Re: joshua

From: Robert Schneider (
Date: Fri Dec 13 2002 - 12:24:17 EST

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    See my response to Rich, below his inquiry/note:

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    Subject: Re: joshua

    > In a message dated 12/11/02 11:11:57 AM Eastern Standard Time,
    > writes:
    > > That means he was not the Gnostic God walking around in a body; it
    > >
    > That is an interesting remark but I'm not sure I understand it. Are you
    > saying gnosticism is a ''supernatural" state? I thought gnosticism was a
    > communion with God like the Hasidic devekut or the Rg Vedan self sacrifice
    > (or even the supposedly non-religious Zen 'no-mind') that had nothing to
    > with the supernatural but with a personal discipline. Here you seem to be
    > saying that a gnostic God has a supernatural component/constitution. I
    > be grateful if you would expand on this remark if you care to. I am
    > especially interested because I may be misinterpreting a remark Pope John
    > Paul II made in Crossing the Threshold of Hope. In a chapter on Buddhism
    > warns against gnosticism which he says has always coexisted with the
    > but "in distinct, if not declared, conflict with all that is essentially
    > Christian.' I understood him to mean that gnostic communion with God was
    > real communion with God but replaced the possibility of real communion
    > God with as he says with,"' purely human words."
    > So, is gnosticism human or supernatural? I can't tell.
    > (I am not interested in a critique of the catholic pope. I am interested
    > the concept of gnosticism as you have used it and as the pope has used it.
    > am looking for your conceptual understanding of gnosticism.)
    > thanks for any input
    > rich
    Bob's response:

         Glad to respond. I was using the term "gnostic" in reference generally
    to the hydra-headed ancient movement known as Gnosticism, of which there
    were Christian versions that arose perhaps with the beginning of the Jesus
    movement, and flourished during the 2nd and 3rd centuries--and later in the
    forms of Manichaeism (4th/5th c.) and Catharism (12th/13th c.).
    Gnosticism's philosophical theology was seen as so serious a challenge to
    what was becoming mainstream Christianity that early Christian theologians
    attacked its various views about creation, God, Christ, etc., notable
    polemicists were Ignatius of Antioch and Irenaeus of Lyon, the latter in his
    treatise "Against the Heresies." Indeed NT scholars have argued that
    various statements in some NT writings are critiques and rejections of
    gnostic views.

         A key concept in Christian gnosticism (which has a bearing, broadly
    speaking, on the historical dimensions of our science/religion dialogue) is
    that the creation is a work of a lesser god, a "Demiurge," or, the OT god,
    not the god of the NT, and that matter is evil. Christ being a divine being
    could not have inhabited created matter, and assumed a phasmatical human
    appearance. Thus the humanity and suffering of Christ were only apparent,
    not real. This notion was called "Docetism" (from the Greek word "dokeo--to
    seem"); I had it in mind when I used the phrase you quote above. (I am
    convinced, with Thomas Sheehan, that many Christians implicitly believe that
    Jesus "was God walking around in a body": gnosticisn is alive and well as a
    popular view, and many of my conservative Protestant students at Berea
    College were Docetists, those they didn't realize it. See also _Against the
    Protestant Gnostics_ by Presbyterian pastor and theologian Philip J. Lee, a
    work that traces and critiques gnostic tendencies in North American

         Christian forms of Gnosticism have received greater attention over the
    past two decades with the translation of the Nag Hammadi documents, a
    fourth-century papyrus collection (_The Nag Hammadi Library_, rev. edn.,
    James M. Robinson). I suppose that you would be able to find a number of
    reliable on-line sites on Gnosticism and Nag Hammadi, in particular on the
    Gospel of Thomas, a gnostic gospel that preserves authentic sayings of
    Jesus. Two publications by historian of early Gnosticism Elaine Pagels may
    interest you: _The Gnostic Gospels_ and _Adam, Eve, and the Serpent_.

    Hope this is helpful,
    Bob Schneider

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