The Gnostics didn't "try to merge into the Christ story" as the story of the dying and resurrecting godman born to a virgin existed among Gnostics in Greece, in Egypt and Sumeria long before 1 - 32 CE which is when Jesus was supposed to have lived.
Unless the gnostic christians pre-dated the supposed time of "jesus."
That's the point I'm tryng to make. The earliest attested Christians-as-we-know-them-today is represented by Iranaeus c 180 CE. We can attest Gnostics earlier than that: [repeated from earlier post].
- 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 Christian 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.
– 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.
– 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 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’.
– 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 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:
– 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.