June, 1999
The Gnostic Theology  of  Paul
Pual's writings are the oldest documents in the New Testament. The teaching of Paul when examined closely bears little resemblance to the orthodox Christianity of today and yet Paul has been considered one of the pillars of Christendom for centuries. Paul's theogoly is decidedly "gnostic."

Paul did not base his teaching exclusively on the "tradition" of the Nazorean (Jerusalem) community but states unequivocally that his gospel was given to him "through a revelation of Jesus Christ." (Gal. 1:12) Paul's appeal to private revelation for the source of his gospel places him in the category of the "gnostic," that is, one who knows through divine insight or revelation. Ironically, several "gnostic" teachers, including Valentinus, pointed to Paul as the source of their teaching.

There are several key ideas in Paul's theology which have been either ignored or misinterpreted but which are, nevertheless, firmly embedded in Paul's theological system. According to orthodox Christians, the following ideas which I will attribute to Paul would be considered "heretical." Why? Not only because they have been re-interpreted by orthodox fabricators from the close of the first century onward, but because the "gnostic" quality of Paul's theology became too uncomfortable for the early Church Fathers..

Christ as Archetypal Man

Paul's theology appears to be based on the central idea of the Heavenly or "Cosmic" Christ. Paul knows Jesus not as a flesh and blood Master but as the resurrected Messiah who personifies what can be termed the Heavenly or "Archetypal Man." The teaching concerning the "Archetypal Man" has been ingeniously swept aside by the orthodox, but had surfaced in the Christian-Gnostic schools (which looked to Paul as their teacher) under the term "Anthropos," which in Greek means the Man or Primal Man. In the gospels Jesus designated himself "Son of Man." I suggest that this phrase means the "Son of the Primal Man." Jesus, then, called himself the Son or image of the Archetypal or spiritual Adam. According to ancient Hebrew sources such as the Kabbalah, the esoteric doctrine of Israel, this divine Archetypal Man was known as Adam Kadmon.  [1]  We also find the term "Son of Man" in the books of Enoch, Daniel and throughout the New Testament, where it refers, esoterically, to the True, Ideal Man.

The Son of Man described in the Book of Enoch (3rd to 2nd century B.C.) is a pre-existent Messiah-figure who appears to be a divine personage bearing a divine "office." Enoch queries the angel in his vision of the Ancient of Days, asking who is the one whose "countenance resembled that of a man":

"He answered and said to me, This is the Son of Man, to whom righteousness belongs; with whom righteousness has dwelt, and who will reveal all the treasures of that which is concealed; for the Lord of Spirits has chosen him; and his portion has surpassed all before the Lord of Spirits in everlasting uprightness... [3] Before the sun and the signs were created, before the stars of heaven were formed, his name [the Son of Man] was invoked in the presence of the Lord of Spirits. A support shall he be for the righteous and the holy to lean upon, without falling; and he shall be the light of nations. [4] He shall be the hope of those whose hearts are troubled. All, who dwell on earth, shall fall down and worship him; shall bless and glorify him, and sing praises to the name of The Lord of Spirits. [5] Therefore the Elect and The Concealed One existed in his [The Lord of Spirits] presence, before the world was created, and forever. [6] In his presence he existed, and has revealed to the saints and to the righteous the wisdom of the Lord of Spirits;...(Brackets added.)" [2] 
In Enoch this "Son of Man" is also termed the "Messiah" and the "Elect" who shall take command, be powerful upon earth and judge the kings and mighty men of the earth. As we shall see, Paul understood Jesus as the pre-existent, divine Son of Man who had taken incarnation on earth. Paul however uses the term "Christ" and not "Son of Man." In the clear translation of The Jerusalem Bible, this divine figure descended to earth and became a man, as Paul describes:
His state was divine,
yet he did not cling 
to his equality with God
but emptied himself 
to assume the condition of a slave, 
and become as men are;
and being as all men are; 
he was humbler yet, 
even to accepting death, 
death on a cross. 
But God raised him high a
nd gave him the name
which is above all other names 
so that all beings in the heavens,
on earth and in the underworld,
should bend the knee at the name of Jesus 
and that every tongue should acclaim
Jesus Christ as Lord, 
to the glory of God the Father.(Phil. 2:6-11)
In his epistle to the Colossians, Paul further elaborates on his doctrine of the "Universal Christ," the Enochian Son of Man or Archetypal Man:
He [the Son] is the image of the unseen God 
and the first-born of all creation,
for in him were created
all things in heaven and on earth; 
everything visible and everything invisible, 
Thrones, Dominations, Sovereignties, Powers -
all things were created through him and for him.
Before anything was created, he existed, 
and he holds all things in unity.
Now the Church is his body,
he is its head. 
As he is the Beginning,
he was first to be born from the dead, 
so that he should be first in every way
because God wanted all perfection 
to be found in him all things to be reconciled through him and for him, everything in heaven and on earth, 
when he made peace 
by his death on the cross.(Col. 1:15-18, Jerusalem Bible)
Where did Paul receive these ideas? According to Biblical scholar, Hugh J. Schonfield, Paul studied the "occultism of the Pharisees," and specialized in the "Lore of Creation," which was in turn influenced by "Chaldean and platonic cosmogonical speculations, but these had been poured into a Jewish monotheistic mould." [3]  Paul, of course, also claimed to have received his doctrine from Jesus himself.

Schonfield elaborates on the meaning of Paul's teaching as follows and helps to illumine the above passage:

"The essential element in the teaching is that the visible universe conforms to a pattern or design, which represents the image of the Invisible God who, himself, has neither form nor substance. Man, the crown of creation, being made in the image of God, answers therefore completely to the original pattern, which thus may be conceived as a manlike figure. This primordial or Archetypal man, the "heavenly man" of Philo and the Adam Kadmon of the Jewish occultists, is the true image of God, the beginning of the creation and the Lord of it. Hence the first man on earth was given dominion over every living thing in it." [4] 
Obviously, this concept of the Archetypal or heavenly Adam has been "lost" to modern Christianity. But who is this Archetypal Man? Schonfield continues:
"We see man, therefore, as wearing physically the likeness of his spiritual Archetype, and that archetype is the expression of the nature of God....But for what purpose was man created? His creation must have had to do with the Messianic Plan, and the soul of Adam must have been knit with the soul of the ultimate Messiah [Christ]. It was therefore to be deduced that the archetypal or heavenly man was also the pre-existing spiritual counterpart of the Messiah, the heavenly Spirit-Christ. (Emphasis added.) [5] 
Schonfield then equates the "heavenly man" with the Enochian Son of Man, as described above, and states that Paul "regards the heavenly Messiah as the sole Messiah, who by an act of temporary redemptive renunciation became the man Jesus... the firstborn of all creation...." [6] 

If Schonfield's analysis is correct, the Jesus worshipped for centuries by orthodox Christians is not the Jesus of Paul but the Jesus constructed by Church Fathers and Church councils, e.g., the Council of Nicea. Schonfield adds:

"Paul's Christ is not God, he is God's first creation, and there is no room for the trinitarian formula of the Athanasian Creed nor for its doctrine that the Son was "not made, nor created, but begotten." But inasmuch as the visible universe is the expression of the Invisible God, the Christ, as first-product, comprises the whole of that expression in himself." (Emphasis added)  [7] 
According to Schonfield's interpretation of Paul's theology, not only is Jesus not God but, is in fact, Man, in his original spiritual state! Schonfield continues:
"Accepting with Paul the equation of the Messiah as the Adam Kadmon, it required that he should cast aside his glory and 'make himself small,' so as to atone for Adam's sin by the man Jesus and initiate the restoration of harmony between man and God, and between the visible universe and the Invisible God. By the resurrection, there was restored in Jesus the light-body which the first man had possessed and forfeited, and the re-expansion of his stature in a manner comparable to that of the first man before the Fall. Thus ennobled and reintegrated with the Adam Kadmon, Jesus was henceforth the Lord Jesus Christ." [8] 
Paul therefore distinguishes between the Heavenly Christ and the earthly Jesus who was "made of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by the resurrection from the dead." (Romans 1:3-4) It was through the resurrection that Jesus became the Son of God and thus restored man's true spiritual archetypal state.
"...It is again evident that Paul did not think of Christ as God, only as being created in the image of God as the archetypal man and therefore having a godlike form....The heavenly Christ only took over when Jesus was raised from the dead and ascended to heaven. [9] 
A thorough reading of Paul's epistles will confirm the relative accuracy of Schonfield's analysis of Paul's Christology.

It is impossible to construe from the above passages that Paul is referring solely to the historical Jesus, even in his resurrected state, as dwelling in the hearts of the faithful, especially in view of the fact that Paul continually uses the term, Perfect Man or inner man, and not Jesus Christ. It is clear that the Perfect Man is to be identified with the true or inner nature of man.

This analysis is corroborated by Father John Rossner, author of In Search of the Primordial Tradition:

"The term "Bar Nasha" or "Son of Man" refers to the "divine human form." An archetype of the human creation itself, it is the perfect Cosmic blueprint for all human beings. This was equated by some ancient writers with the "Logos" or eternal "image of God" that was said to be in every man that comes into the world." [10] 
In The Myth of God Incarnate, Frances Young, commenting on Paul's doctrine of the Son of God, writes:
This figure [the Son of God] is pre-existent not simply as a kind of divine being...but as the "man from heaven";... Indeed, he is the archetypal man and the archetypal Son of God in whom we become sons of God, fellow-heirs with Christ who will bear the image of the man of heaven. [11] 
The heavenly Christ and the man Jesus having become one Lord Jesus Christ is a teaching which has been branded as heretical and "gnostic" by the orthodox fabricators of Christianity from the second century onwards. Christ as the divine Archetype whom the believer should follow and thus attain to his own spiritual inheritance which was lost at the time of the fall, has itself become a lost teaching. And yet, the orthodox, by reinterpreting Paul and superimposing second- and third-century theology upon Paul's Christology, have claimed him as their own.

Christ as Indwelling Presence

This Christ whom Paul preaches is also an indwelling presence, a presence not confined solely to Jesus. Look at the following examples: After Paul had submitted himself to the "mystical crucifixion," Christ, as an inner presence, dwelt in him: "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me." (Gal. 2:20) "And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba,Father." (Gal. 4:6)

Paul teaches that this indwelling Christ must be nurtured in the hearts of the faithful: "My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you." (Gal. 4:19, emphasis added.) Paul prays to the Father for the members of his community at Ephesus: "That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith...And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God." (Eph. 3:16,17,19, emphasis added.)

The nurturing and development of this indwelling Christ as the Divine Spark in the hearts of Paul's disciples results in the believer's transformation into the Archetypal Man called by Paul an inner man, perfect man or new man: "Till we all come in unity of the faith, and of the gnosis of the Son of God, unto the perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ." (Eph. 4:13) "...Put on the new man which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness." (Eph. 4:24)

By accepting Paul's gospel then, man is restored to his true estate: a preexistent spiritual being, as Jesus likewise was restored through the resurrection. How is this restoration to be accomplished? Paul answers: "And as we have borne the image of the earthly, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly." (1 Cor.15:49) This restoration to the heavenly image or heavenly Man was to be accomplished by means of the "resurrection of the dead."

(continued)
 

FOOTNOTES:

1.Charles Ponce, Kabbalah, (Wheaton, Illinois: Theosophical Publishing House, 1983), pp. 134-142. 
2. The Book of Enoch, 46:2; 48:3-6 in Elizabeth C. Prophet, Forbidden Mysteries of Enoch, (Los Angeles: Summit University Press, 1983), pp. 128-130. 
3. Hugh J. Schonfield, Those Incredible Christians, (New York: Bantam, 1969), pp. 245-245. 
4. Ibid., p. 246. 
5. Ibid., pp. 246,247.
6. Ibid., pp. 248-249. 
7. Ibid., p. 249. 
8. Ibid., p. 250. 
9. Ibid., p. 251. 
10. John Rossner, In Search of the Primordial Tradition and the Cosmic Christ, (St. Paul: Llewellyn Publications, 1989), p. 189. 
11. John Hicks, ed., The Myth of God Incarnate, (Phil.: Westminister Press, 1977), "A Cloud of Witnesses" by Frances Young, p. 21.


This short essay was cobbled together from the words and ideas of Joseph P. Macchio. Much of it was culled directly from his book The Christian Conspiracy: The Orthodox Suppression of Original Christianity. I have placed it here breifly just to show a few friends.

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