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Typically when one does any scholarship, he or she uses source material relatively close to the font of that source. In this particular case, all of these books or letters were written in the second century. In addition, there is not any record that any of the writers of the epistles actually knew Jesus. We have names which imply that actual apostles wrote them, but there is no evidence whatsoever to support this and in fact, considerable evidence against it. In addition, these texts were found buried in Egypt. While it is true that there was a large contingent of Jews in Alexandria, there is no evidence to support that any of this was even remotely mainstream, even in Egypt, much less in Israel before or after the dispersion.The worst criticism of Gnosticism which one can bring is exactly what another review lauds, that there are hierarchies of knowledge of God. These occur because one comes to experience God inwardly in a way in which others, not yet as “experienced,” cannot know. In this way, Gnosticism is appealing to people who prefer, say Scientology to Christianity. The only thing missing is the language of being clear.Does Gnosticism make its version of Christianity more appealing? I think it does simply because it promotes inner spiritual awareness and does away with a lot of silly rules that we encounter elsewhere such as in Romans 13: 8-9. However the greatest criticism of Gnosticism is this: Gnosticism does away with Jesus Christ. No more virgin birth, no more women at the tomb, no more visiting the underworld and no more ascension to heaven. The good part is that it cuts down on one’s obligations: your truth remains what you experience, what you learn about God inside yourself. It’s an old song in a different guise. Secular humanism didn’t invent itself last century.It is unfortunate that Gnostic writings are inconsistent with the Biblical scheme of things which founds itself directly on Christ’s teachings of the first century. Despite what one hears from itinerant atheists posing as college professors, there is no evidence whatsoever to suppose that Biblical accounts are not so. This, of course, does not deny that there are arguments about certain passages of Biblical scripture. However, not one of these arguments does away with a single message of Christ as the one and only son of God. Secularists have been pounding on these Gnostic writings for years, maintaining that there was a secret collaboration from the church to suppress the truth. Da Vinci Code anyone? I fully understand why one would enjoy getting rid of Jesus as the one and only son of God: that would make religion much freer and open to interpretation. Thus God becomes somewhat of a bumbling idiot presented in so many secular views of this age. The one problem of course, is that these views aren’t new. They always show up with a new name, each maintaining themselves to be correct.It is true that these books were deliberately not included when the Bible was compiled, chiefly by Jerome in 405 and you can read why if you want to understand. Its compilation and translation to the Latin Vulgate is not without issue, but that is certainly a larger topic; his dismissal of the so-called Gnostic Gospels is not an effort of subterfuge, but one of consistency and sense. Far from agreeing with the canon of our New Testament, the Gnostic Gospels are inconsistent with the Old Testament also.Lastly, these Gnostic texts should be read. Each person interested should not read a book about these books, but read the original text, just as he or she should read the Bible as we know it, either Catholic or Protestant versions. To do anything else is to give disservice to the fundamental spiritual truths of him or herself. The truth of Jesus Christ is about spiritual life, one which rises above our natural inclinations. This requires considerable humility. I am unable to do that alone.On the other hand, if you have no desire to do anything other than dream, you can follow Gnostic texts as gospel. Gnosticism costs a little more these days but what’s spiritual clarity worth on the open market? Christ gives it to you for free, but it requires personal change. If paying for spiritual clarity is more your style, enjoy your trance-like states, believe the Gnostic gospels and please say hello to L. Ron Hubbard for me.
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