Gnostics and the Supposed Lost Words of Jesus
I keep seeing people touting the idea that there are supposedly “lost words of Jesus” – for example, in pop-up ads. But the reality is that these are actually just ancient heresies being repackaged for an unwary modern audience.
The heresies are from an ancient group of pseudo-Christians, who were known as the Gnostics. The name comes from the Greek word gnosis: “to know.”
The Gnostics wrote many materials in the second, third and fourth centuries. They wrote “Gospels” in the names of some of the first-century apostles. The supposed lost words of Jesus found therein were written hundreds of years after the time He spent on Earth.
The Gnostic “Gospels” are nothing like Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, which are based on eyewitness material and were written in the first century. The Gnostic Gospels are poor derivatives from the biblical Gospels and not vice versa.
The early church rejected the Gnostics and did not perpetuate and circulate their writings. A stash of some ancient Gnostic codices (book-like manuscripts) were found in 1945 in Nag Hammadi, Egypt.
A TV special on the History Channel called it the most important find of Christian history. No, it wasn’t. If anything, it just showed how correct Irenaeus and other early church fathers were in their condemnation of the Gnostic heresies.
The Nag Hammadi find has caused a rebirth of interest in the Gnostics. Finally, there are “alternative Christianities” liberal scholars can learn about and promote – as if the Gnostics were on the same level as the early Christians. The mega-bestseller “The Da Vinci Code” tried to make the case that the Gnostic Gospels were just as valid as the four we have in the Bible.
Before he died in 1998, Dr. Raymond Brown was probably the most respected Bible scholar around. He said of the Gnostic writings that they were rubbish when they were written, and they are rubbish now.
Liberal scholars seem to swoon over the Gospel of Thomas – which was written perhaps as early as A.D. 150, long after the biblical Thomas had died.
I find it ironic that politically correct Bible scholars, like Elaine Pagels of Princeton or Bart Ehrman of the University of North Carolina, who show up on TV specials about Jesus, talk about the Gospel of Thomas as if it’s more important than the biblical Gospels. Yet look at how it ends:
(114) Simeon Peter said to them, “Let Mary leave us, for women are not worthy of life.”
Jesus said, “I myself shall lead her in order to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every woman who will make herself male will enter the kingdom of heaven.”
That’s sexist, to put it mildly. Its overall point does not fit the Judeo-Christian view that God made man (humanity) in His image – male and female He made them. Or the evidence from the true Gospels that Jesus allowed women to play a critical, positive role in His mission.
But it does fit the strange Gnostic worldview, which was anti-creation, anti-matter and anti-law. I suppose many of today’s Gnostics are really just selective Gnostics.
What’s more, many of these Nag Hammadi texts are essentially “word salad,” to use a phrase from Dr. Paul L. Maier, an excellent scholar on Jesus and the Gospels. These statements just don’t make sense. They are gibberish.
No wonder the early church rejected them. Here’s a statement from the Gospel of Philip (again, not written by Philip): “God is a dyer. As the good dyes, which are called ‘true,’ dissolve with the things dyed in them, so it is with those whom God has dyed. Since his dyes are immortal, they become immortal by means of his colors. Now God dips what he dips in water.” (James M. Robinson, editor, “The Nag Hammadi Library,” p. 146).
The Gospel of the Egyptians III, 2 and IV,2, has even more meaninglessness, if that were possible: “Domedon Doxomedon came forth, the aeon of the aeons…..iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu eee eeeeeeeeeee aaaaaaaaa aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa oooooooooooo ooooooooooo.” (“The Nag Hammadi Library,” p. 210).
These are actual quotes from the Nag Hammadi texts of the Gnostic Scriptures.
And yet some of today’s scholars prefer the Gnostics over Jesus as found in the biblical Gospels, who made statements like:
- The truth shall set you free.
- Do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the law and the prophets.
- Those who live by the sword shall die by the sword.
- Beware of sheep in wolves’ clothing.
I’m grateful that we can see God in Christ in the Gospels given us in the first century – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Thankfully, these words were never lost.
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