On the Use of “Gnostic”

I don’t want to always be a schoolmarm, correcting the misuse of this or that term, but there are a few that cry out for attention.  “Gnostic” is one such word.  It has recently come to be a shorthand to describe a variety of concepts, typically those which prioritize the spirit or the mind to the body.  Anyone who believes in the priority of the intellect could be called a “Gnostic” under this usage, as well as anyone who thinks that the soul is on a different plane of being than the body.  “Gnostic” is also employed to critique those who hold to idealism over materialism.  Strangely, not a few of the modern “anti-Gnostics” have gone so far as to deny the soul’s ability to exist apart from the body, thus creating a heresy of their own in the opposite direction.

But according to folks like Kurt Rudolph, we don’t actually know much about the original Gnostics. Continue reading