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TANATA is devoted to discussing the paradoxes and the mysteries of life, among which is the paradox of the coexistence of good and evil. “God is love,” John tells us. Evil exists, we would suggest, not because God is detached or unconcerned, but because free will exists which is required for true, unforced love to exist. Still, it is painfully hard to reconcile this paradox. We believe that all evil one day will be judged and destroyed, until then we must pray.

DANIEL 7:13-14

13 “I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him.

14 Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed.

REVELATION 1:7

7 Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.

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Saturday
Feb152014

Jesus In Egypt: Good and Bad

Though Bethlehem and Jerusalem are the places where Jesus was born and died, in another sense the story of Jesus’ life and message began and ended in Egypt. The holy family fled Judea and all of Israel to protect their lives, and remained in Egypt for two years, we’re told. The message of a killed but resurrected Jesus was effectively carried back to Egypt, though those evangelistic efforts remain shrouded in mystery. Apparently, the pen, being as mighty or mightier than the sword, was used to put Jesus and the truth of his message and resurrection once more to death by the many heresies that corrupted Jesus’ message. Christian zeal reached a fervent level on the preaching of John Mark, who founded the Coptic church in Alexandria, then the center of all learning in the known world. The first monasteries were formed and grew, and in them scribes dutifully wrote down the teachings of Jesus, most zealously, one can imagine, the words of John Mark himself, the founder of the Egyptian church, known as Coptic.

The large majority of the copies of the New Testament come to us from Egypt, the place which was so successfully evangelized by John Mark, himself an African, from Cyrene. But where there is fervent zeal for the good news of Jesus there arises corruption, and so the New Testament was exposed to the hands of those who were heretics. What we have today in the way of the New Testament has been screened and filtered through a land beset by heresy, and we must take that into consideration when we consider what we have before us.

If we are inclined to embrace the New Testament that we have, concluding that it stood the test of readers who knew the story of Jesus in the generation in which the New Testament was written, we ought to take the same approach in contemplating the pronouncements of heresy by those early church fathers who saw the Gnostic writings (Nag Hammadi) first and were highly unimpressed with them.

And we ought to be motivated to reject any writings which claim to contain new mysteries, especially those which offer nothing of confirming substance to the teachings of Jesus. Indeed, the Gnostic writings reveal apparent efforts of the writers to add to, distort and whimsically recreate the teachings of Jesus. The subject matter is outrageous. We have to ask ourselves what were the motivations behind the Gnostic writings? Can they be true on face value? Do they make logical, reasonable sense? Would God inspire anyone to write complex material like the Nag Hammadi Library, knowing that God’s ways are already complex enough? It is destructive not to call heretical writings what they clearly are, especially with the church reeling as it is.

There is a responsibility for those with discernment who know better to speak out, especially when these ancient heresies are invading modern mass media and the homes where people live.

There are television evangelists who talk about the coming revival, that a new harvest lies ahead of us … but the church is losing ground, the Christian faith is suffering, the number of believers is dwindling, especially in Europe. Where is this coming revival coming from? Are the days of revival over? How about a return to reason and proven tradition in a sea of uncertainty and untruths that tickle our ears? Everybody wants something new. And a very aggressive campaign is apparently being waged on the parts of those who believe they have the best new thing: new mysteries, which are not new at all — new ways of looking at Jesus, which are also not new. These new mysteries are heresies which are as old or older than Christianity itself. Maybe as old as Eden, where Eve went in search of new knowledge, so that she might see as God sees. She succumbed to the lies of a serpent who was opposed to the things of God. Was there really an Eden? Science says there was, in Ethiopia, and they have the genetic data to prove it.

But all we hear about and read about, listen to and watch are reconstituted philosophies which emerged in Egypt during the fervent spread of Christianity in the land of Pharaohs and pagan gods. And they’re writing novels and making films out of these reconstituted, restored, renovated and refurbished ancient philosophies … and calling them new. When they aren’t new.

Who is behind this campaign? One man, one author? A whole collection of people, a movement? Evil itself, which is seducing people with the idea that if they want to destroy the works and the message of Jesus … they can do it, and now is the time? There isn’t anything but Jesus … and him crucified and resurrected. There isn’t another virgin birth but his. There isn’t anybody who after only three years put out a message that won over the empire which put him to death. His message won the Roman Empire over, so that Christianity should become Rome’s official religion. Have we forgotten about that? There was a reason that this happened: the story and the message and the teachings and sayings of Jesus offered hope … when nothing else did. It was not free hope, but there was a price to be paid for it … the promise that there would be no other gods before the one true God, who is the God of Israel.

The intent to undo what is as old as the first revelations of the one God … is heresy of the most damaging sort.

God will prove he is God. He will do what he had done before. He will do again what he once did, which was show the world, beginning with the Jews, that he alone is God. How will God prove that? He will prove it as he previously proved it — by withdrawing his protection and giving us over to the evil powers which would dominate, control and destroy us. Why would they destroy us? Because evil believes they own us and this planet. They mean to control us … or kill us, to decrease the surplus population, which is what Scrooge said ought to be done with the poor. Remember? God says he cares for the poor, the sick, the needy, the elderly. Evil says kill them. And that’s what Hitler, motivated by evil, meant to do.

We’re going to pay a price for embracing these reconstituted and renewed old philosophies. And then we will see as the world saw once before … who is God. Will God judge us? No, he will withdraw … and leave us to fend for ourselves against those who are behind the inspiration of this campaign to eliminate God’s only means of salvation. God is not a God of judgment, but one of love. And he will prove it. God help those who must learn the hard way. Doomed forever will be those who corrupted others with the renewed old philosophies and mysteries, which are nothing but lies.


The emergence of ancient Gnostic writings in our times has produced more than a few shots across the bow of Christendom. In a best-selling novel and a blockbuster film based on a questionable interpretation of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper, the so-called Gospel of Philip from the Nag Hammadi Library discovered in Egypt, is referenced in an attempt by one of the characters to make the case that Jesus publicly showed affection to Mary Magdalene by kissing her “on the mouth,” though such a display would in truth have resulted in ruining of Jesus’ reputation if not in his stoning. Of course, Jesus was under constant scrutiny by the religious leaders of his day who would have seized on any such impropriety.

Nevertheless, the novel and film have made heretical hay of the allegation of this risky behavior by Jesus discussed by Jesus and his disciples in the Gnostic gospel. The Nag Hammadi Library codex was found in 1945 buried in a jar beneath a dung pile in the Upper Nile region of Egypt. Another Gnostic text, the lost Gospel of Judas, was discovered in a cave in Egypt sometime during the 1970’s. It describes events so far removed from the truth of Passion Week that the Gospel of Judas is laughable.

The mysterious land of Egypt has yielded a number of documents of biblical significance, including many of the best Greek manuscripts of the New Testament in existence today. The most important written Christian heresies which have made their way to the west and consequently into the popular culture of our times all originated in Egypt and first appeared in Coptic. For various reasons Egypt and its people have played critically important roles in early Christianity; for example, Christian monasticism traces its origins to Egypt. The apparent evidence of opposing beliefs and writings hostile to traditional Christianity to be found in Egypt may attest to just how important a battleground the land of the Pharaohs and numerous pagan gods has been since the first evangelists ignited a flourishing movement of believers in the first century, beginning in Alexandria. Christendom’s woes only continue there, and increase, as the Coptic Christians of Egypt, the largest contingency of Christians in the Middle East, suffer at the hands of fiercely radical Muslims who persecute them and mean to eradicate them.

The history of the Copts is the history of Christianity in Egypt. The history of the first and most enduring Christian heresies, the very origins of Gnosticism, are a significant part of both, which has led us to take special note of the person responsible for bringing Christianity to Egypt and the African continent and the works credited to him, namely at least one Gospel, the first, many scholars believe, to have been written. The Gospel of Mark, like Christianity itself, has weathered its share of assaults, being considered the most obviously tainted of the four in terms of its abrupt beginning and ending, its grammatical problems, repetitions, geographical errors, curiously missing material (found in the gospels of Matthew and Luke, whose writers arguably relied on Mark) and the peculiar fact that the sum of the verses found in Mark’s Gospel comes out to the number 666.

This is not to say that the original Gospels, including Mark, are fully tainted. Despite the errors, the Gospels as they have been given to mankind are nonetheless divine.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: I found this material I wrote years ago. I thought I would post it, if I haven’t already. Though The Da Vinci Code has come and gone, there is still the influence of the Nag Hammadi Library and its false teachings registered among people who want to stick pins in Jesus and call Him just a man, who want to imagine Him making out in public with prostitutes, according to the Gospel of Philip. Why can’t we just accept Jesus as the Man described by those who knew him or wanted to know and follow Him? — rcg)

Lagniappe 

Gnosticism developed after Jesus lived. (Some say some forms of Gnosticism pre-date the birth of Jesus. — Ed) Many however feel that perhaps John’s gospel was a Gnostic gospel and perhaps should not have been recorded in the Bible. This is a discussion on this argument.

The Gospel of John, written before the major Gnostic writings recovered so far, clearly refutes the dualistic teachings that were giving strength to the Gnostic philosophies of the time by pointing to Jesus being human and yet God, thereby arguing against the spiritualism and the perverted symbology promoted by Gnostics at that time.

Our understanding of Gnosticism at that time comes from some key historical writings such as:

  • ·         Gnostic Fragments in various Patristic Sources, originating from around 130 A.D. to 215 A.D ,
  • ·         Gnostic Acts and Other Classical Texts, originated around 130 A.D. to 250 A.D.
  • ·         Marcion and his writings, originated around 140 A.D.
  • ·         Gospel of Thomas fragments in the Papyrus Oxyrhynchus (Anonymous1994), originated around 150 A.D
  • ·         Texts from the Bruce Codex (Anonymous1892), originated somewhere between 150 A.D. and 200 A.D.
  • ·         Texts from the Askew Codex, originated in the beginning of the 3rd century, such as Pistis Sophia (Sophia Codex 1921)
  • ·         Texts from the Akhmim Codex, originated around 250 A.D to 300 A.D
  • ·         Nag Hammadi Library, originated about 3rd to 4th century.

The basic tenant of Gnosticism is its downfall as described succinctly by Schaff in which he states;

 “It endeavors to harmonize the creation of the material world and the existence of evil with the idea of an absolute God, who is immaterial and perfectly good. This problem can only be solved by the Christian doctrine of redemption.” (Schaff. 1997)

A central perspective of Gnosticism is that the whole universe is created by entities as a result of errors made and that there is much that is wrong with it and that only a few select individuals by finding specific inner knowledge can resolve the situation.

A modern description of this is propounded by Elaine Pagels who says;

“Yet to know oneself, at the deepest level, is simultaneously to know God; this is the secret of gnosis. Another gnostic teacher, Monoimus, says: Abandon the search for God and the creation and other matters of a similar sort. Look for him by taking yourself as the starting point. Learn who it is within you who makes everything his own and says, “My God, my mind, my thought, my soul, my body.” Learn the sources of sorrow:, joy, love, hate … If you carefully investigate these matters you will find him in yourself.” (Pagels. 1979)

  “Gnosis” is used in the Gnostic texts to refer to the inner knowledge. The Gnostics believe that not everyone will be able to gain this ‘knowledge’ or “Gnosis” as it is only available to a special few, the “pneumatics”. Gnosticism also uses the contrast of matter and spirit, where matter is considered evil and spirit good, to try to explain the bigger question of good and evil. There is however a dualism that is introduced regarding good and evil, where good and evil are ultimately considered one once one has achieved that level of knowledge called “gnosis”. The bible never directly refers to Gnostics by that specific word or uses the term “Gnosis”. John while appearing to use some of the words familiar to Gnostics clearly wants to ground the audience in the reality of a physical Christ in his writing. It is rather the Gnostic texts that refer back to the biblical texts, although components of gnosticism predated Jesus’ birth. The Christian perspective of good and evil can be found by the statements in John’s Gospel that Jesus makes, such as;

“Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned” (NIV1996, c1984.)

In this statement the Gnostic “Dualism” that considers Good and Evil ultimately being one, is clearly contradicted by John and clearly different paths are indicated for those that differ in their choice of good and evil. Gnosticism is also syncretistic, i.e. it incorporates different views and attempts to combine them into one. The Gnostics of John’s day probably comprised multiple groups.  There were the Naasenes and Ophite groups referred to by Hippolytus in the third century who apparently re-interpreted the last supper in a non-Christian manner and supported the fact that spirit and flesh cannot exist with one another. These groupings apparently held the belief that Christ was an incarnation of the serpent in the Genesis account of Adam and Eve. There was the Docetic group who said Christ’s humanity was invalid, and the Cerinthian group who said Jesus the man needed to be differentiated from Christ the spirit who came upon him at baptism. Another group, the Valentinian group, put forward some of the more sophisticated concepts, and to be able to discuss Gnosticism with respect to John’s Gospel, it is important to lay out some detail of at least one example of Gnosticism that can be used as a basis to the discussion. To give a flavour of the structures and mystical concepts incorporated in the beliefs of the time and discuss them with reference to John’s gospels, it is therefore necessary to devote the next few paragraphs to describing one view of this Valentinian concept, elusive and variable though it is. Even in this discussion it is necessary to adopt one illustrative viewpoint, as there were many variations at the time due to the syncretistic nature of Gnosticism. The Valentinian School is chosen as a base of the initial discussion as it was documented closest to the time period of John’s gospel and appears to have the most influence during that early time period. Valentinus, one of the architects of Gnosticism was originally part of the Christian church, but he got expelled during the second century. Tertulliani reports Valentinus left with negative attitudes towards the Christian church;

“Valentinus expected to become bishop because he had great abilities of mind and tongue, but another was preferred for the position because he suffered as a martyr. Angry at this, Valentinus broke with the legitimate church. Just as minds who have been excited with the hope of advancement usually burn anticipating revenge, he turned to overthrowing truth.“ (Riley. 1971)

It is important to note that John’s gospel pre-dated Valentinus and so Valentinus’ theories could well have been established using aspects of the gospel (rather than the other way around). What follows is one interpretation of the Valentinian School’s teachings.The Gnostic god who is considered indescribable, is understood to create by his “aeons”, i.e. his attributes or qualities, that flow from himself. He is known by terms such as “the perfect Aeon”, “original Father”, ”original beginning”, “abyss” as reported by Tertulliani(Riley. 1971). Tertulliani describes how the “Abyss” gives rise to other Aeons with support of Sige (Silence). The first of these are Nus (mind), Truth, Word, Life, Man and Church. These in turn produce other aeons. The youngest of twelve Aeons produced by Man and Church is called Sofia. She gets into trouble and is helped out of it by Horos (who is also referred to as Cross). In order to stabilize the crowd of aeons and stop similar trouble, Nus then produces “Christ” and “Holy Spirit”. This “Christ” is to teach the Aeons how they should understand the Father, and “Holy Spirit” was to teach Aeons tranquillity and how to give thanks.This crowd of thirty Aeons is living in the “heaven” of the Gnostics called the Pleroma. The Kenoma explained is the emptiness outside of the Pleroma. One of these aeons Achamoth, daughter of Sofia, produces a “Demiurge of matter” (Riley. 1971) that is the “Father of the soul-like elements” (Riley. 1971). This entity is ruler over everything that is material. Tertulliani explains that

“the Demiurge stands outside the Pleroma’s boundaries in the solitary confinement of eternal exile, he founds a new realm, this world of ours.” (Riley. 1971)

This Demiurge then creates the Cosmos, within the Kenoma, that contains the material world. Achamoth at the time of creating Demiurge hides a piece of spirit in him and when Demiurge creates Adam, he unintentionally does the same for Adam. This piece of spirit the Gnostics call the “church”, not related in any way to the Christian church, it is a reflection of the “Church” in the Pleroma, although it exists as part of the Cosmos. Tertulliani describes how Man is made of flesh (which leads to destruction), and a soul that can either tend towards the spirit or the material. The Demiurge produces a son through a virgin, and Tertulliani clearly explains this is not “of” the virgin, but “through” the virgin. This is to explain clearly that Gnostics do not accept God as man was born by the virgin birth. Then at baptism, Jesus the Saviour, through the symbolism of the dove descends onto this Christ. This Jesus is to help Men come to faith. Men are described as mortal unless they, by finding the inner knowledge inside themselves, using the piece of the spirit the Demiurge unintentionally hid in Adam, can then join with the Demiurge in sneaking into the Pleroma. They do this by cultivating the spirit like components given initially to Adam into a fullness of knowledge or gnosis.From the previous description of one variation of Gnostic beliefs, it is clear to see how easy it would be for the first century Christians to have been assailed by confusing and conflicting concepts, particularly as the Gnostic had a syncretism approach to everything and interpreted the content John writes according to three human natures, firstly the “hylic” or physical nature, then the “psychic” or the non-natural psyche, and lastly the “pneumatic” which is the Gnostic spiritual nature. These are bent and intertwined into different Gnostic schools of thought that modern writers again re-interpret to their benefit as one.It is into this mix of differing views that John was injecting his Gospel. He would have known these views and focused his writing to people exposed to them. He probably would also have used words the audience would understand while making it very clear that he did not subscribe to the Gnostic views, and ensuring his interpretation of these words was defined in his writings of the time by re-using them in different contexts to ensure they are understood correctly.Part of the problem that occurred after John had written the gospel was that the meaning of the words within the gospel was re-interpreted by the Gnostics and then used to change the meaning of what John intended to portray. They did this to support their beliefs as will be explained later.John’s own intent towards Gnosticism is most clearly portrayed in his statement in 1 John where he states;

“This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.”[1] (NIV1996, c1984.)

Here John ties Gnostic teachings clearly with the anti-Christ. Gnostic’s would not agree that Jesus Christ had come in the flesh and so John is clearly stating a mechanism by which Christians could discern and avoid this Gnostic perspective in this letter. His gospel however takes a softer approach than his letter. Unfortunately, this enables the Gnostic writers to further their goals by abusing it.

Three key Valentinian Gnostic sources of information as it relates to the gospel of John come from the Nag Hammadi Library. The Nag Hammadi is that group of thirteen codices discovered in 1945 and which provided a large set of information supporting Gnostic perspectives. One perspective is popularized by Elaine Pagels in her papers and books published in recent years, “The Gnostic gospels” (Pagels. 1979) and “The Johanniane Gospel in Gnostic Exegenesis” (Pagels. 1989) are probably currently the most applicable Gnostic critiques of John’s gospel. Particularly in the latter, Pagels attempts to show how John’s gospel should be interpreted from a Gnostic perspective and makes extensive use of Heracleon’s commentary on John.

Many critics indicate that John’s gospel was a Gnostic gospel and used Gnostic language.  Gnostics are particularly fond of quoting the usage of Λογος, “Logos” or “the Word” in John 1:1. Robertson’s remark on John’s purpose is probably correct;

“This term suits John’s purpose better than σοφια [sophia] (wisdom) and is his answer to the Gnostics who either denied the actual humanity of Christ (Docetic Gnostics) or who separated the ἀεον [aeon] Christ from the man Jesus (Cerinthian Gnostics).” (Robertson. 1997)

Those wanting to portray John’s Gospel as Gnostic and that refer to “Logos” need to look at verse 14 where John says “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (NIV1996, c1984.)  John is clearly stating “Logos” was a human being and that he knew him because he had lived with him. This is far from the other-worldly, dis-interested, non-fleshly entity the Gnostics would have referred to as “Logos” since the Gnostic logos would be a spiritual entity with no link to the flesh. The two meanings therefore could not be further from each other.

The concept of Logos tied to the beginning would therefore have been a common consideration for the Greek and Jewish minds of the time. John being Jewish would have clearly known his Jewish audience would correlate the meaning of “Word” associated to “in the beginning” to the initial verses of the old testament scripture. “Logos” to a Jew would have brought up religious ideas such as: creation, what God said, and various Old Testament prophesies. John would have been aware of using all these nuances when referring to Jesus the man as “the Word”.

John however lived in a community that comprised of non-Jews and Jews with differing perspectives. The non-Jews would have tended to think in terms of the Gnostic origin of the word “Logos”, and could easily have misinterpreted John’s initial statement and therefore he clarifies it later in the gospel as in verse John 1:14 where he clearly states the word refers to a live flesh and blood human being by saying;

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (NIV1996, c1984.)

The usage “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.   He was with God in the beginning.” (NIV 1996, c1984.)  also needs to have the word “was” discussed as Robertson indicated;

“Was (ἠν [ēn]). Three times in this sentence John uses this imperfect of εἰμι [eimi] to be which conveys no idea of origin for God or for the Logos, simply continuous existence. Quite a different verb (ἐγενετο [egeneto], became) appears in verse 14 for the beginning of the Incarnation of the Logos. (Robertson. 1997)

However in the translation of Ptolemy’s commentary on the gospel of John prologue, Layton describes the Gnostic view of this piece of scripture as;

“First, he distinguishes three things: God; beginning; Word. Then he unites them: this is to show forth both the emanation of the latter two, i.e. the Son and the Word, and their union with one another, and simultaneously with the Father. For the beginning was in the Father and from the Father; and the Word was in the beginning and from the beginning. Well did he say, “The Word was in the beginning”, for it was in the Son. “And the Word was with God.” So was the beginning. “And the word was God”; reasonably so, for what is engendered from God is God. This shows the order of emanation. “The entirety was made through it, and without it was not anything made.” [Jn 1:3] For the Word became the cause of the forming and origination of all the aions that came after it.” (Schenk, 1994)

This commentary does not take into account the imperfect usage of “was” indicating no origin. Therefore Ptolemy’s view of the Gnostic “Word”, having a beginning which is based on the fact that “the Original father” Aeon preceded the “Word” Aeon, can be discarded. John is not referring to the Gnostic interpretation of the “Word” having a beginning in John 1:1.

When John then says “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.”[2] (NIV 1996, c1984.) he is clearly saying Jesus was the only creator and that the Aeon’s or Demiurge had no part in it. This again counters the Gnostic view of the Demiurge creating the universe creating a problem the Gnostics have to construct concepts to refute. They really stretch themselves to acheive this.

Pagels states

“The Naassenes, reading that ‘all things were made through him’(John 1:3), reject the ‘simple reading’ which would suggest that the passage refers to the demiurge ‘through whom’ all things were created.” (Pagels. 1989)

She suggests the verse refers to another entity Geryon who is referred to in Greek mythology as a three bodied giant with wings. She then gives an alternative explanation for the “Peratae” Gnostics, saying they reject it by saying that the “son of man has come into the ‘cosmos’ not to destroy the ‘cosmos’ but to save it.”, explaining the first usage of the term cosmos differs from the second in the same sentence.  The third argument she puts forward for John1:3 is a Valentinian argument and she goes to great lengths to explain that the three different versions from three different manuscripts that are used to attempt to refute this piece of scripture as referring to Jesus Christ are all the same. She states;

“(1) Ptolemy, in his commentary on the Johannine prologue, interprets this verse in terms of the myth of pleromic aions, (2) Theodotus refers the same verse to the saviour, who, having emerged from the Pleroma, constitutes Sophia in the kenoma, the ‘Emptiness’ or void. (3) Heracleon refers the same verse to the creation of the cosmos” [3](Pagels. 1989)

and then spends considerable time explaining why the differences are not different, finally concluding the same verse refers to three different frames of reference and that each writer is referring to a different frame of reference. An argument I suggest that should be rejected based on logical arguments and context in which the statement is found!

Another usage of John’s that is criticized as having Gnostic overtones is his use of “light” as used in verse 4. “Light” in Gnostic terms varies in meaning depending on the specific context in which it is used. Sometimes it is referred to as a power, as in Piste Sophia (Sophia Coptice 1921). Light is particularly used referring to that apparent contrast of light and darkness which Gnostics say become one once gnosis is attained. John on the other hand is using this word to draw the audience to an understanding that Jesus is to give life to those who are living in lack of knowledge of Jesus and living in the lack of spiritual acceptance of Jesus as the Son of God who had come in the flesh to remove the darkness of sin. I believe John refers to Jesus as “the true light” to ensure the audience discerns him from the false light referred to by the Gnostics.There is also the potential that by using the analogy of Jesus as the Light of the world, John was appealing to the Jewish contingent of his readers. Light would have reminded them of the “menorah” which had one stem leading to seven branches each having an olive oil reservoir that sustained a flame. John also uses seven signs in his gospel. Could John perhaps using this analogy of light to show that all seven signs reflect the one “light of the world”. The seven signs are: turning water to wine, healing the nobleman’s son, healing the lame man, feeding the five thousand, walking on the water, healing the blind man and raising Lazarus from dead. Since the signs were physically performed by Jesus some of the relatives could probably be reached for verification and disproving of the Gnostic claims at the time of writing the gospel.

The word “life” is also taken by Gnostics to be John referring to one of the Aeons and Ptolemy (Schenk, 1994) indicated John is combining the Life, Word, Man and Church Aeons in his references in the first verses of John.  While these words are used, the context of their use does not support the Gnostic usage of the terms as has already been illustrated for “word” or “logos” above.  In John1:4 “In him was life, …”[4] (NIV 1994) the “life” is shown to be in the “Logos” not the Logos in Life. The Gnostics would not have agreed the “Life” was in “Logos” as the “Life” was part of the Pleroma and preceded “Logos”. So this could be another case of incorrect usage of context by those having the Gnostic perspective.

Again John 5:26 “For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself.”[5] (NIV 1996, c1984.) can be misconstrued by Gnostics who would like this to refer to the Demiurge unwittingly transferring the spirit to the Savior, but would be wrong in this case as John clearly defines “Life” as in John 20:31 quoted above, where Christ and Jesus are linked (which is at least clearly against the Docetic Gnostic notion).

Ptolemy tries to build another Gnostic concept into John’s words in further comments on John 1:4;

“Here he discloses a pair. For he says that the entirety came into being through it, but Life is in it. Now, that which came into being in it more intimately belongs to it than what came into being through it: it is joined with it and through it it bears fruit. Indeed, inasmuch as he adds, “and Life was the light of human beings”, [Jn 1:4] in speaking of human beings he has now disclosed also the Church by means of a synonym, so that with a single word he might disclose the partnership of the pair. For from the Word and Life, the Human Being and the Church came into being.”[6] (Schenk, 1994)

He invents the reference to Church, calling it a synonym, to enable him to link the four concepts he wants to link without even considering that this concept is not linked in there by John and is a Gnostic assumption. However, John by referring to “Him” in the same verse is referring to “Logos” which we have already seen is clearly tied to a fleshly human being, Jesus. Ptolemy deliberately ignores this fact that is clearly explained later in John’s gospel.

The concept of the pair in Gnostic terms is superimposed onto the gospel to introduce concepts never intended by the author. In the above quote Ptolemy is trying to tie Men and Church together as a pair. John only talks of the Men, not the Church in John 1:4.

Pagels in explaining John1:4 reverts back to breaking the verse into three different reference systems which are being addressed differently by Ptolemy, Theodotus, and Heracleon. She constructs a consistent structure, that is nowhere detailed as such in original manuscripts, from fragments of three people saying different things and indicates they all mean the same thing! Such is the syncretism nature of the Gnostic views John was attempting to thwart with his gospel.

The next component of the prologue that the Gnostics find difficulty with is John 1:14;

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, d who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”[7] (NIV 1996, c1984.)

Key to the discomfort they experience is the statement “the Word became flesh” as this now links the original use of the “Word” which they want to interpret as having meanings with Pleroma and Kenoma, to being clearly tied to what they refer to as the Cosmos since only the Cosmos can be related to flesh. Pagels states that the “Word” as used in John 1:3 referred to all three reference frames, but now does a turn about and indicates that here it only refers to only the one. Pagels also argues that the selective use of passages fits the Gnostic theological structure and should therefore be allowed. The basic human construct, that a person tends to use the same meaning for the concept denoted by a word, particularly within the same piece of writing, seems to elude Pagels. In addition when Gnostic writers skip verses of John that conflict with the views in their exegesis, Pagels subscribes this to the fact that they should be allowed the selective use of passages. The Christian perspective is explained by Bruce (Bruce 1994) who clearly states John was making a clear anti-docetic statement in John 1:14.John’s discourse around John the Baptist in John1:19 to 34 is another area where the Gnostics interpret the text differently to Christians. One key area is Heracleon’s pointing out that John’s gospel differs from the synoptic gospel by saying that John the Baptist is not Elijah;

“They asked him, ‘Then who are you? Are you Elijah?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ ‘Are you the Prophet? He answered, ‘No.’”[8] (NIV 1996, c1984.) 

however Jesus says of John the Baptist;

“And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come.”[9] (NIV 1996, c1984.)  . 

Pagels explains that Heracleon clarifies this by indicating that John has now moved to a level higher than the prophets, and so can deny John the Baptist was Elijah.  Nowhere does she look at that other scripture that clarifies this issue;

“And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” [10](NIV 1996, c1984.) 

This scripture shows John’s Gospel to be correct as John the Baptist was not Elijah but was operating in the spirit and power of Elijah. He was not the person of Elijah and so there is no contradiction and so Christians do not have to accept the complicated Gnostic contortions needed to align facts that are already aligned.

While this explains the person of John the Baptist, it does not explain the Gnostic view of the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist. Pagels explains Heracleon’s concept of Baptism as having three levels, the lowest being the “somatic” order that actually does the physical baptizing or washing the body, the next being the “psychic” that understands forgiveness and then comes the third or “Christ” that does the baptism that “conveys” the spirit. John the Baptist as reported Heracleon, and according to Pagels, is the Demiurge and operates only at the first two levels.  The third baptism that only Christ can give makes the spirit perfect. Irenius (Roberts, unknown date), the second bishop of Lyons describes how the Gnostics believe this Christ is indicated to be a spirit that descends on Jesus the Man. In so doing they deny Jesus was God prior to this point in time and build a means to ensure that Jesus the man is kept separate from Christ the spirit in order to allow them to propound their distortion of the truth.

To further complicate this, Pagels describes how Heracleon only considers John the Baptist to have been a symbol and not an actual person of the first century. The Demiurge cannot be a fleshly human in Gnostic terms. How John’s disciples could argue with Jesus’ if they were not humans and both John and Jesus being human (John 3:22 to 36) is not explained.

In John 2, the descriptions of Jesus clearing the temple, and his statement “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” [11](NIV 1996, c1984.)   are both interpreted by Hercleon as being symbolic and Gnostic in origin. In Gnostic terms “pneumatics” are considered to be the further enlightened and purified.  The story of Jesus clearing the temple is interpreted by the Gnostics to be that of Jesus purifying the pneumatics using a whip that is symbology that aligns with that of the cross. The moneychangers are those who want to gain from bringing others into the new understanding and represent aliens (not sin) that need to be cleaned out.  It is horrifying how poor an interpretation this is of so rich a scene that John communicates so clearly. Again the distortion of truth is by twisting the interpretation of the texts.

Jesus’ referring to himself as the temple as explained in John 2:18 to 22, is also described by Pagels to be used differently by the Gnostics who use the temple as symbology of the church of pneumatics at one level, Jesus’ physical body at another and finally that of the actual temple at yet another level. Again this multi-dimensional interpretation of the same concept is used to twist the words of John’s gospel to Gnostic uses. The Levites in Gnostic terms come to be the saved psychic’s or pneumatics. Psychic’s being a lower level of being in the cosmos. Pagels points out one interpretation of the Holy of Holies is a symbolic place only accessible to pneumatics by the Gnostic Savior. The movement from one area of the temple to the other is interpreted as transcending from one level of knowledge to the next.

The story of the Samaritan women as John 4 describes is interpreted by Pagels to be highly symbolic of the struggle of the pneumatic elect for redemption.  The Well of Jacob is supposed to represent this world, Abraham, Moses and Jacob represent together the Demiurge. The non-existent husband refers to one of an Aeon pair in the Pleroma. The Saviour shows the women she is incorrectly identified with the cosmos and is “’prostituted’ to materiality” but she need only understand this and accept her true pneumatic nature to achieve the gnosis she requires. This story is meant to show that psychics are excluded from pneumatics.

How this nonsense can be extracted from a clear unadulterated story is amazing but Pagels not only extracts it but also defends it.

John 4:46 to 52 is similarly extrapolated into symbology and in this case the story of the healing of the centurions son is intended to reveal the process of psychic salvation according to Pagels.

One other clear picture John uses to point out just how ludicrous these claims are, is explained by Melton(Melton 2005) in the scene where Jesus is showing his wounds to Thomas.

“Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”[12] (NIV 1996, c1984.) 

 John reveals that Jesus has pierced hands that Thomas can touch (ghosts don’t have physical bodies). Jesus had a resurrection body but he could still walk through closed doors. By showing Jesus has a real material body he refutes the dualism of Gnostic belief.  The ability to move through materials shows he was spirit as well. John also is showing that Jesus was a historical person tied to specific historic events again disconnecting the Gnostic spiritualization of Jesus by linking him to a traceable history.

The Gospel of John written before the major Gnostic writings forces Gnostics to attempt to change the meaning of the words by changing the contexts to which the words refer, building referential systems that have no grounding in reality, and disregarding the life of Jesus as simultaneously being God and Man. These concepts are clearly refuted by John when 1 John is brought into context with John’s Gospel. The clarity of John’s rejection of Gnosticism is very evident. He believes Jesus Christ was the son of God, born of the virgin Mary, conceived by the Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of our sin’s. Jesus was fully human and at the same time fully God. John was writing to Jews and Greeks and ensuring they would understand Jesus was not only Spirit but also a fleshly man with whom he had lived and who they should understand as the way to the Father


[1] 1 Jn 4:2-3.

[2] Jn 1:3.

[3] pg24

[4] Jn 1:4

[5] Jn 5:26

[6] Ptolemy, Ptolemy’s Commentary on The Gospel Of John Prologue

 

d Or the Only Begotten

[7] Jn 1:14.

[8] Jn 1:21.

[9] Mt 11:14

[10]Lk 1:17..

[11] Jn 2:19.

[12] Jn 20:27.

 

 

Bibliography

The Gospel of Thomas an Interlinear Translation of P.Oxy. 654, 1, 655. in gospels.net [on-line]; Internet, Available from http://www.gospels.net/thomas/. accessed 7 March 2006

Gnostic Scriptures and Fragments, the Bruce Codex., [on-line];  The Gnostic Society Library Database, Internet, Available from http://www.webcom.com/~gnosis/library/bookss.htm. accessed 7 March 2006

The Holy Bible : New International Version. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996, c1984. Achtemeier, Paul J., Publishers Harper & Row, and Society of Biblical Literature. Harper’s Bible Dictionary. Includes index. 1st ed. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985

The Oxyrhynchus Papyri, Vol. 10. POxy, translated by Bernard,A. 1224 [on-line]; available from http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/oxyrhynchus1224.html; Internet; accessed 7 March 2006.

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Bruce,F.F., The Gospel of John, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994 

Elain Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels, Vintage Books, 1979.

Elain Pagels, The Johannnaine Gospel in Gnostic Exegensis, Society of Biblical Literature: Scholars Press, 1989. 

Mark T. Riley Q. S. FL. TERTULLIANI ADVERSUS VALENTINIANOS TEXT, TRANSLATION, AND COMMENTARY  February 1971 [online]; available from http://www.tertullian.org/articles/riley_adv_val/riley_00_index.htm ; Internet; accessed 7 March 2006.

Robertson, A.T. Word Pictures in the New Testament. Vol.V c1932, Vol.VI c1933 by Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention., Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, 1997