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Pre- Christian Gnosticism

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  • Tom Saunders
    I have run across a book by Lynn Picknett, and Clive Prince, called The Templar Revelation. Touchstone Publishing, 1997. In it is a chapter on the
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 16, 2004
      I have run across a book by Lynn Picknett, and Clive Prince, called "The Templar Revelation." Touchstone Publishing, 1997. In it is a chapter on the possibility that Mandaeans are linked directly to Gnosticism and John the Baptist. Heavily suggested but cautiously stated, they link John the Baptist with pre-Christian Gnostic sects in Palestine. ( I think there is some reliable information here.)

      They point out connections to:

      Dositheos: Believed to be the founder of Samaritan Gnosticism in the first century, and teacher of Simon Magus. Dositheans were a Gnostic sect which called "God" only 'Elohim' not 'Yehouah or Lord.' May have a connection to the "Three Steles of Seth."

      Was Dositheos pre-Christian?

      We have briefly discussed and linked Gnosticism to Essenes and speculated that John the Baptists could have been Essene. (I think we have) Of course with Picknett and Prince we have a possible link with early Mandaeans who could have easily been called something else in the First Century. Picknett and Prince argue that ....Rudolf Bultmann (the German Scholar) has concluded a link between modern Mandaeans, and they "are truly descended from followers of the Baptist." They also cite Kurt Rudolf and other pretty acceptable scholars......"The obvious conclusion is that John the Baptist was a Gnostic." pg.334. (Prunikus? Sophic? Gnostic?)

      Mentioned are other sects that could have been influential in the pre-crucifixion era having to do with Sabians, and they are called Subbas by modern Moslems. Some Mandaeans are known to be in Iran and Iraq. These folks could have been a secular group of early 'baptists' that started out in Palastine and ended up in Mesopotamia, "known to have settled in Haran" and elsewhere. ( What does it take to establish, "prove" Gnostic securlarism in pre-crucifixion Jerusalem and surrounding areas??)

      Perhaps these authors have linked others like Mani and other Gnostic sects too liberally for the taste of scholarship in this group, maybe? "...the baptismal sect the Mughtasilah to which Mani's father belonged and among whom Mani himself was brought up, were the Mandaeans......" Also, G.R.S. Mead has linked 'striking similarities' with Mandaean texts and "Pistis Sophia." (Does anyone but me believe that Pistis Sophia was based on really early Gnosticism, then of course altered?)

      Modern Mandaeans regard Jesus as one who convoluted the original teachings of John the Baptist, and ripped their religion off like "Deadwood Al," so to speak. (If you've seen HBO's "Deadwood" you know what I mean and you may also agree the historical portrait of Bill Hickock was based upon good historical research, down to the letter to his wife.) I mention this to support the idea I should be more attentive to how research is done and presented, in this group. How am I doin?

      To understand 1st century Thomas Gnosticism we must look at pre-Christian Gnosticism, and determine the outcome of comparative evidence in their epistemologies. Only this way can an understanding of what the GThom's position in Gnostic philosophy is, in a realistic Gnostic framework. We don't have a lot of comparative literature for pre-Christian Gnosticism. I am not sure we have enough to put together a Gnostic model or framework. It does appear we have plenty of reason to define Gnosticism in the Jesus message.

      It makes sense that post-crucifixion Gnosticism would be so different in so many respects if different Gnostic beliefs influenced the Christian movement. It also makes sense about why Gnostics would keep their secrets, from, in, and among other Christians. There could have been animosities already in place against Gnostics, before Jesus. We know for later Gnostics, it got really ugly. Can we conclude that what we have is a document in the GThom that represents Gnostic Christianity, and a Gnostic Jesus?

      Tom Saunders
      Platter, OK

















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