The Gnostics...secret knowledge?

Discussion in 'History Forum' started by grahame, Jan 3, 2010.

  1. grahame

    grahame
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    I have been reading the so called gnostic gospels and in particular the so called gospels of Mary and of Judas. The gospel of Mary, so called emphasises Mary Magdalene rather than the Apostle Peter as the favoured leader of the Apostles. This is where the inspiration of Dan Brown's book the Da Vinci Code came from.

    By the way if you go to Dan Brown's website you will see that from the outset that he thrives on mystery. He is a very good story teller. But I would respect him more if he didn't treat speculation as gospel truth and that which is well known as secret and has supposedly been hidden for years.

    But perhaps I am looking in the wrong direction here? For a sudden thought came to me as I was reading that rather than read the so called gnostic gospels I should concentrate more upon those scholars who are publishing them? For as I read about their beliefs regarding their finds I am intrigued to find that their views of the early church differ greatly to the accepted and time tested view.

    For they rather see the early church in a kind of disarray where it is split into loads`of little factions and where the heirarchy of bishops of the stronger branches of this muddled young church are rather angry tyrants eager for power and are rather looked upon as difficult and contentious little men, than gracious Christians guided by the Holy Spirit and demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit in their lives. Even the apostles are viewed as secretive power loving individuals forcing their beliefs and views upon others.
    According to the National Geographic magazine Biblical scholar Marvin Meyer of Chapman University sums up the early church as "Christianity trying to find its style".

    This increasingly popular view of the early church I find more disturbing and worrying than the so called gnostic gospels themselves. For the early church was a dominant known and clearly defined organisation from the time of the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came down upon those 120 souls to this day.

    These men speak of Athanasius ( born c. 296; died 2 May, 373.) as the first person to name the 27 books of the New Testament. Yet they totally ignore that all of these books were in full used and recognised by the church for centuries before. They forget that just because something isn't "officially" uttered that they did not exist before that said date.

    I must therefore emphasise the fact in order to make it abundantly clear that not only was the New Testament in its present form used by the early church, but that there were literally 1000's of copies not only of Paul's writings, but also all four gospels from very early dates. In fact because of the very character of Paul's writings they must have been written down from the very days he was imprisoned in Rome.

    Anyway as I said I was reading these so called gnostic gospels. And my dear friends if you read these writings I can assure you that you will have much less respect for them than these men give to them. For they play upon the fact that just because they have been buried all these years that this makes them an important find where the church is concerned.

    Don't get me wrong. They are an important find in an historical sense. As`they help us understand more about this mysterious sect (I will not say Christian, because they existed before the Christian era. They just Christianised themselves when it came along). But as so called Christian documents they are pathetically weak and at times silly in their assumptions. I once read a book called "The Ring of Truth" by J.B.Phillips (a modern circa 1950's New Testament translator) In it he mentions that some things just have that ring of truth to them. From the outset I didn't find that these so called gospels had that.

    For the most part they were a rather bad reitteration of those words of Christ that I am familiar with. But for the other part they say nothing at all and rather play upon the fact that this "Gnosis" or inner knowledge of the gnostics was "SECRET" knowledge only understood and known by a favoured few.

    You just have to look at some of the modern so called Christian cults and heresies today and look at the way they speak about themselves that you realise that they are just modern copies of these ancient heresies. For when we read the New Testament and the very words of Christ we immediately see that as the apostle Paul says to king Agrippa when he was brought before him, "For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely : for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner."

    The gospel was not meant for a select few who considered themselves to be more knowledgable than anybody else and that they possessed some kind of secret knowledge that no other person in the church knew. For Jesus said to his disciples, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.

    Just to end. It is common knowledge that the church from the time of the day of Pentecost had reached the farthest reaches of the Roman Empire within the space of 30 years. This was not some small sect of a series of pathetic factions of Christians all fighting each other for the upper hand. This was an established organised church which was a powerful contender for the hearts of men and women throughout the then known world that every Roman Emperor of those times saw the Christian Church as a real threat to the Empire's continued existence.
     
    #1 grahame, Jan 3, 2010
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  2. targus

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    Since they are not Scripture they would be the wrong direction.

    I am not sure how such reading would be helpful in one's faith.
     
  3. Zenas

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    Grahame, you're right on about 98% of your post. I have read some of the gnostics and they are pitiful works of literature--pitifully bad that is. They do not have any ring of truth and would carry no influence but for the people who advocate them. When you watch these TV programs about them, and about other aspects of early Christianity, on CNN, A&E, The History Channel, etc., you will always see the same half dozen professors at liberal divinity schools. Many of these people are on the record denying the divinity of Jesus and seeing the Church as purely a cultural phenomenon. Unlike the writers of the gnostics, however, these people are articulate and convincing. Too bad the cable channels that put these programs on don't allow for a counterpoint from genuine Bible believers.
     
  4. billwald

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    >Since they are not Scripture they would be the wrong direction.

    They are not scripture because they were not politically/theologically correct according to Constantine and the Council of Nicea. Anyone who thinks such things were not political . . . I have a very nice bridge for sale.

    For a readable analysis I like Elaine Pagels' books.
     
  5. grahame

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    As I explained in my post, Athanasius was only the person who named the 27 books of the New Testament. They were well know and used in the early church for many years before he happened to name them. If they had not he could not have name then.

    Anyway the debates at the time of Constantine (who by the way played no part in these debates) were not to decide what books were allowed in the sacred canon or not. It was a debate about our Lord's divinity. His fight was not to decide what books were to go into the New Testament, because they were already there in constant use by ordinary Christians and there were already 1000's of copies distributed around the different churches.

    Athanasius' fight (not Constantine) was against Arianism, which denied the deity of our Lord. You are obviously influenced by Dan Brown's books. If only he would get his facts straight. But he banks on people not doing their own research. Indeed his books are aimed at the ignorant and those who are antagonistic towards Christianity.

    You know, folk seem intent on looking outside of the NT for their facts. As if to say that the NT documents aren't historical proof in themselves. But they are themselves amongst the most well preserved writings of the ancient world. No other ancient documents religious or otherwise are as well preserved as these New Testament documents.

    Surely this in itself is proof of their acceptance among the common believers rather than these so called gnostic gospels which have for the most part perished?

    have ye not read?
    (Proverbs 22:12)

    Suggested reading: Luke 1:1-4
    My dear friend, look to the internal evidence of these things first. Unless`of course you believe those men to be liers of these things? The very fact that doctor Luke, an accomplished writer himself wrote about the many who had "taken in hand to set forth in order those things that are most surely believed among us" shows us that even during the lifetime of himself who was contemporary with Paul the apostle, men had written these things down already before he had decided to do so. So this is internal evidence that gospels which agreed with Luke's account were in existence well before modern scholars believe they were.
     
    #5 grahame, Jan 4, 2010
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  6. grahame

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    I was referring to the historians who write about them, not the writings themselves. I meant by wrong direction that a study of those people who write about the gnostic gospels (so called because they are not the gospel) would be more telling than the reading of those gnostic writings themselves. You are right, they are not scripture and therefore should be read with this in mind.

    But nevertheless I think it important that we familiarise ourselves with these things in order to argue effectively against those men, like Dan Brown who are intent to put them forward as wonderful truths that have been deliberately hidden from the common people and suppressed by "the church" as he implies.

    Instead we find that in reality they died a natural death, because they were and still are quite simply...erm... rubbish. Old rubbish admittedly. But rubbish all the same.:smilewinkgrin:
     
    #6 grahame, Jan 4, 2010
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  7. billwald

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    The side that wins the war writes the history books . . . .
     
  8. Marcia

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    I agree we should know about this and know how to defend Christianity and the Bible against the popularizing of the Gnostic gospels that has been increasing due to these scholars who promote these works.

    Dan Brown caused a lot of people to accept what he had in his book (despite it being fiction, he was referring to real historical characters and cleverly had a historian spouting all kinds of bunk that was supposed to be true) and caused some Christians to question the Bible. That is why so many Christians did write refutations of Brown's book.

    Gnosticism has never died; it just takes other forms. You can see this in Eastern religions, parts of Mormon belief, and big time in the New Age.
     
  9. grahame

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    Yes I know. I was referring to their early writings not their philosophy. In fact they were around before Christianity and continue as you have observed in various forms since. Unremarkable that the devil is not that inventive. He doesn't have to be, for all he has to do is to convince the current generation every time. For man has a very short memory when it comes to heresy.
     
  10. grahame

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    I'm not sure why people continue to believe this quote? For it is totally untrue in man's case. For the first 300 years the Christian church had so much persecution thrown at it from the Jews to every Roman Emperor who lived in those days, yet it still managed to survive and so did their writings. The church did not begin with the Emperor Constantine.

    Let me just say that a couple of the comments here I am surprised at if the people who made them are indeed Christians? For at the top of the forum is quoted the words of Christ,
    So my friend, I have been made free from the condemnation of sin. What makes YOU free? Is it the gnostic gospels? Or is it the Christ of the New Testament that has come down to us from the very first, not from the time of Constantine.

    The gnostics rejected the Old Testament and all its prophets and indeed saw the God of the Old Covenant as a false god. The Christ of the New Testament that has come down to us quotes the Old Testament prophets in order to prove that he was God's son. As do ALL of the NT writers. The gnostics on the other hand have nothing to appeal to, for they reject all of these things.

    As I quoted before
    As you said: "The side that wins the war writes the history books". In this case it is true. For God certainly has won the war. The transgressors writings have for the most part crumbled to dust.

    I find it so strange how far people will go to deny their own salvation and to reject their only saviour, who will save them from their sins and heal their broken hearts. Listen to the words of the saviour:
    (Luke 4:18-21)

    What a wonderful Saviour He is my friend. Why should anyone deny his person, his life and his death? And also his substitutional sacrifice for our sins. Glory be to God for His unspeakable gift.
     
    #10 grahame, Jan 5, 2010
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  11. grahame

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    This made me think of a scripture in Romans 8.
    This was the situation of the early church for the first 300 or so years. Of course the church is still being persecuted in certain countries to this day and Christians must suffer for the name of Christ in many different ways.

    We are constantly having to wage a battle that has been won many times. But still we must contend for the hearts of men and women in each generation. The seven headed beast still rises out of the sea of souls. The devil is constantly working in hope of bringing down the church in every age.

    Not only that, but man's heart is fickle and unstable and constantly goes after this new thought and that new religion. Which is not new of course for as the wise man once said, "There is nothing new under the sun". But man treats it as new.

    There is a new kind of atheism as well. An evangelistic kind of atheism that Richard Dawkins and his ilk are currently propergating under supposed "new" revelations. What with these so called "dramatic" new discoveries of these so called gnostic gospels, which are not gospels at all, for there is no good news in them. We find we are having to fight the fight of faith again and again, covering the same old ground, because the memory of man is so short and dismissive.

    These heresies were NEVER serious contenders against the church. It just was not true that there were two or even three BIG sections of the church who were divided from the beginning. These were heresies that troubled the church and that is all they were. The church was one from the beginning.

    The way these modern theologians speak they make it look as if the church had trouble finding its feet and was so week and feeble that is was divided and sub-divided into many different factions. This just was not so. If it were then it certainly would not have spread throughout the entire Roman Empire within the space of thirty years. "If a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand".


    Yes the winner of the war gets to write the history, but not in any human sense. For one thing we are not only talking about history. But faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

    The way these "theologians" today speak concerning the leaders of the early church. They make them look like tyrants and intolerant bigots and show the gnostics in a very good light. Indeed Jeremiah the prophet was right,
    We are as the church militant destined to fight this fight for the minds and souls of men and women. But we must do so remembering those words of the apostle Paul
     
    #11 grahame, Jan 5, 2010
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  12. billwald

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    OK, but Acts clearly teaches that Paul was merely tolerated by the Jerusalem Church. After 70 the Jerusalem Church was destroyed and Paul's followers got control of the Church by default.
     
  13. grahame

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    Paul got control of nothing. The apostles were all in agreement with Pauls message.
    (2 Peter 3:15)
    Notice the words
    Peter obviously considered Paul's writings to be divinely inspired. for he considered them to be on an equal par with the other scriptures. So this leading apostle of the Jerusalem church obbviously respected the apostle Paul very much.

    They preached the same gospel. If you read Acts 15 where the apostles came together for the church's first synod you will see that they were in full agreement with one another including Paul the apostle for in verse 12 we read this
    and in Acts 21:17
    So show me where Paul was "Merely tolerated" by the church at Jerusalem. I will be interested to see it

    Then in Galatians 1:18 we read
    Hardly the act of one who merely tolerated Paul, you'd think he'd avoid him? and in Galatians 1:1-2 we read
    Those of reputation were Peter and James probably. He communicated with them as you can see, lest by any means he had run in vain. In other words in case he's got it wrong. But his message he discovered was the same gospel they were preaching.

    So generally speaking the church was at one. And in any case Paul I think died long before the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. I think Paul died in the AD 60's. It was never about any kind of power struggle between the apostles. It was about preaching the gospel. Anyway, what has this to do with Constantine? He came along 300 years after these events.
     
    #13 grahame, Jan 6, 2010
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  14. Marcia

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    You are right, Satan is not very creative. He is great at knowing human nature, however, and what appeals to us.
     
  15. RAdam

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    The things that people will believe is amazing.

    First of all, notice the language that scriptures uses in regards to His church. Does it make any sense at all for God to inspire scripture and then allow men to exclude some and it be lost to us for centuries? Men have tried over and over again to destroy the bible and destroy the church, but the Lord has not allowed them to accomplish this. Why? Because He promised His church would be perpetual until His coming and He promised His word would endure forever. This argument over the gnostic gospels is just ridiculous.

    Secondly, the idea that Paul was a rebel and was either tolerated, or downright despised, by the other apostles and the rest of the church is ridiculous, just plain false, and easily refuted by scripture. First, Paul did not preach another gospel, he preached the same one Peter, James, and John did, only his commission was to the gentiles (although you'll notice he preached in every town to Jews first, and continued to care much for them). When he disputed against the need for circumcision of the gentiles in Acts 15, Peter stands up to support him by saying that God had granted to the gentiles the same gifts as He had to the Jews. James agreed, and a letter was sent to Antioch in which the Jerusalem church said the Judaizers that had troubled them didn't come with their blessing. Secondly, Paul and Barnabas were loved by the church at Jerusalem. They had the right hand of fellowship extended to them. Finally, if Paul's people took over by default, I submit this to you. John outlived all the other apostles. If Paul preached untruths, a perverted gospel, or outright heresy, John would have corrected it after his death. Instead John is writing letters that very much accord with Paul's, and the bulk of his writing is against heresy, the gnostic heresy.
     
  16. grahame

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    If you mean me then I agree with every word you say.:thumbs:
     

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