When did gnosticism originate? 

[this file was edited and abridged]

Date: Sat, 13 Sep 1997 12:47:13 -0400
From: y.kuchinsky@utoronto.ca
To: Stevan Davies 
Cc: crosstalk@info.harpercollins.com
Subject: Re: Origins of Gnostic Xianity

When did gnosticism originate? Was it originally a Jewish tradition, before 
becoming also a Christian one? I think so.

Certainly there is substantial amount of NT evidence that some sort of 
gnostic ideas were popular in Christian milieu at the time of NT 
composition. This evidence is scattered widely in different texts, but 
especially in the epistles, and in Revelation. Also, it seems that early 
versions of GJn had many gnostic elements that were "tidied up" later. 
Some remain still in our text. The Logos prologue has been linked with 
gnostic writings quite conclusively. I wrote about this before a while back.

There's one very common misconception to see gnostics as "world-hating", 
or anti-cosmic. This is certainly not true for all such thinkers. While some 
gnostics did believe that the material world was created by an evil 
Demiurge, this was not accepted by all groups.

In regard to various gnostic creation myths, Williams' book is very 
enlightening. On p. 18ff he gives the creation myth according
to Justin the Gnostic's BARUCH (as it is given to us by Hippolytus the
heresiologist). In this account of creation, a malevolent demiurge did
not create the world. The world was created, according to Justin, as a
result of the happy marriage of heaven and earth.

"Thus the myth conveys the notion that the creation in which humans dwell
was orignally a benign and bright affair, resulting from what originally
was a completely proper and presumably happy marriage." (p. 20) 

The evil originated, according to Justin, because Elohim and Eden, the
original happy couple, were separated in a rather complicated way. This is
quite a complex myth, as most "gnostic" myths are, but it does not stress
the role of evil demiurges.

Best regards,


Yuri Kuchinsky in Toronto -=O=- http://www.io.org/~yuku

It is a far, far better thing to have a firm anchor in nonsense than
to put out on the troubled seas of thought -=O=- John K. Galbraith

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