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Pages 685 - Gnosticism


Dilling Exhibit 292

[…] and to be made known that He is the God, the God, the Maker, the Creator, the Prudent, the Judge … that He shall judge… for all belongs to Him. If thy bad inclination assures thee that the nether world will be thy refuge, [know] that thou hast been created and born against thy will, that thou wilt live and die against thy will, and that thou wilt give account before the King of Kings against thy will.” The belief in a “prince of the world” is a reflex of the demiurge. When God said, “I arrange everything after its kind,” the prince of the world sang a song of praise (Hul. 60a). It was be that recited Pa. xxxvii. 25, for it is he, not God, who lives only since the Creation (Yeb. 16b). He desired God to make King Hezekiah the Messiah, but God said, “That is my secret”; God would not reveal to the demiurge His intentions in regard to Israel (Sanh. 94a; comp. Krochmal, l.c. p. 202).

The two powers (“shete reshuyot”), a good and an evil, are often mentioned. In order to explain evil in the world the gnostics assumed two principles, which, however, are


not identical with the Mazdean dualism (comp. Yer. Ber., end; Krochmal, l.c. p.208, note; Hul. 87a; Friedlaender, l.c. pp. 80 et seq.). On dualisms, trinities, eight powers (“dyas,” “tetras,” “ogdoas”), see Hilgenfeld, l.c. pp. 280 et seq. Hypostases often occur (Krochmal, [l. c. p. 205). God has two thrones, one for judgment, and one for “zedakah” (benevolence, justice, and mercy; Hag. 14a).

The official view, and certainly also the common one, was that founded on Scripture, that God called the world into being by His word (see Ps. Xxxiii. 6, 9: “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of its mouth. For he spake and it was done; be commanded, and it stood fast”). According to tradition, however, it required merely an act of His will, and not His word (Targ. Yer. to Gen. translates He willed,” instead of “He spake”). There were materialistic ideas side by side with this spiritual view. The Torah existed 2,000 years before the Creation; it, and not man, knows what preceded Creation (Gen. R. viii. 2). It says, “I was the instrument by means of which God created the world” (Ge. R. i.). This idea is rationalized in the Haggadah by comparing the Torah with the plans of a builder. Rab (200 C.E.), a faithful preserver of Palestinian traditions, refers to the combinations of letters by means of which the world was created (Ber. 58a; Epstein, “Recherches sur le Sefer Yezirah,” p. 6, note 2).

The gnosis of the Palestinian Marcus conceived the world to have come into being through the permutation of letters (Graetz, “Gnosticismus und Judenthum,” pp. 105 et seq.). The [Gr.] of the alphabet corresponds to the [Gr.] of the universe (Wobbermin, l.c. p. 128). Epstein calls this view an astrological one, and he expounds it

The Sefer

further (l.c. pp. 23 et seq.). The several elements of the alphabet play an important role in this cosmologic system, a reflection of which is found in one of the haggadah, in which the letters, beginning with the last, appear before God, requesting that the world be created through them. They are refused, until bet appears, with which begins the story of Creation. Alef complains for twenty-six generations, and is only pacified when it heads the Decalogue (Gen. R. i. 1). It was evidently held that the world came into being with the first sound that God uttered. Johanan thought that a breath sufficed, hence the world was created by [Hebr.] (Gen. R. xii.). This view is connected with another view, according to which God first caused the spirit (”ruah”=wind) to be. In the Sefer Yezirah, the three principal elements of the alphabet are [Hebr.]; that is, [Hebr.] (air), [Hebr.] (water), and [Hebr.] (fire: Epstein, l.c. pp. 24 et seq.). According to this conception there are three, not four, elements, as was commonly assumed after the Arabic period.

Curiously enough, the second book of “Jeu”, p. 195, and the “Pistis Sophia,” p. 375 (quoted in Herzog-Hauck, l.c. vi. 734), refer to three kinds of baptism — with water, with fire, and with spirit. It is impossible to say to what extent the Yezirah speculations influenced the Cabala and its principal manual, the Zohar, as well as its prominent adepts, at the close of the Middle Ages and in modern times, as there are no special studies on the subject. Many gnostic elements, as, for example, the syzygy doctrine (in which are found father, mother, and son), have doubtless been preserved in the Cabala, together with magic and mysticism.

Gnosis was regarded as legitimate by Judaism. Its chain of tradition, is noted in the principal passage in Hagigah, Johanan b. Zakkai heading the list. Here is found the threefold division of men into hylics,

ish Gnosis.

psychics, and pneumatics, as among the Valentinians. Although these names do not occur, the “third group,” as the highest, is specifically mentioned (Hag. 14b), as Krochmal pointed out before Joel. The ophitic diagram was also known, for the yellow circle which was upon it is mentioned (Joel, l.c. p. 142). Gnosis, like every other system of thought, developed along various lines; from some of these the Jewish faith, especially monotheism, was attacked, and from others Jewish morality, with regard to both of which Judaism was always very sensitive. There were gnostics who led an immoral life, Aber (ELISHA BEN ABUYAH) being among these, according to legendary accounts (comp. Pes. 56a; Eccl. R. i. 8; Harnack, l.c. pp. 166 et seq.; Hilgenfeld, l.c. pp. 244-250). But there were also gnostic sects practising asceticism (Herzog-Hauck, l.c. vi. 734, 755). Jose b. Halafta seems to have belonged to one of these, for he speaks of “five plants [sons] that he planted.” This is the language of gnosis. Those parties which, though within Judaism, were nevertheless inimical to it-among them Judaeo-Christianity--naturally used gnosis, then the fashion of the day, as a weapon against the ruling party, official Judaism. (On the relation between Jewish and Christian gnosis see Harnack, l.c. p. 144, and Friedlaender, l.c. p. 63; on antinomian gnosis see Friedlander, l.c. pp. 76 et seq.) The term “minim“ in the Talmud often refers to gnostics, as Friedlaender, and before him Krochmal and Graetz, have pointed out. The knowledge of the origin and nature of man also belonged to gnosis (Irenaeus i. 14, 4: [Gr.]; comp. Clem. Al. Exc. ex. […]