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Gnosticsm & the Proclamation of Christianity with special reference to John's Gospel (Cont)

Gnostic Redemption

The idea of Gnostic Redemption may at first seem opposed to Dodd's opinion. Thus, Gnosis can have a liberating or redeeming effect as its aim is to release the spiritual element in some men from their bondage to matter. The man [17] who has Gnosis is therefore designated a redeemed man, redeemed from ignorance, the antithesis (direct opposite) of Gnosis. This knowledge is primarily religious since it rests, not on one man's investigation but on heavenly mediation and revelation to the select few.

However this is merely putting a religious gloss on the essential 'detailed knowledge' of the higher world and how to get there.

This idea of redemption is far removed from that proclaimed in the Christian Gospel.

Faith in a Christian Redeemer is an irrelevance when applied to Gnostic redemption because faith, in a Christian context, carries the meaning of belief in, trust in and loyalty to the person of Jesus Christ, whilst Gnosis exists on faith in a system.

Webster's 7th Collegiate Dictionary, 1971, gives this definition of Gnosis : "immediate knowledge of spiritual truth held by ancient Gnostics to be attainable through faith alone." But this is not faith in a person, nor in this context, faith in a Redeemer, but faith in the gnostic system of knowledge.

There is no place for christian redemption in gnosticsm of any form.

The Gnostic is convinced that redemption comes from Gnosis. Dodd points out that Marcus the Valentinian taught "that perfect redemption is simply knowledge of the unspeakable Greatness; for defect and suffering or passion have come about through ignorance. The whole state of affairs produced by ignorance is dissolved by knowledge, so knowledge is redemption of the inner man. Knowledge is as it were the dwelling of the spirit. For the spiritual man is redeemed through knowledge."

The giver of knowledge is a Gnostic redeemer.

Dodd continues: "What then is this knowledge? The Gospel, says Basilides, is knowledge of supramundane things. It is in fact precisely the knowledge in the Gnostic myths - knowledge of the nature and origin of the heavenly aeons, of the nature of this world and its rulers, of the nature and origin of man. Assuming that you are the kind of person capable of receiving this knowledge, and of ascending to the higher world, you will be enabled by receiving it to separate your true self from the material order to which it is essentially alien, to find your way through the barriers which divide this world from the other. The knowledge you possess will arm you against the malign powers that would hinder you on your way. ... In a word, knowledge is power. He who knows what he is and whence he is, can find the way home." He who knows the nature of the world and its governing powers can overcome these powers. Hence he who brings this knowledge to men is their Saviour.

Gnosticsm is a belief that certain people only are capable of receiving gnosis and so able to ascend to the highest realms. Christians can get to the middle realm. The rest are consigned to perdition.

This is poles apart from the knowledge of Jesus Christ, the Christian Saviour and Redeemer.

Some Gnostics also think of Jesus as their redeemer. The Gnostic view is illustrated in this Naassene hymn where Jesus is made to say: "Behold, O Father! This quest of evils upon earth is all astray from Thy spirit. But it seeks to escape bitter chaos, and knows not how it shall come through. Send me therefore, Father. Having the seals I will descend. I will traverse all aeons, and I will open up all mysteries, and I will reveal the forms of gods. And having summoned Knowledge I will communicate the secrets of the holy way."

In this way Christ is made to appear in the guise of a Gnostic redeemer, a revealer of the secrets of the holy way through 'Knowledge' of aeons and all mysteries.

But it is clear that whatever john meant by the knowledge which is eternal life through christ, this is not what he meant.

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  1. Man: Def. A human being, whether male or female. 'Man ; he ; mankind' occurs throughout this document, always in this 'non-PC style'. God and Christ are referred to with a capital 'H', as in He and Him. It would cumbersome, to put it politely, to keep to 'PC' in this type of article and I do not even attempt to speak of Jesus Christ and God as 'She', quite apart from the fact that this is very un-scriptural. What a pity that most 'PC-ites' are virtual pagans and have no deep Bible experience!

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