.. through knowledge. I am attempting to write one coherent essay discussing questions three and two. I propose to first characterize the opposing views of the savior in Gnosticism and in Orthodoxy. Secondly, I will compare the Valentinian and classic Gnostics in how they differ and how the Gospel of Truth exemplifies the features of Valentinian Gnosticism.
The Orthodox view the church as a necessary medium between the laity and god; they argued that without the church and the hierarchy of clergy, the congregation would not be able to attain god on their own. They saw the coming of god’s kingdom as a literal event. They also saw it preposterous thought to separate the body from human life. That is, they saw Jesus as both flesh and spirit that were inseparable. The Orthodox considered the crucifixion of Jesus as a historical account.
They viewed Jesus as a martyr that sacrificed his life so that we may live. It was believed that the martyrdom of Jesus allows for the forgiveness of sins and ensures resurrection and our life everlasting; this sacrifice allowed us to release our guilt and receive forgiveness for our sins. On the matter of what Jesus was, the Gnostics vehemently disagreed with the Orthodox Church. Gnostics believed that Jesus was more than a human martyr; Gnostics believed that the Holy Spirit (Christ) and Jesus of Nazareth were two separate entities. They felt that Jesus was a man of flesh who, at baptism, received the Holy Spirit and became Christ. They looked at it as though the spirit of Christ was occupying the body of Jesus until the crucifixion, where the spirit was transfigured and released so that we may attain salvation.
Gnostics and the Orthodox Church also argued over the point of the suffering, or the passion of Jesus. Gnostics felt that Christ only appeared to suffer and die, it was the body that suffered and when Jesus passed, the spirit was transfigured and released. Gnostics and the Orthodox also disagreed on the point of the existence of God. The Gnostics rationalized that the god of the old testament-a god of creation and punishment was clearly a separate entity from the god of Jesus, who was a loving and forgiving god. How could such a loving god reach out to us with salvation and forgiveness be the same god who created pain, punishment and suffering. The Orthodox believed in “one god, the father almighty creator of heaven and earth.” In fact this was the major claim of the creed that the orthodox Christians proclaimed as part of their faith. Another point of argument was how to attain salvation.
Orthodox Christians felt it was necessary to proclaim, out loud, their belief in one god. This was the discerning factor that allowed them to separate themselves from the Gnostics-who were now considered heretics and a threat to the church. Gnostics believed that as long as one lived in faith and held good conduct throughout their entire life they would achieve salvation. Gnostics felt their approach was superior to that of the Orthodox Christians because even hypocrites could proclaim the creed, not believe in it and still reach life eternal and salvation. After Jesus died, both Orthodox Christians and Gnostics claimed to witness the resurrection of Christ.
The orthodox claimed that they saw the physical reappearance of Jesus Christ and expressed the importance of this type of sighting as the truth. Gnostics had the belief that the relationship between salvation and themselves was on a more personal level. Gnostics insisted that it was merely an encounter between the witness and the spirit of Christ that had been transformed. This follows the Gnostics belief that religious enlightenment came from introspect and self-knowledge. Once one had achieved this gnosis they were considered to be of mature knowledge and a member of an elite group ready to receive the secret knowledge of the spirit.
Gnostics believed that they belonged to the “true church” of an elect few who were worthy; the orthodox Christians would not be saved because they were blind to the truth. Ignatus took the idea of “the father, son and the Holy Spirit” to an extreme. He felt that this same hierarchy was represented on earth by the procession of bishop, priest and deacon. And only by worshiping the bishop as a stand-in for god would they be saved. The Orthodox Church was adamant about the importance of the clergy as the medium to god.
The Valentinians were a branch of Gnosticism that often were not recognized as heretics. They rode a fine line between the orthodox and the Gnostics. The Valentinians were different from the rest of the Gnostics because they, like the Orthodox Church, proclaimed belief in one god. The orthodox believed that once the Valentinians were in seclusion that they entertained the thought of a conflict between the popular image of god as the source of all being. The Orthodox Church was soon more threatened by the Valentinians because they were heretics who’s teachings were comparable to that of the Orthodox in what they said-but what they meant was blasphemous. The Valentinians were like the classic Gnostics because they disagreed with the Orthodox Church on the matter of the importance of clergy in the matter of attaining a relationship with god.
They both viewed the discussion of god as an overlying issue to the question of spiritual authority. They stated that the Orthodox Church was more concerned with the matters of who had more power than focusing on the real matters. The Orthodox stressed the importance of the relationship between the succession of clergy and the connection to the father, son and the Holy Spirit. Clement, of the Orthodox Church decreed that any person who disobeyed the power of the bishop was blasphemous and should be condemned to death. The Gnostics expressed the importance of equality in the worship.
They argued that by considering each other as equals, there would be less concentration on the fight for power and more focus on attaining knowledge and salvation. The Gnostics took a radical position for the time and it still emanates today-the position of women in the church. The Gnostics allowed women to participate in all aspects of the worship; in fact, any one at any time was allowed to assume the position of bishop. This way, there was no arguments over who held more power. The Orthodox Church thought this was total and complete blasphemy.
They felt that women had no place in the leadership of the church. Part of the reason that Gnostics expressed their belief in equality was because of the way that they viewed the relationship between Jesus and his disciples. They did not see Jesus as a superior to the apostles. Rather, they saw Jesus not as a prophet with all of the answers, but as a messenger of the information that should be sed as a resource and a jumping-off point on their search for gnosis. The Gospel of Truth is a Christian Gnostic text linked to the Valentinin School. It is a reflection of the life and work of Jesus.
It reflects the significance of Jesus and his works. This work is exemplary of the basis of the Valentinian Gnostic movement. This text expressed the Valentinian principle that the knowledge of god destroys ignorance. It spells out the mythical account of the fall of Sophia and calls it the description of error. This script talks of Jesus’ work as a revealer and a teacher.
It expresses the point about the significance of his death and resurrection of his spirit and its connection to our salvation. It interprets the event of Jesus’ death as a revelation of the essence of the Father and the Origins of humanity within him. Through this insight, the powers are overcome. It describes the authentic human experience as one attained through knowledge-it introduces the contrast between this life of knowledge and that of the hell of living in ignorance. The account spells out how the revelation permits the eventual return to the Father.
It states that the ultimate goal was to eventually return to the Father. This was made possible through the teachings of Christ as enlightenment to our knowledge. The Gospel of Truth says that we should recognize where we come from and embrace our destiny to return to the father through the salvation of enlightenment and knowledge. The Orthodox Christians and the Gnostics seemed to be at opposite poles when it came to the discussion of religion, the origin and composition of Jesus and god and the relationship of these figures to the importance of authority in the church. The Orthodox took a more strict position on these points of debate-God was only one god and the relationship between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and its analogy to the hierarchy of leaders in the church.
They tried to impress upon their members the importance of respecting the authority of the bishops. The Gnostics felt that neither the church, nor the bishops did have such an important role in the matter of attaining salvation. They also argued that a punishing god of the Old Testament and the forgiving god of the New Testament were different entities. Valentinians seemed to be positioned somewhere in the middle. They agreed with the Orthodox Church, at least out loud, on the point that there was only one god.
On the other hand, they disagreed with the Orthodox and agreed with the Gnostics on the lack of importance over the debate of who held authority over the worship. The Gospel of Truth was a Valentinian account of their position and where they stand on these ideas and about the matter of salvation through knowledge.