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Gnosticism. Series: Uncovering Religion Colossians 2: 8, 1Timothy 6:20-21. Introduction. In Paul’s epistle to the Church in Colossae, Paul confronts a religious philosophy which was threatening to destroy the early church.

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gnosticism

Gnosticism

Series: Uncovering Religion

Colossians 2:8, 1Timothy 6:20-21

introduction
Introduction
  • In Paul’s epistle to the Church in Colossae, Paul confronts a religious philosophy which was threatening to destroy the early church.
  • Many of the early church fathers namely Justin Martyr (d.165), Irenaeus (d.c. 225), Clement of Alexandria (d.c. 236), Tertullian (d.c. 225, Hippolytus (d.c. 236), Origen (d.c. 254) provide the most important non-Gnostic references to Gnostic leaders and beliefs.
  • The most prominent of these are Against Heresies by Irenaeus.
  • Irenaeus investigated at least 20 distinct Gnostic schools and found Valentinian Gnosticism to be the most influential.
nag hammadi library
Nag Hammadi Library
  • Prior to 1945 most of the understanding we had of Gnostic writers came from the early Church fathers who opposed them in their writings.
  • In 1945, an Egyptian Bedouin (Desert dwelling Egyptian) discovered a jar containing 13 books.
  • They contained 52 literary works, many of which were previously unknown.
  • This find proved to be the largest single collection of Gnostic literature discovered to date covering 3 different Gnostic strands.
  • The library included the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Truth, the Apocryphon of John, the Apocryphon of James and the Apocalypse of Adam.
the religion of gnosticism
The Religion of Gnosticism
  • Gnostic comes from the Greek word gnosis which means knowledge.
  • Gnostics believe that personal salvation comes through the attainment of knowledge of alleged ancient mysteries i.e. self knowledge or awareness.
  • Gnosticism is extremely esoteric (understood by only a small number of people with a specialized knowledge) and closely resembles ancient mystery religions Zoroastrianism, Platonism and Stoicism.
  • When reading the Quran you will discover that Mohammed was very influenced by Gnostic thought, and this greatly blurred his concept of Christianity and the Bible.
origins of gnosticism
Origins of Gnosticism
  • The church fathers unanimously attribute the origin of Gnosticism to Simon Magus (Acts 8:9-25)
  • From Simon Magus the line is traced to a Samaritan named Menander, then to two teachers at Antioch named Saturninus and Cerinthus.
  • Other Gnostic leaders include Basilides, Marcion and Valentinus. These three are the best known and the teachings of Valentinus represent the most common form of Gnosticism.
  • Gnosticism has had a revival due to organisations like the media savvy group of scholars called the ‘Jesus Seminars’, movies such as ‘The Matrix’ and ‘the Da Vinci Code’.
  • Due to the increase of Gnostic literature and its wide spread acceptance, nearly every aspect of entertainment and education is infiltrated with its teaching.
teachings of gnosticism
Teachings of Gnosticism
  • Gnostics claimed to be Christians, but Christians with a difference. They said that Jesus had had two doctrines: one a doctrine fit for the common man, and preached to everyone, and the other an advanced teaching, kept secret from the multitudes, fit only for the chosen few, the spiritually elite. They, the Gnostics, were the spiritually elite, and although the doctrines taught in the churches were not exactly wrong, and were in fact as close to the truth as the common man could hope to come, it was to the Gnostics that one must turn for the real truth. [ApologeticIndex.com]
teachings of gnosticism1
Teachings of Gnosticism
  • Gnostics are dualists, teaching that there are two great opposing forces: good versus evil, light versus darkness, knowledge versus ignorance.
  • All existence is divided into two fundamental components: matter and spirit and these components are at war with each other with matter being considered evil and spirit good.
  • Scholars have concluded that there are some basic doctrines shared in common by most Gnostics.
  • God represents good and is an all powerful divine being who is all spirit and is unknowable, unfathomable and transcendent.
sophia
Sophia
  • This unknowable God produced offspring comprised of other divine spirit beings called ‘aeons.’
  • These aeons also produced offspring called ‘pleroma’ (Greek for fullness)
  • Among these offspring a spiritual being named Sophia (Greek for Wisdom) exceeded her spiritual bounds by either trying to comprehend the incomprehensible nature of the deity, or due to a desire to unite with the true God to produce offspring.
  • The myths relating to Sophia differ but they tend to agree that Sophia stepped out of bounds and fell from her lofty position.
  • This left her separated from God which resulted in traumatic emotions which became personified and she became a different kind of offspring without the foundations of the aeons.
archons and the earth
Archons and the Earth
  • Sophia’s offspring became known as archons (Greek for rulers) and they rebelled against the divine spirit by creating the physical world.
  • Gnostics believe that the Creation of the physical realm brought evil into existence.
  • According to Gnostic myth the lower spiritual beings (demiurge) made the earth and captured Sophia so she could not return to the realm of the divine and they separated her into multiple spiritual pieces encased in matter.
  • The material world became a prison for portions of the divine spirit.
  • These portions long to return to their place of origin but their encasement in matter hinders them.
  • This combination of matter and spirit is humans.
gnostic salvation
Gnostic Salvation
  • According to Gnostics humans contain something of the divine spark within them, a spark placed there by the archons to keep it imprisoned.
  • The spiritual part of humanity is described as being asleep or ignorant of its true origin and a spiritual awakening is needed.
  • Humans who have a spiritual awakening and recognise that they do not belong to the material world are referred to as Gnostics.
  • For Gnostics, salvation is a rescue that comes by self-knowledge of one’s divine origin.
  • Gnostic teaching is given in secret to the elect, in this way Gnosticism fostered a type of spiritual elitism and secrecy that created real division in the early church (Colossians).
gnostic jesus
Gnostic Jesus
  • Gnostics teach that Jesus either appeared human and was not physical but pretended to be.
  • Or, that he found a human (a man named Jesus) to inhabit while teaching Gnostic truth.
  • When this human came to the cross, this spirit departed (since it could not suffer) and left the human Jesus to die alone.
  • Gnostics focus on Jesus’ teachings and not on His death and resurrection.
  • His teaching provides the divine spark in humanity so that it can find its way back to the divine realm.
gnostic gospels
Gnostic Gospels
  • The Gnostic Gospels are a collection of about 52 texts based on the ancient teachings and wisdom of several prophets, spiritual leaders including Jesus.
  • These Gospels are not considered authentic or reliable and are not included in Biblical Canons.
  • As we know the book of Colossians was written by Paul who apposed directly the teachings of Gnosticism, as the church confronted this teaching even at its conception.
  • 1Ti. 6:20-21 Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith. Grace be with you.
a gnostic world view
A Gnostic World View
  • Even though most people would not share in the Gnostic views of Sophia and her childrens creation of this planet, I believe that many people have a Gnostic view of Jesus Christ.
  • Any view which is held of Christ which is not supported by Scripture is a Gnostic view.
  • Gnostics teach all sorts of weird and wonderful stories of Jesus’ life which portray Him as a child who plays with His divine powers to create sparrows from mud and even to kill a child and bring him back to life; to a teacher who smokes, has an affair with and married Mary Magdalene, and is even into homosexuality.
conclusion
Conclusion
  • We must be aware of Gnosticism and its modern revival, as the early church recognised it as a serious threat to its survival.
  • Today we face Gnosticism in movies, music, art and literature and it is promulgated on TV in documentaries as fact and not fiction.
  • Therefore it is once again threatening to deceive the unknowledged and Biblically illiterate.
  • Gnostic doctrine isolates humans from God and create spiritual elites who alone have the all the answers.
  • Mormonism, Islam, Scientology, Freemasons and JW’s just to name a few, all hold forms of Gnostic beliefs which have enormous eternal impacts upon their followers.