Gnosticism

This entry is part 136 of 331 in the series Inquiring Minds

Can you give me an overview of Gnosticism?

Gnostics were false teachers and heretics from about the first to second century AD. They began in the church but were deemed heretics because of their false beliefs by the church fathers. Most of them made their own communities after that and continued to spread their beliefs as though they were orthodox Christian beliefs.

We gain an understanding of what the Gnostics believe because of what the early church fathers wrote about them. Essentially, they believed in a hidden or secret knowledge of Jesus. It was a spiritual knowledge. But there were other philosophical ideas about him.

They believed that you had to be part of this secret understanding of Jesus to be considered a Christian. They were truly one of the first secret societies in history, much like the Freemasons,. Illuminati, or Skull and Bones today.

Their philosophical beliefs about Jesus were that he didn’t actually have a body. When he suffered on the cross, he didn’t really suffer. They believed that because the flesh is so sinful Jesus did not have a human nature. One of my Bible college theology professors referred to this idea as “God in a Bod.”

They believed he was something like a spirit or using his “body” almost like a holographic projection. John begins 1 John by saying things like, “What we have seen with our eyes and touched,” referring to Jesus (1 John 1:1-4).

They also worshiped wisdom in the form of the “Logos” or “Sophia.” These are the Greek words for wisdom or the philosophical idea of the one who created all life and all of creation. John uses the term for the Word in John 1:1-3.

But the feminine form “Sophia” tends to be sometimes taken as an actual woman and this may be where some people got the idea that Jesus had a wife. Mary Magdalene is often the most postulated wife of Jesus.

The church deemed such beliefs heretical because Christ did suffer on the cross, more than anyone ever has (Hebrews 4:15). The physical nature of Jesus was obvious throughout the Gospels as he ate and drank and people touched him.

It’s from this group that people like Dan Brown, writer of books like The Da Vinci Code find much of their material. Some of their writings really magnified Jesus’ divinity. These Gnostic writings are often pushed by scholars as being authentic like the Gospels or the other writings of the New Testament.

These writings often suggest a biblical author from the New Testament who has been dead for many years. Such false claims for a false author just get worse as they mix sayings of Jesus with sayings that sound like Jesus would say them, even though they are not.

Some of them go so far away from Christian doctrine in the writings of the New Testament that they are very clear to anyone who has read the New Testament. One well-known example of this is the Gospel of Thomas.

Throughout it, some of the sayings may even resemble the Gospels. But then the end of the book comes to the conclusion that women must receive a sex change from God to enter heaven. This is unchristian to its core!

You can see why these Gnostics were declared heretics by the church. Such pervasive ideas and the mixture of Jesus’ words found in the Gospels with these “extra sources” would leave most Christians vulnerable because they didn’t even have a full New Testament as we do today until the second and third centuries.

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