Friday, September 16, 2005

Will Gnosticism Ever Die?

The Apostles Paul and John did a pretty good job of stomping it to death in their New Testament writings. But apparently some people still think Gnosticism is the cat's meow.

Princeton Professor Gives Speech About Jesus

According to the Gospel of John, Jesus was the only begotten son of God, and no one can receive God’s salvation without believing in the divinity of Jesus.

That view, religious historian Elaine Pagels said Thursday, is the picture of Jesus enshrined in the Nicene creed and other orthodox teachings of the Christian church.

But many early Christians had a strikingly different view of who Jesus was, she said. That view was expressed in the Gospel of Thomas, one of a collection of “Gnostic” writings was discovered in Egypt in 1945.

The Gnostic approach to Christianity came to be branded as a heresy, because it taught that individuals could seek wisdom and enlightenment independent of church authority, Pagels said.

... and ...

Many scholars see the Gospel of Thomas and other books that contain collections of sayings attributed to Jesus as possible sources that predate the Gospels in the official canon. In her research, however, Pagels said she decided to study the book as a way to understand the different views of Christianity that were competing in the first two or three centuries after Jesus’ death.

The name “Thomas” actually means “twin,” so the Gospel seems to imply that “you, the reader, are a twin of Jesus,” Pagels said.

“The good news is about Jesus, but it’s also about you and me. … We come forth from that light which offers a link between all human beings.”

By contrast, in John’s Gospel, Thomas is depicted as a skeptic who doubts Jesus is divine or that he has risen from the dead. “The need for Thomas to touch Jesus is a parody of the emphasis in the Gospel of Thomas on experiential truth,” she said.

In John’s Gospel, she said, Thomas finally confesses that Jesus is “my Lord and my God.”

“The good news is that Jesus is God incarnate,” she said. “The bad news, if you will excuse me, is that the rest of us are nothing like Jesus.” And that became the official doctrine of the church.