Богомил (bogomilos) wrote,
Богомил
bogomilos

THE ANCIENT CHRISTIANITY AND THE GNOSTICISM – 4.

The Christian-Gnostic paradigm. For the Gnostic paradigm is characteristic the essentially other approach. First of all it is a matter of the theological concept that considerably distinguishes the views of the Gnostics from the orthodox dogma. Characterizing this concept, Hans Jonas wrote, that the God is absolutely transcendent, his nature is alien to this Universe which is not created and is not ruled by him and to which he is completely opposed. The divine kingdom of light, self-sufficient and far-off, is opposed to the kingdom of darkness. The Cosmos represents by itself the creation of the lower forces which though can originate from the God, actually do not know the True God and try to interfere to the knowledge of him in their cosmos. An origin of these lowest forces, archons, and in general the order of life outside of the God, including the cosmos as it is are the basic themes of the Gnostic speculation... The transcendental God is hidden in all these creations and is unknowable in natural representations. The knowledge of him demands the supernatural revelation and imagination, and even after that it is hard to express him differently, as in negative terms (Jonas, 1998, 58-59). Being the Spirit, this God generates the spiritual beings. For this reason he is the Father not only of his Son, but all those people also who live in a material world, but are born from above, from Spirit. Simultaneously he is the transcendental Absolute and the perfect, kind Person. He is not a source of a harm and for this reason he does not create and cannot create the material world. He is alien to creation and, accordingly, does not bear the responsibility for it.

In this perspective the Christianity becomes the headed by the Son of the True God revolt against the false "god". The self-revelation of the Father in Christ is the unique event of the history of mankind, and the purpose of arrival of Christ is to bring knowledge of the Father to the people, capable to contain this knowledge. The Father was not known to anybody before the arrival of Christ, except for, probably, several spiritual elects. But the demiurge, the creator and the lord of this world, has opened himself to Abraham and was preached by Moses and the prophets of the Old Testament, and is learnt in his creation also. Christ eternally stays with the elects, and they, having revived in spirit, receive rest and reign with the King. The court consists that Light has come to the world, and the lord of this world is condemned. The spiritual persons select to themselves a good part with Christ, and carnal persons already condemned themselves on the distruction together with the ruler of the world.

At the same time for all the Christian Gnostic scriptures is characteristic the intense dualism between the good God and the obviously not good world. Even when the world, quite in the neo-platonic spirit, is understood as the created by good forces imperfect copy of the perfect sample, the matter remains alien and hostile to the person. Opposing the god of this world, the Christians-Gnostics refused to see the source of a worldly harm in the God. This anti-cosmic dualism is obvious both at their doctrine and in the doctrines of Nazoreans and Manichaeans, and even, to a certain extent, in the Hermetic corpus, but it is not understandable and alien to both the Hellenistic paganism and the Judaism.

The Gnostic myth. In the basis of the Christian-Gnostic paradigm, from which all the majestic variety of Gnostic systems grows, are put the precise distinction between God the Father who generates his children, and the god-creator, literally "molding" (πλασσω) his "products" (πλασματα = "moldings") from rough substance similarly to the handicraftsman (δημιουργος), and also the representation about the responsibility of the creator for the creation. Gnostics perceived the immanent to his creation creator of the material world at the best as a secondary deity, some kind of "spirit of this world". In Christian-Gnostic literature there are different approaches to this problem: sometimes the demiurge, as a whole not malicious, but limited and imperfect, stays in obedience to the God, creating the material world "on an image given from above", and the matter remains a harm, and its reality is denied. We are to mention in this connection the Johannine prologue - Joh., 1:3: πάντα δι’αυτου εγένετο, και χωρις αυτου εγένετο ουδεν, that is "by means of him the All (the spiritual, intelligible reality) has arisen, and nothing (the material, visible world) has arisen without him" (KJV is based on a deviating reading - ουδε εν instead of ουδεν). But more often the event of creation is identified with the fall, and the creator is represented as the rebelled and fallen angel with frankly demonic features. He tries to imitate the Father by means of his defective creations creating a parody on the perfect worlds of light generated by the Father. The other understanding is possible too: in an archaic myth the demiurge is depicted as the certain "evil spirit" which has arisen besides the God (Sholem, 1974, 415; Quispel, 1978, 21-22). Though in all three cases we collide not with philosophical, but religious-mythological speculation, conditionally we can name these three approaches to the origin of the demiurge as "monistic", "mono-dualistic" and "openly dualistic" approaches. We are to stipulate, that in the majority of Gnostic scriptures they lean on a very close mythological content, and so it is a matter only of different estimations within the limits of interpretation of the same events.

It is characteristic, that, despite of obvious presence of the Hellenistic influences in the Christian Gnostic scriptures, the image of the demiurge there is connected not with one of Hellenistic deities, but with Yahweh. The Apocryphon of John and the writings close to it describe the demiurge Yaldabaoth whose image practically coincides with the image of Yahweh, but there he is represented in the form of a silly and spiteful demon.

Thus if we shall analyze the so-called "Gnostic myth", especially in comparison with "an orthodox myth" reflected in Catholic dogma, we shall be convinced that, despite of all seeming extravagance, in its basis lays the literal interpretation of the Jewish Scripture. This interpretation reflects the "heretical" revolt against the early Judaism (Fruhjudentum), the revolt arisen in the Semitic language and Palestinian cultural environment. This was demonstrated by such an outstanding researchers of the Judaism as Gershom Sholem (1974) and Ithamar Gruenwald (1981), and also the philosopher Jacob Taubes (1996). Taubes in his polemic against Martin Buber directly approves that the religion of ancient Israel of an epoch of kings and prophets was already fraught with "latent Gnosticism". He states that the line " prophets - Jesus - Paul - Marcion " is a natural line of its development, and, summing up, speaks, that "when a prophecy has failed, apocalyptic appeared; when apocalyptic has failed (during the anti-Roman revolts), Gnosis appeared", and it became both a natural result and ruthless denying of this religion.

It is impossible to exclude, that in a basis of at least some canonical scriptures of the New Testament have been put the translations from Aramaic or even the "post-bible" Hebrew. The majority of scientists believe that all of them were initially created in Greek, and the so-called "Semitisms" can be explained by the literary influence of the Septuagint. But some western researchers undertook the attempts to restore the Aramaic original of Jesus' sayings (λογια) and parables (Jeremias, 1999, 36-44). Very interesting is the experience of French scientist, abbey Karmignak (2005) who found out in the Synoptic Gospels the traces of the Semitic origin of their text and have stated a hypothesis, that originally the protograph of these Gospels has been created in Aramaic or even in Hebrew. We are to notice the absolutely similar "Semitisms" in scriptures, kept for us in the Coptic library from Nag Hammadi. All the included into the library writings originally were not created in Coptic, all of them are translations from Greek, but in a lot of cases their word usage and construction of phrases testifies to the Semitic original. In this respect the recently opened Gospel of Judas is especially indicative.

The understanding of the origin of the Gnostic myth is very important for the understanding of this myth itself. It is easy to be convinced, that in most cases the texts of Coptic Gnostic library, first of all, widely presented in them theogonic and cosmogonic elements, are not the written fixing of certain "mystical" and "esoteric" secret revelations. On the contrary this is some kind of "protest exegetic" (K. Rudolph's expression) of the well-known and normative for Jewish and later for orthodox Christian consciousness understanding of Jewish cosmogonic myth and first of all the initial chapters of Genesis. The principles incorporated in a basis of this "protest exegesis", assume the Palestinian cultural and Semitic language environment. Besides a lot of texts from Nag Hammadi, considerably reconsidering the content of the Old Testament, does not contain any polemic with Christian orthodoxy. Originally, according to Ithamar Gruenwald, "The Gnostic scriptures, containing Jewish material, were written for Jews, or former Jews who should be convinced both in falsehood of their understanding of the Scripture, and in the truth that is hidden in it; non-Jews, that is believers from pagans, could not estimate all importance of this method. So, it is quite admissible, that the discussed Gnostic texts have been addressed first of all to the Jews and to the Christians from Jews" (Gruenwald, 1981).

The absence of the allegorical interpretation of the bible text inherent in the Hellenistic culture and alien to the Jewish culture in the majority of writings specifies this. On the contrary, in the majority of the Gnostic texts we see the radical revision of the Old Testament’s Scripture, based on the literal understanding of the text interfaced to its ethical reassessment. We shall remind, that the "allegorical interpretation" as a method has been created by an outstanding antique thinker, Greek speaking Jew Philo of Alexandria, who tried to connect the Jewish dogma (first of all, theo- and cosmogonic myth of Torah) and the Hellenistic philosophy in a syncretic manner. The heritage of Philo remained practically not demanded by the Jews, but has been used by the Christian apologists of the so-called "Alexandrian school", Clement and Origenes and their followers. The method created by Philo and later developed by these authors has received significant popularity in the Christian environment just because it allowed to remove in the interpretation the obvious contradictions between the images of God in the Old and the New Testaments.

The Gnostic myth overestimating the sacred heritage of Judaism could appear only among the population of Palestine, as the "heretical" (מינים) phenomenon, but for the normative (pharisaic) Judaism the same "heretical" phenomenon was also the Christianity. Certainly, we cannot unequivocally identify these groups, but it is impossible to deny the obvious fact, that in small and densely enough occupied country what was Palestine (Judea, Galilee and Samaria) in the 1st century, the Gnostics and the early Christians simply should collide with each other even at a household level.

Moreover, observing the New Testament passages that reflect the cosmological representations of their authors, first of all Paul and John, we shall find out that these passages reflect not the traditionally Jewish, based on the Book of Genesis, but Gnostic cosmology. Thus neither Paul, nor John were not required to state consistently their cosmological representations just because their readers perfectly knew without it, who are "the archon of this cosmos" (Joh., 12:31; 14:30; 16:11); "the god of this aeon" (2Cor., 4:4) and "the archon, dominating over air" (Eph., 2:2); "the powers and authorities" (1Cor., 15:24; Eph., 1:21; 3:10; 6:12; Col., 2:15); "the rulers of darkness of this aeon" (Eph., 6:12; compare Col., 1:13, and Luk., 22:53) and "the elements of the world" (Gal., 4:3, 9; Col., 2:8; 2:20). Very interesting is the polemic about the term "domination" (κυριοτης) between Paul (Eph., 1:21; Col., 1:16) and the authors of the epistles ascribed to Peter and Judas (2Pet., 2:10; Jud., 1:8), reflecting the discrepancy of understanding of this term.

If one considers the Gnostic myth as an exegetic method, it is easy to see, that in so-called "sethian" writings where this method has found the brightest expression, citations and allusions on some passages of the Old Testament form a kind of "semantic units". The exegetic interpretation of such units forms the narration. Certainly, this rough enough scheme considerably impoverishes the maintenance Gnostic scriptures, but at the same time it is precisely traced in many of them. More often in the Gnostic texts there is externally quite correct, but as a matter of fact humiliating citing of corresponding fragments of the Old Testament. The Scripture and first of all the 1-8 chapters of Genesis were understood not allegorically, but, for greater desecration of the lord of the material world, literally. For Gnostics the Old Testament and Judaism itself with its temple and ritual practice were the cult of the demiurge. They considered the Testament of the Jews with their deity to be the contract imposed by the Creator and Lord of this world and signed by blood, and far not always by "the blood of bulls and of goats" (see: Num., 31:40-41).

The Gnostics convincingly solved the problem of theodicea, leaning on their own life experience and literal understanding of the Jewish Scripture. Thus a starting point of a reasoning became a moral estimation of that image of a deity which offers us Old Testament’s revelation, and then has been asked a pertinent question: whether such creator could create something kind? Naturally, about clemency of the demiurge and its love to the creation cannot be and speeches. Vivid examples Gnostic их estimations were kept by fathers-heresiologists: "This is the seal put on Cain, whose sacrifice to the god of this world was not accepted, in spite of the fact that he has accepted Avel's bloody sacrifice: the pleasure for the Lord of this world is in blood " (Hippolitus, Refutatio, V.16.9); "Apelles speaks that the souls have been enticed by a fiery angel, the god of Israel and of ours, from their celestial lodgings by means of terrestrial food, and then imprisoned to a guilty flesh" (Tertullian, De anima, 23); "Sabaoth looks, as one speaks as a donkey, others compare him to a pig, therefore Jews do not eat pork... Leaving this world, the souls fly to pass the archon, and those who do not possess knowledge and are incomplete, cannot pass him. However actually it is similar to a dragon" (Epiphanius, Panarion, 10, 6-8).
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