The Reverend Carl B. Smith II presented a paper on November 15th at the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in San Antonio, Texas entitled, “Ancient Pre-Christian ‘Gnosticism(s)’: The State of the Questions.” A shorter version of this paper will be published as an article in The Gnostic World, a volume which will be part of Routledge Press’s World Series.
Carl’s doctoral dissertation was on the topic of Gnosticism and was published as No Longer Jews: The Search for Gnostic Origins (Hendrickson, 2004). He contends that Gnosticism arose in the second century A.D. and, thus, was not an issue in the canonical New Testament books. “What we find in the NT are some elements of what would later be included in the Gnostic schools of thought (e.g., Docetism, speculation about angels and powers, etc.), but more definitive Gnostic teachings were not present or argued against. These would include the creation of the cosmos by a lower god or gods, the origin of the human soul from the highest god’s being (i.e., we are “sparks of divinity”), and the possession of secret knowledge (“gnosis”) as a basis of enlightenment or salvation.”
Carl’s scholarship counters the claims of some liberal scholars that Jesus was a Gnostic, that there were alternative interpretations of Jesus and his teachings among the apostles, and that Gnosticism was one of a variety of Christianities that vied for prominence in the earliest Christian centuries.
Fr. Carl is currently the Director of the Doctor of Ministry program, at South University in Savannah, Georgia.