pre-Christian gnosticism

Date: Thu, 12 Mar 1998 14:28:49 -0500
Subject: Re: pre-Christian gnosticism

Dear James,

I've asked you before to comment of the following quote from the highly
respected George MacRae. For some reason you've neglected to do so. It
makes me wonder how willing you are to consider evidence that is not in
accord with your views... And you also chided someone else just recently
for not citing sources. Here I cite sources for you, but unaccountably you
are so slow to consider them... 

> ...George MacRae summarized links between "gnostic" Wisdom myths and
> Jewish Wisdom speculation, and argued that "the familiarity which
> Gnostic sources show towards details of Jewish thought is hardly one
> that we could expect non-Jews to have." (p. 304) 

And it does seem to me as if the main subject of this discussion, viz. 
whether or not there were Jewish pre-Christian gnostics, is now fallen
into the background. In order to bring it back to the foreground, here are
some more quotes from Michael A. Williams, RETHINKING "GNOSTICISM": AN
University Press, 1996. I think these quotes go some way to show that the
ideas generally considered as "gnostic" emerged originally in Jewish
pre-Christian circles.

[begin quote]

...Jewish circles are among the more likely candidates for the earliest
matrices of such [gnostic/demiurgic] myths. As many scholars have noted
over the years, the preoccupation with Jewish Scripture that lies at the
heart of most of these myths makes either Jews or Christians the most
plausible possibilities. It has also been well-established that the mythic
reinterpretation of Scripture in several instances reveals underlying puns
that make sense only in Hebrew or Aramaic. Furthermore, numerous parallels
have been identified between details in some of the demiurgical myths and
traditions attested in extrabiblical Jewish traditions such as Jewish
_haggadah_. The kind of parallels that are often involved make it very
improbable that Jewish rabbis were borrowing from our demiurgical myths.
For example, we find in Jewish rabbinic literature the tradition of the
serpent's having intercourse with Eve and begetting Cain, parallel to the
seduction of Eve by Ialdabaoth in _Ap. John_ ... As Guy Stroumsa has aptly
noted, "it is easier to understand Gnostics attributing previously known
legends about the serpent to the demiurge, than to imagine rabbis
integrating scandalous Gnostic sayings about God the Creator into their
own thought simply by transferring them to Satan or the serpent. It is
thus reasonable to see in the Gnostic texts the radicalization of Jewish
conceptions. (pp. 218-219) 

[end quote]

So what about all this, James? Perhaps you will now consider at last these
quotes, and how they go against your thesis. 

Yours as always,
Yuri Kuchinsky -=O=-  UPDATED
Reality is that which, when you stop believing                
in it, doesn't go away -=O=- Philip K. Dick                   

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