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He also is the scholar who has the most authoritative overview of the whole Gnostic phenomenon His popular survey of Gnosticism Convert currency. Add to Basket.

Gnosticism: Definition and Beliefs

Jan 01, Condition: New. Free tracking. Seller Inventory FBA More information about this seller Contact this seller. We cannot rationally claim to have access to knowledge that is beyond the powers of the intellect. There are numerous references to the Gnostics in second century proto-orthodox literature.

The Origins of Gnosticism | SpringerLink

Most of what we know about them is from the polemic thrown at them by the early Church Fathers. They are alluded to in the Bible in the pastorals spurious Paulines of 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus , for example 1 Tm and 1 Tm , and possibly the entirety of Jude. Ignatius of Antioch writes against them as well as Docetism, a doctrine closely related to Gnosticism that stated that Christ was pure spirit and had only a phantom body.


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Second Clement is a document aimed at refuting early second century Gnosticism. Marcion was the most famous of the Gnostics, and he established a "canon" of the Pauline epistles minus the pastorals and a "mutilated" Luke presumably considered so because it lacked proof-texts such as Lk The name was given to the text by Plotinus as pointed out in the Life of Plotinus.

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Also many Neoplatonic philosophers while not directly criticising gnosticism did however explicitly use demiurgic or creative teachings to bring about salvation to their followers. The Demiurge was Plato's creator of the material world. The form of the text is as an address delivered by Plotinus to a number of his students, who have apparently been corrupted by ideas other than Plotinus' own.

As such, the tract takes the form of an extended address by the philosopher, and he occasionally acknowledges the audience as intimates, although Plotinus is very specific in stating that his target is not his students exclusively, but Gnostics so called. The general tendency to view the text much as Porphyry's two titles — the abbreviated and the lengthier version — summarize it has recently come under challenge.

To do so makes several assumptions and is not the generally accepted view since this contradicts the Life of Plotinus. Doubts concerning the accuracy of the abbreviated title in reflecting the text's central intentions might arise, especially when it is considered that the word 'Gnostic' is very seldom encountered in the text itself though Plotinus himself pointed out that he felt that the group should not garner too much attention. Also people might become confused because of the Platonic use of the word "gnostic" and then also this sectarian use of the word.

This is why Plotinus' attack is direct and brief.

Armstrong is very clear in his introduction to the Against the Gnostics tract to clarify via the Nag Hammadi that Plotinus was indeed attacking the sectarians who claimed the Sethian cosmology as Plotinus' target. Morton Smith has hypothesized that Porphyry was influenced in his chosen title by the success of Irenaeus 's Adversus Haereses , which was well known in Rome at the time; Porphyry thus appropriated the form of the title to describe a schismatic group, though recalling the discussion above , it would be likely that Porphyry would understand 'Gnostic' in a Platonist context, rather than a Christian one.

The description of his opponent's libertinism, for example, does not sit well with the evidence of ascetic tendencies within Gnostic texts see below , and this has been noted by Michael Allen Williams. Morton Smith has taken the opposite position and used the Secret Gospel of Mark as gnostic text to validate that certain gnostic sectarians were indeed libertine, also see the Cainites. Michael Williams does not address Morton Smith's views on gnosticism's libertinism and or The Secret Gospel of Mark, nor does he mention the references to libertines or antinomianism made by Philo see On the Migration of Abraham 86—93 , or Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai under the term Minuth.

Michael Williams though does not call into question who Plotinus' target is. He affirms them as being the Gnostics sectarians that Plotinus was attacking, Gnostics that would fall under the heading today of Gnosticism. Thus the accusations of libertinism are not necessarily observations of Gnostic behaviour per se , but are rather hypotheses extrapolated from his opponents' apparently neglectful attitude to virtue.

This does not limit his attack on the core tenets of the Gnostic Sethian cosmology as the longer title of the tract reveals. Plotinus attacks his opponents as blasphemers and imbeciles who stole all of their truths from Plato, stating that the creation cosmology of Sophia and the demiurge "surpasses sheer folly". Thus, by trapping his pupils within such a dilemma, Plotinus hopes to convince them of the inferiority of the learning by which they have been corrupted. Christos Evangeliou proposed the idea that the group of Gnostics that Plotinus was attacking in his "Against the Gnostics" were possibly Syncretic Christians, or Gnostic Christians, during the First International Conference on Neoplatonism and Gnosticism in the s.

Gnosis : the nature and history of gnosticism

Evangeliou put forward this hypothesis because some of the same ways that Plotinus was criticizing the Gnostics, Porphyry later used as ways to criticize Christianity, in Porphyry's Against Christianity. Evangeliou also noted that some things that Plotinus criticized the gnostics for could also be applied to orthodox Christianity. Whether Evangeliou still holds this to be true is unclear and it is not apparently reflected in some of his more current works.

This dialogue was challenged though indirectly by other scholars of the field in light of the Nag Hammadi discovery, most importantly by A. Prior to the discovery of the Nag Hammadi library in arguably until its translation and eventual publication in , Gnosticism was known primarily only through the works of heresiologists , Church Fathers who worked to chronicle those movements perceived to deviate from the developing orthodox church, and to refute their teachings as they did so, with the ultimate aim of demonstrating their moral inferiority.

The problems with such sources are immediately apparent: given the avowed antagonism of such writers to what they reported, could they be trusted to maintain accuracy, despite their bias? The Nag Hammadi library generally confirms that the heresiologists' summaries of Gnosticism give an accurate, albeit incomplete and polemical, portrayal of the movement, its beliefs and practices. The list below briefly details the works of several of the more significant of the heresiologists; however, the list could be expanded to contain Origen , Clement of Alexandria , Epiphanius of Salamis , and others.

The analytical tactics employed by each heresiologist is also given, where possible. Justin Martyr c. Despite this paucity of surviving texts Justin Martyr remains a useful historical figure, as he allows us to determine the time and context in which the first gnostic systems arose, outside of the earliest forms of gnosticism as indicted by the Apocalypse of Adam which is pre-Christian. This of itself shows that it is a mistake to reckon Marcion among the Gnostics. A dualist he certainly was, but he was not a Gnostic.

Irenaeus ' central work, which was written c. The full title is Conviction and Refutation of Knowledge So-Called , and it is collected in five volumes. The work is apparently a reaction against Greek merchants who were apparently conducting an oratorial campaign concerning a quest for knowledge within Irenaeus' Gaulish bishopric. From there he charted an apparent spread of the teachings of Simon through the ancient 'knowers', as he calls them, into the teachings of Valentinus and other, contemporary Gnostic sects.

This understanding of the transmission of Gnostic ideas, despite Irenaeus' certain antagonistic bias, is often utilized today, though it has been criticized. Against the teachings of his opponents, which Irenaeus presented as confused and ill-organized, Irenaeus recommended a simple faith that all could follow, 'oriented on the criterion of truth that had come down in the church from the apostles to those in positions of responsibility' Markschies, Gnosis , 30— Therefore, Irenaeus' work might justifiably be seen as an early attempt by a Christian writer to posit the idea of a fully formed orthodoxy, transmitted from the apostles directly after Christ's death and, in support, possesses a rigorously defined hierarchical authority.

From such a stable and superior authority heresies accordingly divide by deviation from the norm it maintains, rather than developing alongside it by alternate yet related lines.

Gnosticism and the Early Church

Hippolytus was an early Christian writer elected as the first Antipope in He died as a martyr in He was known for his polemical works against the Jews, pagans and heretics; the most important of these being the seven-volume Refutatio Omnium Haeresium 'Refutation Against all Heresies' , of which only fragments are known.

Of all the groups reported upon by Hippolytus, thirty-three are considered Gnostic by modern scholars, including 'the foreigners' and 'the Seth people'. As well as this, Hippolytus presents individual teachers such as Simon, Valentinus , Secundus , Ptolemy , Heracleon , Marcus and Colorbasus ; however, he rarely reproduces sources, instead tending only to report titles. Also of interest, a sect known to Hippolytus as the ' Naasenes ' frequently called themselves 'knowers': 'They take [their] name from the Hebrew word snake. Later they called themselves knowers, since they claimed that they alone knew the depths of wisdom' Refutatio , V.

Hippolytus considered the groups he surveyed to have become involved in Greek philosophy to their detriment. They had grievously misunderstood its foundations and thus had arrived at illogical constructions, through its influence becoming hopelessly confused Markschies, Gnosis , Tertullian Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus, c. He wrote a text entitled Adversus Valentinianos 'Against the Valentinians' , c. The historian Eusebius wrote an entire section of his histories devoted to the early Christian gnostics and their historical development.