Gnosticism: Concise Introduction For Skeptics

Burne-Jones Edward Mirror of Venus

A first three centuries A.D. diverse religious and theosophical movement, which sponged some of Platonic Philosophy, Zoroastrianism, Judaism and Christianity traditions together. An gnostic held an “ontological dualism between the supreme, ineffable God of love and the material world, considered evil or, at best, indifferent.”(Myers 1987, 421)

A gnostic  believed that though she was imprisoned in the body, which is evil, she possessed a divine pneúma and can be set free through mediate, divine savior, by means of gnosis, a mystical knowledge of true seeing and hearing, to ascend to a state known as Pleroma.

“The focus of Gnostic redemption is not on God”, explained A.C. Myers, “but ultimately upon the individual’s self-understanding and the resulting freedom it provides.”(ibid: 421). Myer noted that many Gnostics tracked their teaching back to Christ Jesus’ secret teaching but “Gnostic christologies offer a savior without the incarnation (a Christ-spirit) who gives knowledge instead of calling for faith (cf. Mark 12:14; Gal. 2:16).”(ibid, 422)

Nicholas Perrin pointed out that “[f]or Gnosticism, existentialism, and deconstructionism alike, salvation/knowledge is obtained individualistically, quite apart from the mediation of communal interpretations and structures”(Perrin 2005, 258) He contended that by “the end of the second century, the church fathers (and rabbis) were eager to refute Gnostic claims.” because virtually every aspect of Gnostic teaching “stood at odds with emerging orthodoxy.”(ibid, 258)


Myers, A. C. (1987). The Eerdmans Bible dictionary (421). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans.

Perrin, Nicholas(2005): “Gnosticism” in Vanhoozer, K. J., Bartholomew, C. G., Treier, D. J., & Wright, N. T. Dictionary for theological interpretation of the Bible. London; Grand Rapids, MI.: SPCK; Baker Academic.

5 thoughts on “Gnosticism: Concise Introduction For Skeptics

  1. Deadly but ubiquitous mix? And your last paragraph? The early church fathers who suppressed and intimidated…and killed…heretics would agree. This tastes a bit of fascist tendencies, and, like fundamentalist orthodoxy, has a negating effect on the positives and power of the message of Jesus.

  2. Thank you for this. It’s funny how there’s nothing new under the sun and forms of Gnosticism can still be seen in today’s social climate

    • I agree, with today’s social climate. I see an amalgam of new age philosophies which often incorporate Gnostic ideas. People do not even have defined theologies with respect to this, they sort of just believe these poorly defined concepts in an effort to suppress the truth.

  3. And so has some form or another of Gnostic tradition been revitalized in our self-absorbed culture. Gnostic traditions are focused on self-realization rather than a Christo-centric worldview. The sense of transcendence it offers coupled with a profound humanism (in its bad sense) is a deadly albeit ubiquitous mix.

    I should perhaps not state things in a derogatory manner, but they are like a fly in the ointment whose been resurrected, buzzing about. Every time you think you’ve got him nailed, he appears again, distracting, deluding, bothersome little pest.

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