Gnosticism


#1

I hope this question isn’t redundant, but I haven’t really come across anything specific on how EU’s feel about Gnosticism, except for a few phrases here and there.

Therefore I thought I would ask what people’s views are on it.

I’m not sure what to think myself. I know it was an early part of Christianity & the it is considered now as heresy by mainstream Christianity, but I don’t know if it’s anything to apply in my life with my walk with Christ.

Any suggestions would be helpful. :slight_smile:

Thank you,

Christine


Athanasian Creed
#2

As I understand it First John was written to Gnostics. Read it with that in mind and see what you think.


#3

These verses kind of got my attention.

Warning against Antichrists18 Children, it is the last hour! As you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. From this we know that it is the last hour. 19They went out from us, but they did not belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. But by going out they made it plain that none of them belongs to us. 20But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and all of you have knowledge.* 21I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and you know that no lie comes from the truth. 22Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ?* This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. 23No one who denies the Son has the Father; everyone who confesses the Son has the Father also. 24Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you will abide in the Son and in the Father. 25And this is what he has promised us,* eternal life.
26 I write these things to you concerning those who would deceive you. 27As for you, the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and so you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, abide in him.*
28 And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he is revealed we may have confidence and not be put to shame before him at his coming.

Is this what you were refering to?


#4

Hi Christine,

Gnosticism focuses first on esoteric knowledge while the Bible teaches that the first priority is love. That by itself should be enough to know about the primary difference between the two.

Various New Testament verses opposed “Proto-gnosticism” doctrines while Gnosticism traditionally began in the second century. For example, Colossians opposes Proto-gnosticism. I need to find some references that I need to check to list New Testament verses that oppose Proto-gnosticism, which includes parts of the Letters of John. I hope to find this within a couple of days.


#5

The only salient point I would add to James’ quick principle overview, is that any religious system where doctrine is important (including Christianity) is at risk of developing into the heresy of gnosticism: knowledge of correct doctrine is presented as being the passcard to salvation/heaven.

I think universalists have historically rejected the perennial gnostic tendencies in the Church; but it is also true that in the 18th and 19th centuries (if not before, and I expect then, too), universalists by and large fell prey to the opposite temptation and began a process of throwing the ‘baby’ of doctrine out with the toilet-water of ‘gnostic’ application of doctrine. You can find the result today in the so-called “Unitarian Universalist” congregations. (Which are usually not even “unitarian”.)

The result is that we’ve developed a bad reputation, largely deserved I’m afraid, of being doctrineless feebs. The drunkard, as I think Martin Luther once put it, falls off the horse one way, and then falls off the other trying to correct himself. It isn’t surprising that universalists, concerned to avoid an error that has led to unimaginable and needless suffering in our history, would tend to fall off the horse the other way.

Anyway. The famous “Gnostic” systems (and scriptures) of the 2nd century onward, tend to be very eclectic mixes; very much in the mould and spirit of Greco-Roman syncretism: if it sounds cool, throw it in! (Also related to the popular concept of magic: try some of everything, something ought to work, maybe in this combination…) The archaeologist Edwin Yamauchi, one of the more sober world-leading scholars on the subject (Gnosticism tends to be popular with pop-scholars for ‘challenging’ orthodoxy and promoting a ‘freer’ kind of religion that promotes the glory of one’s self), pointed out in a monograph years ago that while there are a few broad characteristics of the Gnostic systems none of those characteristics are sufficient for sure identification. (Except for the one characteristic James and I mentioned, of course. Christian scholars, even Yamauchi, have a peculiar habit of downplaying or flat out ignoring that characteristic and its importance. :wink: But he does better than many.) His conclusion was that the scholar could probably get enough idea from comparative study to develop a taste for whether a text was Gnostic or not, but that that was about it.

(I was more than a little amused when a brilliant Harvard anthropologist friend of mine, studying Gnosticism for a term paper, rather annoyedly came to much the same conclusion. She felt much better, I hope, when I reassured her with the Yamauchi quote. :slight_smile: She’d done as well as anyone could expect.)

A good overview of the Gnostic systems and their relation(s) to Christianity, can be found in Ronald Nash’s The Gospel and the Greeks. Yamauchi’s monograph on “Pre-Christian Gnosticism” is worth looking at, of course. My friend, apologist and evangelist David Marshall, often talks about the Gnostics, especially in one of his more recent books concerning the so-called “Lost Gospels”. (His bibliography can be found on Amazon here. All his books are well worth reading, including Jesus and the Religions of Man–not found on the Amazon author list due to mis-sorting or mis-registering–although the one about the Jesus Seminar ended up a little on the undercooked side: not in regard to the JSem material, but in regard to David’s ambitious genre-classification scheme attempt, which takes up the majority of the book. I would dearly love to see him polish that part up again, expand, revise and reprint. And also iron out an unacceptable number of composition/editing blips which crept into that particular text for some reason. :wink: He is not a universalist, btw, so far as I know; but he’s pretty inclusive in his ideas of the judgment of God, very much in line with C. S. Lewis. Anyone who likes Lewis and especially Chesterton should like him; he’s very personable yet sharp-minded, and tries to be very charitable to the opposition.)


#6

Thank you James & Jason.

James. I look foward to the passages in the NT you were referring to, whenever you have time.

Christine


#7

Hi Christine,

Various New Testament writers opposed first century Proto-gnostic Psuedo-christianity. The proto-gnostics called themselves “Christians”, but they believed: everything that is physical including the human body is evil; Christ is a high ranking deity in a sophisticated hierarchy of deity/angels while Christ was not the Supreme God; Christ didn’t incarnate into a human body because a human body is evil. Proto-gnostics had two competing schools of ethics: one said that since the body is evil, then we need to be ascetic as possible; the other said that since the body is evil, then we can be as sexually immoral as much as we want. The Bible opposed both extreme ethical schools. Biblical opposition to Proto-gnostic Psuedo-christianity includes Colossians 1-2, 2 Peter 2, 1 John, 2 John, and Jude. Revelation also includes some opposition to Proto-gnosticism while I’m still trying to get a handle on that in Revelation.


#8

Brief addition to your list: I would add 1 Corinthians, chps 1-6, plus a lot of the famous 15th chp.

Chps 1-6 set up and then foom upon an Epicurianish philosopher who was causing trouble in the Corinthian church; he gets recalled topically during the 15th chapter, on the bodily resurrection. This unnamed fellow–unless he is perhaps named in another Pauline epistle (not impossible; there’s a brief list of possible candidates)–may not have strictly believed that the body was “evil” per se, but he did teach against the bodily resurrection of believers, that God would do away with our bodies, and so he could do whatever the heck he wanted with his (including sleep with his stepmother). Paul’s condemnation of him is dramatically ironic: his flesh is to be consumed by Satan so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord to come (probably referencing veneral disease).

It’s possible that the man was teaching against the bodily resurrection of Christ as well (if not against the Incarnation per se), since Paul argues to his congregation that if they believe Christ rose again bodily then it was ridiculous for them to deny the forthcoming bodily res of believers. (And indeed of everyone, according to a key middle portion of 1 Cor 15.) But Paul has to do this as reminding them of that which they had received; and he clearly is no longer taking the Res of Christ as a matter of course with them (only that it ought to be and had once been).

I should note that this theory pretty much requires 1 Cor 6:12-13 to have been Paul quoting his opponent to at least some degree, especially the first half of what we call v.13; and then correcting him in retort, especially in the second half of v.13. This requires quite a bit of close analysis; but the alternative is to think Paul is wildly flip-flopping back and forth between opposite points within the breaths of a couple of sentences for absolutely no good reason. (Or else to ignore a sufficient amount of content of what’s being said; which is probably the most common tactic. :wink: )


#9

Wow!! :astonished:

Thanks, you guys. Dodged a bullet on that one. :laughing:


#10

For what it’s worth, the Gnostic docs can be… entertaining, I guess is the right word… if you have the right kind of taste (I don’t) and so long as you keep in mind that they’re being written as coded foofaraw in order to keep other people from having the keys to ‘salvation’. (RevJohn, by contrast, could be considered very coded, but not in order to prevent people from being saved. Despite their popular portrayal now, even by scholars who ought to know better, the Gnostic docs were super-extremely restrictive and elitist about who got to be saved or not.)

A couple of years ago, I interviewed David Marshall for the Cadre Journal, in regard to his recent book on the “Lost Gospels”. You can find that interview here. As I noted earlier, it’s a fine popular-detail critical introduction and assessment of their content from an evangelical Christian perspective, well worth looking into (along with many other books on the subject).


#11

I have couple of more statements for the record.

There were two gnostic interpretations of Christ. One was that the Christ appeared as a human but was not actually human. This is called “docetism”. The other interpretation says that the Christ descended upon the mere man Jesus during his baptism and left before his crucifixion. Both of these were based upon the belief that everything physical including the human body is evil. And John specifically opposed the latter when he talked about false teachers who denied that Jesus was the Christ.

I also want to add that many liberal Bible scholars insist the Colossians and 2 Peter and perhaps other New Testament letters were pseudonymously written in the second century to oppose Classical Gnosticism. I won’t overview the historical criticism, but I want to note that its unanimous in scholarship that these letters oppose gnostic doctrine while I assume most liberal scholars go overboard when they insist these letter originated in the second century. I’ll end with one tidbit of the critical scholarship. When Bible scholars first said that Colossians and 2 Peter 2 must have been written in the second century, there was knowledge of Pre-Christian Proto-Gnosticism.


#12

As a quick note: while the Gnostics did have groups who went either way with this, not all Christian groups who believed either of those things were Gnostic. (Maybe ‘gnostic’, little g, but the orthodox could be and has been plenty ‘little-g’ gnostic, too.) ‘Docetists’ might be more likely to be (or to go) Gnostic than ‘Adoptionists’, for the reason you stated, but there were (and still are) certainly adoptionists who (as far as I know?!?) don’t consider the world to be created evil; who don’t consider God to be evil and Jesus to be saving us from being imprisoned by this stupid/evil God; who don’t feature whoofy rigamarole coded passcard answers to get past various heavenly guardians; who aren’t trying to restrict the ‘gospel’ to a few enlightened elite; etc. Not all docetists were doing that either; many docetists were just trying to emphasize the doctrine of the divinity of Christ and thought that the doctrine of the humanity of Christ was threatening the other thing too much. (Actually, post Nicea, the orthodox party struggled more against docetism in various forms than against doctrines of the mere humanity of Christ.)

I mean, I don’t know whether we have any docetists on the boards right now, but we do have some adoptionists! I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t consider themselves to be Gnostics, classically speaking.

As an aside: another reason why liberal scholars tend to date some Pauline and pastoral letters so late, is because their doctrine is considered to be ‘too orthodox’ to have ‘developed’ ‘so soon’ ‘before GosJohn’, which as everyone knows was written in the 2nd century… um, late 1st century… um, okay maybe before 70… :laughing: The date for GosJohn’s composition has been steadily pushed back by even liberal scholars for the last 100 years now, to the point where a chief ground for the pseudonymity of some NT texts has been dramatically undercut. It’s entirely possible that the bulk of GosJohn, on the other hand, was composed for more-or-less limited usage very early, pre-70, and then first began wide public circulation in the 90s or later with a few extra bits tacked on to bring the document up to date and officially ‘authorize’ it–the final few verses being an example of this.

Anyway, the undercutting of doctrinal ‘development’ theories doesn’t eliminate all grounds for wondering if various texts are pseudonymical, but a lot of the remaining arguments for this would be muffed if a more flexible transmission process of authoritatively written texts was understood and accepted. (A lot of the ‘dating’ discussion in the past 200 years has been driven by the direct or leftover-indirect concept that if the docs are not verbal plenary inspiration, dictated straight by God to the authors word for word and then copied from this without alternation, then they’re worthless fakes or something of that sort.)


#13

An interesting few paragraphs about gnosticism from David Bentley Hart: books.google.com/books?id=UK5PsF … #PPA134,M1
Starts on p. 134. Beware, though, a page is missing- you’ll have to find a copy!
Robert


#14

I’ve seen it suggested that the Athanasian Creed is Gnostic ( even if it’s references to aionian punishment are taken in a universalist sense ), but that would only be true given an interpretation of the Creed that seems almost universally rejected ( by Roman Catholics, Anglicans, and I would suspect most Protestants. )

I say this because I’ve done some research, and every source I’ve seen says that the damnatory clauses apply only to the stuborn and wilful rejection of the substance of the Creed ( and not to ignorance or hereditary error. )

And usually not “universalist,” in that you have to believe in a supreme being and some kind of life after death to believe in universal salvation ( and I’ve spoken to Unitarian Universalist ministers who believed in neither. )

It may not be suprising, but it is unfortunate.


#15

This by itself would not be sufficient to avoid gnosticism in the condemnatory clauses; after all, Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and most Protestants stubbornly and willfully reject atheism, too. (“Most Protestants” do, rimshot. :wink: ) Because of sinful intransigence? No, but not because of ignorance or hereditary error either–not in the case of educated scholars.

Or, let us put the matter closer to home: every Unitarian scholar and student on the planet (whether Christian or Muslim or whatever) stubbornly and willfully rejects the trinitarian faith statement of the AthCreed (not to say the trinitarian implications of the Nicean, etc.) Because of ignorance or hereditary error? Maybe in a few cases, but not likely in the majority.

Because they secretly know it’s true but just don’t want to accept the truth? Obviously they’re sinning in that case whatever the topic might be, and persistently so. In fact, they’d still be sinning even if they happened to be wrong about secretly knowing it’s true!–not because the trinitarian faith is so awesome that it is salvific even if false (a ridiculous idea), but because there can be no good in intransigently refusing whatever light one honestly thinks one sees. It’s a horrible habit of mind to inculcate.

Unless I had some major theological rationales for supposing otherwise, though (which I don’t), I have no grounds for supposing that a majority of unitarian scholars (ones who have studied and are in some position to overcome ‘hereditary errors’–and who think they are doing so, often enough, by ‘overcoming’ the ‘hereditary error’ of the trinitarianism they were raised with!) are secretly having to acknowledge trinitarianism is true but are so hatefully opposed to it that they refuse to do justice to the truth.

Who does that leave over? However-many unitarian scholars (a large proportion of them, even a large majority, possibly near all of them) who are just flat making a mistake–if trinitarian theism is true. (As I find and believe it is, but I am speaking hypothetically for purposes of illustrating the principle.) Or more than one mistake, as may be.

Insofar as a congregation expects God to hopelessly damn those people for being logically inept and/or for having accidentally gotten some data incorrect, then the result is still gnosticism. It may be negative gnosticism, in the sense that it is primarily about condemnation and not about salvation (unlike the actual language of the AthCreed which is at least half about positive salvation!–and which is entirely phrased in terms of positive belief, not about denial.) But it is still gnosticism.

Now: God knows, I would hope that congregations don’t still treat the condemnatory clauses that way. But I know for a fact that some Protestant congregations do treat the condemnatory clauses that way (in principle if not perhaps in fact, not being terribly fond of ‘creeds’ themselves. :wink: But they would expect God to condemn atheists or Muslims who have died as atheists and Muslims.) And RCC and EOx congregations, under the leadership of bishops, as well as Anglican congregations, have also in the past treated the condemnatory clauses that way. There was a time, to give one example, when RCCs and EOx basically knew God was going to hopelessly damn the people on the other side, and taught their congregations to expect the same thing, largely over whether someone did or did not accept the filioque. And that, not incidentally, is the kind of culture from which the so-called AthCreed most likely dates from, too, as received.

Also not incidentally, the language of the Quicumque (the traditional title of the AthCreed, from its first Latin syllables) is not “whoever wishes to be saved let him not deny this stubbornly and willfully” (or in any other way) but “whoever wishes to be saved must above all hold this”; and unless he preserves this completely and inviolate he shall without a doubt perish in eternity; if he wishes to be saved, let him think thus about the Holy Trinity; and it is necessary for eternal salvation that he believe rightly about the Lord Jesus; and unless anyone firmly and faithfully believes this he cannot be saved.

This is not language addressed to scholars only, but to everyone. And there is absolutely no leeway in the language for ignorance, or hereditary error (much less for honest mistake). In effect, attempts at reading around the language are at least partial repudiations of the gnosticism of the language. It’s certainly merciful as far as it goes, but (by tautology) unless it goes the distance and distinguishes between honest mistake and willful intransigence against actually perceived truth, then it yet retains the gnosticism by proportion.


#16

I’m afraid I really don’t get your point here. :confused:

Unless you mean to imply that atheism is true ( and I’m sure you don’t ), I don’t see how the words “stubbornly” and “willfully” apply.

You neglected to mention Jewish scholars, and I’m sure they’re at least as intelligent and well educated as their UU and Moslem counterparts.

Does it seem equally unlikely to you that a majority of them would reject Christian doctrine out of ignorance and hereditary error?

**For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. **( Rom.11:25.)

I’ll have to take your word on that, as that interpretation has been disowned by every written Anglican, Roman Catholic, and Protestant source I’ve looked at ( including C. S. Lewis. )

The sources I’ve consulted take “hold,” and “preserve” to be keywords ( and invariably point out that you can’t “hold” or “preserve” something you never had. )

Pax.


#17

Sloooowwwwly catching up on back-reading…

I don’t consider “stubborn” and “willful” to necessarily be ethically immoral. We may think atheism is false for what seem to us to be sufficiently good reasons; consequently it would be odd for us not to stubbornly and willfully reject it (rather than be blown around by every wind of doctrine).

Dishonest willful stubbornness is another issue; and is condemnatory for the dishonesty. And I know that that was the kind of willful stubbornness you meant. :slight_smile: But the distinction was my point: which is why I went on to clarify what I was talking about in subsequent paragraphs.

They were included in the “or whatever”.

Yes. It’s more likely that any well-informed scholar rejects it out of mistaken logic (and/or out of a preponderance of more subtle data errors, which is different from being simply ignorant on the topic.)

Mistakes on logic or on subtle data errors, still isn’t ethically immoral though; unless those mistakes are being made intentionally. And I am not going to suppose that as my preliminary default position for why well-informed people reject an avowedly complicated set of ideas. That would be a choice on my part to prefer to think evil of other people.

St. Paul’s rebuke to his readers is focused on having charity to, and charitable expectations for, “stumbling” Jews. The hardening and the stumbling over Christ can have several possible causes, including mere jealousy that Gentiles are being brought into the promises of Israel thereby. It is the jealousy that is condemned, however, in Rom 11 (and elsewhere), not the stubbornness per se.

You’ve been fortunate to read better-than-average sources on interpreting the condemnatory clauses, then. :laughing: (Including C. S. Lewis.)

Yes; and so if you don’t have it, you can’t hold or preserve it. People don’t exist in an epistemic vacuum, though; they’re going to be holding to something if it isn’t the AthCreed doctrines.

However, even if the language could be read in the sense of “holding/preserving it once you believe it”, there is nothing in the language allowing for honest rejection of it once held or clarifying that they’re talking about dishonest rejection in some specific way.

I grant, of course, that the language could be specially interpreted to apply only to those who are dishonestly rejecting it once having truly believed it (or who are dishonestly rejecting it having never believed it in the first place). I have to note, though, that this specially restrictive application is being read into the language, not out of it. It might be read into it for good reasons; I do the same thing in regard to the issue of “eonian crisising” for the judgment at the end of the Nicene Creed (based on what the overall scriptural testimony seems to be, regarding that judgment). But the language itself as it stands is simply gnostic; and that’s how it was understood (though not as being a heresy) for many centuries, and still is understood today by some congregations.


#18

“The Gospel of Thomas”.

Do you think that there is any validity to that gospel, or is it just Gnostic heresy?


#19

One of the problems with GosThom is that it exists in such a vacuum that it’s hard to evaluate it one way or another, except in comparison with other better-attested material. Unlike the canonical Gospels, for example, it has almost no historiographical features.

GosThom is a “sayings source” document; and ironically, despite the fondness of scholars for supposing (probably rightly) that there is at least one “sayings” source standing behind various canonical Gospels (I mean between the canonicals and the historical Jesus), the fact is that all the existent “sayings source” texts we can point to, are considerably later than the canonicals (unless a few hypersceptical radical critics are correct about all the Gospels being composed mid-2nd-century onward; but their arguments are generally for crap once closely poked at.)

We can situate the canonical texts as being concerned with things that historically happened in a pretty narrow slice of time and place during late 20s early 30s CE (Christian Era :mrgreen: more commonly known as Common Era among scholars, but it’s only ‘common’ by being ‘Christian’); and we can gauge from the characteristics of the texts that the authors had at least some concern with being historically accurate. And even though there’s dispute among liberal, moderate and conservative scholars (broadly speaking) about how successful the authors were or the extent to which they were concerned with being historically accurate, the fact that we can have any dispute at all on this topic is because the texts do have characteristics to argue about on this topic.

GosThom doesn’t. It’s just a bunch of logoi, with almost no topical connection to one another, and with practically no historiographic features to speak of. At most people can sort-of vaporously speculate about whether any unique or divergent material goes back to the historical Jesus. It only looks impressive as a textual source if the canonicals are first critically trashed. And then it still can’t look any more worthy of attention than critically trashed canonicals, except by what amounts to a scholarly shell game; indeed, by parity of principle application, if (as I like to put it) the canonicals are toast on various criteria, the non-canonicals are black, smoking chunks by application of the same principle criteria. But a number of scholars like to play that shell game where the canonicals are first trashed on various criteria and then various non-canon documents are promoted, not exactly for acceptance but… well, mainly to try to bury the canonicals further by providing a feeling of having some kind of ‘alternative’.

As to the GosThom material itself: it isn’t a long text at all; it’s about the size of one of the longer ‘single-chapter’ epistles, and you should be able to find translations of the text online for free in various places. There are some things said exactly like in the canonicals; and some things almost exactly the same with inconsequential variations; and some things almost exactly the same with some odd variations; and some mysterious whiffy-whoofy things that sound like typical Eastern ‘profundity’; and a couple of things that sound like Eastern pantheism; and a couple of things that I think most people today (ironically including many of the people trying to promote the text) would consider highly offensive. (The main offender being that Mary Magdalene is accepted into the group by Jesus on the condition that she becomes a man because only men have souls.) And a couple of sayings that might or might not be of original interest precisely because they might actually fit well into a picture of Christ that can be built from the four texts with (one way or another) the best apparently historiographic claims (compared to other texts about Christ): the canonical Gospels.

Is it gnosticism (little ‘g’)? I’d say yes: where the text focuses on salvation at all, the key is having the right personal knowledge. Is it Gnosticism (big ‘G’)? The text has some connections to known Gnostic groups, but it might actually be written against some of them as a special competitor. Gnostic texts tend to be highly rejective of the humanity of Christ, for example; this one goes more in the direction of affirming Jesus’ humanity (insofar as it has any interest in the topic at all, which isn’t much). But it has the usual Gnostic focus on finding the inner light inside one’s self and freeing one’s elite self from ignorant commonality (and the usual Gnostic non-focus on sin. :wink: Or on truly loving other people, for that matter.) The possible pantheistic touches are often found in Gnostic texts, though very much more developed in other texts. Jesus is authoritative but not in any finally special way; more like an especially enlightened teacher. (Not in any finally special way in more flagrantly Gnostic texts either, but far more supernaturally there.) The rejection of women as women, unless they can become men, is sometimes adduced as a parallel to Gnostic texts.

I recommend treating it as an item of curiosity, but nothing more than that.


#20

Correction: GosThom does in fact contain a few sayings roughly comparable to Johannine ‘I am’ sayings (except without any connection to Judaism), which could be construed as declarations of being of supernatural nature: “I am the one who comes from what is whole” and “I am the light that is above all things”. These can be said to have parallels in the complex Gnostic mythopoeic ideas of saving wisdom, when compared with the general thrust of GosThom (where Jesus’ authority is like that of an enlightened teacher autocratically sharing his enlightenment with those elite who are worthy enough to attain to it); and when compared by contrast to Johannine (and Synoptic) concepts of what the “light above all things” means, which is identifiably steeped in Jewish theology. (By contrast again, GosThom features a totally Hellenized/Eastern philosophical setting. It needn’t even be Greco-Roman in culture; the setting, and sayings, could just as easily come from a not-especially-imaginative novice guru in a cave of Tibet.)

Also, I should mention in fairness that some strong proponents of GosThom consider the closing declaration (concerning MaryMag having to become male) to be a late addition. It might or might not be; there isn’t much way to tell. The text exists in almost total isolation of context, internally or externally, with few extant copies for tracing text development. (Partly due to orthodox Christians whomping it, probably; but also partly due to the fact that these texts were supposed to be esoteric secret documents to be shared sparingly among the spiritual and cultural elite. I think Martin Hengel, or maybe Bruce Metzger, used to joke, on the other hand, that if the Imperial officials came to the door demanding you hand over any ‘Christian’ texts, GosThom was a pretty safe text to hand over for destruction. :laughing: )