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Gnostic Baptism

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  • lady_caritas
    ... For instance, some ... PMCV, your comments here reminded me of some commentary by Bentley Layton in _The Gnostic Scriptures_ regarding classic Gnostic
    Message 1 of 37 , Sep 6, 2006
      --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, pmcvflag <no_reply@...> wrote:

      For instance, some
      > things that were not generally part of Jewish thinking.... Baptism
      > #6 (though I don't know how well that has been established for the
      > Essenes. One must remember that ablution in the "mikvah" was and is
      > a common Jewish practice that has been confused with Baptism, but
      > there are some important differences.), the focus on poverty and
      > communal property, etc..
      > While my first thought in dealing with the subject of the Christians
      > and the Essenes was to go from this point to say we should also
      > point out the differences, I think more importantly we have to move
      > into the realm of Gnostic thinking. After all, even if we could link
      > the Essenes with the Christians (let alone EQUATE the two as you
      > suggested), it doesn't do anything for our comparison with
      > Gnosticism.

      PMCV, your comments here reminded me of some commentary by Bentley
      Layton in _The Gnostic Scriptures_ regarding classic Gnostic baptism
      and its function. He even questions what relationship, if any,
      Gnostic baptism had to the non-Gnostic Christian ceremony, and also
      whether or not baptism was only metaphorical,... whether it took place
      on earth or only in the spiritual realm. In any case, the Gnostics
      did not appear to have considered the spiritual baptismal water to
      involve only an earthly ritual washing to remove impurities or sin.

      I'll type this section from his book and I welcome any comments from
      you and others.
      From _The Gnostic Scriptures_ by Bentley Layton, pages 19-20:

      Like other Christians, the gnostics laid great stress on the
      importance of baptism and made strong use of baptismal rhetoric when
      speaking of salvation. To judge from the texts, gnostic baptism
      marked a decisive step in the spiritual life of the gnostic, involving
      renunciation, instruction, learning, and initiation into a
      new "kinship" and a new state of life. Reception of gnostic baptism
      was closely associated with reception of _gnosis_ and was believed to
      enable the gnostic to overcome death.

      Various stages of a gnostic baptismal ceremony are enumerated in FTh
      [First Thought in Three Forms]: the candidate strips off "darkness,"
      puts on a robe of light, is washed in the water of life, receives a
      throne of glory and is glorified with glory of "the kinship," and
      finally is raised to "the luminous place of . . . kinship." The
      baptized is also said in EgG [The Holy Book of the Great Invisible
      Spirit (The Egyptian Gospel)] to put on the name of Jesus, and
      according to BJn [The Secret Book According to John] _gnosis_ is
      received when the savior seals the candidate with "the light of the
      water of the five seals." These five seals are mentioned in many
      passages of gnostic scripture as having a very intimate connection
      with _gnosis_, but what they consist of is never clearly explained.
      EgG concludes with a lengthy, ecstatic baptismal invocation presumably
      spoken by a recipient of gnostic baptism.

      Yet despite the insistence on baptism in gnostic scripture, the
      references to it are phrased in exaggerated poetic language, always
      giving the impression that the ceremony takes place not on earth, but
      only in the spiritual realm. For example, various aeons known from
      gnostic myth take a leading role in the ceremony; the spiritual
      baptismal water is even mythically personified, as are "the five
      seals." It may seriously be asked, then, whether such references to
      baptism are not mere metaphor, a mystical description of salvation by
      acquaintance (such an equation is explicitly made at the end of RAd
      [The Revelation of Adam] ). Was there also a physical gnostic rite of
      baptism, and if so was it a once-for-all initiation into the kinship
      of the gnostic church or a repeatable act of mystical enlightenment?
      What was its relation, if any, to that baptism already received by
      members of the non-gnostic church who then converted to gnostic
      Christianity? No answer to these questions is given by the scriptures
      themselves, apart from silence. But St. Epiphanius, a hostile – and
      not fully reliable – fourth-century observer (EpA [Epiphanius. On the
      Archontics] ), reports that the Archontics, a subdivision of the
      gnostics, "curse and reject [non-gnostic] baptism, even though there
      are some among them who have already been baptized [as orthodox
      Christians]" because baptism is "alien and has been established in the
      name of Sabaoth," i.e. the god of the Israel, who according to the
      Archontics is the son of Satan. Furthermore, according to St.
      Epiphanius, the Archontics believe that when the soul is saved
      it "gets _gnosis_ and flees baptism of the [non-gnostic] church."
    • lady_caritas
      ... it ... to ... Baptist ... Heh. Neither is the treatment of his mother, Elizabeth. The author writes, John was begotten by means of a womb worn with
      Message 37 of 37 , Sep 9, 2006
        --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, pmcvflag <no_reply@...> wrote:
        > I'm glad to hear that Layton didn't include TT *lol*. BTW, I just
        > thought I would also add an interesting note for the group (maybe
        > will come up in the Essene conversation as well) that in addition
        > the sects you mention are attacked the treatment of John the
        > is not very sympathetic either.

        Heh. Neither is the treatment of his mother, Elizabeth. The author
        writes, "John was begotten by means of a womb worn with age."


        > Less obvious, but possibly still significant....
        > "It is through water and fire that the whole place is purified -
        > visible by the visible, the hidden by the hidden. There are some
        > things hidden through those visible. There is water in water, there
        > is fire in chrism."
        > (side note.... considering the subject matter and the mention of
        > of the rituals mentioned in other valentinian texts, along with
        > scribal errors elsewhere in Philip, one could reasonably wonder if
        > the second use of the word "water" in this passage may not have
        > originally been "baptism")

        That's possible. Sure. Yet,... talking about "things hidden
        through those visible" preceding "water in water" compels me to draw
        an immediate association of hidden water through visible water. I
        don't know if that is any less meaningful than spelling it out.

        Since "chrism" is mentioned, it even might be expected to think of
        the water in terms of baptism. Chrism and water are mentioned as
        *both* being necessary for baptism elsewhere in GPh:

        "We are reborn by the holy spirit. And we are born by the anointed
        (Christ) through two things. We are anointed by the spirit. When we
        were born we were joined. No one can see himself in the water or in
        a mirror without light. Nor, again, can you see by the light without
        water or a mirror. For this reason it is necessary to baptize with
        two things – light and water. And light mean chrism."

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