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Re: Sethian and Cainite: Defining Terms

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  • pmcvflag
    Rev. R. P. Orso D.D. We also talk about Judas here... but I think it could be important to point out some historical issues in your post. ... From what I
    Message 1 of 2 , Apr 12, 2006
      Rev. R. P. Orso D.D.

      We also talk about Judas here... but I think it could be important
      to point out some historical issues in your post.

      >>>Sethian and. Cainite: Defining Terms

      From what I understand from the term Sethian, is that this is a
      adjective used to describe Gnosticism with a Cosmology and
      Christology that claims Seth as an ancestor and Savior like
      Christ. This is a great oversimplification of the complexity of
      this term, and nuanced details are provided by John D. Turner in his

      The term "Sethian" is used in two ways. One is the name of a
      specific sect mentioned by heresiologists, and the other is one of
      the two basic categories of Gnosticism. The latter was taken based
      on the attributes of the former. The second category is Valentinain,
      which was likewise also a sect. I have actually had some issues with
      the practice of naming the categories after sects because I think it
      creates some confusion.

      In our files section you can find this brief outline of the two

      non Christian (Using inverse Jewish mythology)
      Demiurge is negative
      revelation in primordial times (Seth or Adam)
      Soteriology given by Seth
      Heavy emphasis on cosmos (detailed cosmologies)
      Baptism is emphasized in initiation

      Demiurge isn't negative (ambivalence)
      Revelation now (new adam, creation, reality, comes with Christ)
      Soteriology given by Christ/Logos (which isn't always the same as
      Little interest in Cosmos
      Bridal Chamber is the higher initiation (baptism being a lesser
      emphasis in the text)

      >>>Cainite* seems to be a charge leveled by Origen, Tertullian,
      Epiphanius of Salamis, Hippolytus and Irenaeus against certain
      Gnostics "who were known to worship Cain as the first victim of the
      Demiurge Jehovah, the Old Testament God, who was identified by many
      groups of gnostics as evil. They venerated Cain, on the basis that
      by creating murder Cain allowed men to deny it, and thus have a
      greater chance at redemption from Original Sin." (see

      The accounts of the Cainites seems to have originated with Irenaeus.
      The other accounts are dependant on this one, with some flavor being
      added each time.


      Does anyone have any ideas on what would differentiate a Sethian
      Gnostic from a Cainite, is it a matter of heresy being in the "eye
      of the beholder"?<<<

      There is reason to believe that the "Cainites" never actually
      existed, and that Irenaeus was simply splicing together his
      observations of this Sethian text, with some urban legends common to
      his time, and labeling it "Cainite". On the off chance there really
      was a branch of Sethianism that refered to itself as "Cainites",
      they almost certainly did not look much like the accounts of the

      >>>Would Church Fathers often misunderstand a Sethian Gnostic
      Christian for a Cainite?<<<

      Dr Williams, in "Rethinking Gnosticism" pretty convincingly argues
      for that scenario.

      >>>Why do Sethian Gnostics seem to have a longer span of influence
      than the Cainites?<<<

      I suppose we would have to further deal with whether the Cainites
      even existed in order to answer that question fully.

      >>>Is the "Gospel of Judas" a Cainite ancient text or a Sethian
      Gnostic one? Why?<<<

      Even if the Cainites did exist, they seem to fit the "Sethian"
      category, which is what scholars mean when they clasify a text.

      >>>*Cainite in this context should not be confused with the Vampire
      lore sometimes called the Cainite Myth or Cainite Heresy, nor should
      they be confused with Kenites "a tribe of the ancient Levant
      possibly a branch of the Midianite nation" (see
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenites) Nor should it be confused
      with the anti-Semitic slur used by the radical "Christian Indentity

      I don't think you have any worry that people here will make these
      mistakes. Many of us have been dealing with Gnostic history for a
      good number of years now. ;)

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