I have been fascinated by the gnostics for some time and I'm not really sure why. Well now that I think about it:
1. They are a mystery and mysteries, some of them anyway, beckon me to investigate.
I was excited when I first heard of the Gospel of Judas, hoping it would give us some juicy new knowledge. Alas, on the first read, I'm disappointed. There is not much in it that is new. It is a typical piece of Barbelo Gnosticism from the 2nd century. Further scrutiny may turn up a few things but we won't get any bombshells.
2. How could they believe such wild and depressing things?
I believe in the fundamental honesty of religious belief by people. Most people aside from a few televangelists, faith healers, and similar charlatans really do honestly believe what they do. The gnostic writers were writing what they honestly believed. I don't take them as folks who desired on purpose to be heretics. So where did they get such strange ideas? Bart Ehrman has a good explanation in Lost Christianities which I will relate some time in another post.
3. Maybe if I dig deeper I'll learn something.
Its been hard work but I believe I have derived some insights from the gnostics. To use a technical term, the signal-to-noise ratio is low.
4. Some things I've learned.
The belief of some gnostics that an evil god created the world as a mistake has, thankfully, gone by the wayside. The accompanying belief was that we should deny ourselves pleasure, that God's creation is not good, and that we should be life-denying ascetics. Well, you know, such a thing has been around right up to the present. I can recall lot's of sermons about how bad we are and how this life doesn't matter (pun intended), and how the only thing that we should think about and work on is getting to heaven.
It took another thousand years before people started climbing mountains and inventing science and starting a renaissance.
A student at a local preacher school was telling me about all their rules. (Conversation circa 1979). This fella was pretty well grounded and was confiding in me. He thought they went too far. His young children were definitely impressed. Evidently they were getting the point that pleasure is wrong and so they asked their Dad if riding a motorcycle was a sin.
Learning about the gnostics has been a useful way, by examining contrasts and similarities, to better understand my version of Christianity.
Then there are a few gems that are fun to ponder. There is something about cosmology in the verse below. Let's assume the Big Bang is true. Were not we all there together in that moment of creation? And didn't we come from the light?
Gospel of Thomas verse 50
Jesus said, "If they say to you (plur.), 'Where are you from?' say to them, 'It is from light that we have come - from the place where light, of its own accord alone, came into existence and [stood at rest]. And it has been shown forth in their image.' If they say to you, 'Is it you?' say 'We are its offspring, and we are the chosen of the living father.'
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