Gnosticism is a term that has derived from the Greek word "gnosis" which means divine knowledge (Kheper 1B). Also known as Gnostics they were a religious organization that was around in the first and second centuries CE (Hermetic). Gnosticism is believed to first surface in the late Hellenistic period among Jews (Harper's Bible Dictionary 380). There was little knowledge about Gnostic life and their beliefs until 1945 when an Egyptian farmer named Mohammed Ali stumbled upon earthen jars in Nag Hammadi, Egypt (Religious Tolerance 2B). These large clay jars contained large numbers of Gnostic scrolls and manuscripts that were written in a Greek form of writing called Coptic and dated back to the 4th Century CE (Harper's Bible Dictionary 729). These jars contained writings, which had not been known to exist until they were discovered in Nag Hammadi. Some of the more well known writings found at Nag Hammadi include, The Gospel of Thomas, The Gospel of Truth and many other writings (Religious Tolerance 2B).
Gnostic's believed that they alone hold the divine knowledge or gnosis. This they believe was granted to them by Jesus as it was their belief that they had correctly interpreted his message and all others had not. They also thought that the earthly world and all of its beings were created by an evil, jealous God who is believed to be the God of the Old Testament. Then there was the good God or what they called the Supreme God of Truth (Religious Tolerance 1A). The Supreme God of Truth was believed to be the father of Jesus. Jesus was looked upon as the person who was sent down to spread the gnosis among the people and to allow them to return home to the Supreme God. They also felt that Jesus resurrection took place before Jesus was crucified as his spirit had left his body before this (Religious Tolerance 2A). As a result of theses beliefs the Gnostics felt that their body was inherently evil and that it was their spirit that was divine. They do not believe in atonement or sin. Their Savior was sent here to teach them the truth (New Advent 6). This Savior was known as the "Logos". They considered the Logos to be Christ, which was the soul of the human being named Jesus (Near-Death 5).
The basic thought structure behind the beliefs of the Gnostic was that we are all divine and God sends us all to this plant. The difference is that while we are on this evil earth we do not remember coming from the "Source" and not everyone obtains the gnosis to get back there. In order to reunite ourselves with God we need to become "Christ aware" and this helps in obtaining this gnosis, which overcomes our ignorance of where we are from. "The Christ power can only liberate souls through the call and revelation of Christ gnosis to, "Awake, remember who you are and where you came from!"" (Near Death 5).
Resurrection was something that the Gnostic's were believers in. They thought that it was their soul that was resurrected and that they were with Jesus and God on a spiritual level. They did not believe that the actually physical body was resurrected (Near Death 14). The Gnostics also thought that there were three separate groups that humanity was divided into 1.The spiritual: who could be saved irrespective of their behavior while on earth. 2.The Soulish: who could be saved if they followed the Gnostic path 3.The carnal: who are hopelessly lost (Religious Tolerance 1A).
Differences in Gnosticism and Christianity
The beliefs of Gnostics and Christians vary greatly in many areas of religious beliefs. As a Christian we believe in one God who has three essential parts the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. In the Gnostic religion there are two gods, one good and one evil. They also believe that Jesus is totally separate from the Supreme God and that his spirit is even separate from Jesus' physical body.
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