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Thread: Thomas' Gospel.

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    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
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    Thomas' Gospel.

    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?

    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.

    3. Was this the voice of Jesus without the intermediary of the institutional church and orthodox theologians?
    Last edited by MANICHAEAN; 09-30-2017 at 03:55 PM.

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    Maybe YesNo's Avatar
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    I remember trying to read this a few years ago, but I don't recall understanding it. I feel the need to read a commentary on such texts to understand them, with the risk that the commentary may be biased.

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    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
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    If you can put up with my commentaries YesNo I will try and work through them bit by bit.
    Best wishes
    M.

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    Maybe YesNo's Avatar
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    Here's a commentary with varied translations of the 114 sayings in the Gospel of Thomas: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/thomas/ as another reference point. I should be able to put up with your commentaries, Manichaean. Which saying are we considering first?

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    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
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    Thanks for the link YesNo.

    Let's start with the Coptic Prologue.

    " These are the secret sayings that the living Jesus spoke, and Judas who is also called Thomas recorded."

    The first thing that strikes me is that the fact that these sayings are "secret" adds some specificity to what was at the time a common means of education i.e recording oral instances. It was as if there was a distinction in potential comprehension to be drawn between the common masses and those of a deeper ability to interpret, ( the disciples?)

    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?

    I can also understand better in the historical context the claims of heresy from the threat this posed to an emerging orthodox church body gradually asserting itself.

    Finally, the term "living Jesus" is fascinating, as if to say this is not the imparting of "eternal" knowledge, but of "present" knowledge.
    Last edited by MANICHAEAN; 10-01-2017 at 06:12 AM.

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    Maybe YesNo's Avatar
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    Getting a definitive answer does seem to have something magical about it. I assume such answers would have to work like a machine in some way.

    In the link I cited I would this interesting about the word "sayings": "From the time of Herodotus on logion meant 'oracle', 'a saying derived from a deity'." That reminds me of a text derived from a muse.

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    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
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    Ah, but a muse need not be a deity. Yeat's muses derived a lot of his creative inspiration from feminine mortals.

    A woman's beauty is like a white
    Frail bird, like a white sea-bird alone
    At daybreak after a stormy night
    Between two furrows upon the ploughed land.
    A sudden storm, and it was thrown
    Between dark furrows upon the ploughed land.
    How many centuries spent
    The sedentary soul
    In toils of measurement
    Beyond eagle or mole,
    Beyond hearing or seeing,
    Or Archimedes' guess,
    To raise into being
    That loveliness.

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    Maybe YesNo's Avatar
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    Today, we see muses as humans inspiring us or we see them as something inside us. If we believe that we are isolated individuals, like Cartesian points, whose minds are products of individual brains, then that must be how we see ourselves and a muse, but I think that's an illusion (or delusion). I find it entertaining as an exercise to claim that muses are real and outside our brains, like angels or deities. Then I ask myself how far do I believe that?

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    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
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    Coptic Saying 1.

    "And he said, "Whoever discovers the interpretation of these sayings will not taste death.""

    The first question immediately arises, "who" said; Jesus, Thomas or persons passing the saying down?

    Or is it deliberate; to encourage thinking on the possibility of immortality?

    Even though just starting on this Gospel, it not only opens questions, but the questions themselves open up further questions. Some can be judged worthy of unfairness, or addressing the criteria of objectives i.e

    1. From the Prologue there is an implication that the common people are not capable of this type of investigative thinking. Are they then unable / excluded from gaining life after death?

    2. The option of not tasting death is death. Is this mortal conclusion a bad thing in itself, or is the whole process of this saying of an incentive nature?

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    Maybe YesNo's Avatar
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    Here is the part from the other commentary: http://www.earlychristianwritings.co...elthomas1.html

    I assumed the "he" was Jesus, but I guess that might not be the case.

    Good question about those who don't understand--will they taste death? However, the passage doesn't say that there are no other paths, only that this path of understanding is a true path leading to the goal of not tasting death.

    I don't understand how "the option of not tasting death is death". The passage might be there as an incentive to the reader to continue reading because something will be gained in the process of understanding.

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    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
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    Coptic Saying 2.

    Jesus says, "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."

    First impression. The link between those that seek and the interpretative process.

    Then there are some unusual connections incorporated in: seeking, finding, being disturbed, ruling and resting.

    The two extremes, "seeking" and "resting" seem logical. The intermediate ones seem strange. "Finding" becomes unsettling like discovering an unpleasant truth. Do the answers attained show an illusion under which one has lived before?

    But then it appears that if the seeker does not weaken, then he becomes empowered to "rule," whatever that means.

    Some possible interpretations are:

    1. When you learn your true place in the scheme of things, you will have a degree of control over your reality by virtue of understanding its true nature.

    2. To become both lord and servant of yourself. By overcoming a duality in your nature, you will as it were, "reign."

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    Maybe YesNo's Avatar
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    Here is the commentary link to saying 2: http://www.earlychristianwritings.co...elthomas2.html

    I am also puzzled by the transition. The troubled is alternatively translated as astonished which I suppose might feel troubling.

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    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
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    It's very much like translations anywhere. Only if you are fully accomplished in the language the piece was originally written in will you get the full meaning and nuances.

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    Maybe YesNo's Avatar
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    That's where commentaries help even in what other people think the words might me. There are five stages going on here ("seeking, finding, being disturbed, ruling and resting") and four transitions between them in a linear fashion. I am trying to fit that with my own experience in some way.

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    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
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    Coptic Saying 3.

    Jesus says, " If your leaders say to you, 'Look, the Father's imperial rule is in the sky,' then the bird's of the sky will precede you. If they say that it is under the earth, then the fish of the sea will precede you. And the Father's imperial rule is inside you and outside you. You who know yourselves will find this. And when you know yourselves, you will understand that you are children of the living Father. But if you do not know yourselves, you live in poverty, and are poverty."

    Impressions?

    Firstly that members seeking do not need guidance. It appears that they are fully empowered. In fact it states that leaders can be wrong in their directions.

    It places the responsibility on individuals to seek a kind of self-knowledge which will reveal their adoption by God.

    The knowledge itself becomes the wealth and its lack becomes poverty.

    I was particularly moved by the words, " children of the living Father."

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