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Switch to Forum Live View Gnosticism's origin: Christian or Jewish, or ...?
4 years ago  ::  Nov 22, 2009 - 12:19PM #1
Miguel_de_servet
Posts: 17,050

Wikipedia resorts to an understatement when it says that, "[t]he history of Gnosticism is subject to a great deal of debate and interpretation".


In fact it is more correct to say that there is no agreement at all among scholars.


Here are two comments, both by great scholars of Gnosticism.


The first is an indirect quotation from Hans Jonas, Jewish and very famous scholar, possibly the most famous scholar of Gnosticism: 


Jonas describes the typical Gnostic use of biblical material as follows: vilification, parody, caricature, conscious perversion of meaning, wholesale reversal of value-signs, savage degrading of the sacred, and gleefully shocking blasphemy.39 This leads him not only to reject the likelihood of Jewish origins but to characterize the Gnostic view of Judaism as saturated with “anti-Jewish animus.40
-- John G. Gager, The origins of anti-semitism: attitudes toward Judaism in pagan and Christian antiquity, Oxford University Press US, 1985, page 168 (with quotations [39, 40] from  H. Jonas, "Response to G. Quispel's 'Gnosticism and the New Testament'", in the The Bible in Modern Scholarshil, ed. J.P. Hyatt (Nashville and New York, 1965) pp. 287, 288 [#])


The second is a direct quotation from Ugo Bianchi, Christian Catholic and one of the foremost scholars of Gnosticism, albeit well known only within the circle of specialists:


In effect it is difficult to imagine in a purely Jewish environment, although penetrated by Greek thought, one would have been able to arrive at that extreme which is the demonization of the God of Israel... Only the perspective of a messiah conceived as a divine manifestation, as a divine incarnate person, already present in the faith of the New Testament and of the Church, but interpreted by the Gnostics on the basis of ontological presuppositions of the Greek mysteriosophic doctrine of soma-sema ('body'-'tomb') and of the split in the divine, could allow the development of a new Gnostic theology where the God of the Bible, the creator, became the demiurge ...
-- U. Bianchi, 'Le gnosticisme et les origines du Christianisme', Louvain (n. 8), p. 228. (from Pre-Christian Gnosticism, the New Testament and Nag Hammadi in recent debate, Edwin M. Yamauchi, Themelios 10.1 (September 1984): 22-27. [Reproduced by permission of the author], @earlychurch.org.uk).


So, can we safely conclude that Gnosticism has nothing to do with Judaism, that it did not originate in Jewish environment, not even as a corruption of Judaism? That, in fact, Gnosticism was, right from the start, heavily anti-Judaic?


Well, things are never as simple and cleartcut ...


Any comments? Any contributions?


MdS


[#] Here is another quotation from Jonas' 'Response':


'A Gnosticism without a fallen god, without benighted creator and sinister creation, without alien soul, cosmic captivity and acosmic salvation, without the self-redeeming of the Deity - in short: A Gnosis without divine tragedy will not meet specifications.'
-- H. Jonas,'Response', J. P. Hyatt (ed.), The Bible in Modem Scholarship (Nashville, 1965), p. 293 (from Pre-Christian Gnosticism, the New Testament and Nag Hammadi in recent debate, Edwin M. Yamauchi, Themelios 10.1 (September 1984): 22-27. [Reproduced by permission of the author], @earlychurch.org.uk, footnote #121)

Revelation is above, not against Reason

“The everlasting God is a refuge, and underneath you are his eternal arms ...” (Deut 33:27)
“Do you have an arm like God, and can you thunder with a voice like his?” (Job 40:9)
“By the Lord’s word [dabar] the heavens were made; and by the breath [ruwach] of his mouth all their host.” (Psalm 33:6)
“Who would have believed what we just heard? When was the arm of the Lord revealed through him?” (Isaiah 53:1)
“Lord, who has believed our message, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” (John 12:38)
“For not the hearers of the law are righteous before God, but the doers of the law will be declared righteous.” (Romans 2:13)

“Owe no one anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.”(Romans 13:8)
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4 years ago  ::  Nov 22, 2009 - 12:39PM #2
teilhard
Posts: 48,292

"Gnosticism"


seems to have been a Set of Ideas


that was "in The Air"


in The Eastern Mediterranean Region


and was picked-up in various Degrees


in both "Judaism" and The Church ...

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4 years ago  ::  Nov 22, 2009 - 1:11PM #3
Miguel_de_servet
Posts: 17,050

YDOO


Nov 22, 2009 -- 12:39PM, teilhard wrote:

"Gnosticism" seems to have been a Set of Ideas that was "in The Air" in The Eastern Mediterranean Region and was picked-up in various Degrees in both "Judaism" and The Church ...


"In The Air"? This is a rather vague and un-scholarly comment, no?


Which "air"? Mainland Greek? Anatolian? Syrian? Mesopotamian? Palestinian? Egyptian?


Where and how did the "anti-cosmic" fundamental world-view of Gnosticism originate?


Can it be a "mix" of Greek mysteriosophic religion and of heavily corrupted Jewish Apocalypticism?


Can it be a late influx of Iranian Zoroastrianism?


Or all you can say is that it was ... "in The Air"?


MdS

Revelation is above, not against Reason

“The everlasting God is a refuge, and underneath you are his eternal arms ...” (Deut 33:27)
“Do you have an arm like God, and can you thunder with a voice like his?” (Job 40:9)
“By the Lord’s word [dabar] the heavens were made; and by the breath [ruwach] of his mouth all their host.” (Psalm 33:6)
“Who would have believed what we just heard? When was the arm of the Lord revealed through him?” (Isaiah 53:1)
“Lord, who has believed our message, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” (John 12:38)
“For not the hearers of the law are righteous before God, but the doers of the law will be declared righteous.” (Romans 2:13)

“Owe no one anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.”(Romans 13:8)
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4 years ago  ::  Nov 22, 2009 - 1:35PM #4
teilhard
Posts: 48,292

Nov 22, 2009 -- 1:11PM, Miguel_de_servet wrote:


YDOO


Nov 22, 2009 -- 12:39PM, teilhard wrote:

"Gnosticism" seems to have been a Set of Ideas that was "in The Air" in The Eastern Mediterranean Region and was picked-up in various Degrees in both "Judaism" and The Church ...


"In The Air"? This is a rather vague and un-scholarly comment, no?


Which "air"? Mainland Greek? Anatolian? Syrian? Mesopotamian? Palestinian? Egyptian?


Where and how did the "anti-cosmic" fundamental world-view of Gnosticism originate?


Can it be a "mix" of Greek mysteriosophic religion and of heavily corrupted Jewish Apocalypticism?


Can it be a late influx of Iranian Zoroastrianism?


Or all you can say is that it was ... "in The Air"?


MdS




 


Since I wasn't "there then,"


all I can do is speculate ...


 


But "Gnostic"-Flavour Ideas


DO turn in up in MUCH Eastern Mediterranean Thought ...


 


So ...


 


Trying to trace "Gnosticism"


all-the-way-back to some particular Fella or Sect


in a Monastery near a certain Wadi in South Yemen ... ???

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4 years ago  ::  Nov 22, 2009 - 2:00PM #5
Miguel_de_servet
Posts: 17,050

YDOO


Nov 22, 2009 -- 1:35PM, teilhard wrote:

Since I wasn't "there then," all I can do is speculate ...


But "Gnostic"-Flavour Ideas DO turn in up in MUCH Eastern Mediterranean Thought ...


So ...


Trying to trace "Gnosticism" all-the-way-back to some particular Fella or Sect in a Monastery near a certain Wadi in South Yemen ... ???


I am not trying to do anything as silly as that.


I am try to see if, after hundreds of scholar, especially after Nag Hammadi (1945) have tried their best, to no definitive conclusion (in fact, heavily conflicting conclusions), some "brilliant maverick" may come up with some good ideas (maybe even backed up by facts, that would be marvellous!) as to the cultural, religious, philosophical, historical origins of that polymorphous hydra, to which the Church Fathers attributed one name, Gnosticism.


MdS

Revelation is above, not against Reason

“The everlasting God is a refuge, and underneath you are his eternal arms ...” (Deut 33:27)
“Do you have an arm like God, and can you thunder with a voice like his?” (Job 40:9)
“By the Lord’s word [dabar] the heavens were made; and by the breath [ruwach] of his mouth all their host.” (Psalm 33:6)
“Who would have believed what we just heard? When was the arm of the Lord revealed through him?” (Isaiah 53:1)
“Lord, who has believed our message, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” (John 12:38)
“For not the hearers of the law are righteous before God, but the doers of the law will be declared righteous.” (Romans 2:13)

“Owe no one anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.”(Romans 13:8)
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Cancel
4 years ago  ::  Nov 22, 2009 - 2:03PM #6
teilhard
Posts: 48,292

Nov 22, 2009 -- 2:00PM, Miguel_de_servet wrote:


YDOO


Nov 22, 2009 -- 1:35PM, teilhard wrote:

Since I wasn't "there then," all I can do is speculate ...


But "Gnostic"-Flavour Ideas DO turn in up in MUCH Eastern Mediterranean Thought ...


So ...


Trying to trace "Gnosticism" all-the-way-back to some particular Fella or Sect in a Monastery near a certain Wadi in South Yemen ... ???


I am not trying to do anything as silly as that.


I am try to see if, after hundreds of scholar, especially after Nag Hammadi (1945) have tried their best, to no definitive conclusion (in fact, heavily conflicting conclusions), some "brilliant maverick" may come up with some good ideas (maybe even backed up by facts, that would be marvellous!) as to the cultural, religious, philosophical, historical origins of that polymorphous hydra, to which the Church Fathers attributed one name, Gnosticism.


MdS




 


Brother SmoudleringAshHeap --


 


So, then ... Go For It ...

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4 years ago  ::  Nov 22, 2009 - 3:17PM #7
Miguel_de_servet
Posts: 17,050

YDOO


Nov 22, 2009 -- 2:03PM, teilhard wrote:

Brother SmoudleringAshHeap -- So, then ... Go For It ...


It was a long time you hadn't called me with that affectionate nickname (a cynical reference to the tragic end of my namesake) ...


... have I touched a raw nerve? Wink


But, in fact your obscure hints are always precious ...


... you provoked in me a sudden insight.


Maybe (maybe ...) the Ein Sof, with its 10 sefirot is more closely related to the heathen-philosophical-hermetic "trinity", with its three hypostases, that scholars have ever so far suspected ...


... maybe Gnosticism (or ur-Gnosticsm) is at the root of both? What do you think? Cool


MdS

Revelation is above, not against Reason

“The everlasting God is a refuge, and underneath you are his eternal arms ...” (Deut 33:27)
“Do you have an arm like God, and can you thunder with a voice like his?” (Job 40:9)
“By the Lord’s word [dabar] the heavens were made; and by the breath [ruwach] of his mouth all their host.” (Psalm 33:6)
“Who would have believed what we just heard? When was the arm of the Lord revealed through him?” (Isaiah 53:1)
“Lord, who has believed our message, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” (John 12:38)
“For not the hearers of the law are righteous before God, but the doers of the law will be declared righteous.” (Romans 2:13)

“Owe no one anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.”(Romans 13:8)
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Cancel
4 years ago  ::  Nov 22, 2009 - 7:28PM #8
Blü
Posts: 23,991

Gnosticism looks very like a development from Zoroastrianism (whose earliest writings are dated somewhere between 1000 and 500 BCE).


Its presence amongst 1st century CE Jews is thoroughly Hellenized and seems to be laced with elements from the Mysteries too.


Paul arguably exhibits elements of both gnosticism and the Mysteries.  He borrows the eucharist from the Greek mysteries and Justin Martyr (100-165 CE) mentions the bread and wine used in the Mysteries of Mithras.  The Last Supper is therefore likely to be the same sort of back formation as the gospels' fulfillment-of-prophecy tales.


I mention this to suggest that Hellenization brought in a whole mixture of religious thought, and that it was available to Jews in the 1st century BCE, whence it found its way into the various forms of Christianity.

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4 years ago  ::  Nov 23, 2009 - 9:02AM #9
Miguel_de_servet
Posts: 17,050

Blü


Nov 22, 2009 -- 7:28PM, Blü wrote:

Gnosticism looks very like a development from Zoroastrianism (whose earliest writings are dated somewhere between 1000 and 500 BCE).


Its presence amongst 1st century CE Jews is thoroughly Hellenized and seems to be laced with elements from the Mysteries too.


That Gnosticism may be "a late influx of Iranian Zoroastrianism" is a hint that I had already provided, and, for instance, Norman Cohn, in his Cosmos, Chaos and the World to Come: The Ancient Roots of Apocalyptic Faith (1993, revised edition 2001) argues along that line.


But the point is that a full-fledged Gnostic system (with the One, the ogdoad, the pleroma of 32 "aeons", etc. etc.) is ONLY to be found in "christian Gnosticism", and in no Jewish only system antedating the Earliest Christian writings.


[Blü] Paul arguably exhibits elements of both gnosticism and the Mysteries.  He borrows the eucharist from the Greek mysteries and Justin Martyr (100-165 CE) mentions the bread and wine used in the Mysteries of Mithras.  The Last Supper is therefore likely to be the same sort of back formation as the gospels' fulfillment-of-prophecy tales.


Here, about Paul, as usual, you present as "fact" what are, at best, unverified hypotheses.


As for Justin Martyr, and the analogies between the Christian Eucharist and the Mysteries of Mithras, the earliest reference to them is around the time of Domitian (d. 96 AD), so it does not prove anything: in fact it is much more rational and historically reasonable to argue the other way round, viz, that the loan is by Mithraism from Christianity.


[Blü] I mention this to suggest that Hellenization brought in a whole mixture of religious thought, and that it was available to Jews in the 1st century BCE, whence it found its way into the various forms of Christianity.


Once again, can you provide a single example of full-fledged (or even half baked) purely Jewish Gnosticism?


Mario

Revelation is above, not against Reason

“The everlasting God is a refuge, and underneath you are his eternal arms ...” (Deut 33:27)
“Do you have an arm like God, and can you thunder with a voice like his?” (Job 40:9)
“By the Lord’s word [dabar] the heavens were made; and by the breath [ruwach] of his mouth all their host.” (Psalm 33:6)
“Who would have believed what we just heard? When was the arm of the Lord revealed through him?” (Isaiah 53:1)
“Lord, who has believed our message, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” (John 12:38)
“For not the hearers of the law are righteous before God, but the doers of the law will be declared righteous.” (Romans 2:13)

“Owe no one anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.”(Romans 13:8)
Quick Reply
Cancel
4 years ago  ::  Nov 23, 2009 - 11:39AM #10
teilhard
Posts: 48,292

Nov 22, 2009 -- 3:17PM, Miguel_de_servet wrote:


YDOO


Nov 22, 2009 -- 2:03PM, teilhard wrote:

Brother SmoudleringAshHeap -- So, then ... Go For It ...


It was a long time you hadn't called me with that affectionate nickname (a cynical reference to the tragic end of my namesake) ...


... have I touched a raw nerve? 

But, in fact your obscure hints are always precious ...


... you provoked in me a sudden insight.


Maybe (maybe ...) the Ein Sof, with its 10 sefirot is more closely related to the heathen-philosophical-hermetic "trinity", with its three hypostases, that scholars have ever so far suspected ...


... maybe Gnosticism (or ur-Gnosticsm) is at the root of both? What do you think?

MdS




I think


that The "Gnostic" Flavour


 -- perceived Conflict between "Spirit" and "Matter" --


is near the Heart of The Religious Impulse in GENERAL ...

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