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Christology in the Eschatologies of the Early Church and Gnosticism

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Aaron Kilbourn

on 11 April 2015

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Transcript of Christology in the Eschatologies of the Early Church and Gnosticism

Both the Early Church and Gnosticism had eschatologies that had Christological facets. How were these facets of both early Christianity and Gnosticism different and/or parallel? Although attempts have been made to connect Gnostic eschatology with Early Church eschatology, the christological aspects of Early Church eschatology provides unique dimensions despite these attempts. This can be found particularly in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and its implications for believers.
An analysis of both Early Church (100-276 A.D.) and Gnostic Christology within their eschatologies of the same period can reveal features of Early Church Christological eschatology that are unique to the Early Church.

Limitations and Course of Research
A. Limitations -
1. A sometimes murky atmosphere between what is orthodox and what is heterodox during this time.
2. A lack of texts from this time period and the speculations of "pre-Gnostic" influence.
B. Course of Research
1. Display what the majority of the Early Church believed
2. Survey Christian and Gnostic Christological eschatology.
3. Compare, Contrast, Conclude with Early Christianity's Unique Christological Eschatology that remain.
Early Church Christology within Echatology
1. Main proponents and earliest mentions
a. Scriptural foundations
b. Irenaeus, the Didache, etc.
c. Martyrological Eschatology
2. Four major eschatological markers:
a. parousia, resurrection, judgment, catastrophic end of the world.
3. Resurrection meaning to the Early Church
a. Based on Scripture and as an eye-witnessed factual event that interprets "the last things."
b. Reward of Second Coming is communion with God, new heaven and new earth, judgment and redemption.
c. Ignatius of Antioch, Second Letter of Clement, Epistle of Barnabas particularly insightful
Terminology and Theories
1. Time Period and Major Players within Christian and Gnostic Circles.
Post Apostolic traditions between 100-276 AD including both Eastern and Western Church traditions .
Drawing from but not limited to the Gnostic influences of Valentinians, Manicheans, and Arians.
2. Definition of Gnosticism revolving around the desire of
gnosis
for salvation as well as, among other things: a removed cosmology, use of myth, and a spirit/flesh dualism.
3. Eschatology as a focus on the doctrine of "the last things" as defined by Calov (Walls, 248) and particularly concerning Christian and Gnostic understandings of Jesus Christ and the resurrection within these "last things."
4. Theories - Awareness of apocalyptic anxiety theory as well as proto-Gnostic hermeneutic with the NT when determining each group's Christology within their eschatology.
Christology in the Eschatologies of the Early Church and Gnosticism
Gnostic Christological Eschatology
Exemplified in:
1. Texts - Seth the Savior, Apocalypse of Adam, Gospel of the Egyptians
2. "Treatise on Resurrection" - Valentinian influence with adoptionistic tendencies with the physical being consumed by the spiritual.
3. Manichean "Divine Birth" - Death and "recycling of the soul" a well as "cosmic light liberation" made possible for the pneuma.
Convergence and Divergence between Christian and Gnostic
1. Common Ground
a. Is there proto-Gnosticism in NT Christological eschatology?
b. Individual, nationalistic, universal dimensions of Christian and Gnostic Christological eschatology
2. Divergence from each other
a. Church more unified in orthodox Christology and resurrection than splintering Gnostics
b. Individually, Gnostic = pneuma salvation, Christian = body and soul salvation
c. Temporally, Gnostic = here and now eschatology, Christian = "already not yet", but imminent
d. Valentinian - divine world is within rather than transforming and redeeming the outer as well
3. Myth and Evidence
a. Evidential Fathers contra Mystical Gnostics
b. Revelation for Christians, Amalgamation of existing myths for Gnostics
c. Christian - asserts eschatological foundation has historical Jesus, Gnostics assert eschatology is determined by and found in self/pneuma
Unique features of Christological Eschatology that remained in Early church
1. Resurrection - Body and Spirit, not fully mysterious but revealed/fulfilled, Jesus is "taste of resurrection for the believer."
2. Identity of God, Christ, and the Second Coming - Last things are Christological, not pneuma-centered. Christ has a transfigured
body.

3. Redemption of Creation and not a rejection of the created as being evil but needing redemption.

Conclusions: *yet to be determined
BIBLIOGRAPHY

Brakke, David.
The Gnostics: Myth, Ritual, and Diversity in Early Christianity.
Cambridge, MA.: Harvard University Press, 2011.

www.ccel.org/

Crisp, Oliver D. and Sanders, Fred, eds.
Christology, Ancient, and Modern: Explorations in Constructive Dogmatics.
Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing, 2013.

Daley, Brian E.
The Hope of the Early Church.
Ada, MI: Baker Academic, 2002.

Davies, Stevan.
The Secret Book of John: The Gnostic Gospel Annotated and Explained.
Woodstock, VT.: Skylight Paths, 2005.

Evans, Craig G.
Ancient Texts for New Testament Studies
. Ada, MI: Baker Academic, 2012.

King, Karen L.
What Is Gnosticism?
Cambridge, MA.: Belknap, 2005.

Meyer, Marvin.
The Nag Hammadi Scriptures: Revised and Updated Translation.
New York, NY: HarperOne, 2009.

Mirecki, Paul A. and BeDuhn, Jason D.
The Light and the Darkness.
Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 2001.

Pagels, Elaine.
The Gnostic Gospels.
New York, NY: Random House, 1979.

Pearson, Birger A.
Ancient Gnosticism.
Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2007.

Smith, Carl B.
No Longer Jews: The Search for Gnostic Origins
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Walls, Jerry L., ed.
The Oxford Handbook of Eschatology
. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Williams, Michael A.
Rethinking "Gnosticism": An Argument for Dismantling a Dubious Category.
Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999.
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