Judaism’s Gnostic Ingredients

In Christianity, there is much concern about Jesus Christ’s family lineage.  The whole point of putting Jesus in Bethlehem was to create a link between Jesus, David, and David’s father Jesse, who also lived in Bethlehem.

Some of Jesse’s (and David’s) direct ancestors included Obed, Salmon, Judah, Jacob, Isaac, Abraham, Arpachsad, and Shem.

Shem was often associated in Jewish literature with the King and high priest, Melchizadek.  Shem was also a son of Noah, and was on the arc.

peter_paul_rubens_-_cain_slaying_abel2c_1608-1609
Cain slaying Abel

Shem and Noah were of course descendents of Seth, who was Adam’s third son.  Adam’s second son, Cain, killed his first son, Abel, thus earning him “the mark of Cain” – this mark was interpreted by later Christians as black skin, which helped them to justify slavery and other maltreatment of Africans.

Cain’s evil act and subsequent fall from grace caused many people over time, including the Hellenized Jew Philo of Alexandria, as well as the proto-Orthodox Christian father Tertullian, to presume that Cain was not the legitimate son of Adam; rather, Eve must have been seduced or raped by Samael (the lion-faced serpent, whose name translates to “blindness [or poison] of God”), who was an evil archangel, and probably the earliest iteration of Satan.  In Gnosticism, Samael is synonymous with Yaldabaoth and Saklas.  In other words, for some Jewish Gnostics, the father of Cain was the Demiurge, who kept people enslaved on Earth.

Consider the incredibly polemical discussion Jesus has with Pharisees in John 8:44 within this context:

You [the Pharisees] belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out his desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, refusing to uphold the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, because he is a liar and the father of lies.

Can there be any doubt Jesus was calling the Pharisees sons of Cain in this passage?  In other words, John clearly relies on the (pre-Orthodox Christian) tradition that Cain was a son of Samael, and that Samael is indeed equivalent to Yaldabaoth, the Demiurge.  Thus, the emerging Christian view, perhaps originating between 100 and 150, was that Jewish Pharisees were beholden to an inferior God.

In this context, is it any wonder that the Valentinians, who believed that an ignorant lower God participated in creating the earth, were copious consumers of John’s Gospel (AH 3.11.7)?  My speculation is that it was Eastern Valentinians who indeed wrote the original Gospel of John and took it West (that is why the Western Valentinians continued to maintain a theology that excluded the virgin birth, where the Eastern Valentinians later evolved to integrate the virgin birth).

A subsequent speculation in this Johannine Christology depicted in John 8:44 is that Jesus was sent as an archangel to free humans from Cain’s influence, thereby eliminating any concern for prophets who came after Cain’s reintegration back into the Sethian bloodline.  This would have included Moses and his brother, Aaron; the prerequisite to be a high priest in Jerusalem was to be a descendant of Aaron (and by extension, Levi).

It is therefore interesting that Shem was associated with (and often considered the same as) Melchizadek, as Shem was also a son of Noah.  Perhaps the assumption in some communities was that Shem had a different mother than his brothers, Ham and Japhteh; alternatively, the reverence for Shem came from the shenanigans in Genesis 9:21-27:

When Noah drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent.
Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father naked and told his two brothers outside.
But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backward and covered their father’s naked body. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father naked.
When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him, he said, “Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers.”
He also said, “Praise be to the LORD, the God of Shem! May Canaan be the slave of Shem.
May God extend Japheth’s territory; may Japheth live in the tents of Shem, and may Canaan be the slave of Japheth.”

In this passage, which describes the “Curse of Ham“, we see a blatant polemic against Ham and his son, Canaan – a likely reference to the writer’s main competition, the Canaanites.

There was a document recovered in the 1940s at Nag Hammadi which is called The Paraphrase of Shem.  In it, Shem describes how his thought, which was in his body, snatched him away from his race.  It goes on to say that Shem had a voice revealing things to him.  The voice said:

Shem, since you are from an *unmixed* power and you are the first being upon the earth, hear and understand what I shall say to you…

In other words, in the sect which produced this text, Shem was like the first being upon Earth, and his lineage was unmixed – he is free from Cainite blood, and thus a legitimate, God-authenticated son of Adam.

In any case, this subtext makes Hebrews 7:11 noteworthy, especially for those who saw Shem and Melchizadek as the same person:

If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood—and indeed the law given to the people established that priesthood—why was there still need for another priest (Jesus) to come, one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron?

The trouble with humanity, as some Jews would have seen it, is that the family lines of Seth (Adam and Eve’s other son) and Cain were merged after Cain was expelled.  Cain (and Samael) managed to infiltrate the more pure, Sethian bloodline.

This probably helped to explain why there could be evil on the earth, but it also is helpful to understand that it was a Sethian descendant, Noah, who was chosen to recover humanity.

genesis_familytree
Genesis Family tree

Of the later Gnostic groups, reverence for Seth was nearly universal.  And of course, the reason for this is, given the lineage they had, either people will revere Seth, or they will revere Cain.  The solution is obvious…unless of course you are a Gnostic Cainite who believes they are being persecuted and mischaracterized by an Earthly Demiurge hell-bent on spreading lies to humanity.

In several Jewish sources, Noah had his 3 sons with a descendant of Cain, named Naamah.  Some sources attempt to recast Noah’s family history, and refer to Noah’s wife as a Sethite, Emzara, a daughter of Methuselah; however, a convenient point for the purveyors of this Naamah story would have been to explain the problem of evil, and why a good God could allow evil on the Earth, even after drowning everybody.  In this view, an obvious solution is that God drowned the Earth because he was attempting to purge it of Cain’s descendants.

maxresdefaultIt is therefore not inconsequential that Gnosticism, in its various iterations, also explained away the Epicurean problem of evil with its claim that humans are enslaved on a planet, and within a celestial paradigm ruled by inferior Gods.  The logical consequence for people who held that belief was that it was necessary to find a way back to the highest God, and past those princes (archons) who patrolled the viewable Cosmos.

There was also a point of contention in some Gnostic views that another character named Norea was Noah’s wife.

For the Jewish groups that believed it was the Cain descendant Naamah who married Noah, and thereby infested a perfectly good blood line, it is no wonder she is often associated with the demon Naamah, who was a minion of Samael (AKA Satan, Yaldabaoth, the Demiurge).  Among other things, Naamah’s demon doppelganger helped to cause epilepsy in children.  That indeed makes it easy to understand why people with (what modern Westerners would recognize as obvious) neurological ailments were considered to be demon-infested, which might explain Jesus’ mandate to force demons out of people – they were remnants of Cain and Samael.

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Author: Tim...Stepping Out

Tim Stepping Out

1 thought on “Judaism’s Gnostic Ingredients”

  1. I think Jesus’s condemnation of the Pharisees was a deliberate interpolation of the situation. Note that the Sadducees were the Temple priests and agents of Herod, the usurper and collaborator with the Romans. The Pharisees were considered holy men who were humble and wise in that they were learned in scripture. To make the NT more Roman friendly, all you have to do is swap out the word Sadducee for Pharisee any time it comes up. This seems to be supported by a number of times in which this substitution was not made and the text sounds more authentic. So, either the texts were written with that switch in mind or were amended shortly thereafter when Christians decided that their route to supremacy over other sects and religions went through Roman administrative power.

    Liked by 1 person

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