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Old 06-26-2007, 11:58 AM
smadewell smadewell is offline
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Originally Posted by smadewell View Post
Paul is simply stating in Gal. 2:21.... If one can achieve the Divine sort of chesed by a mere mechanic observance of Torah, such as the unnecessary proto-Gnostic conversion rite of circumcision that the "troublers" in Galatia were demanding, then Yeshua's martyrdom was in vain.
In his book, "Paul & the Gnostics," Walter Schmithals writes, "Circumcision underwent a Gnostic reinterpretation..... The foreskin symbolized the body of flesh (sarx) and thus the - really performed - act of circumcision portrayed the liberation of the pneuma-self from the prison of this body."*

Gospel of Philip, Saying 123, "When Abraham rejoiced that he would see that which he was to see, he cut off the flesh of his foreskin, whereby he shows us that it is necessary to destroy the flesh of the members of the world."

Paul was a proto-rabbinic sage. For Paul, the "pneuma" (spirit) and the "sarx" (flesh) meant the Good Impulse and the Evil Impulse - the two components of the "psyche" (nefesh = soul). For Paul, what truly mattered was that one becomes a "new creature" (Gal. 6:15) via the activation of the Good Impulse, which couldn't be accomplished by the removal of one's foreskin. (If that were the case, then how could females hope to become "new creatures"...?)

However, for those influenced by a Platonic framework, like the proto-Gnostic "troublers" in Galatia, the Greek words "pneuma" and "sarx" took on a meaning distinct from Paul's proto-rabbinic orientation. This is why ascetic proto-Gnostics could glory in their pneumatic attainments, while exhorting others to cast off the sinful flesh. Pop-culture reference? How 'bout Marshall Applewhite?

Schmithals writes, "For Gnosticism ... circumcision is an unnecessary action with only symbolic significance, which one could, for tactical external reasons, just as well maintain as abandon. That the cutsom of circumcision among Jewish Christian Gnostics in the Syrian-Palestinian territory was common and was still practiced in Galatia is just as likely as the fact that it was given up as the progress of the Gnostic mission advanced toward the West. Thus the church's heresy fighters cannot in fact report of any of the later Gnostics that they practiced circumcision."*

Here are some other points Schmithals* makes:

1. Jewish Christian Gnostics, whose home in any case was not Judea, naturally had no connection at all with the "apostolic counicl" [Acts 15] and its agreements.

2. The church fathers unanimously know to report that precisely in the early, the New Testament, the Pauline era, and precisely in Gentile territory, especially in Asia Minor, [Jewish Christian Gnostics] had preached circumcision.

3. It is most obvious to select the Jewish Christian Gnostic named, Cerinthus, particularly as described by Epiphanius, for comparison with the Galatian adversaries of Paul. In all the accounts of the church fathers we can detect how dangerous Cerinthus must have been to the beginning Gentile Christianity. His appearance in Asisa Minor is historically incontestable. Asia is said to have been his homeland. Epiphanius even reports that his school flourished in Galatia. In any case, he belongs to the early period, to the beginnings of Christian Gnosticism, and without question connects typical Gnosticism with a confession of Christ and with Jewish practices such as that of circumcision.

4. One need not immediately assume that they were Cerinthians who appeared in Galatia, but in no case can on at once attribute the false teachers, because of their circumcision, to the judaizing party. This heretical feature fits at least just as well ... at any rate in that time and place, with Jewish Christian Gnosticis, who are conducting a mission in Paul's tracks.

* - Walter Schmithals, "Paul & the Gnostics," pp. 13-59.
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