Do we prevent somebody being hurt by superstition or faith by rejecting and challenging those things? 

Is it mistaken to support organised religion in membership or donations?

If people do good because they are human, not because God prompts them then is it right to risk giving God any credit when they alone own their good?

 


Gnostics Gave Evidence that Jesus a Myth
 
In the early Church, there were many people who believed that Jesus Christ was not a man but a vision. They believed that the Jesus who we read of in the gospels was not a man.  These people were mystics and were not far from being psychologists. Their Jesus only existed in the mind like modern witches use imaginary people to lead them to spiritual awareness. They were called antichrists who denied the coming of Jesus in the flesh in John’s time. In Paul’s day, they denied that Jesus had risen from the dead. We know their Jesus was a mental force and not a vision of a separate entity because the New Testament just condemns them and never tries to prove to them that Jesus was real as we would expect if they were saying there was a Jesus but he was only a ghost.

The mystics called themselves Gnostics - those who know. They wrote scriptures that indicate the possible non-existence of Jesus Christ.

 

WERE THERE GNOSTICS IN THE FIRST CENTURY?

 

Did Gnostic Christianity denying the Jesus story exist in the days of the apostles or did it come after?  It hardly matters.  Either way something problematic existed with the Jesus story which gave rise to Gnosticism.  There is a black hole of data so you never know if Gnosticism was there from the start or not.

 

Some scholarship says it was a later development.

 

‘But it is now widely agreed that the quest for a pre-Christian Gnosticism, properly so called, has proved to be a wild goose chase.’, Dunn, ‘The Cambridge Companion to St. Paul’, p. 9 (2003).

 

 ‘Even if it could be proven that any of the previously discussed works or, for that matter, any of the NH tractates are non-Christian Gnostic documents, that would not in itself be evidence for pre-Christian Gnosticism.’, Combs, ‘Nag Hammadi, Gnosticism and New Testament Interpretation’, Grace Theological Journal (8.2.207-208), 1987.

 

‘And even if we are on solid ground in some cases in arguing the original works represented in the library are much older than extant copies, we are still unable to postulate plausibly any pre-Christian dates.’, McRae, ‘Nag Hammadi and the New Testament’, pp. 146–47, in Combs, ‘Nag Hammadi, Gnosticism and New Testament Interpretation’, Grace Theological Journal (8.2.208) , (1987).

‘Egypt has yielded early written evidence of Jewish, Christian, and pagan religion.  It has preserved works of Manichaean and other Gnostic sects, but these are all considerably later than the rise of Christianity.’, Unger, ‘The Role of Archaeology in the Study Of the New Testament’, Bibliotheca Sacra (116.462.153), 1996.


‘Some modern researchers suggest that several NT and related texts evidence contact with “Gnosticism” in various stages of its development. Texts that especially stand out are Paul’s Corinthian correspondence, Colossians, Ephesians, the Pastoral Epistles, Jude, 2 Peter, and the letters of Ignatius of Antioch (d. ca. 115) and Polycarp of Smyrna (d. ca. 165) among others. But even here the issues discussed are diverse, demonstrating a complex assortment of competing new religious movements, but no evidence of “Gnosticism.”’, Freedman, ‘Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible’, p. 509 (2000).

 

‘Scholarship must in all likelihood abandon the hypothesis that a cohesive Gnostic movement is reflected in Paul’s letters.’, Lüdeman, ‘Primitive Christianity: A Survey of Recent Studies and Some New Proposals’, p. 150 (2003).


‘If in all likelihood, with the possible exception of the Simonians, there was no such thing as a rival Gnostic movement within or competing with Pauline Christianity, the question arises whether there ever was a specific Gnostic myth as an entity of its own.’ , ibid’, p. 151.

 ‘The full-fledged Gnosticism of later church history did not exist in the first century
A.D.21 An incipient form of Gnosticism was present, but Schmithals makes the error of
reading later Gnosticism into the first century documents.’, Schreiner, ‘Interpreting the
Pauline Epistles’, Southern Baptist Journal of Theology (3.3.10), Fall 1999.

THE GOSPEL OF PHILIP

 

This Nag Hammadi gospel says Jesus was not conceived by the Holy Spirit for the Holy Spirit is female and that nobody baked bread until he came.  This is a clear indication that Jesus was considered to be a myth figure.
 
THE APOCRYPHON OF JAMES
 
The Apocryphon of James which was written in the early second century says that there is a curse on the men who saw Jesus meaning the apostles. This work is proof that there were mystical Christians who denied the authority of the apostles. By implication, they were rejecting the authority of the gospels for the gospels purport to preserve the apostles teaching and take us as near to seeing Jesus as a man as possible.
 
The unorthodox Christian scripture the Apocryphon of James or Secret Book of James seems to have originated before 150 AD (page 30, The Nag Hammadi Library in English). This work rejects the reliability of the gospels and the New Testament for it says only Peter and James were given the knowledge. It says that those who have seen and consorted with the Son of Man or Jesus are cursed and those who have not seen him are blessed. So we are told not to believe that Peter and James consorted with Jesus. They never knew him as a man. The reason people who haven’t known Jesus are blessed is because they can have visions of him and receive secret knowledge of him. (This knowledge gives salvation so it is spoken of as life while ignorance is symbolised as death or death and burial.) So we are told that anybody who claims to know a real flesh and blood Jesus or him as a man is not to be heeded. The gospels are to be dumped. It says that we must neglect reason. Probably it simply means that reason will not bring you to the truth not that reason has no value. So books like the gospels which try to make it reasonable to believe in Jesus are to be deplored. Jesus says in this treatise that the head of prophecy was stopped with John the Baptist. Then he said Peter and James need to understand what this means. So the head of prophecy is symbol. So earlier when we read that they are to scorn death and then contradictorily keep remembering the cross and death of Jesus we can only conclude that we are to scorn literal death and keep remembering the symbolic cross and death of Jesus. They stand for Jesus becoming saved and reborn through knowledge so that the old Jesus is symbolically crucified and dead and replaced by a spiritually alive Jesus.
 
James asks Jesus to protect him against temptation by the evil one and Jesus replies that through temptation they can be made equal to Jesus and like Jesus they will be crucified and buried by the evil one like he was. Since James the primary recipient of this answer was not crucified the crucifixion is symbolic. Here Jesus is saying he didn’t really die on the cross but died and was buried by the evil one. He means that before he was saved himself he was deluded and was dead in the sense that he wasn’t saved and in that sense he was buried by Satan. The Apocryphon has no need to say such things about Jesus unless it was thought to be true. It’s a very intelligent work as well. These Christians believed that only the being appearing to them to give them saving knowledge mattered not stories about a historical Christ. They even denied that he was crucified. When the biggest thing that happened to Jesus was a symbol and not real then its hardly likely that Jesus was real either.

Conclusion
 
The Gnostics knew that Jesus was a myth and the stories about him were not true. That is why they felt free to make up tales of their own but at least they admitted they were making up tales in the hope of helping people spiritually.
 
WORKS CONSULTED

A Concise History of the Catholic Church, Thomas Bokenkotter, Image Books, New York, 1979
Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible, John W Haley, Whitaker House, Pennsylvania, undated
Asking them Questions, Various, Oxford University Press, London, 1936
Belief and Make-Believe, GA Wells, Open Court, La Salle, Illinois, 1991
Concise Guide to Today’s Religions, Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Scripture Press, Bucks, 1983
Did Jesus Exist? GA Wells, Pemberton, London, 1988
Did Jesus Exist? John Redford, Catholic Truth Society, London, 1986
Documents of the Christian Church, edited by Henry Bettenson, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1979
Early Christian Writings, Maxwell Staniforth Editor, Penguin, London, 1988
Encyclopaedia of Heresies and Heretics, Leonard George, Robson Books, London, 1995
Encyclopaedia of Unbelief, Volume 1, Ed Gordon Stein, (Ed) Prometheus Books, New York, 1985
Evidence that Demands a Verdict, Vol 1, Josh McDowell, Alpha, Scripture Press Foundation, Bucks, 1995
Fundamentalism and the Word of God, JI Packer, Inter Varsity Press, Leicester, 1996
Handbook to the Controversy With Rome, Volume 1, Karl Von Hase, The Religious Tract Society, London, 1906
He Walked Among Us, Josh McDowell and Bill Wilson, Alpha Cumbria, 2000
In Defence of the Faith, Dave Hunt, Harvest House, Eugene, Oregon, 1996
Introduction to the New Testament, Roderick A F MacKenzie, SJ, Liturgical Press, Minnesota, 1965
Jesus, AN Wilson, Flamingo, London, 1993
Jesus and the Goddess, The Secret Teachings of the Original Christians, Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy, Thorsons, London, 2001
Jesus – God the Son or Son of God? Fred Pearce Christadelphian Publishing Office, Birmingham, undated
Jesus – One Hundred Years Before Christ, Professor Alvar Ellegard Century, London, 1999
Jesus and the Four Gospels, John Drane, Lion, Herts, 1984
Jesus Hypotheses, V Messori, St Paul Publications, Slough, 1977
Jesus Lived in India by Holger Kersten, Element, Dorset, 1994
Jesus, Qumran and the Vatican, Otto Betz and Rainer Riesner, SCM Press Ltd, London, 1994
Jesus the Evidence, Ian Wilson, Pan, London, 1985
Jesus the Magician, Morton Smith, Harper & Row, San Francisco, 1978
Jesus under Fire, Edited by Michael F Wilkins and JP Moreland, Zondervan Publishing House, Michigan, 1995
Lectures and Replies, Thomas Carr, Archbishop of Melbourne, Melbourne, 1907
Let’s Weigh the Evidence, Barry Burton, Chick Publications, Chino, CA, 1983
Miracles in Dispute, Ernst and Marie-Luise Keller, SCM Press Ltd, London, 1969
On the True Doctrine, Celsus, Translated by R Joseph Hoffmann, Oxford University Press, Oxford 1987
Putting Away Childish Things, Uta Ranke-Heinemann, HarperCollins, San Francisco, 1994
Runaway World, Michael Green, IVP, London, 1974
St Paul versus St Peter, A Tale of Two Missions, Michael Goulder, Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, Kentucky, 1994
St Peter and Rome, JBS, Irish Church Missions, Dublin, undated
Saint Saul, Donald Harman Akenson, Oxford University Press, New York, 2000
The Bible Fact or Fantasy, John Drane, Lion, Oxford, 1989
The Bible Unearthed, Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman, Touchstone Books, New York, 2002.
The Call to Heresy, Robert Van Weyer, Lamp Books, London, 1989
The Case For Christ, Lee Strobel, HarperCollins and Zondervan, Michigan, 1998
The Case for Jesus the Messiah, John Ankerberg Harvest House, Eugene, Oregon, 1989
The Early Church, Henry Chadwick, Pelican, Middlesex, 1967
The Encyclopedia of Heresies and Heretics, Leonard George, Robson Books, London, 1995
The First Christian, Karen Armstrong, Pan, London, 1983
The Gnostic Gospels, Elaine Pagels, Penguin, London, 1990
The Gnostic Paul, Elaine Pagels, Fortress Press, Philadelphia, 1975
The Historical Evidence for Jesus, G A Wells, Prometheus Books, New York, 1988
The History of Christianity, Lion, Herts 1982
The History of the Church, Eusebius, Penguin, London, 1989
The House of the Messiah, Ahmed Osman, Grafton, London, 1993
The Jesus Event and Our Response, Martin R Tripole SJ, Alba House, New York, 1980
The Jesus Hoax, Phyllis Graham, Leslie Frewin, London, 1974
The Jesus Mysteries, Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy, Thorsons, London, 1999
The MythMaker, St Paul and the Invention of Christianity, Hyam Maccoby, Weidenfeld and Nicholson, London, 1986
The Nag Hammadi Library in English, Ed James M Robinson HarperCollins New York 1990
The Pagan Christ, Tom Harpur, Thomas Allen Publishers, Toronto, 2004
The Reconstruction of Belief, Charles Gore DD, John Murray, London, 1930
The Search for the Twelve Apostles, William Steuart McBirnie, Tyndale House, 1997
The Secret Gospel Morton Smith Aquarian Press, Harper & Row, San Francisco, 1985
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The Unauthorised Version, Robin Lane Fox, Penguin, Middlesex, 1992
The Virginal Conception and Bodily Resurrection of Jesus, Raymond E Brown, Paulist Press, New York, 1973
Theodore Parker’s Discourses, Theodore Parker, Longmans, Green, Reader and Dyer, London, 1876
Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Kittel Gerhard and Friedrich Gerhard, Eerdman’s Publishing Co, Grand Rapids, MI, 1976
Those Incredible Christians, Hugh Schonfield, Hutchinson, London, 1968
Who Was Jesus? A Conspiracy in Jerusalem, by Kamal Salabi, I.B. Taurus and Co Ltd., London, 1992
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Why I Believe Jesus Lived, C G Colly Caldwell, Guardian of Truth, Kentucky
 
The WWW

Who is GA Wells? Rev Dr Gregory S. Neal
www.errantskeptics.org/G_A_Wells.htm

The Silent Jesus
www.askwhy.co.uk/awcnotes/cn4/0325SilentJesus.html#Justin

Apollonius the Nazarene, The Historical Apollonius versus the Historical Jesus
www.apollonius.net/bernard1e.html

Why Did the Apostles Die? Dave Matson,
 www.infidels.org/library/magazines/tsr/1997/4Why97.html
 
The “Historical” Jesus by Acharya S
www.truthbeknown.com/historicaljc.htm

How Did the Apostles Die?
www.infidels.org/library/magazines/tsr/1997/4/4front97.html

History’s Troubling Silence About Jesus, Lee Salisbury
www.secweb.org/asset.asp?AssetID=102

Steven Carr discusses the Christian and apostolic martyrs
www.bowness.demon.co.uk/martyrs.htm
www.bowness.demon.co.uk/martyrs2.htm

Challenging the Verdict
A Cross-Examination of Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ
http://human.st/jesuspuzzle/CTVExcerptsOne.htm
http://human.st/jesuspuzzle/CTVExcerptsTwo.htm
http://human.st/jesuspuzzle/CTVExcerptsThree.htm#Twelve

The Martyrdoms of Peter and Paul, Peter Kirby
http://home.earthlink.net/~kirby/

The Martyrdoms: A Response, Peter Kirby
www.bowness.demon.co.uk/martyrs3.htm

A Sacrifice in Heaven,
http://human.st/jesuspuzzle/supp09.htm

The Evolution of Jesus of Nazareth
http://human.st/jesuspuzzle/partthre.htm

The Jesus of History, a Reply to Josh McDowell by Gordon Stein
 www.infidels.org/library/modern/gordon_stein/Jesus.html

Josh McDowell’s Evidence for Jesus – Is It Reliable?, by Jeffrey J Lowder www.infidels.org/library/modern/jeff_lowder/jury/chap5.html

A Reply to JP Holding’s “Shattering” of My Views on Jesus
www.infidels.org/secular_web/new/2000/march.html

Robert M Price, Christ a Fiction
www.infidels.org/library/modern/robert_price/fiction.html

Earliest Christianity G A Wells
www.infidels.org/library/modern/g_a_wells/earliest.html

The Second Century Apologists
http://human.st/jesuspuzzle/century.htm

Existence of Jesus Controversy, Rae West
www.homeusers.prestel.co.uk/littleton/gm1_jesu.htm

Why I Don’t Buy the Resurrection Story by Richard Carrier
www.infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/resurrection/index.shtml

Jesus Conference,
www.st-and.ac.uk/~www_sd/jconf_hall.html
 
Jesus Conference,
www.st-andrews.ac.uk/~www_sd/jconf_stuckenbruck.html
 
The Testament of Levi Concerning the Priesthood and Arrogance
www.ccel.org/fathers2/ANF-08/anf08-07.htm#P378_53868.

Sherlock Holmes Style Search for the Historical Jesus
www.fortunecity.com/greenfield/bp/890/history.html
 
The Ascension of Isaiah
www.earth-history.com/sacred-ascension-Isaiah.htm

Apollonius of Tyana: The Monkey of Christ? The Church Patriarchs, Robertino Solarion www.apollonius.net/patriarchs.html

What About the Discovery of Q? Brad Bromling
www.ApologeticsPress.org
 
Wells without Water, Psychological Buffoonry from the Master of the Christ-Myth, James Patrick Holding
www.tektonics.org/JPH_WW.html

Critique: Scott Bidstrp [sic] on The Case for Christ by James Patrick Holding
www.tektonics.org/bidstrup02.html

GA Wells Replies to Criticism of his Books on Jesus
www.infidels.org/library/modern/g_a_wells/errant.html

The Ossuary Scam: A Critical Analysis of the “James” Ossuary
http://www.atrueword.com/index.php/article/articleprint/15/-1/1/

The Origins of Christianity and the Quest for the Historical Jesus, Acharya S
www.truthbeknown.com/origins.htm
 
The Historical Jesus
http://www.geocities.com/b_d_muller/index.html
 
BIBLE VERSION USED
 
The Amplified Bible
The King James Version