Anointed with the Oil of Knowledge

09 Aug

“And about your laughing at me and calling me Christian you know not what you are saying. First, because that which is anointed is sweet and serviceable, and far from contemptible. For what ship can be serviceable and seaworthy, unless it be first called [anointed]? Or what castle or house is beautiful and serviceable when it has not been anointed? And what man, when he enters into this life or into the gymnasium, is not anointed with oil? And what work has either ornament or beauty unless it be anointed and burnished? Then the air and all that is under heaven is in a certain sort anointed by light and spirit; and are you unwilling to be anointed with the oil of God? Wherefore we are called Christians on this account, because we are anointed with the oil of God”
– Theophilus of Antioch, “To Autolycus” 1.12 (2nd century)

Here Theophilus, writing in the 2nd century, says that being a Christian has nothing to do with Jesus, but has to do with “being anointed with the oil of god”. The Holy Spirit is mentioned, but “speaks through Moses and the rest of the prophets, so that the writings which belong to us godly people are more ancient, yea, and are shown to be more truthful, than all writers and poets.” This means Theophilus traces his religion to Moses and other Hebrew prophets, but not Jesus.

He also explicitly claims that his scriptures are more ancient than all the pagan writers and poets. By this Theophilus means the Hebrew Scriptures. But it also equally rules out any Christian scriptures, gospels or epistles. According to Theophilus, in chapter 11 “Of Repentance” he teaches that salvation is by following the law. It has nothing to do with faith in Jesus, his blood, or the crucifixion. Most importantly, in chapter 13, on the resurrection, Theophilus uses Hercules and Aesculapius as proof of the resurrection of the dead, but not Jesus! I can’t think of a reasonable explanation of this except he had never heard of it.

This shows one of the many varieties of “Christianities” that were around in ante-Nicea Christianity. If that’s the case, then I can call myself a “Christian Gnostic” because I [want to be] anointed with the “oil of knowledge” without having to latch onto any of the other dogmas of “orthodox” Christianity.

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Posted by on August 9, 2009 in early Christianity, gnosticism


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