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Gnosticism was an ill-defined religious movement that occurred both outside of and within the early church. It was one of the biggest threats to the early church.
Its name is derived from the Greek word Gnosis (Γνωσις) which means "knowledge".
Gnostics generally believed that the material world was intrinsically evil, and that the spiritual world was intrinsically good, and that special knowledge was required for the soul to be released from this evil world of matter. Hence, many Gnostic "Christians" would deny that God created the world, and believed that Jesus brought special knowledge which was given only to an privileged few, so that their souls could be released from the evil material world.
Rooted in Gnostic belief was a dualistic opposition between the superior world of fullness (pleroma) and the world of emptiness (kenoma). In simple terms, Gnostics believed the world of matter is empty and evil and the world of spiritual things is intrinsically good and full.
Ultimately, Gnosticism therefore denied the incarnation and salvation by the suffering of Christ.
History of Gnosticism
Many Gnostic sects were around in the second century. One of the most influential and powerful "Christian" Gnostics was Marcion, who taught that the God of the Old Testament was different than the God of the New Testament.
Various theologians (known as Apologists) defended orthodox Christian faith against Gnosticism.
Return to Church history
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