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

Ishtar - my interpretation is, you have created this thread as a result of previous discussion on gnosticism vs. christianity. It appeared you were arguing that christianity was basically an off-shoot or developed out of, gnosticism. I assume this is correct.

So I guess the prupose of this thread to allow the concentration of the discussion without interfering with other discussion on the Syrio-Palestinian archaeology thread. Now please understand, I am playing this very carefully because I'm not sure what you want or where this is leading. So - I am thinking you are saying Philo was a gnostic, hence the opening post about Philo.

At the outset, I am not convinced Philo was gnostic. For sure, a philosopher, and my interpretation, a philosopher who sought to blend predominant greek thought with his jewish background. But I don't think his thoughts created a religion or established doctrines, or rituals or a governing hierarchy. He was merely trying to explain his ideas on how and why things are the way they are.

So obviously, hebrew religious practice and philosophy preceded him and as he realized the tenets of hebrew philosophy were sufficiently distinct from the greek stoics and platonians, it was necssary for him to invent allegorical interpretation to create the merger.

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

Forum Monk wrote:
One more thing, goddess were not human were they?
How do you think women were treated in the ancient middle east - with devine reverence? They weren't worshipped any more than the men were. Of course I am not talking about nobles, just the day to day people.


Oh dear, Monk. Did you not read what I said in my previous post?

Do you really think that I think that women in the Middle East were worshipped as goddesses! ?

You really are insulting my intelligence today ... I don't know why.

In my previous post, I said that people took their cue on how to behave from their religion - if not now, certainly more so then. So when people stopped honouring the feminine divine, it had a direct knock on effect on their behaviour.

Jesus, Monk - get a grip!

This discussion is more properly part of the Philo one in the Mythologies section as the central plank of his Jewish Gnostic teachng was that of Sophia as the feminine aspect of the Logos (First Cause or God).

So let's continue in there and leave these gentlemen to their historical discussion.
_________________
Ishtar
I read what you wrote:
Two thousand years old, Monk, in the Middle East.

There, the honouring of the divine feminine was ended by Literalist Christianity. Until then, at the top of every pantheon from Egypt to Akkad, and Sumeria to Babylon and Canaan, was a supreme goddess who was married to her male supreme god counterpart.

They were strong, mighty goddesses who were equal in power to their male partners but complementary in attributes, like Yin and Yang.
It is above in black and white. You said in the middle east they were honoring the divine female form until the christians forbade the practice 2000 years ago. Perhaps you failed to read what I said, as I was not talking about goddesses (i.e. divine females). I was talking about run of the mill, day-to-day men and women and saying those women had no more honor than they do today. The treatment of women was about the same before the advent of christianity, inspite of their female gods. Its a major stretch therefore to conclude the present patriarchy is a result of oppression by the abrahamic religions.


A good site to learn about women in history is here.

While she speaks of some of the repressive nature of Islamists, she links many discussions of the lives of women in prehistory. They were not revered.

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Post by Ishtar » Mon Jul 21, 2008 10:41 am

Hello FM,

I haven't been ignoring your posts. I've just been away for a few blissful days with my grand daughter. So now I'm all mellowed out for a while, you'll be pleased to know!

But we do seem to have got ourselves into a bit of a muddle, haven't we? I mainly opened up this thread because we were getting deep into Gnosticism and the philosophy of Philo in the SR thread, which was not really what that thread was intended for. Then you suggested that we carry on our discussion about whether Gnosticism was the root of Christianity in this thread. Then I confirmed it in a post to Grumpage that that was what I wanted to do too.

But maybe I should have announced it in big letters with cherubs and seraphims and trumpets or something! :lol:

So YES - THE PURPOSE OF THIS THREAD IS TO DISCUSS WHETHER GNOSTICISM IS THE ROOT OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION. TARRAAAAAH!

:lol:

I also suggest we shelve the argument about the women for another time.

The only thing I ask, though, is that you refrain from accusing me of making up Bible verses. Getting them wrong, yes - that's no problem. Wrongly interpreting them, yes - that's fine too. Making them up .... just not acceptable I'm afraid. Hope that's all OK with you!

:lol:

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Post by Forum Monk » Mon Jul 21, 2008 1:36 pm

Ishtar wrote:So now I'm all mellowed out for a while, you'll be pleased to know!
I like mellow.
So YES - THE PURPOSE OF THIS THREAD IS TO DISCUSS WHETHER GNOSTICISM IS THE ROOT OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION. TARRAAAAAH!
Gotcha.
I also suggest we shelve the argument about the women for another time.
No problem.
The only thing I ask, though, is that you refrain from accusing me of making up Bible verses. Getting them wrong, yes - that's no problem. Wrongly interpreting them, yes - that's fine too. Making them up .... just not acceptable I'm afraid. Hope that's all OK with you!
Ok.
Yep - the weekend really seems to have done you good. I need a weekend like that.

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Post by 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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Post by Forum Monk » Mon Jul 21, 2008 3:57 pm


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Post by john » Mon Jul 21, 2008 6:42 pm

Ishtar wrote: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.
All -

OK.

Might as well roll the bomb across the table...........

The Gnostic was/is the viable translation of the Shamanic,

Or the Bicameral, take your choice.

Which was then slaughtered by

The special interests of politics, power, and

Modren religion

(which has nothing to do with either belief or continuity),

But only profit.

Think, weirdly enough, Dickens, think Fagen.


hoka hey


john

ps

http://thezenfrog.wordpress.com/2007/07 ... n-duality/

http://www.crosscurrents.org/arnoldwinter2002.htm

Now, even with Zen or the Shamanic,

We are talking a translation superimposed

Upon a translation.

The Gnostic texts seem to fit this transformation.......


j
"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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Post by Forum Monk » Mon Jul 21, 2008 7:42 pm

... YES - THE PURPOSE OF THIS THREAD IS TO DISCUSS WHETHER GNOSTICISM IS THE ROOT OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION.


Ok. I want to keep the purpose in mind.

You have given a nice summary of the history and I would like to expand it a little and give a summary of the beliefs. These are all important in understanding who the gnostics were/are with respect to the christians.

Perhaps, John, you can see the culmination of the Bicameral mind in this.
  • The gnostics believe the supreme god is unknowable and not particularly interested in human affairs. Most interaction with humans has been through a series of "lesser" gods such as Sophia (wisdom) the female virgin who either created or gave birth to the Demiurge.

    The Demiurge is the god of the hebrew old testament, according to gnostic belief. He is an emotional, vindictive god who created the heavens and earth and all physical things. He is basically evil and all that he created is evil as he is full of pride and jealousy.

    Human beings were created in a physical shell which is inherently hostile and evil, but enclosed within the evil body exists a potentially divine spirit or light placed there by Sophia.

    The aim of humans is to gain sufficient secret knowledge so as to release the inner spirit from the prison of the body at death. The released spirit could then dwell with the supreme god mentioned in the first point above. This is, in effect, gnostic "salvation"; release from the carnal by obtaining knowledge (gnosis).

    In some teachings the snake is viewed as the liberator who, by convincing Eve to partake of the fruit of knowledge of good and evil. In this view, the snake in the garden started man on his journey toward liberation.

    As far as the gnostic teachings about Christ, things get uncertain. Generally it could be said, they believed Christ was a sort of emissary from the supreme god whose mission was to reveal secret knowledge. It is disputed (among various gnostic believers) whether or not Christ actually physically existed, that is, in a physical body like normal humans though he/she was visible to humans.
I think that pretty much summarises the basic beliefs.

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Post by rich » Mon Jul 21, 2008 8:16 pm

One small question - what good does liberation do after death?
i'm not lookin' for who or what made the earth - just who got me dizzy by makin it spin

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Post by Ishtar » Mon Jul 21, 2008 10:43 pm

Thanks FM. I'll go through all that in more detail later.

John, you can have your bomb back, thank you very much!

:lol:

This subject that we've decided to discuss is massive and complex as it is. It will take us a lot to get through it. By introducing what will be a new idea to everyone else - that it was a latter day continuation of the shamanic or bicameral - will only confuse the issue, and so I think we should leave it for another day.

Let's do one topic one thread please.

:lol:

Once again, I'll restate it: That Gnosticism was at the root of Christianity.

Rich: There is no such thing as death. That's why liberation is worth having.

:D

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Post by rich » Mon Jul 21, 2008 11:04 pm

Ishtar wrote:
Rich: There is no such thing as death. That's why liberation is worth having.
Then if there is no such thing as death - why do we need liberation? And if you are pointing at reincarnation - then once you are reborn - wouldn't the cycle start again which would then re-require liberation?
Wouldn't the gnostics say as long as you have a physical body you are in need of liberation?
i'm not lookin' for who or what made the earth - just who got me dizzy by makin it spin

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Post by Ishtar » Mon Jul 21, 2008 11:09 pm

rich wrote:Ishtar wrote:
Rich: There is no such thing as death. That's why liberation is worth having.
Then if there is no such thing as death - why do we need liberation? And if you are pointing at reincarnation - then once you are reborn - wouldn't the cycle start again which would then re-require liberation?
Wouldn't the gnostics say as long as you have a physical body you are in need of liberation?
Rich, if this is really bothering you, why not start your own thread on it?

This one is about whether Gnosticism is at the heart of Christianity. Different subject you see.

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Post by rich » Mon Jul 21, 2008 11:13 pm

Not so sure it is a different subject. I think the Gnostics were a different culture - that's the point I was trying to make. If I recall right they were against the supposed original teachings - and they couldn't be part of its start if they were against 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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Post by Ishtar » Mon Jul 21, 2008 11:18 pm

OK, but that's another point to the one you were making, which would have turned this into a theology discussion.

So do you have any evidence for your new point?

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Post by rich » Mon Jul 21, 2008 11:28 pm

I'd have to look it up - I remember something I was reading a while back on it but I'd have to find the book in tghe mess I have - maybe I can find it on the web. Be a while doing it. I could be wrong, but I think that was what I remembered reading though that the human body was corrupt and the only real salvation was in dying. Think it had something to do with the god of this world was evil and such. If I remember too, it seems it was also mentioned with Zoroastrianism too. I'll see if I can find the book.
Really not trying to sidetrack the thread tho.
i'm not lookin' for who or what made the earth - just who got me dizzy by makin it spin

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