(29) Jesus said: If the flesh came into existence because of the spirit, it is a marvel. But if the spirit (came into existence) because of the body, it is a marvel of marvels. But as for me, I wonder at this, how this great wealth made its home in this poverty.
This saying expresses the disctinction for gnostics between the spirit and the flesh (or matter). There is a contempt for the material and a veneration for the spiritual … they believed we were more truly of the spirit (this great wealth) and are only temporarily mired here in matter (this poverty).
While there are some similar references in the canonical gospels, for the most part, this ascetic philosophy seems alien to the Jesus portrayed elsewhere. For instance, in Luke 7:34 and Matthwe 11:19, Jesus is accussed of being a drunkard and a glutton. And Jesus’ bodily resurrection would seem to imlpy that we are not made spiriit only after death, but that we still have bodies material enough to be touched/felt by others and material enough to enjoy the consumption of food … … “Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have ” … he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of baked fish; he took it and ate it in front of them. – Luke 24:39-43
It is through this philosophy that spirit and matter are oppossed, that the idea of who Jesus really was/is becomes problematic. According to gnostics, Jesus descends from the realm of spirits to dispenses gnosis and awaken those trapped in ignorance; the body is a prison, and the spirit alone is good; and salvation comes by discovering the “kingdom of God” within the self. He had no part in matter, did not suffer in death (First Apocalypse of James: “Never have I suffered in any way, nor have I been distressed”), was not bodily resurrected.
While I flinch at calling gnostics “world-hating dualists” 🙂 I must disagree with this ethical division between the material and the spiritual, if only because of what it says about the nature of Jesus and our own state after death.
If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit that dwells in you. – Romans 8:11