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 Gnosticism: Gnostic Apologetics 101, pt 1

Spiritualityby Robert Wood

Galatians 1
6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!

This passage is one of the most frequently cited to condemn Gnostics as not being Christians since they use non-canonical texts. There are numerous issues with interpreting this passage as being anti-Gnostic. First involves the common misconception that there was a Bible floating around at this time. According to earlychristianwritings.com Paul's letter to the Galatians is dated 50 to 60 CE. The Hebrew sects that became Judaism did not have a unified canon till after 70 CE, the fall of the second Temple and the earliest canonical gospel, Mark is dated to be composed around 65 to 80 CE. So since Paul's letter to the Galatians predates any written group of texts we can rule out that his "official gospel" is the Bible. Next there is the assumption that there was one unified church with one orthodox view. This simply wasn't the case. You have three broad sects of Christians: the Hebrew Christians, the Torah observing Gentile Christians, and non-Torah observing Christians. Torah, meaning oral Torah or the Laws of Moses since there was no unified nor closed canon for the various Hebrew sects. We can reason that the Christians he is addressing are non-Torah obsrving Christians since he's very quick to point out in the passage following, ...

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Galatians 3
11 I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. 12 I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.

If he was addressing Torah observing Gentiles Christians or Hebrew Christians then he would not be quick to admit this since it's fact in Hebrew tradition that the Law and the Torah came specifically from Moses, i.e. a man and this is something that had to be taught to understand.

So now we get to the meat of the matter, what is this "other gospel"? Gospel is a word derived from Old English word, "God-spell" meaning "Good News". It is a literal translation of the Greek word, εὐαγγέλιον. So Paul had shared his good news with these people that did not come from any man nor was it taught to him by any man. Obviously then this "other gospel" is something Paul considered man made. Since Paul was very well versed in Jewish Law and the Oral Torah he would have known that the Laws of Moses are linked to Moses and would have considered them "man made". Most likely then, the "other gospel" being condemed here is those who taught the Laws of Moses. Further proof of this is in the passage where he says, "let them be under God's curse." God's curse, or rather YHVH's curse, is the Law and Paul spells it out explictly later on in the letter.

Galatians 3
10 For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”

This a direct reference to a passage in Deuteronomy summarizing that all who fail to keep the Law are "cursed".

Deuteronomy 27
26 “Cursed is anyone who does not uphold the words of this law by carrying them out.”

"Anyone" being the Israelites, the Chosen People of YHVH. So how do you keep from being cursed? Obviously by not putting yourself under the Laws of Moses in the first place and not going through the rituals to be one of YHVH's chosen people since all of YHVH's chosen people are "cursed" to follow and uphold the Laws of Moses.

So we have demonstrated that this passage is not attacking Gnostics since obviously, Gnosticism never existed in the first place and the movements called Gnostic post-date this letter by half a century. Next it becomes clear why sects labeled as gnostic would love Paul's writings so much, especially Galatians, since it clearly advocates no longer being under the Laws of Moses and condemning those who say that Christians must be under those laws. Looks like Paul was quite the religious liberal for his day.


Robert Wood Bio:

I'm Robert, I'm called Bob or Robbie by those close to me. I'm 26 years old and have an interests in video games, anime, Super Sentai, writing, drawing, and early Christianity. I grew up in a small town in southeast Louisiana. I was raised into Christianity, specifically the United Methodists, quite literally. My Dad was (and still is) insistent on making sure that my sister and I went to Church every Sunday. My grandfather was a Methodist minister. I found myself very early on coming up with ideas and questions about God, the afterlife, spiritual realms, etc. due to being a very inquisitive child. I was given some explanations but mostly I was told to read the Bible and pray. For the most part this was sufficient for me until I was 11.

Around that time my Dad had broke his neck when he dove into a 4ft swimming pool trying to show off to my friends and me. After his injury, I began to start questioning the teachings and stances of my childhood religion, like why would God be against witchcraft if it could be used to help someone? Why should I, or anyone, be damned to eternal torment because they are earnest about healing someone who was sick? Why is everything secular or having a pagan origin being labeled as evil or Satan's tool even if it's useful and helpful? I eventually took a theosophical view and made up my own gods and just used Christianity as a cover for my own beliefs. Being a pastor's grandchild made this easy though I did have personal qualms with praying to Jesus but I could say God and I got around it.

After I left for college, what worked in my small town in my Grandfather's church wasn't going to work there. The church had a different atmosphere from my Grandfather's church. Many people here exemplified the negative stereotypes of Christianity I had heard about but never really saw except in a minority of individuals. Needless to say I did not feel comfortable nor spiritually fulfilled going to that Church. Not realizing that different sects have variations in their beliefs and practices and assuming that all Churches were like the one I attended, I ignorantly tried to embrace paganism. I say ignorantly since I had no understanding that there were differences in pagan religions and assuming they were all like how “Mama Birdie-White-Dog” and her ilk marketed them.

The generic neopagan pop deities didn't want anything to do with me and assuming again that “All Gods and Goddesses were God and Goddess” left me spiritually frustrated and confused. I then decided that I did not wanting to be a part of pagan religions since I did not fit in and try to go back to the religion I had made up and begin trying to fine-tune it. Eventually I remembered hearing about a text called, “The Gospel of Thomas” from one of my professors. After a quick search on the internet I found it and soon realized that I was not alone. There were early Christians that had similar thoughts and theological opinions as I did. The something missing, of Christianity I thought I had found. For a while I was a pop-Gnostic. I believed much of the anti-dogmatic dogma of the Gnostic community and much of the political propaganda they threw into their spiritual marketing rhetoric.

Eventually I fell prey to one of these marketers and nearly got myself sucked into a very manipulative religion. After being made aware of the practices of this group, I soon became very disillusioned and cynical of all religions. Reducing them to proto-psychology at best and nearly becoming a hard atheist. I decided to look at Gnosticism one more time and due to a dear friend of mine, I was made aware that my problem was that I was projecting what I thought God was rather than trying to find out what God is. A week later after some intense self reflection, I had an event occur that solidified me back into Christianity through Gnosticism. I cannot completely recount the experience due to words not being able to convey it properly but I will say that the event was consistent with scripture of the New Testament and the Nag Hammadi Library. It turned out that I wasn't being lied to concerning connecting with God either as a child but the techniques I was being told were incomplete, or rather at a time when I was not mature enough to understand what “read the Bible and pray” really meant though I do believe that my understanding of this advice it drastically different from how my Grandfather and Dad meant it to mean.

I have been a practicing Gnostic since my experience on February 28, 2008. I am an Elder for Alpha & Omega Gnostic Christian Church. The title of "Elder" is just a fancy way of saying that I'm a long time member that listen to problems, offer advice when I can, and can lead a discussion while staying focused on topic.


[05 February 2011]

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