Gnosticism from its origins constituted a rival religion to both Judaism and Christianity. There were indeed Jewish Gnostics, and a bewildering array of Christian Gnostic sects, but there were also pagan Gnostics. Gnosticism was both a tendency within other religions, and an eclectic but authentic religion in itself.
Gnosticism is the belief that human beings contain a piece of God (the highest good or a divine spark) within themselves, which has fallen from the immaterial world into the bodies of humans. All physical matter is subject to decay, rotting, and death.
Gnosticism (from Ancient Greek: γνωστικός, romanized: gnōstikós, Koine Greek: [ɣnostiˈkos], 'having knowledge') is a collection of religious ideas and systems which coalesced in the late 1st century AD among Jewish and early Christian sects.
In short, the Gnostics believed they must reject the malevolent Creator God who wants us to remain trapped in the world of matter, and turn instead to the Supreme Being in the kingdom of light, who is Jesus' true father, and ours as well.
The designation gnosticism is a term of modern scholarship. It was first used by the English poet and philosopher of religion Henry More (1614–87), who applied it to the religious groups referred to in ancient sources as gnostikoi (Greek: “those who have gnosis, or 'knowledge' ”).
Gnostics were dualists and worshipped two (or more) gods; Christians were monists and worshipped one God. Gnostics focused on eradication of ignorance; Christian concern was the eradication of sin. Both had a redeemer.
These four essential differences between the canonical or biblical Gospels and the Gnostic Gospels are a clear indication that the Gnostic Gospels are not authentically apostolic in their authorship, message and frame of time. The Gnostic Gospels are not reliable sources for the life and teachings of Jesus.
To the extent that the Buddha taught the existence of evil inclinations that remain unconquered, or that require special spiritual knowledge to conquer, Buddhism has also qualified as Gnostic.
Different gnostics believed different things about the death and resurrection of Jesus. But some were people, whom we know as docetists, [who] believed that the death and suffering of Jesus were things that only appeared to happen, or if they happened, didn't really happen to the core of Jesus' spiritual reality.
Mandeans are the only surviving traditional Gnostics, with no more than 20,000 adherents living in southern Iraq and south-western Iran.
Agnosticism is the idea (or philosophy) that something (such as the Deity) cannot or should not be known. Gnosticism (from 'gnosis:' knowledge) is the idea (or philosophy) that something (such as human or even divine spirit) can and should be known: it is a synonym for epistemology.
The Gnostic Bible: Revised and Expanded Edition: Barnstone, Willis, Meyer, Marvin: 8601405856005: Books.
The Gnostics were concerned with the basic questions of existence or “being-in-the-world” (Dasein)—that is: who we are (as human beings), where we have come from, and where we are heading, historically and spiritually (cf. Hans Jonas, The Gnostic Religion 1958, p. 334).
Therefore, although Gnostics, like other Christians, find salvation through the messages of Jesus, Gnostics seek salvation not from sin but from "the ignorance of which sin is a consequence." The gnostics believe that the evil creator God and his angels cause this ignorance.
Definition of gnosticism
: the thought and practice especially of various cults of late pre-Christian and early Christian centuries distinguished by the conviction that matter is evil and that emancipation comes through gnosis.
Many scholars consider the Gospel of Thomas to be a gnostic text, since it was found in a library among others, it contains Gnostic themes, and perhaps presupposes a Gnostic worldview.
Their goal was release from unconsciousness and ignorance, or incomprehension. Humans who possess the divine spark can find their freedom only in learning of its source, how it came to be entrapped in the material world, and how it can escape to return to its original realm.
St. Irenaeus and other Christian theologians dismissed gnosticism as pretentious but dangerous nonsense. Along with Irenaeus and others, the writers of the later New Testament books seem to have opposed early gnosticism.
Nicene Creed, also called Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed, a Christian statement of faith that is the only ecumenical creed because it is accepted as authoritative by the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, and major Protestant churches.
Early Christians used the fish as a secret code to identify meeting places, tombs, and even other Christians. Legend has it that if an early Christian met a stranger, he or she could draw half of the Ichthys on the ground. If the stranger completed the sketch, they would both know they were Christians.
Yet the gnostic Gospel of Thomas relates that as soon as Thomas recognizes him, Jesus says to Thomas that they have both received their being from the same source: Jesus said, “I am not your master. Because you have drunk, you have become drunk from the bubbling stream which I have measured out….
The Gospel of Mary is often interpreted as a Gnostic text. According to Pheme Perkins, on the basis of thirteen works she has analyzed, the Gospel follows a format similar to other known Gnostic dialogues which contain a revelation discourse framed by narrative elements.
The discovery of 13 books containing 52 texts in the Nile River valley of Egypt in 1945 called Nag Hammadi opened the door for the history of early Christianism and the teachings of four Gnostic gospels called; the secret book of James, the gospel of Thomas, the book of Thomas and secret book of John.
Though both agreed about God's transcendence over the Universe, Hermetists believed that God could still be comprehended through philosophical reasoning, in agreement with philosophers and Christian theologians, whereas many Gnostics felt that God was completely unknowable.
The term was later adopted by some of the Gnostics, who, in their dualistic worldview, saw the Demiurge as one of the forces of evil, who was responsible for the creation of the despised material world and was wholly alien to the supreme God of goodness.