SEEKERS MORE 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 those slandered as Gnostics believed
faith involved beliefs, but that 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.
There is a new story about those called Gnostics and about other early gospels !
Hopefully, as you have come to this site, you have some curiosity about some new gospels, recently discovered, that many have heard about but of which most have little knowledge. Most believe they supplement, not supplant the biblical gospels, but they add major new insights in the development of early Christianity that can help, not hinder, the way we are Christian in today's world. This site explains why they are not a threat to Christianity, and why they can add a realness and honesty to our faith, deepening our spiritual relationship with one the Gnostics called, quite beautifully, the living Christ. By spending some time, you will come to understand why Elaine Pagels of Princeton University teaches that "these gospels can transform what we know as Christianity." Surprisingly, as not expected, this transformation is about letting Christianity becoming more spiritual, personal, dynamic rather than static, loving rather judgmental, open to new knowledge, allowing difference of beliefs, and refreshing our faith in Christ.
This new story began in 1945, when early and different gospels were discovered in Egypt, near a small village called Nag Hammadi. Fifty two books were found in an ancient jar believed to have been buried over 1600 years ago. This was a different find than the Dead Sea Scrolls, as unlike that discovery, some of these books, surprisingly, were Christian gospels. They are now commonly known as the Gnostic Gospels. They were called "Gnostic" because some early Christians called Gnostics valued them. Importantly, intense scholarly research has affirmed they would have been read along with those in the Bible in early Christianity. What is also rather shocking is they give evidence that some of the other of Jesus' disciples than those in the Bible had gospels written or attributed to them as well. It is fairly unlikely that you ever heard in Sunday School that there might be gospels by Thomas and Philip, and even more shocking, by a women, who from evidence in the Bible was clearly close to Jesus, Mary Magdalene. There is a reason.
Early in the development of Christianity, one form of the Christian church decided other gospels, other than the four they favored, should be silenced and eventually gave the Festal Order in 367 C.E. that they be destroyed. Unbelievably, it was decided they shouldn't even be heard. One major factor was they reveal that even the earliest disciples and apostles had differences of beliefs among themselves. This was not acceptable to this church that believed Christianity should be one voice. These gospels make it clear that these other disciples express a great faith in Jesus, even as Lord and Savior, but they did not conform with the beliefs of a church that was becoming politically powerful in the second century in the Roman Empire. Their story is almost unbelievable but is well-documented.
This church, which first referred to itself as the "apostolic church," declared, as many after them, that there was only one true or correct way for Christians to believe, and this was to accept by faith the beliefs and doctrines that their church taught. They claimed their right to exclusive truth by saying their beliefs were exactly those of Jesus and the apostles (thus their church's name). Then implied they were those of all the apostles. Yet, in spite of this claim, now it is known that apostles in addition to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John had gospels attributed to them. ("Attributed" is the word used by most scholars because it is believed their followers, not they themselves, were those who put their teachings in writing.) Yet more important beyond our feelings on this issue, this church taught all these "other" gospels were false and had no Christian truth in them. In effect, that slammed the door on them.
Well, when read now, it appears one reason this early church might not have appreciated them was because they did not totally support several "necessary" beliefs of this church such as a virgin birth, a bodily resurrection, and only males should be priest. These beliefs should not ever be questioned as it was a sin to do so. Yes, a sin!
Herein was the problem; to disagree with this church's beliefs made one a false Christian. Those who did so were on a path to hell and were given the name "heretics." Today, heretic is not a very powerful word, but early on and throughout history it became a swathing sword to silence any who would challenge the beliefs of this church. As with claiming all the apostles' beliefs as exactly theirs, this church was brilliant and using the term heretic was not a mistake. "Heretic" is a word that means "choice." This church, almost unbelievably, insisted there was no need for choice! This included choosing to hear or read other gospels they disapproved. Hard to believe, but Bishop Irenaeus, a powerhouse in the church, wrote and declared that there could be no more or fewer than four gospels. Why? Because, he explains, "... there are four regions of the universe and four principal winds." Does that make sense? Apparently so at the time, but is a strong reason why most of us never knew other early gospels ever existed. Obviously, Jesus had no say in the matter, but this church, a little over one hundred years after him, decided all other gospels contained no truth -- no truth at all. The Gnostics disagreed, and with the new discoveries, we might better know why.
The Gnostics were among many who were called heretics, but their particular relevance is that they bring a new and different light to Christian faith. Their beauty becomes that they recognized that the message and gift of Christ was more than ironclad beliefs -- even theirs -- which obviously often differed with the church. They believed ones faith in Christ allowed choice and included something more important. Faith was our knowing (gnosis) Christ, and this knowing superseded what one believed. Ironically, this was how the church gave them this name.
As will be learned, the church defined "gnosis" as what one believed or the "knowledge of God." The Gnostics didn't deny this totally, but in their writings there is a much more dynamic meaning or dimension for the meaning of gnosis. As many words like "love" in the English language can have various meanings, so the word gnosis could have different meanings. Thus for the Gnostics, the most important dimension of the word was "knowing" -- as in a relationship. Thus faith was a "relationship" with the living Christ, and not just blindly accepting "on faith" what the church taught.
Of course, the church also taught or would say that faith was a relationship. Yet this relationship could not happen unless one believed "the correct beliefs" about Jesus. How serious was this? As a matter of record, one could not be baptized until the church's beliefs were believed and confessed publicly. Faith became what one believed, and particularly, what one believed about Jesus!
Today, there are many who understandably want to put these Gnostic heretics in the same boat as the early church -- to find salvation you had to believe their beliefs and myths. They want to define them particularly by their myths and portray them as a cult, and at best, maybe a church that just had different beliefs. Many still teach they were interested only in a secret gnosis (knowledge), which some describe as esoteric, exclusive, and thus secretive beliefs or pure mystical insights. With the discovery of these new gospels, there is a major change -- none are directly found!
What are found are myths. Yes, they do have myths in them that reflect the culture of their day. This is a problem. First, many say this is all they believed, and overlook their deep belief and faith in Jesus. Secondly, many write these early Christians off because their myths were false. Thus it is easy to jump to the conclusion that because their myths are no longer valid that their faith was invalid. The critical thing to know is that although their myths have little value today (yet some of us find them interesting), the Gnostics were not bound by them as immovable and unchangeable truths. There is analogy today.
From configurations derived from the Bible, the church long taught the design of the universe was three stories (heaven above, earth in the middle, and hell below). Even in the writings of this early church, the remnants of this design are evident. Yet in 1929, Edmund Hubble began to dissolve this myth when he discovered there might be another galaxy besides ours "out there." Now the Hubble Telescope has proven there are over 125 billion galaxies in our universe. Of course, many are bound to the three story universe, even today, but the reality is that our thinking about the location of heaven and hell will be forced to a more spiritual meaning. This myth has been shattered, as also has been the case for the wild designs of the cosmos by the Gnostics (their mythology). They did not get it right, nor we. Yet does this invalidate theirs or our faith?
For many of us, by giving up, with new knowledge, that the creation was not exactly and only as told in the two creation stories in Genesis, we too are learning that faith is greater than concepts and beliefs that not only the church but many of us have set in stone. And this is where the gnostic way of faith can be of help in making our faith stronger and deeper than fighting to the end that our beliefs can never change. Of course, such stubbornness is today often a hallmark for faith (you believe as I do or you go to hell), but the Gnostics and certainly some of us might ask, "Is that really faith?"
What is being learned from these gospels and the Gnostics is rather astonishing. The new story isn't about believing what they believed, especially their myths, as their faith was not bound by their myths. Faith was a relationship with Christ that was dynamic and not static. As many of us experience, as we grow in knowledge, our beliefs and religious perspectives change in our lifetimes, often making our faith more honest and real. Thus what is interesting is that these Gnostics were Christians who believed in Christ but in their way of faith, they were more seekers of all truth and God than believers in authoritarian answers.
Of course, they had beliefs, and so you more often than not find information that is eager to explain "What the Gnostics Believed." This information isn't all bad, but it almost always is based on their myths. Yet, because they believed Christianity was more than a set system of beliefs, they represent a different kind of faith. For sure, they argued with the church, but there is no evidence that they claimed immovable truth as did the church. Christ's message then wasn't about battling over unchangeable beliefs about him, but always seeking with our minds, bodies, and spirits, our personal relationship with God through him. In this sense, they believed in Jesus, but were more seekers of all truth without having to give up their faith when new truth and knowledge changed the meaning of "truth."
This is what is radical. It is now clear that an early form of Christianity put its rigid stamp on Jesus and did not let his open and loving messages flow beyond their interpretation and beliefs. Now with the discovery of these new gospels, the message isn't about becoming Gnostics. A strong message is that to have faith we all don't need to believe the same. The Gnostics tried to say so, but now their way of faith can allow us renew our vision and relationship with the living Christ -- and do so in our own freedom and honesty. It allows us to move back beyond the rules of this church and listen again to Jesus himself.
This may sound like Gnostics were against the church. Actually, they wanted to be a part of it, but as one scholar said, "the church kicked them out." Yet now some churches may want to revisit these heretics. For these Gnostic Gospels bring the surprising news that these so-called false Christians may have something positive to contribute to Christianity, and particularly, how we embrace faith. With this emphasis on relationships, their faith in Christ was dynamic, more spiritual, personal, and powerful. How powerful? If the gnostic way of faith had prevailed, there would be a different face on Christianity today. So what is the gnostic way of faith?
The gnostic way of faith is about "knowing" Jesus and God as in a relationship. This relationship is free, open, creative, and not the same for all. One does not have to be told what to believe and even how to act, yet there is a respect for knowledge and even differing opinions. You can and should use your brain as well as your emotion as faith can grow and our beliefs, which we all have, can change. You have the ability to think for yourself and have the freedom to choose what is most loving as left open to interpretation in Jesus' Great Commandment. The gnostic style believes seeking God is more important than finding God by a certain dogma or belief. Faith is more spiritual than accepting any closed system of beliefs.
Thus this web site isn't about accepting Gnosticism as a system of their beliefs or myths (yes, some are strange), but it is to affirm that we can be inspired by the freedom found in these new gospels. Its purpose is to share an early and widespread style of Christian faith that those described 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 modern science, to inform our faith and change not only our beliefs, but how we are Christian in today's world. Instead of those with all the answers, our belief in Jesus is led by seeking all truth, yes with emotion and conviction, yet with the realization that in faith no one has the corner on truth. Truth becomes greater than all those who claim to know "the" truth. In short, the gnostic way of faith affirms we can agree to disagree, as many more are accepting today, because faith --not battling over our beliefs-- was the message of Jesus. Although an ancient form of faith, for many of us, it can be and is a very modern and needed way of faith.
"What Follows" are Three Sections about this Different but Suppressed Kind of Faith (All are recommended but feel free to skip down, or if interested in a free Quarterly Newsletter about all this go to the Contact Page accessed by scrolling back to the top of this page.)
First Section: Background as to why even today many assume naively that these so-called "false" Christians have nothing to say to modern Christians.
Within the development of the early church, then, as now, even sincere Christians did not believe the same. Yet as the church developed with a growing number of those called bishops, they were able to claim by political power and self-declared authority that there need not be conflict or difference of beliefs for Christians. Long before Constantine, in the second century, a hundred years after the death and resurrection of Jesus, what was first called the "apostolic church" boldly declared that only their beliefs were the eternal and the unquestionable spiritual truths. There was no need to question or differ from them. Their message was: Only their knowledge (gnosis) of Jesus and God was correct.
As a threat to this purity, the judgment on these who challenged some of the knowledge of the church came to be called "Gnostics,"and they were described as "know nothings," which was the intent of the name. Particularly, any belief that differed, for example, belief in a spiritual resurrection rather than a bodily resurrection, was simply false and wrong. End of the story as the church knew the truth! (Thankfully, many of us can believe eternal life is spiritual and still be Christian today) Not then! As the bishops taught, all their beliefs were immovable." All the beliefs were exactly what Jesus taught, and they need not be questioned. (All this is in historical records.) Although this seems a far cry from what Jesus taught and died for on the cross, this church one hundred years, as so many churches after them, declared that his truth equaled only their answers and should be accepted "on faith."
Very early in Christianity, the Gnostics begged to differ because they never said truth was a closed issue. As will be seen, they had some different beliefs and myths but never do they say that what they believed was final, unquestionable, and immovable truth. In this sense, they were ahead of the times (at least for those today who believe theological diversity is fair). Thus they become viable as an interesting new and different way to believe in Jesus. In fact, their way of faith is very much the way many Christians believe today yet aren't able to express it because that is not how they were told to believe. Indeed, instead of ancient "stuff," their message is quite relevant and modern as this way supports a new kind of freedom in how we believe. It supports:
1. Indeed, our beliefs can change without losing our faith.
2. In regard to faith, we can differ in our beliefs.
3. All beliefs can be challenged.
4. What is true for both the world and religion can be open to question.
5. Faith is more than what we believe or what church to which we belong.
6. Faith is a relationship led by our gnosis (our knowing) the living Christ.
Thus, the Gnostics would argue that this early church got it wrong. What is immovable in Christianity is not our beliefs -- but our faith!
Unfortunately, the Gnostics have been defined mostly for what they believed, and generally, it was assumed that they simply had a different set of beliefs than the church. Now that these new gospels can speak for themselves, it will be seen there is more to their story. They were told they were false Christians because they didn't believe correctly. Ouch! Doesn't that happen sometimes today? They didn't believe this narrow judgment, and as will be seen in the verses below, they had a deep commitment to Jesus with a desire to hear a more loving and caring message from him.
Totally shocking is that those called Gnostic were, at least, at first, members of the church. In their writings, bishops of the church wail against their participation, and yet, almost unbelievably, a gnostic leader was almost elected Pope after the death of Hyginus in 143 C.E. (that might have changed things). So effective was the cry "heretics," before the Gnostic Gospels were discovered in recent times, many believed they were not even Christians.
Now these gospels, attributed to disciples as those in the Bible, show that they believed in Jesus, strongly, as Lord and Savior, and that they are filled with many beautiful expressions of faith in Christ. This was not expected, but the 1945 discovery brings new facts that clarify that these gospels were not just alternatives to the biblical gospels but support the faith message found in them as well. The sad fact is that this church said they should not even be read because they did not totally support the proper beliefs that were found exclusively in only four gospels. All others contained no "truth," and so they were officially condemned.
Space limits but here a few examples from these condemned gospels.
The Gospel of Thomas, verse 77 states: "Jesus said, It is I who am the light which is above them all. From me did the all come forth. Split a piece of wood, and I am there. Life up a stone, and you will find me there."
Verse 16 of the Gospel of Truth says, referring to Jesus, "... the one who is addressed as the Savior, that being the work he is to preform for the redemption of those who are ignorant of the Father, while in the name of the gospel is the proclamation of hope, being discovered by those who search for him."
The Gospel of Mary says in Verse 8: "The blessed one said, Peace be with you. Receive my peace unto yourselves. For the Son of Man is within you. Follow after him! Those who seek will find him."
Hopefully, a few are surprised at the depth and faithfulness of these verses, which only scratches the surface! Verses, such as these, are not usually what one hears are in these gospels. These are chosen, nonetheless, as examples lifting up a theme many have found in these gospels. In these, one can see how the concept of seeking was essential to the faith of the Gnostics (take a look again at them). Interestingly, seek and you will find is not a closed answer but a process -- a part of our faith journey. Yet it is undeniable that these verses express a belief and trust in Jesus.
Nevertheless, earlier it was mentioned that these gospels contain verses that contradicted beliefs that the church was saying could not be challenged because only it and the apostles knew the "truth." Well, when we listen to other apostles than those "chosen" by the the church, the fact is there are some major conflicts about beliefs. Some specific examples are: The Gospel of Philip raises questions about the virgin birth. (Is this a requirement for faith?) The Gospel of Truth and several others argue for a spiritual resurrection. In contrast, a church father wrote, "Anyone who denies the resurrection of the flesh is a heretic, not a Christian" (a clear example of the early demand for the necessary or correct belief). The Gospel of Mary Magdalene makes it clear that even all the disciples did not agree (she argues boldly with Peter) and gives support that women should be priest.
These gospels do something dramatic and transforming for faith. It becomes obvious that not all the disciples believed the same, yet the "ideal" that Christianity was one voice has been the norm for centuries. Of course, that is what Constantine wanted for "harmony" in his Empire, but now these new gospels take us back to a much earlier time in the development of Christianity. They make us rethink the message of Jesus. These gospels allow us to go back beyond the rule of this church and listen to Jesus in a new and different way.
If he wanted all to believe the same way, why didn't he set forth beliefs and doctrines in writings or dictate those himself? Yet a radical take from these gospels is that they make it exceeding clear that one form of Christianity won and established over others what were to become the correct or orthodox beliefs of the faith. I guess the question that must be asked, but for which can only be a subjective answer, as so many have answered for themselves, "Is this what Jesus really desired?" Of course, that is an open question, but for those of us who believe Christianity can be valid in more than one way, these gospels open a new door in understanding Jesus in a more inclusive way.
That only one form of Christianity had the exclusive truth was a watershed for the meaning of faith as the focus became on beliefs. With such need to be right and "the" orthodox, deep emotional battles over beliefs began in earnest. Christian wars were to come. Faith became particularly over "our" beliefs, and it lasted long into history as evident in the major Protestant/Catholic divisions, which are now thankfully beginning to show signs of peace. The point is that somehow between Jesus and Christianity, too often, faith became defined by beliefs, what one's church believed, and particularly, what one believed about Jesus.
Thus it seems natural that many want to just put the Gnostics as a part of this battle for beliefs, but their beauty is that these gospels bring forth a different kind of faith than just establishing another belief system. To have beliefs is not wrong, and to argue our differences, is the cure for just believing anything. Believe anything? No, they would argue that is why we have the right and need to challenge each other.
Yet to insist that one's church or its beliefs (as many still do today) are the only way to know God is -- arrogant judgment -- not faith, and the deeper power and love of Christ gets lost. Thus, their way of faith, not the beliefs of the Gnostics, reopens, incredibly, faith as a relationship. To be clear, the Gnostics do not have all the answers, and so their inspiration for those of us who believe in Jesus, is that we should identify ourselves as more as seekers because that is how we find our vital relationship with both truth and God. Thus directly and indirectly, this is what the Gnostics have to offer. Faith is foremost a living trust in a God who loves us, and the Gnostic Gospels give support to those who believe faith, not immovable beliefs, was the message of Jesus.
Please keep reading, but some of what follows only expands on what has been said. If interested (so far) go to the Contact Page accessed above to sign on for a free quarterly Newsletter on the subject. Or if really interested, see information at the bottom of this file, on a book, totally related to this web site, The Hidden Messages of Jesus:How the Gnostic Gospels Change Christianity.
Second Section: A Call to Refocus Faith by being Seekers
As said in the introduction, these gospels encourage a more dynamic, refreshing, open-minded, spiritual, loving, and exciting way to be a Christian. A different way of faith, as some might assume from preconceptions about these gospels, doesn't mean some radical, secret, or cultic 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, as this gospels says, to "bring forth" 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 personal relationship with the one these gospels refer to as both the "living Jesus" and the "living Christ." They lift up the same Jesus as found in the New Testament gospels (another shock), but more than beliefs about him is building our own vital, spiritual relationship with him.
Thus gnosis meant our knowing Christ -- as one knows a friend! This makes a huge and positive difference.
Of course, the church didn't understand gnosis this way, as for them it meant ones "knowledge" of God. Thus because gospels attributed to Thomas, Philip, and Mary Magdalene taught the "false" knowledge of God, they need not be read. With the charge of being false gospels, it is natural to just say these were then latter gospels. Although not the only reason scholars refute this, here is the clinger. Early bishops and church fathers refer to these gospels and mention some of them by name in their writings! Some have been carbon dated as being early gospels as well. Thus most believe they would have been read alongside the biblical gospels. With the discovery of these written gospels, the evidence becomes that one hundred years after the life of Jesus, those in power in the church decided for Jesus (and us) that these gospels were worthless. And those who read them were "Gnostics" because their gnosis was erroneous.
So in a sense, this is how the name "Gnostic Gospels" came to be; it was because these Christians appreciated them. And because these gospels contained elements of the Gnostic myths, it was convenient for the church to dismiss them as "Gnostic" mythical gospels. Yet now that we know these gospels contained expressions of faith beyond these myths, it can be argued a better name would have been "other" early gospels and writings (actually, there are only a few gospels and many more writings in the collection known as the Gnostic Gospels).
Nevertheless, labeling one's enemy has been helpful in vilifying those we oppose, and in this case, calling all the books "Gnostic," was quite effective. In essence, the church shut the door on truth by limiting Jesus' message to only what they believed, and then by doing so, the way of knowing Jesus and God as one knows a friend (as can be discovered in these gospels) got covered up.
And if that wasn't enough, the church quite successfully taught that their gnosis was "secret knowledge." Of course, this made them to be like a cult, or those who were better than others (as if the church did not make this claim), or those who claimed to know the deep, dark secrets of God that only a few knew.
This is what is quite surprising in these books. As noted earlier, no block of "secret knowledge" is found in these gospels! To comment further, the secret seems to be that we can know the living Christ in different ways and not just the way dictated by the church. To be fair, it is true that some of the books, but not all, are titled secret, e.g., the "Secret Gospel of Thomas." Yet no one is for sure why they are called "secret." They may have been described such because they were deemed "forbidden" writings. Some put them as "advanced" or special teachings akin to when Jesus in the Bible (in Matthew and Mark) draws some disciples away and gives them special or yes --secret -- teachings.
Thus it is quite common today to associate the word gnosis as meaning some kind of secret wisdom or some very deep specific spiritual insights, as they do stress the spiritual over the religious. Yet what is really stressed is that faith is "Beyond Belief" -- the title of one of Elaine Pagels' books. Thus some might hope (and even try to teach) that these books can tell us the "secrets" of what is beyond belief. (Wouldn't we all like to have to those secrets to claim and sell --God forbid!). Yet to the disdain of those who believe gnosis means secret knowledge, these gospels do not tell us what these insights or wisdom might be.
Yet this is what the church wanted people to believe about the Gnostics because it made it appear that they, as opposed to the wisdom of the church, were those who just "thought" they "knew" the "secrets" of the divine and the cosmos. Now it is clear from these gospels that this was an effective tool to slander them as heretical "know--it --alls," and it worked well; it also becomes clear now from these gospels -- they did not!
In no way do these gospels (or the Gnostics) have all the answers. In fact, these gospels, which supplement, not supplant, the biblical gospels, are for the most part inferior to them, but they are powerful in the sense that they unlock that faith is limited to those who tell us that which we must believe -- or else! Rather, they recapture what some of us believe reflects the deeper message of Jesus. Faith becomes being on a journey to seek our positive relationship (gnosis) with God through Christ and his living spirit. Interestingly, then, our spiritual life is something we experience now and is not just another world that comes only when we die. The spirit of Christ is with us now!
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! After all, the tradition told us there were only four. So even if there were other gospels what difference does this make for Christianity?
This is what changes. Until the discovery of other early 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 is limited to our chosen books." "Obey and believe the beliefs and rules of our 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, and in summary: 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, and this relationship affected your positive relationship with yourself and others. 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 in his actions from the cross (which they interestingly 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!
Third Section :
This Site is about being Inspired by the Gnostics, not becoming Gnostics
This may seem strange, but what is interesting is that for liberal Christians, these gospels may speak freedom, and for evangelical Christians it may support their faith as a living, vital relationship with Christ. Maybe, these gospels can speak to both. Whichever one likes best, the Gnostics gift is a call that faith is more than having "the" answers. Of course, we all have answers, but with them, the Gnostics suggest a dose of humility. For too long, the road to judgment has prevailed, and the Gnostics who were some of the first to suffer this fare, now remind us that the spiritual dimension of faith is what should ground us, as they say, in the living Christ.
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 and 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. Almost single-handily in his Against Heresies (Five Volumes of Books), he established it was a sin and "heretical" to question any of the church's teachings.
In contrast, those vilified as Gnostics (a term they did not call themselves but was what the bishops called them), believed other early disciples of Christ should be heard and also that Jesus' message was more than establishing hard-core beliefs. Further, as they believed that Christian beliefs could be open to change, particularly with new knowledge, they were seen as a threat to "true" Christianity. 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?
An important point to repeat is that now it is known that some apostles like Mary Magdalene, Philip, and Thomas were overlooked, but it was established that to believe the truths of their church (and particularly those apostles with whom they agreed) was the way to be Christian. Today, the Gnostics expand the way to be Christian, and almost ironically against their portrayal and image in history, they can broaden our vision of faith.
Gnostics were given the severest of attacks among the heretics, because as members of the church, they were like a cancer within. Nevertheless, they have been portrayed as not even being Christians, believed only in myths (as if the apostolic church had none), and that Jesus wasn't a real person. Now that these gospels can speak for themselves, such charges are not that simple, and there is a new story and evidence about their strong faith and belief in a real Jesus. In spite of their faith in him as Savior, 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 Philip, and the Gospel of Truth) were found in Egypt at the base of a high mountain 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 early gospels 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 must believe?
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 several translations including a paperback 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 (scroll to the top of this page), where you can make comment and may sign on for the free quarterly Seeking Christians Newsletter. This seeking way of faith is also expounded in other files accessed above.
Also another source to learn more is found in the book described next, The Hidden Messages of Jesus, which many have found very inspiring and helpful -- for example, see the reviews at amazonbooks.com. It was written because of the response to this site and gives a much more complete and well documented and organized story of what has been presented here.
"Christ's Way Was A Spiritual Journey"
The Outback Journey--Australia Scott Angus
Information on the Award Winning Book
The Hidden Messages of Jesus: How the Gnostic Gospels Change Christianity by Larry A. Angus, was first published in April 2012. Its fouth edition won the nationally respected CIPA (Colorado Independent Publishers Association) 2014 Merit Award in the category Spirituality/Religion. It also won the Reader's Favorite Five Star Award.
Although intended for a general audience, the book gives footnotes and much scholarly ground for the validity of the information presented in this web site. It is built on years of research and tells the story in an organized book form.
Cost is $16, but less at amazonbooks.com, etc. Available as an e-book, the cost is $6.95. Information on me, an ordained Presbyterian minister, is at amazon as well. A picture of both the book and author are below.
Why Consider the Book? Although not needed to sign on for the Newsletter, in the book, you will learn much more specially about the Gnostic Gospels, how and why they were ordered destroyed, who the Gnostics were, and why they were considered heretics. There are descriptions of their various myths, and you will learn about the contents of many of these gospels. Further, it is explained from documents of the early church how such authoritarian power happened and why these gospels were condemned. It shows how this act by both Bishop Irenaeus and Constantine made believing correctly the necessary way to be Christian, and how this created many wars to follow over beliefs.
Not just presenting facts, the book shows why the new understanding of the Gnostics and these gospels can inspire us today. Gnosis isn't a four letter word, but has been presented, is about 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. Gnostic Christians, in contrast, believed faith was not a closed system of beliefs but foremost a spiritual journey.
To be clear, the book isn't about making one a Gnostic or promoting Gnostic Churches (there are a few who call themselves Gnostics trying to emulate their beliefs). Rather, it is about what might be called developing or affirming a "gnostic way of faith." This way is about seeking and being open to all truth in regards to the world and God. As stated, the Gnostics were more seekers than believers.
Hopefully, then, the book 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.
Thus the Newsletter is called " The Seeking Christians Newsletter." For more information, open the tabs at the top of this page. I really appreciate those who make comments and try to respond personally to those who do so at the Contact Page.
Thanks! Rev. Larry Angus (Biography information is in the next file)
(Sorry for the inconvenience, you must scroll to the top for other files.)