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Re: Is the Gospel of Thomas Gnostic?

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  • smithand44
    My apologies to everyone for starting this topic and then letting it drop. ... how one defines ... of the fact that it ... other distinctive features ... Yes,
    Message 1 of 40 , Jan 13, 2007
      My apologies to everyone for starting this topic and then letting it

      --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, "spcdbrs" <space.debris@...> wrote:
      > I think the question can be controversial because answers depend on
      how one defines
      > "Gnostic." Some scholars now consider GoT to be non-Gnostic because
      of the fact that it
      > doesn't get into the emanation of the Aeons, the Sophia myth, or
      other distinctive features
      > of Sethian and Valentinian thought.

      Yes, that's a good indication of it not belonging to a developed
      Gnostic system. (If it is Gnostic, it's closer to Valentinian thought
      than Sethian surely.) The Gospel of Truth is relatively free of
      Gnostic jargon, but it does have a few explicit references to the
      pleroma and aeons,as does the Gospel of Philip.. I'm not much in
      sympathy with scholars like Ehrman who read Thomas with a Gnostic
      context but don't address Thomas' lack of specifically Gnostic
      > Even so, the Gospel of Thomas has important points in common with
      Sethian and
      > Valentinian views, particularly on the issue of soteriology -- for
      the GoT, salvation
      > ultimately depends on a profound understanding of spiritual matters
      (including, among
      > others, cosmological issues on which Gnostics would agree, e.g.
      logion 56), rather than on
      > faith, ritual, or good works. It also stands close to Gnosticism in
      its generally ascetic tone.

      Gnostics weren't the only ascetics, for instance, Richard Valantasis
      interprets Thomas in terms of Syrian asceticism. On the other hand,
      parts of Thomas are anti-ascetic, e.g. 14, "If you fast you will bring
      sin on yourselves..."

      > Therefore, it is a text that readily lends itself to interpretation
      from a Sethian or
      > Valentinian viewpoint, and thus I think it is not surprising to find
      Thomas sandwiched
      > between Sethian and Valentinian texts (Apocryphon of John and Gospel
      of Philip) in Nag
      > Hammadi Codex II.

      The Sentences of Sextus and The Teachings of Silvanus are also in the
      NHL but neither are Gnostic.

    • Gerry
      ... Atheist or not, Davies impresses me as operating under the assumption that these scriptures are expected to provide information corroborating one aspect or
      Message 40 of 40 , Mar 1, 2007

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

        > I don't see any general "pro-orthodox" tendency in Davies' work, and
        > as far as I know he is an atheist with a strong curiosity for
        > religious traditions. In fact, he tends towards quirky viewpoints and
        > unorthodox (in the non-technical sense) positions. For instance, his
        > Jesus the Healer looked at the historical Jesus in terms of the
        > anthropology of spirit possession, and he was very interested in Earl
        > Doherty's mythic Jesus, and is fond of pointing out the contradictions
        > in the usual views of Christian origins.


        Atheist or not, Davies impresses me as operating under the assumption that these scriptures are expected to provide information corroborating one aspect or another of a literal, historical Jesus.  I think that modern scholarship is tainted by this "orthodox" perspective even when they appear to recognize the inevitable stumbling block that such a bias presents for one's objectivity.  As PMCV recently pointed out, Bart Ehrman (a self-professed agnostic) is currently involved with lectures on the Gospel of Judas (which I had the misfortune of attending back in January), and the focus of his talks is on the historical relevance this new gospel has regarding Judas AND Jesus.  I'll reiterate the question that PMCV asked:  Why?  Is it really asking so much that a little more consideration be given to the fact that Gnostic authors might have had more to convey than biographies of Jesus and his cohorts?



        > I think there is a stubborn quality in Steve's position. But in the
        > last conversation I remember between Davies and Arnal on the gthomas
        > list, Arnal wrote that, after reading King's What is Gnosticism?, he
        > finally agreed that Thomas wasn't Gnostic. Steve has changed his
        > opinion on various issues connected with Thomas--he now thinks that
        > 114 is integral to the collection and he might admit the Syrian
        > connection.


        I may be willing to recognize a Syrian "connection" as well, and I have always felt that saying 114 was integral to the collection, but such issues still do not prohibit me from viewing the overall work—as it survives—in a Gnostic context.


        > I actually didn't like Davies' translation in GTA&E, as it cuts
        > corners in places. You have identified a mistranslation and, I agree,
        > it's one that comes from his view of Thomas. Funnily enough, Davies'
        > closing comment on that is "In this saying, for a change, Thomas's
        > gospel takes the orthodox position on an issue." Steve in fact has no
        > Coptic, and worked from Mike Grondin's interlinear translation, but
        > Grondin's translation clearly indicates that OUWN2 should be
        > translated as "appeared", "revealed" or "made manifest".


        Call me a purist, but it seems to me that if an author wishes to put forth an alleged "translation" of ancient texts, he should REALLY have an understanding of the original language.  Furthermore, if what is merely his resulting "interpretation" of someone else's "translation" shows evidence of being a poor bastardization of that prior work, then this could easily be seen as one more unscrupulous step beyond theft and fraud.  It would be pretty shady indeed.


        > OTOH, I don't really see this as referring to docetism at all, and the

        > following saying, which debates whether flesh came into being because
        > of spirit, or spirit because of the body, doesn't either. Meyer, for
        > instance, connects saying 28 with the incarnation of Wisdom too.
        > Best Wishes
        > Andrew


        Perhaps we're in agreement again, Andrew, as I don't see EITHER of those sayings as "referring" to Docetism, but neither do I think that the one could "prove" an anti-docetic stance (as Davies would have us believe with his contrived "translation").

        At the risk of beating a dead horse, I'll come right out and ask if we're talking about two things here:  As I've tried to point out, my concern with GTh is the work as we know it—in Coptic—found amid a treasury of predominantly Gnostic texts.  If others are more interested in picking its bones clean in search of some elusive "original" or "core" Thomas, then more power to them.  Personally, I don't see how such conclusions could EVER be proven, short of someone actually stumbling across the missing text that certain individuals seem hell-bent on creating.  If that's what floats their boat, then more power to 'em.  If it were established today beyond a shadow of a doubt that Gnostic thought came secondarily to apocalyptic Christianity, for instance, and that the Coptic GTh is merely an elaboration by Gnostic scribes of preexisting material, is it not clear that this would really have little bearing on its relevance to Gnosticism?


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