Patrology – Fr Tadros Malaty | Part 7 – Gnosticism
Gnosticism is a complicated and arising concern in our contemporary era. Briefly, this word derives from the Greek word ‘Gnosis’ meaning knowledge. Among the pagans and Jews, there were many Gnostics deeming that there are two worlds – the world of spirituality, and the world of materialism.
These Gnostic sects concentrate on spiritual knowledge. They believe that through their mind, they are illumined to know God and have a special knowledge of Him. Because of this special knowledge, Gnostics believe that they are able to attain the mysteries of heaven and fellowship with God.
Moreover, the prominent idea among these Gnostic sects is the concept of ‘dualism’ – that there are two worlds as mentioned before – the worlds of spirituality and materialism. The world of spirituality is synonymous with light, while the world of materialism is synonymous with dark. Further, they understand that the spirit is light, while the body and any material being is darkness.
Because of the belief that the material world is dark and evil, some sects regard God as evil as He created man whose body is material and therefore, “evil”. They consider their body as evil things, they do not engage in marriage for there are physical relations between the couple, they despise childbirth for it again involves the production of bodies.
While the Gnostics themselves are distinguished into different groups, all groups preached their ideas that were not characterized as a religion, but rather as an attitude.
Gnosticism grew drastically so much so that their view became very attractive to many people – even to the Christian people. Here are a few of the Christian Gnostic beliefs regarding the nature of Christ:
- When Christ first came into the world, He had no body.
- Jesus appeared as He was man but He was not a perfect man. Rather, Jesus is a ghost / spirit.
- Though Jesus may have a body, His body is very light and similar to that of a soul – He was only soul.
- Christ was not a man – He was only divine with no bodily form.
Ultimately, among these views, the Gnostics believed in religious fundamentalism whereby they studied the Bible for its literal substance rather than its spiritual, symbolical, and allegorical features. Consequently, the Gnostics found difficulty accepting the Old Testament because of God’s wrath and anger – they question, how can God have emotions?
Stayed tuned and keep watching for more insight, we will be posting the rest of these lectures in the coming weeks!