Gnosis and Gnosticism:
The Edenic Serpent’s Doublespeak. (Opinion Piece)
Despite the substantial body of valuable literature addressing Gnosticism, particularly notable contributions by the Early Church Fathers such as Irenaeus, Hippolytus, and other prominent voices, the author has opted to confine his definition of Gnosticism, to the fundamental concept. Given the considerable controversy prevailing within academic spheres regarding the application of the term “Gnostic”, this deliberate limitation seeks to circumvent unproductive conjecture and polemics.
The etymological origin of the term “Gnostic” (plural “Gnostics”) is rooted in the Ancient Greek word “γνωστικός” (gnōstikós), denoting a connection to knowledge, derived from “γνωστός” (gnōstós), signifying “known,” and further derived from “γιγνώσκω” (gignṓskō), meaning “I know.” This term designates an adherent of Gnosticism. Correspondingly, the English term “gnosis” is a transliteration of the Ancient Greek word “γνῶσις” (gnôsis), signifying “knowledge.”
The resonance of this etymological foundation becomes particularly pronounced as it converges upon the textual substratum under consideration, notably epitomized by the passage derived from Genesis 3:5 within the Septuagint (LLX), which reads: “γινώσκοντες καλὸν καὶ πονηρόν” (ginoskontes kalon kai poneron), translated as “knowing good and evil.” The term “ginoskontes” functions as a verb in the present active participle nominative plural masculine form.
Gnosis signifies an ongoing, individualized understanding that implies a relational dynamic between the knower and the known subject. This is why numerous interpretations of “gnosis” emphasize its character as “experiential” knowledge. (Source: “Holman Treasury of Key Bible Words: 200 Greek and 200 Hebrew Words Defined and Explained”) 1Carpenter, Eugene E., and Comfort, Philip Wesley. Holman Treasury of Key Bible Words: 200 Greek and 200 Hebrew Words Defined and Explained. United States, Holman Reference, 2000.In the Edenic context “Gnosis” is knowledge which is inextricably linked to the experiential knowledge of good and evil.
The English language, unlike the Greek, lacks a nuanced differentiation among diverse knowledge forms. Within this dimension, one encounters a spectrum of descriptors such as praxis, phronesis, nous, techne, sophia, episteme, oîda, and sunesis, although this enumeration remains non-exhaustive.
A comparative exploration between the term “Gnosis” and an array of related descriptors, assists in unravelling a nuanced comprehension of “Gnosis” within the context of theological discourse. By juxtaposing concepts like praxis, phronesis, nous, techne, sophia, episteme, oîda, and sunesis, one endeavours to glean deeper insights into the distinct dimensions that “Gnosis” encompasses.
- Praxis: The practical application of theoretical knowledge, emphasizing ethical action informed by principles.
- Phronesis: Practical wisdom, involving the ability to discern morally sound actions within specific contexts.
- Nous: Intuitive intellect or higher understanding, often associated with grasping fundamental truths beyond empirical observation.
- Techne: Skill or craft rooted in systematic knowledge and technical expertise, guiding creative and practical endeavors.
- Sophia: Deep wisdom, often regarded as transcendent knowledge of ultimate reality, reflecting profound insight.
- Episteme: Knowledge acquired through rational inquiry, striving for objective and universal truths based on reasoned exploration.
- Gnosis: Mystical or intuitive knowledge, often linked to spiritual insights and inner revelations. Gnosis signifies an ongoing, individualized understanding that implies a relational dynamic between the knower and the known subject.
- Oîda: Knowledge gained through perception.
- Sunesis: sýnesis (from 4920 /syníēmi) – properly, facts joined together for holistic understanding, i.e. synthesized reasoning that joins implicit (indirect) truths for comprehension. (Copyright © 2021 by Discovery Bible.)
The author proposes the possibility of comprehending the term “Gnosis” not through conjecture but by direct extraction from the scriptural corpus, discerned through its usage, typically denoting knowledge of God or about God.
The Edenic serpent, has co-opted and redefined the term “Gnosis,” associating it with the fabricated concept of “Gnosticism”, a notion that can be fundamentally traced back to the narrative found in Genesis 3:1-9. In essence, this term falsly distorts the narative of the fall of mankind, into a false liberation myth, derived from the fictional oppression maintained by the withholding or mystification of knowledge, by an allegedly evil being.
In essence, this manipulation or rendering ambiguous of terminology played a crucial role in shaping the discourse of the Early Church Fathers, who, given their specific historical and contextual circumstances, needed to formulate a foundational understanding of “Gnosticism” while also drawing from influences like Plato. A “root” definition would have been requisite for their taxonomy of Gnosticism in a pagan spiritual world, thus highlighting the imperative for a comparable root definition in contemporary discourse.
It’s important to recognize that their context differed from the contemporary Western landscape, which is gradually transitioning from a post-pagan, post-Christian world into a secular techno-humanist milieu. Likewise in contemporary discussions on “Gnosticism” one observes the same manipulation or rendering ambiguous of terminology (doublespeak), that demands a comparable root definition (exluding Platonic ideas) that the author tentatively describes as:
Within this complex landscape, “Gnosticism” disguises itself to unsuspecting individuals as possessing “Gnosis,” (mystical or experiential knowledge) which is deceptively and wrongfully equated with having “episteme” (scientific knowledge).
Gnosticism’s Dark Narrative: The Serpent’s Sinister Agenda
- Destruction of Humanity: Within Gnosticism, the serpent is not just a tempting figure but harbors malevolent intent to annihilate humanity, disrupting the harmonious existence of Adam and Eve, pushing them beyond spiritual and moral degradation into destruction. Adam and Eve experience spiritual death in that moment, while their physical bodies catch up over time.
- Deceptive Promise: The serpent’s strategy hinges on a deceptive promise, meticulously crafted to resonate with human ego, inviting individuals to break free from perceived divine control, inflating self-importance, and sowing doubt in divine intent.
- Strategies for Self-Destruction: Employing cunning and deceit, the serpent orchestrates a deliberate campaign to exploit human susceptibilities, leading them down a path of self-destruction.
- Targeting the Woman: The woman becomes the focal point of the serpent’s calculated deception, eventually becoming complicit in its malevolent objectives.
- Tangible Consequences: Humanity’s fall unfolds as they consume the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, symbolizing their entry into moral discernment with tangible consequences.
- Mystification of Knowledge: The narrative falsely depicts the mystification of knowledge, portraying it as veiled by a controlling evil being, casting a shadow over the essence of human existence.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.(II Corinthians 13:14 [ASV])
This piece is found within the forthcoming article The “Gnostic” Erasure of Women. Challenging Misogyny: Viewing Enmity Against Women Beyond Gender Lines.
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- 1Carpenter, Eugene E., and Comfort, Philip Wesley. Holman Treasury of Key Bible Words: 200 Greek and 200 Hebrew Words Defined and Explained. United States, Holman Reference, 2000.