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...
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8. Paul J. Achtemeier (1996). In HarperCollins ' Bible Dictionary, New York: HarperCollins Publishers.
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