Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Done with Gnosticism!

I have finished.

I can safely say, that the Nag Hammadi Library was the most difficult canon of literature that I have ever read.

Its often fragmentary nature didn't help.

I found myself saying, over and over again as I tried to comprehend notions of Yaldabaoth and Sophia and Barbelo; of aeons and demiurges and First Thoughts and Second Thoughts -- how could anyone make sense of this stuff? Even the Apostle Paul at his most complex, does not approach these writings in obscurity.

And yet, make sense of it many people apparently did. Gnosticism was enough of a threat to the early Christian Church as to occupy some of its best minds in the battle against it.

Gnosticism approached the problem of evil in the world by deciding that the so-called God of the Old Testament was an inferior, lower being who acted out of ignorance at best, malice at worst. Some strains of Gnosticism continued this line of thought with a blacklist of a number of Biblical personages hailed as heroes by orthodox Christianity, even Jesus Christ; and to call Biblical acts of godly vengeance against evil (the Flood, the burning of Sodom and Gomorrah) attacks of evil against good.

The true Supreme Being remained esconced in an unapproachable, celestial pleroma and was utterly indescribable and beyond comprehension.

My thought on that would be, that this approach doesn't solve the problem of evil, it just pushes the question to another level: So the God we thought we knew is not really deserving of the title and it is to a higher God that we must look for perfection and to whom the question must be posed: Why did You allow evil in the world if You are perfect? But of course, that God, in the Gnostic mindset, wouldn't answer. He is, in their words, a non-being.

It will be interesting to discover, as I continue to read in Christian history, how much of his Gnostic (aka Manichaean) baggage St. Augustine carried with him into the Christian Church of his day.


Anonymous said...

You may enjoy reading my post about Sodom and Gomorrah.

Michaela Stephens said...

I didn’t like reading the Nag Hammadi Library. Every time I read it, it put me in an irritable mood. It’s sheer obscurity drove me up the wall.

Here’s something I noticed: there was a number of books that claimed to contain conversations that Jesus had with his apostles. The apostles asked some EXCELLENT questions, questions that any person would be very anxious to hear the answers to. And what were the answers that came out of the Jesus figure? Some thing like this (and I paraphrase extremely loosely):

“Oh, I’m so glad that you asked that question. You are very smart to ask that question. When you understand the answer to that question, you will be so wise and you will be able to [insert huge list of wonderful things].”

There was NO REAL ANSWER!!! This happened over and over again!

That’s when I decided they were fraudulent and spiritual bankrupt.

Clifford said...

Michaela, it was hard reading, but it was worth it -- I did find a few nuggets of gold deep within the dross.