The Gnostic Gospels

Discussion in 'Religion and Ethics' started by Sky Dancer, Aug 12, 2011.

  1. Sky Dancer
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    I've read Elaine Pagels book. Anyone interested in this topic? It's fascinating.

    "Professor Helmut Koester of Harvard University has suggested that the collection of sayings in the Gospel of Thomas, although compiled c. 140, may include some traditions even older than the gospels of the New Testament, "possibly as early as the second half of the first century" (50-100)--as early as, or earlier, than Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John.

    Scholars investigating the Nag Hammadi find discovered that some of the texts tell the origin of the human race in terms very different from the usual reading of Genesis: the Testimony of Truth, for example, tells the story of the Garden of Eden from the viewpoint of the serpent! Here the serpent, long known to appear in Gnostic literature as the principle of divine wisdom, convinces Adam and Eve to partake of knowledge while "the Lord" threatens them with death, trying jealously to prevent them from attaining knowledge, and expelling them from Paradise when they achieve it. Another text, mysteriously entitled The Thunder, Perfect Mind, offers an extraordinary poem spoken in the voice of a feminine divine power:

    For I am the first and the last. I am the honored one and the scorned one.
    I am the whore and the holy one.
    I am the wife and the virgin....
    I am the barren one, and many are her sons....
    I am the silence that is incomprehensible....
    I am the utterance of my name.

    Why were these texts buried-and why have they remained virtually unknown for nearly 2,000 years? Their suppression as banned documents, and their burial on the cliff at Nag Hammadi, it turns out, were both part of a struggle critical for the formation of early Christianity. The Nag Hammadi texts, and others like them, which circulated at the beginning of the Christian era, were denounced as heresy by orthodox Christians in the middle of the second century."

    Read more: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/story/pagels.html#ixzz1UrFdHn4q
     
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  2. Sky Dancer
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    Could Hindu or Buddhist tradition have influenced gnosticism?

    The British scholar of Buddhism, Edward Conze, suggests that it had. He points out that "Buddhists were in contact with the Thomas Christians (that is, Christians who knew and used such writings as the Gospel of Thomas) in South India." Trade routes between the Greco-Roman world and the Far East were opening up at the time when gnosticism flourished (A.D. 80-200); for generations, Buddhist missionaries had been proselytizing in Alexandria. We note, too, that Hippolytus, who was a Greek speaking Christian in Rome (c. 225), knows of the Indian Brahmins--and includes their tradition among the sources of heresy:

    There is . . . among the Indians a heresy of those who philosophize among the Brahmins, who live a self-sufficient life, abstaining from (eating) living creatures and all cooked food . . . They say that God is light, not like the light one sees, nor like the sun nor fire, but to them God is discourse, not that which finds expression in articulate sounds, but that of knowledge (gnosis) through which the secret mysteries of nature are perceived by the wise.

    Could the title of the Gospel of Thomas--named for the disciple who, tradition tells us, went to India--suggest the influence of Indian tradition?



    Read more: The Story Of The Storytellers - The Gnostic Gospels | From Jesus To Christ | FRONTLINE | PBS
     
  3. strollingbones
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    these books are very sexual....and a threat to the male dominated religions....so they were voted out by the council of nicaea....
     
  4. Sky Dancer
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    Yes, that's true. Reincarnation was voted out by the Council of Nicea also.


    By A. D. 200, Christianity had become an institution headed by a three-rank hierarchy of bishops, priests, and deacons, who understood themselves to be the guardians of the only "true faith." The majority of churches, among which the church of Rome took a leading role, rejected all other viewpoints as heresy. Deploring the diversity of the earlier movement, Bishop Irenaeus and his followers insisted that there could be only one church, and outside of that church, he declared, "there is no salvation." Members of this church alone are orthodox (literally, "straight-thinking") Christians. And, he claimed, this church must be catholic-- that is, universal. Whoever challenged that consensus, arguing instead for other forms of Christian teaching, was declared to be a heretic, and expelled. When the orthodox gained military support, sometime after the Emperor Constantine became Christian in the fourth century, the penalty for heresy escalated.

    Read more: The Story Of The Storytellers - The Gnostic Gospels | From Jesus To Christ | FRONTLINE | PBS
     
  5. Sky Dancer
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    Few people today are acquainted with the Gospel of Mary. Written early in the second century CE, it disappeared for over fifteen hundred years until a single, fragmentary copy in Coptic translation came to light in the late nineteenth century.

    The story of the Gospel of Mary is a simple one. Since the first six pages are lost, the gospel opens in the middle of a scene portraying a discussion between the Savior and his disciples set after the resurrection. The Savior is answering their questions about the end of the material world and the nature of sin. He teaches them that at present all things, whether material or spiritual, are interwoven with each other. In the end, that will not be so. Each nature will return to its own root, its own original state and destiny. But meanwhile, the nature of sin is tied to the nature of life this mixed world. People sin because they do not recognize their own spiritual nature and, instead, love the lower nature that deceives them and leads to disease and death. Salvation is achieved by discovering within oneself the true spiritual nature of humanity and overcoming the deceptive entrapments of the bodily passions and the world. The Savior concludes this teaching with a warning against those who would delude the disciples into following some heroic leader or a set of rules and laws. Instead they are to seek the child of true Humanity within themselves and gain inward peace. After commissioning them to go forth and preach the gospel, the Savior departs.

    But the disciples do not go out joyfully to preach the gospel; instead controversy erupts. All the disciples except Mary have failed to comprehend the Savior's teaching Rather than seek peace within, they are distraught, frightened that if they follow his commission to preach the gospel, they might share his agonizing fate. Mary steps in and comforts them and, at Peter's, relates teaching unknown to them that she had received from the Savior in a vision. The Savior had explained to her the nature of prophecy and the rise of the soul to its final rest, describing how to win the battle against the wicked, illegitimate Powers that seek to keep the soul entrapped in the world and ignorant of its true spiritual nature.

    But as she finishes her account, two of the disciples quite unexpectedly challenge her. Andrew objects that her teaching is strange and he refuses to believe that it came from the Savior. Peter goes further, denying that Jesus would ever have given this kind of advanced teaching to a woman, or that Jesus could possibly have preferred her to them. Apparently when he asked her to speak, Peter had not expected such elevated teaching, and now he questions her character, implying that she has lied about having received special teaching in order to increase her stature among the disciples. Severely taken aback, Mary begins to cry at Peter's accusation. Levi comes quickly to her defense, pointing out to Peter that he is a notorious hothead and now he is treating Mary as though she were the enemy. We should be ashamed of ourselves, he admonishes them all; instead of arguing among ourselves, we should go out and preach the gospel as the Savior commanded us.

    The story ends here, but the controversy is far from resolved.
    Excerpt from "The Gospel of Mary of Magdala" by Karen L. King:
     
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  6. Sky Dancer
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    I think this is an interesting and "juicy" topic. There are so many things we can discuss about this.

    The primary interest I have, is that the Gnostic Gospels emphasized that the divinity can be found within. That's something consistent with Buddhist thought.

    Why would the early, organized church seek to suppress that thought?
     
  7. strollingbones
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    they wanted to repress the idea of jesus as a sexual being and they especially wanted to stop the sexual practices...one was eating sperm...which they saw as pagan and giving women too much power....there is love, sex, abortion and more sex...lots of sex
     
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    Since Jesus, supposedly, incarnated to have a human experience, why do Christians think he would have stayed celibate?
     
  9. Sky Dancer
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    Simon Peter said to them: 'Let Mary go away from us, for women are not worthy of life.' Jesus said: 'Lo, I shall lead her, so that I may make her a male, that she too may become a living spirit, resembling you males. For every woman who makes herself a male will enter the kingdom of heaven." (Gospel of Thomas 114)

    Jesus promoting transexualism?


    Gnostic literature is full of references to female characters, who play prominent literary roles. One such figure is Sophia, who is, to the Gnostics, a sort of goddess, and sometimes consort to Jesus. Jesus' mother Mary, his sister Mary and Mary Magdalene also figure prominently. What is more, Jesus prefers to reveal secret revelations to Mary Magdalene instead of the male disciples. For this reason some have asserted that the Gnostics were feminists and gave positions of church leadership to women as much as, or more than, to men. The literature speaks, as I mentioned, about the goddess Sophia.
    http://www.newmediaministries.org/DaVinciCode/GnosticFeminism_S.html
     
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    Beyond the Law, Beyond the Law: The Gnostic Apostle Thomas: Chapter 4, “Pearls in the Mud”:

    Gnostic responses to the problem of sexuality tended to be extreme: complete abstinence, or complete license. Extreme austerity -- encratism -- was the more usual solution, at least in principle. For some sects, however, free indulgence of the sexual urge was not only permitted but commended.

    “Complete abstinence, or complete license”: simply because the principle teaching of Jesus was to stay away from marriage.
     

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