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 Ishtar » Mon Jul 21, 2008 11:50 pm

What you're describing is at the heart of every religion - that the human body is corrupt and the only salvation is in dying. So all you've got to do is pick up a Bible and look up Original Sin and Heaven.

The mystics believe in something different though - that 'salvation' or 'heaven' or 'liberation' (there are a hundred different names for it) is achievable while still in human life.
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Postby rich » Tue Jul 22, 2008 12:03 am

Yup. I remember reading something about Zoroastiansim with it too tho, maybe the idea for it came from that or something, but I also remember reading about the more fanatical ones believing something about that you had to die in order to achieve it. It's been a few years since I read the book, and they probably have updated ideas on it today, but now it's gonna bug me where the book is.
In either case, sorry if I sideswiped your track. Didn't mean to. Only meant from what I gathered they were in opposition to the normal Christian concepts and I couldn't see how they would be involved in helping to start it. Maybe in helping to redefine it.
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 » Tue Jul 22, 2008 1:17 am

FM - I love your South Park clip ....but

I find your summary on Gnostic beliefs to be too much of a generalisation - for the simple reason that they were many different kinds of Gnostics who believed different things, or at least variations on a theme. There wasn't actually a religion that called themselves 'the Gnostics', and I think we should be clear about that.

The title Gnostic is a way of describing a whole bunch of different-but-similar mystical sects that were spread all over the Middle East and Mediterranean area during the thousand year period straddling the 1 CE date, whatever that represents. And because the word ‘gnosis’ encompasses subjective as well as objective knowledge, everyone had their own local variation of it.

Phil writes of being part of an international fellowship of philosophers, who, "although comparitively few in number, keep the covered spark of wisdom secretly throughout the cities of the world":

So perhaps I can give this overview of them:

Pythagorus (580 to 490 BC) stands at the head of this tradition and it was his disciple, Parmenides, who brought the philosophy to Athens in the mid fifth century BC, which had a profound effect on Socrates.

But this eventually spawned different groups across diverse regions in the Middle East and the Mediterranean, who all had different experiences of life, thus all producing their own unique variations on a perennial philosophy:

They were made up of:

The Therapeutae - Jewish Gnostics who regarded themselves not to be rooted in any country but cosmopolitans. Philo of Alexandria (b. 20 BCE) is considered to have been one of these. They practised something called The Way. The fourth century Literalist Eusebius saw so many similarities between the Therapeutic Way and the Christian Way that he claimed in his History that they must have been among the first followers of Christ.

The Essenes – a 2nd century BCE Jewish Gnostic group who lived near Qumran and close to the wilderness where John the Baptist was said to have preached. Also Pythagorus-inspired and followers of The Way, and reputed to be the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Their existence is recorded by a whole host of writers including Josephus, who in both his The Jewish War and Antiquities of the Jews, refers to them as the Essenoi who are a Jewish philosophy group.

The Simonians – early 1st century Samaritan followers of Simon Magus with a philosophy based on an allegorical view of the Book of Moses. Justin Martyr says of Simon in Chapter 26 of his First Apology, “...and almost all the Samaritans, and a few even of other nations, worship him, and acknowledge him as their first god.” Simon may also have been a mythological figure – he is said to have called himself ‘the Christ’, to have ‘suffered in Judaea’ and to have travelled around with a redeemed harlot. One Simonian, Basildes, taught the crucifixion, but instead of Jesus, it is Simon the Cyrene who is crucified. (One has to wonder if Matthew, Mark and Luke let Simon the Cyrene carry the cross for Jesus as a sop to the Simonians. Interestingly, John doesn't mention him ... although, with his talk of the Logos being the First Cause, and the Arche, I find John the most Gnostic of all the gospels.)

The Paulists – The Paulists ran the seven churches of Asia Minor and Greece, with their mother church at Corinth. (Stoyanoth, Y, 2000). Paul’s teachings were the primary inspiration for two of the most influential Christian Gnostic schools – the schools of Marcion and Valentinus. Marcionites followed the allegorical ‘Jesus Chrestus’ (Jesus the Good) and sometimes called themselves ‘Chrestians’.

The Valentinians – their leader was Valentinus (b. 100 CE) who said he received his secret teachings and initiation from the master Theudas, who in turn, received his from Paul. The school was divided in two – the Italic school founded by Ptolemy and Heracleon, and the Oriental school founded by Theodotus and Marcus (Layton, B. 1987). These schools lasted until the 5th century, when the Roman one was forcibly closed down the Roman Catholic Church.

The Ebionites – the most traditional of the Gnostics who wanted to keep the philosophy for Jews only, saying that if Gentiles wanted to join, they would have become circumcised too. Paul attacks them over this, and Ebionite letters (attributed to Clement of Rome) retaliate that Paul has become inspired by Satan. (see Ephinanius, The Ascension of James). In the 2nd century CE, when the Christian Literalist Melito of Sardis went to Jerusalem in the hope of finding the original Christians, he said he found only Ebionite Gnostics whose ‘ heretical’ scriptures were the Gospel of the Ebionites, the Gospel of the Hebrews, the Gospel of the Twelve Apostles and the Gospel of the Nazarenes which brings us on to:

The Nassenes/Nazerenes – from which many believe that Jesus got the title of Jesus of Nazareth, or Jesus the Nazerene, as Nazareth as a place did not exist in the early first century. The Nassenes taught that there was one spiritual system underlying the mythology of all religions. Their initiates were initiated into the mysteries of the Great Mother and they regarded Jesus to be the same mythical figure as all the other dying and resurrecting mythological godmen – Osiris (Egypt), Attis (Phrygia), Adonis, Pan and Bacchus (Greece) and so on.

There were others as well ... but this is just to give you a flavour of the different schools and various but similar teachings that all come under the heading of Gnostic.

So that’s why I find your summary difficult to deal with, as when describing what we think the Gnostic beliefs were, we will need to be more specific about which school, and when and where they existed.

But maybe a better approach is this:

If there is an attested Gnostic group (or groups) that followed pretty much the same philosophy as modern Literal Christianity (although in an allegorical way) and that existed before the earliest attestation of Literal Christianity, then that means it's a pretty fair bet that the story of Jesus (written in Greek Coptic) was just another variation on it and thus that modern day Christianity probably sprang from it. It would also lead to the conclusion there was either no historical Jesus Christ, or certainly no historical Jesus Christ born on the date 1 CE, which is why we can find no trace of him.

You may call that post-hoc reasoning. I would call it logic - something else we got from the Greeks! :lol:
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Postby Ishtar » Tue Jul 22, 2008 2:48 am

As this thread is named after him, and also because studying Philo is probably the only way we'll get access to what the Therapeutae (one of the oldest gnostic sects) believed, I think we should also give an overview of Philo's teachings, with my bolding:

Here are some relevant bits from his Wiki entry:

Philo (20 BCE - 50 CE), known also as Philo of Alexandria (gr. Φίλων ὁ Ἀλεξανδρεύς), Philo Judaeus, Philo Judaeus of Alexandria, Yedidia, and Philo the Jew was a Hellenistic Jewish philosopher born in Alexandria, Egypt.

Philo used allegory to fuse and harmonize Greek philosophy and Judaism. His method followed the practices of both Jewish exegesis and Stoic philosophy. His work was not widely accepted. "The sophists of literalness," as he calls them[1], "opened their eyes superciliously" when he explained to them the marvels of his exegesis.

Philo's works were enthusiastically received by the early Christians, some of whom saw in him a cryptic Christian. His concept of the Logos as God's creative principle apparently influenced early Christology. To him Logos was God's "blueprint for the world", a governing plan.[dubious – discuss]

Arguments have been put forth that Philo is actually the founder of Christianity by virtue of his combination of Jewish theological ideas and those present in the Greek mystery religions, a combination of which would appear much like Christianity. Whatever the followers of Jesus were like before Philo's writings became well known, it's possible they seized upon his precepts and incorporated them into the essays that became the New Testament. Bruno Bauer was a key proponent of this argument.


Philo quotes the epic poets with frequency, or alludes to passages in their works. He has a wide acquaintance with the works of the Greek philosophers. He holds that the highest perception of truth is possible only after an encyclopedic study of the sciences. The dualistic contrast between God and the world, between the finite and the infinite, appears in both Platonism and in Neo-Pythagorism. The influence of Stoicism is unmistakable in the doctrine of God as the only efficient cause, in that of divine reason immanent in the world, in that of the powers emanating from God and suffusing the world. In the doctrine of the Logos, various elements of Greek philosophy are united.

As Heinze shows ("Die Lehre vom Logos in der Griechischen Philosophie," 1872, pp. 204ff), this doctrine touches upon the Platonic doctrine of ideas as well as the Stoic doctrine of the γενικώτατόν τι and the Neo-Pythagorean doctrine of the type that served at the creation of the world; and in the shaping of the λόγος τομεύς it touches upon the Heraclitean doctrine of strife as the moving principle. Philo's doctrine of dead, inert, non-existent matter harmonizes in its essentials with the Platonic and Stoic doctrine.

His account of the Creation is almost identical with that of Plato; he follows the latter's Timaeus closely in his exposition of the world as having no beginning and no end. Like Plato, he places the creative activity as well as the act of creation outside of time, on the Platonic ground that time begins only with the world. The influence of Pythagorism appears in number-symbolism, to which Philo frequently refers.

The Aristotelian contrast between δύναμις and ἐντελέχεια (Metaphysics, iii.73) is found in Philo, De Allegoriis Legum, i.64 (on Aristotle see Freudenthal in "Monatsschrift," 1875, p. 233). In his psychology he adopts either the Stoic division of the soul into eight faculties, or the Platonic trichotomy of reason, courage, and desire, or the Aristotelian triad of the vegetative, emotive, and rational souls.

The doctrine of the body as the source of all evil corresponds entirely with the Neo-Pythagorean doctrine: the soul he conceives as a divine emanation, similar to Plato's νοῦς (see Siegfried, Philo, pp. 139ff). His ethics and allegories are based on Stoic ethics and allegories.

Philo made his philosophy the means of defending and justifying Jewish religious truths. These truths he regarded as fixed and determinate; and philosophy was used as an aid to truth, and as a means of arriving at it. With this end in view Philo chose from the philosophical tenets of the Greeks, refusing those that did not harmonize with the Jewish religion, as, e.g., the Aristotelian doctrine of the eternity and indestructibility of the world.
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Postby kbs2244 » Tue Jul 22, 2008 10:32 am

Let me throw this in from the sidelines.
First anyone who has read Isaiah’s visions, the book of Daniel, or of Revelation knows the Bible is full of symbolism and thus allegory.

But I do think a definition of “Christianity” is needed as far as the Gnostic relationship is concerned.

If you define “Christianity” as the current “mainstream” originations with a history of political support and influence, and of adapting to local customs as a way to gain “converts” than Ish is on the right track.

Early Christianity was chaotic. That was the reason for Paul’s third trip. To straighten out some of the wayward thoughts that had been introduced with the increase of members.

But with the death of John, those “Defenders of the Faith” were gone.
And local “adaptation” became common.

The classic example was the decree by Constantine, a pagan, that the Trinity should be Church doctrine.
This after months of argument by the Bishops.
Not by any definition was it a religious decision.
The current Catholic acceptance of the “Day of the Dead” in Mexico, and of various Voodoo ceremonies in Haiti and Cuba are another.

But if by “Christianity” you mean those that stuck to the teaching of Christ, as recorded, (“Primitive Christians” if you will) then I have to disagree.

Christ was not a Gnostic.
He did, on occasion, speak in symbolic terms, (“Throw down this temple and I will rebuild it in 3 days”).
But most of his time was spent trying to explain the “mysteries” of the Scriptures to an population that had been told they were “to deep” for them to understand.
The very opposite of Gnosticism.

If this leads you to say the Temple organization of Jesus’ day was Gnostic, I would have to concede the point.
The various Synagogues with Zodiac symbols in them show there was some “adapting” by them as well.

But Jesus did not get along with them very well.
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Postby seeker » Tue Jul 22, 2008 11:08 am

kb - Just a small criticism here. Christ is definitely the embodiment of Gnostic concepts. His temptation is a demonstration of the demiurge, his various doctrinal pronouncements were demonstrations of esoteric spiritual knowledge, his exorcisms representative of the power of good over evil...it goes on and on. While John is the most obviously Gnostic gospel all of the synoptic gospels present a man who embodies gnostic concepts.

I think the question Ishtar is really raising here is whether these Gnostic ideals preceded the story or the story created the ideals. The fact that the Gospel story parallels and is preceded by so many other stories of gods who fit the same gnostic tenets argues that perhaps Christ was an invention.
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Postby Ishtar » Tue Jul 22, 2008 11:21 am

I'm right with you KB, but only up to here, and this where we differ:

kbs2244 wrote:But if by “Christianity” you mean those that stuck to the teaching of Christ, as recorded, (“Primitive Christians” if you will) then I have to disagree.


Who are these "Primitive Christians" KB, and what date, and how, are you attesting them?

Christ was not a Gnostic.
He did, on occasion, speak in symbolic terms, (“Throw down this temple and I will rebuild it in 3 days”).
But most of his time was spent trying to explain the “mysteries” of the Scriptures to an population that had been told they were “to deep” for them to understand.
The very opposite of Gnosticism.


You’re right. That is the very opposite of Gnosticism, but it is not what the character Jesus is presented as doing.

What do you think parables are if they are not allegories?

In Mark 4: 10-12 it says:

"And when he(Jesus) was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable.

"And he said unto them, 'Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables:

"'That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.'"

Also in Mark 4: 34 it says:

"...but without a parable spoke he not to them; and in private he explained all things to his disciples."

In the Gospel of Thomas, it says:

"Jesus said, 'It is to those who are worthy of my Mysteries that I tell my Mysteries."

Paul says in his letter to Corinthians (1) 2:14

“But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

I rest my case.
:)
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Postby Forum Monk » Tue Jul 22, 2008 5:32 pm

seeker wrote:kb - Just a small criticism here. Christ is definitely the embodiment of Gnostic concepts. His temptation is a demonstration of the demiurge, his various doctrinal pronouncements were demonstrations of esoteric spiritual knowledge, his exorcisms representative of the power of good over evil...it goes on and on. While John is the most obviously Gnostic gospel all of the synoptic gospels present a man who embodies gnostic concepts.


Who are you talking about seeker? The man Jesus called the Christ, the gnostic spiritual christ who never existed in the flesh? The gnostic christ who dwelt in the body of the man Jesus? There is a lot uncertainty in general about who or what Christ is in the context of gnosticism and each sect held to its own ideas. Really what you are expressing is a belief based on faith unless you acknowledge the actual existence of christ. Of course christians (the literalists as Ish calls them) have a completely different belief system about who Christ is, his mission, and the reality of his physical existence. So at this point all you are arguing for is one belief system as opposed to another with no proof either way outside the ideas of certain ancient philosophers.
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Postby Forum Monk » Tue Jul 22, 2008 5:39 pm

Ishtar wrote:I find your summary on Gnostic beliefs to be too much of a generalisation - for the simple reason that they were many different kinds of Gnostics who believed different things, or at least variations on a theme. There wasn't actually a religion that called themselves 'the Gnostics', and I think we should be clear about that.


As your post shows, there are many flavors of gnosticism just as there are many of christianity, so we run the risk of bogging down into all sorts of minutiae if we try to incorporate all of the detailed and variant beliefs. Better to start with broad swipes in my opinion. I think my summary can be considered a fundemental, orthodox view of gnosticism. I acknowledge there are lots of details which I intentionally omitted for the sake of brevity. The interested reader is encouraged to research the many sources themselves.
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Postby Forum Monk » Tue Jul 22, 2008 5:50 pm

The Paulists – The Paulists ran the seven churches of Asia Minor and Greece, with their mother church at Corinth. (Stoyanoth, Y, 2000). Paul’s teachings were the primary inspiration for two of the most influential Christian Gnostic schools – the schools of Marcion and Valentinus. Marcionites followed the allegorical ‘Jesus Chrestus’ (Jesus the Good) and sometimes called themselves ‘Chrestians’.


The so-called Paulists apparently emerged during the lifetime of Paul and KB is probably correct, due to the fact, that other teachings were gaining popularity, Paul set out again on the 3rd missionary journey. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul condemns the Paulists:

1 Cor 1 (source: Biblegateway.com NIV version)
11 My brothers, some from Chloe's household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, "I follow Paul"; another, "I follow Apollos"; another, "I follow Cephas"; still another, "I follow Christ."
13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul? 14 I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so no one can say that you were baptized into my name. 16 (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don't remember if I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

(my bolding)

It is clear from the passage, Paul is seeing an increased importance being placed on "wisdom" versus his message of atonement through the cross of Christ. In Paul's gospel, the way to God is not through wisdom or knowledge, it is through the physical blood of Jesus Christ. This very aptly illustrates one of the insurmountable differences between Christianity and gnosticism.
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Postby Ishtar » Wed Jul 23, 2008 1:00 am

Hello Monk

Your letter from Paul only confirms the fact that the Paulists at Corinth were Gnostics.

That Paul doesn’t like what some of them are doing is neither here nor there for the purposes of this discussion – although I must say, the letter reads just like any designed to keep followers in line, which all leaders of cults, sects and religions often have to do. This usually occurs when the leader has been away for some time, as Paul had, having been in Epheseus for three years.

But this is not a letter against wisdom, and I can’t see why you’re reading that into it. In fact, what it is, in my view, is a classic wisdom teaching and I’ll explain why:

The letter confirms the Gnosticism of Paul in that he refers to Christ in the present tense... even though Paul is supposed to have lived after Jesus’s lifetime. In other words, his Christ is not linked to a historical person now dead, but to the Gnostic concept of Christ, which is the Christ within, or Christ consciousness.

I refer to:

13. Is Christ divided?

This is not just one line taken out of context. It is typical of how Paul regards Christ. Unlike the Gospels, Paul doesn’t teach about Jesus as a historical figure but as a mythological one, who doesn’t exist in any time and space.

Paul never quotes Jesus or portrays him as a recently deceased religious teacher or saviour, or even that he lived at all. There is no mention of Mary and Joseph, no Sermon on the Mount or any of the miracles attributed by the Gospels to Jesus. There is no cleansing of the temple (which, according to Mark and Luke, was the cause of his trial and crucifixion) - in fact, by reading Paul you’d never know there was a trial. There is no agony in Gethsemane, no thieves crucified with Jesus, no Pilate, no Judas, nor any word about the place or time.

In Hebrews 8:4 he writes: “If Jesus had been on earth, he wouldn’t have been a priest.”

and not ...

“When Jesus was on earth, he wasn’t a priest.”

That is because his Jesus Christ is mythical.

In Colossians 1, Paul writes:

"Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints. To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory....

"And ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him."

This is the heart of the Gnostic experience.

Now let’s examine your bolded sentence in detail:

“For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.”

Forum Monk wrote:
It is clear from the passage, Paul is seeing an increased importance being placed on "wisdom" versus his message of atonement through the cross of Christ. In Paul's gospel, the way to God is not through wisdom or knowledge, it is through the physical blood of Jesus Christ. This very aptly illustrates one of the insurmountable differences between Christianity and gnosticism.


I disagree with you. There is no mention of blood or atonement in the whole letter, so I don’t know why you’re reading that into it. And it is ‘words of wisdom’ not ‘wisdom’ itself that Paul is saying is not the way.

The difficulties are only insurmountable if you don’t understand Gnosticism, and this is why it won't be helpful to start from your bald summary, which doesn’t even begin to fathom its depths.

For instance:

1. “For Christ did not send me to baptize.”
The historical Jesus Christ did not send Paul to do anything, as they had never met. So what does he mean by this? Who is this Christ whose lead he is following? Again, it is the inner Christ of the Gnostic.

2. “But to preach the gospel—not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.”
Not with words? But then ...with what, especially as we know he was a prolific letter writer (even if you deduct the Literalist forgeries from the total).

Paul is using very poetic language here, which is a sign that the meaning is occluded or hidden. It is a reference to a teaching that cannot be taught ‘in words of human wisdom lest the cross of Christ’ (the inner Christ) ‘be emptied of its power’. In other words, human words will taint and destroy this truth because it is an experience that is beyond words and therefore cannot be contained nor transmitted in dogma.

That’s why the secret teachings or initiation into wisdom are never taught in words. It is a practical experience – like the one described in Acts 2: 1-4, when the disciples are gathered in an upper room and experience what they call the Holy Spirit descending into them.

And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.
And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.
And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.


You may also remember this same ‘rushing mighty wind’ when God appeared to Elijah.

This is an initiation – a practical experience of the mystic that requires no words .... until afterwards, that is, when they all began gabbling ‘in tongues’!

“And there appeared unto them cloven tongues as like fire”. This tells us that this was the second initiation – the fire or Light initiation – the first one being the water (baptism).

That’s why Paul says he hasn’t come to baptise (even though he clearly states earlier that he has carried out baptisms). He means ‘just to baptise with water.'

He has come to offer a wordless teaching, an initiation, “less the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.”

The cross, or Cross of Light, is symbolic of the second initiation, that of fire. It is the oldest religious symbol that goes back to the Siberian horse sacrifice (horse instead of a lamb) and we can follow it through from there to the Egyptians where it took the form of the ankh. The earliest Christian crosses were more like the Egyptian ankh than the type we know today:

Egyptian ankh

Image

Early Christian cross

Image

I hope this helps clear up some of your "insurmountable difficulties."

My experience is that difficulties are only insurmountable if you want them to be! :)
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Postby Ishtar » Wed Jul 23, 2008 1:33 am

Forum Monk wrote:
Ishtar wrote:I find your summary on Gnostic beliefs to be too much of a generalisation - for the simple reason that they were many different kinds of Gnostics who believed different things, or at least variations on a theme. There wasn't actually a religion that called themselves 'the Gnostics', and I think we should be clear about that.

As your post shows, there are many flavors of gnosticism just as there are many of christianity, so we run the risk of bogging down into all sorts of minutiae if we try to incorporate all of the detailed and variant beliefs.


The beliefs were various but not variant! That's why ...

Forum Monk wrote:Better to start with broad swipes in my opinion.


... is not a good idea, imo, because ...

Forum Monk wrote:I think my summary can be considered a fundemental, orthodox view of gnosticism.


.... there was no such thing as 'orthodox Gnosticism' at that time. And, as is shown in my last post, you can't see Gnosticism in any of the Biblical texts if you don't know what it is, and therefore what to look for, and your summary misses out many vital details.

Secondly, I think you've based your summary on Gnosticism today, which is more homogenous. What is more relevant to us is 'Gnosticism then' ...what we can attest to at that time.

I acknowledge there are lots of details which I intentionally omitted for the sake of brevity. The interested reader is encouraged to research the many sources themselves.


I think your 'interested reader' will be building up quite a good picture of Gnosticism by now from the tons of material I've given you to respond to over the past few weeks to which, so far, you've responded to about 1 per cent. We are now too far into the discussion to redraw the field and move the goalposts into a more comfortable one for you.

In my view, and given the complexities, a more sensible way forward is this, and I repeat from my post of yesterday:

If there is an attested Gnostic group (or groups) that followed pretty much the same philosophy as modern Literal Christianity (although in an allegorical way) and that existed before the earliest attestation of Literal Christianity, then that means it's a pretty fair bet that the story of Jesus (written in Greek Coptic) was just another variation on it and thus that modern day Christianity probably sprang from it.

It would also lead to the conclusion there was either no historical Jesus Christ, or certainly no historical Jesus Christ born on the date 1 CE, which could be why we can find no trace of him.

Unless you have any reasonable objections to that, that is the way I have been and will continue to proceed in.

:)
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Postby Ishtar » Wed Jul 23, 2008 3:27 am

Two Gnostic initiations showing how it is a practical experience of light pouring in from above:

1. The initiation of the 12 disciples in the upper room into the Holy Spirit.

Image


2. The conversion of Paul on the road to Damacus.

"And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven." [Acts 9:3]

Image
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Postby seeker » Wed Jul 23, 2008 6:34 am

Forum Monk wrote:
seeker wrote:kb - Just a small criticism here. Christ is definitely the embodiment of Gnostic concepts. His temptation is a demonstration of the demiurge, his various doctrinal pronouncements were demonstrations of esoteric spiritual knowledge, his exorcisms representative of the power of good over evil...it goes on and on. While John is the most obviously Gnostic gospel all of the synoptic gospels present a man who embodies gnostic concepts.


Who are you talking about seeker? The man Jesus called the Christ, the gnostic spiritual christ who never existed in the flesh? The gnostic christ who dwelt in the body of the man Jesus? There is a lot uncertainty in general about who or what Christ is in the context of gnosticism and each sect held to its own ideas. Really what you are expressing is a belief based on faith unless you acknowledge the actual existence of christ. Of course christians (the literalists as Ish calls them) have a completely different belief system about who Christ is, his mission, and the reality of his physical existence. So at this point all you are arguing for is one belief system as opposed to another with no proof either way outside the ideas of certain ancient philosophers.


I'm talking about Christ as the bible portrays him. Whether there was a 'man called Jesus' is moot as it wasn't necessary to the development of the religion that Christianity is based on. Even the literalist stories have have their basis in Gnostic concepts, as I showed above.

You have claimed that different Gnostic sects held different concepts about Christ. Do you realize that this suggests that the basis of these beliefs was probably not an individual? In fact the entire 'Paul wins the arguements against Jesus disciples' paradigm argues pointedly against the notion that Christ existed in anything other than concept.
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Postby Minimalist » Wed Jul 23, 2008 8:48 am

The various Synagogues with Zodiac symbols in them show there was some “adapting” by them as well.



This whole question of synagogues deserves a little thought.

The whole point of First/Second Temple Judaism was sacrifice at the temple. Sacrifice controlled by the priests. Rabbinic Judaism leads to the synagogue but rabbinic Judaism does not begin until after the temple is destroyed.

Those examples we find of synagogues all seem to have late dates, 4th, 5th centuries, presumably when the Jewish communities recovered from their battering by Hadrian.

References to synagogues in the NT may well be anachronisms. If there was a Jesus and if he lived prior to the destruction of the temple there should have been no synagogues. The priests would not have tolerated the competition.
Something is wrong here. War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption, and the Ice Capades. Something is definitely wrong. This is not good work. If this is the best God can do, I am not impressed.

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