Gnostici, gnostisisme

De term gnosticisme is etymologisch afkomstig van het Griekse woord voor kennis, gnosis. Gnosis duidt op mystieke, geheime kennis. Gnosticisme is een verzamelnaam voor een brede waaier aan mystiek-religieuze stromingen die stammen van voor het begin van de huidige jaartelling en een bloei kenden in de 2e en 3e eeuw. Wikipedia (NL)

The primary heresy the pre-Nicene church faced was Gnosticism. There were numerous Gnostic teachers and sects, with varying teachings. There were some basic teachings, however, that all Gnostic sects had in common. Among these was the teaching that mankind and the earth were not created by the Father of Jesus. Rather, the Demiurge, who was either a wicked angel or a lesser deity, created mankind and the earth. Because of the imperfections of the Demiurge, all material things (including man’s flesh) are inherently flawed and incapable of salvation. The Gnostics taught that the God of the Old Testament was harsh and cruel and that he was this Demiurge. Some Gnostics labelled him as the “just God,” in contrast to Jesus’ Father, who is the “good God.” Feeling pity on mankind, the ultimate God, the Father of Jesus, sent his Son to show humans the way to salvation. Since the flesh is inherently corrupt, the Son never actually became man. Some Gnostics, called Docetists, taught that the Son took on only the illusion of flesh. Other Gnostic teachers said that there was an actual man named Jesus, whose body the Son of God possessed and used—only to abandon Jesus at the crucifixion.

Most Gnostic teachers rejected the physical sacraments of baptism and communion as being inefficacious. They also rejected the teaching of the resurrection of the body, along with the intermediate state of the dead. Gnostic teachers often claimed that the apostles had secretly revealed their teachings to a few close followers. Without this revealed knowledge (gnosis), humans cannot be saved. Some Gnostic groups taught that there were numerous lesser divinities, and most Gnostics believed in both male and female deities. Some Gnostic sects practiced a strict asceticism; others were notoriously licentious. Among the leading Gnostic teachers of the second century were Basilides, Carpocrates, Cerinthus, and Valentinus. Another leading second-century heretic, Marcion, held to some of the basic Gnostic tenets.

Basis Gnostische leerstellingen

"Timoteüs, waak over hetgeen je is toevertrouwd en mijd het goddeloze gepraat en de tegenstrijdigheden van wat ten onrechte kennis [Gr. Gnosis] wordt genoemd en wordt verkondigd door mensen die van het geloof zijn afgedwaald." 1 Tim. 6:20, 21.

"De Geest van God herkent u hieraan: iedere geest die belijdt dat Jezus Christus als mens gekomen is, komt van God. Iedere geest die dit niet belijdt, komt niet van God; dat is de geest van de antichrist, waarvan u hebt gehoord dat hij zal komen - nu al is hij in de wereld.:" 1 Joh. 4:3,4


The unbelieving say that He only seemed to suffer. Ignatius (c. 105, E), 1.70.

How does anyone benefit me if he praises me, but blasphemes my Lord— not confessing that He was possessed of a body?
Ignatius (c. 105, E), 1.88.

[The Gnostics] abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not confess the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ. . . . Those, therefore, who speak against this gift of God, incur death. Ignatius (c. 105, E), 1.89.

You may have fallen in with some [Gnostics] who are called Christians, but who do not admit this. For they venture to blaspheme the God of Abraham . . . and say there is no resurrection of the dead, and that their souls, when they die, are taken to heaven. Do not imagine that they are Christians. Justin Martyr (c. 160, E), 1.239.

 Those who maintain the wrong opinion say that there is no resurrection of the flesh. Justin Martyr (c. 160, E), 1.294.

There are some who maintain that even Jesus himself appeared only as a spiritual Being, and not in the flesh. Justin Martyr (c. 160, E), 1.295.

When the sacred band of apostles had in various ways completed their lives’ work, and when the [next] generation of men had passed away (to whom it had been vouchsafed to personally listen to the godlike wisdom), then did the confederacy of godless error take its rise through the treachery of false teachers. For upon seeing that none of the apostles were living any longer, they at length attempted with bare and uplifted head to oppose the preaching of the truth by preaching “knowledge falsely so called.” Hegesippus (c. 170), 8.764.

They deny that the Son assumed anything material. For [according to them] matter is indeed incapable of salvation. . . . At every pagan festival celebrated in honor of the idols, these men are the first to assemble. . . . Some of them do not even keep away from that bloody spectacle that is hateful both to God and men, in which gladiators either fight with wild beasts or fight each other in single combat. Irenaeus (c. 180, E/W), 1.324.

Valentinus adapted the principles of the heresy known as “Gnostic” to the distinctive character of his own school. Irenaeus (c. 180, E/W), 1.332.

[The Gnostics use] the above-named invocations so that the persons referred to [upon their deaths] may become incapable of being seized or seen by the principalities and powers. They also use them so that their inner man may ascend on high in an invisible manner. They believe that their body is left among created things in this world, while their soul is sent forward to the Demiurge. And they instruct their disciples, on their reaching the principalities and powers, to make use of these words: “I am a son from the Father—the Father who had a pre-existence, and I am a son in Him who is pre-existent. I have come to behold all things, both those which belong to myself and others, although, strictly speaking, they do not belong to others, but to Achamoth, who is female in nature, and made these things for herself”. . . . And they maintain that, by saying these things, the dead person escapes from the spiritual powers. He then advances to the companions of the Demiurge, and addresses them in this manner: “I am a vessel more precious than the female who formed you. If your mother is ignorant of her own descent, I know myself, and I am aware from where I am. And I call upon the incorruptible Sophia, who is in the Father, and is the Mother of your mother.” Irenaeus (c. 180, E/W), 1.346.

Saturnus [a Gnostic teacher] presented it as a truth that the Savior was without birth, without body, and without form. Rather, he only appeared to be a visible man. Saturnus asserted that the God of the Jews was one of the angels. It was for this reason that Christ came to destroy the God of the Jews: because all the powers wished to destroy His Father. . . . This heretic was the first to declare that two kinds of men were created by the angels— one kind who are wicked and the other who are good. . . . Furthermore, He did not suffer death Himself. Rather, Simon, a certain man of Cyrene, under compulsion carried the cross in his place. Now Jesus changed the appearance of this Simon so that everyone would think he was Jesus. Through ignorance and error, Simon was crucified, while Jesus Himself took on the form of Simon and stood by and laughed at everyone. Irenaeus (c. 180, E/W), 1.349.

Carpocrates and his followers maintain that the world and all the things in it were created by angels greatly inferior to the unbegotten Father. They also hold that Jesus was the son of Joseph. They say He was just like other men, differing from them only in this respect: that inasmuch as his soul was steadfast and pure, he perfectly remembered those things which he had witnessed within the sphere of the unbegotten God.
Irenaeus (c. 180, E/W), 1.350.

So unbridled is their madness, that they declare they have in their power all things that are irreligious and ungodly. And they are at liberty to practice them. For they maintain that things are evil or good simply because of human opinion. They deem it necessary, therefore, that by means of transmigration from body to body, souls should experience every kind of life. Irenaeus (c. 180, E/W), 1.351.

Others of them employ outward marks, branding their disciples inside the lobe of the right ear. From among these ones, there also arose Marcellina, who came to Rome under [the episcopate of] Anicetus. Holding these doctrines, she led multitudes astray. They call themselves Gnostics. They also possess images, some of them painted, and others formed from different kinds of material. They maintain that a likeness of Christ was made by Pilate at that time when Jesus lived among them. Irenaeus (c. 180, E/W), 1.351.

In my first book, which immediately precedes this, exposing “knowledge falsely so called,” I showed you, my very dear friend, that the whole [Gnostic] system developed in divergent and opposite ways. . . . I mentioned, too, the multitude of those Gnostics . . . and the points of difference between them. I explained their various doctrines, and the order of their succession. I have also described all those heresies which have originated with them. Moreover, I showed that all these heretics who introduce impious and irreligious doctrines take their beginning from Simon [Magus]. Irenaeus (c. 180, E/W), 1.359.

Those, moreover, who say that the world was formed by angels, or by another other Maker of it, contrary to the will of Him who is the Supreme Father, err first of all in this very point. Irenaeus (c. 180, E/W), 1.361.

[The Gnostics] possess no proof of their system, which has but recently been invented by them. Sometimes they rest upon certain numbers; sometimes, on syllables; and still other times, on names. Irenaeus (c. 180, E/W), 1.401.

But the rest, who are called Gnostics, take their rise from Menander, Simon’s disciple, as I have shown. And each one of them appeared to be both the father and the high priest of that doctrine into which he has been initiated. Irenaeus (c. 180, E/W), 1.417.

Some, however, make the assertion, that this dispensational Jesus did become incarnate, and did suffer. They represent Him as having passed through Mary just as water passes through a duct. But others allege him to be the Son of the Demiurge, upon whom the dispensational Jesus descended. However, still others say that Jesus was born from Joseph and Mary, but that the Christ from above descended upon him. For Christ Himself was without flesh and was impassible. However, none of the heretics acknowledge that the Word of God was made flesh. Irenaeus (c. 180, E/W), 1.427.

This [Father] is the Maker of heaven and earth, as is shown from his words. He is not the false Father who has been invented by Marcion, Valentinus, Basilides, Carpocrates, Simon, or the rest of the falsely called Gnostics. Irenaeus (c. 180, E/W), 1.468.

Supposing that He was not flesh [as the Gnostics say], but was a man merely in appearance, how could He have been crucified and how could blood and water have issued from His pierced side? Irenaeus (c. 180, E/W), 1.507.

I have proved already that it is the same thing to say that He merely seemed to appear and to say that He received nothing from Mary. For He would not have been a human, truly possessing flesh and blood (by which He redeemed us), unless He had summed up in Himself the ancient formation of Adam. Irenaeus (c. 180, E/ W), 1.527.

Those persons who invent the existence of another Father beyond the Creator, and who call him “the good God,” deceive themselves.
Irenaeus (c. 180, E/W), 1.530.

The heretics . . . do not admit the salvation of their flesh. . . . Instead, they claim that immediately upon their death, they will pass above the heavens and the Demiurge [Creator] and go to the Mother or to that Father whom they have invented. . . . For they do not choose to understand, that if these things are as they say, the Lord Himself, in whom they profess to believe, did not rise again on the third day. Rather, immediately upon His expiring on the cross, He undoubtedly departed on high, leaving His body to the earth. Irenaeus (c. 180, E/W), 1.560.

The Lord observed the law of the dead so that He could become the First- Begotten from the dead. And he tarried until the third day “in the lower parts of the earth.” . . . Accordingly, how must these men not be put to confusion, who allege that “the lower parts” refer to this world of ours, but that their inner man, leaving the body here, ascends into the super-celestial place! Irenaeus (c. 180, E/W), 1.560.

I wonder how some dare to call themselves “perfect” and “Gnostics.” They are inflated and boastful, viewing themselves above the apostle. For Paul himself acknowledged about himself: “Not that I have already attained or am already perfect” [Phil. 3:15].
Clement of Alexandria (c. 195, E), 2.222.

Let not the above-mentioned people call us “natural men,” by way of reproach. Clement of Alexandria (c. 195, E), 2.426.

[The Gnostics] . . . are very anxious to shake that belief in the resurrection that was firmly settled before the appearance of our modern Sadducees. As a result, they even deny that the expectation thereof has any relation whatever to the flesh. . . . For they cannot but be apprehensive that, if it is once determined that Christ’s flesh was human, a presumption would immediately arise in opposition to them that our flesh must by all means rise again. For it has already risen in Christ. Tertullian (c. 210, W), 3.521.

Here they discover humanity mingled with divinity—so they deny the manhood [of Christ]. Tertullian (c. 210, W), 3.535.

They distort into some imaginary sense even the most clearly described doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, alleging that even death itself must be understood in a spiritual sense. They say that the thing which is commonly supposed to be death (that is, separation of body and soul) is not really so. They say that it is instead simply the ignorance of God. Because of this ignorance, they say man is dead to God and is buried in error (similarly to being buried in the grave). Tertullian (c. 210, W), 3.558.

These doctrines, then, the Naasseni attempt to establish, calling themselves Gnostics. Hippolytus (c. 225, W), 5.58.

[The Docetists say] the Son assumed thirty forms from the thirty Aeons. And for this reason, that eternal One existed for thirty years on the earth. Hippolytus (c. 225, W), 5.120.

We refute those who think that the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is a different God from Him who gave the answers of the Law to Moses, or commissioned the prophets. Origen (c. 225, E), 4.275.

From the New Testament, they gather together words of compassion and piety (through which the disciples are trained by the Savior). From these words, it seems to be declared that no one is good except God the Father only. And by this means, they have ventured to designate the Father of the Savior Jesus Christ as the “Good God.” However, they say that the “God of this world” [i.e., the Creator] is a different one.
Origen (c. 225, E), 4.278.

Those belonging to heretical sects read . . . [such statements as] “I am a jealous God, visiting the iniquities of the fathers upon the children,” . . . and“An evil spirit from the Lord plagued Saul” and countless other passages like these. . . . They believe them to be [words] of the Demiurge, whom the Jews worship. They think that since the Demiurge was an imperfect and unloving God, the Savior had come to announce a more perfect Deity. Origen (c. 225, E), 4.356, 357.

How can John [the Baptist] be the beginning of the Gospel if they suppose he belongs to a different God? For he belongs to the Demiurge and (as they hold) is not acquainted with the new Deity. Origen (c. 228, E), 9.305.

I see the heretics attacking the holy church of God in these days, under the pretense of having “higher wisdom.” They bring forth works in many volumes in which they offer expositions of the evangelical and apostolic writings. . . . Therefore, it seems to me that it is necessary for someone to refute those dealers of “falsely called knowledge.” Someone who is able to present the doctrine of the church in a genuine manner should take a stand against these historical fictions and oppose them with the true and lofty evangelical message. Origen (c. 228, E), 9.348; 

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