SPECIAL TOPIC: GNOSTICISM
A. Most of our knowledge of this heresy comes from the Gnostic writings of the second century. However, its ideas were present in the first century (Dead Sea Scrolls) and the Apostle John's writings.
B. The problem at Ephesus (1 Timothy), Crete (Titus) and Colossae (Colossians) was a hybrid of incipient Gnosticism and legalistic Judaism.
C. Some tenets of Valentinian and Cerinthian Gnosticism of the second century.
1. Matter and spirit were co-eternal (an ontological dualism). Matter is evil, spirit is good. God, who is spirit, cannot be directly involved with molding evil matter.
2. There are emanations (eons or angelic levels) between God and matter. The last or lowest one was YHWH of the Old Testament, who formed the universe (kosmos).
3. Jesus was an emanation, like YHWH, but higher on the scale, closer to the true God. Some put Him as the highest, but still less than God and certainly not incarnate deity (cf. John 1:14). Since matter is evil, Jesus could not have a human body and still be divine. He appeared to be human, but was really only a spirit (cf. 1 John 1:1-3; 4:1-6).
4. Salvation was obtained through faith in Jesus plus special knowledge, which is only known by special persons. Knowledge (passwords) was needed to pass through heavenly spheres. Jewish legalism was also required to reach God.
D. The Gnostic false teachers advocated two opposite ethical systems.
1. For some, lifestyle was totally unrelated to salvation. For them, salvation and spirituality were encapsulated into secret knowledge (passwords) through the angelic spheres (eons).
2. For others, lifestyle was crucial to salvation. In this book, the false teachers emphasized an ascetic lifestyle as evidence of true salvation (cf. 1 John 2:16-23).
E. A good reference book is The Nag Hammadi Library by James M. Robinson and Richard Smith
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