Essay on Gnostic Elements in the Gospel of John

The Church of Jesus Christ takes it origins in Jewish religion. For centuries, Jews had been waiting for the coming of the Messiah, while the rest of the world wallowed in sins and idolatry. The Messiah had come, but His own people had not recognized His as a Redeemer of the world; thus, the spread of the Gospel to the gentiles had resulted in more than one hundred ‘born again’ Greeks for every converted Jew. The world was not expecting the Savior and good news were like a fresh wind. The new religion of peace, love and forgiveness was like a rain to dry lands. Nevertheless, the Church had faced the question: “Should the Greek, who is interested in Christianity, study Judaic conception and mentality of the Messiah, or there should be a new approach, which would be rooted in his own historical past and would lead to his attitude and heart? John was revealed this approach: the notion of “word” subsisted in both Jewish and Greek ideologies, which was a part of historical heritage of these races.

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For every Jew, the spoken word was alive, charged with an energy and power; the word was aimed at a certain place or object and sooner or later would reach that goal. Besides, the almighty power of creative words runs all through the Old Testament writings. On the other hand, the notion of ‘word’ in the Greek philosophy occurred in 560 B.C. in Ephesus, where was written the fourth Gospel. Heraclites, the philosopher who lived at that time in Ephesus, claimed that everything changes; no one can enter the river twice at the same place. Yet, we do not live in chaos.

According to Heraclites, everything is systematic and is controlled by logos, word, or reason of God and all events in our lives have a plan and purpose. Stoics, supporting this idea, stated that the logos of God is the power that brings meaning and order in this world instead of chaos; it is the power that set up the process of the universe and holds it in the perfect order.

Gnosticism, which had combined Greek philosophy, Jewish theology and Eastern religion, presented a great threat to Christianity in first century of Common Era. Its followers were seeking the inner truth based on the intellect. Therefore, they suggested that deep insight of personal knowledge may bring salvation. Besides, Gnostic ideas of dualism represented world as a battle field of good and evil, light and darkness, where humans play the role of particles of little or no importance.

In his Gospel, John described the Providence of God, using the elements of Greek philosophy: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning… [t]he light shines in the darkness, but the darkness had not understood it.” (NIV, John 1:1-2, 5). On the basis of mentioned above, John presented the divine nature of Jesus as the Word (Logos) that resembles with Greek philosophy, and as the Light that is a part of Gnostic teaching.

Nevertheless, the emphases on the Word and dualism between light and darkness do not take Jesus apart from this world. As the Creator of the universe, “He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him” (John 1:11). Furthermore, John emphasized that “the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us” (1:14). From that point and on he described the earthly ministry of Jesus: feeding of the 5 thousand men, cleaning the temple, Jesus anointed at Bethany, His walking on the water, the triumphal entry into Jerusalem and the Passion.

Christology depicts “Jesus [as the One, who] had to be man so that He could die – and had to be God so that His death would pay for our sins” (Got Questions, para.2). John, as a witness of Jesus in the flesh, in support of this fact included speeches he had heard, miracles he had eyed, the Passion he had seen at first hand and the resurrection of Jesus he doubted and, finally, believed in with all his heart. The apostle Paul had fully realized that the promised offspring, who will crush the head of devil and whom Peculiar People were waiting for the centuries, had already come from heaven to this wicked earth:

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross! “(NIV, Phil. 2:5-8)

For John, Jesus was not the First Cause or the Word above this sinful world for Gnostics as they saw Him, He was the Redeemer who had compassion to people He created. He was the promised Messiah, who came to save His chosen ones from their sins. He was “the good Shepherd … [who] lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11), rather than a hired hand. Jesus Christ “came from the Father and entered the world; [afterward He left] the world and [went] back to the Father.”(John 16:28). The purpose of His first coming was to redeem people and bring them back to the Father. When Jesus went up to heaven, He became the Mediator between the Holy God in heaven and people on earth.

Yet, Jesus Christ had informed His disciples about His second coming, when He comes not to save but to judge those, who have not accepted Him as the Messiah. In his first epistle, John warns: “dear children, continue in Him, so that when He appears we may be confident and unashamed before Him at His coming” (1 John 2:28). Gnostics had not accounted for Jesus “as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in His blood” (Rom. 3:25); on the contrary, the valued intellect and inner knowledge, which could save them. But, Christian Eschatology proves that the end of times will come and “each of us will give an account of himself to God” (Rom. 14:12).

In conclusion, John retold the words of Jesus: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). If every one could be saved through knowledge, which was emphasized by Gnostics, Jesus would not be sent to this earth by His heavenly Father to redeem the chosen ones.
Works Cited:

1. Barker, Kenneth. “The NIV Study Bible”. Zondervan Publishing House. 1984.
2. Dowley, Tim. “Eerdmans’ handbook to the History of Christianity”. Paulton, Bristol. 1977.
3. Hastings, Adrian. “A World History of Christianity”. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. 1999.
4. Fuller, Reginald H. “The Foundations of New Testament Christology”. New York: Scribners. 1965.
5. Got Questions. “What is Christian Eschatology?” Online. Internet. 29 November 2006. Available: gotquestions.org/Eschatology.html
6. Got Questions. “What is Christology?” Online. Internet. 29 November 2006. Available: gotquestions.org/Christology.html

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