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5840Re: [GTh] Gnosticism

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  • jmgcormier
    Aug 3, 2003
      --- In gthomas@yahoogroups.com, Scott Rhodes <flinch@f...> wrote:
      > ... In other words, prior to that date, what we call (Christian)
      > gnosticism at least (whatever that really means, I guess) was simply
      > considered part of "greater Christianity" in "the litterature".
      > Hello Maurice
      > Here's a related bit of background info from Guillaumont's intro. to
      > Evagrius Ponticus' Gnostikos (Sources Chr├ętiennes 356).... pardon my
      > translation from the French:

      Used initially as an adjective, the word gnwstiko&v appears in
      Plato's Politicus wherein the sciences are divided into two parts,
      "practical" science (praktikh\ e0pisth/mh) and "gnostic" science
      (gnwsrikh\ e0pisth/mh).
      Whereas "gnostic" appears specific to the Platonic and Pythagorean
      tradition4, it is almost foreign in Aristotle and the Stoics who
      prefer to oppose praktiko/v, to qewrhtiko/v.

      The substantive use of the word appears with those whom we still
      call the "gnostics", members of philosophical and religious sects of
      2nd and 3rd centuries. According to Ireneaus it was initially only
      used for those who called themselves "gnostic", though the term was
      soon extended to all the sects who claimed to have the preeminent
      science, the "gnosis". It was also Irenaeus who gave the word its
      initial pejorative connotation, in Against Heresies he designated a
      "pseudo-gnosis", (yendw/nmov gnw~siv), for the practitioners of a
      "gnosis misnomer".

      Clement of Alexandria is responsible for eventually giving
      gnwstiko/v ("a gnostic") its status of respect in Christian
      literature. Clement distinguished heretical "gnostics" from the "true
      gnostic" as he described the Christian who, by practicing the virtues
      and the study, attains a certain spiritual knowledge that is not found
      among the simple faithful but is nevertheless consistent with the
      principles of the faith.

      "Gnostic" is rare in Origen, who preferred the word te9leioi, or
      "perfects", to indicate this same category of Christians, but it was
      through Evagrius that "gnostic" found currency in monastic literature.
      For Evagrius "gnostic" is an offspring whose direct filiation is to

      4. See Morton SMITH, "The History of the Term Gnostikos", in B.
      LAYTON (ed.), The Rediscovery of Gnosticism II, Leiden 1981, p.

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]


      Hello Scott!

      I find this an extremely interesting and useful bit of
      information. If Guillaumont is correct, then his finding and his
      reasoning does a number of things.

      1) It rationalizes the term "gnosticism" somewhat beyond its unclear
      and varied "root system" (Zen Bouddhism, Taoism, Sufism, Greek
      philosophy, Zoroastrianism, etc.) ... and explains it as a a sort of
      "religious philosophy" as opposed to a strict "secular religion" ...

      2) It confirms that Irenaeus originally used the term as applying to
      individuals and their innermost beliefs and interpretations, and not
      necessarily as applying exclusively to "sects" or "communities" ...

      3) It generally supports the idea (as expressed in the "Secret Mark"
      letter of Clement of Alexandria to Theodore, for example,) that
      gospels could indeed have been written for more than one single
      audience ...

      viz ... "a more spiritual Gospel for the use of those who were being
      perfected ... to the stories already written he added yet others and,
      ... (yet one which would) lead the hearers into the innermost
      sanctuary of that truth hidden by seven veils."

      4) It gives new light to the squabbles of the apostles and the
      disciples as exemplified in the Gospel of Mary, in the preamble to
      which James M Robinson in his rendition suggests :

      " ... Peter and the other disciples acknowledge Mary's spiritual
      calibre and superiority and yet they challenge her when she describes
      her own gnostic experiences. This confrontation between Mary and Peter
      is well documented in many gnostic Scriptures. Mary exposes the small
      mindedness and superficiality of Peter and Andrew who find it
      difficult to comprehend, let alone accept, the deeper spiritual
      understanding that Mary has acquired through her personal experience
      and closer relationship with Christ. Indeed Peter and Andrew seem to
      prefer the very thing against which Christ warned them - a religion
      based on arbitrary ideas (in this case represented by Peter's male
      chauvinism and Andrew's ignorance). And yet many of their ideas have
      shaped modern Christianity while, paradoxically, Mary Magdelene's
      spirituality, which here seems more consistent with the teachings of
      Christ, is unheard of today."

      5) ... and it seems to confirm Jesus' words in Thomas #62 wherein he
      is quoted as saying:

      " ... "It is to those [who are worthy of My] mysteries that I tell My
      mysteries" ... meaning in a sense that "There are truths ... and then
      there are truths!"

      Good quote, Scott, and many thanks !

      Maurice Cormier
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