By David Lawrence Edwards

"David Edwards offers a delicate critique that's worthy to these without professional wisdom and enjoyable to the theologically educated."
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But as we have noted, many Jews had also moved beyond the limits of their ancestral religion. It seems probable that there were also many people who rebelled against the official religion of the Persian empire. We do not know to what extent such movements which can be called 'Gnostic' were important before the arrival of Christianity. Many teachers had to be rebuked in the documents of Early Catholicism for falsely claiming 'knowledge' (as in i Timothy 6:20) but the sources of this river of religious excitement and imagination lie beyond the evidence which is now available.

The Laodiceans were in the second category; they lived near water which had cooled since coming from hot springs and they were 'neither hot nor cold' as Christians. In a country town which prospered as the centre of a trade in luxuriously soft black wool, they did not realize their need to 'buy white clothes to hide the 32 BEGINNINGS shame of their nakedness'. Their neighbours sold a famous powder which was believed to cure eye troubles, but these lukewarm, stupidly complacent Christians did not see that they were blind.

Some Gnostics were accused of indulging in orgies with the pretext that the body was now morally insignificant, perhaps adding that the soul had to taste every kind of experience before being liberated. However, such accusations were the standard practice in religious controversies in the ancient world and we need not be too troubled about them. What is really troublesome is to know what was essential in the teachings of these varied Christian-Gnostic movements with their orgy of myths and doctrines.

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