Re: Is the Gospel of Thomas Gnostic?
- Hey Andrew
>>>I will give away a copy of GTCW. But I'll be more than dishonest,I'll be totally subjective--I'll give the book to the person who
posts the baseball article that I like best.<<<
Fair enough. In truth I doubt you will see many people here
scrambling for a copy of Davies' book. More important to me is that
the points of debate about Thomas are presented accurately.
I have often raised the question in this forum as to whether Thomas
is Gnostic when people have assumed it is. Likewise I have pointed
out Gnostic elements when people have assumed it is not. I am not
uncomfortable with the ambiguity. Of course, I have my own ideas
about the issue.
>>>My "on the other hand" was an attempt to see some validity inEhrman's analogy by applying it to other writings. Perhaps the
Exegesis isn't such a good example either. It could be looked at as
a Christian Platonic writing, and it certainly lays out a myth.<<<
The line between "Gnosticism" and other forms of Christian Platonism
is not always clear and easy to outline. There is some fuzzy ground
As far as finding validity in Ehrman's analogy, it may be better to
think of it for what it was.... simply an attempt to put a logical
point that would not be desputed in any academic setting into plain
lingo that the layperson would hopefully understand. The reason for
the point is that there have been a number of people out there
debating the categorization of Thomas based on a sort of flawed
modus ponens argument. Whether or not Ehrman is correct in
constructing a case for a Gnostic core in Thomas, his deconstruction
of that modus ponens argument is logically valid and correct.
A full construction of a hermeneutic core simply can't be built or
discounted based ONLY on subtle contexts or the lack of the
explicit. Let me give you an example by asking you a question about
commentary that may relate to Ehrman's analogy.
From a sports reporter....
"... OH, he caught it midfield. Wow! He.. is.. driving... it...
home. Looks like the tide is turning in this game."
Now, how do you know what is going on here? How can you demonstrate
that this is about baseball? I would challenge you to do so. If you
can then maybe Ehrman's point is all wrong.
>>>No, the last paragraph wasn't connected with Ehrman's analogy.When I posted the original question I was hoping to think about
Thomas differently. What do you make of the strong parallels to
Philo in Thomas?<<<
I think that the parallels between Philo and the Tripartite Tractate
are far more explicit. I doubt anyone would deny the implications
(and connections) that Gnostic thinking and Jewish Platonism of the
sort that Philo represents have toward each other. These strains of
thought are very close and surely fed into each other to some
extent. Of course we do also see non-Gnostic forms of Christian
Platonism as well, such as Origen or Clement. However, I would point
out that in the case of Thomas we are talking about more than the
mythological structure, we need to take into account an explicit
soteriology that is closer to the Gospel of Truth.
I would be interested to hear you construct an argument for
attributes of Christian Platonism (as a category) that would exclude
--- In firstname.lastname@example.org, "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
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 workas it survivesin 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
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 itin Copticfound 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?