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Thread: Thomas' Gospel.

  1. #76
    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
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    It was one of the original series of writings that the early emerging Church chose to reject. Correct me if I am wrong here Pompey.

    I did not say I believed it Cacian. I do however find the narrative interesting and have chosen to both read and comment on it.

    Then of course there is always the big "If." What if these were genuine records of what the historical Jesus said and taught.

    Best wishes
    M.

  2. #77
    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
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    A gremlin keeps double booking my posts!!!

  3. #78
    rat in a strange garret Whifflingpin's Avatar
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    "It was one of the original series of writings that the early emerging Church chose to reject."

    "Chose to reject" may be too strong a phrase. "Chose not to include as essential" would be more accurate. They may have considered it wrong or simply as unimportant or of dubious provenance. Along with most books, therefore, anyone can read it for pleasure or interest, and even learn from it, but nothing in it can be taken as being the teaching of the Church.

    The first words of the prologue, as you have already quoted, "These are the secret sayings that the living Jesus spoke," might have been enough on their own to show the book as invalid, or at least irrelevant to Christians. The Jesus of the early church did not deal in secret or hidden sayings but in a message that was open to all who chose to listen. The first chosen disciples were workmen, not mystics or self-selected as Elect. Jesus' parables are attempts to simplify, not mystify. In the longer term, there is a valid ongoing question within the Church as to whether salvation is through what one does or what one believes or what God chooses for reasons entirely of His own: salvation, whether by works, faith or grace, is equally open to all. If salvation depended on being able to unravel some cryptic messages then it would irrelevant to all but a tiny proportion of mortals.

    It is fun, seeking for the hidden meanings of things, and more worthwhile than doing the crossword. Any book, however, which implies that union with God is only available to those who study and unlock its secret sayings is not a book of Good News, but a recipe for despair.
    Voices mysterious far and near,
    Sound of the wind and sound of the sea,
    Are calling and whispering in my ear,
    Whifflingpin! Why stayest thou here?

  4. #79
    The Gnu Normal Pompey Bum's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cacian View Post
    what?? do you really believe all this??
    I don't get it sorry.
    We are just commenting on a mysterious text that was either written shortly before the Gospels or shortly afterwards. It shows some remarkable similarities to material in the Gospels but also important differences--especially in interpretation. We are not using the text to justify or promulgate our beliefs--just to understand them in their greater historical context.

    Was their something in particular that startled you?
    And this from a man in a bunny suit.

  5. #80
    The Gnu Normal Pompey Bum's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MANICHAEAN View Post
    It was one of the original series of writings that the early emerging Church chose to reject. Correct me if I am wrong here Pompey.
    It was an early document that, as Whifflingpin indicated, was not included in orthodox Christian Scripture. But it's not quite as simple as that. Thomas is a gnosticizing text--it shows a marked tendency towards a strongly dualistic theological position called Gnosticism. Eventually, Gnosticism did come to be rejected by orthodox Christianity--it became a heresy.
    And this from a man in a bunny suit.

  6. #81
    confidentially pleased cacian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pompey Bum View Post
    We are just commenting on a mysterious text that was either written shortly before the Gospels or shortly afterwards. It shows some remarkable similarities to material in the Gospels but also important differences--especially in interpretation. We are not using the text to justify or promulgate our beliefs--just to understand them in their greater historical context.

    Was their something in particular that startled you?
    Hi there Pompey Bum apologies for my abruptness I did not mean to talk like that.
    I think the whole debate about nakedness just does not sit right with me. The idea that clothes are less important is more then silly.
    it may never try
    but when it does it sigh
    it is just that
    good
    it fly

  7. #82
    The Gnu Normal Pompey Bum's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Whifflingpin View Post
    The first words of the prologue, as you have already quoted, "These are the secret sayings that the living Jesus spoke," might have been enough on their own to show the book as invalid, or at least irrelevant to Christians. The Jesus of the early church did not deal in secret or hidden sayings but in a message that was open to all who chose to listen. The first chosen disciples were workmen, not mystics or self-selected as Elect. Jesus' parables are attempts to simplify, not mystify. In the longer term, there is a valid ongoing question within the Church as to whether salvation is through what one does or what one believes or what God chooses for reasons entirely of His own: salvation, whether by works, faith or grace, is equally open to all. If salvation depended on being able to unravel some cryptic messages then it would irrelevant to all but a tiny proportion of mortals.
    This is a valid point as far as it goes. An esoteric teaching could suggest that the Christian message is not open to all, although it could also mean that there are degrees of discernment among those already saved--something many orthodox Christians would accept. But the question may not even apply here, since we are dealing with an anonymous claim about a text that seems to have been reworked by a gnosticizing editor. The unredacted text (if it pre-dated the Synoptics) may have reflected the influence of Jewish wisdom tradition in the historical Jesus' teachings--these teachings being poured into the mold of canonical orthodoxy over time. This idea of Jesus as a wisdom teacher (among other things) is not especially radical. His Biblical sayings are also things to be puzzled out. Why is the Kingdom of God like a mustard seed? What does it mean to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves? Or for the dead to bury the dead? These conundrums do not imply salvation only for the knowing few.

    The conservative/traditional view is that the sayings in Thomas were merely extracted from the Gospels, reworked in a gnosticizing context, and presented as an esoteric teaching by an early (and not particularly orthodox) sect. Of course, it is also possible that Thomas and the some of the Gospels shared a sayings source. I think we need to remain critically detached from the passions potentially generated by these conflicting views. Neither challenges the simple message of Salvation through Jesus Christ.
    And this from a man in a bunny suit.

  8. #83
    The Gnu Normal Pompey Bum's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cacian View Post
    Hi there Pompey Bum apologies for my abruptness I did not mean to talk like that.
    I think the whole debate about nakedness just does not sit right with me. The idea that clothes are less important is more then silly.
    Oh, don't worry about it. Your viewpoint is always valued. That saying was only using the idea of clothes in a symbolic sense. It probably meant the flesh, which it claimed was only a kind of garment for the soul (in other words, not who you really are). The group that used this text had a low opinion of the body. They thought it was a kind of poverty that the soul needed to learn to reject. That is why the saying talks about stripping. But it isn't really talking about clothes.
    And this from a man in a bunny suit.

  9. #84
    rat in a strange garret Whifflingpin's Avatar
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    "conundrums do not imply salvation only for the knowing few."

    True enough, and there are many reasons why historical sayings might have been obscure to their original hearers and even more so to us. But my point was not that there are obscure comments in the work, rather that, from the outset, the thing was intended to be obscure. That may have been only the view expressed by the editor, and may not have been the intention of the original collector(s) of Jesus' wisdom teachings. However, in the form that we have it, this work (unlike canonical Christian narratives that also include the wisdom teaching) is presented as being esoteric or elitist, which is not consistent with the idea that salvation is equally available to all. That, I think, would be sufficient reason for the fathers of the Church not to admit it to the canon, regardless of whether or not the sayings themselves had been altered to present a view that came to be reckoned as unorthodox.

    From his name alone, I suspect that Manichaean tends towards a dualist belief, and I too find a form of dualism to be the simplest reconciliation of the fact of evil with the concept of a benevolent God. However, I would not consider the text under scrutiny to offer any clue as to what Jesus thought on that subject, simply because the unredacted text, however and wherever it was collected, was probably reworked (a polite term for deliberately corrupted) by a gnostic editor. If we call this unknown "Thomas the Gnostic," there is no reason to reject this work from the canon of Gnostic scriptures, quite the contrary. We should remain aware that (given that Gnosticism and Christianity are two separate religions) it is a Gnostic document rather than a Christian one.
    Voices mysterious far and near,
    Sound of the wind and sound of the sea,
    Are calling and whispering in my ear,
    Whifflingpin! Why stayest thou here?

  10. #85
    The Gnu Normal Pompey Bum's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Whifflingpin View Post
    True enough, and there are many reasons why historical sayings might have been obscure to their original hearers and even more so to us.
    Thank you for your thoughts, which I know to be wise and faithful. It seems to me that the sayings of the historical Jesus were intended to stimulate moral growth among his followers. In the first several centuries after the Crucifixion, they were used in various ways by early Christian groups laying claim to his moral authority. What became Christian orthodoxy rose slowly and was not generally recognized as such until the 4th century. So it not historically accurate for us to say that proto-Orthodox figures like Irenaeus of Lyons (for example) belonged to the Christian religion while gnosticizing groups like the Gospel of Thomas community belonged to the Gnostic religion. That sort of division becomes meaningful eventually (although speaking of a gnostic religion would still be more accurate than the Gnostic religion) but it not at such an early date. What we can say is that what came to be orthodox soteriology is less elite than Thomas'. You make this argument and I fully agree (in fact, I pointed it out a few pages back when we were discussing the Gospel of John). I believe, however that Jesus' wisdom sayings are well worth considering in their own right; and we can easily abstract these from their later contexts in Thomas and the canonical Gospels. It's never too late to grow from what Jesus actually said to us.

    Quote Originally Posted by Whifflingpin View Post
    From his name alone, I suspect that Manichaean tends towards a dualist belief, and I too find a form of dualism to be the simplest reconciliation of the fact of evil with the concept of a benevolent God.
    I'll let M. speak for himself. All I know is that, like me, he was raised in the faith but managed to find God anyways. (I'm being glib and probably impious--it was God, of course, who found me). I too am a duelist. Shall we say pistols at dawn?

    Quote Originally Posted by Whifflingpin View Post
    However, I would not consider the text under scrutiny to offer any clue as to what Jesus thought on that subject, simply because the unredacted text, however and wherever it was collected, was probably reworked (a polite term for deliberately corrupted) by a gnostic editor.
    There is a misunderstanding here. The unredacted document is hypothetical--whatever sayings source the editor of the Gospel of Thomas actually redacted. What you seem to be describing is an alternate view in which the Gospel of Thomas was produced by extracting Jesus' sayings from the Canonical Gospels and interpreting the sayings in a gnosticizing context (as you say, corrupting them). That is also hypothetical. It was once widely taught but has fallen from academic favor. The Gospel of Thomas is usually thought of as a bit older now (but that is just an informed opinion). Thank you again for your response. I'll consider our differences. So let's hold off on the pistols for now.
    And this from a man in a bunny suit.

  11. #86
    rat in a strange garret Whifflingpin's Avatar
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    "What you seem to be describing is an alternate view in which the Gospel of Thomas was produced by extracting Jesus' sayings from the Canonical Gospels and interpreting the sayings in a gnosticizing context."

    "However or wherever" indicates that I have no view on the path or date by which any sayings of Jesus come to be in the Gospel of Thomas, or on when the Gospel of Thomas crystallised into its present form. I suspect that attempts to determine whether it crystallised before or after St Mark's Gospel are driven more by religio-political concerns than neutral literary analysis. Since the gospels date from at least forty years after the crucifixion they all depend heavily on second-hand material whether held in memory or on parchment. The exact date on which any of them could be described as defined is a question of great interest but little importance, (certainly not important enough for pistols let alone any higher stakes.) Each of the evangelists selected and interpreted the material as best suited his purpose, so I was over harsh in using the term "deliberately corrupted."
    Voices mysterious far and near,
    Sound of the wind and sound of the sea,
    Are calling and whispering in my ear,
    Whifflingpin! Why stayest thou here?

  12. #87
    The Gnu Normal Pompey Bum's Avatar
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    Well, it would be awfully hard to deliberately corrupt something (or merely to interpret it to suit one's theological aganda) before it was actually written. This was the question about which I cautioned scholarly detachment. Ancient historians learn to live with ambiguity. Theologians deal in absolute truths. Both propositions require some patience.
    And this from a man in a bunny suit.

  13. #88
    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
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    Coptic Saying 38.

    Jesus says, "Ofter you have desired to hear these sayings of mine, and you have no one else from whom to hear them. And there will come days when you will seek me and you will not find me."

    In the context of this saying, it displays both a desire on the part of the seekers who look for understanding and the pivotal role that Jesus plays in providing this understanding.

    Is it a disillusionment with traditional Jewish teaching, or more I guess a frowned upon attempt at an expansion of thinking on the earlier creed? Perhaps you also have to consider if this was an earlier form of Hellenism containing a governing idea of a spontaneity of consciousness, as opposed to Hebraism with its strictness of conscience.

    Either way it seems that a conclusion arising from this saying is that as seekers come to understand the sayings, there will no longer be the need for a Jesus in human form, because they will no longer be dependent upon these sayings.

    Finally, I cannot help but have noted and appreciated, ( apart from pistols at dawn,) the lively and interesting discussions upon last weeks Saying and would like to comment as follows:

    1. Thanks for that insight W into whether salvation can be by work, faith or grace. It helps me recognise more clearly in the individuals I have come across in my lifetime, some of the main characteristics of these three components. Not that I think one is motivated in this less religious age on the concept of "salvation."
    2. There seems to be some questioning as to whether I am dualistic in my religious beliefs, or even a Gnostic as such! I've never really asked myself where I formally stand. I was raised in the Roman Catholic faith and am comfortable in it. However I am prepared to question many aspects. Hence perhaps my interest in (a) Any phenomenon which can be explained by two opposing principles, and (b) The feasible idea that humans are divine souls trapped in the ordinary physical or material world.

    As Joseph Addison once noted, "Thus I live in the world, rather as a spectator of mankind, than as one of the species."

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