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Thoughts from past few days:

Watched French language Islamic movie about a violinist, who’s wife destroys his violin so he falls into a fit of despair…

8 days of creation in Islam, funny where Gnosticism appears. Discussing the split between Jews and Islam, back to Abraham, Ishmael and Isaac. Ishmael the son of Abraham and his hand maiden. Leading up to the sacred temple known as the Kaaba.

640px-Kaaba_mirror_edit_jjclocks changed, lost an hour.


The elimination of one’s own selfish desire and free will has three signs:

the first is to receive and take fortune and misfortune with the same poise,

the second is to consider advantage and disadvantage, profit and loss as equal,

and third is to consider life and death the same.

Stations of the Sufi Path: The ‘One Hundred Fields’ (Sad Maydan) of Abdullah Ansari of Herat

The Gnostics Were Intellectuals

Larry Hurtado has posted his opinion of the Gnostics, that they were not intellectuals, but esoterics who taught a bunch of “mumble-gumble”, such as a read of the Nag Hammadi texts reveal; that they were not engaged with reasonable arguments such as we find in the writings of the church fathers; and that pagans never engaged them, proving that they were not an important part of the intellectual scene. The only real intellectuals were the catholic Christians.

Now Larry is a good friend of mine – we have been members of the early high christology club since its inception, which is a good number of years.  But that does not mean that we do not disagree, and on this topic we disagree.  Larry is taking a standard position espoused by many biblical scholars (he is in very good company), that the Gnostics are non-consequential to Christianity and that their ideas and practices were irrational and secretive.  Some biblical scholars would add to this description, perverse and exploitative.

I remember about ten years ago when I visited Oxford to work in the library, I was invited to dine at the table in one of the colleges.  One of the biblical studies professors sat next to me and asked me what I was working on.  When I told him the Gnostics and the Nag Hammadi texts, his immediate reaction was, “Why are you wasting your time on them?  When I read the Nag Hammadi texts it was clear to me that it is all craziness.  Nonsense.  Go back to the New Testament where it matters.”

So I have been working upstream most of my career, swimming against a current that is much stronger than I am.  I guess I like the challenge, or I wouldn’t keep doing it.  I have spent a lot of time within the Nag Hammadi texts, reconstructing the worlds of the authors, which are not crazy once you learn their references and points of view.  The Gnostics from antiquity were anything but crazy, inconsequential or irrational.  But they were different.  And difference often leads to misunderstanding.

Ogdoad: Regarded in some texts as the “eighth kingdom above the hebdomas.” It
is the realm of the Demiurgos (or sometimes that is the 7th, with the eighth
being that of Sabaoth), as well as usually being the realm of the zodiac
(dodecon). Sometimes it is also seen as the beginning of freedom from the
Archons, and the beginning of connection to the Aeons. Pythagoris says…
“The ogdoad–8–was sacred because it was the number of the first cube, which
form had eight corners, and was the only evenly-even number under 10
(1-2-4-8-4-2-1). Thus, the 8 is divided into two 4′s, each 4 is divided into two
2′s, and each 2 is divided into two 1′s, thereby reestablishing the monad. Among
the keywords of the ogdoad are love, counsel, prudence, law, and convenience.
Among the divinities partaking of its nature were Panarmonia, Rhea, Cibele,
Cadmæa, Dindymene, Orcia, Neptune, Themis, and Euterpe (a Muse).” (Thomas
Taylor’s Theoretic Arithmetic, Thought by one source to be the rarest and most
important compilation of Pythagorean mathematical fragments extant.)

”… the Ogdoad, which is the eighth, and that we might receive that place of
salvation.” (”The Testimony of Truth.” See also; ”A Valentinian

Valentinus: (100-180 C.E.) Gnostic teacher some believe is the writer or had a part in the writing of the Gnostic “Gospel of the Truth,” ”A Valentianian Exposition,” and others. Also formed secular Gnostic groups who’s written works are referred to as Valentinian. The ” A Valentinian Exposition,” explains in part the use of the ”monad.” (See; Sethian Monadology.)