Time to Give the Gnostics a Rest

Another Easter has passed, and the TV specials and articles on Jesus (some positive, some negative, some hopelessly mixed) have aired and are gone.

Every Easter (and Christmas, for that matter), it seems to be time to bash Jesus or the Gospels or the Church.

Sometimes it’s subtle. Sometimes it’s not so subtle.

As one writer put it: “You can count on it. Every few years, some ‘scholar’ will stir up a short-lived sensation by publishing a book that says something outlandish about Jesus….his ‘findings’ will be treated respectfully as a scholarly work.'”

Was he talking about some recent specials on TV or some articles on the Internet? No, actually, this is from an article by Louis Cassels in The Detroit News, from June 1973. It was called, “Debunkers of Jesus Still Trying.”

They were trying in 1973, and they’re still trying in 2011.

Very trying, to borrow a line from Groucho Marx.

Modern day debunkers remind me of the ancient heretics known as the Gnostics. The name comes from the Greek word to know. (An agnostic is one who doesn’t know, e.g., if there is a God).

The Gnostics were a stubborn band of heretics rejected by the early Church. Acknowledged but rejected. They wrote many materials in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th centuries. They wrote “Gospels” in the names of some of the 1st century apostles.

But their “Gospels” are nothing like Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, which are based on eyewitness material and were written in the 1st century.

The only one of the Gnostic pseudo-“Gospels” that comes even remotely close in time to the biblical Gospels is “The Gospel of Thomas,” which consists of 114 sayings, attributed to Jesus.

The early Church rejected the Gnostics and did not perpetuate and circulate their writings. A stash of some ancient codices (book-like manuscripts) were found in 1945 in Nag Hammadi, Egypt.

One of the TV specials on the History Channel called it the most important find of Christian history.

No, it wasn’t.

If anything, it just showed how correct Irenaeus and other early Church Fathers were in their condemnation of the Gnostic heresies.

The Nag Hammadi find has caused a rebirth of interest in the Gnostics. Finally, there are “alternative Christianities” that liberal scholars can learn about and promote-as if the Gnostics were on the same level as the early Christians. The mega-bestseller, The DaVinci Code tried to make the case that the Gnostic Gospels were just as valid as the four we have in the Bible.

As if the Gnostic writings were as important as the writings we have in the New Testament-even though these writings were removed from the subject, in some cases, by centuries.

Liberal scholars seem to swoon over the Gospel of Thomas. Some of them seem to prefer it to the Biblical Four.

Thomas is generally held to be too late to have been written by the Biblical Thomas (although that assertion is not without controversy).

I find it ironic that politically correct Bible scholars, like Elaine Pagels of Princeton or Bart Ehrman of the University of North Carolina, who show up on these TV specials, talk about The Gospel of Thomas as if it’s more important than the Biblical Gospels. Yet look at how it ends:

(114) Simeon Peter said to them, “Let Mary leave us, for women are not worthy of life.”

Jesus said, “I myself shall lead her in order to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every woman who will make herself male will enter the kingdom of heaven.”

That’s sexist, to put it mildly. Its overall point does not fit the Judeo-Christian view that God made man (humanity) in His image-male and female He made them. Or the evidence from the true Gospels that Jesus allowed women to play a critical, positive role in His mission.

But it does fit the strange Gnostic worldview, which was anti-creation, anti-matter, and anti-law. I suppose many of today’s Gnostics are really just selective Gnostics.

What’s more, many of these Nag Hammadi texts are essentially “word salad.” They just don’t make sense. They are gibberish. No wonder the early Church rejected them. Here’s a statement from the Gospel of Philip (again, not written by Philip): “God is a dyer. As the good dyes, which are called ‘true,’ dissolve with the things dyed in them, so it is with those whom God has dyed. Since his dies are immortal, they become immortal by means of his colors. Now God dips what he dips in water.” (James M. Robinson, editor, The Nag Hammadi Library, p. 146).

The Gospel of the Egyptians III, 2 and IV,2, has even more meaninglessness, if that were possible: “Domedon Doxomedon came forth, the aeon of the aeons…..iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu eee eeeeeeeeeee aaaaaaaaa   aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa oooooooooooo ooooooooooo.” (The Nag Hammadi Library, p. 210).

These are actual quotes from the Nag Hammadi texts of the Gnostic Scriptures.

And some of today’s scholars prefer this kind of stuff to statements from Jesus from the Biblical Gospels, like,

∙The truth shall set you free.

∙Do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the law and the prophets.

∙Those who live by the sword shall die by the sword.

∙Beware of sheep in wolves’ clothing.
I suppose this last warning could apply to some of our politically correct Bible scholars who are re-peddling Gnostic heresies from the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th centuries all over again.

Isn’t it time to give the Gnostics a rest?

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