Cosmogony and Gnosticism
I remember when I read Irenaeus’ Against Heresies and was struck by the fact that it was a doctrine of anti-Christ. I later found out that the Apostles thought the same thing about Gnosticism. I highly recommend J.B. Lightfoot and his discussion about the relationship of Gnosticism to radicalized Essenes (J. B. Lightfoot, Saint Paul's Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon, A Revised Text, London: Macmillan and Co. Limited, Copyright May, 1875; December 1875; March, 1879; Macmillan and Co. Limited, 1927.)
His observations preceded the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls that reflect the canon of Scripture and those scrolls popularly known as the Nag Hammadi Library. I could take the time to support the contention of Irenaeus and Lightfoot by explicating the Nag Hammadi Library that shows it is heretical. The notion that Gnosticism was an in-house debate is far from the truth. The very nature of the Creator was at odds between Christianity and the Gnostics. I have spent some years studying the different creation stories and Gnosticism was a confabulation of borrowed stories put together as a new religion.
It is hard to understand in a basically nominal Christian environment how crucial it is to know Who the Creator is and what exactly is given up by ignorance of Him. I had prepared this a couple of weeks ago and did not include it for one reason and then another. I noticed that some do not know what Gnosticism is and certainly are unaware of the differences between the Revelation of God and that of pantheism and naturalism. I apologize and will elaborate if needed.
At the heart of the matter then as is now true with evolution that deems God is docile and the re-emergence of mystical and vain imaginations is that of God as the Creator and His Creation.
Irenaeus discusses what they had conjured up:
"They maintain, then, that in the invisible and ineffable heights above there exists a certain perfect, pre-existent Aeon, whom they call Proarche, Propator, and Bythus, and describe as being invisible and incomprehensible. Eternal and unbegotten, he remained throughout innumerable cycles of ages in profound serenity and quiescence. There existed along with him Ennoea, whom they also call Charis and Sige. At last this Bythus determined to send forth from himself the beginning of all things, and deposited this production (which he had resolved to bring forth) in his contemporary Sige, even as seed is deposited in the womb. She then, having received this seed, and becoming pregnant, gave birth to Nous, who was both similar and equal to him who had produced him, and was alone capable of comprehending his father’s greatness. This Nous they call also Monogenes, and Father, and the Beginning of all Things. Along with him was also produced Aletheia; and these four constituted the first and first-begotten Pythagorean Tetrad, which they also denominate the root of all things. For there are first Bythus and Sige, and then Nous and Aletheia. And Monogenes, perceiving for what purpose he had been produced, also himself sent forth Logos and Zoe, being the father of all those who were to come after him, and the beginning and fashioning of the entire Pleroma. By the conjunction of Logos and Zoe were brought forth Anthropos and Ecclesia; and thus was formed the first-begotten Ogdoad, the root and substance of all things, called among them by four names, viz., Bythus, and Nous, and Logos, and Anthropos. For each of these is masculo-feminine, as follows: Propator was united by a conjunction with his Ennoea; then Monogenes, that is Nous, with Aletheia; Logos with Zoe, and Anthropos with Ecclesia.
These Aeons having been produced for the glory of the Father, and wishing, by their own efforts, to effect this object, sent forth emanations by means of conjunction. Logos and Zoe, after producing Anthropos and Ecclesia, sent forth other ten Aeons, whose names are the following: Bythius and Mixis, Ageratos and Henosis, Autophyes and Hedone, Acinetos and Syncrasis, Monogenes and Macaria. These are the ten Aeons whom they declare to have been produced by Logos and Zoe. They then add that Anthropos himself, along with Ecclesia, produced twelve Aeons, to whom they give the following names: Paracletus and Pistis, Patricos and Elpis, Metricos and Agape, Ainos and Synesis, Ecclesiasticus and Macariotes, Theletos and Sophia.
Such are the thirty Aeons in the erroneous system of these men; and they are described as being wrapped up, so to speak, in silence, and known to none [except these professing teachers]. Moreover, they declare that this invisible and spiritual Pleroma of theirs is tripartite, being divided into an Ogdoad, a Decad, and a Duodecad. And for this reason they affirm it was that the “Savior” - for they do not please to call Him “Lord” - did no work in public during the space of thirty years, thus setting forth the mystery of these Aeons. They maintain also, that these thirty Aeons are most plainly indicated in the parable of the laborers sent into the vineyard. For some are sent about the first hour, others about the third hour, others about the sixth hour, others about the ninth hour, and others about the eleventh hour. Now, if we add up the numbers of the hours here mentioned, the sum total will be thirty: for one, three, six, nine, and eleven, when added together, form thirty. And by the hours, they hold that the Aeons were pointed out; while they maintain that these are great, and wonderful, and hitherto unspeakable mysteries which it is their special function to develop; and so they proceed when they find anything in the multitude of things contained in the Scriptures which they can adopt and accommodate to their baseless speculations.
They proceed to tell us that the Propator of their scheme was known only to Monogenes, who sprang from him; in other words, only to Nous, while to all the others he was invisible and incomprehensible. And, according to them, Nous alone took pleasure in contemplating the Father, and exulting in considering his immeasurable greatness; while he also meditated how he might communicate to the rest of the Aeons the greatness of the Father, revealing to them how vast and mighty he was, and how he was without beginning, - beyond comprehension, and altogether incapable of being seen. But, in accordance with the will of the Father, Sige restrained him, because it was his design to lead them all to an acquaintance with the aforesaid Propator, and to create within them a desire of investigating his nature. In like manner, the rest of the Aeons also, in a kind of quiet way, had a wish to behold the Author of their being, and to contemplate that First Cause which had no beginning.
But there rushed forth in advance of the rest that Aeon who was much the latest of them, and was the youngest of the Duodecad which sprang from Anthropos and Ecclesia, namely Sophia, and suffered passion apart from the embrace of her consort Theletos. This passion, indeed, first arose among those who were connected with Nous and Aletheia, but passed as by contagion to this degenerate Aeon, who acted under a pretense of love, but was in reality influenced by temerity, because she had not, like Nous, enjoyed communion with the perfect Father. This passion, they say, consisted in a desire to search into the nature of the Father; for she wished, according to them, to comprehend his greatness. When she could not attain her end, inasmuch as she aimed at an impossibility, and thus became involved in an extreme agony of mind, while both on account of the vast profundity as well as the unsearchable nature of the Father, and on account of the love she bore him, she was ever stretching herself forward, there was danger lest she should at last have been absorbed by his sweetness, and resolved into his absolute essence, unless she had met with that Power which supports all things, and preserves them outside of the unspeakable greatness. This power they term Horos; by whom, they say, she was restrained and supported; and that then, having with difficulty been brought back to herself, she was convinced that the Father is incomprehensible, and so laid aside her original design, along with that passion which had arisen within her from the overwhelming influence of her admiration.
But others of them fabulously describe the passion and restoration of Sophia as follows: They say that she, having engaged in an impossible and impracticable attempt, brought forth an amorphous substance, such as her female nature enabled her to produce. When she looked upon it, her first feeling was one of grief, on account of the imperfection of its generation, and then of fear lest this should end her own existence. Next she lost, as it were, all command of herself, and was in the greatest perplexity while endeavoring to discover the cause of all this, and in what way she might conceal what had happened. Being greatly harassed by these passions, she at last changed her mind, and endeavored to return anew to the Father. When, however, she in some measure made the attempt, strength failed her, and she became a suppliant of the Father. The other Aeons, Nous in particular, presented their supplications along with her. And hence they declare material substance had its beginning from ignorance and grief, and fear and bewilderment.
The Father afterwards produces, in his own image, by means of Monogenes, the above-mentioned Horos, without conjunction, masculo-feminine. For they maintain that sometimes the Father acts in conjunction with Sige, but that at other times he shows himself independent both of male and female. They term this Horos both Stauros and Lytrotes, and Carpistes, and Horothetes, and Metagoges. And by this Horos they declare that Sophia was purified and established, while she was also restored to her proper conjunction. For her enthymesis (or inborn idea) having been taken away from her, along with its supervening passion, she herself certainly remained within the Pleroma; but her enthymesis, with its passion, was separated from her by Horos, fenced off, and expelled from that circle. This enthymesis was, no doubt, a spiritual substance, possessing some of the natural tendencies of an Aeon, but at the same time shapeless and without form, because it had received nothing. And on this account they say that it was an imbecile and feminine production.
After this substance had been placed outside of the Pleroma of the Aeons, and its mother restored to her proper conjunction, they tell us that Monogenes, acting in accordance with the prudent forethought of the Father, gave origin to another conjugal pair, namely Christ and the Holy Spirit (lest any of the Aeons should fall into a calamity similar to that of Sophia), for the purpose of fortifying and strengthening the Pleroma, and who at the same time completed the number of the Aeons. Christ then instructed them as to the nature of their conjunction, and taught them that those who possessed a comprehension of the Unbegotten were sufficient for themselves. He also announced among them what related to the knowledge of the Father, - namely, that he cannot be understood or comprehended, nor so much as seen or heard, except in so far as he is known by Monogenes only. And the reason why the rest of the Aeons possess perpetual existence is found in that part of the Father’s nature which is incomprehensible; but the reason of their origin and formation was situated in that which may be comprehended regarding him, that is, in the Son. Christ, then, who had just been produced, effected these things among them.
But the Holy Spirit taught them to give thanks on being all rendered equal among themselves, and led them to a state of true repose. Thus, then, they tell us that the Aeons were constituted equal to each other in form and sentiment, so that all became as Nous, and Logos, and Anthropos, and Christus. The female Aeons, too, became all as Aletheia, and Zoe, and Spiritus, and Ecclesia. Everything, then, being thus established, and brought into a state of perfect rest, they next tell us that these beings sang praises with great joy to the Propator, who himself shared in the abounding exaltation. Then, out of gratitude for the great benefit which had been conferred on them, the whole Pleroma of the Aeons, with one design and desire, and with the concurrence of Christ and the Holy Spirit, their Father also setting the seal of His approval on their conduct, brought together whatever each one had in himself of the greatest beauty and preciousness; and uniting all these contributions so as skillfully to blend the whole, they produced, to the honor and glory of Bythus, a being of most perfect beauty, the very star of the Pleroma, and the perfect fruit [of it], namely Jesus. Him they also speak of under the name of Savior, and Christ, and patronymically, Logos, and Everything, because He was formed from the contributions of all. And then we are told that, by way of honor, angels of the same nature as Himself were simultaneously produced, to act as His body-guard."
These beliefs that were being taught appropriated the words and ideas of the Bible and gave a different meaning to them. As an example the understanding of the Logos was taken from the meaning that Memra of the Jewish Targums conveyed and is reflected in John 1 and given a totally foreign meaning. Even today there are those who think that the meaning is derived from Greek philosophy rather than a specific knowledge of the Christ that is in the Old Testament (Tanak). The Christ is totally misrepresented and becomes confused with others such as Horus of the Egyptians. An understanding of the persons and stories in the pantheon of Greek, Egyptian, Akkadian, Sumerian, Babylonian, Phoenician, Hittite, Norse, Anatolian, Persian, Median, Avestian, and Celtic mythology begins to give the significance of what Gnosticism was designed to do. It was to take away the message of God's Creation and Salvation and replace it with that of the ruler of this world's message of Ineffable Destruction--TohuvaBohu, the annihilation of mankind. The witness of the Bible as to the Creator and Salvation is much different than the witness the dark world system. This is stated in the New Testament. J. B. Lightfoot discusses the reason for Paul's letter to the Colossians and it is to refute the incipient Gnosticism present already during his day, a doctrine of the spirit of anti-Christ. We are told in the Bible to test the spirits and we can know if someone is telling us doctrine of anti-Christ if they will admit of Jesus coming to earth in the flesh as a man and being bodily resurrected.
articulus stantis vel cadentis ecclesiae:
"Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that
doeth the will of God abideth for ever.
Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time."
I John 2:15-18
King James Authorized Version of the Holy Bible, Albany, OR: AGES Software, Version 1.0, Copyright 1996 AGES Software, 1996.
"Irenaeus Against Heresies", in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1, Editors A. Roberts and J. Donaldson, Master Christian Library Edition, Albany, OR: AGES Software Version 2.0, Copyright 1997 Ages Software, 1997.
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