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.