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Why Did Gnosticism   Die Out?

     The ultimate demise of the Gnostics occurred because they were driven underground and eventually brought into the Orthodox-Catholic fold.  This happened in the 4th and 5th centuries.  However, they appear to have suffered a decline even before then, for by the time of Constantine, they were no longer regarded as the most dangerous "heresy."  The Arians had taken that distinction from them – this latter group having an entirely different origin and set of beliefs than the Gnostics. 

     The reasons for the Gnostics' decline in the 3rd century were due to a number of factors.  For one thing, their creationist opponents were able to pin them with a large number of accusations, including dependence on Greek philosophy and mythology, along with forgery, and a general lack of cohesion because of incessant schisms among themselves.  Whether or not these accusations were true is not central to this discussion, but for what it's worth, here are a few:

 

Their doctrines are derived from Greek wisdom, from the conclusions of philosophical systems, from wanna-be mysteries, and from the vagaries of astrologers.[1] 

 

Those Gnostics who espoused reincarnation did not get that idea from divine revelation, but rather got it from Plato.[2]

 

They employ an unspeakable number of apocryphal and spurious writings, which are forgeries they made themselves, in order to beguile undiscerning people who are ignorant of the true scriptures.[3]

 

They differ wildly among themselves concerning both doctrine and tradition.  To be considered enlightened among them, one must invent new doctrines every day.  They just dream up new things that nobody has ever thought of before.[4]

 

All these (heretics) are of a much later date than the bishops to whom the Apostles committed the churches.[5] 

 

Gnostic opinions are founded upon the opinions of Greek philosophers who came before them and upon mystical rites.[6]

 

Valentinus' doctrines are not based on the holy scriptures, but on the teachings of Plato's and Pythagoras' followers.[7] 

 

They even accused the Gnostics of basing certain doctrines on a comedy act.[8]  Whether or not these accusations were true, the opponents of the Gnostics published them widely, and they became the generally accepted history for nearly 1,800 years.

     They believed that flesh is intrinsically evil, and this in turn caused most of them to conclude that Christ could not have been flesh.  These two doctrines caused them difficulty, the first because it limited their membership growth by means of procreation, and the second because it was ill-supported by apostolic authority.  Concerning Gnostic opinions on procreation, the following quotes from Nag Hammadi and the histories yield the following:

 

Saturninus believed that marriage and procreation came from Satan, as did also Marcion and Tatian.[9]

 

John saw what descended upon the Jordan and understood that the age of sexual reproduction was ending.[10]

 

Woe to you who enjoy sexual contact with women and the filth of intercourse with them!  Woe to you who are slaves of the flesh, for you will find trouble![11]

 

If a male virgin gets horny, he falls into filth.[12]

 

The snake worshippers say that men should be asexual because sex between men and women is extremely evil and filthy.[13]

 

Whoever in this cosmos has sex with women looses the truth.[14]

 

Needless to say, any church that embraces such teachings must have a crackerjack evangelist team to perpetuate itself, because it won't gain any new members from the biological processes of its existing membership.  It's like the old joke, "Evolution will take care of the creationists," where the punch line follows, "Yes it will – they have more kids than atheists do, so evolution will indeed take very good care of them."  A low Gnostic birthrate may have been a key reason for their demise, just as atheism is declining in many nations today for the same reason.

     Gnostics agreed with other Christians that Christ was in some way divine; however, some of them had a hard time believing he became flesh.  Those who rejected that Christ was flesh were called "Docetae," after the Greek word dokeo which means "to only appear to be" – for they believed Christ only appeared to suffer on the cross, but did not actually suffer.  These Docetae were not necessarily affiliated with the Gnostics at first, for they first appear in the letters of Ignatius, who wrote about 100-110 AD, and Ignatius did not identify them as Gnostics.  Ignatius castigated the Docetae as heretics.[15]  In contrast, Ignatius also wrote cordial letters to various churches founded by Apostles, not attacking them as he did the Docetae.  This suggests that the earliest apostolic communities did not subscribe to the doctrine of the Docetae, for if they did, Ignatius would have reprimanded them directly. 

     Moreover, in the earliest undisputed writings of the New Testament, namely Mark, Luke, Matthew, and the letters of Paul, there is no trace of doectism.  Instead, we see everywhere an assumption that Christ was flesh and blood, and no hint of a dispute on the issue.  Only in the very latest books of the New Testament, those written by John in his old age, can docetism be noticed, yet here, John calls the Docetae "antichrist."[16] 

     For these reasons, one might rightfully doubt that the Docetae represented the true teachings of Jesus and his earliest followers.  Yet by the mid 2nd century, the two leading Gnostics, Valentinus and Marcion, had adopted the doctrine of the Docetae as their own.  This may have been a contributing factor to their eventual demise, since docetism is not really feasibly apostolic in the same way that the Gnostic theory on origins is. 

     How closely were the Gnostics tied to the Docetae?  If the ancient sources are any indication, there were many Gnostics who rejected it.  Hippolytus records a schism among the Gnostics over docetism.  According to him, there was an Italian school which taught that Jesus Christ possessed an animal body, that is a biological body, and there was an Asian school which taught he had a body of spirit.[17]  From the Gnostics' own words found at Nag Hammadi, we can discern the Gnostics were indeed divided on the issue, for some of the texts embrace docetism while others make statements that are incompatible with it.  Three of the earliest texts found at Nag Hammadi are decisively incompatible with docetism - The Gospel of Thomas, The Apocryphon of James, and The Treatise on the Resurrection.  Here is what they say:

 

Jesus said, "I manifested myself in the flesh."[18]

 

If you keep my cross and my death in mind, you will have life.[19]

 

He existed as flesh… being both human and divine, so that he could conquer death because he was the Son of God, yet also restore the pleroma because he was the Son of Man.[20]

 

These statements are contrary to the idea that Jesus only appeared to be flesh and only appeared to suffer.  Rather, they indicate that the authors of these texts believed in an orthodox interpretation of Christ's passion.  The Tripartite Tractate also asserts that Christ had a body, that he was human, and that he died.[21]  The Gospel of Truth both rejects docetism and alludes to Paul in the same sentence:  "After he took off his fleshly covering, he put on incorruptibility."[22]  Other Nag Hammadi texts indicate the same:

 

Some will say that he was not flesh even though he did come as flesh; that he did not feel pain even though he did feel pain; that he did not rise from the dead even though he did rise from the dead.  Traditions from all over the world testify otherwise.[23]

 

Christ is God and Master.  As God, he became a man on your behalf.  He shattered the shackles of hell.[24]

 

Jesus descended to be crucified.  He wore the crown of thorns and regal cape.  He was nailed to a tree and buried in a sepulcher.  Then he rose from the dead.  Comrades, Jesus is not accustomed to suffering like this, but we have suffered because our mother sinned, and so he came to suffer as we do.[25]

 

This last quote is from The Letter of Peter to Philip, which deserves special attention.  Notice the phrase, our mother sinned.  This is an implicit acceptance of the Gnostic creation myth regarding the sin of Sophia, who conceived the cosmos in her womb and then aborted it.  Here we see clearly an acceptance of Gnostic cosmology coupled with a rejection of docetic Christology.  A reading of the full text confirms this, for it is unabashedly Gnostic in explaining the pleroma of the aeons and how they came about from the mother in error, and how the demiurge and his archons thwart us, and how flesh is evil.  Yet the text also records Jesus saying, "I descended into a mortal body," and Peter adds, "he suffered for us." 

     Hence, The Letter of Peter to Philip is a clear example of how some Christians combined a Gnostic cosmology with an Orthodox-Catholic Christology. 

 

The Reconciliation of Gnosticism and Orthodoxy

     Evolutionary history is comprised of a meaningless series of vicious flesh eating animals, one right after another, who have no knowledge of the God of Love.  It is wholly incongruous, even blasphemous, to imagine that the God of Love is the same God as the creator who put in motion such barbaric savagery for all these millions of years.  Therefore, in light of science and the laws of evolution, it is unreasonable to accept the creationist model.  The Gnostic model concerning origins is much more reasonable, and should become the new model that Christians accept.

     We have seen that there existed among the early Christians two schools of thought – an Orthodox-Catholic school and a Gnostic school.  Each was equally ancient.  Each held apostolic authority.  Each was and continues to be a legitimate heir to the legacy of Jesus Christ.  Yet each had a fatal flaw.  On one hand, the Orthodox-Catholic school came to accept the creationist position on origins.  On the other hand, the Gnostic school came to accept a radical hatred of the flesh which denied Christ his humanity.  Both were incorrect.  Yet both were correct in other ways.  The Orthodox-Catholic school was correct about the humanity and suffering of Christ, and the Gnostic school was metaphorically correct about origins.  If we take the best of both, and abandon the worst of both, we arrive at the true doctrine of Jesus Christ – that is, the cosmos is a horrible mistake, and Christ came in the flesh to save us from it.

 

Click to read more about how ancient Christian Gnosticism is compatible with evolution.

The creationist narrative in Genesis 1 is contradicted by many ancient Christian texts.  Instead of an Almighty Creator God, ancient Christian texts espouse that the universe is born from blind arrogance and stupidity.  The angels caused evolution to occur from species to species.  There are many gods, (or aliens?), and the Christian God is just one among them.  Satan the Devil writes scripture, and thus the Bible was polluted with Genesis 1.  Archaeology and modern scholarship demonstrate that Genesis is indeed corrupted.  Cavemen walk with Adam and Eve.  Esoteric prophecies reveal the coming of Christ, and also reveal the dark forces that govern the cosmos.  Such are the ancient Christian writings.

Science vindicates the truth of these ideas.  Evolution often happens too fast for Darwin’s theory.  Gaps in the fossil record indicate that some kind of unnatural force acts together with natural selection.  Astrobiology reveals that intelligent life probably evolved long before us.  The fossil record reveals strange clues that aliens abducted species and transported them across oceans, and that DNA from diverse lineages was combined to spawn hybrid species.  Evidently, aliens influence evolution, and they are the gods of the world’s religions. 

This is not fiction.  All these facts are thoroughly documented in the links above.

 



[1] Hippolytus, The Refutation of All Heresies 1:Intro

[2] Irenaeus.  Against Heresies 2.33.2

[3] Irenaeus.  Against Heresies 1.20.1

[4] Irenaeus.  Against Heresies 1.21.5

[5] Irenaeus.  Against Heresies 5.20.1

[6] Hippolytus.  The Refutation of All Heresies 5:Intro

[7] Hippolytus.  The Refutation of All Heresies 6:Intro

[8] Irenaeus.  Against Heresies 1.14.1

[9] Irenaeus.  Against Heresies 1.24.2, 1.28; Hippolytus.  The Refutation of All Heresies 7:9, 7:16

[10] The Testimony of Truth, Nag Hammadi 9:30

[11] The Book of Thomas the Contender, Nag Hammadi 2:144

[12] Authoritative Teaching, Nag Hammadi 6:25

[13] Hippolytus.  The Refutation of All Heresies 5:2

[14] Irenaeus.  Against Heresies 1.6.4

[15] Ignatius of Antioch.  Trallians 10, Smyrnaeans 1, 3, 7, Ephesians 7

[16] 1st John 4:2-3; John 1:14

[17] Hippolytus.  The Refutation of All Heresies 6:30

[18] The Gospel of Thomas 28

[19] The Apocryphon of James, Nag Hammadi 1:5

[20] The Treatise on the Resurrection, Nag Hammadi 1:44

[21] The Tripartite Tractate 13, 14, 15, Nag Hammadi 1:116, 1:121, 1:125

[22] The Gospel of Truth, Nag Hammadi 1:21; 1st Corinthians 15:53

[23] Melchizedek, Nag Hammadi 9:5

[24] The Teachings of Silvanus, Nag Hammadi 7:110

[25] The Letter of Peter to Philip, Nag Hammadi 8:139

Above:  The lion-headed serpent, a Gnostic symbol for the blind and arrogant retard who created this worthless universe.

Below:  In Gnosticism, the god who created the universe is called Sama-El (blind god) and Saklas (retard / fool).

THIS SECTION:

GNOSTIC CHRISTIANITY AND EVOLUTION

Ancient Christians Believed that some parts of the Bible were written by God and other parts of the Bible were written by Satan the Devil.