Gnostic Doctrine

Tuesday, 22 October 2019

Christadelphian Connection to Gnosticism

Christadelphian Connection to Gnosticism
Christadelphian Connection to Valentinianism

You may say that this is a strange topic, or this is a contradiction if ever I've heard one. Christadelphian Connection to Gnosticism That's like saying "I'm a Muslim Catholic" or "I'm a Buddhist Mormon".

Well it is something we are going to explore in this study 


If anyone has spoken to a Christadelphian they will see that they know there Bible very well and studies are deep on intellectual knowledge

Robert Roberts writes in Christendm Astray: 

Knowledge must always precede belief; for a man cannot believe that of which he has not previously been informed.

Dr John Thomas Clerical Theology Unscriptural....we are saved by “the renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Tit. iii. 5).

It also says, we are renewed by knowledge” (Col. iii. 10). In this, however, it does not contradict its self, but rather makes the one phrase explanatory of the other; as if he had said, “we are renewed by the Holy Spirit through knowledge.” The Holy Spirit renews or regenerates man intellectually and morally by the truth believed. “Sanctify them by thy truth,” says Jesus; “thy word, O Father, is truth” (John xvii. 17). “Ye are clean,” said he to his apostles, “through the word which I have spoken to you” (John xv. 3). God’s power is manifested through means. His Spirit is His power by which He effects intellectual, moral, and physical results. When He wills to produce intellectual and moral effects, it is by knowledge revealed by His Spirit through the prophets and apostles. This knowledge becomes power when received into “good and honest hearts”; and because God is the author of it, it is styled “the Knowledge of God” (2 Pet. i. 2), or “the word of truth” (James i. 18),

notes the emphasis on knowledge Dr. Thomas calls this in his writings precise and correct knowledge (epignosis)

The Gnostic understanding of knowledge is also regarded as way to salvation but this is a different type of knowledge called gnosis

Gnosis is a mystical knowledge

So both the Gnostics and the Christadelphians believe salvation comes by knowledge. This alone would make the 
Christadelphians Gnostic.


The founders of the Christadelphian faith had an interesting cosmology of creation something rejected by modern Christadelphians

The Ways of Providence by Robert Roberts chapter 2:

Furthermore, the form of the glorious Creator, shadowed to us in various places, completes the chain of ascending clues by which we are enabled to lay hold of that conception of the Father which is exactly suited to our spiritual requirements—the idea of a glorious corporate intelligence located in the heart of the universe upholding all things by the word of His power. Man is stated by James to be “made after the similitude of God,” even the Father—see context (James 3:9). Paul also says he is “the image and glory of God” (1 Cor. 11:7). Christ, formed in fashion as a man, is said to be “the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4; Col. 1:15); and “the express image of His person” (Heb. 1:3); which gives force to Jehovah’s description of him as “the man that is my fellow” (Zech. 13:7). From this results the conviction that the Father is not only glorious substance, even spirit substance, but that this substance has the human form in its perfection. The Father’s person is, in fact, the prototype of all intelligent being. Of Moses, it was said, as indicative of the privilege which he alone enjoyed in his day, “the similitude of the Lord shall he behold” (Num. 12:8); and, further, that “there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face” (Deut. 34:10), “as a man speaketh to his friend” (Ex. 33:11). That this referred to the angelic manifestation of Jehovah is unquestionable; but still the fact remains that the similitude he beheld was the similitude of Jehovah. Thus the angels are in Jehovah’s image, and we in the image of the angels, and therefore Jehovah’s.

Dr. Thomas, in a scrap written just before his death, and found among his papers afterwards, thus defines the foregoing scripturally-revealed conception of the Father, of whom are all things: “Absolute power, from whose incorruptible substance or hypostasis free spirit radiates, is before all existing things. This self-existing incorruptible substance is essentially spirit—spirit substance—a concentration and condensation into ONE BODY of all the attributes, intellectual, moral and physical, of omnipotence—all things are out of Deity (1 Cor. 8:6). All things being out of Deity, they were not made out of nothing. The sun, moon and stars, together with all things pertaining to each, were made out of something, and that something was the radiant effluence of His substance, or free spirit, which pervades unbounded space. By free spirit, all created things are connected with the centre of the universe, which is light that no man can approach unto, so that not even a sparrow falls to the ground without the Father, who is not far from every one of us. The formation of the first man of the earth was the expression by spirit of the peculiar divine idea or mental image. The spirit-developed form, styled man, was the result of power divinely exercised upon the dust of the ground. Electricity, divinely manipulated and incorporated with the dust (itself an electrical product) assumed the form of the divine image and likeness and stood erect, a living, natural body, or man.”

Here in the Ways of Providence both Robert Roberts and Dr. john Thomas are teaching a doctrine of emanations. They believe that God is corporeal and from his incorruptible substance emanates his holy spirit which is compared with Electricity or we may say today atoms protons and neutrons which is the substance of matter so the creation came out of God himself

In Phanerosis (1869) Dr. Thomas writes about the emanation of the Deity: 

Phanerosis pages 18 to 20

The archetype is the hypostasis, so that hypostasis is the basis or foundation of character; wherefore the same apostle in Col. 1:15, styles the character engraved the "Image" of Theos the Invisible (eikon tou Theou tou aoratou).

Seth was the image of Adam, and Adam, the image of Elohim (Gen. 1:26; 5:3). Like Seth, Jesus was an image of Adam, but only in relation to flesh. Adam the First was the image of Elohim, and this was in relation to bodily form. Body and form were the hypostasis of Adam and Seth; that is, they were the basis or foundation of the images so named. Where body and form do not exist, there can be no image; therefore, where image is predicated of hypostasis, that hypostasis must have both body and form. The Father-Spirit, unveiled, is, then, a bodily form; and as all things are "out of Him," He is the focal centre of the universe, from which irradiates whatever exists.

The Father-Spirit is embodied power. Paternal power implies offspring or children, children or SONS OF POWER. Son-power is also embodied power. It is power emanating from the Father, corporealized in one or a multitude, but never separated or detached from the focal centre. The Son-power is, therefore, the Father-power, multitudinously expressed, manifested through many bodies. This is illustrated in the science of arithmetic. Arithmetic is the scence of numbers. The hypostasis or basis of this science is the multitudinous expression of one, a multiplication of number one. Let there be no numerical power called one, and there could be no five, fifty, or any other combination of one. One is the great power of the arithmetical universe; and all the other powers resulting from the multiplication of one combined, cannot exclude one therefrom, without annihilating themselves, and expunging the system. This is true of Son-power, individually or multitudinously expressed, in relation to the One Father-power. Hence Jesus was led to remark, "The Son can do nothing of himself," and again, "I can of mine own self do nothing" (John 5:19,30). "The flesh," said he, "profits nothing." As son of Mary, he pretended to no power, wisdom or superiority. Mary's son was "the Vail of the Covering" to be rent. The Vail in which the Father-power was veiled, the Flesh-medium of Power-manifestation.

"He only hath deathlessness." Life radiating from His hypostasis or substance, is spirit-life Eloahh ruach, power of spirit. Formative of a creature, and sustaining it in life, it is power of spirit, or spirit-power for that creature. Twelve such Eloahh ruach become Elohim ruchoth, spirit-powers of the twelve. Hence, these Elohim are son-powers, or emanations from Ail (EL), the great "paternal power." He is therefore the Ail of all flesh, as well as Elohim for all flesh. "The ruach or spirit of Ail (EL) has made me, and the nishmath or breath of the Shaddai, or Mighty Ones, hath given me life" (Job. 33:4). Here is the Spirit of Ail through the breath of Shaddai that gives life to men. This withdrawn and they die. Hence it is written: "If He gather unto himself His spirit and His breath, all flesh shall perish together, and man shall turn unto dust" (34:14).

In this elaboration, then, we have Father-Power, Son-Power, or emanation, and Free Spirit. Moses and the prophets teach this, as we have seen. The Father-Power is One; the Son-Power is the One Father-Power in plural manifestation; and the manifestation is developed by Free Spirit emanation from the Father Power. This is not only Scriptural but reasonable; and right reason and Scripture always go together.

 The answer is, by the spirit, self-named Yahweh or Yah, whose sons, messengers, and servants they are. Spirit radiant from the eternal centre of light and power embodied itself in them ; and from them as secondary focal organizations, radiated into the substance of the earth and waters; by which radiation a collateral connection was established with " the free spirit" directly emanating from the Focal Centre of the Universe, permeating and pervading all atoms. Holding such a relation to all things, and energized by such a power, they could 

The word emanate with different suffixes occurs 10 times in Phanerosis

In Many Gnostic systems the emanations are called Aeons Dr. Thomas calls them Elohim or Powers


The Deity, according to Christadelphians, is not immediately the creator of our world, nor of our race. We owe what we are and have to the creative agency of numerous subordinate Powers (Elohim), or angels, so that creation is not the work of ONE GOD only, but of many Gods. Dr. Thomas in Elpis Israel wrote:-

"There will be found no good reason to question the conclusion that Elohim [translated God in Gen. 1:1] is a noun plural, and signifies Gods, and ought to be so rendered throughout the chapter."

"It pleased the King Eternal, nearly six thousand years ago, to add a new habitable province to His dominions, not by an original creation of a globe, but by the reconstruction of one already existing as one of the solar planets. He commanded His angels to go and execute the works, according to the order detailed by Moses. They harkened unto the voice of His word, and in six days finished all they were commanded to do."

"But the animals were still without a king; therefore, said the chief of the Elohim, 'Let us make man in our own image.' There was none like the Elohim of all the creatures they had made, therefore they determined to make an animal after their own form. They shaped him with head, limbs, and body, like their own, so that he stood before them the earthly image of the celestial Elohim. As much their image as Seth was the image of his father Adam."

"It is credible that they [the Elohim] were once animal men of other spheres; that in a former state they were made subject to vanity not willingly; that while in the flesh they believed and obeyed God; that they succumbed to death as mortal men; that they rose from the dead, and so attained to immortality as the Elohim of the Invisible God. ..."

"Mortal and corruptible beings like ourselves become Elohim, mighty in strength, and framers of new worlds." 

This understanding that the angels or Elohim made the physical creation is shared by many Gnostic groups and I believe many Christadelphians today still believe this whichi s a good thing 


Gnostic view the logos has the first thought of God not a separate person or being or second God

The Gnostic Bible page 811

Logos Word; the word of god, commonly personified, is comparable to the wisdom of god

in gnostic and other texts. In Judaism the divine logos is the creative word of Genesis,
and in Greco-Roman philosophy, including stoicism and forms of platonism, the divine
logos is the reason and rationality that permeate the cosmos. In the Johannine tradition
the logos is particularly prominent, and Jesus is said to be the manifestation or
incarnation of the divine word. In the Mother of Books Salman is called the word of

god. In the Second Treatise of the Great Seth the word translated as "treatise" is logos

Theodotus: Excerpta ex Theodoto 8 But we maintain that the essential Logos is God in God, who is also said to be “in the bosom of the Father,” continuous, undivided, one God.

Jesus: God the Son or Son of God? Does the Bible Teach the Trinity?Jesus: God the Son or Son of God? Does the Bible Teach the Trinity?:

Since logos was in current use in the Greek philosophy of his day, John needed to give it the true sense of the Biblical revelation. So logos, first a thought conceived in the mind, then demonstrated in action, stands for the wisdom of God expressed in His purpose. The Word represents therefore the mind of God. That is why "the Word was God", or as the New English Bible puts it: "what God was the Word was" -- the true significance of God is His mind and His will.


Dr. Thomas writings have a lot in common with Gnostic terminology. In his writing Dr. Thomas has created his own terminology for God he uses Deity for the Greek word Theos and for the Hebrew word EL he uses  AIL or Ail. As well there is the term "the Uncreated and Eternal Spirit"
He does not translated the words Olam and Aeon into English but leaves them untranslated.   
The Angels are called Elohim they are sometimes translated by Dr. Thomas as Powers, Powerful Ones, Mighty Ones Dr. Thomas like to use the word Powers a lot in Phanerosis

Thus mystifying the oracles of God

The soul

Christadelphians reject the doctrine that the soul is immortal 

Birmingham Amended Statement of Faith (BASF):

4. That the first man was Adam, whom God created out of the dust of the ground as a living soul, or natural body of life, "very good" [Publisher's Note: Gen. 1:31] in kind and condition, and placed him under a law through which the continuance of life was contingent on obedience.
Gen. 2:7; 18:27; Job 4:19; 33:6; 1 Cor. 15:46-49; Gen. 2:17.

Doctrines to be Rejected 7. 
We reject the doctrine - that man has an immortal soul. [The soul of man defines his being, his life, his existence; and is related to his attitude and emotions. He is wholly mortal, and has no immortal essence hereditarily.] 

Gnostic understanding of the soul

Some Christian Gnostics groups also reject the doctrine of the immortal soul

The first known Gospel commentary was a commentary on the Gospel of John written around 170 AD. It was authored by a prominent Gnostic Christian and disciple of Valentinus, Heracleon. Heracleon was one of the most important Biblical exegetes of his day. His writings were carefully read by orthodox theologians such as Origen and Clement of Alexandria.

Heracleon On the Soul

Fragment 40, on John 4:46-53 (In John 4:46, “So he came again to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. And at Capernaum there was an official whose child was ill.) The official was the Craftsman, for he himself ruled like a king over those under him. Because his domain is small and transitory, he was called an “official,” like a petty princeling who is set over a small kingdom by the universal king. The “child” “in Capernaun” is one who is in the lower part of the Middle (i.e. of animate substance), which lies near the sea, that is, which is linked with matter. The child’s proper person was sick, that is, in a condition not in accordance with the child’s proper nature, in ignorance and sins. (In John 4:47, “When he heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went and begged him to come down and heal his child , for it was at the point of death.”) The words “from Judea to Galilee” mean ‘from the Judea above.’. . . By the words “it was at the point of death,” the teaching of those who claim that the soul is immortal is refuted. In agreement with this is the statement that “the body and soul are destoyed in Hell.” (Matthew 10:28) The soul is not immortal, but is possessed only of a disposition towards salvation, for it is the perishable which puts on imperishability and the mortal which puts on immortality when “its death is swallowed up in victory.” (1 Corinthians 15:54)

Heracleon did not believe the soul was immortal

The Apocryphon of James
“For he knows the desire, and also what it is that the flesh needs! - (Or do you think) that it is not this (flesh) that desires the soul? For without the soul, the body does not sin, just as the soul is not saved without the spirit. But if the soul is saved (when it is) without evil, and the spirit is also saved, then the body becomes free from sin. For it is the spirit that animates the soul, but the body that kills it; that is, it is the soul which kills itself. Verily, I say unto you, he will not forgive the soul the sin by any means, nor the flesh the guilt; for none of those who have worn the flesh will be saved. For do you think that many have found the kingdom of heaven? Blessed is he who has seen himself as a fourth one in heaven!`

Here the body and the soul are equivalent expressions
The Treatise of the Resurrection:

"From the savior we radiate beams, and we are held in his arms until our own sunset, our death in this life. We are drawn to heaven by him, like beams, by the sun, and nothing holds us down. This is the resurrection of the spirit, which swallows up the soul and the flesh."

Tripartite Tractate:

"They became flesh and soul, that is, eternally which (things) hold them and with corruptible things they die. "

The Gospel of Philip:

"Adam’s soul came from a breath. The soul’s companion is spirit, and the spirit given to him is his mother. His soul was [taken] from him and replaced with [spirit]. "

Apocalypse of Peter:

"For evil cannot produce good fruit. For the place from which each of them is produces that which is like itself; for not every soul is of the truth, nor of immortality"

I believe both canonical and gnostic text support that the soul is temporary.

The nature of Jesus

Christadelphians believe that Jesus had our sinful nature

Gospel of Thomas saying 101

Those who do not hate their father and mother as I do cannot be my students,
and those who do not love their father and mother as I do cannot be my students. For my mother gave me death, (or falsehood) but my true mother gave me life.

Here the Gospel of Thomas teaches that Jesus' mother could only give him death or falsehood.


Furthermore, they will say of him that he is unbegotten, though he has been begotten, (that) he does not eat, even though he eats, (that) he does not drink, even though he drinks, (that) he is uncircumcised, though he has been circumcised, (that) he is unfleshly, though he has come in the flesh, (that) he did not come to suffering, <though> he came to suffering, (that) he did not rise from the dead, <though> he arose from the dead. NHS p. 600

this is a remarkable passage, which predicts the coming of the clean flesh heretics or docetic heretics those who will deny the physical reality of Jesus’ life death and resurrection.

The Gospel of Philip:

78. The Lord was conceived (born again) from what is imperishable, from God. The [Lord arose] from among the dead. But [He did not come into being as he was. Rather [his body] was [completely] perfect. It was of flesh, and this [flesh is indeed] true flesh.¹ [Yet our flesh] is not true, but rather a mirror-image of the true [flesh]. (¹Jn 1:14, 20:27, II-Jn 7; NHS p. 174

This passage shows that a spiritual body is corporeal (tangible) and it has flesh and this flesh is true flesh, which is called a spiritual body, or spiritual flesh our flesh is only a shadow of the true like Adam who was only a type of him who was to come

88 Jesus appeared [...] Jordan - the fullness of the Kingdom of Heaven. He who was begotten before everything, was begotten anew. He who was once anointed, was anointed anew. He who was redeemed, in turn redeemed (others).

this shows or teaches that the savour himself was in need of redemption by coming in the flesh see above passage.

The Devil

Christadelphians reject the doctrine of a supernatural devil

Doctrines to be Rejected: 

11 We reject the doctrine - that the devil is a supernatural being.

Christadelphians believe that Satan The devil is a personification of human nature this is not an abstraction but that physical principle of the animal nature, which is the cause of all its diseases, death, and resolution into dust. It is that in the flesh "which has the power of death" and it is called sin, because the development, or fixation, of this evil in the flesh, was the result of transgression. Inasmuch as this evil principle pervades every part of the flesh, the animal nature is styled "sinful flesh," that is, "flesh full of sin"; so that sin, in the sacred style, came to stand for the substance called man. In human flesh "dwells no good thing" (Rom. 7:17,18); and all the evil a man does is the result of this principle dwelling in him.

Gnostic teaching

Heracleon on the Devil

Heracleon, who here interprets the father of the devil as his essentially evil nature; to which Origen objects that if the devil be evil by the necessity of his nature, he ought rather to be pitied than blamed.

Elaine Pagels, Professor of Religion at Princeton University, is perhaps the highest profile writer and thinker to express agreement with our position about the devil. Her best selling book The Origin Of Satan is well worth a read if you're interested in this theme (4). She begins where we have done- that Christianity and Judaism taught only one God, and this left no place for a devil / satan in the orthodox sense. We have said time and again that one true doctrine leads to another, and Pagels grasps that clearly. One God means no devil. Simple as that. And so she comments: “Conversion from paganism to Judaism or Christianity, I realized, meant, above all, transforming one’s perception of the invisible world”. And this had a radically practical outworking- as does belief in any true Bible doctrine: “Becoming either a Jew or a Christian polarized a pagan’s view of the universe, and moralized it”. The pagan worldview would've felt that anything like a volcano or earthquake was a result of demonic activity. But instead, the Bible clearly describes the volcanoes that destroyed Sodom as coming from the one God, as judgment for their sins (Gen. 19:4). People were not just victims of huge cosmic forces; they had responsibility for their actions and met those consequences. We can easily miss the radical implications of the moral way the Bible describes such things which were otherwise attributed to demons /pagan gods. There was a huge political price attached to rejecting belief in ‘demons’. Rusticus, prefect of Rome, persecuted Christians because they refused “to obey the gods and submit to the rulers”. The Romans considered that their leaders were agents of the gods; and if the gods didn’t exist, then the Roman leadership lost its power and authority. For this reason, the Romans called the Christians ‘atheists’.

The following quotations from Pagels exactly reflect our own conclusions: “In the Hebrew Bible…Satan never appears as Western Christendom has come to know him, as the leader of an “evil empire”, an army of hostile spirits who make war on God…in the Hebrew Bible, Satan is not necessarily evil, much less opposed to God. On the contrary, he appears in the book of Numbers and in Job as one of God’s obedient servants- a messenger, or angel, a word that translates the Hebrew term for messenger (mal’ak) into Greek (angelos)… In biblical sources the Hebrew term the satan describes an adversarial role. It is not the name of a particular character… the root stn means “one who opposes, obstructs, or acts as an adversary”... But this messenger is not necessarily malevolent… John dismisses the device of the devil as an independent supernatural character… Paul holds a perception that Satan acts as God’s agent not to corrupt people but to test them” (pp. 111, 183)”.

But Elaine Pagels isn't just out there on her own. Neil Forsyth comments likewise: “In… the Old Testament, the word [satan] never appears as the name of the adversary… rather, when the satan appears in the Old Testament, he is a member of the heavenly court, albeit with unusual tasks”(5). Several respected commentators have pointed out the same, especially when commenting upon the ‘satan’ in the book of Job- concluding that the term there simply speaks of an obedient Divine Angel acting the role of an adversary, without being the evil spirit being accepted by many in Christendom (6). Commenting on the 'satan' of Job and Zechariah, the respected Anchor Bible notes: "Neither in Job nor in Zechariah is the Accuser an independent entity with real power, except that which Yahweh consents to give him" (7). A.L. Oppenheim carefully studied how the figure of a personal satan entered into Hebrew thought; he concludes that it was originally absent . He considers that their view of a Divine court, or council, such as is hinted at in the Hebrew Bible, was significant for them; but they noted that in some Mesopotamian bureaucracies there was a similar understanding, but always there was an "accuser" present, a 'satan' figure (8). And the Jews adopted this idea and thus came to believe in a personal satan.

Exorcism can be seen as a concentrated effort to purge the consciousness of false standards, not to extract demons. See Elaine Pagels, The Origin of Satin, Pgs. 34 and 38, Vantage Books.

(4) Elaine Pagels, The Origin Of Satan (Harmondsworth: Allen Lane / The Penguin Press, 1996)

(5) Neil Forsyth, The Old Enemy: Satan And The Combat Myth (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987) p. 107.

(6) See P. Day, An Adversary In Heaven: Satan In The Hebrew Bible (Atlanta, GA: Scholar’s Press, 1988) pp 69-106.

(7) C.L. Meyers and E.M. Meyers, The Anchor Bible: Haggai, Zechariah 1-8 (New York: Doubleday, 2004 ed.) p. 184.

(8) A.L. Oppenheim, "The eyes of the Lord", Journal of The American Oriental Society Vol. 88 (1968) pp. 173-180.

(9) In addition to Pagels op cit, see Knut Schaferdick, “Satan in the Post Apostolic Fathers” in Geoffrey W. Bromiley, ed., Theological Dictionary Of The New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971) Vol. 7 pp. 163-165 and George F. Moore, Judaism In The First Centuries Of The Christian Era (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1927) Vol. 1.

(10) Elaine Pagels, op cit pp. 100,111.

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