Bible Studies/Gnosticism


Hello and thank you for taking my question. I would like to know if all the extra-biblical books outside the canon are called Gnostic or is Gnostic a term that applies to only certain extra - biblical books and there are other books in addition to the Gnostic ones. Thank you

First, maybe a definition might help....

Gnostic mans “knowledge”.

And the Gnostic Gospels exist as a collection of a bit more than 50 documents and teaching and tests, written from the end of the 100's to the beginning of the 300‘s.  None of these are part of what were chosen to be part of the New Testament gathered together in the 300‘s by the Council of Nicaea by Constantine.  In that Council decisions were made as to what would be part of the New Testament, and what would not, by the 200 bishops gathered for 2 years.  (As you likely know, before this time, there was no New Testament.  Lots of gospels were in those Gnostic Gospels.... Saying by Thomas, likely written in the middle of the 2nd century.... and some biblical scholars suggest that some of the sayings  are comments and traditions older than the four gospels chosen  for the NT...MMLJ.  None of these gnostic gospels are part of biblical cannon, nor are they part of any mainstream Christian sect today.  Are you beginning to see the problem of naming everything not biblical, as Gnostic?

It has long been believed that Gnosticism was a Jewish sect, along with Marcionites, Ebionites and Nazarines, to name a few.  Gnostics did not believe that any church was needed to find the path to revelation, nor was any church responsible for one’s salvation.  Some scholars see that what gnosticism had done, was to blend the ideas of Jesus with Eastern philosophies.

Gnostics were simply a sect of Christianity, that took a different spin on what others were taking.  Their idea was that salvation didn’t lie with the worship of Jesus, but in freeing one’s self  from  the material world.

Some of the literature now regarded as Gnostic was ordered destroyed by Constantine at the end of the Council in the 330‘s. Constantine's idea was to standardize Christianity so that all were reading the same things.    But of course it was not all destroyed.  Some continued to be read in Egypt by Coptic Christians---likely even today--- some documents were stashed, only to be found later.  And not all of it was found at the same time, nor in the same place.  The Nag Hammadi documents were not found until the 1940‘s in Egypt.  It is named for that area.  The Gospel of Mary was  discovered in the 1890‘s.  Most of the writing are believed to have been composed in the 2nd, and 3 centuries. but again, not all.

I am not aware that EVERYONE calls ALL of these found and recovered things as “Gnostic” meaning that it came from that  one religious sect which called itself “Gnosticism”.  However many scholars do date the writing of the Gnostic gospel of Nag Hammadi to the second and third centuries.

A book that you might find interesting is “Lost Christianities” by Bart Ehrman, THE leading New Testament  and Early Christian historian, and scholar of our era.

Your question asked, “If ALL the extra biblical books outside cannon are called Gnostic, or is Gnostic a term that applied to only certain extra-biblical books, and there are other books in addition to the Gnostic ones."

And this could depend upon what scholar you were asking , and how the term is being used.  As I stated, “gnostic” means knowledge in Greek.  But as well, as sect of Christianity, in the early years called themselves “Gnostics".... i.e., the knowledgeable ones.

See the problem?

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Elisabeth DeWald


My major in college was History, and I minored in biology, zoology, math, and chemistry. Most of my life I have been on one side of a desk or the other. My specialty is New Testament, in particular, The Gospels.


When I lived in Chicago, I was able to audit classes in Religious Studies, at the University of Chicago's Divinity School. The Academics were in Bible History, Early Christian History, Comparative Religion. I could not enroll..... I had no BS at the time. But all the men teaching there were friend of my then husband, who had just finished all of his Ph. D work, and they at the Divinity School liked him so much that they hired him. I was always interested in why people believe as they do, so these friends---- professors and colleagues of my husband--- invited me to join their classes. I did all the work, turned in all the papers, attended all lectures, and learned lots of things all trained theologians learned. The course work was NOT devotional.... it was Historical/Critical, where one wishes to find out, "where did this story come from?" and "why was this or that important?". In the devotional style of biblical study, one searches for comforting phrases. That is never stressed at any Divinity School beyond any BA or BS. This is how Princeton's Divinity School works, how Harvard's Divinity School work...all of them. If one wishes the devotional approach, one goes to the Moody Bible Institute.

I have a BA, and an MA

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