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Re: [Gnosticism2] Jesus

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  • Terje Bergersen
    ... Very difficult to generalize, we still talking about the earliest Christian Gnostics, right? If yes. Let`s consider the two most common alternative
    Message 1 of 97 , Nov 7, 2003
      > Hi, I've been lurking for a while and posts seem interesting. I
      > have a question to ask all of you. Is there a difference between
      > Jesus, Christ, Jesus the Christ and, of course, Jesus Christ?

      Very difficult to generalize, we still talking about the earliest
      Christian Gnostics, right?
      If yes. Let`s consider the two most common alternative Christologies
      of the Christian Gnostics discussed in the Churchfathers, or represented
      in modern discoveries of first-hand Gnostic accounts:

      1. Adoptionism - The Adoptionists (which includes the Gnostic teachers
      Menander (late 1st century, fl. early 2nd century),Carpocrates and
      Cerinthus and the "adoptionists", so dubbed because they adhered to the
      doctrine of Jesus adoption as Son of God at his baptism in the Jordan
      while still being active in the Orthodox lair of the Church, among whom we
      can count Bishop Paul of Samosata (fl.early 3rd century),certain sects of
      unknown nature and affilition, explicitly mentioned in the earlier
      heresiologist accounts - the Ebionites, the Nasoreans(not to be confused
      with the Naassenes) - and early apocryphal texts, also appears to adhere
      to the doctrine) held that A. the person who is known as Jesus is wholly a
      physical person, he has a psyche, a body and to a certain degree a mind -
      which is distinctly human (some representatives even view Joseph as the
      legitimate father of Jesus "according to the flesh", in the same manner
      Mary is considered the legitimate mother of Jesus "according to the
      and B. According to virtue,predistination or an intervention - Jesus is
      adopted at the baptism in the Jordan, wherein according to Menander,
      curiously, the Christ descends upon Jesus. As a consequence Jesus could be
      said to be by nature (originally) different from Christ - and separate; it
      is Jesus who,if it is possible to view it this way within the boundaries
      of these theological orientations - curses,doubts,cries etc. showing human
      psychological behaviour, and it is Jesus who is born,suffers,dies and is
      resurrected - the Divine Christ/Logos manifests itself through the agency
      of Jesus, and Jesus is finally translated to the heavens through the
      Christ as a reward for his service, it is through Jesus also, the Christ
      manifests itself in the transfiguration, and it is through him also,
      Christ performs its miracles and proclaims the Gospel.

      2. Docetism, also called Phantastiasm in the later antiquity/early middle
      ages on account of certain groups speculations on the bodily
      apparatus/constitution of the saviour/Christ who in his person also is
      acknowledged to be a divine being - even God (the Paulicians,the Bogomils
      and the Cathars were all "Phantasiasts" on account of this - nevertheless
      their view were less extreme than the early Docetists) - held that whether
      we talk of Jesus or Christ does not appear to have much bearing on what is
      intended. The churchfathers naturally make this view more suspect than it
      necessary needs to be; a fragment of Valentinus make him appear to say
      that Christ did not have any digestive appartus (at least not like ours)
      and would not produce any refuse although he appeared to be eating with
      the disciples - this is a very literal interpretation and no direct quote
      for sure, as we find in the Gospel of Truth and his poem Harvest, he is
      unlikely to have said or written such a thing with such an intent - what
      were at stake where the fullfillment of the promise as given by the Hebrew
      prophets and interpreted in the tradition of the first great fathers, not
      quite theologians yet - words like "atonement by bloo"d, "atoning
      sacrifice","great passion","sacrificial lamb" and so forth, looses their
      dramatic effect as literally interpreted roles which would make believers
      feel that because of these very concrete favours, these very concrete
      sufferings and services, they owed Jesus/Messiah/Christ&c everything.. the
      christian church had also instituted several sacrificial feasts, a party
      in the church insisted in quite meagre fare and a communal "sharing of the
      bread", recreating the Last Supper ritual, which they called the Agape
      suited them better, while the "great church" appears to have practiced
      something similar, it itself insisted on the wine/blood and bread/body
      symbolism and built its ceremonial,ritual and even ecclesiastical
      authority around the mass. The Docetists, however, until the middle ages
      where three popular movements would gain quite strong following, with
      precisely a docetic Christology - the Paulicians, Bogomils and Cathars -
      saw fit not only to participate in these sacramental meals, but themselves
      *give*(there were many Docetists, like Adoptionists, Monophysites etc.
      *in* the Church - even as Priests,Bishops and Deacons - decreasing by the
      centuries and the many scandals,synods,councils of the great church) these
      - they obviously did not see things as literalist as their orthodox
      accusers and persecutors, while the existence of the concrete symbols, and
      even different interpretations, did not bother them much.
      The Churchfathers understood the different doctrines - such as that
      Jesus/Christ (with the docetists the names did not matter, it was the
      entered Mary outside of any ordinary pregnancy and childbirth, that the
      body of Christ were completely immaculate and "alien" and therefore could
      not be construed to be human in the physical sense we view human bodies -
      or that all that befell him were not received,experienced and handled in
      an identical manner as you or I would - that God could not possibly die,
      not even for a minute, even if it would fulfill this or the other doodle
      of a theological exegesis of Isaiah`s prophecy - in the worst possible
      way; to wit - while the "heretics" would consider the "sense" in which
      everything associated with Jesus/Christ/Jesus Christ - the Churchfathers
      interpreting the words of the heretics would refuse to consider there
      would be any "sense" to anything - since either things occured in a
      literal sense as understood by the "church" or it, as projected into the
      heretics, there would have been no such things at all - that Jesus in no
      sense had existed, nor Christ, nor the Logos etc. since the alternative
      view disagreed with their own, and "denied Christ".

      as 2b we might consider the curious appearance and reappearance of what
      might be called "angelic christology" - in essence the different early
      christian groups/sects would claim that Jesus/Christ in no sense were a
      human being, since he did not possess a soul (!) in a human way, whether
      or not he was "embodied", or "incarnate" were simply of little consequence
      (and especially to their persecutors and those who would accuse them of
      heresy, since by compromising the identity of Jesus as Jesus born of Mary
      - of this or the lineage of David &c - they had "denied Christ") - since
      he was by nature, origin etc. an Angel. This becomes a bit difficult to
      explain for the modern adherents to the same, since they also have adopted
      the Nicene Creed, the literal/fundamentalist reading of the approved Bible
      Canon and nothing besides it - and originated in a milieu which took the
      Churchfathers more seriously than the mainstream, it becomes "hateful"
      issues which they would gladly avoid, while avoiding almost no other issue
      to chop into tiny pieces with their systematic theological methods - for
      if he was an Angel, he are at default a "created being" and not generated
      out of God as son,or eternally part of the Triune Godhead... luck would
      have it for the modern adherents that they in addition are Arianists and
      extreme monotheist loaning some monotheistic arguments directly from
      Islam.. we can only speculate about how these issues were dealt with
      internally in the schools of Angelic Christology because they were
      apparently decimated quite early and no direct scriptural sources remain.
      I was happy to find a lot of quite interesting references in Henri
      Corbin`s The Man of Light in Iranian Sufism, which in conjunction with
      certain Sufi speculations concerning Khedir and the possible identity of
      Jesus as being a manifestation of Khedir in addition to his
      Messenger/Prophet status accorded him in early Islam and indeed the Koran,
      and certain peculiar similarities with the Saoshyant teachings of
      heterodox Mazdeism in the 4th to 5th century CE, as well as the Manichaean
      religions treatment of Jesus - which makes Jesus an angelic being, and
      Christ a higher being - a manifestation of the primordial man who
      sacrificed himself in the beginning, to be devoured by the dark beings
      invading the realm of light, and caused, much like Dionysius Zagreus to
      burst apart, sink and cause the material universe to slowly assume its
      manifold forms, all containing a particle of his light-soul, mixed with
      the darkness contained in the conquered conquerers.

      Back to the Gnostics, not all Gnostics adhered to a strict extreme of the
      two positions, there were probably "angelic christologists" among them,
      there also appears to have been some who reconciled the two extremes in a
      manner which more or less accords with the Council of Chalcedon, which
      "settled all disputes" (and exploded the orthodox family of church
      traditions, in the sense that the Oriental Churches forever were divorced
      from the Western "Communion", until the fable of Prester John won favour
      in the 12th century, to inspire a new hopeless crusade towards Jerusalem
      and beyond)- however, perhaps I first should mention a weird christology
      which is distinctly Gnostic:

      An example of a middle ground of these extreme opposites, which
      nevertheless do not subscribe to the orthodox variations of Christology we
      may find in the Pistis Sophia: Here The Saviour (Christ who also
      acknowledges the name Aberamentho) reports that he found Mary and emptied
      the unborn body of her child of its soul, which he deposited directly to
      one of the heavens (aeons) as a purchase - and entered therein..he was
      thus born through the body of this person, who the mother called Jesus,
      according to the promise of the messenger angel who visited her - and
      appears to have been "activated" through the baptism received from John,
      John on the other hand were also an aeonical/heavenly being draped in a
      body and the faculties of a mortal, who likewise had been removed from its
      link with the body and deposited into another heaven...

      With regard to this talk of Christ, Jesus Christ, Jesus the Christ &c
      it is useful to consider that it appears few of the Christian Gnostics
      actually subscribed to the otherwise popular device of identifying either
      Jesus from Nazareth, or indeed the Son of Man, the Logos, the Divine
      Saviour with the "local" Hebrew Messiah; while acknowledging that his
      title/name had a deeper meaning in several languages, they appear to pay
      little attention to the Hebrew "root" of the name/title "Christ" in the
      New Testament Greek in terms of its theological implications. To wit, a
      source such as the Gospel of Philip (
      http://www.gnosis.org/naghamm/gop.html ), which do appear to pay attention
      to the existence or pre-existence of the Hebrew title - to wit,

      -"Jesus" is a hidden name, "Christ" is a revealed name. For this reason
      "Jesus" is not particular to any language; rather he is always called by
      the name "Jesus". While as for "Christ", in Syriac it is "Messiah", in
      Greek it is "Christ". Certainly all the others have it according to their
      own language. "The Nazarene" is he who reveals what is hidden. Christ has
      everything in himself, whether man, or angel, or mystery, and the Father.-

      -The apostles who were before us had these names for him: "Jesus, the
      Nazorean, Messiah", that is, "Jesus, the Nazorean, the Christ". The last
      name is "Christ", the first is "Jesus", that in the middle is "the
      Nazarene". "Messiah" has two meanings, both "the Christ" and "the
      measured". "Jesus" in Hebrew is "the redemption". "Nazara" is "the Truth".
      "The Nazarene" then, is "the Truth". "Christ" [...] has been measured.
      "The Nazarene" and "Jesus" are they who have been measured. -

      also,describes Christ as a "universal saviour":

      -Christ came to ransom some, to save others, to redeem others. He ransomed
      those who were strangers and made them his own. And he set his own apart,
      those whom he gave as a pledge according to his plan. It was not only when
      he appeared that he voluntarily laid down his life, but he voluntarily
      laid down his life from the very day the world came into being. Then he
      came first in order to take it, since it had been given as a pledge. It
      fell into the hands of robbers and was taken captive, but he saved it. He
      redeemed the good people in the world as well as the evil. -

      The same writing represents somewhat of a middle ground;

      -Some said, "Mary conceived by the Holy Spirit." They are in error. They
      do not know what they are saying. When did a woman ever conceive by a
      woman? Mary is the virgin whom no power defiled. She is a great anathema
      to the Hebrews, who are the apostles and the apostolic men. This virgin
      whom no power defiled [...] the powers defile themselves. And the Lord
      would not have said "My Father who is in Heaven" (Mt 16:17), unless he had
      had another father, but he would have said simply "My father".-

      this refers both to the pre-existence of the Christ or Jesus Christ if you
      will, because in this branch of the Valentinian Gnosis, the union of God
      and Man in the person of "the son of man" and "the son of God" is clearly
      expressed - and to the curious idea/saying, called both a mystery and an
      anathema which proclaim that the body which Christ would descend with were
      conceived through a union which his dyadic nature - both Man and God -
      would express later :

      While the human and divine aspects of the persona of Jesus Christ, which
      to the author is not a direct address to who he is, because he possess
      still another name, which is the one name he has received from his Father
      in heaven, as being born of the aforementioned union - he appears to be
      "phantastic" - he appears differently to different people, even angels:

      -Jesus took them all by stealth, for he did not appear as he was, but in
      the manner in which they would be able to see him. He appeared to them
      all. He appeared to the great as great. He appeared to the small as small.
      He appeared to the angels as an angel, and to men as a man. Because of
      this, his word hid itself from everyone. Some indeed saw him, thinking
      that they were seeing themselves, but when he appeared to his disciples in
      glory on the mount, he was not small. He became great, but he made the
      disciples great, that they might be able to see him in his greatness.-

      Of the division of the "one who is below" and the "one who is
      above",apparently a dispute still going in the 3rd century when this text
      probably came into being - the text contributes:

      -Those who say, "There is a heavenly man and there is one above him" are
      wrong. For it is the first of these two heavenly men, the one who is
      revealed, that they call "the one who is below"; and he to whom the hidden
      belongs is that one who is above him. For it would be better for them to
      say, "The inner and outer, and what is outside the outer". Because of
      this, the Lord called destruction the "the outer darkness": there is not
      another outside of it. He said, "My Father who is in secret". He said, "Go
      into your chamber and shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father
      who is in secret" (Mt 6:6), the one who is within them all. But that which
      is within them all is the fullness. Beyond it, there is nothing else
      within it. This is that of which they say, "That which is above them".-

      hence the "outer", conceived as lower, is only the most close in proximity
      to us, as being in ignorance and awaiting a revelation of that which is
      hidden "within" - while the "inner", conceived as "above the other", is
      the one most far in proximity to us, as awaiting revelation. The Gospel of
      Philip is remarkably consistent in its epistemological take on the
      revelation of the true Christ, becoming a Christian (a Pneumatic - the
      "psychic" who "take on loan the name Christian" are still "Hebrews")
      , a "Christ" - the nature of the Gnosis of the Father, the Holy Spirit and
      the Son and so forth. What this suggests to me is that there were indeed a
      dispute in the older church traditions, and among the "heretics" their
      fathers wrestled with, over this issue you brought - one or two natures,
      one or two persons - Jesus, Christ, Jesus Christ, Jesus the Christ -
      adopted,"created",pre-existent,born or manifest in a manner
      incomprehensible to sensate man?

      To the Gnostics who adhered to this particular approach, it was evident
      that man contained within himself the two and the one, and the debate not
      only concerned the specific Christ, whether historical or "mythical" -
      whether concretely manifest in a material sense, or only as an image, an
      "illusion" showing a reality beyond (in the Acts of John, John is first
      comforted by Jesus/Christ that he does not suffer down at Golgatha - and
      then presented with the premise that the effective and salvific suffering
      or heroic sacrifice were one he unknowingly himself, as John the Man, as a
      member of the human race, participated in.. in no sense does that writing
      detract the practical issue of suffering,evil and passion - as some
      tonguewagglers suggest after having just grazed the surface of it) - but
      their own... The Gospel of Philip suggests that there has occured a schism
      or a division in man between his original consitution of union and his
      fragmentation at the hands of the archons, or "evil spirits" as they are
      called in this writing - the writing apparently being quite informed by
      Syrian language,might well intend the same psychological evils as the
      Desert Fathers originating in Syria,Palestine and Egypt did.. and
      incidentally, though phrased differently - suggests the same "cure":

      -Through the Holy Spirit we are indeed begotten again, but we are begotten
      through Christ in the two. We are anointed through the Spirit. When we
      were begotten, we were united. None can see himself either in water or in
      a mirror without light. Nor again can you see in light without mirror or
      water. For this reason, it is fitting to baptize in the two, in the light
      and the water. Now the light is the chrism.-

      There`s no hope in acquiring chrism without understanding what it
      essentially is, such an understanding demands a consistent revelation,
      a certain acquiantance (Gnosis) of the nature and type of Chrism; to the
      author Christ is the "way" to being begotten again - and true
      self-knowledge begins with knowledge of Christ, because such Christ-Gnosis
      bestows a glimpse of who we really are, apart from the illusions and
      phantasms, which these aforementioned dark influences provide us with,
      which sustains and contributes to the order of things, a confusion of
      values, knowledge of evil and good being, in false knowledge, compromised.

      The Cathars and their predecessors, the Paulicians - insisted the
      sacrament of the Eucharist made no sense as presented to them in Catholic
      and Orthodox fashion, they insisted Jesus/Christ were himself his Word,
      and hearing,understanding and then heeding his Word were the same as
      partaking of it, and through it - partaking of him.
      The Naassenes insisted that in incarnating, which they attested, was meant
      that Gnosis became accessible to mankind in a direct fashion - the
      argument seems to follow the argumentation of the Letter to the Hebrews,
      which is ascribed to Paul, while some, even in antiquity, believed it to
      be authored by Apollos, his Johannine "opponent" at Corinth.

      Just feeding the fire of the debate

      Pax Pleromae

      Terje Dahl Bergersen
    • Terje Bergersen
      ... As far as I can see, Walter Bauer is considered somewhat of a pioneer in the investigative genre of Early Christian scholarship - especially with the
      Message 97 of 97 , Nov 17, 2003
        > Interesting to hear it put that way - I haven't read Bauer (yet), so
        > Gnostic Gospels felt like an historian exploring new ground. Based
        > on her bibliography and notes, I at least had a sense that Pagels was
        > leaning on Bauer.

        As far as I can see, Walter Bauer is considered somewhat of a pioneer
        in the investigative genre of "Early Christian" scholarship - especially
        with the Comittee to which Pagels belonged (the Coptic Gnostic Library
        Comittee of scholars).

        Anyways, I was just butting in to inform the readers of this list
        that they can make their own mind up, without much trouble and without
        parting with money - Bauer`s chief work is online

        Walter Bauer: Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity


        Pax Pleromae

        Terje Dahl Bergersen
        Deacon,Ecclesia Gnostica Norvegia
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