This post is the second post in a series on the “Gnostic Paul”– that is, Paul perceived by certain Gnostic thinkers– on Galatians. For Part 1, click here. For the next part, Part 3, click here.

The Gnostic Paul by Elaine Pagels

In last week’s post, we talked about the version of Paul presented by Elaine Pagels, in her book The Gnostic Paul. In her book, she reconstructs– using a combination of academic research and original texts– how “gnostic” thinkers (even though that word is loaded) may have perceived the apostle Paul. We’ll refer to this Paul as the “Gnostic Paul”, to indicate that this is not intended to be a discussion of historicity, but rather how certain early Christians perceived Paul.

Last time, we concluded with the tension faced by the Gnostic Paul in Galatians: the “psychic” Christians, led by apostles such as James, Peter, and John were in conflict with the pneumatic apostle Paul and others such as Barnabas. The psychic Christians– those operating at the level of psyche, at the level of the Demiurge– ended up giving Paul and Barnabas permission to preach to the pneumatic (spirit-filled and serving the true God), though asked them not to preach this to psychic Christians.

Paul and Barnabas agreed, and Galatians 2 records them being willing to act as psychic Christians when around other psychics to keep the peace. However, Peter then acts hypocritically– he starts violating the cease-fire. In this post, we’re going to explore more about what the Gnostic Paul thought Peter was doing, and his argument for why it’s a problem; the topic of “justification” is at the root of the issue!

Click below to continue reading: