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Apostolic Light…of Marcion?

by Alexander Maistrovoy



An illustration of Apostolic Light, light coming through a stained glass window.

 

It is extremely interesting that Gnostic ideas, contrary to official Christian doctrine, were clearly seen in the early apostles and evangelists.


Paul’s expression “None of the rulers of this age” (1 Cor. 2:8) clearly referred not to earthly rulers, but to supernatural powers that rule “this age”, that is, the earthly world in this cosmic age – an allusion to the ruler of the earthly world – the Demiurge and his archons. “The wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Corinthians 2:8).

“The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Corinthians 4:4).


Apostle Paul emphasized that he was speaking not so much against human imperfection and vices of earthly powers as against “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”.


“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12).

There is no doubt that he imagined the forces of evil as having power independent of God and opposed to God.


We find similar allegories in the Gospel of John.


“We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.” (1 John 5:19).

He made it clear that the connection with the Divine Pleroma through the inner Pneuma made a person above the lower and dark forces that rule the world.


“You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4).

The lines from the Gospel of John (chapter 1:4-5) are full of images and symbols very similar to Valentine’s “Gospel of Truth” – first of all, the opposition of light and darkness.


The Gospel of Truth: “Through the knowledge he enlightened those who through oblivion were in darkness. He enlightened them, provided a way, and the way is the truth, which he taught them”.

John 1:4-5: “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”

Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians mentions the division of all people into people of the flesh (Somatics/Hylics); Psychics, who lived according to the determined religious order but had the freedom of choice; and Pneumatics, who carried in themselves a particle of light (Pneuma). Not only people who live primarily by the desires and aspirations of the flesh, but also Psychics too cannot accept what is from the Spirit of God.


“But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (I Cor. 2:14).

This is fully consistent with the Gnostic teaching that salvation is available only to the elect.


Hans Jonas, author of The Gnostic Religion: The Message of the Alien God & the Beginnings of Christianity, discovered a direct borrowing of the Mandaean call in the New Testament.


“The savior approached, stood at Adam’s pillow, and awakened him from his sleep. “Arise, arise, Adam, put off thy stinking body, thy garment of clay, the fetter, the bond . . . for thy time is come, thy measure is full, to depart from this world. . . .”.
“Wake up, O sleeper, rise up from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” (Ephesians, 5:14)

Gnostic ideas, formally rejected by the growing Church, continued to provide intellectual food for Christian authors.


We remember how Valentinus defined Knowledge: ‘What liberates is the knowledge of who we were, what we became; where we were, where into we have been thrown; whereto we speed, wherefrom we are redeemed; what birth is, and what rebirth.’


Let’s compare with the definition of Knowledge by Clement of Alexandria: Knowledge, he wrote, was “of who we were or where we were placed, whither we hasten, from what we are redeemed, what birth is and what rebirth”.


How can we explain this similarity of ideas and images in the canonical gospels and Gnostic texts?


Christian dogma asserts that Gnosticism is nothing more than an aberration, a distortion, a side and dangerous branch of Christianity. Latvian historian, specialist in the history of wounded Christianity Robert Wipper didn’t not agree with this: “Irenaeus’s construction must be considered erroneous. The Gnostics did not separate themselves from anyone or anything; they appeared earlier and … moreover, the theories of the Gnostics served as the basis for teachings, which in turn were accepted in a “corrected” form into the New Testament.”


The largest representative of Protestant scholarship, Adolf von Harnack of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, believes that the “Epistle of the Apostle Paul” became widely known only from the time of its import writings to Rome from Sinope by the Gnostic Marcion in 139.


In other words, the ideas of Paul, which made Christianity a worldwide religion open to pagans, were initially presented to the ancient world in the wrapping of the Gnostic ideas of Marcion.


“The innovations of Marcion are unmistakable. The way in which he attempted to sever Christianity from the Old Testament was a bold stroke which demanded the sacrifice of the dearest possession of Christianity as a religion, viz., the belief that the God of creation is also the God of redemption. And yet this innovation was partly caused by a religious conviction, the origin of which must be sought not in heathenism, but on Old Testament and Christian soil. For the bold Anti-judaist was the disciple of a Jewish thinker, Paul, and the origin of Marcion’s antinomianism may be ultimately found in the prophets. It will always be the glory of Marcion in the early history of the Church that he, the born heathen, could appreciate the religious criticism of the Old Testament religion as formerly exercised by Paul”, he wrote.


Robert Wipper, citing Harnack, believed that Marcion should be considered the real founder of the religious philosophy that we find in the New Testament: after all, its supreme principle is the proclamation of the “merciful” Christ, who died and rose again for the salvation of the human race, who forgives people without any merit, solely for faith in his infinite goodness.


Although Christians, unlike the Gnostics, recognize the Old Testament and the Jewish prophets, they retained internal dualism, putting Judaism in the place of the Demiurge. The contrast to the Old Testament of the New is an idea first outlined by the Gnostics: they were the first to proclaim the appearance of Christ as the beginning of a new age, the triumph of the “god of grace” replacing the “god of the earth”.


However, this opposition had much more sinister consequences than in the Gnostic doctrine: for it was not the earthly Creator, but an entire people, who was put in the role of a dark and sinister force. The editors of the New Testament attributed all the qualities of the Demiurge to the worldview of Judaism; Christians condemned Judaism, which could not rise above the idea of a God who is merciful to only the people.


Thus, the collision of worlds moved from the virtual, spiritual realm to the earthly, material one. The Jews were turned into the antipode of the bright principle, and logically, inexorably, over time they turned into accomplices of Satan. This path led to incalculable suffering of the Jews, on the one hand, and the moral collapse of Western civilization, which descended to the Holocaust.


One way or another, Christianity, albeit to a lesser extent, is permeated with the same contempt for the mortal world, passions and tossing as Gnosticism. Like Gnosticism, Christianity likens human life to a “vale of suffering” that ends at the moment of separation of the soul from the body and sees in earthly life a prelude to heavenly life.

The Gnostic desire to move away from the world as much as possible, asceticism, and demonstrative contempt for material wealth influenced many facets of Christian life. Monasticism was probably a continuation of the tradition of the Gnostics, who went into the deserts and mountains to lead a hermitic ascetic life.


The author of this article titled Apostolic Light...of Marcion? is Alexander Maistrovoy.

Alexander is also the author of “Gnosticism through the Prism of the Third Millennium: Or between God and the Creator” Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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