& Orthodox Christians Essay, Research Paper
Gnostics & Orthodox Christians
It is not permitted for a woman to speak in the church, nor is it permitted for her to teach, nor baptize, nor to offer the eucharist, nor to claim for herself a share in any masculine function-least of all, in priestly office (p.155). In the beginning of Christianity this was not the view towards women and even today s modern times many of these restrictions against women have been removed. Orthodox Christians placed many of these restrictions against women in the first century after the death of Christ. These restrictions were strongly rejected by the Gnostics who felt that women were equals to men.
In this paper the differences between the orthodox Christians and the Gnostics will be examined. Such issues as views of sexuality, creation, the Trinity, the gender of God, and the role of women in church will be discussed. I hope to have provided a full understanding of all these issues and differences by the end of this paper.
Many people think that the battle of the sexes is a new thing but this war has been raging since the time of Jesus with males being the predominant winners. When it comes too superior or not superior the orthodox will take men over women every time. The orthodox even thought that since men made up the body of the community that only men were allowed into heaven and the only way for women to get into heaven was to assimilate themselves to men (p.142). Gnostics felt that man and woman were created equally and that woman did not have to conform to enter the gates of heaven.
When it come to the story of creation the orthodox believe in the story that is told today to describe creation. It is the story of God creating the world the world in seven days and creating woman from man. There are several Gnostics accounts one states as follows, From the power of silence appeared a great power, the Mind of the Universe, which manages all things, and is male the other a great intelligence is a female which produces all things (p.144). This version is taken by some to mean a counter balance of power like the yen and the yang in Eastern religions (p.144).
The Trinity for both the orthodox and the Gnostics involves the Father and the Son they only differ when it comes to the third participant in the Trinity. Orthodox Christians believe in the modern version of the Trinity, which consists of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. The Gnostics take their version of the Trinity from John s encounter with the Trinity when God said to him, I am the Father, I am the Mother, I am the Son (p.144). This is perceived in this way because the mother is taken to also mean the spirit. The divine mother is characterized in the Secret Book as, She is the image of the invisible, virginal, perfect spirit (p.145). This how the Mother and Spirit are seen as one and the same.
In the beginning of Christianity God was thought of as neither man nor woman just an extreme eternal power. As time progressed however, God was referred to more and more in masculine terms. The orthodox began to associate God as a strictly male personality this view is still held by some today but most people have gone back to the idea of God as an extreme non-gender holy being. The Gnostics believe that God is both masculine and feminine (p.153). The Gnostics see the feminine aspect of God as the creator of all that is in the world and the masculine aspect of God as the ruler of all.
As Christianity was starting out women played an active role in the church. However, as Christianity began to become a major force in the world women were pushed in to the background until they were not allowed to have any real role involving the church. The orthodox site text where the apostles set the precedence of not allowing women to become priests they also used other texts to keep women in submissive positions towards men (p.153). The Gnostics however, had a totally different view of the role of women in the church. Marcus had women become active members in the church preaching and prophesizing (p.149). These activities were seen viewed as acts of heretics.
Christians disagreed so much over the role of women in the church because of the repercussions it might have on society. Many thought that if women were allowed to be active participants in the church that soon they would be wanting to be active participants in society getting educations and working outside the home. This would have turned societies upside down because every since early Mesopotamian times women have been subordinate to men and if they were allowed freedoms that men shared that would make them equals and men did not want that. Sp by having women be subordinate to men in the church it reflected on to society and kept women subordinate to men at all times giving them little to no rights and making them little more than the objects of men.
The Secret Books of the Gnostics were hidden from the orthodox for fear of them being destroyed. This is why none of the writing made their way into the Bible. If they had then the view that we have of God towards women may be completely different than the one we have today. It is to bad that two hundred years after the death of Christ the orthodox were able to suppress the Gnostics and do away with all their philosophies. If it were not for the finding of the Secret Books we would never have known that some people had different views about the roles of women in church. The orthodox way of Christianity prevailed over the Gnostics and is the way we think and worship today but there are some signs of Gnosticism in the way we worship.