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Gnostic (nag Hammadi) Gospels


Haganrih
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Well, I didn't read the primary sources (though I have read Thomas),

but I did read Elain Pagels The Gnostic Gospels, and I've read what Dominic Crossan has to say about them.

 

I think that they are worth reading and for all Christians to know about.

This said, I can see why they weren't included in the official Christian canon.

They tend to present a gnostic notion of Jesus which opposes the official Christian party line.

 

For instance, Gnostics believed in a very dualistic cosmology such that the "things above" (heaven/God) were considered all good, spiritual, Divine, and the "things below" (earth) were considered all bad and evil. Hence, they denied the Christian notion of the inherant goodness of sexuality and even procreation.

 

They also believed that the all good and pure God could never stoop so low as to become one of us; i.e. a lowly, wretched human. This of course denies the Christian notion of God being one of us via Jesus (God incarnate, immanuel).

 

But instead of thinking that Jesus was "just a man" (as contemporary liberals are want to do - lean this way mysefl often), they viewed Jesus as being a spiritual being, i.e. not a human, but more of a ghostly, hologramish, apperation. This off course denies Jesus' humanity. It also denies the real sacrifice and real death of Jesus. And it also thus denies the Resurection.

 

Moreover, I found it troubling to read the supposed accounts of the young Jesus creating birds and killing them, and then resurrecting them, etc. for his own personal kicks. Seems to not jibe with the Jesus I know.

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I'm not sure that I understood your last post.

 

But, aside from eschewing sexuality, the Gnostic cosmology denies the essential goodness of the earth - and such a view would lead to poor environmental stewardship. They, like today's fundamentalist millenial dispensationalists, feel that release from the earthly realm ASAP is what it's all about.

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Yes, I'm speaking about Gnosticism in general.

And yes, Gnosticism is largely a personal/private inner-journey.

Though they were very egalitarian re: women's and mens roles, they weren't much into community, accountability, support, etc. - i.e. thing things that a church community provides.

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Yes, I'm speaking about Gnosticism in general.

And yes, Gnosticism is largely a personal/private inner-journey.

Though they were very egalitarian re: women's and mens roles, they weren't much into community, accountability, support, etc. - i.e. thing things that a church community provides.

True, Brother Rog, but that equality was an equality in debased nature, since as you point out the Gnostics held all of the Creation as evil. Some Gnostic sects went so far as to deny that YHWH was the true God, but rather as the creator was the maker of the evil material world in order to trap mankind.

 

I found the Gospel of Thomas very hopeful, particulary the story of the birds; it presents a Christ who grew into sanctity; and thus holds out the possibility for holiness for us as well.

 

The Nag finds are very interesting for historical insight and a different look at spiritula development, but in the end I think the early Church leaders were correct in the selection of Canon.

 

Still, enjoy.

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Well I definately agree with those who say the gnostic writings are an important find, relevant to historical search and personal devotion. I'm not so optimistic about the content of the gnostic writings. When I first read John Dominic Crossan's 'The Historical Jesus' (1991) one of the things that I remembered the most was him saying that he could understand the transition from 'Jesus to Christ' but not the transition from 'Christ to Constantine'.

 

I agree. The transition from 'Christ to Constantine' is/was unwarranted. In fact, I agree with people like Campolo who say the transition did more to damage Christianity than help it. Most of this talk over 'alternative Christianity' and re-discovering lost faith seems to me to circulate around aspects of Christendom that seem to be obviously... well, unChristlike. I think the theological arguments (though some things are real issues of faith and doubt for people) tend to go hand and hand with the practical arguments. In other words, it may very well be true that some have a hard time imagining a literal resurrection of Jesus, but what fault can be found in those who believe in it? Unless they are viewed as also believing in such things as...

 

Bashing and subordinating women, tormenting gay people, going to war against people/ violenting forcing faith on others, etc. These (social) issues seem to me to be the real issues. Of course it is reasonable why some are attracted to versions of Christianity that seem more affiliated with bieng humane than inhumane. Karen Jo Torjeson's book, 'When women were priests' is a great example.

 

However, we can't exchange one type of blind acceptance for another. Let's be honest, people are fed up with 'traditional creedal Christianity' and in many ways, for good reason. There are many who blindly accepted whatever version of Christianity they were given without realising that they were not necessarily delivered 'the' Christian faith. So I guess it all re-opens certain questions, doesn't it?

 

I return back to what I said about understanding the move from 'Jesus to Christ'. As a Christian, who sees Jesus as the Christ, this move is not only understandable but desirable. We are trying to learn and discover Jesus because we know that our ability to be transformed into Christians depends on it.

 

However, we can't blindly accepted something like the gnostic gospels. Sometimes they can hardly be called 'gospel' at all. We have to be consistent with how we treat ancient sources. Crossan says that our four gospels are a 'lamination of history and faith'. I would agree. So is something like the gospel of Thomas. I'm not (personally) convinced any of the Jesus sayings are exact quotes. I tend to lean more towards the pink vote for them, that the meaning of Jesus is expressed through the voice of the community. Furthermore, every source developed in layers. Crossan sees Thomas as having at least two layers. It is the first layer (which is very Q-ish) which pre-dates Mark.

 

I'm just saying... we can't let an emotional reaction against something like a male-dominated church to skew our thinking. I'm sure we have much to learn from Thomas and the Nag Hammadi library, but let's not learn more than is there.

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