Monday, April 21, 2008

Apocryphote of the Day: 4-21-08

It is written, "Moses made a serpent of bronze (and) hung it upon a pole...Whoever will gaze upon this bronze serpent, none will destroy him. Whoever will believe in this bronze serpent will be saved." For this is Christ. Those who believed in him have received life. Those who did not believe will die. What then is this faith?

The Testimony of Truth 48.31-49.11 (anonymous Gnostic text, probably from Alexandria, early second century).

3 comments:

JMS Providence said...

I would say that it is the faith of countering a curse which was the result of rebellion.

That said, to assume that Christ HAD TO DIE is to presume the people HAD TO rebel.

And if people HAD TO rebel because Christ HAD TO DIE (just as Moses had to raise the serpent on a pole), then it sure makes for a mess of man's free will as well as God's goodness.

All this to say, Christ didn't have to die for man's salvation.

Yet, of course, I'm open to what others may have to say about this.

lightseeker said...

Hi jms, I agree with you there, that Christ didn't have to die for man's salvation (some early Christians searched for meaning in Christ’s death and found comfort in a doctrine of sacrifice). I believe we are each responsible for resolving our own "sins" (and that is what Jesus really taught) but that's another great discussion.

As I understand it, the serpent was an ancient symbol of knowledge associated with healing, restoration of life, and rebirth. Recall the serpent in the Garden of Eden associated with the fruit/tree of knowledge? However, the serpent had been associated with pagan gods, therefore, to distance the serpent from YHVH, the one true God, the ancient Hebrews (and later Christians) demonized the serpent, associating it with its polar opposite - Satan/evil. But its association as a symbol for knowledge could not be erased or completely obscured.

Ever wonder why the American medical profession's symbol/logo is the caduceus (two winged serpents entwined around a staff)? The caduceus was the staff of Hermes/Mercury, the divine bearer of knowledge! In Sanskrit, the coiled serpent is used to represent Kundalini, the energy that rises from the sacrum… and results in enlightenment when it properly reaches the crown of the head … Literally, Kundalini means "The Serpent Power." So, in the ancient world, the serpent was associated with knowledge, the energy of life and enlightenment.

The early Christians, especially those responsible for this Gnostic text, understood the old symbolism of the serpent. So did the author of Gospel of John! Although John goes on to teach the doctrine of sacrifice, John alludes to transcendence or the rising (“lifting up”) aspect of the serpent’s symbolic nature. In John 3:14, we find this particular serpent image recalled in relation to Christ: "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up." This allusion not only makes the serpent potentially divine like Christ, but it associates Christ with the serpent... To "gaze upon this bronze serpent" meant one had risen to the height of divine knowledge of Christ - i.e., attained healing (in Spirit) and salvation – or, just as Christ was, to be glorified and raised in Spirit to eternal life from death. The Gnostics saw Christ’s crucifixion as a symbol of individual attainment of enlightenment and eternal life (via transcendence) rather than simply and literally as a sacrifice – a scapegoat - to bear and take away all of mankind’s sins.

I borrowed the above quotes (in italics) from writer, folklorist, and scholar Heinz Insu Fenkl’s web page
http://www.endicott-studio.com/rdrm/forcaduc.html . Fascinating reading! And a great apocryphote – thanks, April!

JMS Providence said...

Thanks a lot for your insight, Light! Equally, I appreciate your refreshing enthusiasm.