Fist Of History

Posts Tagged ‘Christian’

Alternative Versions of Christianity – Gnostics and More

Monday, June 29th, 2015

Synaxis_of_the_Twelve_Apostles_by_Constantinople_master_(early_14th_c.,_Pushkin_museum)

One of the fun things you learn when reading history is about unusual side paths and concepts that didn’t quite take off.  As it turns out there were several different versions of early Christian thought that battled for dominance in the growing faithful from the death of Christ till the early 700s or so.  Let’s begin with the winner:

Apostolic Christianity

  • Grounded in the Synoptic Gospels (Mark, Luke, John, Paul)
  • Eventually support the idea that the divine is equally made up of three parts – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit
  • Christ was the divine manifest on Earth, who died for humanities sins on the cross, rose after three days, and ascended to Heaven after liberating the wrong condemned souls in Hell
  • Peter was the inheritor of the Church and the Papacy represented the ultimate authority on Earth for Christians.  (Note this tenant did not hold – see Orthodox/Catholic split and later Protestant movements)

Valentinus

Alternate Version #1 – Valentinianism

  • Created by leading early Christian theologian named Valentinus
  • Holds the same core tenant about the validity of the four primary gospels outlined above
  • Believe in traditional sacraments but also believe that behind the public rituals of the Christian faith were secret teachings Christ had shared with an elite and those teachings were passed on to a new elite
  • Potentially practiced a second baptism to welcome those with secret elite knowledge to the inner Christian faith

Alternative Version #2 – Basilidianism

  • Created by a Christian philosopher named Basilides
  • Believed Christ was entirely divine and could not die on the cross and instead switched places with Simon of Cyrene
  • Some accounts state faith believed Christ laughed at Simon of Cyrene’s death
  • Held a complex cosmology that believed in 365 separate heavenly paradises, one for each day of the year
  • Believed in two divine beings – Abrasas – the pious and divine deity that sent down Christ and Yahweh, an evil Jewish deity
  • Held that only a select few would be allowed to enter the divine paradises

The_Garden_of_Earthly_Delights_by_Bosch_High_Resolution

Alternative Version #3 – Carpocratianism

  • Believed that to attain salvation a soul must pass through every condition and experience of life
  • Supported sin and sexual indulgence on a grand scale
  • Was recorded historically as believers who “have intercourse where they will and with who they will”

Lion-faced_deityAlternate Version #4 – Sethiansim

  • Opposed to most aspects of Apostolic Christianity
  • Believed the Hebrew divinity, Yahweh, was evil
  • Honored Adam and Eve as good for eating the Fruit of Forbidden Knowledge
  • Honored the Serpent in the Garden of Eden for opposing the above evil deity
  • Believed the Eucharist was an abomination
  • Believed the Crucifixion was an abomination and on par with child sacrifice

Source:  Finding Jesus, David Gibson and Michael McKinley, chapter “The Gospel of Judas”

 

 

 

“In God We Trust” – a commentary grounded in history

Friday, August 26th, 2011

In 1956 the United States formally declared the national motto of this nation to be “In God We Trust” – a motto that would be stamped on currency and a motto that had appeared previously in US history, on and off, on coins.  A famous line talking about this comes from a Supreme Court ruling, the phrase “We are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being” – from the ruling of Zorach v. Clauson (1952) by the US Supreme Court.  Today many candidates for the top office of the land are starting to argue that the United States is a “Christian Nation,” a nation founded on Christian ideals and one in which Christian morality should guide the nation’s course.  Many cite the sentence from the Supreme Court ruling above as proof the United States is a pious nation at its core – but I think people should read the whole paragraph instead:

We are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being. We guarantee the freedom to worship as one chooses. We make room for as wide a variety of beliefs and creeds as the spiritual needs of man deem necessary. We sponsor an attitude on the part of government that shows no partiality to any one group and that lets each flourish according to the zeal of its adherents and the appeal of its dogma. When the state encourages religious instruction or cooperates with religious authorities by adjusting the schedule of public events to sectarian needs, it follows the best of our traditions. For it then respects the religious nature of our people and accommodates the public service to their spiritual needs. To hold that it may not would be to find in the Constitution a requirement that the government show a callous indifference to religious groups. That would be preferring those who believe in no religion over those who do believe. Government may not finance religious groups nor undertake religious instruction nor blend secular and sectarian education nor use secular institutions to force one or some religion on any person. But we find no constitutional requirement which makes it necessary for government to be hostile to religion and to throw its weight against efforts to widen the effective scope of religious influence. The government must be neutral when it comes to competition between sects. It may not thrust any sect on any person. It may not make a religious observance compulsory. It may not coerce anyone to attend church, to observe a religious holiday, or to take religious instruction. But it can close its doors or suspend its operations as to those who want to repair to their religious sanctuary for worship or instruction. No more than that is undertaken here.

I particularly like the phrase “We make room for as wide a variety of beliefs and creeds as the spiritual needs of man deem necessary” – if anything should be the driving goal of our nation, to my eye, when it comes to religion that should be the creed of the land.  Our Founding Fathers, to use an old phrase, had many motivations driving them when they crafted the Constitution of the United States but many of them, spearheaded by Jefferson, I’m sure would have approved of that ruling by the Supreme Court.

Sources: Zorach V Clauson, 343 US 306 (1952) sourced on Justia.com and Wikipedia.org