Page 8 of 83

Posted: Fri Jul 25, 2008 12:36 am
by Ishtar
Hello Monk

I'll take your points individually:
Forum Monk wrote: If we go into this, it can get pretty deep and complex. A lot of people think that the christian religion is outward ritual, rules of conduct, fear and trembling, icons and symbolism. But its not, that's the institution which is one day a week and really has very little to do with the day to day lives of individuals on a personal level. Christianity thrives on a personal level that is not touched by one's circumstances, place and time. It is really what KB frequently mentions and in reference to his "primitive christians" who were not bound to the "law".
You are mixing up ‘is’ and ‘were’ here, which makes it confusing.

What Christianity is today is a development from the time we’re talking about 2,000 years ago. So how people practise it now is not so relevant, particularly as they have a lot more freedom about how the practise it since the separation of Church and State and the so-called Enlightenment.

But in the case of this discussion, it is more important to talk about the institution of the Church and the Law then - 2,000 years ago - because that is what grabbed the political agenda under Constantine and set about eradicating the Gnostics – to hide its own roots, so to speak.
Forum Monk wrote: There are many dualisms and Paul addresses them in his writings. He often differentiates greeks and barbarians and jews.
Monk, Paul makes it very clear in that verse to the Romans (1:11) that he is not talking about actual Greeks or actual barbarians. He even spells it out for them:

“I am a debtor, both to the Greeks, and to the barbarians: both to the Wise and the unwise.”

To the Wise and the unwise.

This is nothing to do with Law. His use of the word ‘wise’ relates to ‘wisdom’ which is the ‘wisdom of God’, which he would have written in the original Greek as ‘Sophia’.

Just as he says in 1 Corinthians 2:7

“But we speak of the wisdom of God [Sophia] in a mystery, ever the hidden wisdom, which ordained before the world unto our glory.”

If the wisdom is hidden, it cannot be the Law.

The use of the word ‘Sophia’ had a very particular meaning at the time that Paul was writing. The OT apocryphal book, The Wisdom of Solomon, which was written around the same time, talks about Sophia in the Gnostic sense, as the one who sits at the right hand of God. The introduction in my King James Bible says this:

Another feature of the book [Wisdom of Solomon], which was highly valued and used by the early Church Fathers in expounding the doctrine of the Logos (the Word of God incarnate in Christ) is the description in chapters 7 to 10 of Wisdom considered not as a gift or a quality, but rather an almost personal being, as the activity of God personified, as one that 'sitteth by the throne of God" and called by the names 'Word of God' and 'Holy Spirit. '
So Paul was writing at the exact same time and, imo and the opinion of many, using the word ‘Sophia’ in the same way.
Forum Monk wrote: The very nature of spiritual/physical is dualistic. So the gnostics have not exclusivity with dualistic philosophy and so if one addresses a dualistic topic he is not by default, gnostic.
I agree. But I didn’t say that it was exclusive to the gnostics, so I’m not sure where you’re going with this. I was merely pointing out a problem.
Ishtar wrote: I think the only way forward is for you to find examples of where he is purported to be criticising the Gnostics, and see if they stand up to scrutiny.
Forum Monk wrote: I can't comply because at the time Paul was writing, the gnostic sects were not the threat some may think they were. I am willing to bet Paul simply saw it as another school of greek philosophy.
Me too ... although in my case, I believe he was a part of it. But the early Church Fathers (a hundred or so years later) in letters other than the agreed seven – in other words, the forgeries - do have Paul attacking Gnosticism. So they obviously saw Gnosticism as a threat, enough to forge letters on his behalf.
Forum Monk wrote: Edit to add: btw I am hardly a religious scholar, and have no religious training apart from childhood Sunday school. I am not sure if I can properly address any of the really deep teachings of christianity. I don't feel qualified and may end up confusing people.
OK, Monk, I totally accept your reasons for withdrawing – which I assume you are? So unless anyone else wants to add anything on Paul, let’s leave him here and I’ll concentrate on the rest of my case of which Paul was just a small part.


Posted: Fri Jul 25, 2008 1:35 am
by Ishtar
Just as a final word on Paul - there a quite a body work out of there about whether or not Paul was a Gnostic. So if anyone would like to do some further reading on it, one of the books I can recommend is by Elaine Pagels, Professor of Religion at Princeton, and it's called The Gnostic Paul: Gnostic Exegesis of the Pauline Letters

Posted: Fri Jul 25, 2008 2:14 am
by Ishtar
Monk, I just want to answer a couple of these other points:
Forum Monk wrote: Rich, you're being confused by the liberal use of terminology which is contradictory and oxymoronic. As I have said before, there is no such thing as a gnostic christian. One is either gnostic or christian. There is no such thing as a gnostic jew. One is either gnostic or jewish. There is no such thing as a christian jew. You get the idea.
Monk, you are again switching the argument to the present in saying "There is no such thing as a gnostic Christian or Jew".

I'm talking about the past - about a bunch of philosophic groups that existed roughly between c500 BC and 500 CE. They were not known then as gnostics. They were known by the name of their group and although these groups had varying but similar beliefs, one thing they all had in common was an initiation and an allegorical initiation story very much like the story of Jesus. That is what is meant by Gnostic Jews or Gnostic Christians and it is a valid term. So to say they didn't exist is not true.
Forum Monk wrote: The terminology is mutually exclusive. I get confused reading a lot of these posts as well, so don't feel bad. The fundamental hebrews at no time considered YHWH evil. That is absolute blasphemy for one of them to make such a claim and to them YHWH was the creator God. To the gnostics, the creator god was evil. Big juxtaposition in those two concepts. To the cristian, Christ is the creator God and no christian would ever consider Christ evil, so again major juxtaposition.
I know Wiki says that some have a different view, but I don't believe that the Gnostic demiurge was Yahweh - it's just that some present day scholars note similarities in their personalities, but the Jews or the Christians would definitely not have seen it that way.

So Rich, to me it seems as if your logic is twisted. You say:

The Demiurge was Yahweh

Yahweh was a horrible man

Therefore, the Jews would never trust a religion that portrayed their Yahweh in such a bad light - when in fact, their own religion already does!


And finally Monk, you said that the purpose of the Creed was not to keep the Gnostics out.

This is from the Internet Christian library, with my bolding. ... ostles.txt
The Apostles Creed versus Gnosticism

A creed generally emphasizes the beliefs opposing those errors
that the compilers of the creed think most dangerous at the time.
The Creed of the Council of Trent, which was drawn up by the Roman
Catholics in the 1500's, emphasized those beliefs that Roman
Catholics and Protestants were arguing about most furiously at the

The Nicene Creed, drawn up in the fourth century, is emphatic
in affirming the Deity of Christ, since it is directed against the
Arians, who denied that Christ was fully God.

The Apostles' Creed, drawn up in the first or second century, emphasizes the true Humanity, including the material body, of Jesus, since that is the point that the heretics of the time (Gnostics, Marcionites, and later Manicheans) denied.
Of course, that dating (to the 1st or 2nd century) of the Apostles Creed is highly tenuous, and based solely on the shorter Roman Symbol.

The Old Roman Symbol, or Old Roman Creed, is an earlier and shorter version of the Apostles' Creed.[1] It was based on the second-century Rules of Faith and the interrogatory declaration of faith for those receiving Baptism (3rd century or earlier),[1] which by the fourth century was everywhere tripartite in structure, following Matthew 28:19 ("baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit".[2]

According to Bible scholar John Norman Davidson Kelly, second-century church fathers Tertullian and Irenaeus cite it in their works.[3] According to the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, the first text attesting it is a letter to Pope Julius I in 340 or 341, and it has recently been argued that it developed in the context of the Arian controversy.[1]

Though the name "Apostles' Creed" appears in a letter of Saint Ambrose (c. 390), what is now known as the Apostles' Creed is first quoted in its present form in the early 8th century, a form, developed from the Old Roman Symbol, that seems to be of Hispano-Gallic origin, being accepted in Rome some time after Charlemagne imposed it throughout his dominions.

Posted: Fri Jul 25, 2008 9:33 am
by rich
Not just modern scholars I guess - apparently so did Marcion:

From wikipedia:
Marcionism is the dualist belief system that originates in the teachings of Marcion around the year 144.[8] Marcion affirmed Jesus Christ as the saviour sent by God and Paul as his chief apostle. Marcion declared that Christianity was distinct from and in opposition to Judaism. He rejected the entire Hebrew Bible, and declared that the God of the Hebrew Bible was a lesser demiurge, who had created the earth, and whose law, the Mosaic covenant, represented bare natural justice i.e. eye for an eye.
Last I heard - Marcion has been dead for how many years now? Not so modern afterall.

Posted: Fri Jul 25, 2008 9:37 am
by rich
Also, Ish -

This god created man from 15X0 (See also:

matter),2 and imposed on him a strict law . Since no one could keep this law, the whole human See also:
race See also:
FELL, JOHN (1625-1686)
fell under the curse, temporal and eternal, of the See also:
DEMIURGE (Gr. S'quovpyos, from Si7µeos, of or for the people, and Epyov, work)
Demiurge . Then a higher God, hitherto unknown, and concealed even from the Demiurge, took pity on the wretched, condemned race of men .

Posted: Fri Jul 25, 2008 9:55 am
by Ishtar
But the same online encyclopaedia also says:
It is a mistake to reckon Marcion among the Gnostics . A dualist he certainly was, but he was not a Gnostic.
I'm actually looking at philosophy groups a couple of hundred years earlier than Marcion (130 - 180 CE), as by then the Literalists were starting to form, so any grouping after that could have been influenced by Literalist thinking.

Posted: Fri Jul 25, 2008 10:15 am
by rich
Regardless, the creator god to the Jews in the 1st century bc would have been Yahweh. That is why I said in my viewpoint a sect of Jews not affilliated with the gnostics came up with the story of Jesus - to basically combat the influence the gnostics were having and showing Yahweh was good. Trouble was - I think they used allegories too and that confused the matter and made them more open to gnostic influence. At that point I think it just snowballed bigger than they expected. Now they had 2 fronts to fight on - the gnostics and the xtians.

Just my opinion tho.

Posted: Fri Jul 25, 2008 11:06 am
by Ishtar
Philo of Alexandria described Sophia as “the royal road to God” - but I think she may also be the royal road that cuts through all the complexity to show us how Gnostic thought fed through into modern day Christianity.

For, despite the Jewish Literalists trying to chuck out the main references to Sophia in the Bible by consigning her to the apocrypha, you can’t keep a good woman down. And she turns up everywhere in Catholicism and Protestantism and of course with those rebels that the Literalists never could quite bring to heel, the Eastern Orthodox churches.

So I'd like to continue this thread by looking at Sophia and the Logos, and use excerpts from the Wiki page about Sophia to show this progression. I’m afraid this a bit long, but there’ s no other way of doing it. I’m also not putting it in quotes as that will make it even more daunting to read.

In Gnosticism
A Feminine figure, analogous to the human soul but also simultaneously one of the Feminine aspects of God and the Bride of Christ, she is considered to have fallen from grace in some way, in so doing creating or helping to create the material world.[citation needed]

In Gnostic tradition, the term Sophia refers to the final and lowest emanation of God. In most if not all versions of the gnostic religion, Sophia brings about an instability in the Pleroma, in turn bringing about the creation of materiality.

Thus a positive or negative view of materiality depends a great deal on the interpretations of Sophia's actions in the myths. She is occasionally referred to by the Hebrew equivalent of Achamoth (this is a feature of Ptolemy's version of the Valentinian gnostic myth).[citation needed] For the Gnostics, the drama of the redemption of the Sophia through Christ or the Logos is the central drama of the universe. The Sophia resides in all of us as the Divine Spark. According to the Pistis Sophia, Christ is sent from the Godhead in order to bring Sophia back into the fullness of Pleroma following her repentance.

Almost all gnostic systems of the Syrian or Egyptian type taught that the universe began with an original, unknowable God, referred to as the Parent or Bythos, or as the Monad by Monoimus. It can also be equated to the concept of Logos in stoic, esoteric, or theosophical terms (The 'Unknown Root') as well as the Ein Sof of the Kabbalah and Brahman in Hinduism. It is also known as the first Aeon by still other traditions. From this initial unitary beginning, the One spontaneously emanated further Aeons, being pairs of progressively 'lesser' beings in sequence. The lowest of these pairs were Sophia and Christ. The Aeons together made up the Pleroma, or fullness, of God, and thus should not be seen as distinct from the divine, but symbolic abstractions of the divine nature.

In the Bible
Sophia is adopted as the term in the Septuagint for Hebrew חכמות Ḥokmot.

In Judaism, Chokhmah appears alongside the Shekinah, 'the Glory of God', a figure who plays a key role in the cosmology of the Kabbalists as an expression of the feminine aspect of God.

It is a central topic in the "sapiential" books (i.e., the eponymous Book of Wisdom as well as Ecclesiastes and Proverbs). A key passage which personifies Wisdom/Sophia in the Hebrew Bible is Proverbs 8:22-31.

Paul also refers to the concept, notably in 1 Corinthians, but obscurely, deconstructing worldly wisdom:

"Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?" (1 Corinthians 1:20)

Paul sets worldly wisdom against a higher wisdom of God:

"But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory." (1 Corinthians 2:7)

In Christian theology, "wisdom" (Hebrew: Chokhmah, Greek: Sophia, Latin: Sapientia) describes an aspect of God, or the theological concept regarding the wisdom of God.

Eastern Orthodoxy
In the mystical theology of the Eastern Orthodox Church wisdom is understood as the Divine Logos who became incarnate as Jesus Christ.[1]

In the Holy Family, Sophia is often seen as being represented by the Theotokos (Virgin Mary). Sophia is expressed as the Holy Wisdom of God and the saints, obtained through humility, and Mary the Theotokos is the first and greatest of all saints.

In Eastern Orthodoxy humility is the highest wisdom and is to be sought more than any other virtue. It is humility that cultivates not only the Holy Wisdom, but humility (in contrast to knowledge) is the defining quality that grants people salvation and entrance into Heaven.[2] The Hagia Sophia or Holy Wisdom church in Constantinople was the religious center of the Eastern Orthodox Church for nearly a thousand years.

In the liturgy of the Orthodox Church, the exclamation Sophia! or in English Wisdom! will be proclaimed by the deacon or priest at certain moments, especially before the reading of scripture, to draw the congregation's attention to sacred teaching.

The concept of Sophia has been championed as a key part of the Godhead by some Eastern Orthodox religious thinkers. These included Vladimir Solovyov, Pavel Florensky, Nikolai Berdyaev, and Sergei Bulgakov whose book Sophia: The Wisdom of God is in many ways the apotheosis of Sophiology. For Bulgakov, the Sophia is co-existent with the Trinity, operating as the feminine aspect of God in concert with the three masculine principles of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This is contrary to the official view of the Orthodox Church, and Bulgakov's work was denounced by the Russian Orthodox authorities as heretical.[1][3]

Roman Catholic Mysticism

In Roman Catholic mysticism, Hildegard of Bingen celebrated Sophia as a cosmic figure in both her writing and her art.[4]

Protestant Mysticism
Within the Protestant tradition in England, Jane Leade, 17th Century Christian mystic, Universalist, and founder of the Philadelphian Society, wrote copious descriptions of her visions and dialogues with the "Virgin Sophia" who, she said, revealed to her the spiritual workings of the Universe.[5]

Leade was hugely influenced by the theosophical writings of 16th Century German Christian mystic Jakob Böhme, who also speaks of the Sophia in works such as The Way to Christ.[6] Jakob Böhme was very influential to a number of Christian mystics and religious leaders, including George Rapp and the Harmony Society.[7]

Sophia can be described as the wisdom of God, and, at times, as a pure virgin spirit which emanates from God. The Sophia is seen as being expressed in all creation and the natural world as well as, for some of the Christian mystics mentioned above, integral to the spiritual well-being of humankind, the church, and the cosmos. The Virgin is seen as outside creation but compassionately interceding on behalf of humanity to alleviate its suffering by illuminating true spiritual seekers with wisdom and the love of God.

The main difference between the concept of Sophia found in most traditional forms of Christian mysticism and the one more aligned with the Gnostic view of Sophia is that to many Christian mystics she is not seen as fallen or in need of redemption [because that aspect of her had been replaced by Mary Magdelene - Ish]. Conversely, she is not as central in most forms of established Christianity as she is in Gnosticism, but to some Christian mystics the Sophia is a very important concept.

An interfaith spiritual community currently has its center at what it calls Sancta Sophia Seminary located in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.[8]

Posted: Fri Jul 25, 2008 12:57 pm
by Minimalist
I think you rely too heavily on Josephus, Min.

The biggest problem there, Ish, is that there is no other source for most of the events depicted. Roman writers paid only minimal attention to the area and then, usually, only when there was trouble brewing and it was necessary to send in the legions.

Like it or not, Josephus is all we have and everything he says must be analyzed critically.

Posted: Fri Jul 25, 2008 1:16 pm
by Ishtar
Minimalist wrote:
Like it or not, Josephus is all we have and everything he says must be analyzed critically.
Don't get me wrong. I'm a big fan of Josephus. But he has his limits - not least that he only is concentrating on the great and the good - those in the power and those in the esablishment. He most likely would not have been aware of a few guys in a house in the run down part of town who spent most of days lying around having mystic visions. The Ebionites were actually called the Poor Ones.

Posted: Fri Jul 25, 2008 1:39 pm
by Minimalist
Does that make him so different from Livy, Tacitus, Suetonius, Plutarch and the rest?

Caring about what the "little people" did is, I'm afraid, a modern affectation.

Josephus, when writing about his own execrable conduct or when telling how magnificent his patrons Vespasian and Titus, were needs to be dismissed. When he talks about things that he had no personal interest in, he needs to be watched like a hawk.

But... we have no choice but to use him. The similar history written by his erstwhile colleague, Justus of Tiberias, has not come down to us.

Posted: Fri Jul 25, 2008 1:43 pm
by Minimalist
I do wish we had this work of Porphyry, though, in addition to Celsus it would have made for some great reading! Alas, cleverly consigned to the fires by those "enlightened" christians.
Against the Christians, a work of 15 volumes directed not against Christ or his teachings, but against the Christians of his own day and their sacred books, which, he argued, were the work of ignorant people and deceivers, and whose doctrines he attacked on both philosophical and exegetical grounds. Although as to be expected banned in 448 and ordered destroyed, copious extracts remain in the writings of Augustine and others [1].

Posted: Fri Jul 25, 2008 1:48 pm
by Forum Monk
OK, Monk, I totally accept your reasons for withdrawing – which I assume you are? So unless anyone else wants to add anything on Paul, let’s leave him here and I’ll concentrate on the rest of my case of which Paul was just a small part.
Whoa - I am not bowing out. I am just warning that I am not on familiar ground. Some of these topics will not be easy for my to express in a way that ensures complete understanding from others.

There is so much being thrown into this thread I need time to absorb it because I have practically no access to the forum during the day.

Posted: Fri Jul 25, 2008 2:04 pm
by Ishtar
Sorry Monk, I misunderstood. It sounded like you were bowing out.

But look this isn't a tournament. I was only teasing you about that earlier -
I just enjoy discussing these things and half the time, I'm finding my own way forward too, step by step, as must have been clear over my mistake of quoting from Hebrews.

This argument's been going on for a long time among others much more expert than us ... so I don't expect us to solve it here anyway!

So just join in as and when you can and there's no pressure.

If you're not enjoying it, it ain't worth doing. That's my motto. It's not as if anyone's paying us, is it?


Posted: Fri Jul 25, 2008 2:09 pm
by Forum Monk
So far I am enjoying it and if everyone keeps it from getting personal, it should be great fun and hopefully informative as well.