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Archaeologica.org • View topic - Philo's guide to decoding the Hebrew Bible

Philo's guide to decoding the Hebrew Bible

The study of religious or heroic legends and tales. One constant rule of mythology is that whatever happens amongst the gods or other mythical beings was in one sense or another a reflection of events on earth. Recorded myths and legends, perhaps preserved in literature or folklore, have an immediate interest to archaeology in trying to unravel the nature and meaning of ancient events and traditions.

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Postby Forum Monk » Sat Jul 19, 2008 12:16 pm

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Postby Forum Monk » Sat Jul 19, 2008 2:03 pm

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Postby Ishtar » Mon Jul 21, 2008 10:41 am

Ishtar of and the .
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Postby Forum Monk » Mon Jul 21, 2008 1:36 pm

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Postby Ishtar » Mon Jul 21, 2008 1:51 pm

So I'm wondering what would be the best way to get this show on the road?

I feel that I've already posted a lot about how I arrived at the conclusion that the root of Christianity is Gnosticism. You must have discovered in your research, too, that this is in no way just a pet view of mine and that I'm in good company and there's a lot of stuff out there about it.

Perhaps I should give, once again, the brief summary of how the present day Gnostics see it and you can pick that apart if you like .. so here goes, with my bolding:

“Gnosis” and “Gnosticism” are still rather arcane terms, though in the last two decades they have been increasingly encountered in the vocabulary of contemporary society. The word Gnosis derives from Greek and connotes "knowledge" or the "act of knowing". On first hearing, it is sometimes confused with another more common term of the same root but opposite sense: agnostic, literally "not knowing”. The Greek language differentiates between rational, propositional knowledge, and a distinct form of knowing obtained by experience or perception. It is this latter knowledge gained from interior comprehension and personal experience that constitutes gnosis.1

In the first century of the Christian era the term “Gnostic” came to denote a heterodox segment of the diverse new Christian community. Among early followers of Christ it appears there were groups who delineated themselves from the greater household of the Church by claiming not simply a belief in Christ and his message, but a "special witness" or revelatory experience of the divine. It was this experience or gnosis that set the true follower of Christ apart, so they asserted. Stephan Hoeller explains that these Christians held a "conviction that direct, personal and absolute knowledge of the authentic truths of existence is accessible to human beings, and, moreover, that the attainment of such knowledge must always constitute the supreme achievement of human life."2


What the "authentic truths of existence" affirmed by the Gnostics were will be briefly reviewed below, but first a historical overview of the early Church might be useful. In the initial century and a half of Christianity -- the period when we find first mention of "Gnostic" Christians -- no single acceptable format of Christian thought had yet been defined. During this formative period Gnosticism was one of many currents moving within the deep waters of the new religion. The ultimate course Christianity, and Western culture with it, would take was undecided at this early moment. Gnosticism was one of the seminal influences shaping that destiny.

That Gnosticism was, at least briefly, in the mainstream of Christianity is witnessed by the fact that one of its most influential teachers, Valentinus, may have been in consideration during the mid-second century for election as the Bishop of Rome.3 Born in Alexandria around 100 C.E., Valentinus distinguished himself at an early age as an extraordinary teacher and leader in the highly educated and diverse Alexandrian Christian community.

In mid-life he migrated from Alexandria to the Church's evolving capital, Rome, where he played an active role in the public affairs of the Church. A prime characteristic of Gnostics was their claim to be keepers of sacred traditions, gospels, rituals, and successions – esoteric matters for which many Christians were either not properly prepared or simply not inclined. Valentinus, true to this Gnostic predilection, apparently professed to have received a special apostolic sanction through Theudas, a disciple and initiate of the Apostle Paul, and to be a custodian of doctrines and rituals neglected by what would become Christian orthodoxy.4 Though an influential member of the Roman church in the mid-second century, by the end of his life Valentinus had been forced from the public eye and branded a heretic by the developing orthodoxy Church.

While the historical and theological details are far too complex for proper explication here, the tide of history can be said to have turned against Gnosticism in the middle of the second century. No Gnostic after Valentinus would ever come so near prominence in the greater Church. Gnosticism's emphasis on personal experience, its continuing revelations and production of new scripture, its asceticism and paradoxically contrasting libertine postures, were all met with increasing suspicion. By 180 C.E. Irenaeus, bishop of Lyon, was publishing his first attacks on Gnosticism as heresy, a labor that would be continued with increasing vehemence by the church Fathers throughout the next century.

Orthodoxy Christianity was deeply and profoundly influenced by its struggles with Gnosticism in the second and third centuries. Formulations of many central traditions in Christian theology came as reflections and shadows of this confrontation with the Gnosis.5 But by the end of the fourth century the struggle was essentially over: the evolving ecclesia had added the force of political correctness to dogmatic denunciation, and with this sword so-called "heresy" was painfully cut from the Christian body. Gnosticism as a Christian tradition was largely eradicated, its remaining teachers ostracized, and its sacred books destroyed. All that remained for students seeking to understand Gnosticism in later centuries were the denunciations and fragments preserved in the patristic heresiologies. Or at least so it seemed until the mid-twentieth century.

It was on a December day in the year of 1945, near the town of Nag Hammadi in Upper Egypt, that the course of Gnostic studies was radically renewed and forever changed. An Arab peasant, digging around a boulder in search of fertilizer for his fields, happened upon an old, rather large red earthenware jar. Hoping to have found a buried treasure, and with due hesitation and apprehension about the jinn who might attend such a hoard, he smashed the jar open. Inside he discovered no treasure and no genie, but instead books: more than a dozen old codices bound in golden brown leather.6 Little did he realize that he had found an extraordinary collection of ancient texts, manuscripts hidden a millennium and a half before -- probably by monks from the nearby monastery of St. Pachomius seeking to preserve them from a destruction ordered by the church as part of its violent expunging of heterodoxy and heresy.

How the Nag Hammadi manuscripts eventually passed into scholarly hands is a fascinating story too lengthy to relate here. But today, now over fifty years since being unearthed and more than two decades after final translation and publication in English as The Nag Hammadi Library, 7 their importance has become astoundingly clear: These thirteen papyrus codices containing fifty-two sacred texts are representatives of the long lost "Gnostic Gospels", a last extant testament of what orthodox Christianity perceived to be its most dangerous and insidious challenge, the feared opponent that the Church Fathers had reviled under many different names, but most commonly as Gnosticism. The discovery of the Nag Hammadi texts has fundamentally revised our understanding of both Gnosticism and the early Christian church.
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Postby Forum Monk » Mon Jul 21, 2008 3:57 pm

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Postby john » Mon Jul 21, 2008 6:42 pm

"Man is a marvellous curiosity. When he is at his very, very best he is sort of a low-grade nickel-plated angel; at his worst he is unspeakable, unimaginable; and first and last and all the time he is a sarcasm."

Mark Twain
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Postby Forum Monk » Mon Jul 21, 2008 7:42 pm

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Postby rich » Mon Jul 21, 2008 8:16 pm

i'm not lookin' for who or what made the earth - just who got me dizzy by makin it spin
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Postby Ishtar » Mon Jul 21, 2008 10:43 pm

Ishtar of and the .
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Postby rich » Mon Jul 21, 2008 11:04 pm

i'm not lookin' for who or what made the earth - just who got me dizzy by makin it spin
rich
 
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Postby Ishtar » Mon Jul 21, 2008 11:09 pm

Ishtar of and the .
Ishtar
 
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Postby rich » Mon Jul 21, 2008 11:13 pm

i'm not lookin' for who or what made the earth - just who got me dizzy by makin it spin
rich
 
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Postby Ishtar » Mon Jul 21, 2008 11:18 pm

Ishtar of and the .
Ishtar
 
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Postby rich » Mon Jul 21, 2008 11:28 pm

i'm not lookin' for who or what made the earth - just who got me dizzy by makin it spin
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