Was Jesus Christ a Gnostic? (Part 1)
By Alex Rivera
I punched a hole through time and space. The frozen. The evil spirits were ashamed. One cold winter night, I had a dream. A very special dream vision. In it, Jesus Christ himself appeared to me. He was hooded, in white, bright, glowing Shepherd’s garments of light and he was beaming brightly with a large grin. And behold, I heard a loud voice, saying, “God sent his Son to wash people clean.” After this vision, something within me changed. And yet, somehow, I tried to forget about it all and descended back into the world and all enticing, deceitful sins and lusts. But the truth could not be denied. It refused.
Jesus’ words ripped through me, and straight into my soul, just like how the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom when he was crucified. His words about “washing people clean,” has a multitude of meanings attached. All throughout the New Testament, Jesus repeatedly offers to those who would follow him: the fruit of the “tree of life,” the “bread of heaven,” and the “living waters” to drink. At the beginning of the Gospel of John, chapter 4, while visiting Jacob’s well, which is said to be in Sychar, “near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph,” Jesus has an encounter with a Samaritan woman. He asks her to draw some water for him, and she expresses surprise that he is talking to her since she is a Samaritan woman, who is despised by the Jews of Judaea. Then he tells her:
Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water. The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water? 12 Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle? Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw.
Water is the basis for all physical life on earth. Water is also a code word for the spirit. As it follows, the words associated with water, such as washing, wells, pools, living waters, baptism, sprinkling, clouds, rain, oceans, etc., are codes for this type of divine spirit, as well. The waters that Jesus is referring to are the living, radiant waters of divinity—the same waters that the Book of Revelation (21:5-7) (KJV) tells us that the Alpha and the Omega gives freely to the chosen as one of the last verses of the entire Bible has this comment:
And he that sitteth on the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he saith, Write: for these words are faithful and true. And he said unto me, They are come to pass. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit these things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.
This is an open invitation to all of mankind to come and drink from the waters of life, being the spiritual love or image of God. The precondition here is “being athirst.” The only way one can drink these spiritual waters is if that person is thirsty. The path to drinking this divine water is through traversing a straight and narrow gateway, as taught by Jesus in Matthew (7:13-14) and Luke (13:22-30.) The thirsty come to the Son as God ordained, and drink of agape love, which is obtained at the end of this narrow way from the straight gate, or he can die in his sins and go into everlasting punishment. Continuing from John Chapter 4, in verses 31‐36 (KJV), when his disciples return from buying meat, Jesus tells them that he has access to special meat:
…His disciples prayed him, saying, Master, eat. But he said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of … My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work. Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal….
It is these living waters that flow to the inner man (Ephesians 3:6) that strengthens it and gives it life eternal:
That he would grant you, per the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man…
The living waters are of course a never-ending supply of spiritual love or “agape,” for Christ is the supplier, and Christ is God, who holds a limitless supply of this substance, alien to the world of flesh and matter. Out of the inner, regenerated heart flows divine love and the believer becomes a conduit of the “Great Power” as the Simonians put it. And it through this heart that is divinized and which true belief is possible.
But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance (Romans 6:17).
For if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart, that God raised him up from the dead, thou shalt be saved: For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth man confesseth to salvation (Romans 10:9-10).
It is true that the words “mystery,” or “secret knowledge,” or “forbidden knowledge,” or “esoteric,” are indicative of something Satanic, Luciferian, occult, or New Age, per many Christians combating heresy. But are they really? Did Jesus Christ himself make commandments for his disciples to become esoteric Gnostics? Did Jesus Christ command that those same followers obtain some type of hidden and secret knowledge, unknown to the world? Furthermore, did Jesus Christ tell us that this same type of knowledge was essential or key to eternal salvation? In other words, if you did not have this type of knowledge, or an experiential encounter with the Godhead, you were not saved? These are all important questions indeed, considering many statements made by Jesus, John, St. Paul, St. Peter, and even the later Gnostics. As hinted before and in many of my previous articles, the Gospel of John has many Gnostic qualities. For example, let’s look at John 6:37-40 (GNV).
All that the Father giveth me, shall come to me: and him that cometh to me, I cast not away. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but his will which hath sent me. And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me, I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every man which seeth the Son, and believeth in him, should have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.
This is also a very blunt point in that the will of the Father is that everyone which directly sees the Son, and believes upon him, will have everlasting life. The key word here is to “see” as in to “behold” something that is manifested or revealed. It is only those who “see the Son” who will be given life eternal. To “see” means to perceive or discern mentally after reflection or from received information, or understanding. This is what “experiential knowledge” is all about, per Jesus’s words. Jesus says that he will disclose or manifest himself personally to all those who obey his commandments and follow him and his words.
It is the encounter with the Living Christ that is what is necessary for there to be justification through true belief in Christ (see: Romans 4:24-25 and Romans 3:21-26.) In other words, there is no guess work at who is saved and who isn’t with the revelation of the Living Spirit. John is telling us that the it is the will of the Father that the believer becomes directly acquainted with the Son of the Most High. This cannot happen, unless Jesus Christ himself reveals himself to the Gnostic, and prove without a shadow of a doubt who he is, what his relationship is to the believer and what the new covenant is all about! How is any of this not Gnostic teaching?
In 2 Corinthians 3:7-18 (NIV), the Pauline author provides a very Gnostic sounding theology.
Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. And if what was transitory came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!
Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
While this has many connections with Old Testament scripture like Exodus, it is essentially a key description of Paul’s own divine encounter with the Living Christ. Paul clearly contrasts Moses as deliberately deceiving the Israelites from the fading glory of the old covenant as being a product of a lesser, angelic power. We see Paul had his own ideas about what the gospel meant and what Jesus was about. He writes that Jesus appeared “open faced” without a veil. This is much how the skies open over Jesus when he is baptized in Matthew 3:16 (AKJV):
And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, see, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting on him.
Paul is writing in terms of the mystery language of the Divine Vision or revelation. Paul also frequently uses terms and phrases from the Pagan Mysteries, such as: pneuma (spirit), gnosis (divine knowledge), doxa (glory), and sophia (wisdom). Paul also preached the Gnostic doctrine of doceticism, claiming that the Messiah came not as a person but in the “likeness” of sinful, human flesh (Romans 8:3, Phil 2:7). And like the Gnostics, Paul did not preach moral servitude to the Law, but spiritual freedom through illumination.
In Galatians 3:19, Paul claims that the Law of the Old Testament is a product of a “Mediator” and by “angels,” while in 2 Corinthians 4:4, the the “god of this world” obstructs people from believing in the alien Gospel of Christ. Later Gnostics would immediately recognize that Paul is teaching the Gnostic doctrine that Jehovah is the “Demiurge,” a lesser god or angel who mediates between the ineffable supreme God and creation, who is replaced by the Savior, Jesus Christ, in the new covenant. Paul also considers himself and his church “stewards of the Mysteries of God” in 1 Corinthians 4, which is the scholar and mythicist, George Albert Wells recognized as a technical term for a priest in the Temple of Serapis and his consort Isis, in his book Did Jesus Exist? (p. 23). In the Letter of Hadrian to Servianus, Hardrian writes:
“There those who worship Serapis are, in fact, Christians, and those who call themselves bishops of Christ are, in fact, devotees of Serapis.”
The Alexandrian cult of Serapis and his consort Isis was widespread in the Greco-Roman world, during the early church. Paul uses mystery initiation language when he says that those who look upon the glory of Jesus’ unveiled face will be “transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory…” In other words, those who look upon Jesus’ glorified face will be deified. In a way, Samuel Angus in Mystery Religions, tells us something similar, stating that the philosopher becomes the idea, or the soul becomes the deity that is contemplating or “beholding,” which is mystical language for attaining the Divine Vision or gnosis.
Astrology was also the foster-mother of that regnant Element Mysticism, according to which the soul becomes part of that which it contemplates, and its elements bear affinity to the elements of which the cosmos is constituted. It thus offered a synthesis or bond of unity, which ancient philosophers sought in vain, in a religious sympathy or homoeopathy of the elements of the universe.
And yet, Christian theology’s (in all its forms) biggest break from pagan philosophy was that the incomprehensible Father became comprehensible as the Logos, in which his fullness incarnated in the form of a man, inside human history to grant knowledge in the believer’s soul so that it be perfected to return the original Good or “Summon Bonum.” In Colossians 3, Paul also says that those who are reborn in Christ, are also “hidden with Christ in God,” as well, which is like the idea that the spiritual Logos is hidden behind the manifest universe as both the Fourth Gospel (John 1:3-5) of the Gospel of Thomas (Logion 77) also touches on. Many pre-Socratic philosophers like Heraclitus and Plato himself also taught the divine reason of the Logos as well, anticipating the revelation of the Son in St. Paul, John the Baptist, John the Revelator, St. Peter and the later Gnostics. This is the purest mysticism, and the “appearance” of Christ mentioned here and in other epistles is acquired from communion with hidden powers or higher spirits, as opposed to the “false knowledge” from demons (1 Timothy 6:20 and James 3:15).
Stay tuned for Part 2, where we will examine what the Naasene Gnostics had to say about Jesus, Moses and the parting of the Red Sea, and eternal salvation. We will also investigate Jesus’s words in the Book of Revelation of St. John the Divine, the Fourth Gospel (the Gospel of John), 1 Peter, the Second Epistle to Timothy and much more!