Gnosticism may be said to have been the second great heresy faced by the Church. The name comes from the Greek gnosis, meaning ‘knowledge’, and states the distinguishing tenet of Gnosticism; salvation is for the Gnostic primarily a matter of acquiring and using secret knowledge. Not only has Gnosticism influenced a number of cults and false teachers in the recent past, but a modern form of full-blown Gnosticism is being actively promoted, not least by the best-selling novel The Da Vinci Code. During the period of Dan Brown’s novel’s popularity, it was almost impossible to ride on a train in the UK without seeing someone reading it, and although the film of the book did not perform as well as the book itself, its opening sold out at some locations.

The so-called Gnostic gospels, such as The Gospel of Thomas and The Gospel of Judas, have been touted by some as authentic sources that correct the Canonical Gospels, and in all a great deal of excitement has been generated by Gnosticism in the world, to the point where there are those who are claiming that the Gnostics were the true Christians. For all these reasons, it is helpful for thoughtful Christians to know what Gnosticism was.

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