Thursday, October 26, 2006

Chilton on Neo-Gnosticism

Bruce Chilton reviews Gospel Hoax in The New York Sun. It's a decent review, though readers will know that I think Carlson's case is more conclusive than Chilton allows yet seems to want to say.

I like Chilton's sidebar about the modern love-affair with gnosticism:
"Gnostic sources have been routinely confused with history, and some documents that are obviously from the second and third centuries ('The Gospel of Thomas,' 'The Gospel of Philip,' 'The Gospel of Mary,' and most recently 'The Gospel of Judas,' for example) have been touted as reporting the truth of the story that the New Testament supposedly distorts. 'Secret Mark' fed this naïve enthusiasm, and profited from it.

"Publicity and naïveté have encouraged the rise of a form of neo-Gnosticism, a fashion greatly encouraged by recent discoveries and alleged discoveries. In embracing these ancient sources, the neo-Gnostics are unlike their ancient counterparts. They want to embrace the earth, not subjugate it; they don't wish to be elitist. Above all, they want to insist on the gender-equality of women with men. You need to cherry-pick Gnostic sources, and ignore a great deal of what they say, to make that picture work as an account of the Nag Hammadi library. Neo-Gnostics do just that, and falsify history. Many ancient Gnostics were openly anti-Semitic, taught that the physical world was the hopelessly corrupt product of a false god, and insisted that only the predestined elect could know the divine truth. These are persistent tendencies, rather than a set of precise ideas that all Gnostics repeated, but they are facts that can't be denied."
A lot of Unitarians (my group) are neo-gnostics, and they cherry-pick religious documents better than most. The laity needs some serious education about gnostic documents, and, needless to say, The Da Vinci Code is the last place to get it.


Blogger Stephen C. Carlson said...

Loren, there's an interesting rejoinder to the "cherry picking" charge at Ecclesia Gnostica

Blogger Loren Rosson III said...

Thanks for this, Stephen. Father Jordan does seem a bit miffed. :) I may respond to him later.

Blogger Stephan Huller said...

Everyone took Carlson at his word but no one bothered to check the methodology on his greatest proof.

Be prepared to change your opinion on the issue of whether the Mar Saba letter is a forgery:

There is no reason to think that it is a forgery. Even Birger Pearson questions Carlson's methodology now after reading that article

There is nothing gay about Secret Mark; the only thing that was queer was Carlson's methodology (and again that not one scholar bothered to check it ... until now).


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