Gnosticism Beliefs Summary
Gnosticism (from Ancient Greek: γνωστικός, romanized: gnōstikós, Koine Greek: [ɣnostiˈkos], ‘knowing’) is a collection of religious ideas and systems which originated in the late 1st century AD among Jewish and early Christian sects. These various groups emphasized personal spiritual knowledge (gnosis) above the orthodox teachings, traditions, and authority of traditional religious institutions. Viewing material existence as flawed or evil, Gnostic cosmogony generally presents a distinction between a supreme, hidden God and a malevolent lesser divinity (sometimes associated with the Yahweh of the Old Testament) who is responsible for creating the material universe. in Gnosticism beliefs Gnostics considered the principal element of salvation to be direct knowledge of the supreme divinity in the form of mystical or esoteric insight. Many Gnostic texts deal not in concepts of sin and repentance, but with illusion and enlightenment.
Gnosticism Beliefs – What Does it Teach? Is it Christian?
The word Gnosticism is derived from a Greek word that means knowledge. Gnosticism was not a movement in the classic sense because it had no unity of purpose or persons. It was a grab bag of many movements, all of which stressed philosophy and empirical knowledge rather than faith. There were many little groups, led by some guru who had his particular slant on things. But in the end, each came to the position of superior mystical knowledge of the spiritual realm, not from faith or the gifts of the Holy Ghost, but through an eastern-meditation type of discipline.
The Gnostics were the forerunners of apologists. They accepted man’s need for salvation and the idea of God and heavenly beings. They felt that they were an intellectual elite who had to purify the religion of the crude and common ideas that they considered to be too materialistic. In the end, in Gnosticism beliefs, Gnosticism was a kind of dualism that believed the world to be divided between two cosmic forces-good and evil. Having much in common with Greek mythology, they believed that the evil forces were concerned with material things. Therefore they concluded that the creator of the material universe had to be evil. This creator could not have been a deity because a material creation was not only evil but indecent. They, therefore, explained creation by a series of emanations, as the rays emanate from the sun. There were supernatural powers who were capable of producing other inferior powers. Charles Bigg, the Oxford scholar, declared that they kept at this until they had produced “a long chain of divine creatures, each weaker than its parent,” and arrived in the end at “one who, while powerful enough to create, is silly enough not to see that creation is wrong.” This, in their opinion, was the God of this world and the God of the Jews. I am not certain whether the Gnostics thought that this was Satan, though many commentators believe that they did.
The Gnostics responded favorably, for some unexplainable reason, to a good God sent Christ into this world, so they thought of deity as the power who sent a subordinate power into this world to rid men of matter. Christ could have no contact with matter, so at Jesus’ baptism, Christ descended into Him and at His arrest, it withdrew. That body that was scourged and slain was not Christ.
There were factions in this group, as we noted. One such argued that Jesus did not have a body at all, that it was a hallucination. All Gnostics agreed that Christ could not be human. Many Gnostics recognized a proletariat and a bourgeoisie. The lower spiritual class lived by faith, and the upper class, the illuminated or the perfect, lived by knowledge. Then a third class was seen by some. It was a spiritually disadvantaged class that had been created by some capricious power, and those in this class were incapable of gnosis, even under the best guru.
Gnostic writings flourished among certain Christian groups in the Mediterranean world until about the second century when the Fathers of the early Church denounced them as heresy. Efforts to destroy these texts proved largely successful, resulting in the survival of very little writing by Gnostic theologians. Nonetheless, early Gnostic teachers such as Valentinus saw their beliefs as aligned with Christianity. In the Gnostic Christian tradition, Christ is seen as a divine being that has taken human form to lead humanity back to the Light. However, Gnosticism beliefs are not a single standardized system, and the emphasis on direct experience allows for a wide variety of teachings, including distinct currents such as Valentinianism and Sethianism. In the Persian Empire, Gnostic ideas spread as far as China via the related movement Manichaeism, while Mandaeism is still alive in Iraq.
For centuries, most scholarly knowledge of Gnosticism was limited to the anti-heretical writings of orthodox Christian figures such as Irenaeus of Lyons and Hippolytus of Rome. There was a renewed interest in Gnosticism after the 1945 discovery of Egypt’s Nag Hammadi library, a collection of rare early Christian and Gnostic texts, including the Gospel of Thomas and the Apocryphon of John. A major question in scholarly research is the qualification of Gnosticism as either an interreligious phenomenon or as an independent religion. Scholars have acknowledged the influence of sources such as Hellenistic Judaism, Zoroastrianism, and Platonism, and some have noted possible links to Buddhism and Hinduism, though the evidence of direct influence from the latter sources is inconclusive.
Gnosticism beliefs Why is Gnostic a heresy?
GNOSTICISM AS A CHRISTIAN HERESY. Their orthodox opponents sought to prove that such persons were not Christians because in Gnosticism beliefs Gnostic rites were occasions of immoral behavior, that their myths and doctrines were absurd, and that their intentions were destructive to true worship of God.
Where Christians responded to the beliefs of the Gnostics thus:
First of all, Jesus Christ Himself said, while He was here on earth, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (Jn. 3:16). So there it is, Jesus Christ Himself said that it is faith in Him, not the ‘knowledge’ He brings, that is the key to salvation.
When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, prepared to be offered a conciliatory sacrifice for the salvation of the human race, He begged the Father, ‘Saying, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless, not my will, but thine, be done”‘ (Lk 22:42, quotes added). The cup, of course, was His soon-to-come crucifixion. If Jesus Christ were not truly human, would He have had any need to ask the Father to remove the cup from Him? If Jesus wasn’t going to be crucified, but rather someone else was going to take His place, would He have asked the Father to take the cup from Him? Of course not.
Next, Luke records: “And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling to the ground” (LK. 22:44-45). Would Jesus have needed an angel to strengthen Him or would He have sweat blood if He were not going to die? And back to the plea in verse 42 above, if there were any method by which salvation could have been accomplished (e.g. knowledge), then why would the Father have let His own Son suffer such agony? The reason Christ died was that there was no other way. If the way to heaven were via knowledge, then Christ could have delivered the knowledge, left earth, and gone back to heaven. But knowledge isn’t the way to heaven; the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ is. Hence His complete humanity and complete death, burial, and subsequent resurrection.