Tuesday, June 2, 2009

the reliability of the new testament_part four: the gnostic gospels

In order to understand the Gnostic Gospels and why we should or should not have them in our canon, one must first understand Gnosticism.
10 Characteristics of Gnosticism
1. Gnosticism comes from the Greek word Gnosis, which means “knowledge”
2. Origins: Greek Philosophy. Thus, the first form of Gnosticism is actually secular rather than the Christian form being discussed today in popular circles. It finds its roots deep in platonic thought. A later “Christian” version was developed, but this only means that they adapted Christ to fit their preconceived Gnostic categories.
3. Physical Matter Is Evil. As a platonic system, Gnosticism posits that physical matter is evil. This is due to #4.
4. World Created by a lesser evil god. Also due to its platonic roots, Gnosticism holds the belief in a series of gods in which a lesser god, and in this case an evil god, created the world.
5. No Resurrection. Since matter is evil, the goal of a Gnostic is to escape the physical world. Jesus, therefore, was not resurrected as the scriptures say. Rather his death was an attempt to escape the prison of his body.
6. Jesus either not divine or not human. If matter is evil then you are left with the problem that a good God cannot take on evil flesh. Thus, Jesus either did not have an actual physical body in the first places—docetism—or he was not full divine, or there were two Jesus’, the divine second person of the trinity and the human person of Jesus in whom the divine placed a lot of power.
7. Salvation is through secret knowledge for the enlightened. This knowledge is mystical and secret.
8. Highly Exclusive. It is only for a select group of people, those people who have the spark of the divine. This is one of the great ironies about those who would suggest that Gnosticism should be universal, or that it was unfairly excluded from orthodox circles, or that Gnostic gospels should be universal in the sense of the NT gospels. They simply are ignoring the fact that Gnostics was a secret belief for a select elite. It never was never, and should not now be, a universal religion or a religion that sought to have its views propagated.
9. Either Ascetic or Libertine. Since this world is evil, Gnostics became ascetic or libertine—typically the later.
10. Challenges true doctrine: creation, incarnation, deity of Christ, Salvation by Grace, Resurrection.
“Gnosticism was a natural fruit of the 2nd cent religious quests with its Greek assumptions,eastern religion, and astrological fatalism”
“Coming into contact with Christianity, they [the Gnostics]took the Christian redeemer and gnosticized him, took the Christian preaching and tore it from its OT roots, …took the Christian convictions about the end and purged away such offensively Jewish features as resurrection and judgment.”Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible Vol 2, 738.
Reasons that the Gnostic Gospels were Rejected.
[Go back to part 3 and review the four standards of canonicity as these points correspond to those]
False authorship.
The Gnostic Gospels, if and when written under an apostle’s name, do not bear the marks of Apostolic authorship.
Late date of writing
Most of them are written about one hundred years too late.
Rejected by Church fathers
The fathers were quite vocal in their rejection of the G. gospels.
Rejected by early church
There is no evidence that any of the Gospels received widespread acceptance in the church.
Are not corroborated by the O.T.
They present no continuing story to the OT. They have no connection to the legacy of the OT.
Presents a worldview that is completely different from Judeo-Christianity.
With its deviant views of creation, incarnation, resurrection and other core doctrines, Gnosticism has no connection with Christianity.
“There is no question of any one’s having excluded them [the Gnostic gospels] they have done that for themselves.” Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible Vol 1, 210
Gospel of Judas

How then does the Gospel of Judas hold up under scrutiny?
Originally written before 180
One surviving text dating to the late third cent.
“It has suffered a material loss by erosion estimated at 10 to 15 percent.” Rudolphe Kasser Gospel of Judas 75
“…we cannot find here any more historical information about Judas Iscariot than we find in the canonical gospels.” Gregor Wurst Gospel of Judas 133
"In this gospel, there is no need to be reconciled with the creator of this world, who is merely a blood thirsty rebel. On the contrary, the need is to escape this world and its creator. That happens once one relinquishes the body that belongs to the creator. Jesus’ death is his own escape. And when we die, we too can escape." Bart Ehrman Gospel of Judas 110
"There will be no resurrection. This is perhaps the key point of all. Jesus will not be raised from the dead in this book. Why would he be? The entire point of salvation is to escape the material world. A resurrection of a dead corpse brings the person back into the world of the creator. …a resurrection of the body is the very last thing that Jesus, or any of his true followers, would want." Bart Ehrman Gospel of Judas 110
If this were the evidence that we had for the NT, evangelicals would be the laughing stock of the world!
Gospel of Judas and the Criteria for Canonization

1. Apostolic Authorship
-No known author
2. Continuity with “Canon of Truth”
-Presents deviant message
3. Universal Acceptance
-Rejected by early church and its leaders
4. Self Authenticating, Divine Nature
-Human in origin and message
-This gospel claims to be secret revelation to Judas. The other Gospels are “in the open.” There are not even historical reference points in the Gospel of Judas as there are in the other Gospels.
The scripture teaches that the true scriptures are produced by the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, this is a “more sure” word.
And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. 2 Pet 1:19-21 ESV
The scriptures warn of coming heresy, heresies similar to what Ehrman and Brown are peddling.
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 2 Tim 4:3-4
If you think that the Gnostic Gospels should be equated with scripture, you just need to read them for yourself and compare them to the NT gospels. They will disqualify themselves.

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