Some Gnostics sprinkled the heads of the dying with oil and water to render them invisible to the powers of darkness; but in the East generally, where the need to compete with the Cathar sacrament of Consolatio was less acutely felt, extreme unction is unknown.
Among the Gnostics we meet with the hypothesis of emanation, as, for example, in the curious cosmic theory of Valentinus.
- The system of Origen was formulated in opposition to the Greek philosophers on the one hand, and the Christian Gnostics on the other.
Berthelot, " alchemy rested partly on the industrial processes of the ancient Egyptians, partly on the speculative theories of the Greek philosophers, and partly on the mystical reveries of the Gnostics and Alexandrians."
The earlier fathers, Irenaeus, Hippolytus, Tertullian, believed in chiliasm simply because it was a part of the tradition of the church and because Marcion and the Gnostics would have nothing to do with it.
The word enjoyed high consideration among the Gnostics (cf.
This book, which is found in the Coptic MS. referred to under Gospel of Mary and contains cosmological disclosures of Christ, is said to have formed the source of Irenaeus' account of the Gnostics of Barbelus (i.
The life and writings of Bardaisan, " the last of the gnostics," and in some sense the father of Syriac literature and especially of Syriac poetry, have been treated in a separate article.
With its character largely determined by Jewish elements, and even more by contact with the dogmas of Christianity, this second Alexandrian school resulted in the speculative philosophy of the Neo-Platonists and the religious philosophy of the Gnostics and early church fathers.
In his work On the Soul, chap. xviii., the aeons and genealogies of the Gnostics are " the sacraments of heretical ideas."
But could Christians sufficiently numerous to deserve a long discussion by St Epiphanius in 374-377, who upheld the Synoptists, stoutly opposed the Gnostics and Montanists, and had escaped every special designation till the bishop nicknamed them the " Alogoi " (irrational rejectors of the Logos-Gospel), dare, in such a time and country, to hold such views, had the apostolic origin been incontestable ?
Both bodies of exposition represent the traditional principle at work in the sub-apostolic age, making for the preservation in relative purity, over against merely subjective interpretations - those of the Gnostics in particular - of the historic or original sense of Christ's teaching, just as Ignatius stood for the historicity of the facts of His earthly career in their plain, natural sense.
Wins, "snake"), known also as Naasenes, an early sect of Gnostics described by Hippolytus (Philosoph.
See King, The Gnostics and their Remains (London, 1887); G.
The views of the Gnostics, and of Marcion as well, seemed to the majority of Christians destructive of the gospel, and it was widely felt that they were too dangerous to be tolerated.
Over against the claims of the Gnostics that they had apostolic authority, either oral or written, for their preaching, were set these two standards, by which alone the apostolic character of any doctrine was to be tested (cf.
But the Creed was but the condensed essence of the New Testament scriptures, and behind it there lay an appeal to these scriptures, which was especially necessary where (as in the case of the Valentinian Gnostics) the dissident bodies professed to accept the common belief of Christians.
In its conflict with Gnostics, Marcionites and Montanists the Church was led to insist more and more upon its Bible, its own Bible, just as in its older controversy with the Jews it had to insist on the Bible which it inherited from them.
The traditional Western day for the Christmas festival, 25th December, goes back as far as Hippolytus, loc. cit.; the traditional Eastern day, 6th January, as far as the Basilidian Gnostics (but in their case only as a celebration of the Baptism), mentioned by Clement of Alexandria, loc. cit.
- The earliest known calculations, by Basilidian Gnostics, quoted in Clem.
But in all probability these dates were only one development of those speculations in the region of numbers to which Gnosticism was so prone; and in any case to look for genuine traditions among Egyptian Gnostics, or even in the church of Alexandria, would be to misread the history of Christianity in the 2nd century.
A still more remarkable parallel to the later Neoplatonism is afforded by the Christian Gnostics of Alexandria, especially Valentinus and the followers of Basilides.2 Like the Neoplatonists, the Basilidians believed, not in an emanation from the Godhead, but in a dynamic manifestation of its activity.
But the method observed by these Gnostics in thinking out the plan and the history of the universe is by no means thoroughgoing.
Plotinus is no dualist, like the Christian Gnostics; he admires the beauty and splendour of the world.
To those sections of (the Syrian) Gnostics otherwise generally known as Ophites or Naasseni (see Hippolytus, Philosophumena, v.
Of the actual writings of the Gnostics, which were extraordinarily numerous,' very little has survived; they were sacrificed to the destructive zeal of their ecclesiastical opponents.
Here must also be mentioned the dialogue of Adamantius with the Gnostics, De recta in deum fide (beginning of 4th century).
It is a mistake to regard the Gnostics as pre-eminently the representatives of intellect amongChristians, and Gnosticism as an intellectual tendency chiefly concerned with philosophical speculation, the reconciliation of religion with philosophy and theology.
Ahamoth) among the Gnostics (Ophites) in the narrower sense of the word, the Simoniani (the figure of Helena), the Barbelognostics, and in the system of the PistisSophia or the Primal Man, among the Naasseni and the sect, related to them, as described by Hippolytus.'
The Gnostics in Irenaeus i.
At an early period, and notably in the older systems of the Ophites (a fairly exact account of which has been preserved for us by Epiphanius and Hippolytus), among the Gnostics in the narrower sense of the word, the Archontici, the Sethites (there are also traces among the Naasseni, cf.
Similar ideas are to be found among the " Gnostics " of Epiphanius.
But there can hardly be any doubt that the figure of the great mother-goddess or goddess of heaven, who was worshipped throughout Asia under various forms and names (Astarte, Beltis, Atargatis, Cybele, the Syrian Aphrodite), was the prototype of the µr 1 Trtp of the Gnostics (cf.
The accounts of particular branches of the Gnostics, Nicolaitans, Philionites, Borborites, &c. in Epiphanius, Haer.
Thus in the Poimandres of Hermes man is the most prominent figure in the speculation; numerous pagan and half-pagan parallels (the " Gnostics " of Plotinus, Zosimus, Bitys) have been collected by Reitzenstein in his work Poimandres (pp. 81-116).
It answers the question: how did the portions of light to be found in this lower world, among which certainly belong the souls of the Gnostics, enter into it?
In the genuine fragments of Valentinus (Hilgenfeld, Ketzergeschichte, p. 2 93), the Gnostics of Irenaeus i.
Above all the Gnostics represented and developed the distinctly anti-Jewish tendency in Christianity.
Even the so-called Judaeo-Christian Gnostics (Cerinthus), the Ebionite (Essenian) sect of the PseudoClementine writings (the Elkesaites), take up an inconsistent attitude towards Jewish antiquity and the Old Testament.
The conception of a resurrection of the body, of a further existence for the body after death, was unattainable by almost all of the Gnostics, with the possible exception of a few Gnostic sects dominated by Judaeo-Christian tendencies.
In spite of the rejection of the ascetic attitude of the Gnostics, as a blasphemy against the Creator, a part of this ascetic principle became at a later date dominant throughout all Christendom.
And since the Gnostics were compelled to draw the figure of the Saviour into a world of quite alien myths, their Christology became so complicated in character that it frequently recalls the Christology of the later dogmatic of the Greek Fathers.
Its adherents feel themselves to be the isolated, the few, the free and the enlightened, as opposed to the sluggish and inert masses of mankind degraded into matter, or the initiated as opposed to the uninitiated, the Gnostics as opposed to the " Hylici " (Wiwi); at most in the later and more moderate schools a middle place was given to the adherents of the Church as Psychici (1/vXtKoi).
As a point of departure for the history of the development of Gnosticism may be taken the numerous little sects which were apparently first included under the name of " Gnostics " in the narrower sense.
Among these probably belong the Ophites of Celsus (in Origen), the many little sects included by Epiphanius under the name of Nicolaitans and Gnostics (Haer.
On the one hand we have sects with a strongly ascetic tendency, on the other we find some characterized by unbridled libertinism; in some the most abandoned prostitution has come to be the most sacred mystery; in others again appears the worship of serpents, which here appears to be connected in various and often very loose ways with the other ideas of these Gnostics - hence the names of the " Ophites," " Naasseni."
To these belong the Barbelognostics (in the description given by Irenaeus the figure of the Spirit takes the place of that of Sophia), and the Gnostics whom Irenaeus (i.
Finally, apart from all other Gnostics stands Marcion.
It has been necessary to consider at such length St Paul's account of the Eucharist, both because it antedates nearly by half a century that of the gospels, and because it explains the significance which the rite had no less for the Gnostics than for the great church.
King's Gnostics, Zeller's Plato, the works on magic by Dunlop, E.