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7798re: "Pure Gnosticism"

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  • Gerry
    May 19, 2003


      Reply to James Lambert’s message #7780:


      In a previous post, you suggested the following for properly comprehending the Gospel of Thomas:


      >> . . . one of its directions is that the first be last. So if you are to read the first last, you are in effect reading the last first, which is to say, you are to approach the text in reverse order.<<  [#7761]


      There are indications that multiple Greek versions of this gospel existed at the time the Coptic version was composed, and that variations resulted between the translations.  In The Gnostic Scriptures, Bentley Layton wrote of the resulting problem of ordering the logia:


      “One of the fragmentary Greek manuscripts (P. Oxy. 654) has division marks in the margin and text, dividing the sayings.  But this Greek manuscript contains only a very small portion of the text; most of the modern divisions and all the numbering are thus purely hypothetical . . . .”   [p. 379]


      Considering this, it would be difficult to imagine that any such intentional structuring of the sayings could be adhered to today with our modern translations.  A critical eye applied to each passage might be more beneficial than looking for signs and wonders in the contemporary arrangement of the logia.


      >>In 29 Jesus wonders how the great wealth of the spirit ever managed to make a home in the poverty of the flesh. Taken by itself it reads as though it is saying that spirit is too valuable a thing to be placed in a body.<<


      I also see that passage speaking to the wondrous value of the redeeming spirit being necessitated after the errant creation of the material world.


      You’ve called the opposition of Spirit and Flesh “a false dichotomy,” but in speaking of that same saying, you later state that “the focus is upon the relationship between the body and these two higher qualities.”  While I perceive you to be suggesting some Divine Triad of Hyle, Psyche and Pneuma, (placing Matter on par with Spirit—something I do not find in the classical sources), there still seems to be some recognition that the former is inferior to the latter.


      >>Jesus said: Woe to the flesh that depends on the soul; woe to the soul that depends on the flesh.  [#112]

      Then Jesus would also have said: Joy to the flesh that depends on the spirit; joy to the spirit that depends on the flesh.

      . . . By swapping the terms of spirit and soul the results are also swapped to their opposites. Woe becomes joy, amazing becomes probable.<<


      James, I think that’s a very risky assumption to make.  You’re dealing with THREE states, and claiming to substitute opposites to arrive at a conclusion that favors your view.  I’m certainly no mathematician, but I can’t even imagine how one point in a triangle can be determined to be “opposite” another (short of completely neglecting the other point).


      If I were to substitute terms of color into your example and suppose that one were speaking of the value of light (as an ideal) over a darkness which values its own importance, then I see a similarity with the original:


      “Woe to the black that depends on the gray; woe to the gray that depends on the black.”


      In both of those cases, there is a neglect of the White.  In such a scenario, it would be difficult to bring “enlightenment” to either the darkness or the crepuscular.  Making your substitution in that statement, however, leaves one with a juxtaposition of incongruous terms:


      “Joy to the black that depends on the white; joy to the white that depends on the black.”


      That would only make sense if our goal was to achieve a level of absolute grayness.  Again, I don’t see such a desire reflected in the early writings.  I can’t help but wonder if such a determination is the result of a “backwards” approach to the gospel or by substituting opposites where they don’t exist?




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