Gnosticism and The Early Church

Who exactly were the Gnostics?From my understanding there were a lot fo gnostic sects back then,is there any helpfull way to learn about their theologies?Did their theologies were rejected by the early church because they were simply "heretical"or against the christian notion of doctrine ,or simple because of politcal and socioeconomical power?(ie See Cathars).Did their theologies had some ground at least to the Christian belief?What about the matter vs soul division?

Look up and compare to the teachings of Plato and you will see that nearly all of its ideas came from him.

They believe the world was created by an evil Demiurge who trapped the immortal immaterial souls as the minds in material bodies. Thus the mind sees Plato’s immaterial world of ideas while the body must suffer the evils of a material existence. But by the acquisition of secret knowledge these rational souls can find liberation from this material prison. Such religious ideas had an enormous impact on early Christianity with many Christians mixing the ideas from these two sources – and the mixing has continued to modern times. Unlike other things this is a mixing in the origin of Christianity which I do not embrace as good or according to the will of God. I believe it undermines the central teaching of Christianity itself.

What came first, in your view, Gnosticism or Non Gnostic Christianity?

Gnosticism is a rather broad category with ill-defined boundaries. So it’s difficult to say exactly when the first gnosticism of some sort or another existed.
In particular, there were various ideas combining elements of Judaism and Greek philosophy before Christianity began. Paul and John take up some of the Greek philosophical terms that were floating around in the first century.
But the distinctive Gnostic heresies were sets of beliefs that accepted the Greek mind-body duality, with the body bad, and taught that secret knowledge (gnosis) available only to initiates was key to superior living. Contrary to the pop claims that assert that the gnostic writings provide earlier and more historically reliable accounts than the New Testament, the gnostic systems are inherently later than orthodox Christianity. They represent an effort to blend Christian teaching and Greek philosophy, and as such require the existence of Christian teaching to take up and blend. In the highly syncretistic world of the polytheistic ancient Mediterranean, such blending was not slow to happen. Some New Testament passages criticize elements that developed into later gnosticism, and there are traditions of John coming into conflict with an early gnostic teacher. But the blending cannot occur before the parts exist. Christianity clearly comes from Jewish roots, not Greek; the gnostic versions are definitely secondary.

Thanks for the info. I was of the opinion that the Mandeans, venerating John the Baptist came before the Christians but perhaps that’s a misunderstanding on my part. Can you recommend some resources on studying up about Gnosticism, their history, beliefs, etc. Thanks.

I studied about Cathars a while ago.It is true.All the gnostic “gospels” came later .I can provide a link if i find the unis page

Were there non Christian (like Jewish, or pagan) Gnostics? Is it possible that they came before the Christians? I’m personally leaning towards Jesus myth theory and I think support for that theory requires acceptance of Gnostic ideas as early as 40s or 50s AD/CE.

I dont know.Maybe @paleomalacologist can answer since he putted well the last comment.The theory though is a fable since most scholars atheists reject it as well.But if thats your opinion then ok.

Well like I said most of Gnosticism was taught by Plato which definitely came before Christianity.

But as for the latter, that is like asking when Christianity began which is complicated. To be sure most would say it began with the teachings of Jesus. Others would say that was only the first step completed later with the teachings of Paul. Others would say that the final steps were the decision on a creed and cannon in the fourth century.

Thanks. Reading the Synoptic Gospels, we find that the teaching of Jesus was similar to the teaching of John the Baptist.
Matthew 3: 1Now in those days John the Baptist *came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, 2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Matthew 4: 17 From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Both were baptizing people. Seems like Johns movement was earlier. But who was his teacher?

God was…John was considered a prophet of somewhat

Jesus never baptized anyone.We dont know that infromation neither historically nor through the gospels

That’s an interesting question. While Nick may insist that it’s God … obviously … it hasn’t followed that discipling didn’t occur by others that came before the prophet. We just aren’t told who that might be in John’s case. But others of such prophetic or apostolic status got their training from predecessors (also used by God presumably). Paul studied under Gamaliel (not even a Christian at the time! - or ever so far as we know.) Old testament prophets were usually protégés or apprentices of somebody before ‘taking up the mantle’.

But back on the topic of Gnosticism, the word is most general descriptive of “secret knowledge” and so loosely characterizes those who think in terms of “insider information” … secret rites or knowledge of something that would set one apart from all the others. I think in that general sense, we see how antithetical such things are to the gospel for the world at large.

Ill argue against this im afraid.John was different.He had a mission .He wasnt just a prophet but a prophet specifically chosen by God.Is it any wonder that he was the first one to recognise who Jesus was?

John 3: 22 After these things Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judea; and there He was spending time with them and baptizing.23 Now John also was baptizing in Aenon, near Salim, because there was an abundance of water there; and people were coming and being baptized— 24 for John had not yet been thrown into prison.

25 Then a matter of dispute developed on the part of John’s disciples with a Jew about purification. 26 And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified—behold, He is baptizing and all the people are coming to Him.” 27 John replied, “A person can receive not even one thing unless it has been given to him from heaven. 28 You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent ahead of Him.’ 29 He who has the bride is the groom; but the friend of the groom, who stands and listens to him, rejoices greatly because of the groom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made full. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.

You are right in that Jesus supposedly did not baptize but his disciples baptized. Why not Jesus? Seems like there was a competition that Jesus was winning.

John 4 :1 So then, when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that He was making and baptizing more disciples than John 2 (although Jesus Himself was not baptizing; rather, His disciples were ),

We’re not told that … is all I’m saying. You may be right, but I’m just pointing out that nobody is diminished for having “received training”. Moses (it could be argued) anticipated Christ even long before John did … and would we say Moses was any less inspired just because he was trained under the pagan Egyptians? Or was Samuel any less of a prophet for growing up under Eli’s tutelage? Or Elisha for learning from Elija?

His disciples were as you said.Im gonna have to go with the “Jesus didnt baptized anyone route”

No i didnt meant that.I was just saying that its possible that some prophets John included didnt got taught by anyone.We have many examples of "self-taught "in history i think.

Yep, I am of the opinion that the secret knowledge developed after the realization that God doesn’t deliver on his Old Testament promises. Ie people who are trying to be obedient to him end up being in Greek and then Roman captivity and those guys are much worse sinners vs Jews, and desecrate the Temple even, and nothing appears to stop them. So, either atheism is true or there must be some deliverance that’s not obvious.

Here’s Jewish encyclopedia on Gnosticism

Thats a strawman right there for atheism

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