Gnostic Doctrine

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Gnostic view on martyrdom

Gnostic view on martyrdom

Multitudes had a rage for martyrdom, and gave their bodies to the fire in expiation of iniquity, transgression, and apostasy. These were "those who committed adultery with Jezebel," the clerical fathers, and "her children," who looked up to those fathers as the deluded people of "the religious world" look up now to the clergy who deceive them, regarding them with awe as their "spiritual guides" and "fathers in Cod." 

Polycarp had obtained the prize of immortality without resurrection; if this "philosophical adulteration" formed a part of his philosophy, "the essentials" he maintained would be of little worth. We suspect Irenaeus was infected with this depth of the Satan, for he speaks of "the martyrs" hastening to Christ; as though they would enter into his presence before the resurrection! Nay, we are now sure of it; for further on, in his account of the persecution at Lyons and Vienne, he says of Vettius Epagathus who suffered death, "he was, and is still a genuine disciple of Christ, following the Lamb whithersoever he goeth" -- a quotation seventy years after John's death, from Apoc. xiv. 4. Now Vettius could only "follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth" after his death, upon the principle of immediate translation to heaven, which was styled "the birthday of martyrdom." In another place, he speaks of "eternal fire in hell" for the apostate. But enough of Irenaeus, who suffered death A.D. 210.

Ignatius was an elder of the ecclesia at Antioch, but possessed of a fanatical desire for martyrdom, which was contrary to the instruction of the Lord Jesus, who said, "when they persecute you in one city, flee to another." But instead of this, when the Emperor Trajan came to Antioch, about A.D. 107, on his way to the Parthian war, Ignatius voluntarily delivered himself up to Trajan, into whose presence he was introduced. "What an impious spirit art thou," said the emperor, "both to transgress our commands, and to inveigle others into the same folly to their ruin!"

The Testimony of Truth

The foolish - thinking in their heart that if they confess, "We are Christians," in word only (but) not with power, while giving themselves over to ignorance, to a human death, not knowing where they are going nor who Christ is, thinking that they will live, when they are (really) in error - hasten towards the principalities and authorities. They fall into their clutches because of the ignorance that is in them. For (if) only words which bear testimony were effecting salvation, the whole world would endure this thing and would be saved. But it is in this way that they drew error to themselves. ...
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... they do not know that they will destroy themselves. If the Father were to desire a human sacrifice, he would become vainglorious.

Note: The author of Testimony of Truth notes that if God were to desire human sacrifice, then he would be guilty of vanity 

For the Son of Man clothed himself with their first-fruits; he went down to Hades and performed many mighty works. He raised the dead therein; and the world-rulers of darkness became envious of him, for they did not find sin in him. But he also destroyed their works from among men, so that the lame, the blind, the paralytic, the dumb, (and) the demon-possessed were granted healing. And he walked upon the waters of the sea. For this reason he destroyed his flesh from [...] which he [...]. And he became [...] salvation [...] his death ...
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... everyone [...] how many they are! They are blind guides, like the disciples. They boarded the ship; at about thirty stadies, they saw Jesus walking on the sea. These are empty martyrs, since they bear witness only to themselves. And yet they are sick, and they are not able to raise themselves.

But when they are "perfected" with a (martyr's) death, this is the thought that they have within them: "If we deliver ourselves over to death for the sake of the Name we will be saved." These matters are not settled in this way. But through the agency of the wandering stars they say they have "completed" their futile "course", and [...] say, [...]. But these [...] they have delivered themselves ...
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... but they resemble [...] them. They do not have the word which gives life. 

The author rejects the notion that a martyr’s death brings perfection and automatic salvation, and adds that the only “witness” martyrs bear is to themselves

(The Testimony of Truth)

Heracleon disparaged literal martyrdom, arguing that it was useless to confess Christ with a martyr’s death and yet to have denied him by one’s conduct (Strom. 4.71–72). Heracleon is said to have argued that “there is confession with faith and conduct, and there is vocal confession. Vocal confession takes place also in the presence of authorities, and most people wrongly think that this alone is truly confession. Yet hypocrites are capable of making this same kind of confession” (Strom. 4.71.1–2).

All this voluntary martyrdom was the result of ignorance and misdirected zeal. It was no proof of the sufferers being Christ’s Brethren. We may admit the piety and sincerity of many of them; but Paul has taught us that giving the body to be burned is no equivalent for the want of that "love," which he, after the teaching of the Christ, says is "the fulfilling of the law" -- hoping and believing all the things testified in the truth (1 Cor. 13). Martyrdom, then, is no proof of a man’s being in Christ; and without being in him, he cannot be a brother of Christ.

The most it proves is the sincerity and devotion of the martyr to his profession, whatever that may be. Hence, the martyrdom of Huss, Jerome, Cranmer, Servetus, and such like, proved the sincerity of their anti-romish and anti-calvinistic opinions; it did not alter the fact of their being eminently pious members of the Apostasy; the stain of which cannot be 
obliterated by body-burning, but only by an intelligent belief and obedience of the truth.

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