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Category Archives: gnosticism

Public Glory, Secret Agony

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So I just read a post by April DeConick where she’s ruminating about the progress on her latest book. In it (it’s a very short post), she writes:

I really find in the fabric of that text [John’s Gospel] Gnostic spirituality merging with Jewish scriptures and nascent Christianity. It is not just later Gnostic interpretation imposed on an orthodox gospel. It is there in the soul of the Gospel.

[…]

My next chapter is on Paul… I remember as a young woman really disliking Paul. What I didn’t know then is that what I disliked was not Paul but Luther’s Paul. That is when I discovered Paul the mystic. I read Albert Schweitzer’s book and then Alan Segal’s book, both on Paul the mystic. Suddenly Paul made sense to me. But he wasn’t anyone that contemporary Christians could relate to. What he was saying was way out there. Undomesticated. Wild. He was a visionary who realized union with Christ whom he saw as the manifestation of God. He developed rituals that helped democratize this experience so that all converts could similarly be united.

[…]

Of course as I am thinking about Paul the mystic, I am also wondering about Paul the Gnostic. Have we worked so hard over the centuries to domesticate Paul that we have lost touch with his Gnostic aspects too, like with the Fourth Gospel?

That got me to remembering something I thought about a long time ago, but never had any evidence for, other than in a general sense. Mystery religions in antiquity, (of which Christianity was a part of), had public stories and then private stories. Think about Scientology: They have the public story they sell on the streets with their e-meters and Dianetics books but then they have the private story they tell about Xenu and his nuking of humans in volcanoes millions of years ago. The same dichotomy was happening in antiquity. Richard Carrier gives an example with the cult of Osiris:

In fact, Plutarch attests that Osiris was believed to have died and been returned to life (literally: he uses the words anabiôsis and paliggenesis, which are very specific on this point, see my discussion in The Empty Tomb, pp. 154-55), and that in the public myths he did indeed return to earth in his resurrected body (Plutarch, On Isis and Osiris 19.358b).

Although Plutarch does say that in the private teachings Osiris’ death and resurrection took place in outer space (below the orbit of the moon), after which he ascended back to the heights of heaven in his new body (not “the underworld,” as Ehrman incorrectly claims on p. 228), that is irrelevant to the mythicist’s case (or rather, it supports it, by analogy, since this is exactly what competent mythicists like Doherty say was the case for Jesus: public accounts putting the events on earth, but private “true” accounts placing it all in various levels of outer space: see my Review of Doherty). In fact the earliest Christians also believed Jesus was resurrected into outer space: he, like Osiris, ascended to heaven in his resurrection body, appearing to those below in visions, not in person (see my survey of the evidence in The Empty Tomb, pp. 105-232; the same is true of many other dying-and-rising gods, like Hercules). The notion of a risen Jesus walking around on earth is a late invention (first found in the Gospels).

That these kinds of beliefs about Osiris’ death and resurrection long predate Plutarch is established in mainstream scholarship on the cult: e.g. S.G.F. Brandon, The Saviour God: Comparative Studies in the Concept of Salvation (Greenwood 1963), pp. 17-36 and John Griffiths, The Origins of Osiris and His Cult, 2nd ed. (Brill 1980). But we hardly need point that out, because there is already zero chance that the entirety of Isis-Osiris cult had completely transformed its doctrines in imitation of Christianity already by 100 A.D. (I shouldn’t have to explain why such a claim would be all manner of stupid). Ehrman’s claim that Plutarch is making all this up because he is Platonist is likewise nonsense. Ehrman evidently didn’t check the fact that Plutarch’s essay is written to a ranking priestess of the cult, and Plutarch repeatedly says she already knows the things he is conveying and will not find any of it surprising.

It should be that Christianity shares that same pattern. You can see this a little bit in Paul, e.g. 1 Cor 3.1-3. My thought was that the gospel of Mark is the “public” story and the gospel of John (and Paul himself) are part of the tradition of the “private” story. Eventually the public story gained social currency and overshadowed the private story, and the private story fell to the Gnostics to maintain. Of course, there’s no evidence of this, so it will have to remain in the realm of speculation.

 
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Posted by on May 1, 2013 in early Christianity, gnosticism, jesus myth

 

Jesus as an Emanation of God

Earl Doherty writes the following in response to the scholarly consensus that Jesus was not considered by the earliest Christians to be equal with god:

The difference between Paul’s Son of God and Philo’s Logos as an emanation of God is largely a matter of personhood. Philo does not personalize his Logos; he calls it God’s “first-born,” but it is not a distinct ‘person’; rather, it is a kind of radiant force which has certain effects on the world. Paul’s Son has been carried one step further (though a large one), in that he is a full hypostasis, a distinct divine personage with an awareness of self and roles of his own—and capable of being worshiped on his own.

But an “emanation” is not God per se. That is why Philo can describe him as “begotten” of God. He can be styled a part of the Godhead, but he is a subordinate part. (I have no desire to sound like a theologian, but to try to explain as I see it the concepts that lie in the minds of Christian writers, past and present. They are attempting to describe what they see as a spiritual reality; I regard it as bearing no relation to any reality at all.) Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:28 speaks of the Son’s fate once God’s enemies are vanquished, a passage which exercises theologians because it looks incompatible with the Trinity. For here Paul says that the Son “will be subjected” to God, in the apparent sense of being ‘subsumed’ back into God, who will then become One again—“so that God will be all in all.” There will only be one ‘person.’

So was Jesus an emanation of god? That seems to be the reasonable reading of Paul at Philippians 2:6-11.

And the question is what counts as “earliest Christians”. Is Mark earlier than Paul, or later? Paul is literally our earliest Christian writing, but Mark is depicting a time earlier than Paul. It is probably historical laziness to consider the literary situation in Mark as reflecting an actual historical situation. I’ll have to concede agnosticism on that one.

But I picked this post out because it is a perfect intersection between two of my interests: Video games and religion!

There are other people out there who like to point out the ways in which sci-fi and religion interact, but another more interesting – in my opinion – way in which they interact is between the new(er) media of video games and religion.

For those of you who know the name of the character in the image above, if you don’t know by now Sephiroth is a Hebrew word. It’s Hebrew for “emanations” (סְפִירוֹת or SPYRWT is plural, Sephira would be the singular). In this particular video game Final Fantasy VII, Sephiroth is the bad guy; or at least the “son” of the bad guy (girl?) Jenovah. Isn’t that suspicious? Jenovah / Jehovah. Jehovah, as in, the god of the Jews.

Let that sink in for a moment. The bad guy in Final Fantasy VII is named “emanations” and is the “son” of a being named Jenovah. Jesus is an emanation (until later Christology made him equal to god) and is also the son of Jehovah. In the game, Sephiroth is conceived (normally? I don’t remember) and while in the womb he is injected with the cells of the alien being Jenovah. Analogously, Jesus is conceived through the holy spirit and a human woman. Sephiroth’s conception seems to be a naturalized interpretation of Jesus’ virgin birth.

This is a trend I’ve noticed in a lot of console RPGs. Most of the bad guys are gods. Sure, there are some good gods too, but they usually play only a minor supporting role. Most of the stories are about humanity’s struggle against the gods or god-like beings. Like a narrative about becoming self-sufficient and no longer needing the gods to help us. Or the gods are tyrants (really, the most powerful tyrant possible is a god) and the game is about our war for freedom instead of remaining a slave (Rom 1.1). It seems sorta… Gnostic. Which is in itself odd because divine emanations (sephiroth) are a key concept in a lot of Gnostic writings. Another point of intersection in FFVII is the battle against Safer Sephiroth. This was probably lost in translation since this version of Sephiroth that you fight looks like an angel. A seraph, specifically, with the multiple wings. Again, analogously, there were a few Gnostics who considered Jesus to be a sort of angel.

There are a lot of examples in both video games and Gnostic writings, but I’ll probably save that for another post if I have the time. Needless to say, I just wanted to point one thing out:

Jesus = Sephiroth! Especially since Sephiroth came back from the dead. It’s probably safe to assume that had Sephiroth succeeded in the game, subsequent history in that game’s universe would have progressed like Christianity, with Sephiroth in the Jesus role and Jenovah in Jehovah’s role.

“Veni mi fili”

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2012 in gnosticism, historical jesus, video games

 

Blessed With The Deep, The Silent, The Complete

This Wikipedia gives a synopsis of the origin and progeny of the goddess Night (Nyx) in Greek mythology. I’m only pasting it here because it gives a list of cool Greek words to know. Like night/νυξ.
In Hesiod‘s Theogony, Nyx [Νυξ] is born of Chaos [χαος]; her offspring are many, and telling. With Erebus [Ερεβος] the deity of shadow and darkness, Nyx gives birth to Aether [αιθηρ] (atmosphere) and Hemera (day) [ημερα]. Later, on her own, Nyx gives birth to Momus [μωμος] (blame), Moros [μορος] (doom), Thanatos [θανατος] (death), Hypnos [υπνος] (sleep), Charon (the ferryman of Hades),[citation needed] the Oneiroi [ονειροι] (dreams), the Hesperides, the Keres [κηρες, κηρ] and Moirae (Fates), Nemesis [νεμεσις] (retribution), Apate [απατη] (deception), Philotes [φιλοτης] (friendship), Geras [γηρας] (age), and Eris [ερις] (strife).
This has a parallel with many Gnostic concepts that also offer some good Greek words to know:
1. [The Valentinians] maintain, then, that in the invisible and ineffable heights above there exists a certain perfect, pre-existent Æon [αιων – age/eternity], whom they call Proarche [προαρχη – pre-beginning], Propator [προπατηρ – pre-father], and Bythus [βυθος – deep], and describe as being invisible and incomprehensible. Eternal and unbegotten, he remained throughout innumerable cycles of ages in profound serenity and quiescence. There existed along with him Ennœa [εννοια – thought], whom they also call Charis [χαρις – grace/charm] and Sige [σιγη – silence]. At last this Bythus determined to send forth from himself the beginning of all things, and deposited this production (which he had resolved to bring forth) in his contemporary Sige, even as seed is deposited in the womb. She then, having received this seed, and becoming pregnant, gave birth to Nous [νους – mind], who was both similar and equal to him who had produced him, and was alone capable of comprehending his father’s greatness. This Nous they call also Monogenes [μονογενης – only-born], and Father, and the Beginning of all Things. Along with him was also produced Aletheia [αληθεια – truth]; and these four constituted the first and first-begotten Pythagorean Tetrad, which they also denominate the root of all things. For there are first Bythus and Sige, and then Nous and Aletheia. And Monogenes, perceiving for what purpose he had been produced, also himself sent forth Logos [λογος – logic/reason] and Zoe [ζωη – life], being the father of all those who were to come after him, and the beginning and fashioning of the entire Pleroma [πληρωμα – fullness]. By the conjunction of Logos and Zoe were brought forth Anthropos [ανθρωπος – man/humanity] and Ecclesia [εκκλησια – assembly/church]; and thus was formed the first-begotten Ogdoad [ογδοας – eightfold], the root and substance of all things, called among them by four names, viz., Bythus, and Nous, and Logos, and Anthropos. For each of these is masculo-feminine, as follows: Propator was united by a conjunction with his Ennœa; then Monogenes, that is Nous, with Aletheia; Logos with Zoe, and Anthropos with Ecclesia. (Against Heresies 1.1.1)
I linked to Ogdoad in Wikipedia because that word seems to have roots in Egyptian mythology, and Valentinus is supposed to have been educated in Egypt. Also, “Deep Silent Complete” (close enough to Βυθος, Σιγη, Πληρωμα) is one of my favorite Nightwish songs (even though it reminds me a bit of my ex-fiancee). This song is also about another personified god in Ancient Greek myth, “Ocean” (Οκεανος).
 
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Posted by on November 29, 2010 in gnosticism, koine greek

 

Wisdom Personified, Mother of the Word

In The Wisdom of Jesus Sirach (c. 200 BCE), Wisdom is personified twice, in chapters one and 24.

Sirach 1

1: All wisdom cometh from the Lord, and is with him for ever.
2: Who can number the sand of the sea, and the drops of rain, and the days of eternity?
3: Who can find out the height of heaven, and the breadth of the earth, and the deep, and wisdom?
4: Wisdom hath been created before all things, and the understanding of prudence from everlasting.
5: The word of God most high is the fountain of wisdom; and her ways are everlasting commandments.
6: To whom hath the root of wisdom been revealed? or who hath known her wise counsels?
7: [Unto whom hath the knowledge of wisdom been made manifest? and who hath understood her great experience?]
8: There is one wise and greatly to be feared, the Lord sitting upon his throne.
9: He created her, and saw her, and numbered her, and poured her out upon all his works.

Sirach 24

1: Wisdom shall praise herself, and shall glory in the midst of her people.
2: In the congregation of the most High shall she open her mouth, and triumph before his power.
3: I came out of the mouth of the most High, and covered the earth as a cloud.
4: I dwelt in high places, and my throne is in a cloudy pillar.
5: I alone compassed the circuit of heaven, and walked in the bottom of the deep.
6: In the waves of the sea and in all the earth, and in every people and nation, I got a possession.
7: With all these I sought rest: and in whose inheritance shall I abide?
8: So the Creator of all things gave me a commandment, and he that made me caused my tabernacle to rest, and said, Let thy dwelling be in Jacob, and thine inheritance in Israel.
9: He created me from the beginning before the world, and I shall never fail.

At Sirach 1:4 the genesis of Wisdom is described much as it is at Prov 8:22.
Like Prov 8, in Sirach 24 Wisdom tells us that she “came forth from the mouth of the Most High, the first-born before all creatures.” Wisdom also keeps souls from sin (Sir 24:22).

Of course, Philo personified the word (of God) as the Logos, and claimed the same thing – that the Logos keeps people from sin 200 years later:

And the same is the case with regard to the soul, the good things, namely food, he gives to men by his power alone, but those which contain in them a deliverance from evil, he gives by means of his angels and his Logos.”

– Philo, Allegorical Interpretaion III (178)

Philo even says that Wisdom gave birth to the Logos.

And the divine Logos, like a river, flows forth from wisdom as from a spring, in order to irrigate and fertilize the celestial and heavenly shoots and plants of such souls as love virtue, as if they were a paradise.

On Dreams Book 2, (242)

Philo calls the Logos (word or reason) the firstborn of god's creation, the son of god, a mediator between humans and god, the mind of god (compare with 1 Cor 2:16), a heavenly mediator of sins (apparently in “De Agricultura Noe,” § 12 and “De Profugis,” § 20 but I can’t find those online anywhere. Which is really annoying because Philo didn’t even write in Latin yet they’ve given them Latin titles…).

And the Father who created the universe has given to his archangelic and most ancient Word a pre-eminent gift, to stand on the confines of both, and separated that which had been created from the Creator. And this same Word is continually a supplicant (or paraclete) to the immortal God on behalf of the mortal race, which is exposed to affliction and misery; and is also the ambassador, sent by the Ruler of all, to the subject race. And the Word rejoices in the gift, and, exulting in it, announces it and boasts of it, saying, “And I stood in the midst, between the Lord and You; neither being uncreated as God, nor yet created as you, but being in the midst between these two extremities, like a hostage, as it were, to both parties: a hostage to the Creator, as a pledge and security that the whole race would never fly off and revolt entirely, choosing disorder rather than order; and to the creature, to lead it to entertain a confident hope that the merciful God would not overlook his own work. For I will proclaim peaceful intelligence to the creation from him who has determined to destroy wars, namely God, who is ever the guardian of peace.

[…]

Why is it that he speaks as if of some other god, saying that he made man after the image of God, and not that he made him after his own image? (Gen 9:6). Very appropriately and without any falsehood was this oracular sentence uttered by God, for no mortal thing could have been formed on the similitude of the supreme Father of the universe, but only after the pattern of the second deity, who is the Word of the supreme Being; since it is fitting that the rational soul of man should bear it the type of the divine Word; since in his first Word God is superior to the most rational possible nature. But he who is superior to the Word holds his rank in a better and most singular pre-eminence, and how could the creature possibly exhibit a likeness of him in himself? Nevertheless he also wished to intimate this fact,
that God does rightly and correctly require vengeance, in order to the defence of virtuous and consistent men, because such bear in themselves a familiar acquaintance with his Word, of which the human mind is the similitude and form.

These ideas all seem to have been the result of Greek influence and the Hellenism of Judea. An very interesting and informative blog gives an outline of Greek history in Judea.

Anyway, in a text of the Jewish Gnostic Sethians (c. 100 CE) called Trimorphic Protennoia (Threeform First Thought) it identifies the Father, Son and Sophia as a trinity: God the Father, Sophia (wisdom) the Mother, and Logos (word) the Son. So taking Philo and Jesus Sirach into account, it seems as though there was already a precedent for a “trinity” prior to the Christian era among Hellenized Jews.

And then, Theophilos of Antioch wrote the same later on in the 2nd century: “God, his Word (Logos) and his Wisdom (Sophia)” in To Autolycus 2.15. Theophilos himself is a weird case, which I wrote a bit about earlier and I plan on revisiting in another post. He seems to be a Christian that was a direct link between Jesus Sirach and Philo without any Jesus.

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2010 in ben Sirach, gnosticism, sethians, trinity

 

Are Josephus’ Essenes a Catchall for Gnostics?

I think the evidence for it is very slim, but Josephus’ Essenes might be a catchall for Gnostics. Though how Josephus describes the Essenes in more detail they seem to be more like a sect full of “Daniels” – Jewish prophets for Gentile kings. Simon the Essene (AJ 17.13.3), for example, seems to follow the same pattern of Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. Josephus says that the Essenes “live the same kind of life as do those whom the Greeks call Pythagoreans” (AJ 15.11.4)

By the time Josephus had been writing, however, Neo Pythagoreanism was flourishing. This is probably just a modern way of separating the doctrines of Pythagoreans from later (Neo) Pythagoreans contemporary to Josephus. This is from Wikipedia:

Neopythagoreanism was a revival in the 2nd century BC—2nd century AD period, of various ideas traditionally associated with the followers of Pythagoras, the Pythagoreans. Notable Neopythagoreans include first century Apollonius of Tyana and Moderatus of Gades. Middle and Neo-Platonists such as Numenius and Plotinus also showed some Neopythagorean influence.

They emphasized the distinction between the soul and the body. God must be worshipped spiritually by prayer and the will to be good. The soul must be freed from its material surroundings by an ascetic habit of life. Bodily pleasures and all sensuous impulses must be abandoned as detrimental to the spiritual purity of the soul. God is the principle of good; Matter the groundwork of Evil. The non-material universe was regarded as the sphere of mind or spirit.

Does Josephus mean that their philosophy was the same, or their mystical practices were the same? Josephus makes the same claim about the Pharisees (their way of living is like the Stoics from Josephus’ autobiography). Obviously, the Pharisees and Stoics don’t share the same belief systems, but quite possibly their overall philosophy is the same. In this respect, maybe Josephus is saying that the Essenes’ overall philosophy of asceticism is similar to the Pythagoreans.

The thing is, though, that Neopythagoreans had a lot of influence on 2nd century Gnostics. And Essenes seem to disappear right around the time that Gnostics start emerging. If anything, it should have been the Gnostics that lived like Neopythagoreans, not Essenes.

Some other things that Josephus writes about Essenes:

  • Most don’t marry, but some do (JW 2.8.12)
  • They seem to have wandering preachers. But if not preachers, they take in those of their kind in different cities, which seems to mirror the Didache (JW 2.8.4)
  • JW 2.8.11: “For their doctrine is this: That bodies are corruptible, and that the matter they are made of is not permanent; but that the souls are immortal, and continue forever; and that they come out of the most subtile air, and are united to their bodies as to prisons, into which they are drawn by a certain natural enticement; but that when they are set free from the bonds of the flesh, they then, as released from a long bondage, rejoice and mount upward”

So, who knows. There are a lot of things contrary to what we know about Gnostics that the Essenes seem to practice, but what we know of both groups is obscured by what’s lost in history.

 
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Posted by on March 29, 2010 in essenes, gnosticism, josephus, pythagoreanism

 

The Gospel of John, Gnosticism, and Mistranslations

Over at Prof. DeConick’s blog, she posted quite a teaser:

The name of my talk on the Gospel of John for the Hidden God, Hidden Histories conference is: “What is hiding in the Gospel of John? Reconceptualizing Johannine Origins and the Roots of Gnosticism”.

My “paper” has become so full and so detailed that it looks like it is going to become the basis of another book. I already have the title for it:

John Interrupted: What can the Gospel of John tell us about the origins of Christianity and Gnosticism?

The work I’m doing is from the ground up, straight back to the ancient sources. And all because one day, while preparing to deliver an undergraduate lecture on the Gospel of John, I stumbled upon a passage in Greek that is not translated accurately in any modern translation I have been able to find.

I wanna know which passage she’s talking about! lol She said in response to some inquiries in the comments “[…] I can’t reveal yet, but will once I have the paper firmly written and an abstract I can share. SOON. Another month.” So I guess I’ll have to wait to find out what the offending passage is (and which Greek text(s) she’s using).

Another one of the comments:

Rev. Fr. Troy Pierce said…
John 8:31-35 has much of interest in this regard. Especially 8:32, which I have often said is the core of Gnosticism in a nutshell.

This is what I have in my W&H version of John 8:31-35

Ελληνικα

31 ελεγεν ουν ο ιησους προς τους πεπιστευκοτας αυτω ιουδαιους εαν υμεις μεινητε εν τω λογω τω εμω αληθως μαθηται μου εστε

32 και γνωσεσθε την αληθειαν και η αληθεια ελευθερωσει υμας

33 απεκριθησαν προς αυτον σπερμα αβρααμ εσμεν και ουδενι δεδουλευκαμεν πωποτε πως συ λεγεις οτι ελευθεροι γενησεσθε

34 απεκριθη αυτοις [ο] ιησους αμην αμην λεγω υμιν οτι πας ο ποιων την αμαρτιαν δουλος εστιν [της αμαρτιας]

35 ο δε δουλος ου μενει εν τη οικια εις τον αιωνα ο υιος μενει εις τον αιωνα

English

31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.

32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

33 They answered him, “We are Abraham’s seed and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”

34 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.

35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but the son belongs to it forever.

If this is the offending passage (which I doubt), then the only possible “mistranslation” would be rendering αιωνα::aiona (i.e. “age” or “eon”) as “permanent”. But I’ve suspected John’s origins in Gnosticism for a while – Valentinus, a Gnostic, seems to be the first witness to the gospel of John.

 
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Posted by on March 1, 2010 in gnosticism, gospel of john

 

Liberal Christianity

Most rational people can agree that Conservative/Fundamentalist/Whatever Christianity is a plight on humanity. That level of dogmaticism isn’t good for anyone since it is immune to dialog or ever admitting to being wrong. But what about Liberal Christianity? I think that Liberal Christianity is ultimately as doomed as Conservative.

The problem is modern Christianity itself. Modern Christianity is a very historical religion. It claims that certain events happened in history. If these events didn’t happen (like the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus), then modern Christianity is simply false. A religion like Buddhism, however, is not a historical religion. The teachings of Buddhism, whether you agree with them or not, are simply a tool used to improve your life. Whether the First Buddha lived is unimportant to the message of Buddhism. Unfortunately, Christians have combined “true” with “useful”.

In Christianity, the tool, or the message, is Jesus himself. And it says so in the first line of what was probably the first gospel written: “αρχη του ευαγγελια ιησου χριστου::[the] beginning of [the] good news [of] Jesus Christ“. In the Greek, Jesus isn’t preaching any good news, or it isn’t the good news according to Jesus, he is the good news. This same sentiment is expressed in Paul’s authentic letters. Jesus never preached any gospel according to Paul, Jesus was the gospel according to Paul.

But what if Jesus never existed?

I’m an agnostic on the issue of the historicity of Jesus the Nazarene (or maybe the Nazarite?). However, modern Christianity hinges on this one belief. This dogma. There’s still the dogmatic clinging towards certain historical uncertainties: the existence, death, resurrection, and ascention of Jesus. If someone doesn’t believe in those particular dogmas, then are they a Christian? Would any other modern Christian consider someone who didn’t believe in those things to be a Christian?

Early Christianity was more fluid though. The gospel of Thomas, for example, opens with “whoever interperets these sayings will not taste death”. This good news has nothing to do with the resurrection of Jesus, his death on the cross, or any other historical detail about him. It’s the interpretation of sayings that brings salvation. And these sayings are calls to some sort of action (like verse 48). I’d sum up Thomas as being a Gnostic gospel, or one where knowledge of the true, inner spark is what leads to salvation (verse 3). Other Christians simply said they were Christians because they were anointed with the oil of God.

Gnostic Christianity, like I’ve written before, is more like Buddhism. It’s about correct action and not correct belief. If Christianity is to survive, then it has to get rid of dogmas. Focus more on being “Christ-like” instead of being “Christ-believers”. If Christians were more about some sort of Ebionite Christianity (striving to help the poor, humility, and other “action” traits), and not simply about correct beliefs, then it might survive. But is that liberal Christianity? Can a Christian be a Christian and, for example, be an atheist as well (thus Christian Atheists)?

This is why I secretly call myself a Christian Gnostic, but in public I’m now an atheist. Not because I believe Jesus existed, but because I follow teachings, like many of the early Gnostics did. The message is important, not the messenger. And on the internet, I debate against the validity of modern Christianity, because that dogma has to go; I’ve personally been seared by that dogmaticism one too many times. Karen Armstrong, for example, thinks that modern Christians have become too literal in their beliefs, and that mythos was (or is) the way religions should work. Myths used stories (not necessarily true stories) to provoke emotions, or to teach a moral lesson. If we allowed Christianity to be the myth that it’s supposed to be, it might not have done (or continue to do) the damage that it has done. If the world was filled with Karen Armstrongs instead of Rick Warrens, then it would be a better place.

The gospel of Mark being read as history makes no sense. There are glaring historical inaccuracies. But when I read it in what might be its original context – mythos – it is actually a pretty good story.

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2009 in atheism, gnosticism, liberal christianity

 
 
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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