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THE DESCENDING-ASCENDING REDEEMER 419
Such evidence demands that
drawn between two
whether or not there was a pre-Christian
whetheror not there was
pre-Christian gnostic redeemer myth. Since
redeemermyth is not constitutive for gnosticism, the existence of a pre-Christian gnosisis
gnostic redeemer myth.
(3) In the
Christian sources where the gnostic myth has been assumed to be influential
the Fourth Gospel), there is no ontological identity between Christ andthe believers
gnosticism. There is,
the Christian writings,
pre-existence of the soul or redeemed redeemer.
Given these difficulties, why theattractiveness of the gnostic hypothesis?The pattern of descent-ascent in the gnostic redeemer myth ' has been andremains
hypothesis' that early Christianchristology is connected with gnostic mythology.* (4) Generally overlooked isthe fact that myths of descending-ascending redeemers are found elsewherein
Mediterranean world prior
gnostic hypothesiscollapses and the question deserves re-examination.The existence of the Greco-Roman mythology is not as well known to NTscholars as that of gnosticism but is instructive none the less. For example, inhis
Ovid tells of the visit of Jupiter and Mercury in theguise of mortals, seeking
place for rest, but finding
the neighbourhood by water and grant them not only theirprayer that they would
im-mortality by changing them into intertwining trees near the gods' temple.
Acts xiv. 8-18 shows that this myth of descending-ascending gods was knownto Christians
the first century. Tacitus,
the Serapis cult
Ptolemaic times. A young man of more than human size appeared to Soterand instructed him
Pontus and fetch his statue. The god told
Gnosticism in Corinth
seems to have thebetter of the argument against U. Wilckens,
Weisheit und Torheit
(Tubingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1959).
religionsgeschichtliche Schule. Darstellung
(Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1961); 'New Testament and Gnostic Christo-logy',
(ed. J. Neusner; Leiden: Brill, 1968), pp. 227-42; H. M. Schenke,
in der Gnosis
Ruprecht, 1962). Since J. M. Robinson'snegative review
, 287-9), scholarly opinion has seemed
confirm Colpe's and Schenke's conclusions. E. Kasemann's shift is indicative ('The Problem of
New Testament Theology',
xix , 238). W. Pannenberg,
(Phila-delphia: Westminster, 1968), p.
sums up the situation: 'After Carsten Colpe's book.. .it mustbe considered very questionable whether
the pre-Christian period there had been
completeredeemer myth that was then merely transferred
Wayne Meeks, 'The Man from Heaven in Johannine Sectarianism',
XCI (1972), 44, 68;Schuyler Brown,
review of Der
Vater, der mich gesandt
by Juan Peter Miranda,
xxxvi(1974), 421-2. This objection has usually been answered by saying that John was demythologizingthe gnostic myth.
(Leiden: Brill, 1967), p. 297.