Was Jesus A Gnostic?
The question of whether Jesus was a Gnostic is a lot more complicated than a person might think. Jesus came from a Jewish community and tradition has it that he belonged to the Essene community which was a mystical fringe group of the larger Jewish community.
The main Jewish community in itself was, I’m going to say, functionally atheistic because even though they believed in one God, the one and only God; they did not really believe in an afterlife. They did not really believe in nonphysical spirituality. They were very logic and reason oriented as opposed to having mystical experiences. In fact, the whole idea of a Messiah coming and being able to bring fire down from heaven was a rare occurrence for them and one that they looked forward to.
So mysticism was not an everyday occurrence in their lives. Mysticism did not come easy to these people. Evidence does support a balance of male and female within the teachings of Jesus in the Gospel of Mary. There appears to be equality of the sexes where the women were held in equal regard in status and in fact, Mary had a rather exalted status in her having a more personal relationship with Jesus. There may be some others, I’m just using the Gospel of Mary as an example.
But there is also evidence of a very anti-female influence, especially from Peter who did not really appreciate the role that women played in early Christianity. Still the Gospel of Mary and some other Gnostic texts do suggest that the original group that gathered around Jesus was open to the balance of male and female.
The evidence also shows that the teachings of Jesus included teachings of nonphysical reality like heaven and the soul, things that the traditional Jewish religion does not believe in. In fact, that was the main thrust of early Christian teachings about the soul and how it was capable of persisting beyond the death of the physical body.
This statement is even more indicated by how even after Jesus was crucified some of his disciples did not believe that his awareness and soul still existed. The entire structure of Christianity revolved around the victory of the soul over the death of the physical body. That immortality of the soul was shown for the first time by Jesus.
That was the main fundamental doctrine of Christianity and it was not exactly compatible with the logic and reason of the rational and atheistic point of view of the Jewish community. There was a split between the Jews and the Gentiles during the first and second centuries after the death of Jesus. Christians went one way, the Jews went the other way.
Let’s get back to the question about whether Jesus was a Gnostic. What he taught was the wisdom of the heart and the celebration of life, and I would also say that he simplified things down to where it was not splitting hairs. It was all very simple. It could be understood by the heart and it was a celebration of life. I think it’s pretty clear that his message was intended to help us get through this physical life and find a better one after death.
But it brought up some problems. Part of the Jewish influence on the early Christian Church was to consider the entire collective group as the body of Christ. These people identified the church as a worldly power and used it as a way to dominate and enslave those with weaker egos and a weaker sense of self. It was a way to get control over the original Gaia inhabitants of earth.
These young souls were just developing their own sense of self. For the first time they were just discovering their own watcher or Observer self inside of Christianity. Jesus’s message to them was that they did have a watcher or Observer self. They did have a soul.
“It exists in your heart and I will help you find it’” was basically his message. By doing this he pretty much alienated the rational atheistic Jewish community.
But he was appealing to the social enforcers, the zealots, and early Christianity was filled with zealots. Now the zealots had plenty of mystical beliefs and experiences. They had so many mystical experiences that there was a very real danger that any mystic could claim equal status to the works of Jesus himself.
This new movement was anti-intellectual. These mystical ideas about the heart were anti-collective because they involved the individual and the individual needed to have a personal relationship with God. These were things that split it away from the rational atheist movement even more.
It was obviously dealing with things of a spiritual and metaphysical nature. Especially after the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus. This metaphysical nature of Christianity became dominant.
I find it very interesting that Paul, originally Saul of Tarsus, persecuted early Christians and then later was converted on the road to Damascus and became the apostle Paul. He was considered the apostle of the heretics and his teachings were considered some of the first Gnostic teachings. He never even knew Jesus personally so the idea of whether Jesus was a Gnostic becomes even more confused.
There’s a discrepancy because Paul was really the one that brought Gnosticism into Christianity. It might have been there earlier, perhaps in some secret teachings. But Paul was the one that reached out to the Gentile community and it was the Gentiles that made Christianity what it is today.
So the original teachings appealed to both the original true mystics or organic Gnostics and they appealed to the zealots, the social enforcers. These were the ones who believed very strongly in the soul and the survival of the spirit or awareness after the death of the physical body. At least some of them were Gnostics.