1. Gnosticism–“the doctrine of salvation by knowledge”
A Gnostic is “one who knows”
The grandfather/mother of all heresies in the Christian church
o greatest theological threat to the early Church
o St. John combats it in his New Testament writings (specifically labeling the Gnostics as “anti-Christs”)
o Paul writes of them to Timothy (1 Tim 4:3)
o Had lots and lots of writings circulating (still)
Developed prior to Christianity, but attempted to use Christianity as its vehicle.
· No one exactly sure where it developed, though seems to be an adulteration of Plato’s teachings
Held that matter was a deterioration of the spirit; the universe is a depravation of the Deity
call god the “Depth” or the “Fullness of Being”
Ultimate end of all good Gnostics: to become one with the matter of the universe, one with the Parent-Deity (S-t-n).
This ultimate end will be facilitated by the appearance of a God-sent savior who will impart the magic, the knowledge to us
How–through knowledge, and, specifically, through magic
· Simon the Magician (Acts of the Apostles 8:9-24) is often regarded as the first Christian Gnostic
· There were spells and formulas for almost everything–but usually for protection against evil
Those who knew were called the “elect”; they would repent of sin (the material) and reenter the godhead.
Gnosticism, according to Eric Voegelin
Either can result in Gnosticism–the belief that through knowledge we can reorder the structure and history of the world according to human will.
Idea of Gnosticism very old–at the very least, beginning six centuries before Christ.
We identify it with the rise of Christianity, because it came to the fore and attempted to capture Christianity (hence, St. John’s warnings against “anti-Christs”)
Gnostic belief stresses (and stressed) that man is in an alien world and must find his way back home. “Who has cast me into the suffering of this world?” asked the ‘Great Life’–who is considered the “first, alien Life form the worlds of light.”
Other quotes from ancient Gnostic texts:
o “This world was not made according to the desire of the Life”
o “Not by the will of the Great Life art thou come hither.”
o “Who conveyed me into the evil darkness?”
o “Deliver us from the darkness of this world into which we are flung.”
o “The wretched soul has strayed into a labyrinth of torment and wanders around without a way out. . . . It seeks to escape from the bitter chaos, but knows not how to get out.”
o “Why didst thou create this world, why didst thou order the tribes here from thy midst?”
Clement of Alexandria wrote: Gnosis is “the knowledge of who we were and what we became, of where we were and whereinto we have been flung, of whereto we are hastening and wherefrom we are redeemed, of what birth is and rebirth.”
Gnostic mythopoeia revolves around issues of exile and discovery of the hidden way home.
In Gnostic belief, the Judeo-Christian God is the evil one, who put souls into the prison of a human body and a physical world. The “true God” according to the Gnostics is hidden and alien. He years for us, but we must find him.
Salvation, then, come through mystery sects and systems, from magic, ecstacy, libertinism (or strict asceticism), and terrorism (after all, violence against the material is a service to the hidden and alien god.)
The goal of the gnostic becomes one of reordering.
Want to reorder man, history, and society as unjust–and through man’s creative power, recreate the world as just and perfect.
Of the modern Gnostics (more on this in a minute–but rather than looking for a hidden god, they deny the existence of any god), Nietzsche is the most blatant:
· “To rule, and to be no longer a servant of a god: this means was left behind to ennoble man.”
· “Alas, my brothers, that God whom I created was human world and human madness, like all gods”
· “What you called ‘the world’ shall be created only by you: it shall be your reason, your image, your will, your love.”
· “If there were gods, how could I endure not being a god! Therefore, there are no gods.”
All modern ideologies—Marxism, Fascism, National Socialism—are in some way Gnostic.
Founded in 144a.d. by Marcion, a Bishop
Rejected the Old Testament completely, and taught that Christ was the son of the good God (not the same as the Jewish God). Extremely anti-Semitic. Wanted nothing to do with the Jews. Accepted ONLY St. Paul’s writings.
Christ was God Manifest not God Incarnate
· Marconians rejected the notion of Mary, of Christ as a child
· He merely came as God. Rejected all sexuality
Founded by a Persian (name unknown) Mani (215-277ad; means “leader”) on March 20, 242ad: “As once Buddha came to Indian, Zoroaster to Persia, and Jesus to the lands of the West, so came in the present time, this prophecy through me, the Mani, to the land of Babylonia.” He was, he said, the “Apostle of the True God.”
Mani proclaimed himself the paraclete promised by Jesus. Therefore, he rejected the Acts of the Apostles–because it told of the “false paraclete.”
Intentionally a synthesis of Zoroastrianism, Babylonian folklore, Buddhist ethics, and Christianity
Was essentially a version of Gnosticism. Said that one–“the elect”–could know salvation through knowledge; through knowledge and pure reason (rejected the “mysteries” found in Christianity) could know the composition, past, present, and future of the universe.
There were two gods (or Principles), completely equal: the Good and the Bad.
· The Good lived in heaven and controlled Time, Light, Force, and Goodness
· The Bad lived underground and controlled Poison, Smoke, Depths, Marshes, and Fire
History began when the Bad decided to invade the realm of the Good.
Those on the side of the Good–the “Elect” would abstain from all earthly joys: property, meat (whose flesh would rouse the evil side, as the evil side controlled animals), sex, commerce, etc.
Spread throughout the known world up until about 1000ad–when it seems to have died off.
4. Arianism–denied the full divinity of Christ
First Unitarians, developed around 313a.d.; Arius was from Libya and Syria
Jesus was somewhere in between God and Man; created at the time of his appearance on Earth. Had not always been there as St. John tells us.
The Church squelched it–so the followers of Arius took it to the Barbarians and spread it quickly.
Developed in the fourth century in North Africa.
Argued that all priests must be pure for their actions to be valid (ultimately a faith/works argument).