Today’s short blog post will discuss a Biblical passage that is often used to crush the Gnostic’s teachings on scripture. For those of who are unfamiliar with the Gnostics, they were basically Christians who denied the bodily resurrection of Christ. Instead they believed Christ’s body was of a spiritual nature. In other words, the Gnostics argued that Jesus Christ was not raised from the dead in a literal physical body.
Mainstream Christianity considers this blasphemy. And here’s the scripture that they often use to put the final nail on the coffin of Gnosticism:
“For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ came in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist” (2 John 1:7)
Based on this scripture, the typical argument states that John was aiming this scripture at the Gnostics themselves since they denied Jesus was resurrected in a physical body. It must be rock solid proof, right? Hardly!
Most Gnostics did not view any of the scripture literally. As such, John’s statement is in perfect agreement with what a Gnostic would have believed. To the Gnostics, the resurrection story of Christ wasn’t about the literal man; it was about the spiritual awakening of the divine nature that can happen within each individual. This awakening happens while still yet in the flesh! So John’s statement rings true. Christ does come in the flesh. But this coming of Christ is the gnosis (mystical insight) attained by the individual going through a profound experience in higher states of consciousness. This entire process happens while being in a physical body. It is the born again experience of the spiritual nature which rules over the physical nature. This spiritual nature is the Christ.
The Apostle Paul attests to this when he states that he travails in birth until Christ be formed in you!
Valentinus, one of the greatest Gnostics, had the utmost respect for the Apostle Paul. Could it be true that Paul, like Valentinus, shared the Gnostic viewpoint that the Biblical stories were allegories and not literal history? Yes, absolutely. Paul clearly states that the story of Abraham and his two sons “…are an allegory (Galatians 4:24). An allegory means “fable.” I don’t think Paul could be any more direct. Think about the story of Paul meeting Christ on the road to Damascus. If necessary, read it again. It was clearly a mystical experience, not a literal one.
It is sad that most Christians aren’t aware of some of the quotes given by early church fathers and church historians themselves. By their own admission they downplay the literal nature of the gospels:
“The scriptures are of little use to those who understand them as they are written.”
“The scriptures were written by the Spirit of God, and have meanings, not as they appear at the first sight (literal interpretation), but also others, which escape the notice of most. For those (words) which are written are the forms of certain mysteries, and the images of divine matters.”
“There is nothing so easy as be sheer volubility to deceive a common crowd or an uneducated congregation.”
—St. Jerome (Epistle to Nepostian, Lii, 8.)
“How it may be lawful and fitting to use falsehood as a Medicine, and for the benefit of those who want to be deceived.”
—Eusebius (12th Book of Evangelical Preparation, 32 chapter)
“We shall introduce into this history in general only those vents which may be useful first to ourselves and afterwards to posterity.”
—Eusebius (Ecclesiastical History, Vol. 8, chapter 2.)
I must interject here that Eusebius is considered the first church historian. He worked under the emperor Constantine the great, who made Christianity a legal religion of the Roman Empire. Constantine also outlawed Gnosticism around 325 A.D.
“And often it is necessary to deceive, and to do the greatest benefits by means of this device, whereas he who has gone by a straight course had done great mischief to the person whom he has not deceived.”
—John Chrysostom (Treatise On The Priesthood, Book 1).
I got a little curious one day and decided to look up websites that teach that Gnosticism was heresy. One popular website I came to was Let Us Reason Ministries, where I found an article entitled, What is Gnosticism? found HERE.
It is not my intention to start an internet argument here. It’s not worth my time, nor do I wish to slander another website or person. I am sure that the person who wrote this article is genuine in their attempt to convey truth to their readers, but this author makes some statements without thinking them through. For example, in one section of the article the author explains how Hippolytus explains that some Gnostics called Ophites (meaning “snake” in Greek) worshiped the serpent. Because of this, they were evil heretics.
Did this author ever stop to think that Moses himself does something similar? Soon after God commands the Israelites not to make any idols, God then turns around and tells Moses to make a bronze serpent and put it atop a pole so that everyone who looked on it would be healed (Numbers 21:8)! Does this sound like serpent worship? Yes! Is it really serpent worship? No, of course not! This event in the Old Testament isn’t literal, but rather it explains a transformation in consciousness understood by many ancient cultures. You can read more about on my article entitled, Moses, the Bronze Serpent, and Bible Kundalini.
This entire story is actually relevant to the scripture we discussed at the beginning of this post: Christ comes in the flesh because the Christ is but the divine spark potentially manifested within us.
We would all do well to stop and THINK about the sacred stories presented to us in the Bible. What are they really trying to convey to us? Doesn’t the spiritual message of the scriptures bring true transformation to the mind whereas the literal interpretation does nothing? I don’t know about you, but I would rather be transformed form the inside out. I would also rather experience God instead of just having a belief about him. Wouldn’t you? What are your thoughts?