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Chapter 7 The Christian apologists: interacting with Gnosticism and other “heresies”

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Presentation on theme: "Chapter 7 The Christian apologists: interacting with Gnosticism and other “heresies”"— Presentation transcript:

1 Chapter 7 The Christian apologists: interacting with Gnosticism and other “heresies”

2 Questions to be addressed in this chapter 1.What is apologetics and why did it emerge in early Christianity? 2.How did the notions of orthodoxy and heresy develop in the second century? 3.What is Gnosticism and how does it differ from orthodox Christianity? 4.How did the emphases of Jesus’s humanity and divinity lead to polar heresies? 5.How did the persecution of Christians and early offshoots of Christianity lead to the systematic development of theology?

3 The Early Christian Apologists Apologetics comes from the Greek apologia = defense; the branch of theology that deals with the defense and proof of Christianity. Orthodoxy comes from the Greek words ortho = right and doxa = belief/right belief; the theological views and normative claims of the Church Fathers, Mothers, apologists, and heresiologists which prevailed. Heresy comes from the Greek word haireomai = choose; that belief, or those beliefs, which one chooses contrary to orthodoxy. There were a number of orthodox Christians in the second century who took up the task of defending the faith against the pagans and those considered to be heretics.

4 Christian Apologists and heresiologists of the second century Justin Martyr (c.100-c.165; Caesarea) Hermias (2nd century) Irenaeus (c.130-c.200; Lyons) Aristides (2nd century; Athens) Tertullian (c.150-c.212; Carthage) Theophilus(2nd century; Antioch) Athenagoras (2nd century) Melito (2nd century; Sardis)

5 Orthodoxy and heresy A heresiologist is one who writes an account (logos) of heresies, combining refutation with schemes of classification or origin. One such Christian heresiologist was Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons (c.130-c.200). Irenaeus was primarily concerned with “heretical” groups known to us as the Gnostics. His general strategy for responding to important questions which arose concerning the faith is spelled out in his book Against Heresies.

6 Gnosticism The word “Gnostic” comes from the Greek word gnosis (knowledge), and it seems clear from the historical record that one general characteristic of all Gnostic adherents is the notion that salvation is achieved through acquiring secret knowledge. In 1945 thirteen Gnostic books, consisting of forty-six treatises written in the form of gospels, acts, letters, and even apocalypses, were discovered in Nag Hammadi, Egypt. These treatises are referred to as the “Nag Hammadi Library.”

7 Central Gnostic beliefs Cosmology – The cosmos is divided into two components—the physical or material world (which is inherently flawed and evil) and the spiritual world (which is inherently good). Theology – The true God is a transcendent being who is beyond all things and individuals. This God did not create the material world but did create other divine beings. In between the true God and human beings there exist Aeons—divine beings—and perhaps the most significant of these beings is Sophia. Over time, another divine but flawed being emanated from Sophia. This divine being—the Demiurge—created the physical cosmos in his own flawed image and imprisoned Sophia in the souls of certain human beings as divine sparks. Anthropology – Human beings are physical (material body and animal soul) and spiritual, and at least some humans contain within them the divine spark (i.e., the Goddess Sophia). The Gnostics themselves are those human beings who have within them this divine aspect. Soteriology – Salvation is the liberation of the human/divine spirit from its union with the material world. This liberation is attained through acquiring knowledge (gnosis) of the human condition: where we came from, who we truly are, and where we are headed. Furthermore, for many Gnostics, a cosmic savior is needed to reveal these mysteries to us, and this great revealer is the Aeon (eternal being) called Christ.

8 Conflicting heresies: the Marcionites and Ebionites

9 The first systematic theologians The second century reflected a flurry of activity by Christian apologists and heresiologists as they attempted to defend the faith against external charges of its being a false, and even dangerous, religion and against internal theological heresies. They began the important task of clarifying fundamental Christian beliefs, such as the nature of God and of Christ, the meaning of salvation, the significance of Jesus’ incarnation and resurrection, and the role of the Old Testament in Christian scripture.

10 Summary of main points 1. Christian apologists, or defenders of the faith, emerged in the second century in order to defend Christianity against both outsiders (pagans) and insiders (Gnostics and other “heretical” groups). 2.The apologists and heresiologists defended what they took to be the traditional apostolic doctrines, which were “orthodox,” and opposed contrary doctrines, or “heresies,” which they argued had no basis in what Jesus and the apostles taught. 3.One “heresy” (or, rather, group of heresies) which emerged in the second century was Gnosticism, and its worldview included a divided cosmos, multiple gods, and the requirement of secret knowledge about the self for salvation. 4.Some heretical groups affirmed the deity of Jesus to the exclusion of his humanity; others affirmed his humanity to the exclusion of his deity; the Christian apologists maintained that Jesus was both God and man. 5.In an attempt to carefully articulate the “orthodox” doctrines in their defense of the faith, the apologists began an unprecedented systematization of theology.

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