On Gnosticism

Gnostic Christianity – one of the major alternative Christian movements of the 2nd Century – claims to have a presence in the 1st Century. But there are major historical problems in trying to trace it all the way back to that first generation. The fundamental problem is that in Gnostic Christianity the story of creation is the following: The god of Israel did not create the creation; but underling gods did, and in some cases a female deity; she botched the job to begin with; and the creation was corrupt from the very beginning. This could never be a view that would go all the way back to the disciples who walked with Jesus. One of the things Jesus scholars are in agreement about for this first generation of Christians is that the Hebrew scripture was their Bible – which certainly included the Pentateuch – and that they were very faithful, practicing Jewish people. They believed that God was the creator and that creation was good at the beginning. So any creation story that does not fit that model could not have gone back to the earliest generation of Christians. An Gnostic Christianity that reflects that kind of teaching cannot reflect the earliest period of the Christian movement.
This is another case of a major disconnect between one of the “alternative schools” and the earliest generations of Christianity. This alternative model has problems. It has problems at a variety of levels because it both imposes too great of a disjunction between Jewish Christianity and Hellenistic Christianity, and it ignores the great disjunction between Gnostic Christianity and the story of creation.