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The Gnostics and Christ in the Flesh: 2 John 1:7

by Joshua Tilghman on October 17, 2012


71734864 300x200 The Gnostics and Christ in the Flesh: 2 John 1:7Today’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.”

—Origen

“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.”

—Origen

“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?

 

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Igor October 18, 2012 at 10:22 am

Hi Josh,

Here’s an article in support of your analysis that you may find interesting:
http://endofdiseases.com/the_body_of_jesus_and_the_body_of_christ.html

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2 Joshua Tilghman October 18, 2012 at 2:47 pm

Igor,

Thanks for giving us a link for some more information. It’s always nice to check other points of view.

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3 Bernhardt Adjedi Cadbury October 19, 2012 at 8:28 pm

Hi Josh,
Is there not a significant confusion from the beginning of this very post? eg, “Gnostics, they were basically Christians who denied the bodily resurrection of Christ. In other words, the Gnostics argued that Jesus Christ was not raised from the dead in a literal physical body”.

If one denies the individuals esoteric bodily resurrection of the spark of Christ, then obviously such a fellow do not need to confusingly argue that Jesus Christ was exoterically raised from the dead in a literal physical body if i am making a point.

But one point i will want to pin out is that, such esoteric teachings takes place in a deep spiritual understanding, that is the “Christ Consciousness” and if an individuals spark of the Christ is not yet awakened, it is difficult to understand with the literal mind set and that is what the 2012 shift in consciousness is all about which will definitely not be imposed upon humans due to free will.

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4 Joshua Tilghman October 20, 2012 at 12:32 pm

Bernhardt,

Correct me if I am wrong, but are you thinking that the Gnostics considered Jesus Christ as a real physical person who died but didn’t rise physically? I am sorry if I was confusing, but many Gnostic sects believed Jesus Christ to simply be symbolic of the divine spark that resides in us.

You also bring up 2012. We’ll see what happens. It should be interesting for some, probably will be nothing for others. Of course I think these effects have been felt increasingly for some time.

Thanks for commenting.

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5 Bernhardt Adjedi Cadbury October 21, 2012 at 7:05 pm

Dear Josh,
That’s great, but you see, in then time when someone ask Buddha about who is God, he simply remained silent. And so as at now to really ague about whether Jesus was a historical being who died and rose from the death shouldn’t be so important because from my little search, there is a whole lot of sayings and thoughts all over. I think the most relevant desire is for one to experience the awakened Christ consciousness / Divine spark / Divine impulse within us that has been rendered dormant in most humans. Any time you see people ague about the historic reality of the existence of Jesus Christ upon the face of the earth, both have not yet experienced the awakened Christ within.

I am grateful to have been experiencing the awakened Christ within, have my pineal gland awakening …. and much symptoms of fulfillment on my spiritual journey and it is so exciting to have a deep spiritual understanding even though i haven’t made much meditations.

Will you please show me a safer meditation method to still the mind, slay the ego and cast Satan from my heaven. Thanks for now.

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6 Joshua Tilghman October 23, 2012 at 2:33 pm

Bernhardt,

You bring up some excellent points! which shows your growth and maturity. But remember my mission. I wish to gently lead people out of a literal interpretation. Not everyone grows or sees these things as quickly as you have been able to .

There are lots of different kinds of meditation. But be careful. Meditation is usually a safe and effective process as long as we do the other things necessary to prepare. I would recommend getting rid of all addictions and doing some cleanses. Then I would look into Zazen meditation. I believe it to be one of the most effective I have seen thus far.

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7 Bernhardt Adjedi Cadbury October 19, 2012 at 8:39 pm

Hi Josh again,
I will also want to be clear about the manipulation of the Bible by Emperor Constantine the great. If so then where lies the perfect spirit of the scriptures hidden behind the scriptures that has rather made the Bible survive distruction till date.

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8 Joshua Tilghman October 20, 2012 at 12:44 pm

Bernhardt,

I am not sure how guilty Constantine himself was. Personally, I think he knew he needed to unify the empire under one religion in order to strengthen it. But I don’t think he was purposely trying to destroy the spiritual intent of the scriptures. I don’t think he cared so much about what religion it was that he used. Since Christianity was spreading throughout the empire so fast, he chose it. At the time of Constantine, Christianity had evolved to be seen as more literal. By the time of Justinian this was solidified.

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9 Christine Hoeflich October 24, 2012 at 12:43 am

Father Charlie Moore (a Catholic priest who was dismissed from the Church due to his views) used to say, “Instead of worshipping God, be the glory of God.” Thanks for another good post Josh! Christine

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10 Debbie January 2, 2013 at 3:03 pm

Thanks Josh for all you are doing for the world!
Debbie

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11 Joshua Tilghman January 2, 2013 at 3:13 pm

Thanks for letting me know you were here Debbie!

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12 Thomas S December 27, 2013 at 12:47 pm

Most serious New Testament scholars consider 2 John as an inauthentic second-century apologetic entry into the cannon. Nonetheless, the author, whomever it was, is warning against a particular Christian sect’s theological – christological viewpoint, which is in disagreement with his own.

There was great theological diversity among the earliest Christians, originating from the disciples themselves. The sect in question in this verse believed a divine Jesus who performed miracles, brought salvation to the world and was raised from the dead could not have been fully human. Note that even these “heretics” understood Jesus and his resurrection as historical, not allegorical fact. The author is not accusing them of mythologizing the historical events of Jesus’ life. This is reading too much back into the verse through modern eyes.

Gnostics are erroneously lumped together by their detractors as a coherent group sharing the same theology. This is not the case. Other Gnostic sects believed Jesus as the Christ was fully human. Paul, whom I also argue was Gnostic, is emphatic about Christ Jesus living as fully human, suffering, dying and rising bodily from the dead. He overcame death ‘bodily’ that all might be freed from the physical body to live a spiritual life in the now, collectively as the risen Christ’s spiritual body on earth (1 Corinthians, Chapter 15). Now, that’s a radical idea!

As the Gnostic Paul says, without a bodily resurrected Christ, all we have is a mythic tale no more meaningful to our existential predicament than Gulliver’s Travels. The earliest Gnostics closest to the time of Jesus, in fact took the Jesus stories literally. The difference between Valentinians and the so-called orthodox detractors was that they understood actual events as having an unseen spiritual dimension.

As well laid out by Elaine Pagels in her “Johannine Gospel in Gnostic Exegisis”, the Valentinans interpreted actual events as recorded in scripture on three levels: the literal-historical, psychic-religious, and allegorical-spiritual. The Gnostic allegorical-spiritual interpretation of scripture did not deny the actual historical events referenced by the Apostle Paul and the Fourth Gospel writer. For the literal minded, Jesus was a morality teacher. For the religious he was sacrificed to atone for our sins. For the Gnostic, he was Christ, and through him we may also become a Christ.

The notion that scripture is merely allegory or mythic tales somehow leading some to spiritual enlightenment and an ethereal moment of Christ is a modern New Age development.

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13 Joshua Tilghman December 29, 2013 at 11:41 am

Thomas,

Thanks for your engaging comment. I can tell you’re well-read on the subjects you discuss. You stated:

“Gnostics are erroneously lumped together by their detractors as a coherent group sharing the same theology. This is not the case. Other Gnostic sects believed Jesus as the Christ was fully human.”

So true. I sometimes think it is wrong to even recognize different gnostic sects as gnostic. They varied so much in their beliefs, and to this day I don’t think we really understand early Gnostic thought. For example, I don’t think scholars really understand what the Demiurge actually represented. Its easy to say the Demiurge was a lower or false God that created the material world, but is this really what the Demiurge was? I think this is oversimplifying there ideas, however I can’t prove it.

I don’t think most Christians realize how truly diverse Christianity was in its earliest forms. Many are surprised to find that the first recorded history of a canonized New Testament is by a Gnostic, Marcion of Sinope. Of course Marcion’s viewd were refuted at Rome, but it was partly because of Marcion that a canon was developed, hundreds of years after Christ.

Blessings.

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14 Thomas S December 30, 2013 at 3:56 pm

Very true, Josh, regarding the demiurge. For Marcion the demiurge was the Jewish God of the Old Testament, whom he was convinced was not the God Jesus knew. From Plato, the demiurge is the energy, or creative force in the cosmos. The demiurge symbolized as ‘G’ is the great architect or craftsman, which has been handed down through esoteric cults such as the Free Masons. Note that I do not use the word ‘cult’ as a pejorative term. In the Sophian Gnostic tradition, the demiurge is the offspring of Wisdom, and is a lesser god simply ignorant of his/her place in the fullness, and thinks he/she is the only god. Yes, Paul says there are many gods. When I use ‘demiurge’ it is in the sense of “god of this cosmos.” The cosmos is a dimension lower than the realm of the ineffable God whom Jesus came down to reveal. By ‘anti-christ’ I do not mean a person. I intend it to mean ‘anti’ in its proper definition of “parallel.” When I use the word ‘occult’ I simply mean esoteric knowledge of the cosmos and its forces. Yes, these forces are real and can be harnessed by humans. I’m not judging anyone. I’m still learning, which is the path or journey. What I do hope for, is that some may gain the deeper gnosis that “in Christ” there is the power that transcends the cosmos and limitations of the cosmic mind. It is the transcendent Christ. Christ not of the flesh, for flesh cannot inherit the Kingdom. As Christ Jesus taught, the Kingdom is within us, but the great mystery is that it transcends cosmos and its limited power. On the cross, Jesus was the first to take the quantum leap from cosmic to transcendent. Flesh became Spirit. Upon his resurrection, Christ was born! And as a result Christ came to be born in us. Some “New Agers”, again not a pejorative term, don’t get that next level. To put it plainly, Christ power trumps cosmic occult power. We learn from Paul writing to the Gnostic Colossians what it means to BE in Christ, HOW to be in Christ, and how we KNOW we are in Christ (Colossians 3:1-17). There is a personal and community element in addition to the spiritual. Amazing stuff ‘hidden’ in scripture in plain sight, because we have been blinded over the millenia by so called orthodox church interpretations. I apologize for rambling on and thank you for letting me post my thoughts here as your guest. Your hidden meanings blog is very thought provoking. Peace!

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