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Re: Is the Gospel of Thomas Gnostic?

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  • pmcvflag
    Hey Andrew ... are usually littered with jargon, with names of players, teams, sports grounds. I ll send a free copy of Stevan Davies The Gospel of Thomas and
    Message 1 of 40 , Jan 16, 2007
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      Hey Andrew

      >>>Well, I still think that it's a poor analogy because sports articles
      are usually littered with jargon, with names of players, teams, sports
      grounds. I'll send a free copy of Stevan Davies' The Gospel of Thomas
      and Christian Wisdom to anyone who can find an article on baseball
      that actually works along the lines of Ehrman's analogy.<<<

      No debate... the analogy is imperfect. Then again, ALL analogies are
      imperfect. If the point was obvious to the person we are communicating
      with then no analogy would be used.

      I was actually very interested in your challenge. However, I get the
      impression that you are extending the function of this analogy far
      beyond the intended meaning. This COULD mean a misunderstanding on
      your end. I think maybe you have connected the specific point to the
      larger debate, and this means your challenge is not to demonstrate the
      point of the analogy, but how we could connect the analogy to a wider
      argument. I could easily demonstrate Dr Ehrman's point, but I wonder
      if you would hold your end of the bargain since I think you are
      assuming a larger point than the one actually made. I am not even a
      particular fan of Dr Ehrman's work, but as a critical thinker I can
      accept a point within a larger debate.

      If you still want to make the offer, I will take you up on it. I would
      only ask that you connect your challenge to the function of the
      analogy rather than larger or smaller outline of the debate as YOU
      have presented it. Otherwise your challenge is actually dishonest.

      >>>On the other hand, The Hymn of the Pearl or The Exegesis on the Soul
      don't have much in the way of Gnostic terminology (and the Hymn might
      be Manichaean.) But the mythical structure of each of them is very
      Gnostic, much more so than Thomas.<<<

      On the other hand, we have texts that use many "Gnostic" terms but
      seem to go against the Gnostic soteriology (Gospel of John). So what
      is the point?

      >>>One option is just to define a School of Thomas as a Gnostic or
      semi-Gnostic movement in itself. I think that Bentley Layton's diagram
      with Sethianism, Thomas Christianity and whatever else all feeding
      into Valentinianism was a very clever and tidy way of looking at it.<<<

      Tidy is surely nice. I like Tidy. Again, it has little to do with the
      function of the baseball analogy. In the larger context it would
      actually feed IN to Ehrman's wider point. It may be true (and I think
      it is a good point to think about from both ends), but if you are
      connecting this with the analogy in question then you are wrong to do
      so.

      PMCV
    • 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
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        --- 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?

        Gerry

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