Late-first century and early second century: development of Gnostic ideas, contemporaneous with the writing of the New Testament; mid-second century to early third century: high point of the classical Gnostic teachers and their systems, "who claimed that their systems represented the inner truth revealed by Jesus"; end of the second century to the fourth century: reaction by the proto-orthodox church and condemnation as heresy, and subsequent decline. The various emanations of God are called æons. Wilson, R. McL. [115], The Thomasine Traditions refers to a group of texts which are attributed to the apostle Thomas. Though there are many documents that could be included among the gnostic gospels, the term most commonly refers to the following: 1. Both Sethian Gnostics and Valentinian Gnostics seem to have been influenced by Plato, Middle Platonism, and Neo-Pythagoreanism academies or schools of thought. [note 24] In the Valentinian myths, the creation of a flawed materiality is not due to any moral failing on the part of the Demiurge, but due to the fact that he is less perfect than the superior entities from which he emanated. [96], According to Turner, Sethianism was influenced by Christianity and Middle Platonism, and originated in the second century as a fusion of a Jewish baptizing group of possibly priestly lineage, the so-called Barbeloites,[100] named after Barbelo, the first emanation of the Highest God, and a group of Biblical exegetes, the Sethites, the "seed of Seth". [79] Especially the Gospel of Thomas has a significant amount of parallel sayings. Restricting Gnosticism, "identifying which groups were explicitly called gnostics", Deconstructing Gnosticism, abandoning the category of "Gnosticism", This page was last edited on 26 December 2020, at 14:51. The discovery and translation of the Nag Hammadi library, initially completed i… [101] At the end of the second century, Sethianism grew apart from the developing Christian orthodoxy, which rejected the docetian view of the Sethians on Christ. 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)[2] who is responsible for creating the material universe. God is commonly thought of as being beyond human comprehension. The site includes the Gnostic Library, with the complete Nag Hammadi Library and a large collection of other primary Gnostic scriptures and documents. [6] Gnostics are "those who are oriented toward knowledge and understanding – or perception and learning – as a particular modality for living". Gospel of Mary(recovered in 1896) 2. Valentinians understood the conflict between Jews and Gentiles in Romans to be a coded reference to the differences between Psychics (people who are partly spiritual but have not yet achieved separation from carnality) and Pneumatics (totally spiritual people). The positive or negative depiction of materiality thus resides a great deal on mythic depictions of Sophia's actions. The Sethian hidden transcendent God is, by contrast, defined through negative theology: he is immovable, invisible, intangible, ineffable; commonly, "he" is seen as being hermaphroditic, a potent symbol for being, as it were, "all-containing". [23] Contemporary scholarship largely agrees that Gnosticism has Jewish or Judeo-Christian origins;[23] this theses is most notably put forward by Gershom G. Scholem (1897–1982) and Gilles Quispel (1916–2006). It exists in two Coptic translations, a Subakhmimic rendition surviving almost in full in the first Nag Hammadi codex (the "Jung Codex") and a Sahidic in fragments in the twelfth codex. [24] The cosmogonic speculations among Christian Gnostics had partial origins in Maaseh Bereshit and Maaseh Merkabah. These schools tend to view evil in terms of matter that is markedly inferior to goodness and lacking spiritual insight and goodness rather than as an equal force. [23][1][18][note 14], Many heads of gnostic schools were identified as Jewish Christians by Church Fathers, and Hebrew words and names of God were applied in some gnostic systems. Gospel of Philip(Nag Hammadi Library) 5. [3] Gnostics considered the principal element of salvation to be direct knowledge of the supreme divinity in the form of mystical or esoteric insight. [136] In the Isma'ili Shia work Umm al Kitab, Azazil's role resembles whose of the Gnostic demiurge. [172], This definition has now been abandoned. In many Gnostic systems, the aeons are the various emanations of the superior God or Monad. The Sethian cosmogony as most famously contained in the Apocryphon ("Secret book") of John describes an unknown God, very similar to the orthodox apophatic theology, but different from the orthodox teachings that this God is the creator of heaven and earth. [47] This creature is concealed outside the pleroma;[47] in isolation, and thinking itself alone, it creates materiality and a host of co-actors, referred to as archons. [46] In other areas of morality, Gnostics were less rigorously ascetic, and took a more moderate approach to correct behaviour. [80] According to Helmut Koester, this is because the Thomas-sayings are older, implying that in the earliest forms of Christianity Jesus was regarded as a wisdom-teacher. [68] According to DeConick, the Gospel of John shows a "transitional system from early Christianity to gnostic beliefs in a God who transcends our world. Judge for yourself whether it is shared by the Gospel of Thomas. Hans Jonas discerned two main currents of Gnosticism, namely Syrian-Egyptian, and Persian, which includes Manicheanism and Mandaeanism. [114] Simone Petrement, while arguing for a Christian origin of Gnosticism, places Valentinus after Basilides, but before the Sethians. umbrella term for a diverse movement of more than 50 ancient spiritual sects that sprang up around the same time as early Christianity (though some sects predated Christianity This list may not reflect recent changes (). Ibn al-Muqaffa depicted the Islamic deity as a demonic entity who "fights with humans and boasts about His victories" and "sitting on a throne, from which He can descend". Thirty-three of the groups he reported on are considered Gnostic by modern scholars, including 'the foreigners' and 'the Seth people'. [143] The Kabbalists originated in 13th-century Provence,[note 29] which was at that time also the center of the Gnostic Cathars. [67] Still other traditions identify Mani and Seth, third son of Adam and Eve, as salvific figures. The demiurge creates the physical universe and the physical aspect of humanity. After its decline in the Mediterranean world, Gnosticism lived on in the periphery of the Byzantine Empire, and resurfaced in the western world. [51] The aeons as a totality constitute the pleroma, the "region of light". (Robinson, NHLE, p. 10) Only a few lines from the beginning of Origin of the World are discernible on the bottom of the eighth leaf. [citation needed], Gnostics tended toward asceticism, especially in their sexual and dietary practice. [175], The best known example of this approach is Adolf von Harnack (1851–1930), who stated that "Gnosticism is the acute Hellenization of Christianity. [179], Collection of religious ideas and systems among early Christian and Jewish sects, Traditional approaches – Gnosticism as Christian heresy, In Plato's dialogue between Young Socrates and the Foreigner in his. Many Gnostic texts deal not in concepts of sin and repentance, but with illusion and enlightenment.[3]. The Paulicians, an Adoptionist group which flourished between 650 and 872 in Armenia and the Eastern Themes of the Byzantine Empire, were accused by orthodox medieval sources of being Gnostic and quasi Manichaean Christian. When people speak about the gnostic gospels, they are almost always referring to a collection of ancient writings (in Coptic) that were discovered near the upper Nile village of Nag Hammadi, in Egypt, in 1945. Jonas emphasized the duality between God and the world, and concluded that Gnosticism cannot be derived from Platonism. John the Evangelist is claimed as a Gnostic by some Gnostic interpreters,[93] as is even St. It was as synthesis of Armenian Paulicianism and the Bulgarian Orthodox Church reform movement. Their religion has been practised primarily around the lower Karun, Euphrates and Tigris and the rivers that surround the Shatt-al-Arab waterway, part of southern Iraq and Khuzestan Province in Iran. "[33], The Religionsgeschichtliche Schule ("history of religions school", 19th century) had a profound influence on the study of Gnosticism. Prior to the discovery at Nag Hammadi, only the following texts were available to students of Gnosticism. While some scholars in the middle of the 20th century tried to assume an influence between the Cathar "gnostics" and the origins of the Kabbalah, this assumption has proved to be an incorrect generalization not substantiated by any original texts. [119] Some scholars do not consider him to be a gnostic,[120][note 27] but his teachings clearly resemble some Gnostic teachings. Jonas compares this alienation with the existentialist notion of geworfenheit, Martin Heidegger's "thrownness," as in being thrown into a hostile world. [134] It seems that Gnostic ideas were an influential part of early Islamic development but later lost its influence. [note 28] There is evidence for Manicheans in Rome and Dalmatia in the 4th century, and also in Gaul and Spain. [80] An alternative hypothesis states that the Thomas authors wrote in the second century, changing existing sayings and eliminating the apocalyptic concerns. Manichaeism was founded by the Prophet Mani (216–276). In, Smith, Richard. Similarly, the gnostic lives in the physical world, but is not of this world. The influence of Manicheanism was attacked by imperial elects and polemical writings, but the religion remained prevalent until the 6th century, and still exerted influence in the emergence of the Paulicians, Bogomils and Cathari in the Middle Ages, until it was ultimately stamped out by the Catholic Church. Are There Secret Writings About Jesus? There was no particular relationship among any set of groups which one could distinguish as “Gnostic”, as if they were in opposition to some other set of groups. The gnostic too, would prefer death if it cannot obtain this precious nourishment. 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. Robinson: "At this stage we have not found any Gnostic texts that clearly antedate the origin of Christianity." In the Gnostic Christian tradition, Christ is seen as a divine being which has taken human form in order to lead humanity back to the Light. ", Williams: "On the other hand, the one group whom Irenaeus does explicitly mention as users of this self-designation, the followers of the Second Century teacher Marcellina, are not included in Layton's anthology at all, on the grounds that their doctrines are not similar to those of the "classic" gnostics.
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