Gnostic Views On the Resurrection
Interest in Gnosticism and the Gnostic gospels has had a revival in recent years and has been further fueled by Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. For much of history, most of what was known about Gnostic thought and gospels came from the writings of the church fathers in their refutations of Gnosticism. Then in 1945, Coptic Gnostic codices were found at Nag Hammadi, Egypt. These texts were dated about 350-400 AD. By 1977 they had been translated into English. (1) Gnostics have a different interpretation of the resurrection. They see the resurrection as a spiritual rather than a physical resurrection. In her book, The Gnostic Gospels (2) , Elaine Pagels writes :
“But the Gnostic Christians rejected Luke’s theory. Some Gnostics called the literal view of the resurrection the ‘faith of fools.’ The resurrection was not a unique event of the past: instead, it symbolized how Christ’s presence could be experienced in the present . What mattered was not literal seeing but, spiritual vision.”
She goes on to state the Gnostic belief that Jesus taught His disciples secret teaching or mysteries that the disciples taught only to those more spiritual advanced. Only these people were taught the gnosis or secret knowledge. (3)
Not all books on Gnosticism write about a solely spiritual resurrection. In his book, Gnosticism New Light On The Ancient Tradition Of Inner Knowing (4) , Stephen Hoeller writes that Jesus’ body could have gone through some type of reanimation on Easter morning.
Writers on Gnosticism want to date the Gnostic gospels as being written during the first century and circulating during the same time as the New Testament Gospels. They believe that it was only during the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, that the Gnostic gospels were left out in favor of the New Testament gospels. The facts are that the Gnostic gospels were written later in the second century long after the apostles, who are alleged to have written them, had died. The New Testament Gospels have been dated from circa 40 AD to 90 AD. The New Testament Gospels are quoted by the early church fathers and the canon was decided long before the Nicean council.
1 Gary R. Habermas, The Historical Jesus Ancient Evidence For The Life Of Christ (Joplin: College Press Publishing Company, 2003), 101.
2 Elaine Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels (New York: Vintage Books, 1989), 11.
3 Ibid, 15.
4 Stephen A. Hoeller, Gnosticism New Light On The Ancient Tradition Of Inner Knowing (Wheaton: Quest Books, 2002), 64.