Week 11: Three “Other” Christianities: The Ebionites, Marcionites, and Gnosticism
“From the surviving documents of the period, there appear to have been five major competing Christologies throughout the Christian church. Docetism understood Christ to be a fully divine being and therefore not human; Adoptionism understood him to be a fully human being and not actually divine; Separationism understood him to be two distinct beings, one human (the man Jesus) and the other divine (the divine Christ); Modalism understood him to be God the Father become flesh. The fifth view is the one that “won out,” the Proto-orthodox view that Christ was both human and divine, at one and the same time, that he was nonetheless one person and not two persons, and that he was distinct from God the Father, both of them being God but there being only one God.” (Ehrman blog)
1. Acts 15:1-31 and Galatians 2.
Background for the short discussion of the “Apostolic Council” in the next reading.
2. Ehrman, Lost Christianities, chapter 5, Early Christian Ebionites and Marcionites (link)
After describing the conflict within the Jerusalem church over the necessity to circumcise Gentile male converts, Ehrman provides his usual meaty summaries of the Ebionites, of whom we know little, and the Marcionites who had enormous influence, most clearly by prompting the declaration of a canon.
2. Ehrman, Lost Christianities, chapter 3, The Coptic Gospel of Thomas (link)
Elaine Pagels suggests we translate gnosis as “insight” (rather than “knowledge”) “for gnosis involves an intuitive process of knowing oneself. And to know oneself, [the gnostics] claimed, is to know human nature and human destiny.”
3. The Gospel of Thomas (link)
Now that you have Ehrman’s reflections, read some of the Gospel of Thomas (just root around but don’t miss 114!).
4. Table Comparing Thomas and the NT (link)
Here’s a useful quick comparison citing the most significant differences between Thomas and the canonical gospels.
5. Ehrman, Lost Christianities, chapter 6, Early Christian Gnosticism (link)
Gnosticism is an important extension of the move from monism to dualism: instead of dueling forces, we get a material world which is entirely bad.