the second coming of Seth. Others, like the Ophites or Naassenes, understood Adam and Eve to be local variants of the myth of Attis and Cybele,[5] and thus made Jesus a later incarnation of the slain-and-resurrected Attis. Whatever name they might have used, the various Gnostic sects believed their doctrine, or gnosis, had come to them from a heavenly revealer who came to earth in human flesh or something like it and awakened those possessing the divine spark to their true origin and destiny. This enabled them to escape the vicious cycle of rebirth and, upon death, to ascend once and for all to the pleroma and rejoin the godhead.

As Schmithals[6] showed, pure, original Gnosticism would have understood the fact of self-knowledge as sufficient to effect postmortem liberation. Later, more corrupt and superstitious forms of the doctrine pictured Jesus or Seth or Melchizedek as providing not only self-knowledge but also a set of magical formulae and passwords which would enable the elect soul to slip unnoticed through the cosmic checkpoints in each of the crystal spheres concentrically encasing our world. At each sphere there waited a ruling archon, playing the role of the old Babylonian planetary gods who were ready to turn back any escaping soul like Cold War marksmen posted along the Berlin Wall.

Schmithals envisioned Gnostic apostles who did not preach a historical individual called Christ but rather an invisible cosmic Christ, a redeemer who had done his saving work among the aions and the archons far from the numb senses of men. This Christ was the universal Man of Light who dwelt in the souls of the elite among the human race, those whom the Gnostic apostles sought in their Diogenes-like quest.[7] This Christ spoke authoritatively through the Gnostic apostles because they were the very few in whom the Redeemer’s light had awakened self-consciousness. Through this apostolic preaching, the inner Christ called out to other dormant sparks, desiring to awaken them as well. Seeing it the way Schmithals did, one might say that the Gnostic Christ had become incarnate for the first time in the preachers through whom Christ sought to seek and save what was lost.

Perhaps the earliest known form of Gnosticism, which Hippolytus of Rome believed existed before Simonianism (which others have said was the fountainhead of Gnosticism), is the Naassene sect, named for the Serpent, or nahash in Hebrew, [which] was probably understood in accord with the original intent of the Eden tale as the Promethean bringer of light and knowledge to the human race. The Naassenes drew upon various cognate Near Eastern myths and allegorized the resultant synthesis. They posited a supreme deity who animated the clay of which “Adamas” (Adam) was created. Adamas lay inert until he was suffused with the divine spirit. However, he and his descendants remained burdened and imprisoned by the dead weight of material flesh. Men were brutish and lacked all knowledge of God. The Naassenes taught that, to remedy this predicament, a son of Adamas, or “son of man,” tried to liberate the portion of the divine spirit that dwells in humans. In doing so, the Son of Man became burdened and contaminated by matter. Even so, some people are pneumatics (“spiritual ones”) in whom the soul has been freed. Others are psychics (“natural ones”) for whom the flesh prevails and the spark of divinity has been extinguished. In mythic-narrative terms, this means that the Son of Man is “put to death” in the psychics. If one of them repents and becomes a pneumatic, it is a kind of resurrection from the dead and ascension to heaven: “This also, they say, is the ascension which takes place through the gate of the heavens, through which all who do not enter remain dead.”[8] The son of Adamas was also called Logos, symbolized in Hermes, the messenger of the gods, as well as in the dying and rising Attis. Eventually Jesus was added to the mix, but the 'inner Son of Man' (not a historical being) had already been dubbed the Christ. The Logos was said to be what “enlightens every man coming into the world,” as John’s Gospel put it.

There had already been wandering Gnostic and Cynic apostles before the Christian apostles came onto the scene. As Thomas Whittaker pointed out,[9] the circle of apostles, so jealously restricted in the New Testament to the Twelve (plus, according to some, Paul), must at first have been a wide-open field. We can tell this from the discussion of apostles in the Didache, an early church manual from Syria which scholars believe stems from the first or early-second century. It seems to preserve very old traditions, including a primitive, pre-Gospel version of the eucharistic liturgy containing none of the features familiar to us from the Synoptic Gospels and Paul. The Didache outlines proper church conduct for anyone claiming to be an apostle while acknowledging his authority for regulating Sunday worship. These itinerant apostles who demanded food and shelter are the “wandering radicals” described so well by Gerd Theissen who drew on New Testament sources for a picture of these wing-and-a-prayer evangelists.[10] They were men who had heeded the call to “let goods and kindred go” for the gospel’s sake, to tread dusty paths in imitation of the Son of Man, who had no floor on which to lay his head. They took no bag, no money belt, no staff or spare provisions, but trusted God to feed and house them through the charity of those they preached to. It worked because their hearers responded to the promise of a reward equal to the apostle’s own for accommodating him (Matt. 10:41). These gospel vagabonds were the apostles, and their ministry continued for decades. The restriction of apostleship to twelve men portrayed in the four Gospels came later and was artificial.

At some point a concern developed for weeding out false apostles who were sponging off the church—the “gospel bums” as their modern-day counterparts were known in the 1970s Jesus Movement.[11] For example, the Didache warns that the apostle who stayed longer than three days without commencing to work should be asked to pay for his keep. If he says that the Holy Spirit wants the congregation to give him money, like a modern TV evangelist, he should be hounded out of town as a false prophet. Such self-serving “oracles” by these panhandling prophets perhaps underlie the passage Mark 14:7. The synoptic mission charge[12] seems to belong to this debate, as also the clashing beliefs in 1 Corinthians 8-9 about whether an apostle ought to accept money from clients.

As these free-lance apostles lost out to consolidating church institutions, history was rewritten to depict a limited number of twelve apostles who had been pupils of a historical Jesus of Nazareth (Acts 1:21-22). This was the work of what Käsemann called nascent Catholicism.[13] It was part of the same theological transformation whereby the myth of the slaying of the Man of Light by the archons before the foundation of the world was rewritten as the historical crucifixion of a human being, Jesus Christ, at the hands of the Sanhedrin and the Roman procurator. As the extraction and seeding of the spiritual photons of the Son of Man had enlivened the new-made earth, so the blood of Jesus was now said to redeem the souls of humanity. Elaine Pagels[14] discerns the agenda of the second-century orthodox bishops who sought to crush Gnostic mystagogues; it was an attempt to provide a tangible foundation for the church and its authority, beginning with the insistence that Jesus had been no divine phantom but had suffered due to his genuine incarnation.

The Gnostic Christ, Pagels and Charles H. Talbert[15] observed, was a subjective and unverifiable inner voice. Nascent Catholics needed a more objective warrant for doctrinal and institutional claims. To say that the Jesus Spirit had appeared to a hermit in a trance and said such and such was uncontrollable. One soon found oneself at sea and paralyzed with indecision when basing one’s life on such ephemeral authority, with no objective warrant for believing the inner-Christ’s prophecy. The insistence of Luke-Acts on an official interpretation of scripture propounded by a risen, fleshly Christ to his disciples, thereafter hermetically sealed and passed on to bishop-successors, was a necessary step toward institutionalization. “The rest of you can go on having your visions,” the bishops said, “but we have the real deposit of truth. Have fun with your oracles. We have the church. We have an objective Jesus who died and rose in the flesh and did not appear in different forms simultaneously to several people, telling them different things.” Or so the hierarchy claimed.

Surely Pagels and Talbert are right, but so was Arthur Drews,[16] who had already taken the same thinking farther. He figured that it was no mere question of conflicting postmortem appearances of Jesus. There had not been a historical Jesus on earth. Jesus was a heavenly revealer within one’s heart. A la Schmithals, true Gnostics would not be satisfied with a finite gospel; they would seek their own revelations. Irenaeus mocked the Gnostics for their visions and myth-making, saying that they denied the real, historical Jesus.

The Gnostic approach was too vague to lend its factions much advantage. To claim that Jesus had actually appeared in recent history and passed the party line on to his chosen successors was comforting. Creating a historical Jesus, rather than believing in a purely spiritual one, became imperative. A limited number of apostles attesting to a historical being and his teachings became useful as a guarantee against uncontrollable future pronouncements from spiritual sources that would introduce chaos into the church. The historical Jesus was one on whom the emergent Catholics could bestow their doctrine; the twelve apostles, composites drawn from the original Gnostic apostles, were the guarantors of those doctrines.

Interestingly, the only reference to the Twelve in any of the Pauline literature is in a late interpolation, 1 Corinthians 15:5.[17] The Pauline epistles know of leaders in Jerusalem called “the pillars,” including James, “the Lord’s brother;” Cephas, who may be Peter; and John (the son of Zebedee? John Mark?). Paul mentions apostles but does not number them (1 Cor. 9:5). They seem to include the pillars (Gal. 1:19) as well as Paul himself! He has opponents in the apostolic guild, whom he vilifies as “super-apostles” (2 Cor. 11:5, 12:11), “false apostles” (2 Cor. 11:13), and apostles of Satan (2 Cor. 11:13-15). What makes Paul a genuine testifier of the Lord Jesus is his having seen him for himself (1 Cor. 9:1) and having thereafter brought converts to the church and performed miracles among them (2 Cor. 12:12). His vision of Jesus may have been private and interior: “It pleased God to reveal his Son in me” (Gal. 1:16).

What qualified the pillars to occupy their positions, Paul does not say. The title itself implies that these men formed a mediating axis between earth and heaven. We hear nothing of them having been close to a historical Jesus. Even James is called “the brother of the Lord,” not “brother of Jesus of Nazareth.” We usually do not imagine the claim made in 1 Corinthians 9:1 (“Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen the Lord?”) to mean that Paul saw Jesus of Nazareth during the latter’s earthly career. It is, rather, the divine heavenly Christ whom he sees. Consequently, that must have been enough to qualify the other apostles, too. One might say that there was not yet an earthly existence of Jesus to claim to have seen. The fabrication of such a character and such a career (created by rewriting stories from the Septuagint) is one with the fabrication of a group of twelve apostles to verify the account of him. That is why it is the pseudo-historical, narrative gospels in which we first hear of the twelve disciples, not the epistles.

Mark knew of “disciples” and of “twelve” men but not yet the term “apostles” in reference to church officials. In Mark 6:30, where Jesus sent a few men out on errands, they are called the apostoloi, meaning “the ones he sent.” Similarly, where twelve apostles are listed in Matthew 10:2, they are the ones who were “sent out,” not necessarily called to office. It is Luke who creates the notion, unattested anywhere else, of “twelve apostles” (6:13, “he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles”). In Acts 1:21-22, we learn the function of these newly defined ambassadors: “Therefore it is required that one of these men who accompanied us the whole time the Lord Jesus associated with us, starting with John’s baptism until the day he was taken up from us, must become a witness along with us of his resurrection.” A true apostle, therefore, must have witnessed the whole ministry of Jesus in order to be able to attest what Jesus did and did not do. The artificiality of the criterion is clear from the fact that even the twelve do not qualify, since none of them were ever said to have been present at Jesus’s baptism. And of course the prerequisite was designed to exclude the late-comer Paul. It is on just this basis that Peter, in the Clementine Recognitions, derides Paul’s claim to have been called as an apostle of Christ on no more basis than a subjective vision.

This again is the point of the forty-day cut-off in Acts 1:9. During that interval the risen Jesus is said to have vouchsafed his advanced teachings to the Twelve (none of which is shared with the reader since it is intended as a blank check for whatever may turn out to be called “apostolic tradition”). But after that, no mere vision of Jesus (consider Stephen’s vision in 7:56, Ananias’s in 9:10-16, Paul’s in Corinth in 18:9-10, Paul’s in the temple in 22:17-21) is going to count as a resurrection appearance. Significantly, even in Paul’s decisive conversion experience (9:3-6; 22:6-11; 26:12-18), Saul does not see Jesus, 9:17 and 22:14 notwithstanding, because he is blinded by the light. The reader will scarcely need to be reminded that, although Acts lionizes Paul, it seems to withhold from him the title of apostle. Two apparent exceptions occur in Acts 14:4 where the term apostle is generic, with no specific names attached, and in 14:14 where apostles is absent altogether from the Western text.

The Twelve, whether one calls them disciples or apostles, appear to be fictive expansions from the list of the Jerusalem pillars: James the Just, Cephas (Peter), and John (Gal. 2:9).[18] These three obviously formed the basis of the inner circle of Simon Peter, James, and John bar-Zebedee in the Gospels (Mark 5:37; 9:2). A longer list of the pillars (or “Brotherhood of the Lord,” 1 Cor. 9:5) appears in Mark 6:3, where the group has been historicized to the point that they are literal brothers of a fleshly Jesus. They are James, Joses, Judas, and Simon. It lists James but lacks John. Simon is, I will suggest, the same as Simon Peter. My guess is that “Joses” originally belonged in the previous line, when the townspeople ask themselves, “Isn’t this the carpenter, the son of Mary?” It would have read, “Isn’t this the carpenter, the son of Mary and Joses (Joseph)?” And the fourth name would have been John. It may have been on the basis of this reading that Luke got the idea of making John the Baptist Jesus’s cousin.

In any case, when the twelve disciples, or apostles, appear at all, they do so as a bare list of names.[19] Basically, that is all they are. Consider their possible derivation from the pillars. From Simon bar-Cleophas, whom tradition makes the bishop of Jerusalem after his brother, James the Just, we derive both Simon Cephas/Peter and Simon Zelotes. Andrew, meaning “man” or “male,” is a brother of Simon, which may be an extrapolation of “Simon the brother of the Man,” or “brother of the Son of Man.” John becomes John, son of Zebedee. Judas Thomas (as Syrian sources dub him, as in the Gospel of Thomas) refracts into Judas Iscariot and Judas not Iscariot (John 14:22), as well as Thaddaeus (Mark 3:18), Judas bar-Sabbas (Acts 15:22), and Theudas (Acts 5:36).[20] From James the Just, we get James, son of Zebedee, and James of Alphaeus,[21] and even Nathaniel, “a true Israelite in whom is no guile” (John 1:47).

The reference here is to the Old Testament Jacob, making him a “true Jacob” or James. James is even Lebbaeus, an apostle appearing in some manuscripts of Mark, because “Lebbaeus” appears to be another spelling of “Oblias,” the bulwark, an epithet of James the Just in Eusebius. If Joses was the original reading in Mark 6:3, he probably became Joseph Bar-Sabbas (Acts 1:23) and Joseph Barnabas (Acts 4:36). Philip is an interloper from the list of seven Hellenists in Acts 6:5. Matthew, though a real name, functions here as a pun on “disciple” (mathetes). The Matthias of Acts 1:23 is his double.

We can witness the process of their mitosis into disparate individuals in the second- and third-century apocryphal Acts of the apostles, which we will consider shortly. As we will see, it is all legend. The beginning of the apostolic historicization appears to come from Mark, where Peter is given the literary role of Jesus’s straight man, so to speak, who asks stupid questions.[22] This gives the evangelist the opportunity to explain things to the reader, making Peter the equivalent of Ananda, the Buddha’s disciple, and Dr. Watson, Sherlock Holmes’s sidekick. James and John fill the same role sometimes (Mark 9:38; 10:35 ff; Luke 9:54). The infamous story of Peter’s cowardly denials, as Loisy saw,[23] must be a smear created by Paulinists who opposed the Peter faction. “Paulinists invented the legend of Peter’s denial of his Lord,” he concluded.[24]

Second Corinthians 3:1, as Dieter Georgi[25] saw, implies that the original itinerant apostles compiled growing resumes, including lists of miracles performed in each church as endorsements that opened doors for them. We know nothing of these nameless apostles except, as Stevan L. Davies suggests,[26] the tales of their miraculous exploits that wound up in the apocryphal Acts of the apostles. Their actual names were eventually forgotten, or more likely suppressed, in favor of the names of the Twelve and Paul, once the catholicization process in Acts had made all the apostles happy teammates. This suppression came about for a simple reason I have already suggested: the field of apostles had to be narrowed down so that they would no longer function as loose canons who could promulgate new Jesuses and strange Gospels (2 Cor. 11:4; Gal. 1:6-9). Instead, they took on the role of spokesmen who could attest to the Catholic claims of an official Jesus.

Thus, the miracle occurred of anonymous apostles being given names, then form and color, for the first time. It was a process not unlike that by which the heavenly Jesus took on a history and form, clothed with texts rewritten from the Septuagint.[27]

In this chapter we will examine some of the exploits of the apostles from the apocryphal books, demonstrating that the underlying role of an apostle in each case was just what Schmithals said it was: they were virtually Christs in their own right, insofar as the light of Christ shone through them, and taught an otherworldly asceticism characteristic of the flesh-hating Gnostics.

A structuralist approach

One of the most inventive and fruitful tools for decoding the meaning of myths is the structuralism of Claude Levi-Strauss. The anthropologist sought to account for myths on a level deeper than plot and characterization by examining important signals an author leaves in a narrative like bits of masonry hinting at buried remains of some primordial structure. Levi-Strauss postulated that all myths are based on binary sets of oppositions, a configuration derived from an assumption that the human mind is itself binary in structure. In his schema, the mind will raise a question, ponder some dilemma, and mediate the opposition between two alternatives. It is not done logically by the means of philosophical scrutiny but mythologically by how a resolution is reached within a literary narrative.

To identify the question being resolved and the individual conceptual elements being opposed and mediated, Levi-Strauss suggested that the plot structure be disregarded, the order of events discarded, and the individual story elements classified according to similarity. One can separate out groups of like characters, events, and names and then strive to discern some implied relationships. [continues]

Price, Robert M. The Amazing Colossal Apostle: The Search for the Historical Paul. Signature Books.

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  1. Walter Schmithals, The Office of Apostle in the Early Church, trans. John E. Steely (New York: Abingdon, 1969), 114-97.
  2. Eric Robertson Dodds, Pagan and Christian in an Age of Anxiety: Some Aspects of Religious Experience from Marcus Aurelius to Constantine (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1965), 23-24.
  3. Hans Jonas, The Gnostic Religion: The Message of the Alien God and the Beginnings of Christianity, 2nd ed. (Boston: Beacon Press, 1963), 320-40.
  4. H. Wheeler Robinson, The Religious Ideas of the Old Testament, 2nd ed. (London: Duckworth, 1956), 75-76.
  5. The Cybele and Attis myth is a love story between a goddess and a mortal. Cybele rejects the sexual advances of Zeus, but Zeus impregnates her while she sleeps. Cybele then gives birth to the evil hermaphrodite, Agdistis. His strength is feared by the gods, but they manage to cut off his penis; the blood fertilizes an olive tree. A woman named Nana eats an almond from this tree and becomes pregnant herself. She gives birth to a boy, Attis. Unknown to Attis, Cybele falls in love with him, but when Attis falls in love with the daughter of the king of Pessinus, Cybele becomes jealous and barges into the lovers’ wedding ceremony. Attis, now aggrieved at his infidelity, castrates himself and bleeds to death. His blood brings forth the first violets (just as the blood of the crucified Christ colors the blossoms of the dogwood tree). Zeus and Cybele then resurrect the deceased Attis.
  6. Walter Schmithals, Gnosticism in Corinth, trans. John E. Steely (New York: Abingdon, 1971), 27-28, 168, 248-49.
  7. Diogenes the Cynic was said to have been on a quest for one honest man, for which he carried a lamp during daylight hours in order to illustrate the impossibility of the task. He died in 323 BCE in Corinth.
  8. Hippolytus, Refutation of all Heresies, 5:8; L. Gordon Rylands, The Beginnings of Gnostic Christianity (London: Watts, 1940), 126-31.
  9. Thomas Whittaker, The Origins of Christianity: With an Outline of Van Manen’s Analysis of the Pauline Literature, 4th ed. (London: Watts, 1933), 158-59.
  10. Gerd Theissen, “The Wandering Radicals,” in Theissen, Social Reality and the Early Christians: Theology, Ethics, and the World of the New Testament, trans. Margaret Kohl (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992), 33-59.
  11. “He is the person who travels around from one Christian [communal] house to another sometimes getting saved at each, but always getting a free meal and a place to sleep. ‘It’s not a bad life,’ one young man named Rich told me. ‘I just go from place to place, and if the Christians think you’re saved too, they don’t bug you. If one comes up and starts to lay a rap on me, I just pick up a Bible or close my eyes to pray. Sometimes I even talk in tongues, and they really think that’s heavy” (Michael McFadden, The Jesus Revolution [New York: Harper & Row, 1972], 173-74; cf. Lowell D. Streiker, The Jesus Trip [New York: Abingdon Press, 1971], 38; Jack Sparks, God’s Forever Family [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1974], 62-64).
  12. Mark 6:7-13; Matt. 10:5-15; Luke 9:1-9; 10:1-12.
  13. Ernst Käsemann, “Paul and Early Catholicism,” trans. Wilfred F. Bunge, in Käsemann, New Testament Questions of Today (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1969), 236-51.
  14. Elaine Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels (New York: Random House, 1979), 6-8, 10-11, 13-17.
  15. Charles H. Talbert, Luke and the Gnostics: An Examination of the Lucan Purpose (New York: Abingdon Press, 1966), 28-32.
  16. Arthur Drews, The Christ Myth, trans. C. Delisle Burns, 3rd ed. (Amherst: Prometheus Books, 1998), 288-89.
  17. Robert M. Price, “Apocryphal Apparitions: 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 as a Post-Pauline Interpolation,” in Price and Jeffery J. Lowder, eds., The Empty Tomb: Jesus beyond the Grave (Amherst: Prometheus Books, 2005), 69-104.
  18. Robert Eisenman, James the Brother of Jesus: The Key to Unlocking the Secrets of Early Christianity and the Dead Sea Scrolls (New York: Viking, 1996), 770-816. See also Robert M. Price, “Eisenman’s Gospel of James the Just: A Review,” in Bruce Chilton and Jacob Neusner, eds., The Brother of Jesus: James the Just and His Mission (Louisville: Westminster, 2001), 186-97.
  19. Mark 3:16-19; Matt. 10:2-4; Luke 6:14-16; Acts 1:13; cf. John 21:2.
  20. Robert Eisenman, The New Testament Code: The Cup of the Lord, The Damascus Covenant, and the Blood of Christ (London: Watkins, 2006), 939-56. We might add to the list Addai (Thaddaeus in Edessan tradition), Bar-Ptolemy, and certain pre-Islamic prophets mentioned in the Koran (Eisenman, “Who Were the Koranic Prophets Ad, Thamud, Hud, and Salih?” Journal of Higher Criticism 11, no. 2 [Fall 2005], 96-107).
  21. The Koran has “Salih the Just” (cf. Acts 15:22). The early Christian writer Hegesippus refers to “Oblias the Bulwark.” Some manuscripts of Mark mention a Lebbaeus.
  22. Mark 1:36-37; 8:32-33; 9:5; 10:28; 11:21; 14:29; Matt. 14:28; 17:24-25; 18:21. [23]. Alfred Loisy, Birth of the Christian Religion, trans. Lawrence P. Jacks (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1948), 102.
  23. L. Gordon Rylands, A Critical Analysis of the Four Chief Pauline Epistles: Romans, First and Second Corinthians, and Galatians (London: Watts, 1929), 353.
  24. Dieter Georgi, The Opponents of Paul in Second Corinthians, trans. Harold Attridge, Isabel and Thomas Best, Bernadette Brooten, Ron Cameron, Frank Fallon, Stephen Gero, Renate Rose, Herman Waetjen, and Michael Williams (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1986), 244.
  25. Stevan L. Davies, The Revolt of the Widows: The Social World of the Apocryphal Acts (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1980), 30-31.
  26. Randel Helms, Gospel Fictions (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1988);
    Robert M. Price, “New Testament Narrative as Old Testament Midrash,” in Encyclopaedia of Midrash: Biblical Interpretation in Formative Judaism, eds. Jacob Neusner and Alan J. Avery-Peck, 2 vols. (Boston: Brill, 2005), 1:534-73.


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Re: 'The Original Gnostic Apostles'

Post by MrMacSon » Thu Nov 19, 2020 1:30 am

I didn't post that excerpt b/c the title was about apostles or to focus on apostles, rather to capture a summary of Price's views on so-called Gnosticism, but I can across the Hypostasis of the Archons, aka the Reality of the Rulers and the reference to 'the great apostle' in the first sentence.

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5. The Original Gnostic Apostles

Walter Schmithals argues[1] that the concept of an apostle ... grew up in oriental Gnosticism ....
  1. Walter Schmithals, The Office of Apostle in the Early Church, trans. John E. Steely (New York: Abingdon, 1969), 114-97.


The Hypostasis of the Archons, aka the Reality of the Rulers, begins with reference to the great apostle, inspired by the 'spirit of the father of truth' -

On account of the reality of the authorities, (inspired) by the spirit of the father of truth, the great apostle – referring to the "authorities of the darkness" – told us that "our contest is not against flesh and blood; rather, the authorities of the universe and the spirits of wickedness." I have sent this (to you) because you inquire about the reality of the authorities. http://www.gnosis.org/naghamm/hypostas.html


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MrMacSon
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Re: 'The Original Gnostic Apostles'

Post by MrMacSon » Thu Nov 19, 2020 3:03 am

Eusebius related how, according to Caius of Rome, Cerinthus,

...by means of revelations which he pretends were written by a great apostle, brings before us marvelous things which he falsely claims were shown him by angels; and he says that after the resurrection the kingdom of Christ will be set up on earth, and that the flesh dwelling in Jerusalem will again be subject to desires and pleasures. (Ecclesiastical History 3.28.2)


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Secret Alias
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Re: 'The Original Gnostic Apostles'

Post by Secret Alias » Thu Nov 19, 2020 7:01 am

Just an aside. I hate the way 'gnostic' is used by so many people. It completely obscures the original meaning of the terminology. The closest analogy is Moses. Moses was 'gnostic' because he brought the Israelites 'into acquaintance' with their god. The analogy that Plato uses (Plato invented the terminology) is the skill of navigating a vessel that a ship's captain has to become acquainted with. I have always thought the analogy in the Statesman is the reason that Marcion is called a 'ship owner.' In other words, there were all these 'pilots' - ecclesiastical authorities within the Marcionite tradition - learning to navigate 'ships' - by analogy - and Marcion was the owner of the various 'ships.' But the way the world uses 'gnostic' to mean something like kabbalah is misleading. The gnostic is himself one who leads others - by his presence, by his example - into acquaintance with the godhead. My guess is that it has something to do with Clement, Origen and other Alexandrians ultimately being castrated after the manner that the ultimate God was a hermaphrodite. But that's besides the point. It isn't the 'tradition' which is bringing people into acquaintance with the godhead. Look at Clement's use of the terminology. The individuals themselves are doing that - i.e. bringing others into acquaintance with the heavenly Father. I think it is very important that Roman Catholics and other early Christian traditions call their priests 'father.' This certainly goes back to Clement's use of the terminology. The early father is the image of the heavenly Father. So the use of Papa among the Alexandrians (the grandfather = father of many fathers).

To that end, you can begin to understand why the early Christians pushed aside the Law in favor of the gospel. What does the gospel envision as the replacement for obedience to 'tablets made of earth'? Being in the presence of the Father. Was Jesus the Father? No I don't think so. I think there is a strong tradition that he was the being who tabernacled with Moses and the rest of the Patriarchs. But I think this is where the metanoia that the Marcionites and other groups understood came over the Son is significant. The Son thought he was the only God. Isaiah has him shout that. But at some point he learns - according to the myth - that there was a heavenly power greater than him. At that point he repents and - somehow - becomes the living presence of his Father. He goes to the Israelites to teach them about their Father but he is ultimately crucified. This in turn sets up the paradigm of Christian martyrdom - i.e. where Christian missionaries try to teach the Jews that there is this other God and get killed in the process. Their martyrdom, their 'witness' becomes the experience by which the masses learn about the heavenly Father. In some form being crucified in effect 'symbolizes' the heavenly Father and makes his presence felt on the earth ultimately 'bringing into acquaintance' the previously unknown God to the world.

Over and over again we have to understand that for Christianity THE PRESENCE is what mattered. Books are dead witnesses, what mattered were living tabernacles going out into the world and spreading THE EXPERIENCE of the Father to the world. This was new, radically new in fact. It is important however - according to this formulation - to distinguish between the tradition - i.e. the texts - which TELL of this experience, or the existence of the Father - from the EXPERIENCE of being in his presence. Christianity from the beginning understood that the presence was what mattered. Of course, the texts came to dominate. But that's a product of distance from the original experience of Christianity. Over time, old habits proved themselves to die hard. Eventually, when the Imperial authorities and the church leaders who worked with them, managed to persecuted enough of the old tradition and make TEXTS the ultimate battleground, Christianity could be subverted. But let's not forget that Christianity was originally about 'Gnostics' - i.e. those living tabernacles - going into the world and bringing others into acquaintance with the Father. This never actually stopped. What became subverted was WHAT THE MESSAGE was that the Gnostics were bringing people into contact with. It was subverted by means of altering the texts of the tradition. Very clever.

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Giuseppe
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Re: 'The Original Gnostic Apostles'

Post by Giuseppe » Thu Nov 19, 2020 10:17 am

Translated from Secret Alias's long post: the term 'gnostic' is wrong, "therefore" my view is correct.

Also I can say equally: the term 'gnostic' is wrong, therefore gnostic here means 'hater of YHWH as evil god'.

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Re: 'The Original Gnostic Apostles'

Post by Secret Alias » Thu Nov 19, 2020 10:34 am

No. Gnostikos is a Platonic invention and I reminding everyone what the Platonic meaning was. It came to take on a new meaning under the influence of Theosophists in England in the last century. A wrong meaning. Just read Plato. Read Clement and even Hegesippus, Irenaeus and other negative references to the term - i.e. Against the False Gnostics. Still in touch with the underlying Platonic sense. The meaning changed because of Madame Blatavsky - https://www.amazon.com/H-P-Blavatsky-Gn ... 0913004936 https://gnosticwarrior.com/h-p-blavatsk ... stics.html.

Clement doesn't hide that he's a gnostic. He doesn't see anything controversial about the terminology because he came from a Platonic-Christian background. It doesn't mean 'secret knowledge' or secret tradition. That's not how the gnostics themselves used the terminology.

Similarly the Hebrew verb קבל just means to accept or receive. It doesn't necessarily or specifically mean something received in secret (although it does have a tertiary meaning 'to darken' which might have influenced the use of קבלה in esoteric circles. But the verb can also mean to receive payment etc.

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Secret Alias
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Re: 'The Original Gnostic Apostles'

Post by Secret Alias » Thu Nov 19, 2020 10:45 am

Morton Smith provides a good summary of the terminology "the claim to be a gnostikos was rather to be capable of knowing than to possess particular items of information. The second meaning is not excluded, but, if the word were used in its customary sense, it would be at best subordinate."
https://books.google.com/books?id=8bK9C ... ng&f=false Again Plato's example of the pilot as gnostikos learning to navigate a ship is instructive.

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Re: 'The Original Gnostic Apostles'

Post by Giuseppe » Thu Nov 19, 2020 11:01 am

Gnostic can mean anything you say. The FACTS matter, here. And the facts are that some people at the margins of Judaism were hated because they hated YHWH. Period.

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Secret Alias
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Re: 'The Original Gnostic Apostles'

Post by Secret Alias » Thu Nov 19, 2020 11:47 am

Really? So what about Morton Smith's exhaustive study of the meaning of the word gnostikos do you find objectionable? Dare I ask ...

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Re: 'The Original Gnostic Apostles'

Post by Giuseppe » Thu Nov 19, 2020 12:22 pm

Simple and clear:

Perhaps the best that Williams could hope is that the term “gnosticism” will be thought of as having “biblical demiurgy” as its chief definitional element.

https://muse.jhu.edu/article/9994

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