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Gnosticism in the New Testament

The false teachings opposed in some of the New Testament books bear similarities to the Gnosticism combatted in the second century and have been called "incipient Gnosticism" if not outright Gnosticism. Simon Magus in Acts 8 was made by later church writers the arch.heretic from whom all later heresy derived. Acts presents nothing distinctively Gnostic about him but may not tell the whole story, or later church writers may have confused him with a different Simon who was a Gnostic. Colossians and the Pastoral epistles oppose errorists who served angelic mediators, practiced asceticism, had secret teachings, claimed a superior knowledge, and denied the Christian doctrines of creation and resurrection. First Timothy 6:20 even refers to the gnosis "falsely so-called". The Johannine literature too opposes teachers who have left the Christian fold, denied the incarnation, held an individualistic and libertine view of salvation, and emphasized knowledge. The troubles at Corinth over the resurrection and enthusiastic spiritual gifts have also been traced to Gnostic thinking. There is enough to show that many of the ma.terials with which the great Gnostic teachers of the second century worked were around In the first century. It is less clear that these ideas were present in the same combinations, in as developed a form, or within the same framework. The New Testament errorists appear to combine Jewish, pagan, and Christian elements; but these ingredients provide an almost infinite variety of potential combinations.

Sources utilized in these pages may include:
  • Everett Ferguson's: Backgrounds of Early Christianity
  • Walker's: History of Christianity (out of print)

    (These links will take you to book detail pages at

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