> Understand, Pneumen, that it was not my intent to be condecending
> with my suggestion to step back for a moment... I simply meant to
> point out that some of your assurtions are... well, not always
> SEEMING to be consistant with observable critical destinctions.
I think you are reading a lot of things into what I was saying that
simply aren't there. There may be a need to elaborate on some of my
points, put I think the assumptions you are making about my
assumptions is somewhat condenscending.
> mearly meant that perhaps it would be a good idea to leave Dr Pagels
> (who is not always such a critical source) behind and take a look at
> something a bit better corroborated and less popular in it's purpose
> (some have even said "sensatinalist").
I'm not sure why you'd say she isn't critical. I actually find the
"Gnostic Gospels" quite critical (critical in the sense of applying a
methodical and scholarly approach to the subject). There is a good
thorough review of the literature of the time in the first chapter,
and appropriate caveats and contextualization where necessary,
certainly more than in your last post..
Moreover, she writes well. The book is pretty much jargon free, which
is what makes it accessible. I was never forced to scramble a word
search to look up terms like 'eisegetic'.
(I actually did a google search on this word, and the only place you
can find it is in specialized scholarly debates about religion. The
most common links appear to be to this very forum).
> And yet, it is generally accepted amongst academecians that the
> Gospel of Mark has been heavily edited, both adding and removing
> sections. The "Biblical" version of Jesus' saying concerning seeking
> and finding leaves out some pretty key elements when compared to
> Thomas, and Dr Pagels (whom I only point out because you seem to
> trust her), in her latest book, dedicates a great deal of attention
> to how diametrically opposed John and Thomas' understanding of Jesus
> is. The seeming subtle difference in his sayings have such profound
> implications that she considers John to have been written for the
> purpose of gaining political (Church politics.. not secular
> government) ground over Thomas.
Well, I haven't gotten to this part yet, so it would be prudent for me
to wait until I got to it before commenting. But I'll dive in anyway.
I think I know the parts that you are refering to, though. I rememeber
one part from John that is very adamant about Jesus having been a real
person, something Thomas stressed less. It puzzled me when I first
read it, but given the context of a debate between Thomas followers
and John followers, it makes a lot of sense.
More to the point though, the fact that a particular Gospel was
heavily edited does not mean it was falsified. It might just as easily
mean that dubious elements were deleted.
I should also point out, that while there was considerable debate over
what Jesus meant by "finding and seeking", there is none about whether
he said it or that these words were important.
Lastly, I would not refer to these differences as "political". To me,
political would mean that positions are adopted for the sake of
winning power and influence. These differences appear to be
theological, which one would expect in a community as far-flung and
diverse as the early Christian one.
I find it an interesting idea, though, that the Gospels were in fact a
result of a theological dialogue between various schools of thought
within the Christian community, and that these schools appear to trace
their lineage to specific apostles. Studying the interactions between
these schools appears to be what Pagels is doing. It sems a very
constructive and reasonable way of approaching the Gospels.
> >Real evidence could negate anything written in canonical
> and prove that certain claims have been falsified. None has ever
> found. There is only skeptical speculation, which is in fine in
> scholarly debate if it is accepted as such.<
> How about the fact that the Geneologies in Matthew and Luke are not
> in accord? Appologists come up with a number of excuses, but the
> more cricital answer is that the purpose was political. Besides...
> the burden of proof lies on the claimants. Since Matthew is so
> obviously a rewriting of Exodus, there is good reason to demand
> proof of any literal validity. Otherwise there is simply better
> evidence behind the observation that we are seeing a mythological
> process... making the notion of "falsification" only relevent when
> the story line is intropolated with seeming historical claims (such
> as supposed geneologies, or attacks on Mary, or Thomas, Peter,
Where do they contradict each other? I have to say, geneologies bore
me, so I don't read these parts with great attention. But it seems to
me that so much is left out that there is plenty of room for these
Gospels to be complimentary as opposed to contradictory.
The Hebrews in that part of the world were somewhat obsessed with
bloodlines and the fulfillment of prophecy (some still are) and
Orthodox Churches seem to have clung to it to this day. I usually find
groups like this scary. Since Mathew and Luke preached primarily in
Israel, it doesn't seem unususual to me that they would be more
concerned about compiling a geneology, combing through scripture
looking for evidence of how Jesus's life fulfills the words of ancient
prophets, or base the form of their documents on ancient Hebrew texts.
In fact, it appears to expalin a lot more than conspiracy theories
about malevolent forces deleting portions of the Bible.
> >Well, lets be careful here. You ask me for evidence when I make
> claims, so it would only be fair to provide an example here
> (concerning my statement that Orthodox xources misrepresent
> Ok, how about this for evidence? Take a look at Clement's treatement
> of Carpocrates, and that of Irenaeus. They both agree that
> Carpocrates was a libertine (though Irenaeus admits that he is
> unsure if that is really true) but the simalarities end there. In
> fact, both sources cannot be true since the belief system they
> describe are at odds. This problem is pretty common knowledge.
> Unless you can reconcile these accounts... it is fair to say that
> the heresiologies can't always be trusted.
Well, I'm only familiar with Irenaeus, so maybe that explains my
impression. I find that his accounts of Gnosticism are very detailed,
and appear to be corroborated by most Gnostic texts. My real point is
that if you discard the hyperbole and hystrionics you find the
descriptive accounts that are pretty reliable.
> The orthodox heresiologists describe
> Abraxas as something completely different from what our surviving
> Gnostic sources do, and the list goes on.
You'll have to be more specific here. I'm not familiar with this
literature, and if I read this, I did not have the background to
assign any significance to it.
> >As I said, there are plenty of things in the canonical gospels that
> would have been deleted if political power were all that was
> And as I said, there is evidince that some things were in fact
> deleted. Even if you do not believe in Mortin Smith's descovery of
> purged sections of Mark (though most do), the odd editing of the
> sections that would be filled are well known. And the theory of the
> addition of the last section is nearly universally accepted as fact.
> Your own home Bible is even likely to point it out.
Interesting point. When were they deleted and who did it? Maybe the
people who compiled the canonical gospels themselves only had access
to fragments of the text. Perhaps the canons were an attempt to
include only the sections that the community was absolutely sure
about, and they had good reasons to purge the fragments.
Given that it occured to no one in the 2cnd century to chronical the
life of Jesus for its own sake, it is not unreasonable to assume that
those who compiled the cannons were motivated by the same desire to
draw an accurate picture of his life and times in the same way we are,
and were hindered by the same fragmentary evidence and competing
ideological motivations. Seeing that I am reflexively wary of
conspiracy theories, I tend to favor such a view.
> >If one takes a Jungian view of ritual, one could say that
> Gnosticism is built right into the Mass and Communion, and that this
> is closer to the core of Gnosticism than any surviving theological
> or speculative text. As a matter of fact, it would be directly
> responsible for the power that the Catholic Church has exercised
> over the western mind.<
> Sure... IF one takes that eisegetic and anti-historical method of
Jung's theories about archetypes are as scientifically valid as any in
psychology. They are based on years of clinical observation. It seems
entirely appropriate to apply them to the scholarly study of religious
phenomena, historical or otherwise. In the case of Gnosticism, it
would seem particularly relevant for obvious reasons, as they provide
a coherent and rigorous scientific theory that fills in the gaps in
the historical record, much the way that the empirically verified laws
of physics fill in the gaps in the record of astronomy, climate,
geology and biology.
What is historical method, anyways? Most historians are the most
politicized and self-serving ideologues in academia. They usually use
Marxist or Libertarian political theory to tie together their
fragmentary evidence as opposed to more valid theories based on real
empirical observations of real human beings. Is this the type of
"criticism" you advocate?
> >I'm more interested in what is at the core of the Christian
> The way to tell if a religious message is valid is to examine the
> external "fruit" that these extrernal traditions bring: How do
> "believers" or "knowers" behave? Are the societies built on these
> religious traditions brutal or compassionate? Indeed, early
> society was appealing because Christians were essentially nice
> who were nice to each other. What is the spirit that such a
> is built on?<
> There is one problem... if you believe that Orthodox sources about
> Gnosticism are accurate, as you have said you do, then some Gnostics
> believed they must commit every sin to gain salvation... murder,
> rape, child molestation... is that about love?
I acknowledged that Orthodox sources were hostile. These accusations
are hyperbole, and any intelligent reader could figure that out. There
is little doubt that the Orthodox were scandalized by what they saw
and made the predictable value judgements. But they did have an anal
Roman penchant for keeping accurate and descriptive records of their
observations, even of their enemies. They even prided themselves on
it. That is why scholars find them so useful, and why I am skeptical
of claims that they deliberately falsified the words of Jesus. Indeed,
they would have an intrinsic motivation for preserving the literal
words since they valued them so highly.
Indeed, I would find Gnostic sources more suspect, since they say that
the allegorical truth is more important than the literal truth.
Indeed, it is they who would found myths about Jesus based on their
spiritual utility and persuasiveness. If the world is essentially
corrupt, why value worldly truth? Historical methodology, in their
view, would be the vile domain of the Demiuge.
In otherwords, the Orthodox were historical in their methodologies,
while the Gnostics, if we assert that they were attempting to break
away from this world, were anti-historical.
> Valintinians did not view
> themselves as a different movement, there was no such thing as
> the "orthodox church" for them to try to reconcile with "Gnosticism"
> (a term that they probably never used either).
> Valintinians simply
> considered themselves good Christians who were participating in
> something a bit deeper than the as yet uninitiated other Christians.
> They thought of themselves as the true followers of Paul's secret
That is precisely my point. Valentinians saw no contradiction between
the Orthodox claims and those of the Gnostics. They took for granted
that good Christians would draw on both literal and allegorical Truth.
> Two rungs on a ladder would be a better description that
> two sides of the coin, and attempted reconciliation of two movements
> is something you will need to demonstrate (to put it as kindly as I
I do not neccessarily think that all who called themselves Gnostic in
those days were any farther up the ladder than Orthodox Christians.
From what I read, Valintinian schools provided a highly individualized
path for each member. I do not think that they would dismiss the power
of Faith with the same derision as some other Gnostics if they came
across an individual who could benefit from it.
> Assuming one has understood the Valentinian belief system as well as
> they think they have. Does Dr Pagels or Jung? Well, I would
> certainly question using these sources without adding something more
> critical (not to say they have no value).
Well, I get most of my views on Valintinians from Hoeller. Indeed, his
descriptions point to that direction.
> And... I am STILL seeing a fatal flaw in the seeming need to stick
> to Valentinian thought, since it is not representative of GNosticism
> as a whole.
That is not a mystery. No group is. Gnosticism appears to relate to a
number of seperate movements influenced by Greek-inspired "mystery
schools" that floated around in the ancient world. Still, it seems
that all surviving Gnostic thought in the West seems to have been
heavily influenced by Valentinianism. Perhaps you can trace the
Masonic emphasis on social responisibility and mystical rite back to
them? Perhaps the Rosicrucian Enlightenment? The Cathar Perfecti?
You'd have to admit, the Valentinians were more "of this world" than
other Gnostics, as were those in those involved in these movements. It
may be difficult to establish a historical link, but an honest
evaluation of their actions shows some striking similarities that are
very interesting for those of us who put stock in our own intuitions
than in paper trails.