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RE: [XTalk] Patterson's The God of Jesus

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  • David C. Hindley
    ... criticism must have repercussions among the faithful who accept its principals], if we want to understand the growth and development of the Church in the
    Message 1 of 19 , Jul 6, 2002
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      Robert Schacht says:

      >>It has wider implications than this [i.e., that the results of historical
      criticism must have
      repercussions among the faithful who accept its principals], if we want to
      understand the growth and development of the Church in the early centuries,
      because such questions can help us understand what motivated early
      Christians.<<

      I doubt that we are going to discover how ancients answered questions like:
      "Who am I? What is life for? What is real? Who is God?" in the way Patterson
      would like us to. I am even doubtful the ancients would have asked these
      questions in the form some of these take. "Who is God?" should be "Which
      God?" One of the others is pretty cut & dried: "Who am I?" "Why, you are a
      low-level retainer of me, an elite big-wig, mainly because you are a
      non-inheriting son with no land to farm, and you can't learn a trade, so get
      back to work."

      The middle two, however, might be better asked as "Is this all there is?"
      How various communities answered that question might be illuminated by the
      study of Thomas and other early Christian documents. Yet the POV of Thomas
      does not appear to be reflected strongly in early Christian theology,
      including even the early Christian gnostic circles. It is a side track to
      the mainline, but there is this strange modern insistence in thinking of it
      as an important marshalling yard to the mainline. Why?

      >>Much older than that, since the observation is Schweitzer's, no?<<

      I was speaking of the modern reflections. Schweitzer, who popularized the
      image in the well imagery, saw Jesus as a teacher of a messianic secret, but
      not as a wandering radical social critic (at least as far as I can recall
      off the top of my head). The well, to Schweitzer, was his commentary upon
      the character of the then-modern "Liberal Lives of Jesus.' He felt they
      reflected the bias and ideologies of the humanist liberal critics who wrote
      them more than the actual life and teachings of an historical Jesus. Of
      course that did not stop Schweitzer from doing the same thing himself with
      his messianic secret hypothesis.

      A couple years ago I read a magazine article on management strategy at large
      corporations (since I work for one then as well as now). It said that the
      buzz-words used by high-level management types usually turn out to be
      technical terms used in cutting-edge trade journals coined about 10 years
      earlier. The reason, I suspected, was that the high-level corporate leaders
      were attempting to interpret circumstances prevailing in their own time by
      using descriptive terms they heard of (but did not actually learn formally,
      as no school is *that* "cutting-edge") in their business school graduate
      programs 10 years prior.

      I say, look at the social trends and popular ideas of the days when modern
      critics were in undergraduate and graduate school, and you will find the
      ideas that permeate their interpretations today. Not that there's anything
      *wrong* with that <said while taking a step back>, but I feel the 60's
      radical intellectual interpretation still dominant today is over-done and
      ready for replacement. All the rough edges of the revolutionary Jesus (of S.
      G. F. Brandon and some others) have been sanded off and Jesus has now been
      polished into a caricature of a university professor, but it is all getting
      quite worn out. Now if we stripped off the old polish and brought up the
      grain, we might have another go at shaping the idea of an eschatological
      Jesus ...

      Respectfully,

      Dave Hindley
      Cleveland, Ohio, USA
    • sdavies0
      ... there is? ... by the ... Thomas ... theology, ... track to ... thinking of it ... Well, I think there s an answer to that question. Let s take your own
      Message 2 of 19 , Jul 7, 2002
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        --- In crosstalk2@y..., "David C. Hindley" <dhindley@c...> wrote:
        > The middle two, however, might be better asked as "Is this all
        there is?"
        > How various communities answered that question might be illuminated
        by the
        > study of Thomas and other early Christian documents. Yet the POV of
        Thomas
        > does not appear to be reflected strongly in early Christian
        theology,
        > including even the early Christian gnostic circles. It is a side
        track to
        > the mainline, but there is this strange modern insistence in
        thinking of it
        > as an important marshalling yard to the mainline. Why?

        Well, I think there's an answer to that question. Let's take your own
        observations:

        > At times
        > I have mentioned my observation that the religious spectrum, at
        least in
        > modern times, has a right wing that clearly sees Jesus functioning
        as a
        > "personal savior" reconciling individuals with God, and a left wing
        that
        > just as clearly sees Jesus functioning as the focus for a gospel of
        social
        > enlightenment, reconciling society with God.

        I think this is quite true, although I suspect it applies to the
        USA specifically. There is a third wing on the dove, and that's the
        New Age, the Spiritual Questers, the folks who have become fed up for
        good with the Christian Church of the two sorts and who want
        something else to massage their spiritual goodness with.
        Those folks are still Christian from their childhood training and so
        for them the POV of Thomas is very reassuring.

        As our very Stephen Patterson took pains to demonstrate, in
        "The Gospel of Thomas and Jesus" book the Gospel of Thomas is
        independent of the Canonical scriptures. It is probably
        first century in date.
        This fact is strong evidence against the
        common presumption that because Mark and its revisions are
        in the canon therefore Mark and its
        revisions are the only possible ways of viewing Jesus (pace half of
        Crosstalk). Thus as it becomes clearer that the canonical scriptures
        are a particular point of view (or related set of points of view)
        chosen by people who, we have reason to think, hated and
        suppressed the POV of Thomas (cf. Irenaeus)
        Thomas becomes the valuable piece of evidence that
        Jesus was not either an American Social Gospel Protestant, or
        an American Born Again ProtestantÂ… but Jesus may have been
        an American New Age Spiritual Quester.

        That's why Thomas assumes such importance to some. Just as
        prootexts from Matthew's Sermon on the Mount become the
        essential HJ to the Social Gospelers, and the Born Agginers
        pick prooftexts from Paul, so the New Agers find in Thomas their
        prooftexts of choice.

        Oh, incidentally, I've revised and cleaned up the
        Gospel of Thomas Homepage, especially in light of
        the fact that Stigmata the godawful movie is showing up on TV.

        http://home.epix.net/~miser17/Thomas.html

        Steve Davies
      • David C. Hindley
        Steven, ... Questers, the folks who have become fed up for good with the Christian Church of the two sorts and who want something else to massage their
        Message 3 of 19 , Jul 7, 2002
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          Steven,

          >>There is a third wing on the dove, and that's the New Age, the Spiritual
          Questers, the folks who have become fed up for good with the Christian
          Church of the two sorts and who want something else to massage their
          spiritual goodness with. <<

          In *this* neighborhood? There goes the intellectual property values!

          >>Thomas becomes the valuable piece of evidence that Jesus was not either an
          American Social Gospel Protestant, or an American Born Again Protestant� but
          Jesus may have been an American New Age Spiritual Quester.<<

          Whew, you had me goin' there for a minute!

          Respectfully,

          Dave Hindley
          Cleveland, Ohio, USA
        • bjtraff
          ... I m sorry, but which fact is this Steve? That GThomas is probably 2nd Century and dependent on the Canonicals? :-) ... Good heavens. The known first
          Message 4 of 19 , Jul 7, 2002
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            --- In crosstalk2@y..., "sdavies0" <sdavies@m...> wrote:

            > As our very Stephen Patterson took pains to demonstrate, in
            > "The Gospel of Thomas and Jesus" book the Gospel of Thomas is
            > independent of the Canonical scriptures. It is probably
            > first century in date.
            > This fact...


            I'm sorry, but which "fact" is this Steve? That GThomas is probably
            2nd Century and dependent on the Canonicals? :-)

            > is strong evidence against the
            > common presumption that because Mark and its revisions are
            > in the canon therefore Mark and its
            > revisions are the only possible ways of viewing Jesus (pace half of
            > Crosstalk).

            Good heavens. The "known" first century documents are in the Canon.
            Those that "might be first century, but are probably second and later
            are not. Yet many silly scholars appear bent on using the earlier
            texts over the later ones. How odd.

            >Thus as it becomes clearer that the canonical scriptures
            >are a particular point of view (or related set of points of view)
            >chosen by people who, we have reason to think, hated and
            >suppressed the POV of Thomas (cf. Irenaeus)

            Oh dear. Poisoning the well now? Is this why they elected not to
            include 1 Clement? Or is it more likely because it is too late to be
            apostolic? Now, if you could prove that it is a FACT that GThomas
            was 1st Century, that would be interesting to say the least.

            >Thomas becomes the valuable piece of evidence that
            >Jesus was not either an American Social Gospel Protestant, or
            >an American Born Again ProtestantÂ… but Jesus may have been
            >an American New Age Spiritual Quester.

            Hmmm... which one of these are the Catholics? ;-)

            >That's why Thomas assumes such importance to some.

            Are you saying that it is important because it is congenial to the
            theology of some, and antithical to others? I thought historicans
            were supposed to treat data on the basis of its independence and
            early dating, as well as its probable authenticity and closeness to
            the historical Jesus.

            >Just as rootexts from Matthew's Sermon on the Mount become the
            >essential HJ to the Social Gospelers, and the Born Agginers pick
            >prooftexts from Paul, to the New Agers find in Thomas their
            >prooftexts of choice.

            Fortunately, scholars are above all of this, and work from the
            evidence on the basis of how reliable it is in itself, right? ;-)

            Peace,

            Brian Trafford
            Calgary, AB, Canada
          • David C. Hindley
            My apologies if my Steven should have been StevAn ... Respectfully, Dave Hindley Cleveland, Ohio, USA
            Message 5 of 19 , Jul 7, 2002
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              My apologies if my "Steven" should have been "StevAn" ... <gotta get me some
              of them there spectacles>

              Respectfully,

              Dave Hindley
              Cleveland, Ohio, USA
            • smithand44
              ... probably ... Canon. ... later ... ? Or is it more likely because it is too late to be ... Isn t it a bit odd to claim that the canon was formed of first
              Message 6 of 19 , Jul 9, 2002
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                --- In crosstalk2@y..., "bjtraff" <bj_traff@h...> wrote:

                > I'm sorry, but which "fact" is this Steve? That GThomas is
                probably
                > 2nd Century and dependent on the Canonicals? :-)


                > Good heavens. The "known" first century documents are in the
                Canon.
                > Those that "might be first century, but are probably second and
                later
                > are not. Yet many silly scholars appear bent on using the earlier
                > texts over the later ones. How odd.

                ? Or is it more likely because it is too late to be
                > apostolic? Now, if you could prove that it is a FACT that GThomas
                > was 1st Century, that would be interesting to say the least.

                Isn't it a bit odd to claim that the canon was formed of first
                century documents when it wasn't even the first century at that time?
                It isn't a FACT that Thomas is first century, but then it isn't a
                FACT that the canonical gospels are, either. I happen to think that
                both are, but how could it truly be a fact without external evidence?

                Best Wishes

                Andrew Smith
              • bjtraff
                ... {Snip my stuff} ... Hello Andrew Actually, I was tweaking Steve a bit for his hyperbole, as curious assertion about the *factual dating* of GThomas and why
                Message 7 of 19 , Jul 14, 2002
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                  --- In crosstalk2@y..., "smithand44" <smithand44@h...> wrote:

                  {Snip my stuff}

                  >Isn't it a bit odd to claim that the canon was formed of first
                  >century documents when it wasn't even the first century at that
                  >time? It isn't a FACT that Thomas is first century, but then it
                  >isn't a FACT that the canonical gospels are, either. I happen to
                  >think that both are, but how could it truly be a fact without
                  >external evidence?

                  Hello Andrew

                  Actually, I was tweaking Steve a bit for his hyperbole, as curious
                  assertion about the *factual dating* of GThomas and why it never made
                  it into the Canon in the first place. As you have rightly noted, the
                  question of dating ancient texts can often prove quite problematic,
                  though I would add that this does not make the effort impossible. I
                  would argue that given the criteria that we use in dating ancient
                  texts, it can be more confidently demonstrated that many of the books
                  found in the Canon are 1st Century. Using this same criteria, and
                  applying it objectively, we can demonstrate that other texts are more
                  likely 2nd Century. Can any of Christian text be called 1st Century
                  as historical FACT? Well, perhaps FACT is too strong a word
                  (excepting the undisputed Pauline's, which do look to be 1st Century
                  as historical fact). After all, in the past I have argued that
                  *facts* are pretty scarce commodities in historical studies. All of
                  that said, I will stick with my original argument that all of the
                  KNOWN 1st Century Christian documents available to us are found in
                  the Canonical NT. Some of those books are very likely 2nd Century
                  (i.e. 2 Peter and probably the final form of GJohn). But the fact
                  (pun intended) remains that nothing has been proven about the
                  apocryphal texts visa vie their date ranges, outside of the
                  possibility that some of them MIGHT be 1st Century.

                  As you can see, when it comes to the specific case of GThomas, I have
                  yet to be convinced, but remain open to arguments that others may
                  wish to put forward.

                  Peace,

                  Brian Trafford
                  Calgary, AB, Canada
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