At great cost to all of us, Jesus' private/Gnostic teachings were "outlawed" with the Roman Emperor Constantine's decision to make Christianity the state religion. For along with that decision came his command that all Christian bishops choose between Jesus' public/Orthodox and private/Gnostic teachings. In this way Constantine could unite the empire under one official church doctrine. His command was carried out at the Council of Nicaea (325 AD) in the document Christians call the Nicene Creed and its shorter version, the Apostles' Creed. In effect, the Nicene Creed, which reflects Jesus' public teachings, became the one official doctrine of Orthodox Christianity, and in turn, made his private Gnostic teachings an outlawed heresy.
Soon after the Council, "an imperial edict ordered that all books by Arius [the principal advocate of Jesus' Gnostic teachings at Nicaea], and others like him, should be burned, and made concealment of such a book punishable by death." (2) Bishop Eusebius (260-340), Constantine's court historian, restructured all Biblical literature to coincide with the council's decision. In 325, Eusebius issued an "Ecclesiastical history [in which time was portrayed as] the battleground of God and Satan, and all events as advancing the triumph of Christ." (3) From that time on, Eusebius' Ecclesiastical history acted as the official supernatural model for future interpretations of Jesus' ministry. The intellectual character of Gnosticism was in conflict with Eusebius' supernatural model and was outlawed. "The Middle Ages had begun." (4)
The Emperor is long dead. We no longer need to live in the dark ignorance of Constantine's shadow. We can now examine for ourselves every aspect of Jesus' outlawed Gnostic teachings, and bring back into our lives that part of Jesus' ministry which Constantine stole from us.
This is not an easy mission for it is, as it was for Jesus, a difficult idea to teach. Now, like then, most priests * and scribes *, meaning theologians, intellectuals, and academics, were so convinced of their own beliefs that they could not grasp Jesus' teachings. When asked why he taught in parables, Jesus said, "The reason I talk to them in parables is that they look without seeing and listen without hearing or understanding," (Matt 13:13) "Those who saw so dimly could only be further blinded by the light of full revelation, (Mk 1:34+). Jesus, therefore, does not reveal with complete clarity the true nature of the Messianic kingdom which is unostentatious [natural]. Instead he filters the light [or ideas he presents] through symbols, the resulting half-light is nevertheless a grace from God, an invitation to ask for something better, and accept something greater." (Note C 13:13 jbv)
Note: We cannot accept, without question, the traditional historical accounts of Jesus' teachings to be totally accurate. They are limited to interpretations of his ministry since the Council of Nicaea. We must not overlook the fact that today's dictionaries and accepted translations of Greek words, and even thesauruses, also reflect the Judaeo-Christian worldview, which is a product of that same council, and not necessarily that of 1st century philosophy or Gnostic Christians. The word "pagan" in Webster's Dictionary, for example, is said to mean "a person without religion." This definition is consistent with Judaism or Christianity, which consider their God, and therefore their religion, the only true religion. But this definition does not represent pagans, who worshiped God in other ways.
Copyright © February 2, 2001, William C. Kiefert