God5 Essay

This essay has a total of 3000 words and 10 pages.


Gnostic writings of Jesus portray him as a heavenly redeemer made less of flesh than of
spirit. The emphasis of Jesus' importance is not on his physical humanness but rather, on
his ability to show people the way to the kingdom. Jesus put on flesh in order to give
people gnosis and reveal to them where they come from and where they will eventually
return. When it is time for Jesus to return to his heavenly home, he is crucified and
resurrected before he finally ascends. His body's lack of importance in some Gnostic texts
gives this series of events a different connotation than other versions of the story more
common today. The Gnostic understanding of Jesus gives us better knowledge of what will
happen to us when we leave the body and world in which we are currently trapped. This
understanding also gives us insights into the realm in which we belong. The lack of
concern for the body is also connected with the Gnostic view that anything that happens on
this earth or in this realm is irrelevant. I will argue that the issue of flesh is very
significant in some Gnostic views of Jesus, citing examples from selected Gnostic texts
including, the Gospel of Thomas, the Second Treatise of the Great Seth, Hypostasis of the
Archons, the Gospel of Mary, the Gospel of Truth, the Treatise on the Resurrection and the
Hymn of the Pearl. Most Gnostic books show Christ to be of heavenly origin. The books
either explicitly say that he is from the father and heaven above or imply it by saying
that he descended into earth. He is part of the "…heavenly triad with the Father and
the Mother…"(Franzmann, 39). In the Second Treatise of the Great Seth, the author
who is supposedly Christ says, "I am from above the heavens" (Ehrman, 231). He is also
sometimes described as a heavenly light, "I am the light which is above all of them: I am
All. The All came forth from me and the All reached me" (G of Th., v.77). Many people,
however, look at Christ's incarnation in different ways. According to some Gnostic thought
Christ comes to our earth and puts on Jesus' human body so that he may walk among us. "I
visited a bodily dwelling" (Ehrman, 231). Some of the Gnostic writings show Jesus as an
earthly being with a heavenly nature, while others show Jesus as a purely heavenly being
with a lack of earthly context. In the Second Treatise of the Great Seth, Christ's
incarnation was into Jesus' body in which he cast out the original occupier (Franzmann,
75). Christ's arrival on earth in the Gospel of Thomas is described in a docetistic way,
"I stood in the midst of the world, and I appeared to them in flesh" (G. of Th, v.28). He
is said to appear to them in flesh only in outward appearance (Franzmann, 78). The Gospel
of Truth describes Jesus as "a fruit of knowledge" that when eaten gives people gnosis
(Ehrman, 161). This Gnostic text shows Christ as a revealer. He is referred to as the book
or logos, which reveals to us all that is unknown (Ehrman, 162). He put on the book, was
nailed to a tree and published the edict of the father on the cross (Ehrman, 162). These
actions say that by dying on the cross, which in this text is not in flesh, he is helping
people receive gnosis. Many Gnostic views have implied a hatred of the body. The body is
what is keeping people from realizing their origin (G. of Thomas, v.29). For Christ to
have a human body seems strange because he has gnosis. "Woe to the flesh which depends on
the soul; woe to the soul which depends on the flesh" (G of Th, v.112). According to the
Hypostasis of the Archons, the body is just a shell for the spirit. "Locked within the
material shell of the human race is the spark of this highest spiritual reality which (as
one Gnostic theory held) the inept creator accidentally infused into humanity at the
creation -- on the order of a drunken jeweler who accidentally mixes gold dust into junk
metal" (Groothuis). Our spirit is trapped in our bodies and the only way to free ourselves
is through gnosis. "After the spirit came forth from the Adamantine Land; it descended and
came to swell within him, and that man became a living soul" (Hyp of Arc, 164). Anything
that happens in this realm of matter is insignificant only when we find the kingdom or
when we finally have gnosis, will we actually begin to live (Hyp of Arc, 167-8). All
matter is a veil over the truth (Hyp of Arc, 167). Jesus strips himself of his "perishable
rags" or "dirty clothes" as he ascends back to heaven (Ehrman, 162, 186). Jesus' purpose
while on earth is to reveal to his people the true nature of their being. Jesus enlightens
and imparts knowledge. His job is to give us gnosis so that we may return to our heavenly
home. "If woman or man truly came to gnosis of this spark, she understood that she was
truly free: Not contingent, not a conception of sin, not a flawed crust of flesh, but the
stuff of God, and the conduit of God's immanent realization" (Gnostic Society). Spirit is
good and desirable; matter is evil and detestable. According to the Hypostasis of the
Archons, there are two heavens, an outer realm and an inner realm. The creation of the
earth and humans was flawed. The god of the outer realm created the archons who did not
have spirit, while the people created in the inner realm do have spirit, however they are
unaware of the spirit within them. When we achieve gnosis we have the understanding that
we are from the outer realm and that we have spirit, unlike Yaldabaoth, the god of the
inner realm. The Gospel of Thomas is a collection of Jesus' sayings that are supposed to
reveal to us the way to heaven or the outer realm. It shows Jesus to be a revealer of
gnosis by clearing the "fog" or ignorance that surrounds us. The Archons want us to remain
ignorant so that we do not enter the perfect outer realm (Hyp of Arc). He explains that
the kingdom is a place with no poverty, where all is revealed and that it is already
inside and around them but they must learn how to find it. According to the Hypostasis of
the Archons, Jesus Christ is not essential for salvation but he is our bridge to it. He
shows us that "All who have become aquainted with this way exist deathless in the midst of
a dying mankind (Hyp of Arc). To have gnosis is to understand where we come from. "Gnosis,
remember, is not a rational, propositional, logical understanding, but a knowing acquired
by experience" (Gnostic Society). The achievement of Gnosis is something that has to be
done on a personal level and cannot be read or learned (Gnostic Society). Jesus shows us
the way to the kingdom by awakening us from our "drunkenness" or "blindness" where we lost
sight of God and heaven (G. of Thomas, v.28). Dependence on the body and earth will keep
us in poverty (G. of Thomas, v.29), or without knowledge. Escape from this world comes
with knowledge of our origins or the unknowing of beliefs we have that keep us from
attaining gnosis. The beliefs that would keep us from attaining gnosis include the idea
that Yaoldabaoth is our true god or that we are actually from this world. Until we realize
that our bodies are not important and they everything in this realm is false we will not
achieve gnosis. Christ reveals information about the kingdom to Mary Magdalene, telling
her that "where the mind is there is the treasure" (G. of Mary). Christ's crucifixion,
resurrection, and ascension have great importance on Gnostic teachings. The events that
take place at the end of Jesus' life are perhaps the most important part of the Christian
faith. When the flesh is not important, like in Gnosticism, the views on these events are
changed. If the body is irrelevant then Jesus' death is not as important to his followers.
Is he able to suffer if he is not really in a body? What is resurrection if the body does
not matter? When Christ is crucified in the Second Treatise of the Great Seth, he laughs
at those who believe that they are hurting him because they are ignorant. "I did not die
in reality, but in appearance." Those "in error and blindness....saw me; they punished me.
It was another, their father, who drank the gall and vinegar; it was not I. They struck me
with the reed; it was another, Simon, who bore the cross on his shoulder. I was rejoicing
in the height over all....And I was laughing at their ignorance." This version of the
story is very different from the one in the Bible. In the biblical account, Christ does
not mock his crucifiers but he asks God for forgiveness of the world's sins (Groothuis).
Pagels says that rather than viewing Christ's death as a sacrificial offering to atone for
guilt and sin, the Gospel of Truth "sees the crucifixion as the occasion for discovering
the divine self within" (Pagels, 95). In the Gospel of Mary, physical suffering has no
reality because physicality has no reality (G. of Mary). Christ's crucifixion has a
different meaning when he is not suffering on the cross for our sins. This is because in
Gnosticism a person's pure soul was made good and the earth and matter were corrupted, so
there is no need for forgiveness. In canonical stories, a perfect God made the earth and
the people corrupted it with sin, so Christ must come down and be crucified for the
Continues for 5 more pages >>