A Reply To Moe On The Gnostic God

Does Gnosticism explain Jesus? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

A friend messaged me Wednesday about a game he was playing with a final boss named Yaldabaoth and how he looked him up and found some material on Gnosticism. This isn’t a shock. Many video games have gone to mythological references a number of times. (I remember my shock to find out that Gen-Bu, Sei-Ryu, Byak-ko, and Su-Zaku from Final Fantasy Legend were actually mythological figures.) He wanted my thoughts on a site that had information about Yaldabaoth.

This site is The Gnostic Warrior and I have seen him before. That was when he wrote a post asking if Jesus was the son of Julius Caesar. Of course, that tells a little bit about what we’re getting into, but at any rate let’s see what we have. The article can be found here.

We have a reference to Diodorus saying the Hebrews call their God IAO. I did some searching for this. The first major thing I found was several Gnostic web sites all saying the same things. No source was given. Fortunately, the Christian-thinktank has something on it.

“Having analysed the varied reception which Moses received from pagan Greek authors, I shall now focus on the question of whether these sources show any awareness of the name of Moses’ God. We have already come across three relevant instances. (1) First, in first-century bc Rome Alexander Polyhistor included information from Artapanus in his encyclopaedic ethnography, regarded Moses as iden­tical with Musaeus, and narrated at some length the story of God’s revelation to Moses. The account describes the powerful impact of the name of the Lord of the universe on the Egyptian king and his entourage as soon as this name was uttered or read from a tablet. (2) Secondly, Diodorus Siculus, a near-contemporary of Alexander Polyhistor, designates the name of Moses’ God as Iao, and consid­ers Moses to have ascribed his self-made laws to his God, in accor­dance with the general custom among ancient peoples. (3) Thirdly, Strabo interprets the Jewish God as ‘the nature of all that exists’, thereby probably alluding to the ontological meaning of his name. (4) Fourthly, like Diodorus Siculus, Philo of Byblos also mentions the name ‘lao’, this time in the form of Ieuo, whose priest Hierombolus is named as the source of Sanchuniathon’s history of the Jews, allegedly written before the Trojan War. (5) And fifthly, Numenius shows himself aware of the ontological meaning of Yahweh’s name.

Apparently, IAO was somehow a transliteration of the name YHWH. How that works, I do not know. Perhaps a Hebrew and/or Greek scholar could answer that question. Still, this part could be not totally off base.

From there, we get to the passage about the fiery serpent and here we take a leap. It is said that if this is the name of the serpent, then we see the name show up all over the world, then we can say Moses is the source. There are claims made here that are unsubstantiated, such as that the Phoenicians adopted this imagery and it became the Phoenix. It also became the harp and the lion of the tribe of Judah, though it’s not explained how this happened or even what is meant by the harp. I would take it to mean a musical instrument since it’s not capitalized, but I’m not certain.

We also have an attempt to tie this to Bacchus based on the names sounding similar. Of course, if this is all he has, then he needs a lot more to make his case. That “a lot more” would include some scholars of the ancient world who would back this.

Much of what is said next we have no need to argue against. Whether it is true or false does not matter. It could be a true account of the story. Yet he has a real howler later on. He speaks of this god as the archon and says

The word archon is composed of the words Ark and On. Ark meaning a conduit of energy that is the Hu-Man sacred ark, or ark of the testimony, represents the original spark of divinity and knowledge that gave us Sophia or wisdom. Yaldabaoth would be akin to an arc welder that is the power supply to create an electric arc between an electrode and the base material to melt the metals.

Or it could be this comes from the Greek word arche which refers to a ruler or first or a source. Moe is taking the term and going to English and then saying that is our reference for it. It’s statements like this that just make me roll my eyes.

He later says

Yaldabaoth and his creations are referred to as the serpent which I have discussed before was once written as worm before the Latin Church Doctors had doctored the original Greek texts that simply read worm. Therefore we know Yaldabaoth is a type of human parasite or worm who seeks to rule and or be the Chief Archon over humankind which is further discussed in the The Apocryphon of John where he is called ignorant darkness;

We would very much like to know how something like this happened. Were all the Greek texts changed? Are there any scholars of Latin or Greek that can verify this? If there are, Moe gives none. Moe goes on to say that.

Yaldabaoth now forbade the man to eat of the tree of knowledge, which could enable him to understand the Gnostic mysteries and receive the graces from above. But man had to be eventually be redeemed from the wrath of Yaldabaoth . Accordingly Christ descended from above on the one perfect man Jesus, who had been prepared by Sophia. Ialdabaoth seeing in Jesus Christ a power superior to himself, stirred up the Jews to crucify Jesus. Of course Christ could not suffer; and he withdrew himself from Jesus in whom he had worked on earth. Christ did not, however, forget Jesus utterly, but raised from the dead the spiritual body of Jesus, which remained on earth eighteen months. At first Jesus did not fully understand the truth, but Christ enlightened him and he taught his disciples the true doctrine.”

His source on this is Frederick John-Foakes Jackson. Why he goes with a source that’s early 20th century is a good question to ask. Is he just looking for anyone that will agree with him? Did he go to a library and research this, or did he just do a web search and pick the first thing that went with him? We can all be sure what the answer to that is.

The Christian Scritpre would equate the Goddess Sophia, with the consort of Adam in the Garden of Eden whose name is Eve. The word Eve is derived from the Hebrew Hevia of Evia which is interpreted as “female serpent” in Latin translations of the Bible. In earlier Greek versions, the word serpent would have simply read “worm.” This is where the Church Doctors come in at doctoring these ancient texts in order to hide the truth of man’s creation.

However, we don’t have to search far and or in difficulty to see that this worm God who is both the creator and destroyer had given birth to several God men over the course of human history. In the Scripture it is said, “And from these worms God made angels. We find this passage more correctly rendered in the Hebrew Bible: “Man that is a worm (rimmah), and the son of man which is a maggot” (tole’ah). “But I am a worm and no man. How much more is man rottenness, and the son of man a worm ? “First he said, ” Man is rottenness;” and afterwards, “The son of man a worm:” because a worm springs from rottenness, therefore “man is rottenness,” and ”the son of man a worm.”

It’s a wonder that someone should be taken seriously on literature who reads it like this. The language of Job is obviously metaphorical language and not meant to give an account of origins. It would be like saying because Jesus said the Pharisees were a brood of vipers that he thought their parents were actual snakes. As for the first part, we eagerly await some backing on this claim. Until we see it, there is no reason to accept it.

Madam Blavatsky had written in Isis Unveiled: “In this plurality of heavens the Christians believed from the first, for we find Paul teaching of their existence, and speaking of a man “caught up to the third heaven” {2 Cor., xii, 2). “From these seven angels Ilda-Baoth shut up all that was above him, lest they should know of anything superior to himself.

We wonder why Blavatsky should be someone we can rely on here. Her claims have not been backed by scholars of our day or her own day. The Jews did hold to a plurality of Heavens, but it would hardly match the Gnostic idea. The third one was after all the highest one where God dwelt. The first would be the sky you see every day and the second would be the regions of what we call outer space beyond.

Moe goes on to say about the Sabbath that

The Roman emperor Constantine, a sun-worshiper, professed his conversion to Christianity, although his subsequent actions suggest that the “conversion” was more of a political move than a genuine change of heart. Constantine proclaimed himself Bishop of the Catholic Church and then enacted the first civil law regarding Sunday observance in A.D. 321.The Catholics state; “The Church substituted Sunday for Saturday by the plenitude of that divine power which Jesus Christ bestowed upon her!”

This is interesting since Justin Martyr spoke of gathering on the first day of the week and 1 Cor. 16 has a gathering on the first day of the week. Moe could also look at the Canons of the Council of Nicea and see if he can find anything about the Sabbath. As for Constantine’s conversion, he could do what I did and talk to a scholar like Peter Leithart on this.

From there, we get into several claims about Abraham and such, but there is no backing for the claims and I seriously doubt any Hebrew scholar would agree with them. Unfortunately, I seriously doubt this will be considered. Moe apparently prefers to use hack resources.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Transcending Proof

What do I think of Don McIntosh’s book published by Christian Cadre publishing? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I want to thank Don for sending me this book to see what I thought. As I read through, there were some parts I really did like, and some that I wasn’t so sure about it. I definitely did like seeing a foreword by Stephen Bedard, someone I have a great respect for. Since I said it was a mixed bag, I’ll go with what I did like and then mention ways I think a future edition could be better.

McIntosh makes an interesting beginning by starting with the problem of evil. One would think this is not where you would begin your case for theism, but it is for him. McIntosh I think spends the most time on this part of the book. He looks at evil and all the explanations for it. At times, I found myself thinking an objection from the other side could be easily answered, but then he answered it later on.

I also like that McIntosh is willing to take on popular internet atheists such as Richard Carrier. Again, this part is a case for theism and relies highly on the usages of the problem of evil. McIntosh makes a fine dissection of Carrier’s argument, though it’s quite likely you won’t follow along as well if you don’t know the argument of Carrier.

The same applies to Dan Barker. Of course, Dan Barker is about as fundamentalist as you could get and is a poster child for fundamentalist atheism. McIntosh replies to an argument he has against theism based on God having omniscience and free-will both and how Barker thinks that is contradictory. Again, it’s good to see popular atheists that aren’t as well known being taken on because you do find them often mentioned on the internet and many popular apologists don’t deal with them.

It was also good to see a section on the reliability of Scripture, which is quite important for Christian theism, and a section on Gnosticism. I see Gnosticism often coming back in the church. This includes ideas like the body being secondary and a sort of add-on. (Think about sexual ethics. People who think sex is dirty and a sort of necessary evil and people who think “It’s just sex and no big deal what you do with it” are both making the same mistake.)  I also see Gnosticism with the emphasis on signs and the idea of God speaking to us constantly and personal revelation being individualized.

That having been said, there are some areas that I do think could be improved. One of the biggest ones is it looked like I was jumping all over the place when I went through. It was as if one chapter didn’t seem to have any connection to the next one. I would have liked to have seen a specific plan followed through. If there was one, I could not tell it.

I am also iffy on critiques I often see of evolution. I am not a specialist in the area to be sure, but yet I wonder how well these would do against an actual scientist and I still think this is the wrong battle to fight. I also found it troublesome that the God of the living could not be the same as the one described as the abstract deity that was Aristotle’s prime mover of the universe. I do not see why not. I think Aristotle’s prime mover is truly found in the God of Scripture and that God is more living and active than any other being that is. I am not troubled by God using an evolutionary process to create life than I am by God using a natural process to form my own life in the womb and yet I can still be fearfully and wonderfully made.

I also would have liked to have seen a chapter focusing solely on the resurrection and giving the best arguments for and against it. I think it’s incomplete to have a look at Christian theism without giving the very basis for specific Christian theism. It’s good to have the reliability of Scripture, but there needs to be something specific on the resurrection.

Still, I think McIntosh has given us a good start and there is plenty that could be talked about. I do look forward to a future writing to see what it will lead to. We need more people who are not known willing to step forward and write on apologetics and especially those willing to engage with the other side.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

 

A Look At Death

What happens when someone crosses over? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday, my wife received word that an older friend of hers had died of cancer after a long battle. This was a friend I had never got to meet and a friend who also valued Allie and if there was something of Allie this friend wanted, it would have been to have a husband. This friend will not get to have that dream realized as she passed away at 2 P.M. yesterday.

Now frankly, I’m not the best comforter in those times of need. For someone like myself, it can be difficult to have that emotional connection. Were things the other way around, this is the area my wife would excel at. She is quite good at connecting with people emotionally. I am not. I much more excel at connecting with people intellectually and rationally.

So let’s look at the topic of death. Too often, I think we forget what death really means. Death means that this side of eternity, there will be no interaction. You will not get to hear their voice again (Save recordings and such). You will not get to talk to them. You will not see their face. (Save pictures.) You will not share a laugh or a joke. Nothing ever again.

It’s a pretty bleak picture.

A lot of times, we say things that are meant to console. They don’t. In fact, if we were being honest, nothing we say could console. Perhaps we do it also to relieve our own stress at not being able to help a loved one. No doubt, we mean well, but everything we say is empty, and frankly, it should be. It shouldn’t be that we hear something and think “Why oh yes! Thank you! I’m no longer grieving over this loved one!”

In some ways, you will spend the rest of your life grieving. It depends on how much the person meant to you. There are many people that I’m not consciously thinking about every day. Still, when I see something about them, I remember and I have some sadness. I think right now of my friend Gretchen Coburn and Jonathan Dileo. (Jonathan’s charity can be found here.)

The closer the person was to you, the more you will grieve. Lose a friend? You’re going to grieve. Lose a best friend? You’re going to grieve even more. Lose a spouse? That will be intense grieving. I will not dare to speak yet of how intense it is to bury a child, though I have known people who have done that. It is said that burying a parent is losing the past, a spouse the present, and a child the future.

Death is something we’d all like to do without.

And this is what makes Christianity so important.

Often when Christians talk about death, we often make the mistake. The whole idea is “I wanna go to Heaven when I die.” For that kind of thinking, it’s like the Earth is an afterthought. It’s not really needed here. The whole idea of “This world is not my home. I’m just passing through.”

No. God made this world to be your home.

Now does that mean something doesn’t happen when a person dies? Not at all. If I am hearing about a Christian, all I will say is that they are in the presence of Jesus. They are not there in their bodies, which means there is something missing still, but they are in the presence of Jesus. The body though is not the accident. God made us bodied creatures.

Gnosticism was one of the first great heresies of the early church and it was a highly dominant view and one benefit it had was it dispensed with the body. Matter was wicked and evil. No need of it. Christianity said no. Why? Because Jesus really lived in a body. He wasn’t acting. Jesus really rose from the dead in a body. It’s the real deal.

This was the harder route, but it was the route they took because they had to be true to the facts. This changes our view of everything. If the body is good and matter is good, it should work with how we handle issues relating to the environment, issues related to sex, issues related to life, and issues related to death.

For the Christian then, we can mourn when someone dies. In fact, Paul tells us in 1 Thess. 4 that we do mourn. Indeed. We do. We do not mourn like those who have no hope. If our mourning is exactly like those who are non-Christians, then we have not treated our Christianity seriously.

The resurrection changes everything. The resurrection shows that death is not the final outcome of us all. It shows that even death can be defeated and reversed and in fact, so can all of the evil in our lives. If history was a symphony, the resurrection of Jesus would be the moment where everything starts to come alive with a grand crescendo waiting the final moment of the return of Christ when all is made right again.

This is also why you need to know the reality of the resurrection. The resurrection does change everything. It was the belief that changed the world and overtook the Roman Empire.

I wonder if it could do that today if we gave it the same attention and made it as central as the early church did?

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 10/10/2015: Rodney Reeves and Randy Richards

What’s coming up on the next episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Recently, we had Rodney Reeves and Randy Richards on to talk about Rediscovering Paul. They’re coming back again and this time they’re talking about Rediscovering Jesus, which I reviewed here. The book is a fun and unique look at Jesus asking what our Christianity would be like if we only had one source or one type of source and then what it would be like if we had some version of Jesus outside of the Bible. So who are the people coming on to talk about this?

Let’s start with Rodney Reeves.

publicity photo

I’ve been married over thirty-six years to Sheri (Richardson) Reeves, who is a Speech and Language Pathologist for Citizens Memorial Hospital, Bolivar, MO.

We have three children: Andrew (28) lives in Kansas City, MO; Emma (24) lives in Chicago, IL; and Grace (19) who is a first-year student at Belhaven University, Jackson, MS. Sheri and I are members of the First Baptist Church, Bolivar, MO.

I’m in my sixteenth year at Southwest Baptist University, Bolivar, MO, as the Redford Professor of Biblical Studies, also serving as Dean of The Courts Redford College of Theology and Ministry. I teach courses in New Testament and Greek.

I’m an SBU alumnus (1979), and I graduated from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Ft. Worth, TX (MDiv, 1982; PhD, 1986). I did part of my doctoral study at Oxford University, UK (1985-86).

Prior to coming to SBU, I served as Senior Pastor, Central Baptist Church, Jonesboro, AR (1995-2000), and associate professor of New Testament at Williams Baptist College, Walnut Ridge, AR (1987-1995).

I have written several articles for scholarly journals, textbooks, dictionaries, handbooks, and magazines. I’ve written four books: A Genuine Faith: How to Follow Jesus Today (Baker Books, 2005); Rediscovering Paul: An Introduction to His World, Letters and Theology, co-authored by David B. Capes and E. Randolph Richards (InterVarsity Press, 2007); Spirituality according to Paul: Imitating the Apostle of Christ (InterVarsity Press, 2011). My newest book, Rediscovering Jesus: An Introduction to Biblical, Religious and Cultural Perspectives on Christ (once again co-authored by Capes and Richards, InterVarsity Press, 2015) was released this summer. And I’m currently working on a commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, Story of God Bible Commentary, ed. Scot McKnight (Zondervan Publishing, 2016?).

My hobbies are fishing, camping, golfing, and reading.

I made a vow to God many years ago to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to minister to the Body of Christ. I have tried to keep that promise as a member of a Baptist Church, as a minister, and as a college professor. I study Scripture because I want to be a committed disciple of Jesus. I teach biblical studies in an effort to serve the needs of the Church. I’m a part of the academic community here at SBU in hopes of advancing the Kingdom of God, trying to encourage each other to fulfill Jesus’ commandment: to love God with all of our heart, soul, strength, and mind, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Therefore, I see my work here as part of the whole kingdom enterprise of teaching students to be servants of Christ for a world that needs him.

And as for Randy Richards.

Richards arms crossed smallest size

Dr. Randy Richards loves training students for ministry, both domestically and internationally. He has been teaching since 1986, originally at a state university and then abroad at an Indonesian seminary. Upon returning to the States, Dr. Richards has served at two Christian universities before joining Palm Beach Atlantic University as the Dean of the School of Ministry in 2006.

His wife Stacia has joyfully accompanied him from jungles of Indonesia to rice fields in Arkansas to beautiful South Florida. They have two fine sons. Josh (Ph.D. 2012, University of St Andrews, Scotland) is a university professor in English. Jacob (Ph.D. 2014, College of Medicine, University of Florida) is a medical researcher.

Dr. Richards has authored or co-authored seven books and dozens of articles. Recently, he has published Rediscovering Jesus (InterVarsity, 2015; Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes, with Brandon O’Brien (InterVarsity, 2012), “Reading, Writing, and the Production and Transmission of Manuscripts” in The Background of the New Testament: An Examination of the Context of Early Christianity (Baker, 2013), “Will the Real Author Please Stand Up? The Author in Greco-Roman Letter Writing” in Come Let Us Reason: New Essays in Christian Apologetics (B&H, 2012), “Pauline Prescripts and Greco-Roman Epistolary Convention” in Christian Origins and Classical Culture: Social and Literary Contexts for the New Testament (Brill, 2012), and a dozen articles in The Baker Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Baker, 2013).

He has just finished another popular book, Paul Behaving Badly, and is finishing A Little Book for New Bible Scholars, both with InterVarsity Press and due out in 2016. He is also completing chapters in two other books and several dictionary articles.

Dr. Richards is a popular lecturer, speaker and preacher, recently in places as diverse as Wycliffe Hall (Oxford), Kathmandu, and Kenya. He was a Senior Scholar at the IRLBR Summer Summit at Tyndale House (Cambride) in 2013. He regularly conducts missionary training workshops, and currently serves as a Teaching Pastor at Grace Fellowship Church in West Palm Beach.

This book is a highly enjoyable look at the life of Jesus that will lead to you thinking about it in a whole new light. These guys are really passionate about the book as well as I saw last time they came on and I hope you’ll be here to see round two of the discussion. Be watching for the next episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Crucifixion

What do I think of Martin Hengel’s book on crucifixion? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Martin Hengel was one of the best scholars out there in the field and is a valuable resource still five years after his death. He was a member of what we would call the Early High Christology Club and provided some of the best scholarship out there. This is apparent also in his short little book on the nature of crucifixion.

When I say short, I mean it. You can read this one easily in a couple of hours. Doing so will be an excellent investment of those two hours. That it is short does not mean that it is not scholarly. It is incredibly packed with information. Those who want to say they seriously question the New Testament should have no problem as hardly any of it comes from the New Testament. Crucifixion is talked about from various sources. Of course, the New Testament has a lot to say about it, but others at the time had their own statements about it as well.

If there was really in fact one lesson that could be learned from this book and one that I wish all readers would learn, Christian and non, it is this.

The cross was a scandal.

Many people have not really had this sink in. We say Jesus died by crucifixion and this is certainly true, but we don’t realize just what that would mean to the people of the time. To say that the crucified Jesus was the Messiah and you worshiped Him as God would be like saying that you think a pimp on the streets should be the next Pope or that you think a child molester would make a great president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

This is one reason docetism and gnosticism both found their way into Christianity early on. Both of these would have a way of denying the crucifixion. Is it any shock that even in Islam, you have it being denied that Jesus died by crucifixion? At least there’s something that all of these beliefs recognize. It is incredible to think that the Messiah who was seen as sharing in the divine identity of the God of Israel would be crucified.

Hengel in his work goes through several quotes from writers at the time who put crucifixion on the lowest point possible. It was certainly not something you would casually talk about over dinner when you were together. Say the word and it is quite likely that people would fall back in disgust at the very thought of it.

Crucifixion was simply as Hengel says, barbaric, and it was in fact the worst penalty that could be given to someone. The act of crucifixion was designed to not only kill the person involved, but shamefully kill then in a highly painful process. In fact, this is where we get the word “excruciating” from. The word means “out of the cross.”

We today don’t really get the way that shame worked back then. It was designed to be a deterrent to others and a way of making an object lesson of the person involved and saying “You don’t want to be like this guy.” Jesus’s death would have been the most shameful of all. That is not the kind of event that would draw sympathy from others. Instead, it would have been the exact opposite. It would have cemented any idea of Jesus being the Messiah as false. This is why Paul in 1 Cor. 1 says that the cross is a stumbling block. 

In all of this, somehow Christianity survived. It must have been something massive that overcame the shame of the cross.

It’s important to point out that if you’re wanting to learn about the theology of the cross or the work of the atonement, you’re not going to find it in Hengel’s book. His is looking at the nature of crucifixion from a historical point of view. It is wanting the reader to learn how crucifixion was viewed at the time of Jesus and a few centuries before and after. It should open the eyes of the reader still to what exactly Jesus went through and how this would have been perceived.

As I said, this is a short book, but if you want to learn about crucifixion, it is a massively important one to read. Go invest that couple of hours. It will be worth it.

In Christ,

Nick Peters