Gnostic Doctrine

Saturday, 17 October 2020

Gnostic Teaching on Sin

 Valentinian Teaching on Sin

The Hebrew word “chattaah” is translated sin in English, and primarily is associated with both the offense and its penalty, or sacrifice, so in English we often define the Hebrew word “chattaah” as transgression. However, sin is often used as a translation for the root of “Chattaah” or “chata”, and so Vine’s Expository Dictionary says the basic nuance or feeling of this word, “Chattaah”, is missing the road or mark. So a question we should be asking ourselves, is what is the road or mark God is speaking of when He uses the word “chattaah” in His word? Our initial response is that “the mark” is obedience to His law and commandments, and we sin when we fail to obey them and thus miss the mark. However when we consider God’s plan with His creation we find that obedience to His laws is only part of the mark. The actual mark is on a much higher plane.

The Greek word hamartia is a Feminine Noun meaning missing the mark; hence: (a) guilt, sin, (b) a fault, failure (in an ethical sense), sinful deed.

awon´ is the Hebrew term most frequently linked with or used in parallel with chat·ta´th´ (sin, missing the mark) In the Septuagint the Hebrew word 05771 עון ‘avon is translated by the word G4108 πλάνη plánē G4108 πλάνη plánē, plan'-ay; feminine of G4108 (as abstractly); objectively, fraudulence; subjectively, a straying from orthodoxy or piety:—deceit, to deceive, delusion, error.

The Valentinian understanding of sin is fundamentally Christian in nature, and that it emerges naturally out of Pauline speculations about sin" Valentinian theology Desjardins (1990 , page 131)
The Fall
In the Tripartite Tractate the Fall in the Garden of Eden is described as a work of providence and part of the divine plan:

This is the expulsion which was made for him, when he was expelled from the enjoyments of the things which belong to the likeness and those of the representation. It was a work of providence, so that it might be found that it is a short time until man will receive the enjoyment of the things which are eternally good, in which is the place of rest. This the spirit ordained when he first planned that man should experience the great evil, which is death, that is complete ignorance of the Totality, and that he should experience all the evils which come from this and, after the deprivations and cares which are in these, that he should receive of the greatest good, which is life eternal, that is, firm knowledge of the Totalities and the reception of all good things. Because of the transgression of the first man, death ruled. (Romans 5:17) It was accustomed to slay every man in the manifestation of its domination, which had been given it as a kingdom because of the organization of the Father's will, of which we spoke previously (see 106:35-107:1). (The Tripartite Tractate)
Sin and Error
Valentinian use the words ignorance (ἄγνοια agnoia), forgetfulness (ἐπιλανθάνομαι epilanthanomai), error (πλάνη plánē) and sin to describe transgressions and human nature 

In Valentinian theology, matter itself is derived from and in some ways identical with ignorance:

ignorance of the Father caused anguish and terror, and the anguish grew thick like a fog, so that no one could see – Error was strengthened. It worked on its own matter in vain, not knowing the Truth. (Gospel of Truth)

For now, their works lie scattered. In time, Unity will complete the realms. Within Unity each one will receive themselves, and within knowledge they’ll purify themselves from multiplicity into Unity, consuming matter (=ignorance) within themselves like fire, and darkness by light, death by life (Gospel of Truth)

Error is also used as an equivalent of ignorance and is personified in the Gospel of Truth:

Error was strengthened. It worked on its own matter in vain, not knowing the Truth. It happened in a deluding way, as it (Error) prepared with power, in beauty, a substitute for the Truth. (Gospel of Truth)

For Valentinians both sin and error are a natural consequences of ignorance of the Father: 

This ignorance of the father brought about terror and fear. And terror became dense like a fog, so no one was able to see. Because of this, error became strong. (Gospel of Truth)

Speak of the Truth with those who search for it, and of knowledge with those who’ve sinned in their Error. (Gospel of Truth)

Ignorance of the Father is the true nature of sin and error.
The Body
According to the Extracts from the Works of Theodotus the Saviour referred to this body [of flesh] as the adversary or Satan the devil:

52 This body the Saviour called an "adversary" and Paul said a " law warring against the law of my mind" and the Saviour advises us "to bind it" and to "seize its possessions" as those of "a strong man" (Extracts from the Works of Theodotus)

Ignorance appears to be a physical substance of human nature since Ignorance leads to death:

Ignorance is the mother of [all evil]. Ignorance leads to [death, because] those who come from [ignorance] neither were nor [are] nor will be (gospel of philip)

According to the Gospel of Philip 'Ignorance is slavery, knowledge is freedom.' in all of which slavery, ignorance, sin and wickedness are contrasted with freedom and with knowledge.

The process of revealing the truth also reveals the evil and error that is deep in our hearts:

(Gospel of Thomas 45) Jesus said, "Grapes are not harvested from thorns, nor are figs gathered from thistles, for they do not produce fruit. A good man brings forth good from his storehouse; an evil man brings forth evil things from his evil storehouse, which is in his heart, and says evil things. For out of the abundance of the heart he brings forth evil things."

(Gospel of Philip) Let each of us also dig down after the root of evil within us and pull it out of our hearts from the root. It will be uprooted if we recognize it. But if we are ignorant of it, it takes root in us and produces fruit in our hearts. It dominates us. We are its slaves, and it takes us captive so that we do what we do [not] want and do [not] do what we want. It is powerful because we do not recognize it. As long as [it] exists, it stays active.

sin includes the desire as well as the action, for "it is always a matter of the will, not the action" 

From this we learn that ignorance is the source of all evil and sin it is is internal, not external. It is "the law which wars against the law of my mind" (Romans 7:23) 
The word sin is used in two major ways in the scripture. It signifies in the first place, "the transgression of law;" and in the next, it represents that physical substance 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. 7:18, 17); and all the evil a man does is the result of this principle dwelling in him 
The nature of the lower animals is as full of this physical evil principle as the nature of man; though it cannot be styled sin with the same expressiveness; because it does not possess them as the result of their own transgression; the name, however, does not alter the nature of the thing. (Elpis Israel)

This quotation from Elpis Israel by Dr. Thomas helps us to understand the Valentinian teaching, that matter, nature or creation itself (Rom 819-23) is derived from and in some ways identical with ignorance or sin. ignorance or sin  represents that physical substance of the animal nature
Ignorance is described as a physical substance within mankind:

Ephesians 4:18 being darkened in the understanding, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart,

The word Ignorance (Greek G52 ἄγνοια agnoia [ag-no-eh’-o which comes from the root 50 ἀγνοέω agnoeo [ag-no-eh’-o) means not to know, lack of knowledge, moral blindness [{Ac 3:17 } 3) to err or sin through mistake, to be wrong, spoken mildly of those who are not high handed or wilful transgressors [{Heb 5:2 }

Ignorance is an absence of knowledge. It may also be called ‘Unknowing’
- Ignorance is a form of ‘mindlessness’, ‘forgetfulness’ or ‘oblivion’
- It is imagined as ‘darkness’ or a ‘cavern’

Ignorance alienates from the life of God: but light to those who enter Christ, brings that life.

The descendants of Adam are born under condemnation to death and in a state of ignorance and alienation from God for Adam's 'offence'" (Rom 5:19)

The descendants of Adam are in a state of alienation from God at birth. Alienation is only applicable to those who are capable of reconciliation.

alienation the term 'alienation' in describing a state that exists between God and man due to his sin stricken nature.

Before being baptised a believer is dead in being alienated from God by ignorance, condemnation inherited from Adam, and trespasses and sins.”

Close to ignorance stands the term forgetfulness the state of having forgotten, heedlessness, and sleep. Planē herself forgets (she is in a fog concerning the Father, 17:31), indeed she arose out of the fog of Forgetting, but primarily she causes (man's) Forgetting.

Sin and Ignorance are the physical substance which brings forth death or kills the body and 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 raises the soul, but the body that kills it; that is, it is it (the soul) which kills itself. (The Apocryphon of James)

In Fragment 40 Heracleon in his Commentary on the Gospel of John says without the Savior, human beings exist in a sickened state in "ignorance and sins", living under the "law which kills through sins":

 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) On “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” (John 4:48): It is fittingly said to the kind of person whose nature is determined through works, and who is convinced by means of sense-perception and does not believe the word. The words, “Come before my child dies” (John 4:49) were spoken because death is the goal and end of the law which kills through sins. (Fragment 40 Heracleon)


The person who has gnosis (knowledge) is thus freed of his sinful material self.

He who has knowledge of the truth is a free man, but the free man does not sin, for "He who sins is the slave of sin" (Jn 8:34). (Gospel of Philip)

Valentinian theologians emphasize that the elect must abstain from sin

Fear not the flesh nor love it. If you fear it, it will gain mastery over you. If you love it, it will swallow and paralyze you. (Gospel of Philip)

As Theodotus says about the sinful nature, "Be well disposed to it, not nourishing it and strengthening it by the power to commit sin, but putting it to death here and now, and thereby showing it as transitory by our refraining from evil." (Excerpts of Theodotus 52:2).

He wanted us to be circumcised, not in regard to our physical foreskin but in regard to our spiritual heart; to keep the Sabbath, for he wishes us to be idle in regard to evil works; to fast, not in physical fasting but in spiritual, in which there is abstinence from everything evil. (Ptolemy's Letter to Flora)
The Role of Jesus
The role of Jesus is to bring gnosis (knowledge) of the Father and thereby to remove sin. 

Christ came to ransom some, to save others, to redeem others. (Gospel of Philip) 

This is the one who is called the savior, since that is the name of the work that he must do for the redemption of those who have not known the father. (Gospel of Truth)


According to Heracleon Jesus is  "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’  (In John 1:29, Heracleon goes on to say:

John spoke the words, "Lamb of God" as a prophet, but the words, "who takes away the sin of the world" as more than a prophet. The first expression was spoken with reference to his body, the second with reference to Him who was in that body. The lamb is an imperfect member of the genus of sheep; the same being true of the body as compared with the one that dwells in it. Had he meant to attribute perfection to the body he would have spoken of a ram about to be sacrificed. (Fragment 10, on John 1:29)

Sin, I say, is a synonym for human nature. Hence, the flesh is invariably regarded as unclean. It is therefore written, "How can he be clean who is born of a woman?" (Job 25:4) "Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one." (Job 14:4) "What is man that he should be clean? And he which is born of a woman that he should be righteous? Behold, God putteth no trust in his saints; yea, the heavens are not clean in his sight. How much more abominable and filthy is man, who drinketh iniquity like water?" (Job 15:14-16) This view of sin in the flesh is enlightening in the things concerning Jesus. The apostle says, "God made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin" (2 Cor. 5:21); and this he explains in another place by saying, that "He sent his own son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh" (Rom. 8:3) in the offering of his body once (Heb. 10:10,12,14). Sin could not have been condemned in the body of Jesus, if it had not existed there. His body was as unclean as the bodies of those for whom he died; for he was born of a woman, and "not one" can bring a clean body out of a defiled body; for "that", says Jesus himself, "which is born of the flesh is flesh" (John 3:6). (Elpis Israel)

"the second with reference to Him who was in that body" the one that dwells in the body is the logos or the anointing spirit

That which was imperfect was the nature with which the Logos, that came down from heaven to do the Father's will, clothed himself. That nature was flesh of the stock of Abraham, compared in Zech. 3:3 to "filthy garments," typical of the "infirmity with which he was compassed."

The Spirit clothed Himself with weakness and corruption - in other words, "Sin's flesh's identity" - that He might destroy the "DIABOLOS." It is manifest from this the Diabolos: must be of the same nature as that which the Spirit assumed; for the supposition that He assumed human nature to destroy a being of angelic nature, or of some other more powerful, is palpably absurd. The Diabolos is something, then, pertaining to flesh and blood, and the Spirit or Logos became flesh and blood to destroy it. -(Eureka 1:246)

Error tried to kill the savior by nailing to a tree 

That is the gospel of him whom they seek, which he has revealed to the perfect through the mercies of the father as the hidden mystery, Jesus the anointed.  Through him he enlightened those who were in darkness because of forgetfulness. He enlightened them and gave them a path. And that path is the truth that he taught them.  For this reason error was angry with him, so she persecuted him. She was distressed by him, and she was made powerless. He was nailed to a tree.  He became a fruit of the knowledge of the father. He did not, however, destroy them because they ate of it. He rather caused those who ate of it to be joyful because of this discovery. (Gospel of Truth)

For this reason Jesus appeared. He put on that book. He was nailed to a cross. He affixed the edict of the father to the cross. (Gospel of Truth)

Here Jesus and the gospel are one: it is nailed to the tree in his person. Thought only nailed to a tree, the gospel became a fruit of knowledge, thereby making its tree into a tree of knowledge — but not knowledge of good and evil ( Gen. 2:9) — knowledge of the Father

According to the Interpretation of Knowledge, "when the great Son was sent after his little brothers, he spread abroad the edict of the Father and proclaimed it, opposing all. And he removed the old bond of debt, the one of condemnation. And this is the edict that was: Those who reckoned themselves slaves have become condemned in Adam. They have been brought from death, received forgiveness for their sins and been redeemed." (Interpretation of Knowledge 14:28-38)

Christ, having the same nature as we do in every respect, had our same temptation “chattaah”. He destroyed his “chattaah” when he offered himself up on the cross. He glorified God both by his obedience and by his destruction of his “chattaah”.

The chattaah is the law of sin and death

He included Himself in the Living Offering

He included himself in the living offering, together with your offspring. He offered them up as an offering to the All. For it is not cattle that you will offer up for sin(s) of unbelief, and for the ignorances, and (for) all the wicked deeds which they will do [...]. And they do not reach the Father of the All [...] the faith ...... (20 lines unrecoverable) (The Nag Hammadi Library Melchizedek)

... (2 lines unrecoverable)
... is the sacrifice of [...], whom Death deceived. When he died, he bound them with the natures which are leading them astray. Yet he offered up offerings [...] cattle, saying, "I gave them to Death, and the angels, and the [...] demons [...] living offering [...]. I have offered up myself to you as an offering, together with those that are mine, to you yourself, (O) Father of the All, and those whom you love, who have come forth from you who are holy (and) living. And <according to> the perfect laws, I shall pronounce my name as I receive baptism now (and) forever, (as a name) among the living (and) holy names, and (now) in the waters. Amen." (The Nag Hammadi Library Melchizedek)

What does the text of Melchizedek mean when it says "He (Jesus) included himself in the living offering, together with your offspring. He offered them up as an offering to the All."

The same idea is found later on in the text "I have offered up myself to you as an offering, together with those that are mine, to you yourself, (O) Father of the All"

The interpretation of this is the Lord's sacrifice was necessary for his own redemption. His sacrifice was a public demonstration that his flesh was rightly related to death and a declaration of the righteousness of God that required the offering of his life in devotion to Him. By his sacrifice the ungodly propensities (diabolos) of his nature was destroyed (Heb. 2:14; 9:12; 7:27), thus providing for the granting of immortality.

It was necessary that Jesus should offer for himself for the purging of his own nature, first, from the uncleanness of death, that having by his own blood obtained eternal redemption for himself, he might be able afterward to save to the uttermost those that come to God by him

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