Summary: Second in the series Our Still Point with God: The Reliability of the Bible. Gnosticism is still dangerous because it puts man at the center of the universe instead of God.
What about Those Other Gospels?
(Second in the series Our Still Point with God: The Reliability of the Bible)
DISCLAIMER: The material in these three messages come from others who are better scholars than I! Contact me if I can credit anything in this series to its original source.
Introduction: Christians of the early church saw Gnosticism, a religious movement that took root in the second century A.D., as a threat to the historic Old Testament and Jesus’ teaching. Gnosticism is making a comeback in our day through the so-called Gospel of Judas and The Da Vinci Code, and now its upcoming sequel, Angels and Demons, which draws on extra-biblical documents as the base for its story line.
Many Christians are uncritically embracing Gnosticism. But why did the early church reject the Gnostic gospels? Why aren’t the Gnostic gospels relevant for today? Why are so many people returning to Gnostic ideas?
Identify the Current Issue: The reemergence of Gnostic teaching in modern life can be traced to the discovery of Gnostic manuscripts in December 1945. An Arab peasant found a red earthenware jar near Nag Hammadi, a city in Upper Egypt. Inside the jar were 13 leather-bound papyrus books, dating from approximately A.D. 350. According to some scholars, these manuscripts were penned mostly by Jesus’ disciples and hence carry their names, such as the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Philip, and the Gospel of Judas.
The Gospel of Judas is particularly interesting because it states that Judas was not the traitor that Christians have assumed all these years. Rather, he was Jesus’ most trusted disciple, because it was through his betrayal that Jesus was able to go to the cross. According to the story, Jesus gave Judas permission to betray him so that, through death, he could be freed from his physical body (Gnostics believe that matter, including the physical body, is evil). So Judas was actually portrayed as a hero.
At its core, the debate calls into question whether the Gnostic gospels are in fact historically accurate and compatible with the biblical canon as we know it.
Proposition: What makes Gnosticism so dangerous is that it puts man at the center of the universe instead of God, a trend already popular among those who want a convenient and customized faith.
1. The early church rejected the Gnostic gospels for good reason (1 Corinthians 15:1–8).
There is ample evidence from early Christian documents that there was a single Christian faith from the very beginning. When Paul wrote 1 Corinthians around A.D. 55, he spoke of a gospel message he “received” and “passed on” to others. That message included the account of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.
Read 1 Corinthians 15:1–8.
• Having read that passage, please understand that Gnostics do not believe in a bodily resurrection.
In numerous places in the New Testament there are warnings to the early church to reject false teaching and hold to sound doctrine.
• The early church teachers were very concerned about fighting against ideas that were not compatible with their doctrine.