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In die Skriflig

On-line version ISSN 2305-0853
Print version ISSN 1018-6441

In Skriflig (Online) vol.42 n.2 Pretoria Jan. 2008




Gnosticism, church unity and the Nicene Creed


Gnostiek, kerkeenheid en die belydenis van Nicea



C.F.C. Coetzee

Faculty of Theology, Potchefstroom Campus. North-West University. Potchefstroom. E-mail:




Gnosticism (derived from the Greek word "gnosis; knowledge") is the well-known phenomenon or movement which dates from the first centuries of church history. The teaching of Gnosticism questioned and/or contradicted the teaching of the church on some of the fundamental truths of Scripture. Apart from Gnosticism, the Early Church also had to deal with the heresy of Arianism. In the Nicene Creed, formulated by the councils of Nicea (325 AD) and Constantinople (381 AD) the universal or catholic church responded officially to the heresies of both Gnosticism and Arianism. In the final edition of the Nicene Creed we also find an article on the unity, holiness, catholicity and apostolicity of the church. Both Gnosticism and Arianism posed a serious threat to the unity of the church.
In our times we experience a revival of ancient Gnosticism, both pagan and "Christian". This revival is also called the New Age or the Age of Aquarius. Within the framework of this new worldview, we are witnessing a rediscovery of gnosis. The discovery and publication of certain ancient gnostic texts like the Nag Hammadi Codices, play a significant role in this revival. Consequently the canon of Scripture is questioned or openly rejected and also the creeds based on that Scripture.
The Nicene Creed played a major and decisive role in preserving and maintaining the unity of the church on the basis of the truth of Scripture. This age-old creed is today just as relevant and important in proclaiming and confessing the true faith and preserving the true unity of the church.


Die Gnostiek (afgelei van die Griekse woord "gnosis" wat letterlik "kennis" beteken) is die baie bekende beweging wat dateer uit die eerste eeue van die kerkgeskiedenis. Die leringe van die Gnostiek het die leer van die kerk oor sommige van die kernwaarhede van die Skrif bevraagteken en/of weerspreek. Behalwe die Gnostiek het die Vroeë Kerk ook te doen gekry met die dwaling van die Arianisme. In die belydenis van Nicea, wat deur die konsilies van Nicea (325 n.C.) en Konstantinopel (381 n.C.) geformuleer is, het die katolieke (algemene) kerk amptelik geantwoord op sowel die Gnostiek as die Arianisme. In die finale uitgawe van die belydenis van Nicea is daar ook 'n artikel oor die eenheid, heiligheid, katolisiteit en apostolisiteit van die kerk. Sowel die Gnostiek as die Arianisme het 'n ernstige bedreiging vir die eenheid van die kerk ingehou.
In ons tyd beleef ons 'n herlewing van die antieke Gnostiek, sowel heidens as "Christelik". Hierdie herlewing word ook genoem die "New Age" of die "Age of Aquarius". Binne die raamwerk van hierdie nuwe wêreldbeskouing of wêreldorde is daar 'n herontdekking van gnosis. Die ontdekking en publikasie van sekere antieke gnostiese geskrifte soos die Nag Hamadigeskrifte, speel 'n deurslaggewende rol in hierdie herlewing. As uitvloeisel van die "kanonisering" van hierdie geskrifte, word die kanon van die Skrif en ook die belydenisskrifte wat op grond van die Skrif opgestel is, bevraagteken of openlik verwerp.
Die belydenis van Nicea het 'n baie belangrike en beslissende rol gespeel in die bewaring en handhawing van die eenheid van die kerk op die fondament van die waarheid van die Skrif. Hierdie eeue oue belydenis is vandag nog steeds net so aktueel en belangrik in die belydenis van die waarheid en die bewaring van die ware eenheid van die kerk.



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1 Reworked version of a paper delivered at the international conference of the International Reformed Theological Institute held at Cluj, Romania, 3 to 8 July 2007.

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