A Gnostic sect of the 2nd century was known by the name of Cainites.
The Gnostic recast Lipsius dates about the middle of the 3rd century.
To the Gnostic the things of the world are worthless; they are to him matters of indifference.
From this position it easily followed that actions, being merely external, were morally indifferent, and that the true Gnostic should abandon himself to every lust with perfect indifference.
(1) If it represents a type of syncretism as definite as that known to have existed in the developed gnostic systems of the 2nd century, it is inconceivable that Paul should have passed it by as easily as he did.
Speculations about the Perso-Hellenistic Mithras appear to have been transferred to the Gnostic Abraxas.
This conception which is repeated in nearly every Gnostic system, of (seven) world-creating angels, is a specifically oriental speculation.
If, in the Gnostic systems, these become daemonic or semi-daemonic forces, this points to the fact that a stronger monotheistic religion (the Iranian) had gained the upper hand over the Babylonian, and had degraded its gods to daemons.
2 Whether the myth of the creation of the first man by the angels, which recurs in many Gnostic systems, found a place also in the system of Basilides, cannot be determined with any certainty.
From most of the other Gnostic sects, with the exception perhaps of the JewishChristian Gnosticism, he is distinguished by the fact that with him the figure of the fallen female god (Sophia Achamoth), and, in general, the idea of a fall within the godhead is entirely wanting.
Christian teachers, especially those who had a leaning towards Gnostic speculations, took an interest in natural history, partly because of certain passages of Scripture that they wanted to explain, and partly on account of the divine revelation in the book of nature, of which also it was man's sacred duty to take proper advantage.
The most convincing proof of this is that Origen (i) takes the idea of the immutability of God as the regulating idea of his system, and (2) deprives the historical "Word made flesh" of all significance for the true Gnostic. To him Christ appears simply as the Logos who is with the Father from eternity, and works from all eternity, to whom alone the instructed Christian directs his thoughts, requiring nothing more than a perfect - i.e.
The objects of religious knowledge are beyond the plane of history, or rather - in a thoroughly Gnostic and Neo-Platonic spirit - they are regarded as belonging to a supra-mundane history.
At this point Origen succeeded in avoiding the heretical Gnostic idea of God by assigning to the Godhead the attributes of goodness and righteousness.
Here the Gnostic and philosophical character of the system is particularly manifest.
The Gnostic 13v06s, or more probably cf.
This last name is evidently meant to be Hebrew, "Yahweh of the heavens," the God of the Jews being of a secondary rank in the usual Gnostic style.
In the Gnostic basis itself it is not difficult to recognize the general features of the religion of ancient Babylonia, and thus we are brought nearer a solution of the problem as to the origin of Gnosticism in general.
That the epistle implies as already existent a developed system of Gnostic thought such as only came into being in the 2nd century is not true, and such a date is excluded by the external evidence.
Sometimes Clement discusses chronology, sometimes philosophy, sometimes poetry, entering into the most minute critical and chronological details; but one object runs through all, and this is to show what the true Christian Gnostic is, and what is his relation to philosophy.
He thus becomes the true Gnostic, but he can become the true Gnostic only by contemplation and by the practice of what is right.
The disciples of the Gnostic Prodicus boasted (Clem.
Lipsius shows that in the present form of the book there is side by side a strange " admixture of intimate knowledge and gross ignorance of Jewish thought and custom," and that accordingly we must " distinguish between an original Jewish Christian writing and a Gnostic recast of it."
701-703.) But if we except the Zachariah and John group of legends, it is not necessary to assume the Gnostic recast of this work in the 3rd century as is done by Lipsius.
Its present form is due to an orthodox revision which discarded, so far as possible, all Gnostic traces.
Other Gospels Mainly Gnostic And Almost All Lost.
Berlin (1896), pp. 839 sqq., this gospel gives disclosures on the nature of matter (An) and the progress of the Gnostic soul through the seven planets.
Lipsius discovers Gnostic traits in the story, but these are denied by Zahn (Gesch.
The tone of the work is Catholic and anti-Gnostic. For the bibliography of the subject see Hennecke, NT.
Harnack, who was the first to show that these Acts were Catholic in character and not Gnostic as had previously been alleged, assigns their composition to this period mainly on the ground that Hippolytus was not acquainted with them; but even were this assumption true, it would not prove the non-existence of the Acts in question.
Of the Gnostic Acts.
Philosophically considered, therefore, the Gnostic systems are very unlike the rigorous self-consistency of Neoplatonism; although they certainly contain almost all the elements which enter into the Neoplatonic theory of the universe.
Their existence was believed in, and they did actually exist, not only in the catholic congregations - if the expression may be used - but also in the Marcionite Church and the Gnostic societies.
A Gnostic sect took the name Sethians.
In the latter sense it was chiefly used by the Gnostic sects to denote those eternal beings or manifestations which emanated from the one incomprehensible and ineffable God.
It is true that they do not include the whole even of the ecclesiastical literature of the sub-apostolic age, not to mention what remains of Gnostic and other minority types.
The importance of the work has, however, been much overrated; a close examination of the sources for the exposition of the Gnostic system which is con " tained in it has Proved that the information it gives is not always trustworthy.
Among certain Gnostic sects Amen became the name of an angel, and in post-biblical Jewish works exaggerated statements are multiplied as to the right method and the bliss of pronouncing it.
The real root of the difficulty to Platonist as to Gnostic was his sharp antithesis of form as good and matter as evil.
The gnostic sects and their writings were well known to him (viii.
It is of course easy to see that Celsus had no apprehension of the spiritual needs even of his own day which it was the Christian purpose to satisfy, that he could not grasp anything of the new life enjoyed by the poor in spirit, and that he underrated the significance of the Church, regarding it simply as one of a number of warring sections (mostly Gnostic), and so seeing only a mark of weakness.
As to the internal evidence, if the Gospel typifies various imperfect or sinful attitudes in Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman and Thomas; if even the mother appears to symbolize faithful Israel: then, profoundly spiritual and forward-looking as it is, a type of the perfect disciple, not all unlike Clement's perfect " Gnostic," could hardly be omitted by it; and the precise details of this figure may well be only ideally, mystically true.