Classical vs Gnostic Christianity
I was late joining the debate at 45 mins into this four-hour stream.
Classical vs Gnostic Christianity With John Brisson & Robert Ferrell (4:00 hrs)
Robert Ferrell’s area of expertise is the the Gospel of Thomas from the Nag Hammadi find in 1945. John Brisson is an Evangelical Christian who used to be a Gnostic and recently made a video demonstrating Rockefeller connections with the funding of Gnostic research and publications.
My first point is that in addressing Gnosticism we face an epistemological challenge as claims of hidden knowledge and expertise closes any debate as does any claim of special revelation. The difference with Christianity is that any truth claims are not hidden but open to examination and can be tested with regards to prophetic and historic veracity. Jesus makes a point about transparency: “I have spoken openly to the world, I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret” (John 8:20). On the surface this may seem to contradict his penchant for speaking in parables so that, seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand (Matt 13:13) but the parables acted as a filter because anyone who did not understand (like his disciples) could come to him afterwards and ask and he would willingly explain. So, the idea of secret knowledge only available to initiates (which was practiced in many occult religions) was contrary the gospel teachings. There was no special “in-group”.
Robert focused on the similarity of language and concepts found in the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas, but this should not come as a surprise as it comes from a similar milieu as the synoptic traditions, but it has not developed the complex theology and intertextual as scripture. Intertextuality is a hermeneutical strand of poststructuralism whereby texts imbed, reuse, allude to or echo precursor materials so that innovation is grounded in established tradition. Gnostic writings can make no claim to this complex development. In fact, the Nag Hammadi library is an eclectic collection that includes a Gnostic Redaction of Plato’s republic (Coptic translation) and the words of the pagan text “Eugnostos the Blessed” put into the mouth of Jesus as “The Sophia of Jesus Christ”. The Gnostic text is trying to gain legitimacy by attributing the pagan text to Christ. I would suggest that this is the Gnostic modus operandi, namely parasitizing and infiltrating established religions a tactic which was familiar to Judaism who in later centuries syncretized and adopted some of the Gnostic teachings such as the divine sparks found in the Kabbalah. In the complex Gnostic cosmogony Sophia or Wisdom is one of the various emanations of God but in this theology, it is “Wisdom” who rebels against the spirit and creates Yaltabaoth or the demiurge Yahweh of the Bible. That does not sound very wise to me but rather stupid. Thus, the material creation or “prison” is the result of Sophia rebelling. Of course, the opposite is the case in Biblical literature were wisdom is personified or a hypostatization such as in the poem of Proverbs eight and where (Prov 9:10) the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (the first use of the word afraid is when Adam hid himself from Yahweh in Gen 3:10). The stream Egypt Redux has a transcript and video in which I discuss James Dunn’s research on wisdom in Christology in the Making.
What is referred to as the “Book of Enoch” is actually a collection of three different parts (1, 2 and 3 Enoch) with only 1 Enoch being dated before the New Testament, with a range of 2nd BC – 1st AD according to Charlesworth (The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (2 vols), Charlesworth, James, (ed). Doubleday: 1983). but more probably close to the Maccabee period ca.167 BC (middle of the range) as the first 36 chapters seem to be pre-Maccabean. The other sections are dated after the NT; 2 Enoch (late 1st AD) and 3 Enoch (5-6th AD). Borger suggests that Enoch could be the 7th king in the Sumerian King list. First, let’s note that the Sumerian version is more elaborate, more ‘spectacular’, more miraculous, and more complex than the biblical version. The surprisingly long-life spans in the bible (i.e. hundreds of years) are DWARFED by the tens of thousands of years in the Sumerian list! The Sumerian heroes of each period are twofold–a king AND a sage–instead of a single leadership figure as in the OT. (Borger in “I Studied Inscriptions from Before the Flood”: Ancient Near Eastern, Literary, and Linguistic Approaches to Genesis 1-11., Hess, Richard, and David Tsumura (eds.), Eisenbrauns: 1994). The function of ascribing a later document to an ancient Israelite hero such as Moses, Enoch, and Joshua is known as pseudepigrapha (or, more properly, pseudonymity), and scholars today are still unsure of exactly why the authors did this…It is not at all clear that they actually intended their audience to believe that, in the case of Jubilees, that Moses actually contradicted himself or omitted portions of his ‘earlier’ work the Pentateuch. A basic methodological principle of comparative studies in the ANE, stated by noted Assyriologist Kitchen is that in the Ancient Near East, the rule is that simple accounts or traditions give rise (by accretion and embellishment) to elaborate legends, but not vice versa. In the Ancient Orient, legends were not simplified or turned into pseudo-history (historicized)… (Ancient Orient and Old Testament., Kitchen, KA, IntervarsityPress: 1966.)
The book of 1 Enoch shares many terms with the OT book of Daniel begging the question if it is dependent (or vice versa). J. Goldingay comments as follows on the Similitudes; “The Parables are uninstanced at Qumran, and current opinion regards them as belonging to the Roman period. Their most interesting parallel to Daniel (more likely suggesting dependence on Daniel than on a common source) is their taking up the humanlike figure and the one advanced in days of 7:13. “That Son of Man” (1Enoch) 46-48, alongside the “head of days” with hair white like wool; see also chaps.62; 69), God’s elect and righteous one, is eventually identified with Enoch (71.14). Thus Daniel 7 is one of the texts that is used to interpret the significance of Enoch and his translation, reported with such tantalizing brevity in Gen 5; and it leads to or justifies a belief in Enoch’s functioning as eschatological judge”. J. Goldingay, Daniel, (Word Biblical Commentary, ed., D.A. Hubbard, G.W. Barker, J.D.W. Watts, R.P. Martin; Nelson Reference & Electronic, 1989), Intro, xxviii. Jude but Peter reference Enoch in a polemical fashion not because they were promoting the pseudepigrapha but because they were countering an antinomian subversion (on this see my article on Fallen Angels).
The priestly and cultic background of 1 Enoch is also increasingly recognised, particularly the role of the Day of Atonement ritual in the “Watchers Cycle” where scholarship understands the story of the “Fallen angels” as a mythological satire against the Samaritan schismatic’s – who (joined by some of the Jerusalem priests) established their own priesthood and form of worship. Moreover, the sending away of the scapegoat to Azazel (= the strong one) on the day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) reflects sending the nation into Babylonian exile (dry places= the wilderness). The only place the word is found in the Hebrew bible is in Leviticus 16: 8-10 as a proper name but it does appear in 1 Enoch where it is embellished into a story about fallen angels and demons. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (vol 2) suggest that the Aramaic forms point to dependence on Leviticus (Gabelein, Frank E. (1990). The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Grand Rapids: Zondervan. pp. 590). Be that as it may, Jesus references the Atonement ritual and the Passover ritual and explicitly mentions Azazel (strong one):
Luke 11:21-26: When a *strong [man] armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace: 22 But when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils. 23 He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathereth not with me scattereth. 24 When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out. 25 And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished. 26 Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first.
* the word [man] is not in the original Greek
The context of the discussion is the accusation that Jesus is casting out demons by the power of the chief demon Beelzebub. Jesus had cast out the unclean spirt with the miraculous healing of Legion and placed the unclean spirit in the swine that drowned in the “abyss” (Luke). Legion was found healed and sitting at Jesus’ feet listening to the gospel. That is an acted atonement ritual but the unclean spirit is not ritually placed by the priest on a goat and then sent away (into the wilderness) but on an unclean animal (pig) that drowns. The nation had returned from Babylonian exile and found the “house” clean because Jesus had swept the temple and removed the money-changers in imitation of the pre-Passover feast of unleavened bread where Israelites spring cleaned their homes and “removed the leaven” (corruption) in preparation for the Passover sacrifice of the Lamb. Moreover, in the parable, after having gone through the cleansing ritual (exile) the man takes in seven more demons and becomes completely possessed. This is obviously a reference to the dynasty of the high priest Caiaphas and his relatives seven of whom controlled the priesthood until its destruction in AD 70. The “house” was removed because they had gone completely insane. In Jewish lore (probably under Hellenistic influence) Azazel becomes the red, hairy goat like devil. This is a conflation of the biblical story of Edom the brother of Jacob who is described as red and hairy combined with the scapegoat that “bears the iniquity of the nation”and was sent into the wilderness (dry places). Thus, another myth is born. The story of Cain and Able is also based on the Day of Atonement Ritual with Abel being slain (at the entrance to the Sanctuary of Eden) and Cain being sent away into exile (representing the Jewish nation) and being called a vagabond, which term is picked up in Acts 19 when Paul speaks about the “vagabond” Jews and the exorcist Sceva and his “seven sons” which flee the house naked and wounded.
This brings us to Ephesus which was a very important city in Asia Minor (Turkey) and a center of Jewish and Christian interaction. In Church tradition John (the brother of James and disciple of Jesus) took the mother of Jesus (Mary) to Ephesus and looked after her. It is off the coast of Ephesus on the island of Patmos that John is said to have been banished and received the Apocalypse delivered to seven churches in Asia Minor. It is where Paul (in Acts 19) discovers disciples of John the Baptist who had never heard of Jesus (Paul re-baptises them into Jesus). It is also where Paul encounters the “sorcerer” Sceva. It is in my view the destination not only of the Epistle to the Ephesians, but of the Fourth Gospel and the Epistle to the Hebrews (probably written by Barnabas). It is notable that the epistle to the Ephesians contains (in polemical fashion) references to Gnostic theology cf. Ephesians 2:2; “ Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince (archon) of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” (Eph 2:2) which is juxtaposed with “the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself” (Eph 1:5) and what then of Kosmokrator (see my article) which is the counterpart to the angel of death. These are polemical texts addressing the attack on the church by gnostic and Judaistic elements. The Fourth Gospel should also be understood against this background particularly with reference to the Prologue which de-mythologizes and reuses Platonic, gnostic and Philonic terms in a masterpiece of bringing out new meaning. The gap between the Greek philosophic understanding of form and pure reason was bridged by the essence or LOGOS becoming material in the person of Jesus Christ which Christians refer to as incarnation (I prefer manifestation) this is why Christians rejected the docetic/gnostic teaching that Jesus was not real (he was just a ghost or spirt) and not flesh or blood which becomes a litmus test in the first century (1 John 4:1-3). Gnosticism was rejected by the early church. However, “Gnostic language” is encountered (Proarkhe (“before the beginning”, Greek: προαρχή), Arkhe (“the beginning”, Greek: ἀρχή)) with John the Baptist explicitly stating (though using different Greek): “This (Christ) is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me”. (John 1:30). One of the reasons for writing the gospel of John was to demonstrate the superiority of Christ over the patriarchs and John the Baptist. The synoptic gospels and the Fourth Gospels are not “history” (but they contain history) they are not biographies (but they contain biographical material) they are not theology (but they contain theology) they are sacred history, and each gospel is different because they were written to counter specific problems in the church using Jesu’s ministry as an example and were sent to different churches (audiences). And they all concentrate (focal point) on the Passion narrative (last week). The Fourth Gospel is enigmatic because its style is so different and is seen as late and therefore unhistorical. However, the scholar John A.T. Robinson (Redating the New Testament/The Priority of John) following his mentor Dodd argues the case that the writer had access to very early material. This would make the gospel both early and late (do you see the problem?). The Rylands Library Papyrus P52, also known as the St John’s fragment, was discovered in Alexandria and has been dated by different scholars in a range from 100-150 AD and 125-175 AD. My own investigations (especially the story of Nathaniel) show connections with the Bar Kochba revolt (ca.132-135 AD) where the false messiah was recognised by the chief Rabbi (Akiva), but this does not mean that it is ex-eventu (John 5:43 I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive.) I can recommend Andersons’ book The Fourth Gospel and the Quest for Jesus: Modern Foundations Reconsidered although I am not in complete agreement with his historical outline of Johannine Christianity (pp. 196-199). As to Hebrews, it demonstrates (in my view) awareness of the problem in Ephesus; Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God (Hebrews 6:1), this is the Baptism of Repentance (of John the Baptist): “If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame” (Hebrews 6:6). In other words, you cannot progress from the Baptism of Repentance (John) to the baptism of Jesus and then revert to John. It is my view that the Gnostic Mandeans who revere John the Baptist and who now live in Australia (as Iraqi refugees) and practice multiple washing and Baptisms originated with the movement in Ephesus that Paul discovered. Moreover, the message to the Hebrews (Jews at Ephesus) corresponds with the message given by Christ to Ephesus in the Apocalypse.
Note that the message in Revelation 2:1-7 to Ephesus is based on the garden of Eden and with the seven branched candlestick (menorah design is based on a tree) symbolizing the tree of life (v.7).
And the Correspondence between Hebrews and Ephesians:
The Gnostics at Ephesus claimed superiority of “illumination” (compare the Illuminati) or special knowledge brought by the serpent in Eden. Not illumination by God’s spirit. Then there were the Judaists who claimed superiority via the Law. At some historical point Judaists and Gnostics syncretized certain doctrines in the Kabbalah which together with the Kybalion became the New Age teaching of the technocrats (full title: The Kybalion: A Study of the Hermetic Philosophy of Ancient Egypt and Greece) is a book originally published in 1908. And so we have gone full circle from Egypt the home of Hermetics, alchemy, magic and illumination. It was Egypt were Moses challenged the Hermetic “magicians” Jannes and Jambres by casting down a serpent (2 Tim 3:8). Paul warns Timothy to avoid profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science (gnosis) falsely so called (1 Timothy 6:20). It is ironic that the KJV should translate gnosis as “science” almost as if they are pointing towards ancient Hermetic alchemy and transformation as practiced by the transhumanist science in their quest for immortality. The serpent and the Eden mythology is key to Gnostic theology which points to ancient pre-Sumerian origins. From the Serpent, Nawcash, in the Garden of Eden; Atum, the Egyptian snake-man; and Quetzalcotl, the feathered serpent god of the Mayans to the double-helix snake symbol of Enki/Ea in ancient Sumerian literature, the serpent has been the omnipresent link between humans and the gods in every culture.
Do the “Lizard people” represent a priestly class that practiced head binding (as among the Peruvian elite)? When it says that the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made (Gen 3:1) is the beast a reference to an empire (like they are in Daniel) eg. the Ubaid. (??). The symbol of cyclical destruction is the ouroborus (snake eating its own tail) with reference to the 25,920-year “Precession Year” when creation is unmade and “reset” (The Great Reset). It seems to me (still examining the idea) that the serpent story represents two different ways of overcoming the existential threat, namely, to transcend and become gods through knowledge and science (Gnosticism-transhumanism-technology) or through faith in the promise delivered to Eve and the Abrahamic Revelation which rejects both the Hermetic/Gnostic approach and the superstitious approach of sacrificing children to a “solar deity” to appease wrath. If I am correct, then the ancients were aware of cyclical destruction and solar flaring, and this seems likely as our ancestors must have survived previous catastrophes. Someday I must write a book about the subjects that I have only briefly touched upon here, but I feel we are running out of time. I chose to follow the path of faith, believing that life has purpose and meaning and that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. Here are more resources which include links to my articles on Ephesus (three articles)
Search the Gnostic tab on my blog for further resources.
13 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. 14 And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. 15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works. (2 Corinthians 11:13-15)
3 But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. 4 For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted....(2 Corinthians 11:3-4 )