Gnostic ChristianityQUESTION: Gnostic Christianity - What does the Bible say?ANSWER:
Let us look at what Gnosticism Christianity is before we figure out what the Bible has to say about the topic. First of all, Gnosticism is NOT Christianity. Gnostics proclaim God is both man and woman; Mary Magdalene is elevated to the status of the first and greatest Apostle, and is Jesus' wife and divine companion.
Gnosticism goes back centuries before the Christian era, possibly as early as the fifth Century, B.C. A belief system developed in ancient Syria and Persia that held salvation of the soul could be achieved by attaining a deep, mystic, and divine knowledge. According to their beliefs, humans are divided into a three-tiered hierarchy. Those possessing this knowledge, or gnosis, were a superior form of human being whose present and future destiny were not intertwined with those humans, that, for whatever reason, did not "know." Those humans too influenced by matter were doomed, and somewhere in between were those who did not yet possess the gnosis, but could yet be saved.
Rather than believe in the good of creation, Gnostics regarded matter and, in fact, the whole universe, to be a defilement of the deity -- the god of light/spirit. They taught that the ultimate end would be to overcome matter and be reunited with the parent spirit and realm of light/energy. This would not be achieved by submission to God's laws or through grace (God's forgiveness of man's sins) by acceptance of the living Christ -- the Son of God and Redeemer. Redemption or salvation would occur by awakening the sleeping gnosis (knowledge/wisdom) or "God within" -- through deep thoughts, reflection, and meditation thereby freeing the good spirit imprisoned within the evil physical body.
Gnosticism spread to Egypt during the 2nd and 3rd centuries, A.D. They presented a major challenge to orthodox Christianity. Can we say Gnostic Christianity is claimed within the pages of the Bible? Most Gnostic sects professed Christianity, but their belief sharply diverged from those of the majority of Christians in the early church. Those who did not believe the virgin birth, Jesus was the Son of God, Jesus was resurrected to Heaven, Jesus was the Creator, or that Jesus made atonement for our sins. I would say no, we couldn't, because the Bible clearly lays claim to the above statements.
Gnostics also believed that mankind was wholly evil and some sects even renounced marriage and procreation. They also believed in two gods, one evil god and one good god. Their teachings are believed to have influenced Saint Augustine in the development of his theology of "total depravity" of mankind and concept of God. For nine years St. Augustine adhered to Manichaeism, a Persian philosophy proclaimed in southern Babylonia (Iraq) that taught a doctrine of "total depravity" and the claim that they were the "elect." He then turned to skepticism.
Next, Augustine was attracted to the philosophy of Neoplatonism. He blended these beliefs with his later Gnostic Christian teachings. His teachings were in turn passed on to John Calvin in his extensive study of Augustine's writings. It is very easy to follow the trail of John Calvin's theology from the pagan religion of Mani in Babylonia to his writings in France and Geneva.
In 1945 an Egyptian peasant found 12 codices containing more than 50 Coptic Gnostic writings near Naj'Hammadi, Egypt. It has been determined that these codices were copied in the 4th century in the monasteries of the region. It is not known whether the monks were Gnostics, or were attracted by the nature of the writings, or had assembled the writings as a study in heresy. The evidence is clear that the Gnostics had a major influence in writing the Alexandrian manuscripts of the Egyptian region.
By the 2nd century, Christian Gnostic teachers mixed their mythology with Platonic metaphysical speculation and certain heretical Christian traditions. The most prominent Christian Gnostics were Valentinus and his disciple Ptolemaeus, who, during the 2nd century were influential members in the Roman Church. By the end of the 3rd century Gnosticism as a distinct movement seems to have largely disappeared.