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Gnosticism: Divergent Christianity

            In the second-century, the Christian Church strained for identity while being persecuted by the Roman authorities, confronted by Jewish and pagan hostility, and challenged by the internal dilemma of Gnostic adaptation. Gnostic sects arose not in direct opposition to the Orthodox Church, but with a harmonized tactic, selecting certain elements of Christianity and disposing of others. The Orthodox Church and the Gnostics held completely dissimilar views regarding religion, origin, and the importance of church authority. Whereas Orthodox Christianity strictly believed that there was only one God and that the relationship between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit was equivalent to the hierarchy of Church leaders, Gnostics conversely argued that neither the Church nor the bishops held importance in the matter of obtaining salvation. In addition, the Gnostics contended that the God of the Old Testament was merciless, while the God of the New Testament was forgiving; thus, they were two different Gods. The Valentinian Gnostics held beliefs similar to both traditional Gnosticism and Orthodox Christianity, claiming that there is one God but that church authorities are unimportant. The Gospel of Truth is a Valentinian account of their stance on the matter of salvation through knowledge. Irenaeus, in Against Heresies, documents the various types of Gnostic views, arguing that within these sects, the Orthodox faith has not merely been adjusted, but has been replaced with its exact opposite. .
             Until the discovery of thirteen primary Gnostic texts near Nag Hammadi, Egypt, in 1945, Irenaeus and other similar apologists provided nearly all information about Gnosticism. There are a few biblical accounts of Gnosticism, most notably in Colossians and in 1 Timothy. Colossians, a letter addressed to Christians of the ancient city of Colossae, anticipated the second-century conflict between the church and Gnostics, and is fundamentally concerned with alerting the Christians against an erroneous religious teaching which stressed knowledge rather than faith.

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