Sunday, February 07, 2010

Jesus, the Gospels, Gnosticism and Historical Revisionism (Part 3)

One common misconception about the Gnostic gospels is that they portray a purely human Jesus, whereas the four Canonical Gospels make Him more "godlike." This piece of historical revisionism is somewhat ironic given the actual facts regarding Gnosticism and the content of the Gnostic gospels

What must be remembered about the Gnostics is that they held to a dualistic view of the world; for them, physical matter is evil and spirit is good. Thus, when they wrote about Jesus, they actually tended to downplay His humanity or deny it altogether. Docetism, a heretical viewpoint that denies Jesus' humanity, claiming that He only appeared to have a physical body (hence the term Docetic, from the Greek δοκέω, meaning "to seem.") and thus incapable of feeling pain and other feelings. By contrast, the Canonical Gospels fully acknowledged Christ's human nature, while simultaneously affirming that He also has a divine nature.

Below are a couple of quotes from the Gospel of Thomas. It is to be noted that unlike the rest of the writings quoted, the Gospel of Thomas came much earlier than most of them and is not fully Gnostic. In fact, some of the sayings in Thomas are variations of what Jesus really said in the Canonical Gospels, and thus may be considered orthodox. Now, some people have erroneously claimed that Thomas presents an unadorned portrait of Jesus as being merely human. This, however, is not the case. There are statements in Thomas that portray Christ as being much more than an ordinary human being. For example, there is the exchange between Jesus and Thomas in saying 13:

Jesus said to his disciples, "Compare me to something and tell me what I am like." Simon Peter said to him, "You are like a just messenger." Matthew said to him, "You are like a wise philosopher." Thomas said to him, "Teacher, my mouth is utterly unable to say what you are like." Jesus said, "I am not your teacher. Because you have drunk, you have become intoxicated from the bubbling spring that I have tended." And he took him, and withdrew, and spoke three sayings to him. When Thomas came back to his friends they asked him, "What did Jesus say to you?" Thomas said to them, "If I tell you one of the sayings he spoke to me, you will pick up rocks and stone me, and fire will come from the rocks and devour you."

And then there is this statement in saying 77:

Jesus said, "I am the light that is over all things. I am all: from me all came forth, and to me all attained. Split a piece of wood; I am there. Lift up the stone, and you will find me there."

The Gnostic texts that come later than Thomas go even further than this. For example, in the Apocalypse of Peter, distinction is made between the human being who is nailed to the cross and the heavenly Christ. The former is nailed to the cross, while the latter raises Himself above the human being, laughing:

When he had said those things, I saw him seemingly being seized by them. And I said "What do I see, O Lord? That it is you yourself whom they take, and that you are grasping me? Or who is this one, glad and laughing on the tree? And is it another one whose feet and hands they are striking?"

The Savior said to me, "He whom you saw on the tree, glad and laughing, this is the living Jesus. But this one into whose hands and feet they drive the nails is his fleshly part, which is the substitute being put to shame, the one who came into being in his likeness. But look at him and me."

And then there is the Gospel of Philip. In this gospel, Jesus is portrayed as a shape-shifter who is able to change His appearance at will. This accords well with the Docetic view that Jesus didn't really have an actual physical body:

Jesus took them all by stealth, for he did not appear as he was, but in the manner in which they would be able to see him. He appeared to them all. He appeared to the great as great. He appeared to the small as small. He appeared to the angels as an angel, and to men as a man. Because of this, his word hid itself from everyone. Some indeed saw him, thinking that they were seeing themselves, but when he appeared to his disciples in glory on the mount, he was not small. He became great, but he made the disciples great, that they might be able to see him in his greatness.

And there is the Gospel of Truth, which affirms the eternality of the Jesus as the Son, and bestows exalted titles upon Jesus, such as "the name:"

And the name of the Father is the Son. It is he who, in the beginning, gave a name to him who came forth from him - he is the same one - and he begat him for a son. He gave him his name which belonged to him - he, the Father, who possesses everything which exists around him. He possess the name; he has the son. It is possible for them to see him. The name, however, is invisible, for it alone is the mystery of the invisible about to come to ears completely filled with it through the Father`s agency. Moreover, as for the Father, his name is not pronounced, but it is revealed through a son. Thus, then, the name is great.

There are many more such texts that present similar views, but it will suffice to present these as sufficient evidence that the Gnostic Gospels are too slender a reed to support the weight that is being accorded to them by modern conspiracy theorists and historical revisionists.

In summary, it has been shown that 1) the deity of Christ is not a late invention, but is an apostolic tradition dating to the earliest days of Christianity, 2) the fourfold Gospel is also an apostolic tradition, and cannot reasonably be said to have originated in Nicaea in any way, and 3) the so-called "Gospels" that were written by the Gnostics do not portray Christ in a the manner that popular conspiracies would have you think. It would do the reader well to do more careful research on this matter and see what the truth behind the Christian faith really is. For more information, books such as The Missing Gospels and Reinventing Jesus are very helpful in presenting clear and accurate information on these topics.

In Christ,


No comments:

Post a Comment