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12989Re: Jewish Gnostics

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  • pmcvflag
    Feb 20, 2007
      Hello Celeste

      In response to your post I would like to reiterate some of what Cari
      states and toss a couple of things in the mix. You state...

      >>>Almost across the board, I discovered an angry streak regarding
      a "Jewish Gnosticism". A few of the books even made it clear that
      they were intended only for Jewish readers and did not appreciate
      being co-opted by Christians. After my initial shock, I ignored
      these sentiments and continued with my study.<<<

      On top of Cari's point about this, I would like to add that in some
      cases it may be ignorance on the part of the author about exactly
      what Gnosticism is. In spite of the legendary history of Kabbalah
      reaching back into the beginning of human existance, historians
      generally trace it to the early medieval period, with other forms of
      Jewish mysticism, such as Merkabah, feeding into it. In this sense,
      Gnosticism predates Kabbalah, and exists at roughly the same time as
      Merkabah. Dr Scholem talks about it this way in "Origin of the
      Kabbalah", and considers Kabbalah to simply be a late form, an
      offshoot of, Gnosticism.

      There ARE some important differences between the movements, but the
      essential structure in both movements is still Platonism in a
      Biblical lingo. Whether Kabbalah grew out of Gnosticism, or Kabbalah
      and Gnosticism simply have the same roots may be up in the air, but
      in spite of the distaste that some Kabbalists practitioners may have,
      I am not aware of any scholars that don't agree that there is SOME
      connection between the two movements.

      >>>I read a count by count list of the reasons why nothing Jewish can
      be Gnostic, but I am not sold. I fully appreciate that to the Jewish
      worshiper, Gnosticism can be construed as an afront to their
      tradition. If we call Jehovah the demiurge, we are saying that the
      basis for their beliefs are all lies, they are not worshipping the
      true God.<<<

      I am not sold either. I think that the arguments of Dr Turner, and
      others like Pearson, that trace Sethianism into a pre-Christian
      Jewish origin need to be seriously considered. On top of that, the
      line between the Merkabah of Philo, and the Valentinian thought that
      we see in the Tripartite Tractate is frankly a bit fuzzy. When is it
      no longer "Gnostic"? Philo has been placed on both sides of the line
      by different people, and the Tripartite Tractate reminds me more of
      him than it reminds me of what Jonas would call "Gnostic".

      If the only real line we wind up drawing between Merkabah and
      Gnosticism is that one is Jewish and the other Christian, then the
      Kabbalist authors you are talking about could just as easily try to
      deny that Christianity has no Jewish origins. On the other hand, they
      would then have to explain another origin for Sethianism or accept it
      as Jewish but not Gnostic. To me that makes their argument look like
      it comes more from passion than from historical criticism.

      >>>However, as a person who was once a mainstream Christian, I faced
      the same issue, and I still think that there is a great deal of
      Gnosticism in Kabbalah. This long post is my apologetic way of
      saying that where I respect Jewish mysticism, I still think that
      there is a Gnostic hand in it.<<<

      Having said what I just did I think we have to be careful to remember
      that in spite of the commonalities we should not be overly quick to
      lump them into one grouping. Even though Gnosticism likely grew
      within a Jewish ethnic awareness, to some extent it rejects this
      identity. They did indeed face the same issue that you did and I
      believe their rejection has a philosophical base.

      Unlike Scholem, I would not call Kabbalah "Jewish Gnosticism". If I
      used the term "Jewish Gnosticism" I would more likely mean a
      theorhetic pre-Christian Sethianism. Likewise I don't think it is
      accurate to call Hermetism "pagan Gnosticism" (in part because I
      don't think an academic category should use the word "pagan" in such
      a way). Instead, I would say that Hermetism, Merkabah, and Gnosticism
      are three very closely related movements that fit a larger category
      of mythological Platonism.

      PMCV
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