Definition of gnostic in US English:



  • 1Relating to knowledge, especially esoteric mystical knowledge.

    • ‘It's not because I'm worried about what they might think, or anything ridiculous like that, it's because in a lot of cases this material was intended for me alone - either through an oral tradition or as a gnostic revelation from the spirits.’
    • ‘One urges deep solitary reading, whether it be of Shakespeare, of the gnostic Scriptures in Bentley Leyton's fine translation.’
    • ‘I worked from the assumption that he was more like Prometheus that Satan, almost from a gnostic point of view.’
    • ‘I am aware that between the second and the fourth centuries various gnostic heresies admitted women to all levels of priesthood.’
    • ‘That's the problem with sharing your name with a gnostic demiurge…’
    • ‘Augustine did not accept the old notions, popular among gnostic sects of the second century, that the Fall consisted in the serpent's seduction of Eve or that Adam and Eve fell by having sexual union before the proper time.’
    • ‘I think it's essentially the same myth as the Biblical ‘fall’, in which the world of matter is cut off from the Divine; and the gnostic idea of God becoming trapped in matter.’
    • ‘For some pavements such a religious symbolism has been suggested: examples at Brading and Littlecote have been seen as representing ‘Orphic’ or gnostic (mystical knowledge) ideas.’
    • ‘In other words, this keeps the emphasis off of any need for a special leader to lead, which would make it a nice, gnostic ritual, eh?’
    • ‘As David Yeago has noted in a critique of Gerhard Forde, the most eloquent American proponent of such an interpretation of Luther, in this scheme Lutheranism is reduced to a kind of gnostic sect.’
    • ‘And also, before the 300s (and many times afterwards) there were plenty of religious authority figures in gnostic sects both within and outside the church.’
    • ‘All of us too locked into our tensions, complexes and obsessions to ever realise it or notice it, like a bunch of clueless gnostic demiurges fallen into matter.’
    • ‘The same goes for gnostic Christianity, where we had the strict ascetics on the one hand and the extreme libertines on the other.’
    • ‘This a very convenient allegory for the evolution from gnosticism to orthodoxy and the ensuing death of esoteric gnostic traditions.’
    • ‘The guy I had a crush on even commented on the gnostic demiurges and the founding fathers as freemasons.’
    • ‘Working in a tradition should be an alchemical marriage where the structures that have been passed down to you are infused with your own unique gnostic revelation of what they mean and how they relate to your life and personal experience.’
    • ‘The horrors he lived through caused him to pose the same questions as these gnostic texts, and orthodox Christianity was not giving him the spiritual answers he needed.’
    • ‘And why leave her to those who wish to multiply her titles or to those fixated on gnostic interpretations of private revelations?’
    • ‘The word means all-powerful, hence the Latin omnipotens, and was probably framed to counter the gnostic claim that a demiurge had created the visible universe.’
    • ‘When the gnostic challenge, with its demand to worship in spirit only, became intense, they responded incarnationally all the more.’
    1. 1.1 Relating to Gnosticism.
      • ‘It is a collection of sayings of Jesus, shorn of most narrative setting, and often Gnostic in feel, presenting Jesus as a teacher of esoteric wisdom.’
      • ‘These texts, in part as a result of this Gnostic foundation, contain speakers whose disembodied voices we hear through the walls of their prisons.’
      • ‘The concepts that Dick presents are absolutely mind numbing, many having their roots in Gnostic principles.’
      • ‘The body of the book consists of fifteen chapters, collected into Parts Two through Five, which engage the phrase across biblical and extra-biblical literature, including Gnostic writings.’
      • ‘There is a polemic edge in Gnostic writings like the Gospel of Mary and the Gospel of Philip against the stupidities of the ‘apostolic men,’ whose literalism appears laughable beside the higher wisdom of the elite.’
      • ‘Yes, the Gospel of Thomas can be read in terms of spiritual transformation, but so can the Gospel of John - indeed, it was demonstrably read that way both by Gnostic interpreters like Heracleon and orthodox interpreters like Origen.’
      • ‘There were Gnostic schools, sects, writings, teachers, myths and churches.’
      • ‘It's a rationalization - it's not new - it's known from the First Century A.D., as the original anti-Christian Gnostic cult; the original Gnostics.’
      • ‘Actually, the whole thing reminds me - in a serious & intriguing way - of some Gnostic concepts of pure spirit descending into gross matter.’
      • ‘I think they indicate the descent of the divine into the material, typical Gnostic stuff - but am not sure.’
      • ‘This search for one answer above all, this Gnostic quest for an overriding key to history, is both dangerous and inimical to conservatism.’
      • ‘The gospel of Thomas (the fifth gospel) has been categorized as unmistakably Gnostic.’
      • ‘One other slant on this whole thing is that some Gnostic sects believed the Serpent not to be a temptor, but to be a Redeemer, in the style of the Christ-Logos.’
      • ‘You will be like some Gnostic visitor, someone who fell to earth to awaken those who have fallen asleep and have forgotten the wisdom that would make human life effective.’
      • ‘The God of the Bible is not some ethereal Gnostic spirit but a personal God covenanted to the people He chose.’
      • ‘The ‘toilet’ and ‘fashion’ definitions could similarly be tied into this Gnostic interpretation, being signifiers of both the impurity and transitory nature of material reality.’
      • ‘The crisis over identity was profound, for Gnostic dualism had a number of corollaries.’
      • ‘And in still other circles he was seen as a revealer of Gnostic secrets whose most significant teaching was given following his resurrection.’
      • ‘The Gospel of Philip is a Gnostic text, and Gnostic thought would have no place in first century Palestinian Judaism.’
      • ‘Like all Gnostic sects it is both elitist and fraternal - which is a pretty powerful combination.’


  • An adherent of Gnosticism.

    • ‘Most of the early Church's toiling over Christ's humanity took place in terms less extreme than those of the Gnostics or of Tertullian.’
    • ‘First in that long line were the Gnostics of the Apostolic age.’
    • ‘Not only Gnostics and other heretics, but Christians who considered themselves faithful, held in a measure to the worship of the sun.’
    • ‘Many such documents originated from heretical sects like the Gnostics.’
    • ‘Some ancient Gnostics were ascetic but others counseled sexual license.’
    • ‘Thus the rejection of the Old Testament, in part or in whole, was one of the numerous errors of the Gnostics.’
    • ‘We can see well enough that Paul had to fight the Gnostics, the Platonists, and the ascetics on these counts.’
    • ‘The argument put forth by Elaine Pagels and others is that Gnostics were a vibrant community that sought refuge from Roman power in cults that endorsed personal revelations.’
    • ‘The Gnostics achieved ‘true’ Christianity precisely by transcending it.’
    • ‘The distortions of the Marcionites, Gnostics, and Montanists were carefully examined under the criteria of apostolic testimony.’
    • ‘What is your impression of Christian Gnostics?’
    • ‘Not unlike the Gnostics of old, they have the secret knowledge, and the world would be better off if only all knew as much as the scholars.’
    • ‘Some forms of contemporary theology have reacted strongly against this anti-body attitude and this other-worldly spirituality of modern Gnostics, whether within or outside the Church.’
    • ‘The Gnostics thought that the God worshiped by most Christians was a demiurge or usurper.’
    • ‘The Gnostics of early Christendom believed in seeking personal spiritual experience.’
    • ‘In Roman times, the Hermetic Teachings of the Gnostics and the early Christians were turned from philosophy into theology, thanks to Constantine.’
    • ‘The saving knowledge that gives present-day Gnostics their sense of superiority derives not from experiences of divine revelation but from initiation into the historical consciousness provided by higher education.’
    • ‘But from the very start, in the conflict between Peter and Paul, between them and the Gnostics, Christ's legacy has been a site of struggle.’
    • ‘Although Marcion was not himself a Gnostic, like many Gnostics he believed that the God of Jesus was not the creator God of the Scriptures.’


Late 16th century (as a noun): via ecclesiastical Latin from Greek gnōstikos, from gnōstos ‘known’ (related to gignōskein ‘know’).