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RE: [XTalk] GThom and double standards

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  • Rick Hubbard
    It seems to me that efforts to date the Gospel of Thomas by citing its gnosticizing proclivities, its non-conformity with emerging Xtn theological
    Message 1 of 26 , May 3 5:30 AM
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      It seems to me that efforts to "date" the Gospel of Thomas by citing its
      gnosticizing proclivities, its non-conformity with emerging Xtn theological
      propositions, or even its putative gender-centricity are doomed to failure.
      Persistent attempts to specify the gospel's "date of composition" ignore the
      near-certainty that the Coptic text of Thomas, as it is preserved in the Nag
      Hammadi library, is a composite document with what is probably a long
      redactional history. Brian Trafford's recent remarks on this matter
      completely ignore the trajectory of contemporary Thomas scholarship. If his
      assertions are read against the backdrop of recent research by responsible
      scholars they quickly fade into irrelevance.

      Not too many years ago, opinions among scholars about the relative age of
      Thomas generally could be classified as either "early" or "late." This
      "either/or" dichotomy is being displaced by an emerging consensus that
      Thomas contains material that is both "early" and "late" in terms of its
      placement in the text. For example, it is almost certain that the incipit
      and the colophon were comparatively late appendages to the sayings
      collection. Saying 114 has also been identified as a late addition. These
      are the "easy calls" and their validity can be verified by consulting recent
      secondary literature.

      At the other end of the spectrum, "the hard calls" are somewhat more
      difficult to describe with absolute precision. One of the most persuasive
      attempts to identify redactional activity in the Gospel was written by Bill
      Arnal (who regrettably has deferred the opportunity to address the
      assertions raised by Trafford in this forum). Arnal's article "The Rhetoric
      of Marginality: Apocalypticism, Gnosticism, and Sayings Gospels" [_Harvard
      Theological Review_, 88:4 (1995) 471-494] represents one of the most
      persuasive arguments for the presence of multiple editorial strata in
      Thomas. I won't even attempt to summarize the conclusions argued therein ;
      it is sufficient to say that it helps explain the presence of BOTH "gnostic"
      AND sapiential material in the same document. I recommend, moreover, that
      anyone who is disposed to assign a "date" to Thomas should do so only after
      having read and rebutted what Arnal says there. A careful reader will
      conclude that the Gospel of Thomas cannot be "dated" in the same manner that
      a single-author composition can be dated.

      Trafford quite clearly has not only not examined the article cited, but (as
      I already said) has ignored recent Thomas research altogether (the most
      egregious evidence of which is his presumption that Gnosticism is a II CE
      phenomenon, which is absurd on its face and represents nothing more than
      "Sunday School Scholarship").

      Rick Hubbard
      Humble Maine Woodsman
    • Rikk E. Watts
      ... I think one needs to be careful here, Gnosticism itself being a scholarly construct and something of multifaceted phenomenon. I suspect what Brian
      Message 2 of 26 , May 3 7:10 AM
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        on 3/5/02 5:30 AM, Rick Hubbard at rhubbard@... wrote:

        > (the most
        > egregious evidence of which is his presumption that Gnosticism is a II CE
        > phenomenon, which is absurd on its face and represents nothing more than
        > "Sunday School Scholarship").
        >
        I think one needs to be careful here, "Gnosticism" itself being a scholarly
        construct and something of multifaceted phenomenon. I suspect what Brian
        intended was that it is generally agreed that unambiguously Gnostic texts
        date from the second century, the Gnostic character of earlier works, and
        hence the existence of a pre-Christian Gnosticism, being disputed. (I'm not
        sure the ad hominem "Sunday School Scholarship" sheds any light on the
        discussion, not least since it is not uncommon to have such classes taught
        by professors with earned doctorates in their fields; perhaps we could
        confine ourselves to the arguments and leave the characterizations off-list;
        thanks).


        Rikk

        Dr. Rikk E. Watts (Cantab) Ph. (604) 224 3245
        Associate Professor of NT Fax. (604) 224 3097
        Regent College
        5800 University Boulevard, Vancouver, V6T 2E4
      • Rick Hubbard
        [Rikk E. Watts wrote:] hence the existence of a pre-Christian Gnosticism, being disputed. (I m not sure the ad hominem Sunday School Scholarship sheds any
        Message 3 of 26 , May 3 7:58 AM
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          [Rikk E. Watts wrote:]

          hence the existence of a pre-Christian Gnosticism, being disputed. (I'm not
          sure the ad hominem "Sunday School Scholarship" sheds any light on the
          discussion, not least since it is not uncommon to have such classes taught
          by professors with earned doctorates in their fields; perhaps we could
          confine ourselves to the arguments and leave the characterizations off-list;

          Agreed. "Sunday School Scholarship" was not a judicious choice of words. Let
          me rephrase it so that I do not offend Trafford directly-- **anyone** who
          pursues the line of argument to which I have objected demonstrates no
          familiarity with current Thomas research.


          Rick Hubbard
          Humble Maine Woodsman
        • Jacob Knee
          At first glance there does seem to be a North American/European divide on what exactly is the consensus on the dating of Thomas and the traditions within it.
          Message 4 of 26 , May 3 9:34 AM
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            At first glance there does seem to be a North American/European divide on
            what exactly is the consensus on the dating of Thomas and the traditions
            within it. For the Europeans I think of Baarda, the book edited by Uro and
            pieces by Tuckett.

            If this is the case (and I'd be really interested to hear that it's not) -
            why is this?

            Best wishes,
            Jacob Knee
            (Cam, Gloucestershire)

            -----Original Message-----
            From: Rick Hubbard [mailto:rhubbard@...]
            Sent: 03 May 2002 13:31
            To: crosstalk2@yahoogroups.com
            Subject: RE: [XTalk] GThom and double standards

            [snip]

            Not too many years ago, opinions among scholars about the relative age of
            Thomas generally could be classified as either "early" or "late." This
            "either/or" dichotomy is being displaced by an emerging consensus that
            Thomas contains material that is both "early" and "late" in terms of its
            placement in the text. For example, it is almost certain that the incipit
            and the colophon were comparatively late appendages to the sayings
            collection. Saying 114 has also been identified as a late addition. These
            are the "easy calls" and their validity can be verified by consulting recent
            secondary literature.

            [snip]
          • bjtraff
            As time is limited, and I am headed off for an extended long weekend, and will not return until Monday evening, this will be my last post. I do intend to
            Message 5 of 26 , May 3 10:50 AM
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              As time is limited, and I am headed off for an extended long weekend,
              and will not return until Monday evening, this will be my last post.
              I do intend to return to Frank's comments at that time, and will do
              my best to cover off any other points raised in the meantime.

              --- In crosstalk2@y..., "mwgrondin" <mwgrondin@c...> wrote:

              > 27.39: "Those, however, passing by [the cross] blasphemed him ..."
              >
              > What do you make of that?

              Greek is oftentimes a difficult language to translate, but in this
              verse we see an instance of Matthew carefully following Mark's
              wording. First, the specific word used is EBLASFHMOUN, so the
              conjugation of the verb is different from what we see in Matt 12:31-
              32, but this is not really the central point of contention in
              translating 27:39. Greek words could, and did, have different
              meanings based on context (even as some English words do as well),
              and for both Jews and Christians, BLASFHMAI against God was
              qualitatively different than any kind of blaspheme against others.
              Thus, for example, Paul could speak of BLASFHMOUMAI against himself
              and others, as he does in 1 Corinthians 10:30, and the author of
              Titus could do likewise (BLASHMEIN) in Titus 3:2, modern translators
              have properly understood that these authors were not thinking of the
              specific sin of blasphemy against God, and have traditionally
              translated it as "speak evil of" or "denounced" or "reviled" and the
              like. Thus, for example, even Young's Literal Translation, and the
              RSV, two of the most literal word for word translations do not
              translate EBLASFHMOUN as "blaspheme."

              All of that said, you do raise a good point. In researching your
              question, I think it is important to consider the view of Raymond
              Brownin his book _Death of the Messiah, Vol. 2_. In it, Brown is
              careful to translate EBLASPHMOUN as blaspheme, and comments
              extensively on the point (see pgs. 982, 986-989). In his view, Mark
              deliberately chooses the word "blaspheme" as it "is a significant
              word for Mark, supplying interesting inclusions with previous
              usages." (BDM, pg. 986). In effect Mark is deliberately using the
              strongest language possible to describe the action of the passersby,
              and Matt echoes this theme. For both, Jesus is the Son of God, and
              as such, speaking evil against him, especially while he is dying on
              the cross, is a sin. This would reflect the view of the evangelists
              as they would be thinking of their current (c. 50-70+ CE) enemies
              who, no doubt, continued to see Jesus' death as a scandal, and proof
              that he was not the Messiah. The deliberate choice of the word
              EBLASFHMOUN is therefore a theological statement indicating high
              Christology. Yet, the usage of blasphemy here, even as it was
              deliberately NOT used in the earlier triple tradition of Mark 3:28-
              30/Matt 12:31-32/Luke 12:10 is then made doubly significant. Once
              again we can contrast how Jesus is viewed in the Synoptics prior to
              his death and resurrection (and possibly even by Jesus himself, as
              the words in this triple tradition may well go back to Jesus
              himself), with how he is viewed afterwards by his early followers.
              On this basis, Thomas' saying in verse 44 represents a much higher
              Christology than we see in Matt 12/Mark 3, and is more along the
              lines of Matthew 28:19. Thus, the later the probable date for
              Canonical Matt (or Luke, as they are connected) is pushed back, the
              later Thomas becomes as well. Since I see Thomas' presentation of
              this saying as a later understanding of Mark 3/Matt 12/Luke 12, I
              likewise date it later than any of them. On this basis, if Matt and
              Luke are dated to 80-90 (my personal opinion), and did not feel free
              to change Jesus' saying to reflect a later Christology, while Thomas
              did change it, then Thomas would be, at a minimum, very late 1st
              Century, but more probably early to mid 2nd Century. Additional
              arguments I have already offered in favour of a late date add to that
              opinion.

              > (Also, why do you use 'blaspheme' as the noun-form instead
              > of 'blasphemy'? At first, I thought this was inadvertent, but now
              > I see that you do it consistently.)

              My mistake. Call it a personal idiosyncrasy. I will try to be less
              careless in the future.

              > As to what 61.3b asserts, I myself don't see any significant
              > difference between:
              > 1. "I was given some of that which is my Father's." (Patterson)
              > 2. "I was granted from the things of my Father." (Scholars)
              > 3. "I was given out of the things of my Father." (literal)
              >
              > All three clearly imply to my ear that Jesus doesn't possess all
              > the attributes of "the Father". And, since he could hardly be
              > identified as "the Son" if he were disobedient to "the Father",
              > I don't know what more you could ask to establish the relationship
              > between son and father that you think is missing from Thomas.

              I am not talking about Jesus possessing the attributes of the Father,
              but rather, whether or not Thomas sees Jesus' authority as coming
              from the Father. Th61 does not suggest anything like what we see in
              the Synoptics or John on this point.

              > Seriously, though, the
              > latter portion of Th77 ("Split a timber, I am there; lift the
              stone,
              > and you will discover me there."), may have been moved from its
              > location following Th30 in the POxy fragments for the purpose of
              > emphasizing that a creative agent (such as the Logos) could be seen
              > as being present (in a sense) in all that he created. Nevertheless,
              > this Johannine-type stuff seems out of place in Thomas. That plus
              > the apparent movement of the two sentences from Th30 to Th77 leads
              > me to believe that the original collection was written before GJn
              > came along.

              Once again, I am dating GThomas as we have it today. Some of the
              traditions and sayings may be earlier than this final redacted form,
              but then, so is much of the Canonical Gospels earlier than their
              final redacted form.

              > Th28.1: "I stood in the middle of the world, and in flesh I
              > appeared to them." (that this is to be understood as merely the
              > appearance of flesh seems weak to me - "I appeared to them in
              > flesh", not "I appeared to them to be in flesh".)

              Your comment is interesting, as, given the wider context of contempt
              for things of this world, and flesh in particular reflected in
              GThomas as a whole, I would say that this statement is one of
              Jesus "appearing" to be in the flesh, but not really being flesh.

              > "Anachronistic" is a poor choice of words for what you seem to be
              > getting at. I think you see me as reading orthodox meaning into the
              > text, or of taking much of it metaphorically rather than literally.

              I chose the term "anachronistic" because if we did not have the
              Canonical Gospels and Paul to draw from, there would be no way, from
              GThomas alone, to know that Jesus lived here on earth, died, and rose
              again. You have projected that knowledge into the text from other
              sources.

              > The reverse of such charges could of course be applied to yourself,
              > but in any case there's no anachronistic thinking involved, because
              > all the concepts I use are anciently attested. Now if you want to
              > exchange charges of eisegesis, we could do that. <g>

              When dating a specific text, it is typical to examine the documents
              that can be reasonably and reliably dated to the 1st Century, then
              compare the features found in less certain documents, and decide
              which are earlier, and which later. In this case, I use Paul and
              Mark, as they are the most clearly 1st Century texts, then compare
              Matt, Luke, John and Thomas to what is found in those texts. In each
              case I see evidence of later development, thought, and Christology.
              Given the general lack of awareness of one another, I have grouped
              the final redacted forms of Matt, Luke and John to a period of time
              of approximately 80-90. In examining Thomas, it shows evidence of
              knowing not only the traditions contained in the Synoptics and John,
              but also of ideas that became more popular in 2nd Century texts. On
              these grounds I continue to believe that Thomas came after the
              Canonical texts, and I do not see my evaluation as being tainted by
              anachronistic thinking.

              > [Mike]:
              > > I think that the word 'living' in the incipit to GThom has to be
              > > taken in the very same sense that 'living' is used thruout GThom
              > > and in every other Xian text that contrasts true, eternal
              > > spiritual life with false, ephemeral physical life.
              > [Brian]:
              > > The Canonical Gospels insisted on a very fleshy Jesus. John 1
              > > even tells us KAI O LOGON SARX (and the Word made flesh), using
              > > the most earthly form of flesh available in the Greek language.
              > > Similarly, in Luke 3:6 we see that all flesh (SARX) will "see the
              > > salvation of God."
              >
              > So what? THIS life is still not the REAL life in Xian (and
              Platonic)
              > thought. C'mon, Brian, surely you find that distinction all over
              > the place in Xian writings. The phrase 'the living Jesus' must be
              > taken to refer to that believers' Jesus who has always "lived" -
              > then, now, and forever. Obviously (to the Xian) he didn't "live"
              > only during his human lifetime. Why should we think, then, that the
              > compiler of the collection meant to assert or imply that Jesus
              > spoke all of those words before his human death? To the Thomists
              > (as to other Xians), he continued to be a "living" presence after
              > his death.

              As I said above, if you did not have the Canonical Gospels to draw
              upon, and could only examine Thomas, neither of us would even be
              having this discussion. In all likelihood, Thomas would simply be
              accepted as presenting a heavenly Jesus that lived in the world of
              the spiritual, and not the physical. As this is a view of Jesus that
              became very popular in 2nd Century and later texts, I think that we
              should date Thomas to this period of time.

              > > "The things you asked me about in past times, and what I did not
              > > tell you in that day, now I am willing to tell you, but you do
              not
              > > seek them." (Th92.2, Patterson tr)
              > [Brian]:
              > > Once again I think you are reading into the text. All that is
              > > indicated in this passage is that at one time Jesus did not tell
              > > his disciple a thing, an[d] later he does tell him that thing.
              >
              > Oh, pooh. Taken literally like this, it has no importance
              > whatsoever - nothing to recommend it for inclusion in the
              > collection. The "past times" must be J's human lifetime if this
              > logion is to have any significance.

              Why? The Gnostics were offended by the idea of an earthly, fleshy
              godman that could live AND die here on planet earth. Thomas seems to
              share this sentiment.

              > Oh, alright. But the Coptic version may very well be corrupt, as
              > many scholars assert. According to the Greek fragments, "Where
              there
              > are three, they are without God", thus belaying any suggestion that
              > the one or two are gods. (Frankly, I can't make much sense of 30.1
              > in either version.)

              Perhaps it is corrupt, but it is the extant copy that we must deal
              with, and until something earlier pops up, we might as well be trying
              to date the Signs Gospel and Passion Narrative, rather than GMark,
              GMatt, GLuke and GJohn.

              Brian Trafford
              Calgary, AB, Canada
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