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13011Re: Is the Gospel of Thomas Gnostic?

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  • Gerry
    Mar 1 4:16 AM

      --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, "smithand44" <smithand44@...> wrote:

      > (No more discussion of the Ehrman analogy in my posts.)
      > I should point out that you are creating a false dichotomy here:
      > either one interprets Thomas from a Gnostic perspective, or one
      > interprets it from some other perspective, whether academic or not,
      > which, according to you, is akin to using The Gospel of Philip to
      > justify racism. (I'm intrigued by this: who did it, and is it the
      > reference to Hebrews, or the dichotomy between men and animals that is
      > used to justify racism?) The Gospel of Thomas is not inarguably
      > Gnostic. Even the surviving manuscript tradition suggests this. One
      > copy (NCHII tractate 2) survives in an undoubtedly Gnostic context,
      > while the fragments of the other three surviving copies (pOxy 1, 654,
      > 655) are from the rubbish heaps of Oxyrhynchus, in which were found
      > other fragments of noncanonical gospels, and a great deal of other
      > material, but no Gnostic literature at all.
      > Academic views of Thomas fall into four categories as far as I can see:-
      > 1. Thomas is Gnostic.
      > 2. Thomas is not Gnostic, it belongs to some other variety of early
      > Xianity.
      > 3. Thomas is gnosticising, or moving towards a Gnostic form.
      > 4. Thomas was originally non-Gnostic, but our recensions of Thomas
      > have been gnosticised.
      > My viewpoint has previously been somewhere around 2 (Stevan Davies'
      > view) maybe with a nod towards 3. Before I got caught up with Ehrman's
      > analogy (no fault but my own, I suppose), I was actually interested in
      > trying to rethink my view of Thomas. Perhaps Thomas is in its own
      > category of Gnosticism, even if it's not Sethian or Valentinian. Or
      > perhaps early Christianity itself might be considered Gnostic. Or
      > perhaps Thomas is actually Valentinian.
      > Andrew


      Apologies for not getting back to you sooner, Andrew.  I continue to have a great deal going on at the moment.

      We can certainly dispense with the analogy then, but I think it served to illustrate the perspective that ancient Gnostics could have easily found value in the Gospel of Thomas as it survives¬ówithout seeing in it detailed cosmological descriptions or a plethora of names and terminology that are generally associated with Gnosticism.  It seems to me that such criteria are best considered in the evaluation of how "Gnostic" certain groups might have been, rather than applying such measures as strict and requisite standards by which to gauge the inherent Gnostic value of individual texts and fragments.

      For instance, one could argue that the Song of Songs is not "Jewish" on the basis that it lacks detailed laws, tenets, and names that are typically considered to be characteristic of (or even as defining) Judaism.  However, we shouldn't be surprised that many married Jews today, whose ring fingers are intimately bound to a verse from that work, might understandably find such a position laughable.

      For a tractate that is found sandwiched between such Gnostic works as the Apocryphon of John and the Gospel of Philip, and which easily lends itself to an interpretation that is not at all inconsistent with Gnostic sensibilities, it seems to me that far less of a leap is required to consider the work "Gnostic" than to support many of the other viewpoints I previously enumerated.  I realize that Davies cannot understand this, just as I cannot understand why he would resort to redefining "Gnosticism" and altering the translation of the text in order to bolster his own assertion.  IOW, while I recognize that the Gospel of Thomas is not inarguably "Gnostic," I simply contend that some positions are better argued than others. 

      Case in point, the "racist" interpretation to which I previously referred is something that doesn't simply come out of nowhere.  Its proponents actually put forth an "argument" to substantiate their views, and their methodology in some ways strikes me as LESS contrived than that used by Davies.  Does that make their overall conclusions any less absurd or offensive?  As for examples, I'm really not interested in giving a platform here for those arguments; you can conduct your own search on the Net.  Even something as simple as using the search terms "nazi" and "gnostic" yielded more references to the Gospel of Thomas just now than the passages from Philip that I had seen in the past.  While that makes it all the more relevant to our current discussion, it is no less disturbing.


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