Second Treatise of the Great Seth is an apocryphal Gnostic writing discovered in the Codex VII of the Nag Hammadi codices and dates to around the third century. The author is unknown, and the Seth referenced in the title appears nowhere in the text. Instead Seth is thought to reference the third son of Adam and Eve to whom gnosis was first revealed, according to some gnostics.
The Treatise of the Great Seth is written from the first-person perspective of Jesus.
The author appears to belong to a group of gnostics who maintain that Jesus Christ was not crucified on the cross. Instead the text says that Simon of Cyrene was mistaken for Jesus and crucified in his place. Jesus is described as standing by and "laughing at their ignorance."
Those who believe Jesus to have died on the cross are said to believe in "a doctrine of a dead man." All those without gnosis - including those who had what would become orthodox beliefs, as well as the figures of Adam, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Solomon, the prophets, and Moses - are all referred to as a "laughingstock." The text shows the derision which the gnostics felt towards those who did not realize their claimed truth; that the biblical text was false (in at least certain important respects) and that the God of the Jews was not the true God.
Jesus also makes statements claiming that Adam, Moses, and John the Baptist were all also "laughingstocks". He says:
Neither he nor those before him, from Adam to Moses and John the Baptist, none of them knew me or my brethren. For a doctrine of angels is what arose from them, to keep dietary rules and bitter slavery. They never knew truth nor will they know it, for there is a great deception upon their soul...
He says these prominent figures were "laughingstocks" because they believed that the Demiurge was the One True God, and did not know the Gnostic truth.
Some Gnostics believed Jesus was not a man but a docetistic spirit, and therefore could not die. From the translation by Roger A. Bullard and Joseph A. Gibbons:
For my death, which they think happened, (happened) to them in their error and blindness, since they nailed their man unto their death... It was another, their father, who drank the gall and the vinegar; it was not I. They struck me with the reed; it was another, Simon, who bore the cross on his shoulder. I[t] was another upon Whom they placed the crown of thorns... And I was laughing at their ignorance.— (Jesus as narrator)
At the beginning of the book, Jesus states:
I visited a bodily dwelling. I cast out the one who was in it previously, and I went in.
This statement indicates that Jesus inhabited a human body that had previously belonged to someone else, which meant the body was not his own.
He also explains that the being that created the world is not the One True God. Jesus instead proclaims:
Though we mastered his doctrine in this way, he lives in conceit, and he does not agree with our Father. And thus through our friendship we prevailed over his doctrine, since he is arrogant in conceit and does not agree with our Father. For he was a laughingstock with (his) judgment and false prophecy.
This demonstrates the gnostic view that the God of the Hebrew Bible was not the One True God, but rather an inferior being called the Demiurge, which was created by Sophia.
In the Platonic, Neopythagorean, Middle Platonic, and Neoplatonic schools of philosophy, the demiurge is an artisan-like figure responsible for fashioning and maintaining the physical universe. The Gnostics adopted the term demiurge. Although a fashioner, the demiurge is not necessarily the same as the Creator figure in the monotheistic sense, because the demiurge itself and the material from which the demiurge fashions the universe are both considered consequences of something else. Depending on the system, they may be considered either uncreated and eternal or the product of some other entity.
Gnosticism is a collection of religious ideas and systems which coalesced in the late 1st century AD among Jewish and early Christian sects. These various groups emphasised personal spiritual knowledge (gnosis) above the orthodox teachings, traditions, and authority of religious institutions. Viewing material existence as flawed or evil, Gnostic cosmogony generally presents a distinction between a supreme, hidden God and a malevolent lesser divinity who is responsible for creating the material universe. Gnostics considered the principal element of salvation to be direct knowledge of the supreme divinity in the form of mystical or esoteric insight. Many Gnostic texts deal not in concepts of sin and repentance, but with illusion and enlightenment.
Irenaeus was a Greek bishop noted for his role in guiding and expanding Christian communities in the southern regions of present-day France and, more widely, for the development of Christian theology by combating heresy and defining orthodoxy. Originating from Smyrna, he had seen and heard the preaching of Polycarp, who in turn was said to have heard John the Evangelist, and thus was the last known living connection with the Apostles.
According to the Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, and Theodoret's Haereticarum Fabularum Compendium, the Borborites or Borborians were a Christian Gnostic sect, said to be descended from the Nicolaitans. It is difficult to know for sure the practices of the group, as both Epiphanius and Theodoret were opponents of the group. According to Epiphanius, the sect were libertines who embraced the pleasures of the earthly world. The word Borborite comes from the Greek word βόρβορος, meaning "mud"; the name Borborites can therefore be translated as "filthy ones", and is unlikely to be the term the sect used for themselves.
Marcion of Sinope was an early Christian theologian, an evangelist, and an important figure in early Christianity. Marcion preached that the benevolent God of the Gospel who sent Jesus Christ into the world as the savior was the true Supreme Being, different from and opposed to the malevolent demiurge or creator god, identified with the Hebrew God of the Old Testament. He considered himself a follower of Paul the Apostle, whom he believed to have been the only true apostle of Jesus Christ, a doctrine called Marcionism. Marcion published the earliest extant fixed collection of New Testament books.
Marcionism was an early Christian dualistic belief system that originated from the teachings of Marcion of Sinope in Rome around the year 144. Marcion was an early Christian theologian, evangelist, and an important figure in early Christianity. He was the son of a bishop of Sinope in Pontus. About the middle of the 2nd century (140–155) he traveled to Rome, where he joined the Syrian Gnostic Cerdo.
Valentinus was the best known and, for a time, most successful early Christian Gnostic theologian. He founded his school in Rome. According to Tertullian, Valentinus was a candidate for bishop but started his own group when another was chosen.
The First Apocalypse of James is a late second century Gnostic apocalypse.
Until the discovery of Gnostic works among the hidden cache at Nag Hammadi, few authentic Gnostic works survived. One has been the "Letter to Flora" from a Valentinian teacher, Ptolemy— who is also known from the writings of Irenaeus— to a woman named Flora. The letter itself is only known by its full inclusion in Epiphanius's Panarion, an unsympathetic text which condemns its theology as heretical.
The Apocryphon of John, also called the Secret Book of John or the Secret Revelation of John, is a 2nd-century Sethian Gnostic Christian text of secret teachings. Since it was known to Irenaeus, a Church Father, it must have been written before 180 CE. It describes Jesus appearing and giving secret knowledge (gnosis) to John the Apostle. The author describes it having occurred after Jesus "has gone back to the place from which he came". The book is reputed to bear that revelation.
Two versions of the formerly lost Holy Book of the Great Invisible Spirit, also informally called the Coptic Gospel of the Egyptians or the Gospel of the Egyptians, were among the codices in the Nag Hammadi library, discovered in 1945. It received the name because towards the end of the text it is also expressed as the “Egyptian Gospel.” Although it is possible that it was written in Egypt, it is far more likely that the name is based on connections made between Seth of the Old Testament and Set, the ancient Egyptian god of violence, chaos, and storms. This Gospel differs from the Gospel of Philip and the Gospel of Truth in that it is not from a Valentinian perspective and instead focuses on a viewpoint rooted in Sethianism.
The Sethians were one of the main currents of Gnosticism during the 2nd and 3rd century CE, along with Valentinianism and Basilideanism. According to John D. Turner, it originated in the 2nd-century CE as a fusion of two distinct Hellenistic Judaic philosophies and was influenced by Christianity and Middle Platonism. However, the exact origin of Sethianism is not properly understood.
Allogenes is a repertoire, or genre, of mystical Gnostic texts dating from the first half of the Third Century, CE. They concern Allogenes, "the Stranger", a half-human, half-divine capable of communicating with realms beyond the sense-perceptible world, into the unknowable.
The Gospel of Truth is one of the Gnostic texts from the New Testament apocrypha found in the Nag Hammadi codices ("NHC"). It exists in two Coptic translations, a Subakhmimic rendition surviving almost in full in the first Nag Hammadi codex and a Sahidic in fragments in the twelfth codex.
The Hypostasis of the Archons or The Reality of the Rulers is an exegesis on the Book of Genesis 1–6 and expresses Gnostic mythology of the divine creators of the cosmos and humanity.
On the Origin of the World is a Gnostic work dealing with creation and the end time. It was found among the texts in what is known as the Nag Hammadi library, in Codex II and Codex XIII, immediately following the Reality of the Rulers. There are many parallels between the two texts. The manuscript does not have a title, but scholars have dubbed it “On the Origin of the World,” because of what it describes. It is estimated to have been written sometime near the end of the third century. While the author is not mentioned, he or she seems to have been interested in expressing a Gnostic understanding of the world's conception. In particular, it rethinks the entire story of Genesis, and positions Yaldabaoth as the creator of the world, fulfilling the role of God in Genesis. Furthermore, the Serpent in the Garden of Eden is depicted as a hero sent by Sophia, the figure of wisdom, to guide mankind towards enlightenment. It expresses one approach to the creation and end of the world. Other myths found within the Nag Hammadi collection have varying explanations and details.
The Gospel of Basilides is the title given to a reputed text within the New Testament apocrypha, which is reported in the middle of the third century as then circulating amongst the followers of Basilides (Βασιλείδης), a leading theologian of Gnostic tendencies, who had taught in Alexandria in the second quarter of the second century. Basilides's teachings were condemned as heretical by Irenaeus of Lyons, and by Hippolytus of Rome, although they had been evaluated more positively by Clement of Alexandria. There is, however, no agreement amongst Irenaeus, Hippolytus or Clement as to Basilides's specific theological opinions; while none of the three report a gospel in the name of Basilides.
Traditionally in Christianity, orthodoxy and heresy have been viewed in relation to the "orthodoxy" as an authentic lineage of tradition. Other forms of Christianity were viewed as deviant streams of thought and therefore "heterodox", or heretical. This view was challenged by the publication of Walter Bauer's Rechtgläubigkeit und Ketzerei im ältesten Christentum in 1934. Bauer endeavored to rethink Early Christianity historically, independent from the views of the current church. He stated that the 2nd-century church was very diverse and included many "heretical" groups that had an equal claim to apostolic tradition. Bauer interpreted the struggle between the orthodox and heterodox to be the "mainstream" Church of Rome struggling to attain dominance. He presented Edessa and Egypt as places where the "orthodoxy" of Rome had little influence during the 2nd century. As he saw it, the theological thought of the "Orient" at the time would later be labeled "heresy". The response by modern scholars has been mixed. Some scholars clearly support Bauer's conclusions and others express concerns about his "attacking [of] orthodox sources with inquisitional zeal and exploiting to a nearly absurd extent the argument from silence." However, modern scholars have critiqued and updated Bauer's model.
The Treatise on the Resurrection is an ancient Gnostic or quasi-Gnostic Christian text which was found at Nag Hammadi, Egypt. It is also sometimes referred to as "The Letter to Rheginos" because it is a letter responding to questions about the resurrection posed by Rheginos, who may have been a non-Gnostic Christian.
The substitution hypothesis or twin hypothesis states that the sightings of a risen Jesus are explained not by physical resurrection, but by the existence of a different person, a twin or lookalike who could have impersonated Jesus after his death, or died in the place of Jesus on the cross. It is a position held by some Gnostics in the first to third century, as well as some modern Mandaeans and all Muslims.