Trinity on Trial An in-depth examination of Trinitarian doctrine
The Gnostic Connection


Gnosticism is a blanket term for a wide variety of sectarian religions that incorporated Christian concepts into their belief systems. The basic motif of Gnosticism was salvation by esoteric knowledge. Gnostics believed matter was inherently evil.

The Docetae believed the Christ's humanity was an illusion. The Gnostics also did not understand, or did not accept, the idea of the resurrection. In Gnosticism, spirit and matter were irreconcialable opposites.

The Jewish Plot

When John the Baptist, Jesus' kinsman, was baptizing in the Jordan, the ruling Jews had already become concerned over the events unfolding in Judea and had sent inquirers to question John (John 1:19). Some people had thought John might be the Christ (Luke 3:15) but John denied it. Some of the Pharisees also came to John for baptism but John rebukes them. It appears that they came only as a matter of public showing and John exposed them for their hypocrisy. John later was imprisoned for speaking out against Herod Antipas.

Jesus was a son of Abraham, a Jew born under Law, the son of David, King of the Jews. Herod had called together the ruling priests in order to determine the whereabouts of the birth of the Messiah. Once Jesus began his ministry, the Jewish Sanhedrin were quite curious about Jesus. Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, had come to inquire of Jesus by night. We do not know for certain if Nicodemus ever converted but we do know from John's Gospel he was sympathetic toward Jesus as was Joseph of Arimathea. Jesus had many confrontations with the Jewish establishment. Jesus taught his disciples that he would be handed over to the ruling priests and be put to death. When he turned over the tables in the temple, Mark tells us that they began to conspire how to kill him. Makr also tells us that they delivered him over because of jealousy. However, Jesus had the support of the people and so the Jewish rulers left him alone until an opportune season. Judas determined to betray Jesus when a woman anointed him with expensive oil. The Jewish establishment had conspired to kill Jesus the Nazarean.

The Jewish Lie

Matthew recounts the Jewish plot to lie concerning the body of Jesus. Joseph of Arimathea had asked for the body of Jesus. The ruling priests asked Pilate to guard the tomb because Jesus had said he would rise again on the third day. Pilate game them a guard to watch over the tomb and the ruling priests and the guards sealed Jesus' tomb. After Jesus had risen from the dead, the guards at Jesus' tomb reported all that had happened and the chief priests offered a sum of money to the guards to spread the story that the disciples had stolen away Jesus from the tomb while they were asleep. Matthew also tells us this story was spread among the Jews "to this very day."

As soon as the Spirit fell at Pentecost, Peter went out preaching boldly. When he and John healed the crippled man at the temple it attracted the attention of the temple priests. Luke tells us that they were greatly disturbed that Peter and John were proclaiming the resurrection and so they jailed both of them. On the next day they were hauled into court by the temple rulers but since the crippled man was standing there among them there was not much they could do. So they let them go and conferred with each other and decided to order the Apostles to refrain from preaching in the name of Jesus. So they summoned Peter and John again and gave them the order but Peter blatantly refused to obey them. Since Peter and John had the support of the people, they felt they had to let them go.

After this great miracles and wonders were done by the hands of the Apostles. This made the High Priest very jealous. Again, they threw them in jail. But an angel let them out by night and told them to go preach the gospel to the people at the Temple. The Apostles then went out at dawn and began to preach in the Temple. And so they dragged Peter back before the Sanhedrin. After Peter testified the Sandhedrin were ready to kill him. But at this point, Gamaliel, a great teacher of the Law, stood and advised the Sandhedrin that if their mission was of God they could not be thwarted, but if their mission wasn't of God it would find its own end. They took his advice, flogged the Apostles, ordered them not to preach in the name of Jesus, and released them. And they kept right on preaching at the Temple that Jesus was the Christ.

Stephen was one of the seven deacons appointed by the Apostles. He was full of grace and power and did many miracles and wonders among the people. The Synagogue of the Freemen rose up against him and argued with him but Stephen but they were not able to withstand the wisdom and the Spirt in which he spoke. In response, these men induced others to tell lies concerning Stephen and that he was speaking against the Temple and the Law of Moses in order to stir up the people and the scribes and the elders. So Stephen wasbrought before the Sandhedrin. Stephen's testimony so enraged them they dragged him out and stoned him to death. Stephen became the first martyr at the hands of the Jews. One of the Jews who was present that day was Saul (Paul) who had assented to the stoning of Stephen. Stephen's martyrdom was the beginning of a great persecution in Israel. Saul went about from house to house dragging off the disciples of Jesus to prison. And the church was scattered and the gospel was preached wherever the believers were scattered. About this time, Philip had converted some Samaritans. Among them was Simon Magus.

Luke was an associate of Paul and he tells us that Saul was a murderous man. He went to the chief priests and asked for letters to persecute the Christians of Damascus. But on his way, he was met by the Lord Jesus. After he was taken to the house of Ananias, he began to immediately preach in Damascus that the Christ was the Son of God and confounding the Jews who lived in that city. Eventually, these Jews conferred with each other and conspired to kill him but the disciples helped him escape over the wall in a basket and he made his way to Jerusalem. The disciples there did not want anything to do with Saul but Barnabas vouched for him and testified he had spoken boldly in the name of Jesus in Damascus.

After this, a revival broke out in Antioch. So Barnabas went up from Jerusalem to inquire and found a great number of converts. So he went to Tarsus, Paul's hometown, and brought him to Antioch where they taught the new converts for an entire year. Here, the disciples were called "Christians." Right around this period of time, a famine broke out in the empire and Saul and Barnabas were commissioned to take relief to the Jewish brethren in Jerusalem. James the brother of John, was put to death by Herod by the sword. This pleased the Jews and he also sought out Peter to kill him as well. He seized him and jailed him in chains under the guard of four squads of soldiers. But an angel let him out. Herod executed the soldiers. After this, Saul and Barnabas returned from Jerusalem with John Mark, the cousin of Barnabas.

At Antioch, the Holy Spirit led the church to send out Saul and Barnabas for the work which they had been called to do - apostles to the nations (Gentiles).

Luke was a fellow worker with Paul. 1 About 48-50 A.D., Paul and Barnabas went up to Jerusalem to confer with Peter and James concerning the Judiazing Christians who were teaching that one must be circumcised into the Law of Moses to be saved. To be circumcised into the Law also means a person is obligated to observe the whole of the Mosaic Law. It is seems likely this problem originated with the Synagogue of the Freemen1 who brought Stephen to trial. The men who were against Stephen were from Cyrene, Alexandria, Cilicia, and Asia. Saul (Paul) was among them and he was from Tarsus in Cilicia.

2 factions... Law.... antinomian OR rejected Paul's teaching... food sacriced to idols.

The Witness of John

In the Apocalypse, John writes to the seven churches in Asia: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thayatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. All these churches are located in the same region of Asia Minor (now western Turkey). This region was simply known as Asia in those times and the churches mentioned essentially cover the whole extent of the region known as Asia. To the Ephesians, "you hate the works of the Nicolatians which I also hate." To Smyrna, "the blasphemy by those who say they themselves are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan." To Pergamum, "I know your works and where you dwell, where the throne of Satan is.... where Satan dwells. I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality. So you also have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans." To Thyatira, "you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and beguiling my servants to practice immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols.... But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not known the deep things of Satan." To Philadelphia, "those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie."

Irenaeus tells us Cerinthus was from Asia and he was an archrival of John the Apostle. Cerinthus was an Egyptian Jew who has studied in Alexandria. distinguished between the human Jesus and the divine Christ. Irenaeus wrote that he was from Asia. He taught that the divine Christ was impassible because he was a spiritual being.1

The Nicolaitans are mentioned explicity in the Apocalypse.

Heavy mileage in early church..... no one know the Father but the Son.

Valentinus

Marcellus of Ancyra was a strong opponent of Arianism. However, he went to such extremes that he was charged with Sabellianism and ostracized by the rest of the church who had him deposed twice of his bishopric.

Valentinus, the leader of a sect, was the first to devise the notion of three subsistent entities (hypostases), in a work that he entitled On the Three Natures. For, he devised the notion of three subsistent entities and three persons: Father, Son, and Holy spirit" (Marcellus of Ancyra, On the Holy Church, 9).

Since Valentinus had used the term hypostases, his name came up in the Arian disputes in the fourth century. Marcellus of Ancyra, who was a staunch opponent of Arianism but also denounced the belief in God existing in three hypostases as heretical (and was later condemned for his views), attacked his opponents (On the Holy Church, 9) by linking them to Valentinus:

"Valentinus, the leader of a sect, was the first to devise the notion of three subsistent entities (hypostases), in a work that he entitled On the Three Natures. For, he devised the notion of three subsistent entities and three persons — father, son, and holy spirit." (The following text is excerpted from Bentley Layton in The Gnostic Scriptures (Doubleday 1987), p. 233. The text comes from Marcellus of Ancyra, On the Holy Church, 9. Please refer to Layton for background, bibliography, and notes. Valentinus, the leader of a sect, was the first to devise the notion of three subsistent entities (hypostases), in a work that he entitled On the Three Natures. For, he devised the notion of three subsistent entities and three persons—father, son, and holy spirit.)
It should be noted that Nag Hammadi library Sethian text such as Trimorphic Protennoia identify Gnosticism as professing Father, Son and feminine spirit Sophia or as Professor John D Turner denotes, God the Father, Sophia the Mother, and Logos the Son. ME: See Theodosius for similar idea (trias)

Notes:

1. Matthew 1:1; 2:2; 27:11,37; Luke 1:32; 2:21-24; 23:3; Gal 4:4.

2. John 1:19;

1. See Colosians 4:14; 2 Timothy 4:11 and Philemon 1:24.

2. Acts 15:1; Gal 1:18; 2:1.

2. Literally, "Libertines."

1. Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies,

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