Jump to content


Photo
- - - - -

Gnosis vs Gnostic Heresy


  • Please log in to reply
9 replies to this topic

#1 Daniela S.

Daniela S.

    Junior Poster

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 34 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 30 May 2013 - 03:00 PM

Greetings to All,

    If anyone has an explanation of the difference between "gnosis" and the heresy of gnosticism which they would be willing to share, I would be very grateful.  I understand that gnosticism is a heresy, but I have also read and heard references to "gnosis" in a positive light, and I hope to gain clarity concerning the difference between the two. 

 

In Christ,

Daniela S.



#2 Antonios

Antonios

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,039 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 02 June 2013 - 05:02 AM

There are many here who can answer that question. Unfortunately, your stuck with my explanation for now! From my understanding, gnosis is knowledge of God, while the Gnostic heresy was a sort of neo-paganistic religious movement during the early history of the Church which spread doctrine which were not according to the faith of the Apostles.

#3 Michael Stickles

Michael Stickles

    Moderator

  • Moderators
  • 1,438 posts

Posted 02 June 2013 - 10:53 PM

The Greek word gnosis refers to either a "seeking to know", or (more commonly) to knowledge or wisdom itself. It's a fairly common word; I counted 29 uses in the New Testament and at least 60 in the Septuagint. Exact meaning derives at least somewhat from context.

 

Gnosticism comes from the Greek adjective gnostikos or "good at knowing; learned; sagacious". There are a lot of flavors and variations, and the term can get mis-applied. But I believe one of the common cornerstones of gnostic belief is a duality between the material world and the upper/spiritual world, with the goal of the gnostic being to transcend the former to attain the latter through the realization of "gnosis" - meaning, in their tradition, esoteric or spiritual/intuitive knowledge.

 

I've heard that the reference in I Timothy 6:20 to "the contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge" (i.e., gnosis) is a reference to a very early form of gnosticism. But I have no idea whether that's accurate or not.



#4 Owen Jones

Owen Jones

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 3,341 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 03 June 2013 - 01:27 PM

Ancient gnosticism, which is largely attributed to Christianity but probably predates it, treats material/immanent reality as either evil, or unreal, or both.  Modern gnosticism is just the reverse. 



#5 Daniela S.

Daniela S.

    Junior Poster

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 34 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 03 June 2013 - 11:28 PM

Thank you for all of your responses. Forgive me, but my mind is still quite muddy and confused about this. I am having a hard time understanding the demarcation between "gnosis", which might be considered healthy for an Orthodox person to move toward, and the particular ideas or beliefs which made "Gnosticism" a heresy. Did the Gnostics have the same understanding of the word's meaning as the Orthodox Christians did? Can anyone say where their error began? Do the Fathers say anything in particular about the true Christian meaning of "gnosis"?

#6 Rdr Andreas

Rdr Andreas

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 5,028 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 04 June 2013 - 08:43 AM

I have read that Gnosticism was secret knowledge whereas there was nothing secret about gnosis.



#7 Anna Stickles

Anna Stickles

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,365 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 04 June 2013 - 06:04 PM

Below is a quote from Fr Schememann's Historical Road of Eastern Orthodoxy, The main contention between Orthodox and Gnostics was not over differences in types or kinds of knowledge, but rather Orthodox rejected a certain spiritual pride that underlie all the gnostic heresies as well as specific false doctrines they came up with.  Notice one of the main points below - instead of converting wholly to the Christian gospel, the gnostics were redefining knowledge of God and salvation in their own terms. And yet the real danger lay in how many of the main points of Christianity were retained, such that often the inexperienced could not tell the difference between Christianity and gnosticism.

 

As in our own time, men were groping for a syncretic religion, in which elements of truth from all doctrines, philosophies, and religions might, as it were, be
one. It was this effort to combine and reinterpret all religions in its own way that rendered Gnosticism a danger to the Church.

 

The danger increased when converted pagans began to outnumber Jews in the Church. Many were attracted to it by the same attitudes that explain the success of Gnosticism. By no means all of them could immediately appreciate the vital distinction between Christianity and the Eastern Hellenistic mystery religions; they saw in the Church what they wanted to see, the crowning of their own religious experience. “These pagans thought that they were under no obligation to abandon their former theories when they became Christian,” writes Professor Bolotov. “On the contrary they thought it correct to interpret and understand Christianity with their aid,(the aid of their former philosophies or mystical experiences)  in a high and perfect sense.” This Christian Gnosticism reached full bloom in the middle of the second century, in the teaching of Basilides, Valentinus, Saturninus, Marcion, and others. Their very number indicates the scale of the movement.


 Attraction to Gnosticism cannot be ascribed only to corrupt imagination or interest in exotic mysteries. Its strength — as well as its falseness — was that, although Christ was acknowledged as the Logos, Savior, and Redeemer, the essence of Christianity as faith in the Incarnation of God and His coming into the world was corrupted. Christianity was transformed into a special mythological philosophy: instead of the drama of sin, forgiveness, and salvation, a personal encounter between God and man, Gnosticism offered a sort of cosmological scheme according to which the “spiritual elements” in the world were gradually freed from the captivity of matter and evil multiplicity gave way to abstract unity. It was a return in a new Eastern form to ancient Greek idealism.

 


 



#8 Anna Stickles

Anna Stickles

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,365 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 04 June 2013 - 06:39 PM

Gnosis, in a positive sense, is knowledge of God ( not simply knowledge about God) and is something we grow into through obedience to the Gospel commands as given to us in and through the sacramental, practical and liturgical life of the Church.



#9 Anna Stickles

Anna Stickles

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,365 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 04 June 2013 - 06:56 PM

Ancient gnosticism, which is largely attributed to Christianity but probably predates it, treats material/immanent reality as either evil, or unreal, or both.  Modern gnosticism is just the reverse. 

Yes, this led to ancient gnostics to reject the humanity of Christ, the Eucharist as being the real body and blood of Christ, and the doctrine of the bodily resurrection. 

 

Modern gnosticism is largely neutral on all these having no definite doctrine. But the idea of Christ is still very .. well..  un-Christian. And there is the same syncretism and spiritual pride.


Edited by Anna Stickles, 04 June 2013 - 07:00 PM.


#10 Daniela S.

Daniela S.

    Junior Poster

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 34 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 04 June 2013 - 10:29 PM

Thank you again, everyone.  I especially appreciate the quote from Fr. Alexander Schmemann.  






0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users