Hey Andrew and Michael
I had also wanted to talk about the specific passage of Michael's
post that Andrew singles out...
>>>"After an extensive survey of the issues, Smith provides his own
conclusions: first, that an early second-century dating for
Gnosticism is most consistent with the historical details of the
period; and second, that Egypt following the Jewish Revolt under
Trajan (115-117 CE) provides a ripe context for Gnosticism's most
unique and definitive innovation, the rejection of the cosmos and
the Creator God of the Jews.He argues that individuals closely
connected with Judaism- whether Jews, Jewish Christians, or gentile
God-fearers-may have responded to the rebellion by rejecting the
God and religion that inspired this apocalyptic and messianic
ferment."No longer Jews," they were now free to follow a higher God
and way of life."<<<
It is an interesting theory. I feel there are some questions that
would need to be dealt with to make this theory viable, since I have
not read this book it is possible they are dealt with already.
For one; while it is true that some specific sects of "Gnosticism"
demonstrate this kind of negativity towards the cosmos and a turning
of the Genesis myth on it's head, it is not true of all Gnosticism.
Not only do I find the charge of "dualism" questionable, but I think
that the charge of extreme negativity in the Gnostic view of the
cosmos as a specifically defining attribute of the category has been
put to rest (one example of a deconstruction of this notion would be
in Williams, who we mentioned just a few posts ago).
Consider some of the Valentinian texts, or perhaps the semi-
Valentinian Tripartite Tractate. The view presented here has more in
common with Philo than with Sethian texts.
That brings me to my second point. It is an historical fact that
demiurgic speculation predates the events that are presented as the
turning point in this theory. Philo is the perfect example. Merkabah
speculation does not have the negative view that Sethians do, but as
I already pointed out it is not something we find in all Gnostic
While outside the Jewish spectrum, we do even see the negative slant
within a related cosmology. Take Moderatus the neo-Pythagorian, for
instance, it is a short step to compare cosmologies, and all one
need to do is put one of the many neo-Platonic outlines in the lingo
of Judaism, just as Philo does, but with the negative slant
skip is fairly seamless.
I am not saying this is what happened, but we certainly don't need
an event to explain Gnosticism when all the pieces where right there
to be used. We should be careful not to add extra variables for no
other purpose than to attempt to apply a date.
Also, I am concerned with the fact that our early examples
of "Gnosticism" are so close to the date in question that it gives
little time for development.
I am a little skeptical, but not denying the theory.