Gnostic Jesus Gnostic writings of Jesus portray him as a heavenly redeemer made less of flesh than of spirit. The emphasis of Jesus’ importance is not on his physical humanness but rather, on his ability to show people the way to the kingdom. Jesus put on flesh in order to give people gnosis and reveal to them where they come from and where they will eventually return. When it is time for Jesus to return to his heavenly home, he is crucified and resurrected before he finally ascends.
His body’s lack of importance in some Gnostic texts gives this series of events a different connotation than other versions of the story more common today. The Gnostic understanding of Jesus gives us better knowledge of what will happen to us when we leave the body and world in which we are currently trapped.This understanding also gives us insights into the realm in which we belong.
The lack of concern for the body is also connected with the Gnostic view that anything that happens on this earth or in this realm is irrelevant. I will argue that the issue of flesh is very significant in some Gnostic views of Jesus, citing examples from selected Gnostic texts including, the Gospel of Thomas, the Second Treatise of the Great Seth, Hypostasis of the Archons, the Gospel of Mary, the Gospel of Truth, the Treatise on the Resurrection and the Hymn of the Pearl. Most Gnostic books show Christ to be of heavenly origin. The books either explicitly say that he is from the father and heaven above or imply it by saying that he descended into earth. He is part of the heavenly triad with the Father and the Mother(Franzmann, 39).In the Second Treatise of the Great Seth, the author who is supposedly Christ says, I am from above the heavens (Ehrman, 231). He is also sometimes described as a heavenly light, I am the light which is above all of them: I am All.
The All came forth from me and the All reached me (G of Th., v.77). Many people, however, look at Christ’s incarnation in different ways. According to some Gnostic thought Christ comes to our earth and puts on Jesus’ human body so that he may walk among us. I visited a bodily dwelling (Ehrman, 231).Some of the Gnostic writings show Jesus as an earthly being with a heavenly nature, while others show Jesus as a purely heavenly being with a lack of earthly context. In the Second Treatise of the Great Seth, Christ’s incarnation was into Jesus’ body in which he cast out the original occupier (Franzmann, 75).
Christ’s arrival on earth in the Gospel of Thomas is described in a docetistic way, I stood in the midst of the world, and I appeared to them in flesh (G. of Th, v.28). He is said to appear to them in flesh only in outward appearance (Franzmann, 78).
The Gospel of Truth describes Jesus as a fruit of knowledge that when eaten gives people gnosis (Ehrman, 161). This Gnostic text shows Christ as a revealer. He is referred to as the book or logos, which reveals to us all that is unknown (Ehrman, 162). He put on the book, was nailed to a tree and published the edict of the father on the cross (Ehrman, 162). These actions say that by dying on the cross, which in this text is not in flesh, he is helping people receive gnosis.Many Gnostic views have implied a hatred of the body. The body is what is keeping people from realizing their origin (G. of Thomas, v.
29). For Christ to have a human body seems strange because he has gnosis. Woe to the flesh which depends on the soul; woe to the soul which depends on the flesh (G of Th, v.
112). According to the Hypostasis of the Archons, the body is just a shell for the spirit.Locked within the material shell of the human race is the spark of this highest spiritual reality which (as one Gnostic theory held) the inept creator accidentally infused into humanity at the creation — on the order of a drunken jeweler who accidentally mixes gold dust into junk metal (Groothuis). Our spirit is trapped in our bodies and the only way to free ourselves is through gnosis. After the spirit came forth from the Adamantine Land; it descended and came to swell within him, and that man became a living soul (Hyp of Arc, 164). Anything that happens in this realm of matter is insignificant only when we find the kingdom or when we finally have gnosis, will we actually begin to live (Hyp of Arc, 167-8). All matter is a veil over the truth (Hyp of Arc, 167).
Jesus strips himself of his perishable rags or dirty clothes as he ascends back to heaven (Ehrman, 162, 186). Jesus’ purpose while on earth is to reveal to his people the true nature of their being. Jesus enlightens and imparts knowledge. His job is to give us gnosis so that we may return to our heavenly home. If woman or man truly came to gnosis of this spark, she understood that she was truly free: Not contingent, not a conception of sin, not a flawed crust of flesh, but the stuff of God, and the conduit of God’s immanent realization (Gnostic Society).Spirit is good and desirable; matter is evil and detestable.
According to the Hypostasis of the Archons, there are two heavens, an outer realm and an inner realm. The creation of the earth and humans was flawed. The god of the outer realm created the archons who did not have spirit, while the people created in the inner realm do have spirit, however they are unaware of the spirit within them. When we achieve gnosis we have the understanding that we are from the outer realm and that we have spirit, unlike Yaldabaoth, the god of the inner realm.The Gospel of Thomas is a collection of Jesus’ sayings that are supposed to reveal to us the way to heaven or the outer realm. It shows Jesus to be a revealer of gnosis by clearing the fog or ignorance that surrounds us. The Archons want us to remain ignorant so that we do not enter the perfect outer realm (Hyp of Arc). He explains that the kingdom is a place with no poverty, where all is revealed and that it is already inside and around them but they must learn how to find it.
According to the Hypostasis of the Archons, Jesus Christ is not essential for salvation but he is our bridge to it. He shows us that All who have become aquainted with this way exist deathless in the midst of a dying mankind (Hyp of Arc). To have gnosis is to understand where we come from. Gnosis, remember, is not a rational, propositional, logical understanding, but a knowing acquired by experience (Gnostic Society).
The achievement of Gnosis is something that has to be done on a personal level and cannot be read or learned (Gnostic Society). Jesus shows us the way to the kingdom by awakening us from our drunkenness or blindness where we lost sight of God and heaven (G. of Thomas, v.28). Dependence on the body and earth will keep us in poverty (G. of Thomas, v.29), or without knowledge.Escape from this world comes with knowledge of our origins or the unknowing of beliefs we have that keep us from attaining gnosis.
The beliefs that would keep us from attaining gnosis include the idea that Yaoldabaoth is our true god or that we are actually from this world. Until we realize that our bodies are not important and they everything in this realm is false we will not achieve gnosis. Christ reveals information about the kingdom to Mary Magdalene, telling her that where the mind is there is the treasure (G.
of Mary). Christ’s crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension have great importance on Gnostic teachings.The events that take place at the end of Jesus’ life are perhaps the most important part of the Christian faith. When the flesh is not important, like in Gnosticism, the views on these events are changed. If the body is irrelevant then Jesus’ death is not as important to his followers. Is he able to suffer if he is not really in a body? What is resurrection if the body does not matter? When Christ is crucified in the Second Treatise of the Great Seth, he laughs at those who believe that they are hurting him because they are ignorant.
I did not die in reality, but in appearance. Those in error and blindness…saw me; they punished me.
It was another, their father, who drank the gall and vinegar; it was not I. They struck me with the reed; it was another, Simon, who bore the cross on his shoulder. I was rejoicing in the height over all…And I was laughing at their ignorance. This version of the story is very different from the one in the Bible.
In the biblical account, Christ does not mock his crucifiers but he asks God for forgive …