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.
In 1945, new early gospels were discovered in Egypt, and they were given their name because some Christians labeled Gnostics valued them. Slowly, as these Gnostic Gospels are becoming known to the public, they bring the totally unexpected news that these lost gospels have a startling message that refocuses where the emphasis of Christianity should rest. These gospels raise the flag that our faith is more important than our beliefs and doctrines. Of course, we all have beliefs, as did the Gnostics, but more significant than even their beliefs, is a message from Jesus they believed was not heard, or at least neglected, as the church was becoming organized. The message: Faith for Christians was more than believing beliefs set in stone but is led by trust in Christ and an honest and open seeking of truth and God.
It is rather shocking that other gospels than those in the Bible have been found and that some of the other of Jesus' disciples had gospels attributed to them. Then as they make clear that even the earliest disciples and apostles had differences of beliefs among themselves, it becomes understandable why they were to be officially condemned and ordered destroyed. If Christianity was to be one voice, it was necessary that its gospels show no major conflicts about its beliefs.
What these new gospels now reveal is that these other disciples express a great faith in Jesus, but because the early church decided that they did not tell the story of Jesus correctly, they should be silenced. In other words, there were beliefs in these gospels that did not conform to the orthodox beliefs (mostly about Jesus) that the church said must be confessed before one could be baptized. Today, now that these other gospels can be read again, their value is that they can renew a spiritual revival of faith that goes beyond the necessity of all Christians having to believe the same. What is often misunderstood it that these new gospels do not negate the biblical gospels but enhance the spiritual vision of them as well.
Historical records show by the end of the second century, one form of Christianity was to dominate Christian churches in the Roman Empire. Their church declared, as many after them, that there was only one true way for Christians to believe. This way was to believe the beliefs and doctrines that their church taught. They claimed their authority and right to exclusive truth by saying their beliefs were exactly those of the apostles, and then implied they were those of all the apostles. Thus at this stage they referred in their writings as being the "apostolic church" -- not the Roman Catholic Church.
Yet, in spite of this claim to having received directly the beliefs of Jesus himself from his apostles, now it is known that the apostles Thomas, Philip, and Mary Magdalene also had gospels attributed to them as well as those in the Bible. Nevertheless, this church taught us they were false and had no Christian truth in them. When read now, it appears one reason this early church might not have appreciated them was because they did not support several holy beliefs of this church such as a virgin birth, a bodily resurrection, and only males should be priest. To disagree with these God given beliefs was not to have true faith.
Herein was the problem; to disagree with this church's beliefs made one a false Christian, and the path to hell was led by those called "heretics." Today, heretic is not a very powerful word, but early on and throughout history it became a sword to silence any who would challenge the unquestionable beliefs of this church. As with claiming the apostles' beliefs as their own, 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!
The Gnostics were among many who were called heretics, but they were fairly unique as their challenge went beyond just disagreeing over beliefs and myths. Their challenge was about faith being defined by more than what one believed. 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.
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, say from sex to caring, so the word gnosis could have different meanings. Although the Gnostics didn't deny the word as meaning knowledge, for them its more 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 that faith was a relationship. Yet this relationship could not happen unless one "believed the correct beliefs" about Jesus. This was the promise. If you believed correctly in Jesus, he would love you. Believe their way, and you would have salvation and paradise!
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 by what they believed and portray them as a cult, and at best, maybe a church that just had different beliefs than the church. That is what the church wanted known about these heretics, but now with these new gospels being understood in new light, the Gnostics' challenge is far more than holding their own esoteric and so-called secret exclusive beliefs (none are directly found). Far more important than their interesting myths and different beliefs, as one tries to figure why these gospels have any relevance for today, the key that is unique it that they are about embracing a different kind of faith. As will be learned, they 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.
In this light, the Gnostic Gospels bring the surprising news that these so-called heretics may have something positive to contribute to Christianity. What is evident from these gospels is that 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. You can and should use your brain as well as your emotion as faith can grow and our beliefs can change. You have the ability to think for yourself and have the freedom to choose what is most loving. 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 system of beliefs.
Thus 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 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, with emotion and conviction, yet with the realization that in faith no one has the corner on 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.
"What Follows" Are Three Sections about this Different but Suppressed Kind of Faith
(All are recommended but feel free to skip.) Some might want to go to the "Contact Page" above where you can sign up for a free quarterly Newsletter that attempts to give updates on this subject. Or for some who agree so far, you may want to want to look at information at the bottom of this file about a book that makes clear that this web site is built on scholarly research. An awarding book, it is called The Hidden Messages of Jesus: How the Gnostics Gospels Change Christianity, but please there is much more vital information that can be learned in "What Follows."
First Section: A Background to the Conflict between the early Church and those they Denounced as Heretical and Mythical Gnostics
Even within the development of the church in the New Testament, there were major difference of beliefs and opinions as seen, for example, in the letters to the Corinthians and Galatians. Then, as now, all the early 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.
Unbelievably, a hundred years after the death and resurrection of Jesus, historical records show that the early church of the second century said in no uncertain terms 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 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! In their writings, they literally say the "truth" of the church was "immovable." By truth, they clearly meant it to be the beliefs and doctrines of their church alone; they need not be questioned. As so many churches after them, truth equaled only their answers. Faith became "accepting" their answers as "the" immovable truth.
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 unchangeable 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 role model for Christians today because the message they support is:
1. Indeed, our beliefs can change.
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. 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. That was not expected.
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, "... 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! Of course, not all the verses are so powerful, and many are confusing as some in the Bible. But 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. 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, and that is also often not heard or known because before they were discovered, most expected they would only contain false beliefs and myths. So it is understandable (as that image still prevails) why most people and churches are not even interested and have not got the message that the gospels have the power to slowly change the landscape of Christianity.
To be clear, the truth is that they do contain myths that most of us reject today (these will be discussed), but somewhat startling is that we also learn more about other apostles and the surprising first-hand evidence that they actually differ (oh no, how could that be) with the church on several doctrines and positions. For examples: 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.
Now some of us may agree, and some, disagree, with these positions and may still even have strong feelings about these. That very fact may help an understanding why beliefs became so important. Sure, I would like everyone to accept the beliefs I cherish, but that is not going to happen. It didn't happen in the early church either, yet it is exceeding clear from the writings of the early church, which are extant, they wanted all Christians to believe the same (as they did) and be unified in their beliefs. So one of the primary ways to say they were right and the Gnostics were wrong was to charge that everything they believed was "mythical." In time, it proved to be a great argument, as although many find meanings in the Greek myths, they have all but been proven false, much in the same way, the church's more "modern" myth of a three story universe is now being proven false. Nevertheless, the image laid on the Gnostics was that they didn't believe in Jesus and simply believed in myths. Yet the question becomes, even if they were wrong about their myths, does this make these believers false Christians? That is what the church called them!
An analogy might be if one today doesn't believe creation happened "literally" and "exactly" as told in Genesis, does such a belief also make one a false Christian? Yet, like so often today, because they interpreted Genesis differently, and say not as a scientific textbook, they too were called unchristian and not true believers -- as if literal belief was required for faith.
The shock of these gospels is that these Christians had a faith greater than their myths, and they remind us that our own myths, beliefs, and doctrines need to be open to change and truth. Unfortunately, the image and understanding of these gospels has has been led by the traditional view of religion -- "this is what the Gnostics believed." It is as if their beliefs and myths could not change and their history was set in stone. To be clear, there is much debate over their history and meaning, but it is clear the early church was the winner in defaming them as total heretics. Nevertheless, even if the fathers were absolutely correct, like calling them a dangerous cult and that other gospels were full of lies (both now quite questionable), it is the Gnostics' way of faith, not just arguing their complex history, that brings fresh air for how we are Christians today.
These gospels do something dramatic and transforming for faith. They make us rethink the message of Jesus. 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.
This was a watershed for Christianity 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 led by what we believe, 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 what one believed, 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 beliefs 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 with the one they often called both the real and spiritual "living Christ." Indeed, because of hearsay, and a long and uninformed tradition, some still try to claim the Gnostics would be the last place one would hear that faith is more than what we believe. Yet, both 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.
(If interested in a free Newsletter go the Contact Page or please keep reading. There is also information on a book related to this web site below.)
Second, of three sections: A Call to Refocus Faith
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. As will be learned, the word "gnosis" meant not a block of knowledge, but 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 did not fully support the favored doctrines and positions of the church, their "knowledge" was false, and these gospels could be discarded for the "truth" of Jesus. As will be learned, these difference of beliefs in these gospels were a major reason they were "lost!"
Of course, it is natural to just say these were all simply later and thus false gospels. Although it is not the only reason that scholars believe there were other early gospels, here is the clinger. Early bishops and church fathers refer to these gospels and mention some of them by name in their writings! Now, most believe they would have been read alongside the biblical gospels. Thus, one hundred years after the life of Jesus, the evidence is growing that 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 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 (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 limiting what these Christians meant by gnosis. It appears that the church gave them very little chance to explain what they believed was a more powerful way in understanding the meaning of gnosis --as a way of knowing another. For them, it particularly meant knowing Jesus and God.
Still some argue (and sadly many just accept as if historical truth) that gnosis meant their "secret knowledge." No block of "secret knowledge" is found in these gospels! The secret seems to be that we can know the living Christ in different ways and not just the way dictated by the church. It is true that these gospels are often 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 --secret -- teachings. Many still today do associate the word gnosis as meaning some kind of secret wisdom or some very deep 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, but 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 they were just like a cult who knew it all and 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 move faith as 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. For many of us it is still shocking that originally there were not only the gospels in the Bible but also gospels attributed as well as to Jesus' other first disciples.
Yet in spite of this shocking news, what many don't realize is that they contain beautiful teachings of Jesus, and scholarly sources, as noted, have determined they are as old as the gospels in the Bible. So a natural question, and one that should be disturbing to modern day Christians, 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? The short answer is these gospels did not support the doctrines that the church said represented the narrow and exclusive truths of Christianity.
The details and documentation as to why you, and even I as an ordained Presbyterian minister, had most likely never heard of these gospels is explained further in this web site's files. Also the story is more fully told in my Award Winning book (by the author of this web site), The Hidden Messages of Jesus: How the Gnostic Gospels Change Christianity (by Rev. Larry A. Angus). Information and details about it are below.
My passion is to share how important these gospels can be for refreshing Christian faith as most have little knowledge about them and now the new light in understanding the Gnostics. So there are over 2000 who have signed on for what I call the "Seeking Christians Newsletter." It is a free quarterly Newsletter (see the Contact Page). In those, I try to bring updates and resources for those interested in this subject, but you can always unsubscribe. Interestingly, it is foremost colleges and universities, not churches or seminaries, that are leading the way in making these lost gospels and writings to be seen as serious factors in the development of early Christianity. Nevertheless, someday, the latter will see them, not as a threat but a means to free many inside the church and those out from beliefs they just don't believe and then bring a new vitality to Christianity as faith becomes seeking God in spirit and in truth.
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. As will be learned, they actually wanted to be a part of the church, for its fellowships and relationships, but as one scholar said "the church kicked them out" because there was no room for heretics and especially these wrong headed Christians.
For them, gnosis meant more than head-type knowledge (that could change as it does with time), 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 in 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!
And to be clear, there are those who insist that the Gnostics were a large group who were against Christianity, and that those who were for Christianity tried to be elite Christians (interested in only secret gnosis). Maybe these debaters are correct, but even so, who and what they exactly were is not the issue. With these gospels confirming major differences of beliefs among early disciples, of bring to light the power of early second century bishops and then latter the influence of Constantine, Christianity now can regain the vision of being beyond our many differences about our favorite beliefs. Christianity becomes about being on a journey of faith, open to honest, inquisitive, and differing truth, led by the living Christ.
(Third Section) :
This Site is about being Inspired by the Gnostics, not becoming Gnostics
(Information on the book and Newsletter is below)
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, 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? 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. Today, the Gnostics expand the way to be Christian, and almost ironically against their portrayal and image in history, they 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.
To reiterate, the Gnostic Gospels, written in the same time period as the New Testament, were and are known to exist primarily by negative attacks in the writings of early Bishops of the Church. Bishop Irenaeus was the first to insist in writing that there were only four true gospels. Bishops after his time, and then Constantine apparently agreed, and in 367 C.E. (obviously 300 years after the life and resurrection of Jesus), they were officially ordered destroyed.
This is almost unreal that some would want early gospels silenced and not even heard. Yet the fact is these bishops were amazingly successful, as it is fairly common still today that most Christians don't know about them, or they believe, as told, that they are totally false (without even reading them). Even many churches brush them aside (although they could find a source for great renewal in them) because of the tradition brought by Irenaeus and latter Constantine that there was no Christian value in them. Thus it is natural to question their worth, but a new truth that might be discovered, for those with open minds, is that these new gospels can actually strengthen through their different kind of faith the spiritual vision found in the Bible.
Gnostics were not the only ones who were labeled heretics. The "apostolic church," as first the early bishops described it, gave this label to anyone who had other beliefs than theirs. Yes, there were many. Yet Gnostics were given the severest of attacks, 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 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 (top of this page), where you can make comment and may sign on for the Seeking Christians Newsletter. This seeking way of faith is also expounded in other files accessed above. Although it is not essential to sign on, many have also found the book described next, as very inspiring and helpful -- see the reviews at amazonbooks.com.
"Christ's Way Was A Spiritual Journey"
The Outback Journey--Australia Scott Angus
Information on the Award Winning Book related to this Web Site
The Hidden Messages of Jesus: How the Gnostic Gospels Change Christianity, by Larry A. Angus, was first published in April 2012. It 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.
Cost is $16, but less at amazonbooks, etc. Available as an e-book, the cost is $6.95. A picture of both the book and author are below. More information on the author is in the file above -- "Gnostics Christians" -- and much more in the books' "Introduction." You can preview the book at "Inside the Cover" at amazon or barnes and noble books (type in its name: The Hidden Messages of Jesus).
Why Consider the Book? 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, the book shows why the new understanding can inspire us today. 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.
To be clear, the book isn't about making one a Gnostic or promoting Gnostic Churches (there are a few who try to be Gnostics)--it is about what might be called developing or affirming a "gnostic way of faith." I myself do not identify my self as a "Gnostic Christian." Rather, 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. Thus I call myself a "Seeking Christian," but you my want your own terminology. For more information, open the tabs at the top of this page. I really appreciate those who make comments and try to respond to those who do so at the Contact Page. Thanks! Larry Angus