Dan Brown is just the famous and perhaps the least competent academically qualified person to link Gnosticism with Early Christian theology. The popular notion is that gnosticism is a Christian heresy, that was suppressed and/or attacked an ultimately eliminated in conflict, irenic and not so much, during the early church. In my recent class on the New Testament, we were taught about the ideas of one of the leading authorities on Gnosticism, Birger Pearson who argues something different. Gnosticism was not a Christian heresy. It was a completely separate religion which in fact predated Christianity.

Gnosticisms primary beliefs include:

  1. Belief in an overarching monadic God.
  2. Creation was not performed by the overarching deity but by a demiurge, a lesser (demonic) deity. Material creation, being ruled and controlled by mostly demonic entities is not good.
  3. The goal for the eternal mortal essences is to escape and transcend the material creation. The secret teaching and knowledge (gnosis) is how this is the method by which this is accomplished.

This is a different religion. Gnosticism was very syncretic. It brought in different and other religious traditions into their mythologies for their purposes.

Some striking differences between Christian stories. The archon (demiurge) creating and in charge of Earth was known as the “Child of Chaos”, the Fool, and/or the Blind God. Similarities between this and either the Hebrew unnamed God or the Christian Trinity are not slight. In the Garden of Eden story, in gnostic tradition, the villain of the piece was the God of the garden and the hero? Satan, the serpent.

Early Christian theologians contended against gnosticism, but not as a Christian heresy but as a competing but different religion.

Filed under: Mark O.Religion

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