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Thread: Thomas' Gospel.

  1. #16
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    Here's the commentary for saying 3: http://www.earlychristianwritings.co...elthomas3.html

    I agree with your impressions.

    If one looks for the imperial rule in the sky or in the sea then it is outside us and we aren't there yet. Instead of that, the saying claims not only is it outside us, but it is also inside. If it is also inside, then we are already "children of the living Father". We are already there. We just need to realize that so our perspectives on reality (the imperial rule) are not impoverished.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MANICHAEAN View Post
    Just over 120 years ago fragmentary papyri, some of it written in Greek were discovered in an ancient rubbish dump at Oxyrhynchus in Egypt containing several sayings attributed to Jesus. Then in 1947 there was another similar find at Nag Hammadi in Palestine. Part of this was a tractate entitled "The Gospel According to Thomas" also containing Jesus' sayings.

    It must be remembered that at the time they were written there was no fixed church authority, and thus they are a fascination in the development of primitive Christianity.


    Three aspects I would like to look at:

    1. There had been a school of thought that behind Matthew's and Luke's revision of the Gospel of Mark stood a collection of sayings known as the Synoptic Sayings. Were these the material previously undiscovered?
    Hey, MANICHAEAN! Great to see you again.

    A couple pedantic points first. Nag Hammadi is also in Egypt, not Palestine. You are right that the first copy found of the Thomas material was written in Greek--the language of the eastern Roman Empire and the entire New Testament. The less fragmented Nag Hammadi text is in Coptic (you didn't say otherwise--I'm just pointing it out). So while more complete, it is also a local translation of an existing (presumably Greek) text. The Nag Hammadi codices were intentionally buried in the 4th century. So one of the first questions about the relation of the Gospel of Thomas to the synoptic sayings is the date of its first composition. Another (if one takes it to be a collection of sayings recorded from the words of the historical Jesus) involves the language that Jesus used when he taught. Is the Oxyrhynchus text itself a translation INTO Greek? And most importantly (as far as I'm concerned): were translations accompanied by theologically driven redactions? Are these the authentic sayings of Jesus from or are they a quasi-gnostic spin on the actual sayings of Jesus? Interested groups are quick to claim a consensus on these points, but in fact there is none. The good man draws his own conclusions.

    Religious conservatives--those for whom anything smelling of gnosticism is post-synoptic invention-- usually date the material to the late 2nd or even 3rd century. No, they will tell you, this is not the hypothetical sayings source from which you say the synoptic Gospels were extrapolated. Rather those nasty gnostics extracted the sayings from the existing Gospels and perverted them for their own heretical purposes.

    The radical view (when I went to school--it is more or less the liberal academic view now) is that the Gospel of Thomas is much earlier. It was not seen as the original synoptic sayings source but as (probably) a mildly gnosticized redaction of that source. The sayings cannot be taken at face value (that is, not as the verbatim teachings of the historical Jesus) but they are as close to that as we have for now. They are to be analyzed cautiously. There is also the matter of sayings and stories from Thomas that do not appear in the synoptic Gospels. If they were not added later (as most religious conservatives insist), then they may be authentic teachings of Jesus that were passed over/censored by the authors of the synoptic Gospels. As such they may cast new light on who Jesus's was before the churches got ahold of him.

    Quote Originally Posted by MANICHAEAN View Post
    2. There were religious ideas largely originating in the Jewish physical & social settings of the 1st & 2nd Century AD that there was within the human body an existing Divine spark trapped but which could be released by an identification with wisdom, ( the sayings?) This development of Gnostic ideas was thus contemporaneous with the writing of the New Testament. However this belief held that the kingdom of heaven is already here and not a future event. By the end of the 2nd Century to the 4th Century there was a reaction by the proto-orthodox church and this belief was condemned as heresy.
    Unfortunately you are technically correct to capitalize Gnostic. Historically it makes more sense to think in terms of gnostic trends over various theologies. The mildly gnostic Gospel of Thomas is categorically different from the wild and wacky Sethian gnosticism of The Hypostasis of the Archons or the Apocryphon of James. And both are a world away from the Valentinian gnosticism of the Gospel of Truth. With that caveat, I think you are correct to describe the gnosticism of the Gospel of Thomas as "originating in the Jewish physical & social settings of the 1st & 2nd Century AD". But conservative Christians will quickly tell you that Sethian gnosticism is Hellenizing not Jewish (and they'd be right--in fact much of it is strongly anti-Jewish). Gnostic studies are complicated but fun. I wish you much joy in the pursuit. But take my advice: small g (and damn the predictive spelling).

    By the way, idea that the Kingdom of God is already here is called a realized eschatology. Is it still considered heretical? I take no notice of such things.

    Quote Originally Posted by MANICHAEAN View Post
    3. Was this the voice of Jesus without the intermediary of the institutional church and orthodox theologians?
    See above.

    Great talking to you again, old horse! I don't post on LitNet much, but I'll drop by from time to time to see if you've responded. Until then, as they say at Boston University, be you!
    And this from a man in a bunny suit.

  3. #18
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    Hello Old Chap

    Nice to hear from you again and for your ever informative response. I stumbled upon this subject purely by chance and found it interesting to say the least. At one stage I was a bit put off by the skepticism of another book I was reading; " Pagans and Christians" by Robin Lane Fox.

    He writes of "overachievers" who multiplied texts which supported their own practice: where no authority existed, they invented texts and ascribed them to authors who never wrote them.

    He speaks of the narrative fictions that tend to name no author in the "Acts of Thomas" or the "Acts of Peter," whereas bogus letters of discipline and revelation tend to claim a false authorship in the "Apocalypse of Peter" or the "Teaching of the Apostles."

    And yet, what if?

    For that reason I will continue to read, even if only to examine the perspective and to reflect upon the content of whoever originated the thinking involved.

    Take care & best wishes.
    M.

    ( I'm back from Vietnam now, in semi-retirement mode, so I get a chance to immerse myself in my books.)
    Last edited by MANICHAEAN; 10-24-2017 at 10:34 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MANICHAEAN View Post
    At one stage I was a bit put off by the skepticism of another book I was reading; " Pagans and Christians" by Robin Lane Fox.

    He writes of "overachievers" who multiplied texts which supported their own practice: where no authority existed, they invented texts and ascribed them to authors who never wrote them.

    He speaks of the narrative fictions that tend to name no author in the "Acts of Thomas" or the "Acts of Peter," whereas bogus letters of discipline and revelation tend to claim a false authorship in the "Apocalypse of Peter"
    Sooner or later one just shrugs and accepts that ascribing writings to authoritative religious figures was accepted practice in antiquity (and not just in the West). The names of the the Canonical Evangelists are all ascriptions and many of the Pauline Epistles were never written by Paul. The historical Paul has an extremely quirky style of Greek and an idiosyncratic theology. Confusing him with author of Ephesians or Colossians is like seeing a Jackson Pollock and saying, "Ah yes, Leonardo!"-- it's that obvious. That doesn't mean the theology of the Pseudo-Pauline authors (and other attributed writers) doesn't deserve to be considered as part of the Christian experience. The real problem (in my opinion) comes from putting one's faith in a literary artifact--the Biblical text as we have it--rather than the God of love and justice it seeks to understand. Biblical literalism requires chronic denial about attributed authors and (much worse) an artificial concordance between what were always really differing perspectives over time. This has resulted in a kind of Frankenstein version of the Bible (in my opinion an idol) that has fueled Christian intolerance and provided atheistic apologists with a smorgasbord of low hanging fruit. But I digress.

    I haven't read Fox, but I can see from your examples that he is cherry picking his overachievers. I translated the Acts of Peter as a long ago Latin student (I think the Greek text is lost). I remember that Simon Magus was terrorizing the city of Rome by flying through the air. It was like a Batman movie. That sort of folklore/fiction does not begin to approach the historical or religious significance of Gospel of Thomas. Thomas may suggest something new about the original Jesus community--not just by what it says but by what it is. Formally (I mean in terms of form criticism), collections of aphorisms lend themselves to meditation for wisdom/enlightenment rather than ritual and liturgy. In other words, instead of having an authoritative church figure lead a community in ritual (and ultimately tell one what to believe), the disciple considers or meditates on a saying (which may itself be a paradox--somewhat like a Zen riddle) until its meaning is apprehended through an unmediated connection with the one who posed it. I think you touch on this when you say:

    Quote Originally Posted by MANICHAEAN View Post
    The fact also that they are just "sayings" implies a value judgement interpretation. And then, ( unlike in a crossword for example) there is no magical button to push, or page to turn to get a definitive answer. It begs the question; does one's personal interpretation coincide with a belief I have that each of us is chosen to serve in different ways?
    Understanding the paradoxical or riddle-like nature of some of the sayings may make them less obscure to us. You mention this one:

    "Those who seek should not stop seeking until they find. When they find they will be disturbed. When they are disturbed, they will rule, and when they rule, they will rest."

    Paradox: one expects seeking to be an active process and finding to provide some satisfaction (or at least a rest from seeking); but here those who seek are not satisfied but disturbed.

    My interpretation: those who meditate/seek must continue to the point of enlightenment/self-apprehension. This will not come as a moment of satisfaction but profound disquiet. Why? Because apprehending one's true (spiritual) being necessarily means facing the poverty/corruption of material existence and understanding that one has been that poverty. Or as the Gospel of Thomas says elsewhere, one perceives that one lives in a corpse.

    Paradox: one expects ruling to be mastery resulting from victory; but here it is the result of disquiet and leads to rest.

    My interpretation: for the author of the Gospel of Thomas, ruling is the victory that comes on awaking to one's true, spiritual, and immortal nature. (The image may be associated with the martyr's crown, an early Christian metaphor for immortality). Immortality is seen as a state of profound peace, passivity, and rest. Or perhaps the teaching is that martyrdom will come, but persecutors can only take your body--not your being. The enlightened know that they are not tasting death. (Perhaps).

    Now this may be a lost teaching of Jesus. On the other hand, it may be the redactor of the Gospel of Thomas' spin on something Jesus once taught. What is more important to me is the possibility (in terms of the original sayings source) that the historical Jesus was a kind of Jewish wisdom teacher; that his sayings may be extracted from the contexts and explanatory stories the Gospel writers and their sources gave them--and that they may be sources of unexpected wisdom in themselves. The Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed (found in all three synoptics plus Thomas) is usually interpreted to mean that big things have small beginnings, but it sounds like a paradox riddle to me. Be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves. Let the dead bury the dead. Where the corpse is, there the eagles will gather. You get the idea.

    The 800-pound gorilla in the room in this discussion (or the pink elephant or whatever it's supposed to be) is Apocalypticism. Despite what generations of clergy have told their flocks, Jesus Gospel message was not: be good so you can go to Heaven (or else). It was emphatically: the Kingdom of God is at hand. Since Schweitzer (and even before), this has been taken by mainstream Christians to mean that Jesus was an Apocalyptic prophet--and perhaps he was. But the possibility of Jesus as a wisdom teacher at least opens the door to an alternative view.

    As you know, Jesus was crucified by the Roman authority while he was still young. Persecution of his followers came quickly. In the beginning, this was local and sporadic, but it was also shocking and cruel. The reeling Jesus movement was faced with the unthinkable prospect of a just God who was leading them to slaughter. Like Jewish martyrs before them, their solution was Apocalyptic literature. Those who persecute now will be justly punished--soon. Those who suffer now will be justly rewarded--soon. The Revelation of John arose alongside the Canonical Gospels. Some Gospel sources provided Jesus himself with apocalyptic words and warnings. The historical Paul wrote in the context of an imminent Armageddon. The Kingdom of God was surely at hand.

    But was it only an Apocalypse in hindsight? Was the historical Jesus' Kingdom of God a Salvation now through enlightenment to one's true (and immortal) being? Was his message that The Kingdom of God was there now for those who would take it? That it was not coming but already at hand.

    I don't know. I'm open to the idea, but historically there's a lot against it. First-century Palestine was rife with Apocalypticism. The Dead Sea Scrolls community believed the imminent Jewish rebellion against Rome would precipitate an Apocalyptic conflict between supernatural forces of good and evil (the war came but not the Apocalypse). Jesus' mentor John was likely a pre-war Apocalypticist. Given his times, Jesus could hardly have avoided the issue.

    So where does that leave us? I don't know. Was there a synoptic sayings source? I think there was. Does that mean Jesus was a kind of wisdom teacher? Very possibly. Was he also an Apocalypticist? Quite probably. So maybe the question is how to resolve those two poles in Jesus' teaching. Perhaps that is the final paradox riddle. It is worth a little meditation in any case.
    Last edited by Pompey Bum; 10-25-2017 at 07:47 PM.
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    Coptic Saying 4.

    Jesus says, " A person old in days won't hesitate to ask a little child seven days old about the place of life, and that person will live. For many of the first will be last, and the last first and will become one and the same."

    Many echoes here of the "orthodox" gospels: "Lest you become like a child" / the first last and the last first. Which begs the question as to whether these in fact were the actual words of the historical Jesus, or borrowed from the "orthodox" gospels and a different author's spin inserted?

    If the former, then an extra dimension seems to be introduced. Standard doctrine as I understand it; is that in order to enter heaven, there is a need to attain aspects of childhood, namely; innocence and unspoilt simplicity.

    In this saying there are inversions, namely; the preference of elders over youth and the priority of first over last. Social priorities are reversed and elders seek the advice of youth regards the locus of life. This in turn seems to state that it is the elder that receives life through the young child. One cannot help but reflect about doting grandparents given a new spring in their step by association with their grandchildren.

    Then the inversion goes one step further in the attainment of a "unity," almost a collapsing of opposites and a state of non-distinction.

    Thus the theme of "unity" functions as an indicator of the meaning of the search; the overcoming of opposites and the unity of a self that fulfills.
    Last edited by MANICHAEAN; 10-29-2017 at 09:17 AM.

  6. #21
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    Here is the commentary I am also reading: http://www.earlychristianwritings.co...elthomas4.html

    Someone mentioned in that link that the child of seven days was still uncircumcised which occurred on the eighth day. Also some mentioned that the child was viewed as asexual at least in desires and this was the state of unity that also comes from sexual union.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MANICHAEAN View Post
    Coptic Saying 4.

    Jesus says, " A person old in days won't hesitate to ask a little child seven days old about the place of life, and that person will live. For many of the first will be last, and the last first and will become one and the same."

    Many echoes here of the "orthodox" gospels: "Lest you become like a child" / the first last and the last first. Which begs the question as to whether these in fact were the actual words of the historical Jesus, or borrowed from the "orthodox" gospels and a different author's spin inserted?
    Yes, strong echoes indeed--but in peculiar juxtaposition. Before getting into that, I'll address the issue of the authenticity of the Thomas sayings (by which I mean whether they are likely to have originated with the historical Jesus). The claim by some conservative Christians that the Thomas sayings were lifted from the Synoptics and placed into gnosticizing contexts doesn't the sayings themselves were authentic teachings of Jesus. Their argument can only claim that the redactors of the Gospel of Thomas began with the Synoptic Gospels and not the Synoptic Sayings Source and other early materials. But that would not necessarily mean that the Thomas document was identical with the hypothetical sayings source (the Q source) that Matthew and Luke used. My opinion is that Thomas was a somewhat gnosticized redaction of Q, and that its sayings (as opposed to its contextual spin) have a rather good claim to authenticity. And even the contexts into which Thomas places the sayings may reflect more of the historical Jesus than the Synoptic Gospels that were eventually canonized by Orthodoxy. One can't really know. So as usual the good man has to make his own way.

    Quote Originally Posted by MANICHAEAN View Post
    If the former, then an extra dimension seems to be introduced. Standard doctrine as I understand it; is that in order to enter heaven, there is a need to attain aspects of childhood, namely; innocence and unspoilt simplicity.

    In this saying there are inversions, namely; the preference of elders over youth and the priority of first over last. Social priorities are reversed and elders seek the advice of youth regards the locus of life. This in turn seems to state that it is the elder that receives life through the young child. One cannot help but reflect about doting grandparents given a new spring in their step by association with their grandchildren.
    Yes, the saying abounds with inversion/paradox--as one would expect from a collection of wisdom aphorisms. What is peculiar here (at least to one familiar with the Canonical Gospels) is the equation of the youth-age paradox with the first-last inversion. The former (as you point out) resonates theologically with Matthew 19:14 (and its synoptic parallels): "Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for such is the Kingdom of Heaven" This seems to approach the Thomas saying's intention: innocence not worldly experience is the way of God.

    But a kind of theological whiplash sets in when the teaching is equated with: "For many of the first will be last, and the last first..."; a teaching that bears an obvious relationship with Matthew 20:16 (and its parallels): "But many who are first will be last; and the last, first." The synoptic versions of this saying has long been red meat to Liberation Theologians (like the current Pope) who see the Parousia as a kind of socio-economic revolution--with an implied blessing to contemporary/worldly socialist policies. But the discovery of the Thomas saying raises the possibility that its original context was significantly different. On the other hand, the redactor of Thomas may be introducing the new context--neither view is definitive.

    From the viewpoint of the Thomas saying, the first-last inversion is only a little puzzling. It could be a temporal reference: the first born (the worldly elder) is less than the last born (the innocent newborn); or it could refer to presumed social worth; or perhaps it implied both a once. These interpretation is not at all inconsistent with the overall theology of meekness evident in much of the Canonical Gospels. The problem with Liberation Theology's interpretation is that it merely creates a new class of oppressors. Replacing injustice with injustice is inconsistent with the workings of a just God. But I editorialize.

    Quote Originally Posted by MANICHAEAN View Post
    Then the inversion goes one step further in the attainment of a "unity," almost a collapsing of opposites and a state of non-distinction.

    Thus the theme of "unity" functions as an indicator of the meaning of the search; the overcoming of opposites and the unity of a self that fulfills.
    Maybe. But I would caution against turning the paradox's resolution (as you say, the unity) into a Yin-Yang of innocence and experience. The saying is clear that Salvation requires the worldly to submit to innocence. I'm not saying you were implying otherwise--only pointing out what I see as a potential misinterpretation of the saying.

    By the way, your image of the besotted grandfather is wonderful. A wise man knows the enormity of innocence when he rocks it in his arms.
    Last edited by Pompey Bum; 10-29-2017 at 03:31 PM.
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    Thank you both for the feedback.

    Ah yes, there is an innocence when you hold them as a baby. But, my grandson now is 11 and is more interested in karate sparring with Grandad!!!!!

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    Quote Originally Posted by MANICHAEAN View Post
    Ah yes, there is an innocence when you hold them as a baby. But, my grandson now is 11 and is more interested in karate sparring with Grandad!!!!!
    He is only attempting to make worldliness submit to innocence.

    Bring on the next saying! These are fun!
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    If I might glide off temporarily for a moment into a related slip road; I was interested to see if Gibbon in "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" had any take on the Thomas Gospel.

    With his soaring prose and healthy scepticism, he is in the section of "The Rise of Christianity" straight away into the comment, " The scanty and suspicious materials of ecclesiastical history seldom enable us to dispel the dark cloud that hangs over the first age of the church."

    Although he does not address Thomas directly, there is this interesting extract which I think puts into perspective the state of flux inherent in the early Christian thinking and development.

    " It has been remarked with more ingenuity than truth that the virgin purity of the church was never violated by schism or heresy before the reign of Trajan or Hadrian, about one hundred years after the death of Christ. We may observe with much more propriety, that, during that period, the disciples of the Messiah were indulged in a freer latitude both of faith and practice than has ever been allowed in succeeding ages. As the terms of communion were insensibly narrowed, and the spiritual authority of the prevailing party was exercised, with increasing severity, many of its most respectable adherents, who were called upon to renounce, were provoked to assert their private opinions, to pursue the consequences of their mistaken principles, and openly to erect the standard of rebellion against the unity of the church. The Gnostics were distinguished as the most polite, the most learned, and the most wealthy of the Christian name; and that general appellation, which expressed a superiority of knowledge, was either assumed by their own pride, or ironically bestowed by the envy of their adversaries. The Gnostics blended with the faith of Christ many sublime but obscure tenets, which they derived from oriental philosophy, and even from the religion of Zoroaster, concerning the eternity of matter, the existence of two principles, and the mysterious hierarchy of the invisible world. As soon as they launched out into that vast abyss, they delivered themselves to the guidance of a disordered imagination; and as their paths of error are various and infinite, the Gnostics were imperceptibly divided into more than fifty particular sects, of whom the most celebrated appear to have been the Basilidians, the Valentinians, and the Marcionites."

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    With the eternity of matter and "two principles", whatever they are, they appear to be dualists. It is good to keep that in mind in case something like that comes up in the later sayings.

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    No, Gibbon wouldn't have known about the Gospel of Thomas. The Decline and Fall was published in 1776. The first Greek version of the Thomas material wasnt discovered until the 19th century and the Nag Hammadi codices were not found until 1945 (and not published for decades after that). Given the dearth of heterodox texts in the 18th century, Gibbon's ideas about gnosticism (which are out date now) are mostly forgivable. Gibbon believes that orthodox Christianity was more tolerant of other views in the century after the Crucifixion than later. Most scholars today would say that orthodoxy per se did not exist during that period (and would not fully for centuries). Gibbon sees gnosticism rebellion against what he takes as orthodoxy's tightening of the ropes on heterodoxy. He is probably gets this idea (mainly) from Irenaeus of Lyons, a remarkable man who had his own reasons for disliking gnosticizing Christians. He mocked them savagely in his 2nd-century book, The Refutation and Overthrow of the Knowledge [gnosis] Falsely So Called. Irenaeus' views were adopted by later) orthodox Christians. Centuries after his death, he was cherry picked as an example of Christian orthodoxy there from the start. Gibbon may have been a skeptic (please pardon my American spelling), but he did not see through that example of ingenuity over truth. Consequently he gives the forces of proto-orthodoxy (if they can even be thought of as such in Irenaeus' time) a central authority they did possess. Irenaeus had no power to suppress or persecute gnosticizing Christians. (He was lucky to be alive himself after what Marcus Aurelius had done to the Lyons Christian commnity). And if there was no tightening of orthodox reins in the 2nd century, then gnosticism could not have arisen as a reaction to it.

    Another mistake Gibbon makes is to assume that gnostikoi was either a boastful or sarcastic term; that is, either gnostic Christians were calling themselves "the knowledgable people" or (proto-) orthodox Christians were calling the gnostics "the so-called smarty pantses" (or--sarcastically--"the geniuses"). The term is more likely to refer to the kind of enlightenment experience the Thomas community sought--which was central to other gnosticizing movements (such as neo-Platonism) as well. Gnostics were those who had received special spiritual knowledge (gnosis) about the nature of being. Gibbon's assumption is funnier, though.
    Last edited by Pompey Bum; 11-02-2017 at 03:33 PM.
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    Coptic Saying 5.

    Jesus says, "Know what is in front of your face, and what is hidden from you will be disclosed to you. For there is nothing hidden that won't become exposed, and nothing buried that won't be raised."

    I presume that this saying is limited to spiritual, as opposed to everyday matters, but I may be wrong. Seeking results in knowledge which precedes or equates with revelation of the invisible and the hidden. Thus we seem to have both apparent and revealed realities.

    Once again, there is exclusion. For those that do not personally seek, the hidden things will not be made manifest. Do we have a social / intellectual divide, with whatever the canon of ones religious faith being interpreted for you by the prevailing priesthood? The more you get into this, the more one can understand the tensions among the various early Christian, ( semi Jewish?) sects. It is also disturbing on an individual level. Most of those I have met in my somewhat extensive travels around the world are born into a religion. Their parents introduced them to it and they remain comfortable, or even dogmatic in practicing it, despite occasional doubts on various aspects. Other instances are apparent where individuals have changed their religion through such factors as marriage, conversion or to have even given it up altogether. But with these sayings it brings to mind a repeat of the mantra so prevalent in any university education, namely, " Question everything."

    Finally I note that of the three parts of this particular saying, the rhythm of linking common words moves from seeking and discovering into the specific discourse of burial and resurrection. The dead body made invisible by burial will become visible at the resurrection. Knowledge, revelation and resurrection thus evolve into becoming mirrors of one another in a narrative created by their combination.

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    Here is the commentary I am following: http://www.earlychristianwritings.co...elthomas5.html

    It looks like there are two versions of this saying, a Coptic and a Greek version, with the Greek version containing the resurrection idea and the Coptic that doesn't and it is unclear which is the original. One commentator mentioned that what would be revealed are the meanings of the parables.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MANICHAEAN View Post
    Coptic Saying 5.

    Jesus says, "Know what is in front of your face, and what is hidden from you will be disclosed to you. For there is nothing hidden that won't become exposed, and nothing buried that won't be raised."
    This is a puzzling passage that is open to several interpretations. It doesn't help that at least two sayings appear to have been conflated into a single teaching. That suggests (at least to me) that it represents the work of a gnosticizing redactor. The sayings may have originated with Jesus, but they have been arranged to fit a theological context that may or may not have been his. That, of course, is also the situation with the Canonical Gospels. But the meaning in this passage from Thomas is somewhat ambiguous.

    "For there is nothing hidden that won't become exposed, and nothing buried that won't be raised." parallels Mark 4:22; Matthew 10:26; and Luke 8:17. The Gospel of Matthew sets its version with several other less than self-explanatory sayings purportedly given as instructions to apostles spreading Jesus' message in Israel. But Mark and Luke use it as part of the parable of the lamp ("Who puts a lamp under a bushel?"--that one), a lesson often associated with Jesus' social teaching. I think of the parable as Apocalyptic, though it is possible the original was both social and Apocalyptic: the faithful remnant may look downtrodden now, but the kingdom of God will change that--because why would God hide his light away? All will be revealed in time.

    The Thomas redactor seems to be trying to square the saying he has inherited with his community's hermetic assumptions (that is, that the truth is not known to all). He does this by placing it in the context of separate saying: "Know what is in front of your face, and what is hidden from you will be disclosed to you." I take this to mean: if you do things our way, nothing will be hidden from you (but otherwise it will be)--thus extricating his theology from the problem the original saying created for it.

    Before looking at the saying's strange ending, we should try to understand what the Thomas Gospel means by "Know what is in front of your face...".

    Quote Originally Posted by MANICHAEAN View Post
    I presume that this saying is limited to spiritual, as opposed to everyday matters, but I may be wrong. Seeking results in knowledge which precedes or equates with revelation of the invisible and the hidden. Thus we seem to have both apparent and revealed realities.
    I don't think a gnostic Christian would look at it exactly that way. Gnosticism is dualistic. The (pure) spirit is good and the material is as bad as it gets. For a gnostic dualist, the apparent world (including the human body) is not reality but only transient corruption. The only way it can lead to revealed reality/enlightenment is when one apprehends it for the dangerous illusion it is. That is why when you understand your apparent self (vs. your spiritual self), you become troubled; you understand that (without enlightenment) you live in poverty and you are that poverty--that you live in a corpse.

    So this saying is not at all like that magnificent moment in the Synoptics when Jesus teaches from nature: "Behold the lilies of the field: they neither toil nor spin; yet even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these." The Jesus of the Gospel of Thomas might have said: Do not be deceived; true beauty is incorruptible.

    Which brings us to the odd ending of this passage. Not only is there nothing hidden that will not be disclosed (to the enlightened), there is "nothing buried that won't be raised." (with the obvious implication that the dead, too, will be raised from their graves. This is a mistake. It reflects either a problem with the ancient manuscripts (Greek and Coptic) or the tricks of a theologically motivated Christian translator. To a Christian gnostic, the idea of physical resurrection (potentially even Jesus') was somewhere between meaningless and disgusting. You are correct that these beliefs were also part of intra-Jewish sectarian tensions. After the failed revolt against Rome, the historical record of these becomes less clear. But Christian gnostics definitely didn't want their bodies back.

    Still, there is a gnostic interpretation of this part of the saying that once again squares the circle. That which is buried, rather than a corpse, could be the spiritual self, itself buried in the corpse of the material self. This will be raised from its corporeal grave for those who come to recognize reality through gnostic enlightenment.

    Admittedly these sayings are difficult. This I think approximates what they would have meant to a 1st century Christian gnostic. But as you had the integrity to admit in your critique: I could be wrong.
    And this from a man in a bunny suit.

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