More on Paul and Gnosticism

28 Aug

So I remember taking a class that had us read Plato’s “Symposium”. Basically the story (with Socrates as Plato’s sockpuppet) about how “love” came to be. Well, an interesting side note is that in ancient Greek society, they practiced a sort of pederasty. 25 – 50 year old men would get a “lover” in the form of a 14 – 25 year old kid. This was the “lover-beloved” paradigm in ancient Greece. Throughout the text, there were references to what was basically “cute boys”.


How can such a classic novel have such language?!? That’s what earlier translators thought of the book. So in earlier translations of this book, instead of them translating the Greek as “beautiful boys” they translated it as “noble boys”. Just so that the general public wouldn’t know about Greek pederasty. This brings me to a little note about Paul and Gnosticism.

In my earlier post, I mentioned how Christian Gnostics traced their lineage of thought back to Paul. Well, it turns out that in one of Paul’s letters, he describes himself as “έκτρωμα” (ektrwma) literally “abortion” (1 Corinthians 8). That specific word had a special meaning for Gnostics:

Now “the abortion” is a technical and oft-repeated term of one of the great systems of the Gnosis, a term which enters into the main fabric of the Sophia-mythus.

In the mystic cosmogony of these Gnostic circles, “the abortion” was the crude matter cast out of the Pleroma or world of perfection. This crude and chaotic matter was in the. cosmogonical process shaped into a perfect “aeon” by the World-Christ; that is to say, was made into a world-system by the ordering or cosmic power of the Logos. “The abortion” was the unshaped and unordered chaotic matter which had to be separated out, ordered and perfected, in the macrocosmic task of the “enformation according to substance,” while this again was to be completed on the soteriological side by the microcosmic process of the “enformation according to gnosis” or spiritual consciousness. As the world-soul was perfected by the World-Christ, so was the individual soul to be perfected and redeemed by the individual Christ.

Paul thus becomes comprehensible; he here speaks the language of the Gnosis, and in this instance at least it is possible to draw the deduction that the Gnosis in this connection could not, in his opinion, have been “falsely so called.” Paul is speaking to communities who are familiar with such language “He appeared to me just as it were to that well-known imperfect plasm

This is another problem with politics and the Bible – we’re also subject to the political biases of those who translate the Bible for us:

The solution to erasing [anti-semitic] hatred is for bible societies and religious publishers to produce two editions, one for the public, similar to the Contemporary English Version which reduces significantly this anti-Judaic potential, and the other edition for scholars taken from
the Greek text… [t]he stakes are high. People have been murdered because of these words
-H. C. Kee and L. Botowsky (1998 pp 18, 20)

Comments Off on More on Paul and Gnosticism

Posted by on August 28, 2008 in gnosticism, greek, paul


Comments are closed.

NeuroLogica Blog

My ὑπομνήματα about religion

Slate Star Codex


The Wandering Scientist

What a lovely world it is

NT Blog

My ὑπομνήματα about religion


Understand your mind with the science of psychology -


Musings on biblical studies, politics, religion, ethics, human nature, tidbits from science

Maximum Entropy

My ὑπομνήματα about religion

My ὑπομνήματα about religion

My ὑπομνήματα about religion

Skepticism, Properly Applied

Criticism is not uncivil

Download PDF

My ὑπομνήματα about religion

Research Digest

My ὑπομνήματα about religion

Disrupting Dinner Parties

Feminism is for everyone!

My ὑπομνήματα about religion

The New Oxonian

Religion and Culture for the Intellectually Impatient

The Musings of Thomas Verenna

A Biblioblog about imitation, the Biblical Narratives, and the figure of Jesus

The Syncretic Soubrette

Snarky musings from an everyday woman

%d bloggers like this: