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April 18, 2020, 6:50 PM

Thanks for all who returned with definitions of "Aeon." Several good responses! All gold star worthy! I am not as pithy or concise as you, I will admit, and I don't get around to the meaning of “Aeon” in terms of Gnosticism until paragraph eleven. By the way, if you want to opt out of this continuing conversation on the book of Jude, just let me know and I will unsubscribe you from the list. If, however, you think it's interesting, let somebody know and I can certainly add them to the discussion!


Here is an insight into early Christianity and the culture clash that happened between the Greek and Jewish traditions when they came together in Christianity. I get most of my material here from William Barclay and Duane Watson.


The Greeks (gentiles) had a long history of philosophy and even theology before they ever met up with Christianity. Philosophers like Plato (who dominates Greek Logical thought) came up with the idea of monotheism early on (he said the traditional Greek gods were a sort of many manifestations of the one "ideal" god), but not before others like the Pharaoh Akhenaten (some attribute influence from Joseph, who could have been his Prime Minister, but don't bet the kid's college fund on it) or the Zoroastrians of Persia. But since the conquests of Alexander the Great spread Greek culture throughout the Western world, Platonic thought became the dominant philosophical model (Aristotle, Plato's “Grand-student,” was Alexander's tutor, that makes Alexander Plato's Great-grand-student).


Plato reasoned that because we can conceive of a god which is the “ideal” and therefore a unique and all-powerful being of which no other can be conceived as more powerful (I know, I think I may need to take an aspirin if I think about it any more), it must somewhere exist. This is God. The other gods are mere shadows. Since, in Plato's “Ideals,” in a infinite universe, everything must exist in someplace, somewhere, sometime as an “ideal,” the perfect version of it. Pass the Tylenol, please!


Well, initially, that would seem to line up with Jewish thought that there is only one and all mighty God (Yahweh) who created and rules over everything. That would work great if the gentiles (Greeks!) who were adopting this new world view had accepted the Jewish view, but of course the Greeks knew better.


Since the early church, this clash of cultures and beliefs has been well documented. Early church father Tertullian wrote an entire book on it called, “What Does Athens Have to do With Jerusalem?” (written about 220 A.D., but good luck finding a copy).


So, the gentiles (Greeks!) reasoned that this God of the Old Testament was basically flawed because he let all the injustice, blood, violence and sin into the world. This couldn't be Plato's “Ideal” God.


Disclaimer: not all Greeks thought this. This was the beginnings of Gnosticism, a heresy of Christianity that was fought violently for several hundred years, especially in the formation of the canon (accepted books) of the Bible. Some would argue that it is still being argued today in idolatry, us humans (not just Greeks!) wanting to make God in our own image.


Orthodox (believing the Bible, not the Eastern Catholics) believers accepted the One God, now and forever view, and even adopted the Trinity as the best way to understand God's salvation plan for us: The Old Testament (First Covenant) and the New (Second Covenant). What the Gnostics held on to was that this old God of the first, Old Testament, could not possibly be the same loving God that sent us his son as a sacrifice. So this gummed up the works in a couple of ways.


Plato (Greeks!) held that the “Ideals” were solely spiritual and that everyday, mundane things were of the physical only. People had both in them, but the spirit was good and the body evil. (Plato thought that there was an Ideal chair someplace that was the perfect, spiritual chair, but that the kind you sit on to eat dinner or watch TV was just physical and not very good – or maybe a king's throne was someplace in the middle (Greeks!)).


In order to reconcile this (and here we better be talking “Extra Strength Tylenol”) the “standard” (although there were many views) Gnostic thinking went like this: God is Ideal, purely Spirit, and all Good. Such a God could never have made this world that we have today with all of its blood, violence, and lack of toilet paper. If a loving God wanted, for some reason, to create a physical world, he wouldn't even want to touch it. He by definition couldn't! So what he did was he made a copy of himself that was not quite so pure, not quite so good, not quite as purely Spirit that could manipulate this evil “matter” stuff to do the job. Of course, even such a copy or a “shadow” of God would still not be un-pure enough, so there had to be countless versions, maybe a thousand, maybe a billion, maybe more (extra-extra strength Tylenol, please) copies had to be generated until such a being existed that could create the less than perfect world in which we live in. This was the God of the Old Testament, a basically mean-spirited, distorted version of the pure God of Love. All of these “intermediate” gods were called by the Gnostics, “Aeons.”


That meant a couple of things. First, we have not just two Gods that we are contending with, we have an almost unlimited supply (see how Greek Pantheism works so well here?). But primarily, the struggle is between the less than perfect God of the Old Testament (in fact, from the Gnostic's point of view, he is quite evil, so that would mean all of the heroes of the Old Testament are in fact villains. I know, so much for the House of David and Samson and Joshua...well, I could go on for a while) and the Loving, pure God who sent His Son (perhaps Jesus was one of the first or second or 200th Aeon He generated – see, it gets kind of muddled up here) to fix all of the things that were messed up with the evil, physical world.


So the Gnostic Greeks (Greeks!) (and they weren't just Greeks (!) but everybody besides the Jews were pretty much “Hellenized” by that point (made to think like Greeks)) got so good at this argument that they even started to convince some Jews that this was the case.


Traditional “Jewish Christians” would of course find this to be an abomination. Jesus was God's physical son, born of a woman, of the line of David, sent to redeem the world fallen to sin. There was only one God and one way to salvation: through Jesus Christ. To clear the world of its distorted, fallen nature (created by us, not by some evil god), Jesus had to pay the ultimate sacrifice, which he, as God, was willing to do just because he loves us so much. The persons of the Trinity were and are not three gods, they are One, speaking to us in three distinct voices.


That is what Jude is about. All in 25 tidy little verses. Over the next nine weeks (starting April 26), Bill and I will be sharing the letter of Jude to you.


Next time: who was this “Judas” - Jude for short? Was he actually the brother of Jesus Christ?


And the time after next? You think Gnosticism is tough, try the other big theme of Jude –Antinomianism. You better take two, they're small.


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God bless!