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Essenes

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  • Tom Ragland
    I had a couple of questions about why I equate the early Christian communities such as those who collected the Gospel of Thomas / Q sayings with the Essenes.
    Message 1 of 10 , Aug 30, 2000
      I had a couple of questions about why I equate the early Christian
      communities such as those who collected the Gospel of Thomas / Q sayings
      with the Essenes. As this is a list of intellectual scholars, and as I
      believe this has a great deal of bearing on one's perspective on the Gospel
      of Thomas as a whole, I submit the following notes I have made and the
      conclusions I have reached on the matter. Philo, Pliny, and Josephus are
      referenced as ancient windows into these religious communities which came to
      be known as the Essenes.

      What we traditionally know about the Essenes is from a few ancient writers
      describing the movement as external observers. It was noted that their
      teachings were guarded secrets, their libraries prized possessions, their
      network of supportive communities forming a Utopian society in the midst
      of
      Roman occupation and a pending rebellion. While scholars are in a
      perpetual
      debate over the connection between the Essenes and the Dead Sea Scrolls, I
      for one cannot fail to see the transition from the Yahad of the Damascus
      Document and the Essene communities as described by the ancient writers.

      Philo of Alexandria, who died 45 AD, wrote The Hypothetica, the earliest
      text that describes the Essenes. Philo was the Jewish philosopher who
      taught that God created through the Logos, the Word, a concept that found
      a
      home within Christianity in the Gospel of John. Consider what this text
      reveals about the communal lifestyle of the Essenes, keeping in mind that
      the early Christians renounced private ownership of property (Acts
      4:32-35):

      4. This freedom is attested by their life. None of them allows himself to
      have any private property, either house or slave or estate or cattle or
      any
      of the other things which are amassed a and abundantly procured by wealth,
      but they put everything together into the public stock and enjoy the
      benefit
      of them all in common. 5. They live together formed into clubs, bands of
      comradeship with common meals, and never cease to conduct all their
      affairs
      to serve the general weal. 6. But they have various occupations at which
      they labor with untiring application and never plead cold or heat or any
      of
      the violent changes in the atmosphere as an excuse. Before the sun is
      risen
      they betake themselves to their familiar tasks and only when it sets force
      themselves to return, for they delight in them as much as do those who are
      entered for gymnastic competitions. 7 For they consider that the exercises
      which they practice whatever they may be are more valuable to life, more
      pleasant to soul and body and more lasting than those of the athlete in as
      much as they can still be plied with vigor when that of the body is past
      its
      prime. 8. Some of them labor on the land skilled in sowing and planting,
      some as heardsmen taking charge of every kind of cattle and some
      superintend
      the swarms of bees. 9. Others work at the handicrafts to avoid the
      sufferings which are forced upon us by our indispensable requirements and
      shrink from no innocent way of getting a livelihood. 10. Each branch when
      it
      has received the wages of these so different occupations give it to one
      person who has been appointed the treasurer. He takes it and at once buys
      what is necessary and provides food in abundance and anything else which
      human life requires. 11. Thus having each day a common life and a common
      table they are content with the same conditions, lovers of frugality who
      shun expensive luxury as a disease of both body and soul. 12. And not only
      is their table in common but their clothing also. For in winter they have
      a
      stock of stout coats ready and in summer cheap vests, a so that he who
      wishes may easily take any garment he likes, since what one has is held to
      belong to all and conversely what all have one has. 13. Again if anyone is
      sick he is nursed at the common expense and tended with care and
      thoughtfulness by all. The old men too even if they are childless are
      treated as parents of a not merely numerous but very filial family and
      regularly close their life with an exceedingly prosperous and comfortable
      old age; so many are those who give them precedence and honor as their due
      and minister to them as a duty voluntarily and deliberately accepted
      rather
      than enforced by nature.

      Philo may as well have been talking about the early Christian network of
      communities. Then Philo continues with what reads like St. Paul
      discussing
      the benefits of not being married (1 Corinthians, chapter 7):

      14 Furthermore they eschew marriage because they clearly discern it to be
      the sole or the principal danger to the maintenance of the communal life,
      as
      well as because they particularly practice continence. For no Essene takes
      a
      wife, because a wife is a selfish creature, excessively jealous a and an
      adept a beguiling the morals of her husband and seducing him by her
      continued impostures. 15. For by the fawning talk which she practises and
      the other ways in which she plays her part like an actress on the stage
      she
      first ensnares the sight and hearing, and when these subjects as it were
      have been duped she cajoles the sovereign mind. 16. And if children come,
      filled with the spirit of arrogance and bold speaking she gives utterance
      with more audacious hardihood to things which before she hinted covertly
      and
      under disguise, and casting off all shame she compels him to commit
      actions
      which are all hostile to the life of fellowship. 17. For he who is either
      fast bound in the love lures of his wife or under the stress of nature
      makes
      his children his first care ceases to be the same to others and
      unconsciously has become a different man and has passed from freedom into
      slavery.

      In 78 AD, Josephus wrote The Jewish War, in which he describes the
      Essenes.
      Book 2, Chapter 8, Paragraph 2 reads in part:

      These Essenes reject pleasures as an evil, but esteem continence, and the
      conquest over our passions, to be virtue.

      Once again we can relate St. Paul's teachings to those of the Essenes.
      St.
      Paul warns against the "natural self" (Romans 7:18) with its bodily
      desires
      (1 Corinthians 9:27) such as sex (1 Corinthians 7:1 and 7:7). Titus 2:12
      warns against worldly passions, advising self-restraint. We continue with
      the same chapter of The Jewish War at Paragraph 6:

      They dispense their anger after a just manner, and restrain their passion.
      They are eminent for fidelity, and are the ministers of peace.

      Once again we could turn to St. Paul, Galatians 5:17 for one example. The
      list of vices that exclude one from the Kingdom include indignation, rage,
      contention, disunion, quarrels, disagreements, factions, and malice. It
      is
      still an attribute associated with Christianity to this day for one to not
      lose one's temper. So we are discovering that the Essene ethical
      standards
      had a great deal of influence upon the Christianity being preached by St.
      Paul. It was a brotherhood in which the "turn the other cheek" message of
      Jesus could resonate very well. It was a culture which inspired St. Paul
      with the seed concept that made up his philosophy?the replacement for the
      Law is self-denial. The image of Jesus in Jerusalem, feasting and
      drinking
      with characters that any good Essene would shun (Matthew 11:19), leads us
      to
      conclude that Jesus did not fully accept the Essene mentality. Continuing
      with the same paragraph:

      whatsoever they say also is firmer than an oath; but swearing is avoided
      by
      them, and they esteem it worse than perjury (4) for they say that he who
      cannot be believed without [swearing by] God is already condemned.

      Matthew 5:34-37 echoes the Essene ban on swearing oaths. Damascus
      Document
      15:1 forbids swearing oaths apart from the vows made by those entering the
      community. Continuing still:

      They also take great pains in studying the writings of the ancients, and
      choose out of them what is most for the advantage of their soul and body;

      and they inquire after such roots and medicinal stones as may cure their
      distempers.

      Here is where the link of the Essenes to the Qumran/Damascus community and
      the Dead Sea Scrolls hits close to home. Wouldn't the very collection of
      the scrolls (which were mostly written in the First Century BC) make this
      remark of Josephus make sense. If they had less than this great
      collection
      at their disposal, this note would have been left out of the description
      of
      the Essenes. The interest in healing roots may also indicate a link to
      the
      Buddhist missionaries, but integrated with the Jewish faith, as explained
      by
      Jesus Ben Sirach?

      Respect the physician, for he has earned it for his services, being a
      creature of the Lord. But know that all healing comes from the Most High,
      received as a gift from the King. [Sirach 38:1-2]

      Their focus on healing explains why Jesus was remembered largely as a
      healer
      instead of as a teacher. The medicinal stones may refer to radioactive
      meteorites. The Aramaic "asen" means "healers" and may be the reason for
      calling this group Essenes.

      7. But now if any one hath a mind to come over to their sect, he is not
      immediately admitted, but he is prescribed the same method of living which
      they use for a year, while he continues excluded'; and they give him also
      a
      small hatchet, and the fore-mentioned girdle, and the white garment. And
      when he hath given evidence, during that time, that he can observe their
      continence, he approaches nearer to their way of living,

      This trial period of learning to adopt the habits of the group is still in
      place today in Catholic Christianity. A convert to Catholicism must
      undergo
      a period of training and admission into the community before being fully
      accepted. This trial period ends in baptism:

      and is made a partaker of the waters of purification;

      The emphasis on the ritual of baptism links the Essenes to John the
      Baptist
      and the formation of Christianity. The fact that John the Baptist was
      baptizing may indicate that he was the leading "priest" of one of the
      communities. This rite signified the acceptance of the initiate into the
      community of the holy. Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist (Mark 1:9).
      This point was important in spreading the gospel to the Essene network of
      communities. Jesus passed the probationary period of initiation into the
      elect group of saints. Jesus was one of them, their spokesman, their
      angel
      sent to spread the good news of the coming Kingdom, and many concluded
      that
      Jesus was their very Messiah.

      yet is he not even now admitted to live with them; for after this
      demonstration of his fortitude, his temper is tried two more years; and if
      he appear to be worthy, they then admit him into their society.

      This three years total for being fully admitted into the society of the
      Essenes reminds us of the three years of St. Paul at Damascus (Galatians
      1:17-18). It was the Damascus community that was the hotbed for a
      movement
      called "The Way" which St. Paul was sent to persecute before his
      conversion
      (Acts 9:1-2). The term "synagogue" was used in context with this group
      that
      was considered to be Christian. The scholar may also remember the
      Damascus
      Document from the Dead Sea Scrolls. Acts 9:20-22 informs us that there
      were
      Christians (disciples) within the Jewish colony at Damascus.

      And before he is allowed to touch their common food, he is obliged to take
      tremendous oaths, that, in the first place, he will exercise piety towards
      God, and then that he will observe justice towards men, and that he will
      do
      no harm to any one, either of his own accord, or by the command of others;
      that he will always hate the wicked, and be assistant to the righteous;
      that
      he will ever show fidelity to all men, and especially to those in
      authority,
      because no one obtains the government without God's assistance; and that
      if
      he be in authority, he will at no time whatever abuse his authority, nor
      endeavor to outshine his subjects either in his garments, or any other
      finery; that he will be perpetually a lover of truth, and propose to
      himself
      to reprove those that tell lies; that he will keep his hands clear from
      theft, and his soul from unlawful gains; and that he will neither conceal
      any thing from those of his own sect, nor discover any of their doctrines
      to
      others, no, not though anyone should compel him so to do at the hazard of
      his life. Moreover, he swears to communicate their doctrines to no one any
      otherwise than as he received them himself; that he will abstain from
      robbery,

      and will equally preserve the books belonging to their sect,

      and the names of the angels (5) [or messengers]. These are the oaths by
      which they secure their proselytes to themselves.

      The secrecy of the doctrines, the preservation of the books, and the
      learning of the magical names give us another link to the Dead Sea
      Scrolls.
      No record in history gives details of the Essene doctrines, because they
      were not to be revealed to outsiders. The preservation and collection of
      the writings which became the Bible and the Dead Sea Scrolls is evidently
      attributed to the Essene's collection and study of the texts inherited
      from
      those who wrote them a century before.

      Pliny the Elder in his Natural History, Book 5, Chap XVIII, 73, introduces
      the Essenes in his discussion of the Dead Sea. The Qumran community, that
      collected the Dead Sea Scrolls, can be compared to the initiation based
      community of the descriptions of the Essenes in the writings of Josephus.
      The Damascus Document (1QS) outlines the initiation period and legal
      structures of a community that resonates well with the texts we have
      studied
      concerning the Essenes. Variations from community to community, such as
      participation in marriage verses vows of celibacy, are not sufficient
      enough
      for me to conclude otherwise than the Essenes were the inheritors of the
      Dead Sea Scrolls. The war, beginning in 66 AD, caused the Qumran
      community
      to have to disband, hiding the Dead Sea Scrolls in the caves. It was over
      two centuries since Antiochus Epiphanes (175?163 BC) attempted to
      compromise
      the Zadokite priesthood with a forced Hellenism. Even the Teacher of
      Righteousness of the First Century BC was only a distant legend. The
      expectations for the Messiah, for the New Jerusalem, for the coming
      Kingdom
      of God, were not diminished with time or by Roman occupation. While those
      that turned to violence as a solution were faced with the wrath and
      military
      force of the Roman soldiers, those that turned to the Christian movement
      DEFINED Christianity in their own terms.

      From the baptism initiation rituals, to the communal meals, the Essene
      "sacraments" became a part of the Christian movement. In their
      inspiration
      of St. Paul, their message was preserved for all times AS Christianity.

      Josephus: The Jewish War, Book 2, Chapter 8, Paragraph 11:

      For their doctrine is this: That bodies are corruptible, and that the
      matter
      they are made of is not permanent; but that the souls are immortal, and
      continue for ever; and that they come out of the most subtle air, and are
      united to their bodies as to prisons, into which they are drawn by a
      certain
      natural enticement; but that when they are set free from the bonds of the
      flesh, they then, as released from a long bondage, rejoice and mount
      upward.

      If we turn to St. Paul's discussion on resurrection in 1 Corinthians
      15:35-53, we find him echoing that the corruptible bodies will not be what
      partakes of resurrection. Romans 7:23-24 has Paul praying to be rescued
      from his body doomed to death. The sensual desires of the body were seen
      as
      evidence that the body itself was a prison of the soul, bounding it to
      immoral lusts. Paul took this logic to its conclusion in stating that
      because he is wearing flesh and blood, he is sold as a slave to sin
      (Romans
      7:14).

      Excommunication was an Essene punishment for sin, continuing with Josephus
      in Paragraph 8:

      But for those that are caught in any heinous sins, they cast them out of
      their society; and he who is thus separated from them does often die after
      a
      miserable manner; for as he is bound by the oath he hath taken, and by the
      customs he hath been engaged in, he is not at liberty to partake of that
      food that he meets with elsewhere, but is forced to eat grass, and to
      famish
      his body with hunger, till he perish; for which reason they receive many
      of
      them again when they are at their last gasp, out of compassion to them, as
      thinking the miseries they have endured till they came to the very brink
      of
      death to be a sufficient punishment for the sins they had been guilty of.

      Paul continues this way of thinking, encouraging the church at Corinth to
      forgive and accept back one that they had excommunicated at the demand of
      Paul himself (2 Corinthians 2:1-11). He used a quote attributed to Jesus
      to
      justify the practice: Only a little yeast leavens the entire batch of
      dough. He then encouraged them to throw out all of the yeast
      (non-conformists) so that the dough of the church may remain unleavened
      (submitted to the lifestyle and faith). His perspective on keeping the
      society pure was perfectly in line with Essene thought (1 Corinthians
      5:6-13). One question we may keep in mind is whether Jesus would have
      excommunicated anyone from his presence for any reason.

      Continuing in Josephus, paragraph 12:

      There are also those among them who undertake to foretell things to come,
      (7) by reading the holy books, and using several sorts of purifications,
      and
      being perpetually conversant in the discourses of the prophets; and it is
      but seldom that they miss in their predictions.

      We find in the Essene way of thinking the propensity for discerning what
      the
      prophets were trying to express to the people. If we can take the Dead
      Sea
      Scrolls to be this foundation of interpreting the Bible, the predictions
      include the advent of the Messiah, the ultimate victory of good over evil,
      the establishment of a New Jerusalem, the sanctification of the people,
      the
      coming of the Kingdom of Heaven to earth. With the coming of
      Christianity,
      the prophetic shift changed to an expectation of a second coming of Jesus
      in
      terms of the Essene prophecies concerning the advent of the Messiah?on the
      clouds and in his glory, with an army of angels ready to conquer the
      enemies
      of good.

      In short, we cannot dismiss the influence that the Essene way of thinking
      had over the formation of Christianity, especially in the hands of St.
      Paul.
      While we cannot fully resolve Jesus into the communities of the Essenes,
      we
      will have to admit that he targeted the Essenes for the teaching of his
      gospel, sending out his disciples like Essene travelers (Matthew 10:9-14).
      While he admired their focus on holiness, he often questioned their
      strictness and broke their traditions, as we will note in our studies.
      While it has been tried by some scholars, we cannot divorce the Essenes
      from
      the Yahad of the Damascus Document and from the traditions that were
      collected as the Dead Sea Scrolls.



      Tom Ragland --> tomragland@...
      http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Parthenon/8219/centuries/





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    • Tom Saunders
      Thank you Andrew for the links. Szekely then is not worth considering as legitimate source material for Eastern ministries. His Gospel of John is
      Message 2 of 10 , Mar 10, 2004
        Thank you Andrew for the links. Szekely then is not worth considering as legitimate source material for Eastern ministries. His Gospel of John is inspirational and I think if for no other reason than by accident it corresponds to some of the aspects of Lost Christianities.

        A while back I mentioned an author named Martin Palmer who wrote, "The Jesus Sutras" Ballantine, 2001.
        Palmer's finds in China near Xian netted the kind of treasure Szekely claimed so I think the texts he presents may have some significance. Please note the parallels from the first Chapter to Thomas sayings and other related texts:

        Jesus Sutra: Sutra of the World-Honored One, Part III, Chapter One.

        "The World-Honored One said, If somebody gives alms they should do it in the knowledge of the World-Honored One. Let not your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Pay no attention to outsiders but worship the one sacred spirit. The One will become visible to you, and then you should worship only the One.

        Don't hesitate when you pray. Ask first for forgiveness of your sins and at the same time forgive those who have sinned against you. The Heavenly Ruler above will forgive you for your sins as you forgive others.

        If you have a treasure do not store it on earth where it can decay or be stolen. Instead present it to heaven, where it will not rot or be stolen."

        There is quite a bit more that could be studied from what Palmer is calling Sutras. As I recall they are dated from around 341. Xian by the way seems to be on the far Eastern side of the Silk Routes.

        The book details the finds at the temple and there are some marvelous pictures of the inside of this Christian shrine. Its awesome, and I think done well as archeology goes. And, I think Palmer avoids any controversy about this find. I now understand about Morton Smith and Szekely. Thank you so much for the help, there are large gapping holes in my self trained religious Gnostic curriculum.

        Are there any other finds like the 'Jesus Sutras' that have produced like texts?

        Tom Saunders
        Platter, OK










        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • Tom Saunders
        I have been curious as to what possible connections Essenes could have to those who embraced the GThom, and related texts. I found this in the New Advent
        Message 3 of 10 , Mar 19, 2004
          I have been curious as to what possible connections Essenes could have to those who embraced the GThom, and related texts. I found 'this' in the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia:
          "Death was welcomed, as they held "that their bodies were corruptible, and the matter composing them is not lasting, but souls are immortal and live forever, and proceeding from the most subtle ether having been drawn into bodies as into prisons by some natural longing. But when they are set free from the bonds of flesh, then they rejoice as being freed from a long servitude and mount upwards. And agreeing with the opinion of the Greeks they declare that the good dwell beyond the ocean in a place which is never oppressed by snow or rainstorms or intense heat, but is always calm and refreshed by a cool breeze breathing from the ocean. To bad souls they allot a gloomy, tempestuous cave full of never-ending torments" (Jos. Bell. Jud. I, ii, 8). Some conclude from the words just quoted that the Essenes disbelieved in the resurrection of the body."

          Many of you will know much more and if the above is fact or fiction. I don't want to jump to any conclusions about Essenes after reading Szekely, and finding out he was a fraud. He alleged a connection to Essenes and Christians. Perhaps the above could prove it, if the Gnostic-like principles hold.

          Sincerely,

          Tom Saunders

          Platter, OK



          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        • Tom Saunders
          Hi Andrew, On the other hand Josephus was not an Essene himself and was writing for a non-Jewish Greek speaking readership. This may mean that some of what he
          Message 4 of 10 , Mar 19, 2004
            Hi Andrew,

            "On the other hand Josephus was not an Essene himself
            and was writing for a non-Jewish Greek speaking
            readership. This may mean that some of what he says
            about the ideas of the Essenes ends up sounding a little
            more Greek and a little less Hebrew than was really
            the case."

            That certainly may be the case. What I am after here is to try and place the concepts of pre-Christian ideas of Gnosticism within the boundaries of secular Judaism. The description......"they held that their bodies were corruptible, and the matter composing them is not lasting, but souls are immortal and live forever, and proceeding from the most subtle ether having been drawn into bodies as into prisons by some natural longing," might be a key to that understanding.

            I am aware of the Platonic and Hellenistic relationships to the concepts of Christian Gnosis and their influence according to Karen King, "Gospel of Mary Magdala," and Ehrman, "Lost Christianities." But, are there legitimate secular Jewish roots to the ideas? I think Ehrman is correct in his assumption that the Nag Hammadi texts relate a pre-existing concept about the process of Gnosis that the writers of these texts seemed to understand. Could it be a realization of combined ideas from pre-existing notions of Gnosis from multiple sources, like some of the notions of the Essenes?

            Sincerely,

            Tom Saunders



            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          • Steve
            ... place the concepts of pre-Christian ideas of Gnosticism within the boundaries of secular Judaism. ................................................. Could
            Message 5 of 10 , Mar 20, 2004
              --- In gthomas@yahoogroups.com, "Tom Saunders" <tom@c...>

              > That certainly may be the case. What I am after here is to try and
              place the concepts of pre-Christian ideas of Gnosticism within the
              boundaries of secular Judaism.
              ................................................. Could it be a
              realization of combined ideas from pre-existing notions of Gnosis from
              multiple sources, like some of the notions of the Essenes?
              >
              > Sincerely,
              >
              > Tom Saunders
              >

              Tom,

              I don't recall where I read it but if I remember correctly, Philo
              mentions some Jewish folks in Alexandria who were called "Therapeutae"
              who seemed to have a mixture of Jewish and gnostic conceptions. The
              brief mention of them, where ever it was, was tantalizing.

              Steve
            • Tom Saunders
              Thank you Steve, Philo mentions some Jewish folks in Alexandria who were called Therapeutae This Philo source to the Therapeutae is probably where Szekely
              Message 6 of 10 , Mar 21, 2004
                Thank you Steve,

                "Philo mentions some Jewish folks in Alexandria who were called "Therapeutae"

                This Philo source to the Therapeutae is probably where Szekely got his notion that Essenes adapted to Gnostic Christianity. Of course there is no telling what he made up and what could actually be valid, unless his contentions are traced and corrected. One of the things to try and clarify is if the Essenes actually practiced a form of Gnosticism that influenced the historic Jesus.

                Clement and others who use references to the Old Testament are either convoluting their perception to conform to Gnostic dogma of the time, or there are actual ties in Gnostic understanding to both the old (Jewish understanding) and that of the new Christian Gnosticism. If Essenes did prescribe to a form of Gnosticism then the adaptation to Christian Gnosticism might have been easy for some. It would also explain the pre-existing 'understanding' that Ehrman refers to in "Lost Christianities." He contends that the Gnostic texts are written for someone who has cultivated an understanding of Gnosticism.

                Tom Saunders
                Platter, OK



                [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
              • jmgcormier
                ... snip, snip, snip ... ... What I am after here is to try and place the concepts of pre-Christian ideas of Gnosticism within the boundaries of secular
                Message 7 of 10 , Mar 21, 2004
                  --- In gthomas@yahoogroups.com, "Tom Saunders" <tom@c...> wrote:

                  snip, snip, snip ...


                  ... What I am after here is to try and place the concepts of
                  pre-Christian ideas of Gnosticism within the boundaries of secular
                  Judaism ...

                  Sincerely,

                  Tom Saunders

                  ------------------------

                  Hello Tom "et alia" ...

                  I really had to stop and re-read your above sentence several times
                  to correctly grasp it. I understand what you are saying, although are
                  we not a bit tainted by concepts of history when we try to define
                  "pre-Christian" as a period .... indeed during the first few hundred
                  years after Jesus' death were "Christians" not almost exclusively
                  practising "Jews" who happened to have a (though serious) curiosity
                  about Jesus's teachings, or again "Jews" who were prepared to emulate
                  him in certain ways ?

                  If not, at what precise date might have "Christians" (as we understand
                  the term) come to exist? Keep in mind that Judaism was "tolerated" in
                  the Roman Empire long before "Christianity" was ... at the time of
                  Constantine's death in the 4th century. So, how are we to define the
                  start of the Christian era ... immediately after Jesus' death, or at
                  the dawn of the fourth century.

                  Cheers !

                  Maurice Cormier
                • Tom Saunders
                  Hi All, As to the question of mysticism and Gnosticism, I would contend that a great deal of Gnosticism could be considered a type of mysticism. Consider the
                  Message 8 of 10 , Mar 22, 2004
                    Hi All,

                    As to the question of mysticism and Gnosticism, I would contend that a great deal of Gnosticism could be considered a type of mysticism. Consider the following:

                    The goal of mysticism is direct experiential communion with God. In this experience the mystic no longer exists as a separate individual but becomes one with Oneness. This vision can only arise when the mystic realizes that the ego-self is only an illusionary veil that masks the true divine Self, and that this Self is God, the being of all beings, the one true Self of All existence. God is not something 'other' but is our shared essential identity. Communion with God is experienced as freedom from suffering the separation of solitary confinement with the mortal self, and the blissful liberation into the expansive, all embracing nature of God. The human being is an animal who has received the vocation to become God." "Basil of Caesarea, Asia Minor 359-79"
                    This description seems to fit both the perimeters of Gnosticism and what Basil calls mysticism. I am sorry that I do not have the exact source of the above yet. I got the quote from a friend and have asked about its source. If anyone knows I would appreciate the reference.

                    Tom Saunders

                    Platter, OK



                    [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                  • Tom Saunders
                    Hi Maurice, So, how are we to define the start of the Christian era ... immediately after Jesus death, or at the dawn of the fourth century? I would put it
                    Message 9 of 10 , Mar 22, 2004
                      Hi Maurice,

                      'So, how are we to define the
                      start of the Christian era ... immediately after Jesus' death, or at
                      the dawn of the fourth century?"


                      I would put it at the dawn of the first Christian apokatastasis, described in Pistis Sophia. Karen King puts the work in the third century but I don't think it can be that late. There are several things that indicate to me that the work is very early (it's folksy style); and it has two fundamental purposes. One is to indicate those disciples known to have started Gnostic Christianity, and been handed 'special knowledge' by Jesus' teachings. The other is to indicate that Matthew, Thomas, and Phillip are bearers of that knowledge and wrote it down from the earliest time.

                      As to a historical and archeological place of origin, the 'ground zero' would be the Apostle's Village, in Jerusalem. A connection to Essenes would show a propensity for some of the first converts to have been very literate. This suggests that there would have been scribes, who would have written some things down at the earliest part of the formation of the first Christian networks. Proto-Thomas & Matthew. Clement refers to Matthew and Paul, but would have had Pistis Sophia. If it was incorrect, in assuming the characters portrayed, and the texts written, it would have been an issue for the "Stromata," I'm sure.

                      At this point Apostles were still alive and there would be no question to their rightful place as Christian Elders. But we know from Acts and other texts that communities had huge problems. Simply, not all new converts could grasp Plato's Republic, Philo, and related tenets of Gnosticism. From the earliest time of community, Gnostics and those that subscribed to the GThom and what it says it is, would probably be (a select) few. And like Ehrman suggests, among and amidst the 'others.'

                      When the first Jewish convert could go through apolutrosis, in some form of cateshise of Gnostic training, then that is when I see the Christian era beginning, at least for the Gnostic. I am suggesting from the earliest times more than one Christianity developed. Not all of any large group could be expected to be equally adept at becoming enlightened. ( Pneumatic: One who identifies with the spirit (pneuma), beyond that of the physical (hylic) world and the intellect alone (psychic). The pneuma, described in the Gospel of Phillip as breath, refers to bonding with the internal spark (spinther) that came from and is drawn to reunite with the Father in some Gnostic schema. One who awakens it (the spinther) within the self does it through the process of gnosis.) And, apokatastasis, according to Haracleon.

                      Regardless of the similarities in non-Christian concepts of Gnosis, the Christian era began when one reached Gnosis through Jesus. Other Christians didn't reach Gnosis.

                      Tom Saunders
                      Platter, OK













                      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                    • jucci
                      useful links The interdisciplinary seminar on the Jewish Roots of Eastern Christian Mysticism http://www.marquette.edu/maqom/ ... Elio Jucci SETH - Semitica
                      Message 10 of 10 , Mar 22, 2004
                        useful links
                        "The interdisciplinary seminar on the Jewish Roots of Eastern Christian
                        Mysticism"
                        http://www.marquette.edu/maqom/


                        At 10.17 22/03/04 -0800, you wrote:
                        >Hi All,
                        >As to the question of mysticism and Gnosticism,

                        Elio Jucci

                        SETH - Semitica et Theologica
                        http://dobc.unipv.it/SETH/index.htm
                        http://lettere.unipv.it/SETH/religioni.htm
                        http://lettere.unipv.it/SETH/qumr_cav.htm
                        "Ex magno amoris incendio tantus uirtutis decor in animo crescit ..."
                        (Richard Rolle, Incendium Amoris)
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