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Criticism: Demiurgical and Higher

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  • Mark
    I am not sure this idea is fully formed, but it has been playing in my mind for a while and writing it out sometimes helps and I am curious what others think.
    Message 1 of 6 , Jun 12, 2009
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      I am not sure this idea is fully formed, but it has been playing in my mind for a while and writing it out sometimes helps and I am curious what others think.

      One of the tenets of higher criticism, as applied to scripture in particular, is that a text reflects the culture of the time in which it is written. This includes cultural biases, mores, assumptions, agendas, etc. Thus, the Hebrew Bible (Tanach, OT) is a product of the ancient Near Eastern culture in which it is written. The "God" of this text is not so much revealed, but revealing of the cultural milieu in which it was written. This is the view of modern higher criticism.

      Now, the twist: Is historical Gnosticism an early form of higher criticism, but couched in the language of its day? In other words, in reading the Jewish Scripture they saw a "God" who did not fit their "modern" sensibilities (ex, "I am a jealous God"). Instead of recognizing this view of God as a product of a past historical period with its own agendas and concerns (as in current higher criticism), they called this "God" the Demiurge (a divine being less than the Source, and in some cases even evil).

      In short (and likely not to help), the hermeneutic is the same (they are trying to interpret the same dissonance in the text), but a different epistemology (the language of myth [the ancient language of criticism] as opposed to the language of modern textual criticism).

      Any thoughts?

      Mark
    • Brian
      Hello mark, is gnosticism a form of higher criticism? Imo it very well could be seen that way. As far as being couched in the language of its day, well I
      Message 2 of 6 , Jun 13, 2009
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        Hello mark, is gnosticism a form of higher criticism? Imo it very well could be seen that way.
        As far as being couched in the language of its day, well I wouldn't say that. I believe this "mythological" or esoteric language we see in gnostic scriptures (and others) serve a different purpose.
        No offense,but your thought that you have been pondering sounds a lot like some things I've read in theological textbooks. I used to study theology and this kind of goes in synce with there explanation of gnostic thought and reason.
        Are you a student? Anyways,back to why they wrote in these symbolic forms, imo I believe these creative forms of truth telling were meant to withstand the test of the powers that be. --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, "Mark" <larockpitts@...> wrote:
        >
        > I am not sure this idea is fully formed, but it has been playing in my mind for a while and writing it out sometimes helps and I am curious what others think.
        >
        > One of the tenets of higher criticism, as applied to scripture in particular, is that a text reflects the culture of the time in which it is written. This includes cultural biases, mores, assumptions, agendas, etc. Thus, the Hebrew Bible (Tanach, OT) is a product of the ancient Near Eastern culture in which it is written. The "God" of this text is not so much revealed, but revealing of the cultural milieu in which it was written. This is the view of modern higher criticism.
        >
        > Now, the twist: Is historical Gnosticism an early form of higher criticism, but couched in the language of its day? In other words, in reading the Jewish Scripture they saw a "God" who did not fit their "modern" sensibilities (ex, "I am a jealous God"). Instead of recognizing this view of God as a product of a past historical period with its own agendas and concerns (as in current higher criticism), they called this "God" the Demiurge (a divine being less than the Source, and in some cases even evil).
        >
        > In short (and likely not to help), the hermeneutic is the same (they are trying to interpret the same dissonance in the text), but a different epistemology (the language of myth [the ancient language of criticism] as opposed to the language of modern textual criticism).
        >
        > Any thoughts?
        >
        > Mark
        >
      • Mark
        Brian, No offense taken. I am always delighted to hear that my questions are in synch with other people who may know more than me on a given subject. It means
        Message 3 of 6 , Jun 14, 2009
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          Brian,

          No offense taken. I am always delighted to hear that my questions are in synch with other people who may know more than me on a given subject. It means I may be getting a grasp of some sort on the material. Can you point me to others who have articulated my question better? But I am not a student and have not been for some time. You?

          I find your remarks interesting. You appear to allow for the insights that higher criticism brings to the Jewish scriptures (and possibly later NT writings), but tend to veer from allowing these insights to play themselves out on the Gnostic texts. That is, where as the Jewish and Christian scripitures are a product of their time, Gnostic scriptures are not. Is that what you mean by "withstand the test of the powers that be"? What is the "different purpose" that you believe the mythological/esoteric language of the Gnostic texts serve? Is this a "different purpose" than the language that other scripture serves?

          Mark

          --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, "Brian" <humbleservant1god@...> wrote:
          >
          > Hello mark, is gnosticism a form of higher criticism? Imo it very well could be seen that way.
          > As far as being couched in the language of its day, well I wouldn't say that. I believe this "mythological" or esoteric language we see in gnostic scriptures (and others) serve a different purpose.
          > No offense,but your thought that you have been pondering sounds a lot like some things I've read in theological textbooks. I used to study theology and this kind of goes in synce with there explanation of gnostic thought and reason.
          > Are you a student? Anyways,back to why they wrote in these symbolic forms, imo I believe these creative forms of truth telling were meant to withstand the test of the powers that be. --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, "Mark" <larockpitts@> wrote:
          > >
          > > I am not sure this idea is fully formed, but it has been playing in my mind for a while and writing it out sometimes helps and I am curious what others think.
          > >
          > > One of the tenets of higher criticism, as applied to scripture in particular, is that a text reflects the culture of the time in which it is written. This includes cultural biases, mores, assumptions, agendas, etc. Thus, the Hebrew Bible (Tanach, OT) is a product of the ancient Near Eastern culture in which it is written. The "God" of this text is not so much revealed, but revealing of the cultural milieu in which it was written. This is the view of modern higher criticism.
          > >
          > > Now, the twist: Is historical Gnosticism an early form of higher criticism, but couched in the language of its day? In other words, in reading the Jewish Scripture they saw a "God" who did not fit their "modern" sensibilities (ex, "I am a jealous God"). Instead of recognizing this view of God as a product of a past historical period with its own agendas and concerns (as in current higher criticism), they called this "God" the Demiurge (a divine being less than the Source, and in some cases even evil).
          > >
          > > In short (and likely not to help), the hermeneutic is the same (they are trying to interpret the same dissonance in the text), but a different epistemology (the language of myth [the ancient language of criticism] as opposed to the language of modern textual criticism).
          > >
          > > Any thoughts?
          > >
          > > Mark
          > >
          >
        • Brian
          Hello mark, if I may use the bible as an example, comparing gnostic reasoning to the reasoning of higher criticism would kind of be like comparing the wisdom
          Message 4 of 6 , Jun 14, 2009
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            Hello mark, if I may use the bible as an example, comparing gnostic reasoning to the reasoning of higher criticism would kind of be like comparing the wisdom texts(ecclesiastes,psalms,etc) to the literal text (books of moses,the gospels,letters of peter and paul,etc).
            One is designed to appeal to the soul,spirit,heart,etc. And the other designed to appeal to the mind,the crowd,to the who what when and where.
            Higher criticism (to me) as always been more scientific in nature, where as gnostic thought would be more poetic in nature.
            To me its like saying knowledge and wisdom serve the same purpose. Well, this could be true in a sense, it takes both to reach the ultimate goal being (understanding)imo, but in nature they are two seperate pieces of the puzzle. As for withstanding the powers that be, well I always saw symbolic language as trying to stay out of the center of the stage to avoid persecution from those they did not agree with(the powers that be:religious and political institutions of the given periods).
            I see gnostic lit. As trying to rebuke impositions placed on individuals by the powers that be. To not appear heritical but poetic so there version of the truth would not be destroyed,just overlooked. Of coarse, people caught on and gnostic thought was forced into hiding anyways,but this form of truth telling has seemed to withstand the test. This hidden reasoning can be found in everything from the bible to shakespeare,poetry,sci fi,etc.
            As for pointing out others who could articulate it better than you, well you do a darn good job imo! I havnt been a student since 2000, but reading your thoughts just reminded me of some thesis material I used to come across! Brian --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, "Mark" <larockpitts@...> wrote:
            >
            > Brian,
            >
            > No offense taken. I am always delighted to hear that my questions are in synch with other people who may know more than me on a given subject. It means I may be getting a grasp of some sort on the material. Can you point me to others who have articulated my question better? But I am not a student and have not been for some time. You?
            >
            > I find your remarks interesting. You appear to allow for the insights that higher criticism brings to the Jewish scriptures (and possibly later NT writings), but tend to veer from allowing these insights to play themselves out on the Gnostic texts. That is, where as the Jewish and Christian scripitures are a product of their time, Gnostic scriptures are not. Is that what you mean by "withstand the test of the powers that be"? What is the "different purpose" that you believe the mythological/esoteric language of the Gnostic texts serve? Is this a "different purpose" than the language that other scripture serves?
            >
            > Mark
            >
            > --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, "Brian" <humbleservant1god@> wrote:
            > >
            > > Hello mark, is gnosticism a form of higher criticism? Imo it very well could be seen that way.
            > > As far as being couched in the language of its day, well I wouldn't say that. I believe this "mythological" or esoteric language we see in gnostic scriptures (and others) serve a different purpose.
            > > No offense,but your thought that you have been pondering sounds a lot like some things I've read in theological textbooks. I used to study theology and this kind of goes in synce with there explanation of gnostic thought and reason.
            > > Are you a student? Anyways,back to why they wrote in these symbolic forms, imo I believe these creative forms of truth telling were meant to withstand the test of the powers that be. --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, "Mark" <larockpitts@> wrote:
            > > >
            > > > I am not sure this idea is fully formed, but it has been playing in my mind for a while and writing it out sometimes helps and I am curious what others think.
            > > >
            > > > One of the tenets of higher criticism, as applied to scripture in particular, is that a text reflects the culture of the time in which it is written. This includes cultural biases, mores, assumptions, agendas, etc. Thus, the Hebrew Bible (Tanach, OT) is a product of the ancient Near Eastern culture in which it is written. The "God" of this text is not so much revealed, but revealing of the cultural milieu in which it was written. This is the view of modern higher criticism.
            > > >
            > > > Now, the twist: Is historical Gnosticism an early form of higher criticism, but couched in the language of its day? In other words, in reading the Jewish Scripture they saw a "God" who did not fit their "modern" sensibilities (ex, "I am a jealous God"). Instead of recognizing this view of God as a product of a past historical period with its own agendas and concerns (as in current higher criticism), they called this "God" the Demiurge (a divine being less than the Source, and in some cases even evil).
            > > >
            > > > In short (and likely not to help), the hermeneutic is the same (they are trying to interpret the same dissonance in the text), but a different epistemology (the language of myth [the ancient language of criticism] as opposed to the language of modern textual criticism).
            > > >
            > > > Any thoughts?
            > > >
            > > > Mark
            > > >
            > >
            >
          • lady_caritas
            ... Mark, you bring up a very interesting comparison that I hadn t consciously considered before. When I think of modern higher textual criticism, I tend to
            Message 5 of 6 , Jun 17, 2009
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              --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, "Mark" <larockpitts@...> wrote:
              >
              > I am not sure this idea is fully formed, but it has been playing in my mind for a while and writing it out sometimes helps and I am curious what others think.
              >
              > One of the tenets of higher criticism, as applied to scripture in particular, is that a text reflects the culture of the time in which it is written. This includes cultural biases, mores, assumptions, agendas, etc. Thus, the Hebrew Bible (Tanach, OT) is a product of the ancient Near Eastern culture in which it is written. The "God" of this text is not so much revealed, but revealing of the cultural milieu in which it was written. This is the view of modern higher criticism.
              >
              > Now, the twist: Is historical Gnosticism an early form of higher criticism, but couched in the language of its day? In other words, in reading the Jewish Scripture they saw a "God" who did not fit their "modern" sensibilities (ex, "I am a jealous God"). Instead of recognizing this view of God as a product of a past historical period with its own agendas and concerns (as in current higher criticism), they called this "God" the Demiurge (a divine being less than the Source, and in some cases even evil).
              >
              > In short (and likely not to help), the hermeneutic is the same (they are trying to interpret the same dissonance in the text), but a different epistemology (the language of myth [the ancient language of criticism] as opposed to the language of modern textual criticism).
              >
              > Any thoughts?
              >
              > Mark
              >


              Mark, you bring up a very interesting comparison that I hadn't consciously considered before.

              When I think of modern higher textual criticism, I tend to think of a modern need to look at texts with a rational, objective, scientific, historical approach. This can meet with opposition from those who consider the Bible or other scriptures as literal, inerrant word of god. But in essence (at least theoretically), one type of academic textual criticism does not intend to judge one way or another about god or miracles or revelation, etc. It's just that it recognizes that humans have given varied meaning to events and that an objective investigation into identification of events, scriptural authorship, form, and tradition could be helpful as a tool to offer a balanced approach. I do wonder if this need is partly perceived because of a modern dichotomy between religious and secular life. Is modern religion or at least some modern religion perceived to be too irrational without enough rational basis or critical self-analysis or valid historical perspective (especially for those religions relying on historical "truths")?

              I don't see such mutually exclusive approaches with the Gnostics analyzing and interpreting or reinterpreting ancient texts. Although throughout history there have been those who read scripture more literally and those who interpret symbolically,... allegory and myth, of course, didn't begin with the Gnostics and were quite commonplace. Gnostics, however, did use esoteric language and meaning designed to be gradually understood by the initiate. And they did have a different spin on many of the same writings used by other religious sects, including those now found in the modern Bible. The Gnostics were highly philosophical; they acknowledged Reason, Intellect, and rational thought, at the same time recognizing spiritually revelatory understanding. In other words, the Gnostic criticism going on seems to center on interpretation of philosophy, scripture and what is really being spiritually revealed, not only historical concerns.

              Anyway, these are just some nascent thoughts, certainly subject to revision. *lol*

              Cari
            • pmcvflag
              Hey Mark I would just like to kind of restate part of what I think Lady Cari is saying in my own way. I think it is important to draw a line between historical
              Message 6 of 6 , Oct 25, 2009
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                Hey Mark

                I would just like to kind of restate part of what I think Lady Cari is saying in my own way. I think it is important to draw a line between historical and literary methodologies and where they touch vs where they may not. This relates very much to the difference between "sensibilities" of an era vs understanding that the era or movement attains.

                Let me put that another way. In ancient times (and even still in some other cultures) there were often different roles assumed for the sexes than the ones we have now (in this culture). While I will be the first to say I think we are right (or better) in our thinking now, this is not something we have really fully worked through in any kind of naturalistic way (though I think we should give our time to doing so). That is to say... it is a sensibility. On the other hand, our scientific method has given us the technological byproduct that isn't just a sensibility, it is a demonstration that the method is more accurate than earlier attempts at the same kind of method.

                Not to say what method is best, but it could be important to understand that just because a method grew within one culture and another method in another culture, does not imply that they are somehow just various equally relative methods. This is as true of philosophical stances as it is of science.

                If one person says that "God" came after the invention of water and floated over in a boat to meet humans, then another person says "but then where did the water come from?" then we are left with genuine issues of what we are talking about when we say "God" and the origin of things. This is not simply "sensibilities", it is a question of linguistics, logic, and philosophical/critical stance.

                PMCV

                --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, lady_caritas <no_reply@...> wrote:
                >
                > --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, "Mark" <larockpitts@> wrote:
                > >
                > > I am not sure this idea is fully formed, but it has been playing in my mind for a while and writing it out sometimes helps and I am curious what others think.
                > >
                > > One of the tenets of higher criticism, as applied to scripture in particular, is that a text reflects the culture of the time in which it is written. This includes cultural biases, mores, assumptions, agendas, etc. Thus, the Hebrew Bible (Tanach, OT) is a product of the ancient Near Eastern culture in which it is written. The "God" of this text is not so much revealed, but revealing of the cultural milieu in which it was written. This is the view of modern higher criticism.
                > >
                > > Now, the twist: Is historical Gnosticism an early form of higher criticism, but couched in the language of its day? In other words, in reading the Jewish Scripture they saw a "God" who did not fit their "modern" sensibilities (ex, "I am a jealous God"). Instead of recognizing this view of God as a product of a past historical period with its own agendas and concerns (as in current higher criticism), they called this "God" the Demiurge (a divine being less than the Source, and in some cases even evil).
                > >
                > > In short (and likely not to help), the hermeneutic is the same (they are trying to interpret the same dissonance in the text), but a different epistemology (the language of myth [the ancient language of criticism] as opposed to the language of modern textual criticism).
                > >
                > > Any thoughts?
                > >
                > > Mark
                > >
                >
                >
                > Mark, you bring up a very interesting comparison that I hadn't consciously considered before.
                >
                > When I think of modern higher textual criticism, I tend to think of a modern need to look at texts with a rational, objective, scientific, historical approach. This can meet with opposition from those who consider the Bible or other scriptures as literal, inerrant word of god. But in essence (at least theoretically), one type of academic textual criticism does not intend to judge one way or another about god or miracles or revelation, etc. It's just that it recognizes that humans have given varied meaning to events and that an objective investigation into identification of events, scriptural authorship, form, and tradition could be helpful as a tool to offer a balanced approach. I do wonder if this need is partly perceived because of a modern dichotomy between religious and secular life. Is modern religion or at least some modern religion perceived to be too irrational without enough rational basis or critical self-analysis or valid historical perspective (especially for those religions relying on historical "truths")?
                >
                > I don't see such mutually exclusive approaches with the Gnostics analyzing and interpreting or reinterpreting ancient texts. Although throughout history there have been those who read scripture more literally and those who interpret symbolically,... allegory and myth, of course, didn't begin with the Gnostics and were quite commonplace. Gnostics, however, did use esoteric language and meaning designed to be gradually understood by the initiate. And they did have a different spin on many of the same writings used by other religious sects, including those now found in the modern Bible. The Gnostics were highly philosophical; they acknowledged Reason, Intellect, and rational thought, at the same time recognizing spiritually revelatory understanding. In other words, the Gnostic criticism going on seems to center on interpretation of philosophy, scripture and what is really being spiritually revealed, not only historical concerns.
                >
                > Anyway, these are just some nascent thoughts, certainly subject to revision. *lol*
                >
                > Cari
                >
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