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What's wrong with the 'Gnostic gospels'

OrthodoxEth

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In my view they hold exactly the same place in the New Testament as the Deuterocanon in the Old. How do we know that Satan wasn't interfering with the selection process?
 

OrthodoxEth

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I believe they simply have a more mystical lean and reflect the fullness of the Gospel of Christ.
 

biro

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What is ‘more mystical’?
 

OrthodoxEth

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Meaning, relating to personal direct experience of God.
 

biro

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I don’t understand.

I will leave this up to someone else. Thank you.
 

OrthodoxEth

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Right! I just think that private personal experience plays a major part in things. Do you think that Jesus is able to communicate with us?
 

RaphaCam

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Meaning, relating to personal direct experience of God.
Well, that's the thing, you're not supposed to have a "personal direct experience of God" through books, but rather through the Holy Mysteries, prayer, humility, repentance, etc. To think otherwise is to worship knowledge. "Gnosis" is exactly Greek for "knowledge". When St. John, who wrote the most mystical real Gospel, wrote that if everything Christ did were written in books, these books couldn't fit in the whole world, that's what he was talking about.

Meaning, relating to personal direct experience of God.
It can't get more personal than having the Holy Spirit inhabit in your heart by listening to the liturgy organised by the very body of God, all while eating his flesh and drinking his blood.

Right! I just think that private personal experience plays a major part in things. Do you think that Jesus is able to communicate with us?
I strongly recommend that you search for hagiographies and for the books Theosis and The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church. There, you'll see Orthodoxy has a sound "yes".
 

RaphaCam

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Also, you have the Church Fathers. Some of them were incredibly holy men, whose hagiographies themselves might make you feel really more connected to God only through medidative reading. Since you're looking for such a thing as a "deuterocanonical NT", first look to what these people wrote, even commenting the NT itself.

I highly recommend looking into the Ancient Christian Commentary to Scripture series, specially the Gospel volumes. Unfortunately, they're very large and maybe expensive volumes, totalling six. Or maybe you could go around looking for what St. Gregory of Nazianzus wrote on the Gospel generically, there's a lot online.
 

copticorthodoxboy

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In my view they hold exactly the same place in the New Testament as the Deuterocanon in the Old. How do we know that Satan wasn't interfering with the selection process?
Behind a paywall but I enjoyed the course on Wondrium dealing with Gnosticism; you could check it out if interested. Probably won't answer your question specifically but will deepen your knowledge of the Gnostic groups/beliefs:


Some other related courses which I haven't had the opportunity to work through yet:


 

TheTrisagion

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Right! I just think that private personal experience plays a major part in things. Do you think that Jesus is able to communicate with us?
Yes. But do I think He communicated with the authors of the Gnostic Gospels? I'm much less confident of that. I had an intensely spiritual experience once after eating a pot brownie, but if I wrote a book about it, I wouldn't expect everyone to accept it as a deuterocanonical book.
 
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I believe a major problem with them is that they are foundationally dependent on the New Testament writings and lead to different conclusions. I have the Nag Hamadi collection & read most of it years back. What struck me was that these writings were later than the New Testament, dependent on them, & made a mess of New Testament belief.


This article on this matter of gnostic confusion seems pretty good.


 

xariskai

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They are incoherent and wildly contradict with one another.
I believe they simply have a more mystical lean and reflect the fullness of the Gospel of Christ.
Not if the incarnation, death, and bodily resurrection of Christ is integral to the Gospel.

Are they? In terms of the primitive kerygma they are:

Most contemporary scholars atheists and Christians alike concede the so-called primitive kerygma attested within the first decade after the crucifixion -long before the Synoptic evangelists took up pen and parchment- affirmed the bodily resurrection Christ from the dead. No known first century author, Christian, Jewish, or pagan, refers unambiguously to any gnostic text, system, or movement though all these groups widely attacked the Gnostics in later periods. "This observation makes it highly unlikely that this Gnostic and Gnostic-like literature gives us any interpretive window into what the Christians in the New Testament believed or that it is anywhere as early as the first century" (N.T. Wright)

[continued next post -too many characters]
 
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xariskai

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[continued from last post]

Modern physicists often say we are all made from the matter of stars. Early Greek cosmologies thought planets beyond earth were composed of non-material heavenly stuff, including planetary bodies which were immortal deities affixed to solid and transparent crystal spheres around (geocentric) earth; the outermost sphere contained all stars; beyond was an ultimate spiritual realm whose heavenly beings could have no contact with the evil material realm.

Lecture Notes: Aristotle and Ptolmey said:
Aristotle reasoned whereas stars and planets seemed to have perfect circular motion earthly elements, air, fire, and water, do not. He concluded must be composed of fundamentally different material and supported the conclusion by other differences:
1. No one has (had) seen a star or planet come into existence or pass away as things on earth do.
2. The stars and to a lesser extent, the planets move with uniform speed and direction, but things around us do not: they start, stop, speed up, etc. Aristotle calls the material that makes up the stars "aither," which means 'always running.'
Aristotle concluded stars are divine, for they are immortal (for they never disappear) and unchanging (for their motion is always exactly the same).
"Heresies are themselves prompted by philosophy..." -Quintus Septimus Florens Tertullianus, De praescriptione haereticorum, vii.

The impulse of Gnostic writers to recast every pagan and religious tradition they found in their own image is well known (e. g. Testimony of Truth where the story of Eden is rewritten from the serpent’s perspective with Yahweh as an evil and foolish demiurge; cf. also Apocryphon of John, Hypostasis of the Archons, On the origin of the World, etc.). The epistemological and cosmological motive is also well known. Gnostic literature is rife with re-writing of contemporaneous literature to reflect prevalent presuppositions held dear by the Gnostics, e.g. stars/heavenly realm not made of matter as found on earth, matter as evil, etc.; "Cosmological Dualism was an essential feature of Gnosticism -an opposition between the spiritual world and the evil material world" (Yammauchi). Denial of bodily resurrection, and denial of spiritual compatibility with material bodies or existence as such can be understood as less a matter of some mystical insight from the high heavens as application fundamental presupposition held so axiomatic that all contemporaneous literature -not just Christian- had to be re-written to syncretize with it as a baseline. The Gnostic presupposition of matter and the material world as evil is key to their syncretic modifications of Jewish and Christian literature in particular. Hence we find variously:

(If matter is evil) the creator of Genesis was not the all-wise high God but an evil and foolish demiurge. -Testimony of Truth)
(If matter is evil) Jesus only appeared to be a man -his "apparent body" was actually a phantom (Docetism, from δοκεῖν/dokein: "to seem"; δόκησις/dokesis: "apparition, phantom"). -Marcion
(If matter is evil) Jesus was just an ordinary man upon whom Christ descended like a dove; at the crucifixion Christ incorporeal departed from Jesus -Christ incorporeal cannot suffer (Cerenthius)
(If matter is evil) Christ was not incarnated; our Redeemer was incoporeal. -Saturnius
(If matter is evil) Christ's "body" was pneumatic. -Valentinius

We cannot establish any more than Gnostics can refute the suffering, death, and resurrection of a promised Messiah shamefully executed from syllogisms of discursive rationality. "Jews demand signs and Greeks search for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles" (1 Cor 1:23). Tertullian cryptically replies "I believe because it is absurd." I see in his remark something like "who in their philosophical rationalist mind would have simply made *this* Gospel up?!

The Resurrection said:
The original disciples believed that Jesus was risen from the dead despite their having every predisposition to the contrary. Think of the situation the disciples faced after Jesus’ crucifixion:

1. Their leader was dead. And Jews had no belief in a dying, much less rising, Messiah. The Messiah was supposed to throw off Israel’s enemies (= Rome) and re-establish a Davidic reign—not suffer the ignominious death of criminal.
2. According to Jewish law, Jesus’ execution as a criminal showed him out to be a heretic, a man literally under the curse of God (Deut. 21.23). The catastrophe of the crucifixion for the disciples was not simply that their Master was gone, but that the crucifixion showed, in effect, that the Pharisees had been right all along, that for three years they had been following a heretic, a man accursed by God!
3. Jewish beliefs about the afterlife precluded anyone’s rising from the dead to glory and immortality before the general resurrection at the end of the world. All the disciples could do was to preserve their Master’s tomb as a shrine where his bones could reside until that day when all of Israel’s righteous dead would be raised by God to glory.
Despite all this, the original disciples believed in and were willing to go to their deaths for the fact of Jesus’ resurrection. Luke Johnson, a New Testament scholar from Emory University, muses, “some sort of powerful, transformative experience is required to generate the sort of movement earliest Christianity was...” N. T. Wright, an eminent British scholar, concludes, “that is why, as a historian, I cannot explain the rise of early Christianity unless Jesus rose again, leaving an empty tomb behind him.” https://www.reasonablefaith.org/wri...s/jesus-of-nazareth/the-resurrection-of-jesus
That the Gnostics did not syncretically alter only Christianity but also paganism and Judaism is more problematic for the assumption of a sort of "original Christian Gnosticism" than might appear at first glance. If contemporary scholars are also almost unanimous in the conviction that Jesus of Nazareth -whatever else they might suppose about him- was a Jew it is difficult at best to suppose his authentic disciples regarded the God of the Jews as a foolish demiurge at a fundamental level or the latter as a fundamental teaching of their Lord.

So-called "Christian Gnosticism" is a misnomer. Gnosticism always recast antecedent faiths into its image. To say "Christian Gnosticism" is an exception to this is more than historically improbable. Unlike Gnostic extrapolation from dearly held premises, early Christianity received and passed its tradition of bodily resurrection not as an idea one might have calculated but as an experience of primitive Christianity. They were not even in the first instance affirming a "belief," but rather something they believed they had seen and heard.

"Then they [the Sanhedrin Council which had recently handed Jesus over to be crucified] called them [Peter and John] in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you rather than God. 20 For we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard" (Acts 4:18-20)

How is it that, after the shameful and terrifying execution of their leader the disciples of Jesus, under threat of death themselves, almost immediately formed the vanguard of an explosive propagation of a message whose very center was the very instrument of execution of their leader, with great boldness and courage in the face of a political institution that might very well call for their own execution? The emergence of Christianity remains now as ever a historical riddle of cosmic proportions.

Some of you may not believe in the resurrection for all that, and I can sympathize struggles and doubt. But I find immeasurably more doubt for the notion that Gnosticism and Christianity, and especially Orthodox Christianity with its Creeds and Councils, are similar and/or compatible enough that we can simply add the former to the latter as some sort of Deuterocanon and go on our merry way never to be bothered by chatter about incoherence and incompatibility to the point of dusting it off with the wave of a hand. It would be easier, it seems to me, to believe in this 21st century that Venus, Mercury, and Mars are immortal unchanging deities not composed of physical matter affirmed by many Gnostics and philosophers of old.

Today the Bountiful impoverished Himself for our sake;
So, rich one, invite the poor to your table.
Today we receive a Gift for which we did not ask;
So let us give alms to those who implore and beg us.
This present Day cast open the heavenly doors to our prayers;
Let us open our door to those who ask our forgiveness.
Today the Divine Being took upon Himself the seal of our humanity,
In order for humanity to be decorated by the Seal of Divinity.
– St. Isaac the Syrian, Nativity Sermon
 

RaphaCam

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Also, you have the Church Fathers. Some of them were incredibly holy men, whose hagiographies themselves might make you feel really more connected to God only through medidative reading.
Just to make it clear, I don't mean some Church Fathers weren't holy (in Orthodoxy it's not proper to speak of people like Eusebius as Church Fathers), I meant some of them don't have incredible hagiographies.
 

Tzimis

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I believe they simply have a more mystical lean and reflect the fullness of the Gospel of Christ.
A Form of Gnosticism exists in Orthodoxy, but if you read the fathers carefully, you see a much different approach.
Heretics, are often those who take a one sided stance on issues. for example: The Gnostic's totally neglect human natures involvement in salvation, in favor of a spiritual knowledge made known through mysticism.
In Orthodoxy spiritual knowledge is attained after salvation in the form of theosis. True Knowledge is a gift given to those who god has found worth.
It isn't an attainable asset, but a gift freely given.
Spirituality plays a vital role in Orthodoxy. We as humans are both spiritual and material in our nature.
 

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Agreed! But, balance is required when it comes to 'mysticism'...
 

OrthodoxEth

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Well, that's the thing, you're not supposed to have a "personal direct experience of God" through books, but rather through the Holy Mysteries, prayer, humility, repentance, etc. To think otherwise is to worship knowledge. "Gnosis" is exactly Greek for "knowledge". When St. John, who wrote the most mystical real Gospel, wrote that if everything Christ did were written in books, these books couldn't fit in the whole world, that's what he was talking about.


It can't get more personal than having the Holy Spirit inhabit in your heart by listening to the liturgy organised by the very body of God, all while eating his flesh and drinking his blood.


I strongly recommend that you search for hagiographies and for the books Theosis and The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church. There, you'll see Orthodoxy has a sound "yes".
I totally agree about the Holy Mysteries...what do you think about the degree of 'Gnosis' experienced by non-Orthodox, if any?
 

RaphaCam

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I totally agree about the Holy Mysteries...what do you think about the degree of 'Gnosis' experienced by non-Orthodox, if any?
Well, there are gnosis (divine illumination of the mind/heart) and dianoia (production of mental constructs by intellectual and sensorial faculties). I'm not knowledgeable enough to make clear distinctions between gnosis and dianoia, let alone speaking about subjects that Orthodox theology rarely contemplates. That being said...

I do believe is that there are many things about God that are inscribed in the human mind/heart. I also believe other faiths have real supernatural experiences that end up informing their respective traditions.

I'm under the impression, however, that the Holy Scriptures may teach us that not even the Old Testament saints had their hearts/minds illuminated in Jeremiah 31:33b, specially as quoted in Hebrews 8:10b.
 

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I'm under the impression, however, that the Holy Scriptures may teach us that not even the Old Testament saints had their hearts/minds illuminated in Jeremiah 31:33b, specially as quoted in Hebrews 8:10b.
I'm still vacationing so don't have access to most of my resources, but this strikes me as slightly too strong of a statement. St John Chrysostom's comments on Hebrews: 8 center on the old vs new covenants, and he seems to be focused (as St Paul often is) on how the Law is iconic of grace; some Fathers (like St Maximos The Confessor) get more technical in calling it a "shadow". Yet either way, there doesn't seem to be any doubt that there was real grace illuminating the Patriarchs, real working of the Holy Spirit, or even a real contact with the preincarnate Christ, but rather a difference due to the Annunciation having not yet occurred in chronological time.
 

RaphaCam

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I'm still vacationing so don't have access to most of my resources, but this strikes me as slightly too strong of a statement. St John Chrysostom's comments on Hebrews: 8 center on the old vs new covenants, and he seems to be focused (as St Paul often is) on how the Law is iconic of grace; some Fathers (like St Maximos The Confessor) get more technical in calling it a "shadow". Yet either way, there doesn't seem to be any doubt that there was real grace illuminating the Patriarchs, real working of the Holy Spirit, or even a real contact with the preincarnate Christ, but rather a difference due to the Annunciation having not yet occurred in chronological time.
It was a brain fart, I was going to write "righteous", meaning the faithful who followed the commandments, took part in sacrifices, etc. Moses shines with God's uncreated light in Exodus 34.
 
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rakovsky

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In my view they hold exactly the same place in the New Testament as the Deuterocanon in the Old. How do we know that Satan wasn't interfering with the selection process?
It is certainly untrue that "Gnostic gospels" hold the same place in the NT as the Deuterocanon in the Old. The Deuterocanon is made of texts and books that certain important Church fathers and councils considered to be part of the Scriptural Biblical canon but other Church fathers and councils did not. These certain fathers and councils are those listed in the Council of Trullo's section on Biblical canons. The Deuterocanonical texts include writings like the three special Septuagint sections of the book of Daniel. St. John Damascene, a major medieval Church Father considered those three special LXX sections to be the only canonical texts of the whole Deuterocanon. Orthodox Bibles print the Deuterocanon with the rest of the Old Testament. So regardless of whether an EO theologian considers the Deuterocanon to tbe part of the Biblical canon, it is still part of the Christian Tradition and among the texts that the Church passes down as its heritage.

In contrast, the Gnostic gospels reflect specifically Gnostic theology that is different from Orthodox Christian theology. The Gnostic Gospels are different therefore just from normal orthodox Christian writings that didn't make it into the NT canon. So for example, a famous 2nd century saint was Justin Martyr, and his writings come from the early Christian period as one of the Church fathers. His writings are not in the NT canon, but they represent Orthodox theology as opposed to Gnostic theology, even if someone were able to find some secondary mistakes in St. Justin's writing. So St. Justin's writing is part of Christian Tradition, and not part of Gnostic writings because of these differences with Gnosticism. The Epistle of Barnabas is a writing that many consider to be from the 1st century, perhaps from the Apostle Barnabas, that is part of Christian Tradition and is Orthodox in theology, but not part of the NT canon, and not part of Gnosticism either. Some old Bible codices included the Epistle of Barnabas among their pages, but it's not a Gnostic writing.

Regards.
 
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