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Re: [XTalk] Q & Thomas: Teaser Tracts?

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  • weismann
    Hello Mr. Kirby, Peter, Indeed it is very interesting and perhaps fascinating the hypothesis of Jenkins. But it seems that, hypothetically, the stream of the
    Message 1 of 4 , Apr 3, 2002
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      Hello Mr. Kirby,

      Peter, Indeed it is very interesting and perhaps fascinating the hypothesis
      of Jenkins. But it seems that, hypothetically, the stream of the "reasonig"
      based upon some literary devices still is very frail.

      Sincerely, Francis

      F.J. Weismann weismann@...
      ----- Original Message -----
      From: "Peter Kirby" <kirby@...>
      To: <crosstalk2@yahoogroups.com>
      Sent: Wednesday, April 03, 2002 7:19 AM
      Subject: [XTalk] Q & Thomas: Teaser Tracts?


      > Hello,
      >
      > I have just finished reading Philip Jenkins's _Hidden Gospels_. Most of
      the
      > book is dedicated to delineating the mythic fascination with the quest for
      > uncovering previously unknown gospels and exterminated heresies. This is
      > interesting in its own right, even though it constitutes a sort of
      > meta-scholarship rather than a discussion of the evidence proper
      concerning
      > early Christian history. However, there is one extract in which Jenkins
      > proposes a theory that would have consequences for our understanding of
      the
      > sources concerning Jesus and the early church, the stated subject of this
      > list. So I thought it would be appropriate to reproduce this passage for
      > the comments of the knowledgeable participants in this discussion group.
      >
      > It has often been noted that the reconstructed Q and the Gospel of Thomas
      do
      > not have anything to say about the atoning nature of the death of Jesus
      and
      > his subsequent resurrection. Rather, the focus is on the sayings of Jesus
      > in these works. Assuming the existence of Q and an early date for Thomas,
      > which is certainly an issue itself, this has led some to theorize that the
      > earliest Jesus movement did not believe in the resurrection of Jesus but
      > rather remembered him as a wisdom sage and that the idea of a saving death
      > and resurrection developed as the church attracted Hellenistic
      constituents.
      > This is the basic theory presented by Burton Mack and others.
      >
      > Against this conclusion, Jenkins proposes a different theory to explain
      the
      > silence of Q & Thomas on the death or resurrection of Jesus. I would like
      > to know what the list members think of his proposal, and so I will quote
      it,
      > although I hope I have not gone too far beyond fair use.
      >
      > _Hidden Gospels_, pp. 73-78.
      >
      > ----
      > Mysteries of Faith
      >
      > A reluctance to put key ideas in writing may explain some of the puzzling
      > ebsences from sayings documents such as Q and Thomas. Perhaps these
      > collections were intended as an instructional or evangelistic device, for
      > proselytes who would later be instructed into the deeper mysteries of the
      > emerging faith: they were intended to intrigue rather than explain. These
      > texts might even have been intended to be as cryptic and superficially
      > nonthreatening as possible in order to disarm the suspicions of potential
      > persecutors. Anyone who reads the New Testament book of Acts finds
      > first-century Christians portrayed as evangelizing openly in the streets,
      > but there was a fudnatmental difference between such preaching and the
      fact
      > of writing down the core doctrines of the faith.
      >
      > To a modern audience, it is incredible that a gsopel or any writing about
      > Jesus would fail to mention the essential doctrines of the religion, even
      an
      > idea as basic a the Resurrection, but such a gap would not have surprised
      an
      > ancient reader. Religious scriptures of all types had a very different
      role
      > in ancient times from what we consider normal today. The notion that the
      > essential doctrines of a religion can or should be plainly laid out for
      > everyone in scriptural form, as opposed to liturgy and oral teaching, is a
      > distinctly modern and Protestant view. The idea that cheap editions of
      > sucha precious text as the Bible could be freely distributed on the
      > streets, or left in hotel bedrooms, would have seemed quite bizarre, not
      to
      > say blasphemous, to early Christians. Jesus' followers lived in a world
      > when the most ambitious and successful religions only gradually revealed
      > their innermost secrets to believers, after a lengthy process of
      initiation:
      > these were the mystery religions, formed by devotees of Mithras, Isis, and
      > other divine figures, usually movements from the East.
      >
      > Patristic writers show that some Christians shared this reluctance to
      > broadcast the great truths of the faith. Around 200, Clement of
      Alexandria
      > wrote that "it is requisite, therefore, to hide in a mystery the wisdom
      > spoken, which the Son of God taught. . . . And even now I fear, as it is
      > said, 'to cast the pearls before swine, lest they tread them under foot,
      and
      > turn and rend us.' For it is difficult to exhibit the really pure and
      > transparent words respecting the true light, to swinish and untrained
      > hearers." Believers were to "receive the secrete traditions of the true
      > knowledge, and expound them aloft and conspicuously; and as we have heard
      in
      > the ear, so as to deliver them to whom it is requisite; but not enjoining
      us
      > to communicate to all without distinction, what is said to them in
      > parables." For Origen, as for other Alexandrians, Jesus' parables were
      > laden with secrete meanings that were only gradually to be realeased to
      the
      > multitudes: Jesus himself had told his apostles that to them alone was it
      > "given to know the mysteria of the kingdom of God," the mysteries
      contained
      > in the parables. Origen defended the church's right to restrict the
      > realease of "gospel truths": "But that there should be certain doctrines,
      > not made konwn to the multitude, which are (revealed) after the exoteric
      > ones have been taught, is not a peculiarity of Christianity alone, but
      also
      > of philosophic systems, in which certain truths are exoteric and others
      > esoteric." The evangelists, he argued, had been cautious about which of
      > Jesus' teachings "were to be committed to writing, and how this was to be
      > done, and what was by no means to be written to the multitude, and what
      was
      > to be expressed in words, and what was not to be so conveyed."
      >
      > Alexandrians were notoriously fascinated by the idea that Christianity was
      a
      > religion of "mysteries," but other Christians demonstrated a taste for
      > presenting doctrines in cryptic form, to the extent that modern scholars
      can
      > debate whether a given text is indeed Christian. We can illustrate this
      > with the famous tombstone inscription of one Avircius Marcellus, "a
      disciple
      > of the pure shepherd" who died in Phrygia (in modern Turkey) around 180.
      > This allusive text records how Avircius had traveled "with Paul before me
      .
      > . . and Faith everywhere led the way and served food everywhere, the Fish
      > from the Spring - immense, pure, which the pure virgin caught and gave to
      > here friends to eat for ever, with good wine, giving the cup with the
      loaf."
      > Like any text froma mystery religion, the inscription is intended to
      baffle
      > outsiders, while preaching to the initiated. But even in this disguised
      > format, there are no references to some of the most potent doctrines of
      the
      > faith, including the incarnation, death, or resurrection of Christ,
      absences
      > of a sort we repeatedly note in written texts.
      >
      > Gospels played a critical role in the process of revealing the "mysteries"
      > of Christianity. These scriptures contained the most cherished treasures
      of
      > the faith, namely, the words of Jesus and an explanation of the
      significance
      > of his death and resurrection. These holy truths were not to be lightly
      > shared, and at least some churches prevented converts to Christianity from
      > hearing the gospels and their mysteries until after they had been formally
      > initiated into the new religion, by means of baptism. Prior to this, they
      > held the probationary status of catechumens, and in the early centuries,
      > catechumens were barred from participating in many parts of the service,
      > including, it seems, the reading of the gospel. Even today, Orthodox
      church
      > services admonish catechumens to depart before the saying of the creed and
      > the beginning of the sacred eucharistic mysteries.
      >
      > In various third- and fourth-century texts concerning church order, we
      hear
      > that prospective Christians were required to fulfill lengthy periods of
      > candidacy and teaching before they were finally permitted to hear "the
      > word," "the gospel," whatever that may have meant exactly. While
      undergoing
      > instruction, most of their scriptural lessons apparently came from the Old
      > Testament, not the New. Paul Bradshaw notes that the fourth-century
      > document known as the Apostolic Constitutions may "reflect the two stages
      of
      > teaching, since it indicates that the catechumens first learn about
      > creation, the Old Testament saints, etc., and only after baptism do they
      > learn about Christ's incarnation, death, resurrection, and ascension." As
      > late as the fifth century, church councils had to specify "that
      catechumens
      > are to hear the reading of the gospel," showing that this practice was
      new,
      > and perhaps controversial. It is a matter of debate how much of those
      inner
      > secrets had spread to become public knowledge, at least in general form,
      yet
      > the church remained cautious about exactly how these "mysteries" were
      > presented at large.
      >
      > The Sayings in Which You Have Been Instructed
      >
      > With these church practices in mind, it is useful to look again at Q and
      > Thomas, with a view to the religious mysteries that they do not mention,
      > which conspicuously included "Christ's incarnation, death, resurrection
      and
      > ascension." The common explanation for these lacunae is that the early
      > communities either did not know these doctrines or else set no store by
      > them, but we can now see that a quite different explanation is possible.
      > Perhaps Q and Thomas reflect a time in the early church when evangelists
      > aroused the interest of potential recruites, especially gentiles, by
      > promoting the image of Jesus as a provocative teacher, who in some
      > infuriatingly unspecified way could promise victory over the grave. In
      > modern terms, these texts could be seen as teasers or recruitment
      brochures.
      > New seekers would gradually be tuaght the fuller version of the truth, and
      > ultimately the core doctrines of Jesus' saving death and resurrection.
      >
      > This gradual method has implications for the process of committing
      Christian
      > ideas to writing. Initially, the community might write the actual words
      of
      > Jesus, which were too enigmatic to reveal much to the casual observer, but
      > it would be some years or decades before they would venture to write down
      > the still more sensitive doctrines of the new faith. (Paul and others did
      > write such doctrines, but only when communicating with fellow initiates.)
      A
      > record of sayings like Q could have circulated for years independently of
      > the more theologically elaborate materials, without this meaning that
      these
      > latter doctrines were unknown or undeveloped. Matters would have changed
      > after the 60s, with the death of important early leaders such as James and
      > Peter, and the disasters of the Jewish revolt, which cumulatively
      threatened
      > to cut the community off from its roots and to obliterate native
      traditions
      > about Jesus. This apparently provoked a decision to write the community's
      > beliefs and history more fully. By the end of the first century, the
      > canonical gospels supplied the complete instruction and enlightenment
      > promised to those converts who had originally been intrigued by something
      > like Q.
      >
      > In this context, we find special significance in the opening passage of
      > Luke, the gospel which includes Q in the form closest to the original.
      > Writing to a certain Theophilus, Luke describes how he had decided to
      > "write an orderly account . . . that you may know the truth about the
      things
      > (logoi) of which you have been informed." But logoi can also mean words
      or
      > sayings rather than things, and the fourth-century Lating translation in
      the
      > Vulgate renders logoi as verborum, "words." The word logoi also appears
      in
      > the opening of the Greek text of Thomas, "these are the secrete sayings
      > which the living Jesus spoke." If logoi has this meaning in Luke, then
      the
      > passage might be translated rather differently. Luke is actually
      promising
      > to write the fulll truth about the sayings in which Theophilus has been
      > katechethes, "instructed," a word related to catechumen. A century ago,
      > Kirsopp Lake made the ingenious suggestion that the logoi referred to here
      > might have been "a series of sayings used for the instruction of converts,
      > which Luke is providing with a historical framework." Perhaps Theophilus,
      > like other converts of the late first century, had received his
      instruction
      > by means of the sayings in Q, but now he had been fully initiated, he had
      > earned the right to know the full story, of which Q formed only a
      suggestive
      > component.
      >
      > Once narrative gospels like Luke were in existence, Q had entirely lost
      its
      > original function, and it is not surprising that the text ceased to exist
      as
      > a separate document. (Some years later still, at least some churches
      > decided that even the words of Jesus were too sacred to be wantonly
      > displayed before the uninitiated, and began to exclude catechumens
      > altogether from hearing any part of the gospel.) Related sayings gospels
      > survived in various forms, and were adapted by Gnostic and other groups
      for
      > their own purposes. Perhaps around 140, one of these became our present
      > version of Thomas. Q and Thomas did not become hidden gospels because
      they
      > exemplified an alternate tradition of early Christianity, but rather
      > vanished because they represented an outmoded literary genre. There never
      > was a "Q community" or a group of "Thomas people" distinct from the
      > mainstream Jesus Way, that is, the incipient Christian Church.
      >
      > These documents look as strange as they do to us because they were never
      > intended to offer anything more than a partial or suggestive introduction
      to
      > the faith. The communities which created these texts would have been
      > appalled to find that anyone, whether contemporary heretic or later
      scholar,
      > could have taken these documents as entire or rounded statements of the
      > Jesus movement, which stood or fell on the truth of those core ideas, the
      > Cross and the Resurrection. Alternatively, they might have been pleased
      > that their subterfuge had been so effective.
      > -----
      >
      > Comments anyone?
      >
      > best,
      > Peter Kirby
      >
      > http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/
      >
      >
      >
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    • Jack Kilmon
      ... From: Peter Kirby To: Sent: Wednesday, April 03, 2002 4:19 AM Subject: [XTalk] Q & Thomas: Teaser
      Message 2 of 4 , Apr 3, 2002
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        ----- Original Message -----
        From: "Peter Kirby" <kirby@...>
        To: <crosstalk2@yahoogroups.com>
        Sent: Wednesday, April 03, 2002 4:19 AM
        Subject: [XTalk] Q & Thomas: Teaser Tracts?


        > Hello,
        >
        > I have just finished reading Philip Jenkins's _Hidden Gospels_. Most of
        the
        > book is dedicated to delineating the mythic fascination with the quest for
        > uncovering previously unknown gospels and exterminated heresies. This is
        > interesting in its own right, even though it constitutes a sort of
        > meta-scholarship rather than a discussion of the evidence proper
        concerning
        > early Christian history. However, there is one extract in which Jenkins
        > proposes a theory that would have consequences for our understanding of
        the
        > sources concerning Jesus and the early church, the stated subject of this
        > list. So I thought it would be appropriate to reproduce this passage for
        > the comments of the knowledgeable participants in this discussion group.
        >
        > It has often been noted that the reconstructed Q and the Gospel of Thomas
        do
        > not have anything to say about the atoning nature of the death of Jesus
        and
        > his subsequent resurrection. Rather, the focus is on the sayings of Jesus
        > in these works. Assuming the existence of Q and an early date for Thomas,
        > which is certainly an issue itself, this has led some to theorize that the
        > earliest Jesus movement did not believe in the resurrection of Jesus but
        > rather remembered him as a wisdom sage and that the idea of a saving death
        > and resurrection developed as the church attracted Hellenistic
        constituents.
        > This is the basic theory presented by Burton Mack and others.

        I want to take time to read your post before commenting further but there is
        one small detail about "sayings" anthologies like putative Q and Thomas
        regarding the "atoning death" and "resurrection" material. Wisdom sayings
        are not normally expressed after death. There is a possibility that the
        "Jesus saids..." that were written down, perhaps by Matthew if Papias is to
        be believed, may have been written down when Jesus was STILL ALIVE and was
        the stemma for later translated versions reconstructed in "Q" and in the
        GoT. In short, Q and Thomas have no resurrection stuff simply because Jesus
        had not yet died.


        Jack
      • William Arnal
        ... And much more, all snipped. I unfortunately ordered this book some time ago, before I realized a) that it s by a guy who clearly does NOT have an academic
        Message 3 of 4 , Apr 3, 2002
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          Peter Kirby wrote:

          >I have just finished reading Philip Jenkins's _Hidden Gospels_. Most

          And much more, all snipped.

          I unfortunately ordered this book some time ago, before I realized a) that
          it's by a guy who clearly does NOT have an academic background in NT
          scholarship (and appears not to be very familiar with the field, its
          assumptions, the orioginal languages of the texts, and so on); and b) it's
          basically just theological axe-grinding. The book appears to me to be almost
          completely worthless, since the author simply invokes a lot of rhetorical
          flourishes to "prove" how silly we NT experts really are, and how the
          ancient Christian tradition was really everything the church taught it was.
          Yee ha. Oxford should be embarassed to have published this screed.

          Anyway, the argument in question, i.e., that Q and Thomas include or assume
          cross and resurrection theology, but fail to articulate it explicitly, is
          HARDLY a new idea, as Jenkins would know were he conversant with NT
          scholarship. A similar claim was made at the beginning of the last century
          by Martin Dibelius, who famously described Q, at least, as a "parenetic
          supplement to the kerygma." At the very least, Dibelius was working with a
          realistioc understanding of ancient Christianity, as opposed to Jenkins'
          bizarre and modern picture of Christians handing out religious pamphlets to
          non-believers. But at least some of the gist of the argument was the same:
          just because Q does not explicitly refer to the resurrection, hardly means
          that it doesn't believe it happened, or regard it as important. Since
          Dibelius viewed the "kerygma" of Jesus' death and resurrection as absolutely
          BASIC to all forms of ancient Xianity, he concluded that Q was a parenetic
          document, exhorting certain types of practical behavior among Christians who
          were already familiar, as a matter of course, with cross and resurrection.

          As Jenkins would also know had he bothered to read the scholarship he
          criticizes, this view was pretty much blown out of the water by Heinz Eduard
          Todt in the mid-1950s. Of relevenace to BOTH Dibelius' and Jenkins'
          arguments is Todt's observation that Q DOES contain a coherent and integral
          christological presentation in its own right, i.e., the depiction of Jesus
          as returning Son of Man. That is to say, the "argument from silence" here,
          that Q did not have a cross-and-resurrection ideology, is more than just an
          argument from silence, since in fact Q has its own distrinctive theology IN
          LIEU of the cross-and-resurrection complex. The same point could easily be
          made about Thomas (although not vis-a-vis the son of man concept, of
          course).

          It's also worth pointing out that Jenkins does not in any way invoke
          positive evidence in support of his apologetic special pleading. He does not
          give us any reason to suppose, even IF his general characterization of
          "secret" Xian teaching is correct, that this characterization in any way
          applies to Q or Thomas. Rather, he simply shows some (strained) evidence
          that such a thing is *possible*, and then, presumably because HE cannot even
          imagine a non-kerygmatic form of Xianity, assumes that the possibility must
          now be certain. It's interesting to note the way he uses, throughout the
          selection reporoduced on this list, "could" and "might" and so on all the
          way through, until he gets to the end, where suddenly this all "did" in fact
          happen.

          A final point here among many that could be made -- Thomas presents itself
          AS secret teaching. Has Jenkins even READ Thomas? How can he claim that a
          document presenting itself as "the secret sayings of Jesus" was specifically
          designed to include only NON-secret material?!

          As I'm sure is apparent, this book annoys me, not least because I actually
          wasted some money on it. The whole thing strikes me as an embarrassing waste
          of time.

          Bill
          ___________________________
          William Arnal
          Department of Religion
          University of Manitoba

          "I wish that I was born a thousand years ago.
          I wish that I'd sailed the darkened seas
          on a great big clipper ship,
          going from this land here to that,
          in a sailor suit and cap."
          -- Lou Reed


          _________________________________________________________________
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        • Emmanuel Fritsch
          ... in L evangile de Marc - Sa prehistoire , M.E. Boismard leads a proto-Mark reconstruction without any death or resurrection. Institution of Eucharity is
          Message 4 of 4 , Apr 4, 2002
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            Peter Kirby wrote :
            > [...]
            > It has often been noted that the reconstructed Q and the Gospel of Thomas do
            > not have anything to say about the atoning nature of the death of Jesus and
            > his subsequent resurrection. Rather, the focus is on the sayings of Jesus
            > in these works. Assuming the existence of Q and an early date for Thomas,
            > which is certainly an issue itself, this has led some to theorize that the
            > earliest Jesus movement did not believe in the resurrection of Jesus but
            > rather remembered him as a wisdom sage and that the idea of a saving death
            > and resurrection developed as the church attracted Hellenistic constituents.
            > This is the basic theory presented by Burton Mack and others.
            >
            > Against this conclusion, Jenkins proposes a different theory to explain the
            > silence of Q & Thomas on the death or resurrection of Jesus. I would like
            > to know what the list members think of his proposal, and so I will quote it,
            > although I hope I have not gone too far beyond fair use.

            in "L'evangile de Marc - Sa prehistoire", M.E. Boismard
            leads a proto-Mark reconstruction without any death or
            resurrection. Institution of Eucharity is absent to.

            For such a strange lack, He proposes an explanation parallel
            to Jenkin's view : the story of Cena, crucifixion and resurection
            was said every week in the liturgy of the community. It was not
            usefull to write it. First gospel writers were more interested
            in saving the less repeated traditions about Jesus.

            a+
            manu
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