NEW GOSPELS ADD A MORE SPIRITUAL VISION FOR TODAY'S CHRISTIANITY
SEEKERS RATHER THAN BELIEVERS
Gnostic Christians believed that questioning one's faith was
always important for it to change and grow. More than
accepting a system of beliefs, the meaning of "gnosis" was
"to know" Christ, and faith was led by seeking a vital,
positive relationship with him. Seeking "gnosis" led to
wholeness in a person's relationship to God and the world.
Christ's way was a spiritual journey, encouraging persons
continually to seek God and all truth. "Gnosis" did not mean
secret knowledge as opponents charged; new gospels
(without belittling or replacing biblical gospels) teach it
meant "knowing" Christ and God as one knows a friend.
In contrast to this dynamic way of faith, the early "apostolic"
church, also known as the Proto-orthodox, declared its
beliefs and doctrines should never be questioned. Those who
asked questions about these beliefs were not true Christians
and were "heretics." Three hundred years after the death and
resurrection of Jesus, Constantine, for political reasons,
sided with those who said only their understanding of Jesus
was correct. Faith became what one believed.
Now we can learn that those slandered as Gnostics believed
that faith involved beliefs, but all beliefs could be challenged,
as faith was about our honest relationship and journey with
the one they called the "living Jesus."
Over the voices of those called Gnostics, Orthodox
Christianity not only prevailed, but it has continued
ever since to define Christianity, foremost as a belief
system, dictated by doctrines. The Gnostic scriptures show
that there was and is a more refreshing, spiritual, honest, open,
loving, and exciting way to be a Christian.
The gnostic way of faith is free, open, and creative. One does not have to be told how to act; particularly, what to believe. You can and should use your brain and modern knowledge.You have the ability to think for yourself. The gnostic style believes seeking God is more important than finding God by a certain dogma or belief. Therefore, this web site isn't about accepting Gnosticism or their beliefs or myths (yes, some are strange), but its purpose is to share an early and widespread style of Christian faith that those labeled as Gnostics heard Jesus teach. Silenced, condemned, and lost, this way of faith allows new knowledge, such as that which now comes from history and science, to inform our faith and change not only our beliefs but how we are Christian in today's world.
(First of three sections that introduce a "Different Way of Faith")
A different way of faith doesn't mean some radical, secret, or cultish way to believe but refers to a dramatic shift in the focus of faith. This focus becomes a dynamic connection to a vital inner experience of God's spirit that Jesus says (in the Gospel of Thomas) is both "within us" and "beyond us." Christianity becomes not merely a collection of facts but an honest and open quest to "bring forth," as the gospel also says, Christ's spirit for both ourselves and the world. Together as a whole, the discovery of these new early gospels puts more emphasis on "how we believe."
The "how" is about our dynamic relationship with the one these gospels refer to as the living Christ. They lift up the same Christ as found in the New Testament gospels, but more than beliefs about him is building our own vital relationship with him. Faith becomes more than accepting certain doctrines, as these gospels give evidence that not even all of Jesus' early disciples believed the same. Yet because these gospels did not fully support such doctrines as the virgin birth, a bodily resurrection, and only male clergy, they were deemed false, one hundred years after the life of Jesus by a church led by bishops. This early church claimed only it knew the true teachings and meanings about Jesus, and to be a "true" Christian, it was necessary to accept all its truths and doctrines. Now with the discovery of what are called the Gnostic Gospels, their significance is that they underline that faith is not about believing certain doctrines but seeking our positive relationship with Christ.
The Gnostic Gospels were unexpectedly discovered in Egypt in 1945. To be clear, their discovery was two years before that of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which absolutely contained no gospels. Yet they are often confused with the Scrolls, and many Christians don't realized their separate importance. This was a different discovery in Egypt, and it contained news that many Christians didn't want to hear -- there were other early gospels. For many of us it is still shocking that originally there were not only the gospels in the Bible but also gospels attributed to Jesus' first disciples, Thomas, Philip, and Mary Magdalene.
Yet in spite of this shocking news, what many don't realize is that they contain beautiful teachings of Jesus, and they would have been read along with the biblical gospels. So a natural question becomes why most of us never knew or heard of them? And, then from a little known fact, why were they officially ordered destroyed three hundred years after the life and resurrection of Jesus? Some answers can be found in this site, and further in the book, built upon it, The Hidden Messages of Jesus: How the Gnostic Gospels Change Christianity.
To be clear, what "changes" is not our faith, but the concept that Christianity has all the answers (as so many religions have claimed to have for understanding God and the world). So what also changes is that there was and is only one correct way to believe in Jesus. A common assumption has been that early Christianity was fairly unified in its beliefs, but there is a reason why this "myth" was established. The fact, well-documented in second century church writings, is that one early form of Christianity, quite successfully, taught boldly only their beliefs contained Christian truth. All others were false and heretical. There was no need to debate or question what they literally described as "immovable truth." At this point, what one believed became the definition of faith over trust, as there was only one correct or orthodox way to believe. Heresy was born, and the battles over "faith" began, resulting in continuous emotional divisions and horrendous wars over what one believed or should believe.
Yet these early gospels provide the unexpected news that some Christians believed Christianity was more a journey of faith than accepting certain beliefs and doctrines. The relevance of these gospels is that once again, as with these Gnostics, many Christians today believe that faith is defined by more than by what one believes. The gnostic way of faith was seeking God in spirit and in truth. Yet what is apparent, as opposed to the early church, they believed "truth" can and does change, especially with new knowledge. Thus the Gnostics believed our beliefs and myths, which we all have, can change -- even theirs; yet what remains constant is our faith.
Until the discovery of other Gospels, the way to be Christian was simply "to believe." This Orthodox or Fundamentalist interpretation of Christ made Christianity another religion -- to oppose others. "Believe in Christ as we do or go to hell." "The only way to know God was limited to their chosen books." "Obey and believe the beliefs and rules of their church and its God given authority." In doing so, you would receive the gift of salvation. This was the orthodox message from Jesus -- to be a "believer."
In contrast, the Gnostics were "seekers." It was far more important to seek God through all kinds of knowledge rather than "just believe." They were believers in Christ, but they heard a different message from Jesus. They had beliefs, as we all do, but they did not insist they had the corner on -- or final -- truth in interpreting the world or God. Christ's message was more spiritual than religious -- not bearing all the answers. The place to find God was within oneself, not in externals like beliefs, dogma, or dictates of the church. Their interpretation was that we could experience the living Christ and God, by seeking, not finalizing God. Your faith is not what you believe about Christ but your relationship with Him. For them, gnosis meant more than head-type knowledge (that could change), but knowing Jesus and God as you know another person. As faith is a two way relationship, it is also essential to know yourself and be touched by what the Gospel of Philip calls the transforming power of "love and light." Seeking God and this relationship, because of Christ and his messages, both in his words and his actions from the cross (which they called a living book), was the true act of faith. That is the gnostic style and spirit found in the exciting materials often called, the Gnostic Gospels!
(Second Section) :
Introduction to the Gnostic Way of Christianity
International Dateline Scott Angus
Gnosticschristians.com is a web site
for those who are interested in learning
about a different way to be Christian that was literally suppressed because it held that Jesus' message was more spiritual than establishing a set of required beliefs about him.
This different way to believe is inspired by those we now know as GNOSTICS --pronounced "Naw-stics." Surprisingly, at least at first, the Gnostics were actually members of early Christian churches. The Gnostics were not an organized denomination or even a church unto themselves. They were a fairly diverse group of the earliest Christians, who accepted the gospels that would become biblical, but also they were those who found value in other gospels. This was not acceptable to one form of the church led by bishops who declared any gospels that did not directly support their beliefs were false. Around 200 C.E., Bishop Irenaeus insisted there were only four true gospels and all others were worthless. This little known Bishop became extremely powerful in silencing other gospels and declaring only the beliefs of his church were precisely those of Jesus. To believe differently was heresy; heresy means "choice." There was no need for choice, and it was a sin to question any of the church's teachings.
In contrast, those vilified as Gnostics (a term they did not call themselves), believed other early disciples of Christ should be heard and also that Jesus' message was more than establishing hard-core beliefs. These Christians believed all the gospels were more about our relationship with the living Christ. Further, as they believed that Christian beliefs could be open to not only differences but change, they were labeled as Gnostics. The name was given because their gnosis (knowledge), in essence their beliefs which didn't agree with the church's, were supposedly wrong and false. This judgment was made primarily by bishops who were organizing themselves as the "apostolic church." Only the beliefs of this church were true because they were exactly those of the apostles. Who better could know the truth? Now it is known that some apostles like Mary Magdalene and Thomas were overlooked, but it was established that to believe the truths of their church (and those apostles with whom they agreed) was the way to be Christian.
The gnostic way of faith was to believe in Jesus by relating and knowing (gnosis) Jesus as a friend. Faith involved beliefs but faith that was greater than our beliefs. Successfully deemed heretics and infidels, Christianity became a belief system rather than a faith system. Today, the Gnostics do not call us to their beliefs or myths, but can inspire us to be Christians who are free to seek and learn new truths, and by our faith always seek our vital and honest relationship through him with God.
The Gnostic Gospels, written in the same time period as the New Testament, were known to exist primarily by negative attacks in the writings of early Bishops of the Church. Since these attacks were made around 200 C.E., it is hard to argue these were just later creations. Also it is known that these Bishops boldly declared that those who disagreed with any of their beliefs were "false teachers." These false teachings included the gospels of Thomas, Philip, and Mary Magdalene, and officially, in 367 C.E. (obviously 300 years after the life and resurrection of Jesus), they were ordered destroyed. This is almost unreal that some would want early gospels silenced and not even heard. Yet the fact is they were amazingly successful, as it is fairly unlikely that you (or even I as an ordained minister) had ever heard much about them. Thus it is natural to question them, but a new truth that might be discovered, for those with open minds, is that these new gospels can actually strengthen the spiritual vision found in the Bible.
Gnostics were not the only ones that were labeled heretics. The "apostolic church," as first the early bishops described it, gave this label to anyone who had other beliefs than theirs. Yet Gnostics were given the severest of attacks, because as members of the church, they were like a cancer within. Early in Christianity, those named Gnostics were slandered as not being true disciples of Jesus, even though one was almost elected as Pope in 143 C.E.
Nevertheless, often, they have been portrayed as not even being Christians. Because they believed differently and challenged some of the beliefs of the church, their faith was not acceptable. Throughout history they were ridiculed for denying "reality." It was taught because they believed in myths (as if the apostolic church had none), their faith in Christ was simply mythical. Now, there is a new story about their strong faith and belief in a real Jesus. In spite of their faith in him, the elimination of writings judged "heretical," "false," and "impure," was almost successful. But thanks to some monks, who most likely hid the forbidden works in a mountain cliff in Egypt, near a village called Nag Hammadi, the Gnostic Gospels and writings can now speak for themselves.
In 1945, fifty-two texts (including such titles as the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Mary, the Gospel of Philip, and the Gospel of Truth) were found in Egypt at the base of a ridge having at least 150 caves. Interestingly, a farmer named Muhammad Ali (al-Samman), looking for softer soil for fertilizer in the talus below one of the caves, found a large jar filled with thirteen books written on papyrus, bound in leather. Muhammad's mother actually burned some pages to kindle a fire, but thankfully, he decided to take them to an antiquities dealer. As had long been rumored, we now know indeed there were other Christian gospels written as well as those in the Bible in the early development of Christianity. Careful research has declared them authentic. Finally, after fifty years of study and translation by scholars, they are available to the general public. They raise questions, which have the potential to free Christianity from centuries of simple answers, and for many, unacceptable positions and beliefs, allowing all truth to be a part of the process of faith.
Are you a person who thinks, beyond the twenty-seven books in the New Testament, chosen by early Bishops, that other gospels and writings written in the same time period, ought to be heard?
Are you one who questions certain beliefs or "articles" of faith in the Apostles' Creed, such as the virgin birth or a bodily resurrection?
Are you one who thinks religions other than Christianity may have validity?
Do you believe women have the right to be clergy?
Are you one who thinks your own relationship with God and Christ is more important than what a church tells you is unquestionable belief?
Is your style of faith honestly seeking what is true about the world and God rather than blind belief?
If you answered "yes" to most of these questions, you could be interested in learning more about these powerful early Christian resources that were suppressed until 1945. (These manuscripts now can be purchased in paperback in a collection called, The Nag Hammadi Library in English, edited by James M. Robinson.)
To register yourself as one who believes, seeking God, is more important than finding God by a certain dogma or belief, go to the "contact us," icon, accessed at the top of this page. This seeking way of faith is also expounded in other files accessed above.
"Christ's Way Was A Spiritual Journey"
The Outback Journey--Australia Scott Angus
(Third Section) :
What follows is information on the newly revised and reedited book inspired by the responses to this web site, so you may want to move on to a different file or page above, such as the Summary or Contact Page, if not interested in the book.
The Hidden Messages of Jesus: How the Gnostic Gospels Change Christianity, by Larry A. Angus, was first published April 2012. The book gives footnotes and much scholarly ground for the validity of the information presented in this web site. Now the new improved edition (December 2013) -- clearer, bolder, and more direct -- is available as an e-book or in print. A picture of the both the book and author are below. More information on the author is in the file -- Gnostics Christians -- and in the "Introduction" to the book.
Certainly, it is not essential for you to have the book to sign on to this network, but it gives far more information and documentation. For a link go to the Contact Page (accessed above). Or Google : amazonbooks.com. or other sights. Type in the name of the book (The Hidden Messages of Jesus). If you do order or read it, please give your review there or other sites such as goodreads.
You can preview it free at "inside the cover" at amazon or barnesandnoble. In the book, you will learn much about the Gnostic Gospels, how and why they were ordered destroyed, who the Gnostics were, and why they were considered heretics. By demonizing them, facts are given how Bishop Irenaeus and Constantine together, but separately, decided what true Christians had to believe, and how this laid the groundwork for many battles and even wars, not for faith, but for Christian beliefs.
Not just presenting facts, there is the revelation that these new gospels bring the unexpected news that there were early Christians who were not locked into narrow and absolute beliefs and myths. Instead, they surprisingly teach that "gnosis" for them meant one's relationship--as in knowing another, especially Christ and God--not some secret knowledge! This knowing was led by searching for the truth--not declaring it as so many have done, including bishops in the early church, who literally put in writing that only they knew the truth of God.
Gnostic Christians, in contrast, believed faith was not a closed system of beliefs but foremost a spiritual journey. The book isn't about making one Gnostics or promoting Gnostic Churches. It is about how these hidden gospels can inspire Christians, in your own church, or for those of you may have left certain churches, to be, as the Gnostics tried to be, honest, open, loving, seekers of God. For more information, open the tabs at the top of this page. Thanks!