"Christian" Gnosticisms Corruption of the Western/Alexandrian Manuscripts
Pastor David L. Brown, Ph.D.
There is a Gnostic Revival going on today. It has been fueled by the Gnostic fairy tale, The Da Vinci Code, the National Geographic Societies sponsorship, television special and publication of the Gnostic Gospel of Judas and a renewed interest in The Nag Hammadi Codices. With that in mind, I present this paper titled "Christian Gnosticisms Corruption of the Western/Alexandrian Manuscripts" for your consideration.
Please note that the word "Christian" is between quotation marks. By using the quotation marks I am indicating to the reader that I am saying that the "Christianity" of the Gnostics is not really Christianity at all. In fact, the only way that the Gnosticism that I am speaking of can be considered Christian is in the sense that they scrounged words, writings and ideas from Christianity, and then redefined, rearranged, edited and rewrote them to fit their own purposes and to advance their own false teachings. I present this paper to you, so that you will realize that the "scholarly" community is all in a frenzy about the so called Gnostic Gospels, and are in the process of rewriting early Christian History with a Gnostic spin to reflect the findings at Nag Hammadi Egypt and the recently discovered Gospel of Judas. I trust this information will be helpful.
Let me tell you a little bit about the Nag Hammadi manuscripts...
The Gnostic Discovery at Nag Hammadi Egypt & The Da Vinci Code
Nag Hammadi is a village in Egypt near the Nile River. In 1945 Six Bedouin camel drivers were digging for fertilizer when one of them uncovered a human skeleton. Next to the skeleton was an earthenware jar. Inside the jar, they found thirteen leather-bound volumes containing fifty-two treatises, hence they were called the Nag Hammadi codices. This library of ancient documents, dated around 350 AD contained texts relating to an early Christian Heresy called Gnostacism. Dan Brown's book titled The Da Vinci Code falsely characterizes these writings as "the earliest Christian records" and the "unaltered gospels."
These thirteen leather-bound volumes contained fifty-two treatises including - The Gospel of Thomas and Philip. They also found the Acts of Peter and the Twelve Apostles, A letter of Peter to Philip and the Apocalypse of Peter and Paul. In his book The Gnostic Discoveries, Marvin Meyer makes it clear all of the writings were Gnostic in nature, and they were all written in Coptic. Now, there is another important fact you need to know. The Nag Hammadi texts were all written in the second and third centuries AD. In The Da Vinci Code, Teabing claims that the Nag Hammadi texts are "the earliest Christian records DVC p.245. The truth is that every book in the New Testament was written in the first century AD! In fact, Gnostic beliefs did not begin to be mixed with Christianity until about 150 AD and so-called Christian Gnostic sects virtually disappeared by the 6th century. The only known exception was the Mandaean sect of Iran/Iraq.
There is also something further I should draw to your attention. Scholars regard the Gnostic gospels as not genuine, spurious, counterfeit.
Peter Jones, professor of New Testament at Westminster Seminary California and director of Christian Witness to a Pagan Planet says this about Gnosticism -
Basically, Gnostics see the human soul as divine. You look within for God.
There was no consensus on a Gnostic canon of scriptures. Gnostic groups had no scruples about rewriting and adapting other religions sacred writings to fit their fancy. Many of their own works were circulated in different versions. Various sects had their own preferred rendition. Further, Gnostic groups had no unified doctrinal statement within Gnostic groups. In fact, the Nag Hummadi find revealed that a variety of different beliefs existed among different groups and individuals. For instance, some taught celibacy and others did not.
Early Corruption of The Word of God
Purposeful efforts to alter and corrupt the New Testament
began almost immediately after each Gospel and letter were written. Turn to
So how is this word used in reference to the Word of God? Gnostic hucksters, and others, took the pure word of God and, like the shady wine dealers, mixed in their own philosophies, opinions and perversions and they peddled it all over as the real thing.
We know that false gospels and false letters were written and
circulated while the Apostles were still alive. Turn to 2
Turn in your Bibles to
Let's look at some of the Early Heresies that developed in the days of the Apostles, and shortly afterwards. The beginnings of these heresies are alluded to in the Epistles John, Paul and Jude. Let's look at several of these places.
Someone was promoting a false perverted letter or letters, and many in the church of Galatia were buying into the lie. Next, lets look at...
The NIV says, "Every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not of God...." You see that the NIV leaves out the word "Christ." Why? It is because it was translated from the Alexandrian line of Greek texts that had been corrupted by the Gnostics. The so called "Christian" Gnostics believed in a dualistic Jesus Christ. Jesus was the physical Jesus and Christ was the spiritual Jesus. I will explain that more later in this paper. However, suffice it to say that this corrupt teachings influences some of the scribes who changed the Apostolic texts to reflect their Gnostic beliefs. Next in your Bibles to...
Next, we are going to look at three early heresies - Gnosticism in general, Docetism, and Marcionism. Docetism and Mariconism are types of Gnosticism. There are others, but time will not allow us to consider them. But, know this, Gnosticism, had the biggest on early Christianity and also had a major influence on the transmission of New Testament, and accounts for many of the differences between the Apostolic-Traditional line and the Alexandrian-Western line of manuscripts.
I remind you of what was mentioned earlier in this paper: There was no unified doctrinal statement among Gnostic groups. There was no consensus on a Gnostic canon of scriptures. Gnostic groups had no scruples about rewriting and adapting other religions sacred writings to fit their fancy. Many of their own works were circulated in different versions. Various sects had their own preferred rendition.
While my research indicates that Carpocrates was the founder of the "Christian" Gnostics in the first half of the second century A.D., I do not know for sure that there were not others that preceded him. There were sects of Gnostics before him that used other religions and philosophies as their basis. However, we know that Carpocrates corrupted Christian teachings because of what Irenaeus wrote. The earliest and most vivid account of the Carpocratian Gnostics can be found in Irenaeus (130-202 A.D.) work titled Against Heresy. This sect did not believe Jesus was divine. His followers did not believe they had to follow the Law of Moses or any morality. They were very licentious (immoral) in their behavior.
Gnosticism, in all of its varieties, was the most influential heresy faced by the early Church. Not only did the Gnostic corrupt many readings found in the New Testament, but offered their own writings as inspired scriptures, such as the The Gospel of Thomas, The Gospel of Peter, The Gospel of Philip, The Gospel of Judas, The Gospel of the Ebionites, The Gospel of The Twelve, The Gospel According To The Hebrews (also called The Gospel According To Matthew, not to be confused with the real Gospel of Matthew), The Gospel According to the Egyptians, The Gospel of Mary (Magdalene), The Acts of Andrew, The Acts of Peter, The Acts of John, etc. Gnosticism had a variety of forms and sects, which broadened its base and growth. Historian Will Durant calls Gnosticism "the quest of godlike knowledge (gnosis) through mystic means" (The Story Of Civilization Vol. III, p. 604). Durant is correct. Gnosticism is thinly veiled Pantheism. Pantheism is the doctrine that identifies God with and in the whole universe, every particle, tree, table, animal, and person being are part of GOD. Or, to explain it in a very basic way, the Greek word pan = all. The Greek word theos = God). Therefore it literally means "God is All" and "All is God".
The Gnostics taught that the physical (material) is evil
and the spiritual (non-material) is good. Thus, a good god (spiritual)
could not have created a physical world, because good can not create evil (that
is the spiritual would not create the physical). So the Gnostic god created a
being (or a line of beings called aeons) removing himself from direct
creation. One of these aeons, or gods, created the world. The so-called
Christian Gnostics believed that Jesus was one of these aeons who
created the world. Some Gnostic taught that Jesus did not have a physical
body. When he walked on the earth, he left not footprints because he never
really touched the earth (he being spiritual and the world physical). Others
taught that only our spiritual bodies were important, so the physical body could
engage in whatever acts they desired because only the spiritual body would be
saved. Still other Gnostics taught that the physical body was so evil that it
must be denied in order for the spiritual body to gain salvation, thus shunning
marriage and certain foods (
The influence of Gnosticism can be seen in some of the
heresies of today. For example, many of the teachings stated above are
found, in revised form, in the teachings of the Jehovah's Witnesses. To the
Jehovah's Witness, Jesus is a created god, not God manifest in the flesh.
It is no wonder that the Watchtower's New World Translation changes
"God was manifest in the flesh" in 1
The same is true of
1881 Westcott & Hort - θεον ουδεις εωρακεν πωποτε μονογενης θεος ο ων εις τον κολπον του πατρος εκεινος εξηγησατο.
1894 Scrivner θεον ουδεις εωρακεν πωποτε ο μονογενης υιος ο ων εις τον κολπον του πατρος εκεινος εξηγησατο
Again, in both of these examples, the NASV, and ESV agrees with the NWT because, they are both based on the same Greek text. It is clear that Gnostic false doctrine have influenced the various Western/Alexandrian manuscripts, and as a result of the modern translations using Greek texts based on Western manuscripts, Gnosticism influences translations today.
Before I move on, I want to point out that the phrase "only begotten god" is supported by Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Jerome, papyrus 66 and the Alexandrian (Western) line of manuscripts. The phrase "only begotten Son" is quoted by Chrysostom, Tertullian, Basil, the Old Latin and Old Syrian translations and the majority of all Greek manuscripts. Hence, you can see that the Western line of manuscripts, that underlies the modern translations, were corrupted by the Gnostics who introduced those corruptions in the texts originally. However, the Eastern or Traditional lines of manuscripts, which underlie our King James Bible were not corrupted.
Docetism is a one of many types of Gnosticism. It dates back to Apostolic times. The name comes from the Greek word dokesis, "appearance" or "semblance", because they taught that Christ only "appeared" or "seemed" to be a man, to have been born, to have lived and suffered. This particular type of Gnosticism taught that Christ's body was a phantom and that he did not have a real physical body. Some denied the reality of Christ's human nature altogether, some only the reality of His human body or of His birth or death. The word Docetae which is best rendered by "Illusionists", first occurs in a letter of Serapion, Bishop of Antioch (190-203 A.D.) to the Church at Rhossos, where troubles had arisen about the public reading of the apocryphal Gospel of Peter. Serapion at first unsuspectingly allowed it to be read, but soon after forbade it, saying that he had borrowed a copy from the sect who used it, "whom we call Docetae."
Another variety of Docetism taught that the nature of Christ was dualistic (two-fold), spiritual and physical. Jesus was the physical, Christ was the spiritual. The Christ departed Jesus at the crucifixion, and left him on the cross to suffer and die. There was no literal bodily resurrection, just a spiritual resurrection. This certainly differs from that the New Testament Teaches. Consider the following passages of Scripture -
The Docetic Gnostics wrote their own Gospels including The Acts of John and, as mentioned above, The Gospel of Peter. The Gospel of Peter was cited by Justin Martyr, Origen, and Eusebius, but was not discovered by scholars until 1886. While excavating the grave of a monk, a French archaeological team discovered this manuscript in Egypt. Only a small portion of it remains, but what does remain, gives a differing account of the crucifixion than the four Gospels. This separation of the Christ from Jesus is seen in the following quotation - "And many went about with lamps, supposing that is was night, and fell down. And the Lord cried out, saying, "My power, my power, thou hast forsaken me. And when he had said it he was taken up. And in that hour the veil of the temple of Jerusalem was rent in twain." (Gospel of Peter, verse 5). Thus, according to the Docetics, the power of Jesus, that is the Christ, was taken up left Jesus while to die on the cross and be buried in the tomb. There was no bodily resurrection!
I point this out, because we see the same idea in
The NIV says,
There is another interesting fact that you should know. The Docetic Gnostics used an altered version the Gospel of Mark accordint to Irenaeus. He wrote - "Those who separate Jesus from Christ and say that Christ remained impassible while Jesus suffered, and try to bring forward the Gospel According to Mark, can be corrected out of that, if they will read it with a love of the truth." Against Heresies, cited from Early Christian Fathers Vol 1; translated by Cyril C. Richardson and published by The Westminster Press, page 382).
Let's move on to Marcionism...
Marcion was born in between 85 to 110 A.D. No one knows for sure. He founded his own Gnostic oriented heretical sect in about 144 A.D. He taught that the God of the Old Testament could not have been the Father of Jesus Christ, because Christ speaks of His Father as a God of love, but the God of the Jews was a God of wrath. Marcion taught that Jehovah, the God of the Old Testament, created the world, but that all created flesh was evil. The soul/spirit of man was created by a greater god, one who was above Jehovah. This greater god created the spiritual realm and was the true Father of Jesus Christ. To release man's soul from his flesh, this greater god sent Christ. Christ appeared, in the form of a thirty-year-old man, in a spiritual body that appeared to be physical but was not a physical body. Salvation was gained by renouncing Jehovah and all things physical. Marcion rejected the Hebrew Scriptures, and the quotations of those Hebrew Scriptures in the New Testament. The followers of Marcion issued their own New Testament composed of Luke and Paul's letters revised to their liking. The followers of Maricon made their revisions to support and reflect their doctrines. Ultimately, these Marcionian revisions reflect their private interpretations, and these perversions have survived in some of the ancient Greek New Testament manuscripts and account for the differences between the eclectic Greek text and the Textus Receptus.
Let me explain. Irenaeus points out that "Marcion cut up that
Gospel According to Luke" (Ireaneus' Against Heresies, p. 382). This would
account for the large number of changes found in varying manuscripts of Luke and
the large number of verses that are left out. It is, for example, understandable
why the phrase "And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his
There were many other "Christian" Gnostic sects that existed between about 150-300 A.D. besides the two I have named above -- The Valentinians, Simonians, Ophites, Basilidianians, Cainites, Nicolaites, Mandaeisites and many more. Many of the Gnostic corruptions of New Testament Scripture have made their way into the alleged "oldest and best" manuscripts.[Source materials include: 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica; Inspiration, Preservation and the KJV by Dr. J. Michael Bates; World Magazine April 29 & May 20, 2006; Early Heresies by Thomas Holland; The Gnostic Discoveries by Marvin Meyer; Jung and the Lost Gospels by Stephan A. Hoeller]