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"The Lost Gospels"

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  • lady_caritas
    I received my copy of TIME magazine (December 22, 2003 issue) today and just read the article, The Lost Gospels, by David Van Biema. I heard that the Saddam
    Message 1 of 20 , Dec 16, 2003
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      I received my copy of TIME magazine (December 22, 2003 issue) today
      and just read the article, "The Lost Gospels," by David Van Biema. I
      heard that the Saddam story had bumped this article (originally
      intended to be showcased) off the cover.

      So, here are some incomplete pieces of the article:
      http://www.time.com/time/covers/1101031222/story.html#
      Also, click on "Galleries and Graphics" – Gnosticism! At a theater
      near you!
      http://www.time.com/time/covers/1101031222/sobeliefs.html
      http://www.time.com/time/covers/1101031222/sodoubting.html

      Now, I *know* there must be comments out there from those of you who
      have read the article, eh? :-)


      Cari
    • Mike Leavitt
      Hello lady_caritas ... Haven t got it yet, but did read the U.S. News and World Report s article on Jesus in America -- not much to it, even though my son s
      Message 2 of 20 , Dec 16, 2003
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        Hello lady_caritas

        On 16-Dec-03, you wrote:

        > I received my copy of TIME magazine (December 22, 2003 issue) today
        > and just read the article, "The Lost Gospels," by David Van Biema. I
        > heard that the Saddam story had bumped this article (originally
        > intended to be showcased) off the cover.
        >
        > So, here are some incomplete pieces of the article:
        > http://www.time.com/time/covers/1101031222/story.html#
        > Also, click on "Galleries and Graphics" – Gnosticism! At a theater
        > near you!
        > http://www.time.com/time/covers/1101031222/sobeliefs.html
        > http://www.time.com/time/covers/1101031222/sodoubting.html
        >
        > Now, I *know* there must be comments out there from those of you who
        > have read the article, eh? :-)
        >
        >
        > Cari

        Haven't got it yet, but did read the U.S. News and World Report's
        article on Jesus in America -- not much to it, even though my son's
        old teacher Karen King was interviewed for it.

        Regards
        --
        Mike Leavitt ac998@...
      • lady_caritas
        ... today ... Biema. I ... theater ... who ... Haven t seen that article yet, Mike. The article from TIME references some popular scholars, too. Usually
        Message 3 of 20 , Dec 17, 2003
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          --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, Mike Leavitt <ac998@l...> wrote:
          > Hello lady_caritas
          >
          > On 16-Dec-03, you wrote:
          >
          > > I received my copy of TIME magazine (December 22, 2003 issue)
          today
          > > and just read the article, "The Lost Gospels," by David Van
          Biema. I
          > > heard that the Saddam story had bumped this article (originally
          > > intended to be showcased) off the cover.
          > >
          > > So, here are some incomplete pieces of the article:
          > > http://www.time.com/time/covers/1101031222/story.html#
          > > Also, click on "Galleries and Graphics" – Gnosticism! At a
          theater
          > > near you!
          > > http://www.time.com/time/covers/1101031222/sobeliefs.html
          > > http://www.time.com/time/covers/1101031222/sodoubting.html
          > >
          > > Now, I *know* there must be comments out there from those of you
          who
          > > have read the article, eh? :-)
          > >
          > >
          > > Cari
          >
          > Haven't got it yet, but did read the U.S. News and World Report's
          > article on Jesus in America -- not much to it, even though my son's
          > old teacher Karen King was interviewed for it.
          >
          > Regards
          > --
          > Mike Leavitt ac998@l...


          Haven't seen that article yet, Mike. The article from TIME
          references some popular scholars, too. Usually religious articles in
          mainstream magazines end up relating material presented to the
          mainstream audience. "Lost gospels" are often seen as
          either "heretical" or conversely a convenient way to fill in gaps for
          some people who want to make their orthodox faith more palatable or
          to follow New Age trends.

          Then again, such exposure might at least encourage some others with
          that "eye" Paul spoke of to investigate these ancient writings
          further.


          Cari
        • Mike Leavitt
          Hello lady_caritas ... Our subscription to Time expired, so I bought it off the local news-stand, and I ll try to read it tonight or tomorrow. Interesting
          Message 4 of 20 , Dec 17, 2003
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            Hello lady_caritas

            On 17-Dec-03, you wrote:

            > --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, Mike Leavitt <ac998@l...> wrote:
            >> Hello lady_caritas
            >>
            >> On 16-Dec-03, you wrote:
            >>
            >>> I received my copy of TIME magazine (December 22, 2003 issue)
            >>> today
            >>> and just read the article, "The Lost Gospels," by David Van
            >>> Biema. I
            >>> heard that the Saddam story had bumped this article (originally
            >>> intended to be showcased) off the cover.
            >>>
            >>> So, here are some incomplete pieces of the article:
            >>> http://www.time.com/time/covers/1101031222/story.html#
            >>> Also, click on "Galleries and Graphics" – Gnosticism! At a
            >>> theater
            >> > near you!
            >> > http://www.time.com/time/covers/1101031222/sobeliefs.html
            >> > http://www.time.com/time/covers/1101031222/sodoubting.html
            >> >
            >> > Now, I *know* there must be comments out there from those of you
            >> > who
            >> > have read the article, eh? :-)
            >>>
            >>>
            >>> Cari
            >>
            >> Haven't got it yet, but did read the U.S. News and World Report's
            >> article on Jesus in America -- not much to it, even though my son's
            >> old teacher Karen King was interviewed for it.
            >>
            >> Regards
            >> --
            >> Mike Leavitt ac998@l...
            >
            >
            > Haven't seen that article yet, Mike. The article from TIME
            > references some popular scholars, too. Usually religious articles in
            > mainstream magazines end up relating material presented to the
            > mainstream audience. "Lost gospels" are often seen as either
            > "heretical" or conversely a convenient way to fill in gaps for some
            > people who want to make their orthodox faith more palatable or to
            > follow New Age trends.
            >
            > Then again, such exposure might at least encourage some others with
            > that "eye" Paul spoke of to investigate these ancient writings
            > further.
            >
            >
            > Cari

            Our subscription to Time expired, so I bought it off the local
            news-stand, and I'll try to read it tonight or tomorrow. Interesting
            that the big three, Newsweek, US News and Time all had something on
            or about Gnosticism in the same issue, even if the US News article
            only had a tangential mention of Karen King. Now we get to wait
            again for something. I guess it is good publicity in the long run.
            Too bad Sadam got in the way of it being on Time's cover, but such is
            the way of the world.

            Regards
            --
            Mike Leavitt ac998@...
          • lady_caritas
            ... Interesting ... is ... Hmmmm, y know, Mike, I hope you enjoy having the hard copy, but I just figured out (I think) a link to the full article (which
            Message 5 of 20 , Dec 17, 2003
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              --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, Mike Leavitt <ac998@l...> wrote:
              > Hello lady_caritas
              >
              > Our subscription to Time expired, so I bought it off the local
              > news-stand, and I'll try to read it tonight or tomorrow.
              Interesting
              > that the big three, Newsweek, US News and Time all had something on
              > or about Gnosticism in the same issue, even if the US News article
              > only had a tangential mention of Karen King. Now we get to wait
              > again for something. I guess it is good publicity in the long run.
              > Too bad Sadam got in the way of it being on Time's cover, but such
              is
              > the way of the world.
              >
              > Regards
              > --
              > Mike Leavitt ac998@l...


              Hmmmm, y'know, Mike, I hope you enjoy having the hard copy, but I
              just figured out (I think) a link to the full article (which possibly
              may be temporary anyway) ~

              http://www.time.com/time/covers/1101031222/story.html


              Cari
            • Rodney Cecil
              On Thu, 18 Dec 2003 03:01:16 -0000 ... Hey folks, Last night on NPR s Fresh Air, Bart Ehrman (mentioned in the Time article above) discussed his book Lost
              Message 6 of 20 , Dec 18, 2003
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                On Thu, 18 Dec 2003 03:01:16 -0000
                lady_caritas <no_reply@yahoogroups.com> wrote:
                >
                >
                >
                >
                > --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, Mike Leavitt
                > <ac998@l...> wrote:
                > > Hello lady_caritas
                > >
                > > Our subscription to Time expired, so I bought it off
                > the local
                > > news-stand, and I'll try to read it tonight or
                > tomorrow. 
                > Interesting
                > > that the big three, Newsweek, US News and Time all
                > had something on
                > > or about Gnosticism in the same issue, even if the
                > US News article
                > > only had a tangential mention of Karen King. 
                > Now we get to wait
                > > again for something.  I guess it is good
                > publicity in the long run.
                > > Too bad Sadam got in the way of it being on Time's
                > cover, but such
                > is
                > > the way of the world.
                > >
                > > Regards
                > > --
                > > Mike Leavitt  ac998@l...
                >
                >
                > Hmmmm, y'know, Mike, I hope you enjoy having the hard
                > copy, but I
                > just figured out (I think) a link to the full article
                > (which possibly
                > may be temporary anyway) ~
                >
                > http://www.time.com/time/covers/1101031222/story.html
                >
                >
                > Cari

                Hey folks,

                Last night on NPR's Fresh Air, Bart Ehrman (mentioned in
                the Time article above) discussed his book 'Lost
                Christianities'. I'll listen to the interview today but I
                read the section of his book that covered the Gnostics and
                his presentation was very positive. When he discussed the
                Gospel of Truth for instance, he described it as a writing
                that expressed nothing less than sheer joyful abandon.

                You can listen at the following link:

                http://freshair.npr.org

                Go to the archive section for last night's broadcast.

                Peace

                Rodney
              • Mike Leavitt
                Hello Rodney ... I sent this link to a friend, it may save him having to buy the magazine, thanks. ... I sent this one too, he may well be interested in it.
                Message 7 of 20 , Dec 18, 2003
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                  Hello Rodney

                  On 18-Dec-03, you wrote:

                  > On Thu, 18 Dec 2003 03:01:16 -0000
                  > lady_caritas <no_reply@yahoogroups.com> wrote:
                  >>
                  >>
                  >>
                  >>
                  >> --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, Mike Leavitt
                  >> <ac998@l...> wrote:
                  >> > Hello lady_caritas
                  >> >
                  >> > Our subscription to Time expired, so I bought it off
                  >> the local
                  >> > news-stand, and I'll try to read it tonight or
                  >> tomorrow. 
                  >> Interesting
                  >> > that the big three, Newsweek, US News and Time all
                  >> had something on
                  >> > or about Gnosticism in the same issue, even if the
                  >> US News article
                  >> > only had a tangential mention of Karen King. 
                  >> Now we get to wait
                  >> > again for something.  I guess it is good
                  >> publicity in the long run.
                  >> > Too bad Sadam got in the way of it being on Time's
                  >> cover, but such
                  >> is
                  >> > the way of the world.
                  >> >
                  >> > Regards
                  >> > --
                  >> > Mike Leavitt  ac998@l...
                  >>
                  >>
                  >> Hmmmm, y'know, Mike, I hope you enjoy having the hard
                  >> copy, but I
                  >> just figured out (I think) a link to the full article
                  >> (which possibly
                  >> may be temporary anyway) ~
                  >>
                  >> http://www.time.com/time/covers/1101031222/story.html
                  >>
                  >>
                  >> Cari

                  I sent this link to a friend, it may save him having to buy the
                  magazine, thanks.

                  > Hey folks,
                  >
                  > Last night on NPR's Fresh Air, Bart Ehrman (mentioned in
                  > the Time article above) discussed his book 'Lost
                  > Christianities'. I'll listen to the interview today but I
                  > read the section of his book that covered the Gnostics and
                  > his presentation was very positive. When he discussed the
                  > Gospel of Truth for instance, he described it as a writing
                  > that expressed nothing less than sheer joyful abandon.
                  >
                  > You can listen at the following link:
                  >
                  > http://freshair.npr.org
                  >
                  > Go to the archive section for last night's broadcast.
                  >
                  > Peace
                  >
                  > Rodney

                  I sent this one too, he may well be interested in it. Thank you too.

                  Regards
                  --
                  Mike Leavitt ac998@...
                • Gerry
                  ... our discussions recently, there are many more scholars and students of historical Christianity who do not share the desire to be objective.
                  Message 8 of 20 , Dec 24, 2003
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                    Reply to Cari's message #8878:

                    --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, lady_caritas <no_reply@y...> wrote:

                    >>In fact, although scholarly names like Pagels and Ehrman have

                    graced
                    our discussions recently, there are many more scholars and students
                    of historical Christianity who do not share the desire to be
                    objective.<<

                     

                    Even among the scholarly, I think we run the risk of finding excessive objectivity, i.e., an author trying to offer a wide spectrum of "unbiased" historical interpretations as a means of covering one’s bases with the broadest possible readership. While such an approach may be laudable in trying not to offend any particular segment of society, it seems that an author must have feelings one way or another, even if deep down, and such catering to virtually everyone is in some ways a sellout of his own views. Of course, as someone highly opinionated, maybe that’s just a reflection of my own inability to grasp the objective perspective.

                    For instance, in his book Lost Scriptures, Bart Ehrman offers an introduction to the Gospel of Thomas which offers several paragraphs dealing with the relevance of the logia in a Gnostic interpretation. He closes, however, by noting discrepancies in the dating of the scroll:

                    >>Thus, while some of these sayings may be quite old——may, in fact, go

                    back to Jesus himself——the document as a whole probably came to be written sometime arfter the New Testament Gospels . . . .<< (pg. 20)

                    While that, in itself, may not look like a vast accommodation of mainstream interpretation, there are other comments that might corroborate a fundamentalist’s view that the Nag Hammadi discoveries lack validity simply because they were not part of the New Testament canon. I guess what made me first take notice was what I perceived to be a carelessly oversimplified definition in the introduction of Ehrman’s book:

                    >>These beliefs, and the group who promoted them, came to be thought of

                    as "orthodox" (literally meaning, "the right belief"), and alternative views——such as the view that there are two gods, or that the true God did not create the world, or that Jesus was not actually human or not actually divine, etc.——came to be labeled "heresy" (=false belief) and were then ruled out of court.<< (pg. 2)

                    "False" belief? I mean, that’s a very poor way to describe freely chosen beliefs. Even compared to the orthodox path, one could argue that their opponents indeed held some of these views, so how could they be false? In my mind, this serves to promote the my-God-is-right attitude of most people today. I can’t even tell you how much it made me cringe to hear a Baptist friend discuss a sermon she heard one other Christmas when she had gone back home to the church where she was raised. The pastor pointed out the evils of what "Buddha, Mohammed, and all them other devils" had taught [sic]. What’s particularly sad was that this girl wasn’t relaying the story as if informing me of her backwards roots——she actually bought it——hook, line and sinker.

                    Anyway, while I realize the respect Ehrman has, and how widely read his many books are, I feel that I’m not getting a complete picture of the man by simply appreciating that he’s written on non-canonical scriptures and the varying views held by early Christians. There’s another book that really gives me pause with regards to viewing him as some kind of proponent of Gnosticism. The publisher of Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium offers this in the description of the book:

                    >>Through a careful evaluation of the New Testament Gospels and
                    other surviving sources, including the more recently discovered Gospels of Thomas and Peter, Ehrman proposes that Jesus can be best understood as an apocalyptic prophet, a man convinced that the world would end dramatically within his lifetime, and that a new kingdom would be created on earth——a just and peaceful kingdom ruled by a benevolent God.<<
                    ——Oxford University Press

                    Earthly kingdom? Benevolent God? I just don’t see the far-removed notion of Infiniteness that I would associate with something Gnostic. We’ll see. I hope to get to meet the professor at a seminar on the NHL in February, and maybe that which has thus far remained hidden to me (regarding his views) will be disclosed.  Of course, realizing how slippery some of the educators at my alma mater can be when it comes to divulging personal, heartfelt opinions, I'm not holding on to unrealistic expectations.  Should be fun, nonetheless.

                    BTW, back to the discussion of Lost Gospels dipping into the mainstream media, I notice that the History Channel will be airing a program on the subject——I believe it is called Banned from the Bible and is scheduled for Thursday night (9pm EST).

                    Happy Holidays, everyone.

                    Gerry

                     

                  • lady_caritas
                    ... graced ... excessive objectivity, i.e., an author trying to offer a wide spectrum of unbiased historical interpretations as a means of covering one s
                    Message 9 of 20 , Dec 29, 2003
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                      --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, "Gerry" <gerryhsp@y...> wrote:
                      > Reply to Cari's message #8878:
                      >
                      > --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, lady_caritas <no_reply@y...>
                      wrote:
                      >
                      > >>In fact, although scholarly names like Pagels and Ehrman have
                      graced
                      > our discussions recently, there are many more scholars and students
                      > of historical Christianity who do not share the desire to be
                      > objective.<<
                      >
                      >
                      >
                      > Even among the scholarly, I think we run the risk of finding
                      excessive objectivity, i.e., an author trying to offer a wide
                      spectrum of "unbiased" historical interpretations as a means of
                      covering one's bases with the broadest possible readership. While
                      such an approach may be laudable in trying not to offend any
                      particular segment of society, it seems that an author must have
                      feelings one way or another, even if deep down, and such catering to
                      virtually everyone is in some ways a sellout of his own views. Of
                      course, as someone highly opinionated, maybe that's just a reflection
                      of my own inability to grasp the objective perspective.
                      >


                      Realistically, Gerry, there is most likely subjectivity, even if
                      unconscious, involved in most any interpretation. I suppose the
                      operative word I used was "desire" (to be objective). On the other
                      hand, Dr. Horton, who I mentioned, was obviously intentionally
                      writing a polemical piece.

                      But you do make some interesting points concerning Bart Ehrman. I
                      would wonder whether a simple addition like "according to orthodoxy"
                      would clarify heresy being equated with "false" belief instead of
                      freely chosen belief. Please let us know your impressions from the
                      upcoming seminar, Ger.

                      Interestingly in contrast, Elaine Pagels, to whom I also referred,
                      described heresy as "choice" in a recent interview with Mary Alice
                      Williams:
                      http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/week706/interview1.html

                      The following comments during the interview, however, elicited a
                      mixed reaction from me:

                      "I'm trying not to use polemical language. After I wrote THE GNOSTIC
                      GOSPELS, I realized that the perspective was particularly Protestant.
                      It was rooting for the underdog -- in this case the heretics --
                      against the authorities in the church and the bishops and the
                      hierarchy. Now I realize that's a little oversimplified. To write
                      history well, one has to be on both sides of a controversy. You could
                      write the history of the Civil War, but if you're only on one side,
                      it's not going to be a very powerful story. In this work, I'm really
                      trying to engage the controversy as fully as I can."

                      Here we see Pagels trying to be critically objective about her
                      writing. And, in _Beyond Belief_ she does attempt to offer a
                      balanced presentation. Yet--and here, Gerry, I probably will
                      sound "highly opinionated"--I have difficulty with a couple analogies
                      in the comments above. First, realizing she was coming from a
                      Protestant perspective when writing _The Gnostic Gospels_, rooting
                      for the underdog, the "heretics," may be even more oversimplified
                      than she realizes. I understand her sentiment, but Protestants,
                      although considered intransigents by church authorities, were still
                      within an orthodox Christian fold. Gnostics were not, as much as
                      Ebionites, followers of Marcion (with his two gods) and other
                      heretics were not orthodox or rather proto-orthodox. "Heretics" now
                      and back then encompass(ed) a wide range of possibilities, quite
                      frankly, some I would have difficulty rooting for.

                      Secondly, regarding her analogy about the Civil War -- Are there only
                      two sides? IOW, are we again seeing a predilection for what you
                      labeled "a vast accommodation of mainstream interpretation" in terms
                      of orthodoxy or proto-orthodoxy vs. everyone else? History is told
                      in terms of the "victors"? Would Gnostics ultimately even place as
                      much stock in divisive earthly political intrigue or power?

                      Elaine Pagels also seems to be defining "beyond belief" as tradition
                      encompassing more than belief, i.e. "There's worship, there is
                      community, there are shared values, there's spiritual discovery."

                      In another interview in _U.S. Catholic_, she seems to be describing a
                      more liberal existing tradition (faith, anthropomorphic God):
                      http://www.uscatholic.org/2003/09/featb0309.htm

                      "I'm trying to say there are things beyond belief. Being a Christian
                      involves a lot more than just an intellectual exercise of agreeing to
                      a set of propositions.

                      Faith is a matter of committing yourself to what you love, what you
                      hope. It's the story of Jesus, which is a story of divinely given
                      hope after complete despair. It's a set of shared values by a
                      community who believes that God loves the human race and wants us to
                      love one another. There's common worship, and there is Baptism and
                      Communion.

                      Much of this is very mysterious. It's much deeper than a set of
                      beliefs to which we simply say yes or no."

                      Now, in all fairness, was she simply using wording that would relate
                      to a Catholic audience? If so, I nevertheless do not even see her
                      endorsing heterodoxy, let alone Gnosticism, in this article. Now, I
                      have no problem with this. Actually promoting Gnosticism
                      specifically may not be her intention. And, I do appreciate Elaine
                      Pagels' and others' scholarly work to correct misinformation about
                      early Christianity.

                      I *do* have difficulty however with others who would use Gnostic
                      scripture in an eclectic manner to inform or enhance an orthodox
                      tradition, in essence making a bigger, grander, all-inclusive
                      tradition of "faith" without considering basic, very significant
                      underlying differences such as mythological/meaning vs.
                      historical/moral approach, soteriological function and concepts
                      of "God."

                      I don't view these differences as being reconcilable or even two
                      sides of the same coin or common Civil War. Now, we certainly have
                      seen, in the case of the Valentinians, psychic and pneumatic
                      approaches existing within the same church. However, I see Gnostics
                      describing an experience that truly goes beyond belief, not one that
                      merely changes the timbre of a faith tradition.

                      I wonder if some scholars agree.


                      Cari
                    • Gerry
                      ... unconscious, involved in most any interpretation. I suppose the operative word I used was desire (to be objective). On the other hand, Dr. Horton, who I
                      Message 10 of 20 , Dec 30, 2003
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                        Reply to Cari’s message #8903:

                         

                        >>Realistically, Gerry, there is most likely subjectivity, even

                        if
                        unconscious, involved in most any interpretation. I suppose the
                        operative word I used was "desire" (to be objective). On the other
                        hand, Dr. Horton, who I mentioned, was obviously intentionally
                        writing a polemical piece.<<

                        Indeed, there is quite a difference between the aims of the authors you cited. While you focus on the scholarly "desire" to be objective, I suppose I was intimating that while they may have objective "intentions," oftentimes, even the best intentions will pave the way to someplace other than to an objective position.

                        Perhaps it’s just my pessimistic nature, but it seems that a historically unbiased coverage of a topic should have elements that would be more likely to offend (here and there) each of the parties involved, rather than attempting to placate all of them at once. I’m not sure if that makes sense in the way I’ve articulated it, but the "paving" notion above reminds me of an analogy.

                        Back in my college days, I very much appreciated the natural beauty of our campus—trees, grass, hills—it was gorgeous. Unlike some students, I was willing to go out of my way to the nearest brick walkway to avoid traipsing across the grass. Sure enough, though, barren paths of new shortcuts would soon appear, and eventually more bricks were laid to accommodate everyone’s route to class until it seemed as if the entire quad would soon be bricked in. Well, in their desire to please everyone, I was one of those left . . . displeased. Efforts initially begun to protect the grass ended up covering most of it. A significant degree of Nature’s life and beauty had been sucked out of the university’s surroundings, simply because we all don’t follow the same path, and somebody thought it best to cater to everybody.

                        In the future, perhaps they’ll consider barbed wire! Yes, that’s extreme, perhaps, but sometimes one shouldn’t shy away from a clear demarcation of boundaries. Such a strategy may not help scholars sell books, though, if they ultimately appeal to no one (or just a few), so we could still be left with a problem.

                        >>But you do make some interesting points concerning Bart Ehrman.

                        I
                        would wonder whether a simple addition like "according to orthodoxy"
                        would clarify heresy being equated with "false" belief instead of
                        freely chosen belief. Please let us know your impressions from the
                        upcoming seminar, Ger.<<

                        Such an inclusion as you suggest would have been a vast improvement, IMO. Dr. Ehrman obviously has a keen grasp of the material—demonstrating, for instance, the criteria which separate Gnostics not only from orthodoxy but from other groups among the heterodox, as well—but sometimes he takes care to point out the perspective from which he’s writing, and at other times, his style is more reckless. In his book, After the New Testament, he defines "orthodox" in the general introduction, but while also using terms there like "heterodox" and "heretics," these aren’t clarified until several chapters into the text. That’s especially odd since the ungainly term "heresiologists" is also explained in the introduction, but by neglecting to elaborate on "heresy" itself, readers who may be newcomers to the subject may be left to conclude that every reference to these dissenting groups carries the popular implication that the adherents believed "incorrectly," even "wickedly."

                        Yet another example from the same book comes in the introduction when Ehrman describes the chapter on the development of church offices. Each chapter gets a one-paragraph overview, but while he presents a clearly "historical" perspective in some of these, this particular instance really caught my attention:

                        Just as the canon of Scripture came to be discussed and, eventually, settled in order to help define and shape the nature of "orthodox" Christianity, so too there was a movement to solidify and structure the organization of the church, in part to prevent "heretics" from acquiring any kind of foothold within it. Early in the second century, there were calls for a rigid church structure that could bring order out of chaos in the early Christian communities and so guarantee the preservation and perpetuation of the true religion . . . . [emphasis added] (pg. 5)

                        By using certain labels within quotation marks, the author appears to be speaking from a historical perspective, but he would have better maintained that position if he had similarly treated the phrase "true religion." If I were truly suspicious of him, I might add that he perhaps has a penchant for the conventional Christian view, but again, this is not what comes across in the gist of his writing.

                        In another book, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, Ehrman shows how Scripture was manipulated to more concretely represent the manner in which the orthodox already interpreted the sacredly held writings. Now, this may be a really sad example, Cari, but I’m curious to see if this comment strikes you the same way:

                        My thesis can be stated simply: scribes occasionally altered the words of their sacred texts to make them more patently orthodox and to prevent their misuse by Christians who espoused aberrant views. (pg. xi)

                        Okay, I’m probably quibbling on this one, but "aberrant" just seemed a bit harsh. LOL Oddly enough, in the most recently published of his books cited thus far, the author deftly addresses my miniscule concern in his introduction to Lost Scriptures:

                        Historians today realize that it is over-simplified to say that these alternative theologies are aberrations because they are not represented in the New Testament. For the New Testament itself is the collection of books that emerged from the conflict, the group of books advocated by the side of the disputes that eventually established itself as dominant and handed the books down to posterity as "the" Christian Scriptures. [emphasis Ehrman’s] (pg. 2)

                        I’ll probably have a reply to your observations about Pagels, but I’ll have to tackle that in a separate post.

                        Gerry

                         

                      • lady_caritas
                        ... general introduction, but while also using terms there like heterodox and heretics, these aren t clarified until several chapters into the text. That s
                        Message 11 of 20 , Jan 2, 2004
                        • 0 Attachment
                          --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, "Gerry" <gerryhsp@y...> wrote:
                          >
                          > In his book, After the New Testament, he defines "orthodox" in the
                          general introduction, but while also using terms there
                          like "heterodox" and "heretics," these aren't clarified until several
                          chapters into the text. That's especially odd since the ungainly
                          term "heresiologists" is also explained in the introduction, but by
                          neglecting to elaborate on "heresy" itself, readers who may be
                          newcomers to the subject may be left to conclude that every reference
                          to these dissenting groups carries the popular implication that the
                          adherents believed "incorrectly," even "wickedly."
                          >
                          > Yet another example from the same book comes in the introduction
                          when Ehrman describes the chapter on the development of church
                          offices. Each chapter gets a one-paragraph overview, but while he
                          presents a clearly "historical" perspective in some of these, this
                          particular instance really caught my attention:
                          >
                          > Just as the canon of Scripture came to be discussed and,
                          eventually, settled in order to help define and shape the nature
                          of "orthodox" Christianity, so too there was a movement to solidify
                          and structure the organization of the church, in part to
                          prevent "heretics" from acquiring any kind of foothold within it.
                          Early in the second century, there were calls for a rigid church
                          structure that could bring order out of chaos in the early Christian
                          communities and so guarantee the preservation and perpetuation of the
                          true religion . . . . [emphasis added] (pg. 5)
                          >
                          > By using certain labels within quotation marks, the author appears
                          to be speaking from a historical perspective, but he would have
                          better maintained that position if he had similarly treated the
                          phrase "true religion." If I were truly suspicious of him, I might
                          add that he perhaps has a penchant for the conventional Christian
                          view, but again, this is not what comes across in the gist of his
                          writing.
                          >
                          > In another book, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, Ehrman shows
                          how Scripture was manipulated to more concretely represent the manner
                          in which the orthodox already interpreted the sacredly held writings.
                          Now, this may be a really sad example, Cari, but I'm curious to see
                          if this comment strikes you the same way:
                          >
                          > My thesis can be stated simply: scribes occasionally altered the
                          words of their sacred texts to make them more patently orthodox and
                          to prevent their misuse by Christians who espoused aberrant views.
                          (pg. xi)
                          >
                          > Okay, I'm probably quibbling on this one, but "aberrant" just
                          seemed a bit harsh. LOL Oddly enough, in the most recently published
                          of his books cited thus far, the author deftly addresses my miniscule
                          concern in his introduction to Lost Scriptures:
                          >
                          > Historians today realize that it is over-simplified to say that
                          these alternative theologies are aberrations because they are not
                          represented in the New Testament. For the New Testament itself is the
                          collection of books that emerged from the conflict, the group of
                          books advocated by the side of the disputes that eventually
                          established itself as dominant and handed the books down to posterity
                          as "the" Christian Scriptures. [emphasis Ehrman's] (pg. 2)
                          >>



                          Gerry, you're probably asking the wrong person because I can remember
                          a few incidents when I was very young that make me twinge when
                          hearing terms like the "true religion" and "aberrant."

                          Now, surely, my playmate down the street wouldn't have known a term
                          like "aberrant" at her young age, but she certainly didn't mince her
                          words when indicating she nonetheless had a clear idea of the meaning
                          behind this term. I wasn't a member of her "true religion" and since
                          I also didn't know the catechism, I was going to hell, you see.
                          Yes, those were her words. I was truly straying from what she had
                          been taught was the "true" path.

                          And, I've been doing my darnedest to keep straying from such mean-
                          spirited opinions ever since... ;-)

                          It's very possible that Dr. Ehrman was speaking only contextually
                          from what would be an orthodox viewpoint in particular instances, but
                          it would be helpful to clarify this to avoid confusion. Since we see
                          him later addressing this particular word, "aberrant," perhaps
                          someone did bring this to his attention or perhaps he even caught
                          this himself. Nonetheless, in the same work _Lost Scriptures_, you
                          mentioned earlier that he equated "heresy" with "false belief."
                          Hopefully, in the future he'll continue to shed light on the context
                          of a few questionable terms.

                          On the whole though, you seem to *not* find his writing showing
                          a "penchant for the conventional Christian view." I'll be interested
                          to see what your impressions are when you have a chance to hear Dr.
                          Ehrman in person at the upcoming seminar.


                          Cari
                        • Gerry
                          ... GNOSTIC ... Protestant. ... could ... really ... analogies ... now ... only ... terms ... There definitely seems to be a propensity for confusion when
                          Message 12 of 20 , Jan 7, 2004
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                            --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, lady_caritas <no_reply@y...>
                            wrote:
                            > [....]
                            > Interestingly in contrast, Elaine Pagels, to whom I also referred,
                            > described heresy as "choice" in a recent interview with Mary Alice
                            > Williams:
                            > http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/week706/interview1.html
                            >
                            > The following comments during the interview, however, elicited a
                            > mixed reaction from me:
                            >
                            > "I'm trying not to use polemical language. After I wrote THE
                            GNOSTIC
                            > GOSPELS, I realized that the perspective was particularly
                            Protestant.
                            > It was rooting for the underdog -- in this case the heretics --
                            > against the authorities in the church and the bishops and the
                            > hierarchy. Now I realize that's a little oversimplified. To write
                            > history well, one has to be on both sides of a controversy. You
                            could
                            > write the history of the Civil War, but if you're only on one side,
                            > it's not going to be a very powerful story. In this work, I'm
                            really
                            > trying to engage the controversy as fully as I can."
                            >
                            > Here we see Pagels trying to be critically objective about her
                            > writing. And, in _Beyond Belief_ she does attempt to offer a
                            > balanced presentation. Yet--and here, Gerry, I probably will
                            > sound "highly opinionated"--I have difficulty with a couple
                            analogies
                            > in the comments above. First, realizing she was coming from a
                            > Protestant perspective when writing _The Gnostic Gospels_, rooting
                            > for the underdog, the "heretics," may be even more oversimplified
                            > than she realizes. I understand her sentiment, but Protestants,
                            > although considered intransigents by church authorities, were still
                            > within an orthodox Christian fold. Gnostics were not, as much as
                            > Ebionites, followers of Marcion (with his two gods) and other
                            > heretics were not orthodox or rather proto-orthodox. "Heretics"
                            now
                            > and back then encompass(ed) a wide range of possibilities, quite
                            > frankly, some I would have difficulty rooting for.
                            >
                            > Secondly, regarding her analogy about the Civil War -- Are there
                            only
                            > two sides? IOW, are we again seeing a predilection for what you
                            > labeled "a vast accommodation of mainstream interpretation" in
                            terms
                            > of orthodoxy or proto-orthodoxy vs. everyone else? History is told
                            > in terms of the "victors"? Would Gnostics ultimately even place as
                            > much stock in divisive earthly political intrigue or power?



                            There definitely seems to be a propensity for confusion when authors
                            go out of their way to appear unbiased with regards to all of these
                            historical groups. Odd phraseology and overly simplified analogies
                            aside, just look at the question posed by Mary Alice Williams that
                            prompted the response by Pagels (quoted above):

                            Q: You try very hard not to personalize any of this and not to use
                            words like "suppress."

                            To be fair, Pagels did use the word in an earlier response, but the
                            host was far quicker to throw the term out there——on several
                            occasions. Indeed, the author tried to stay away from polemical
                            language, but does that mean that the facts don't already offer their
                            own damning testimony as to what actually transpired? She might have
                            cited any number of early Church fathers, or even the edicts of
                            Constantine himself, to demonstrate the extent to which people were
                            vilified when they resorted to scriptures outside of the canon
                            advocated by Athanasius, whose effort to cleanse the clerical
                            libraries of heretical influence was cited in the interview. In
                            light of that corroborative evidence, I fail to see why a historian
                            would shy away from a word like "suppress." While not in itself as
                            guilty as some revisionist histories, the avoidance of such a word
                            still gives the appearance of whitewashing recorded accounts, as if
                            to indicate to some that the persecution of Gnostics never happened.

                            The inevitable corruption of politics is bad enough in its own arena,
                            but when an author must temper his own writing so as not to offend a
                            large section of his would-be readership by simply stating the
                            obvious, then I begin to lose hope. As I alluded to in an earlier
                            post, when the attempt to write in a manner that appears "unbiased"
                            results in little more than a happy and harmonious history wherein
                            all parties are portrayed favorably and none did wrong, it makes me
                            wish that the author had simply chosen sides from the beginning and
                            simply disregarded the pretense of objectivity. Perhaps it's just a
                            necessary evil for historians of any age to contend with.



                            > Elaine Pagels also seems to be defining "beyond belief" as
                            tradition
                            > encompassing more than belief, i.e. "There's worship, there is
                            > community, there are shared values, there's spiritual discovery."
                            >
                            > In another interview in _U.S. Catholic_, she seems to be describing
                            a
                            > more liberal existing tradition (faith, anthropomorphic God):
                            > http://www.uscatholic.org/2003/09/featb0309.htm
                            >
                            > "I'm trying to say there are things beyond belief. Being a
                            Christian
                            > involves a lot more than just an intellectual exercise of agreeing
                            to
                            > a set of propositions.
                            >
                            > Faith is a matter of committing yourself to what you love, what you
                            > hope. It's the story of Jesus, which is a story of divinely given
                            > hope after complete despair. It's a set of shared values by a
                            > community who believes that God loves the human race and wants us
                            to
                            > love one another. There's common worship, and there is Baptism and
                            > Communion.
                            >
                            > Much of this is very mysterious. It's much deeper than a set of
                            > beliefs to which we simply say yes or no."
                            >
                            > Now, in all fairness, was she simply using wording that would
                            relate
                            > to a Catholic audience? If so, I nevertheless do not even see her
                            > endorsing heterodoxy, let alone Gnosticism, in this article. Now,
                            I
                            > have no problem with this. Actually promoting Gnosticism
                            > specifically may not be her intention. And, I do appreciate Elaine
                            > Pagels' and others' scholarly work to correct misinformation about
                            > early Christianity.
                            >
                            > I *do* have difficulty however with others who would use Gnostic
                            > scripture in an eclectic manner to inform or enhance an orthodox
                            > tradition, in essence making a bigger, grander, all-inclusive
                            > tradition of "faith" without considering basic, very significant
                            > underlying differences such as mythological/meaning vs.
                            > historical/moral approach, soteriological function and concepts
                            > of "God."


                            Despite your (our) appreciation for scholarly endeavors to address
                            the misinformation out there, it is becoming increasingly clearer
                            that such efforts may be futile. A pneumatic understanding isn't
                            gained simply because a psychic wills it so. I'm skeptical that any
                            amount of historical elucidation can play a role in such a personal
                            change in perception.


                            > I don't view these differences as being reconcilable or even two
                            > sides of the same coin or common Civil War. Now, we certainly have
                            > seen, in the case of the Valentinians, psychic and pneumatic
                            > approaches existing within the same church. However, I see
                            Gnostics
                            > describing an experience that truly goes beyond belief, not one
                            that
                            > merely changes the timbre of a faith tradition.
                            >
                            > I wonder if some scholars agree.
                            >
                            >
                            > Cari


                            Perhaps Pagels *was* simply relating to the target audience in
                            her "U.S. Catholic" interview quoted above. It's interesting,
                            though, that she begins that passage explaining that there is more to
                            Christianity than simply swallowing dogma——that "there are things
                            beyond belief," and then begins her elaboration in the following
                            paragraph, "Faith is a matter of . . . ."

                            As I think you're suggesting, every element Pagels proceeds to cite
                            at that point can already be found in virtually any example of
                            mainstream Christian faith. Well, that works just fine for the
                            interview, but to do her own book justice, she would have been better
                            off describing as you did——that for many, venturing beyond belief is
                            not merely a step, but a leap beyond when compared with their
                            previous position grounded in a "faith tradition."

                            Gerry
                          • Gerry
                            ... remember ... her ... meaning ... since ... And somehow, just when we think we re free from them, they manage to track us down for a little renewed torment.
                            Message 13 of 20 , Jan 7, 2004
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                              --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, lady_caritas <no_reply@y...>
                              wrote:
                              >
                              > Gerry, you're probably asking the wrong person because I can
                              remember
                              > a few incidents when I was very young that make me twinge when
                              > hearing terms like the "true religion" and "aberrant."
                              >
                              > Now, surely, my playmate down the street wouldn't have known a term
                              > like "aberrant" at her young age, but she certainly didn't mince
                              her
                              > words when indicating she nonetheless had a clear idea of the
                              meaning
                              > behind this term. I wasn't a member of her "true religion" and
                              since
                              > I also didn't know the catechism, I was going to hell, you see.
                              > Yes, those were her words. I was truly straying from what she had
                              > been taught was the "true" path.
                              >
                              > And, I've been doing my darnedest to keep straying from such mean-
                              > spirited opinions ever since... ;-)


                              And somehow, just when we think we're free from them, they manage to
                              track us down for a little renewed torment. Yeah, it's a bitch,
                              alright.

                              Your story reminds me of something that happened at work a few years
                              ago. A sixteen-year-old girl who was working with us that summer
                              told a young friend of mine that he was going to hell because he
                              didn't go to church anymore. Geez, the fresh mouths of youngsters
                              today! Anyway, after Ben (only 3½ years her senior) got over his
                              initial mortification, I further consoled him by pointing out that
                              the girl's father, who manages to find other things to do on a
                              Sunday, has been told the same thing by his daughter. I suppose one
                              has to admire that nepotism doesn't get in the way of her being an
                              equal-opportunity offender. ;-)



                              > It's very possible that Dr. Ehrman was speaking only contextually
                              > from what would be an orthodox viewpoint in particular instances,
                              but
                              > it would be helpful to clarify this to avoid confusion. Since we
                              see
                              > him later addressing this particular word, "aberrant," perhaps
                              > someone did bring this to his attention or perhaps he even caught
                              > this himself. Nonetheless, in the same work _Lost Scriptures_, you
                              > mentioned earlier that he equated "heresy" with "false belief."
                              > Hopefully, in the future he'll continue to shed light on the
                              context
                              > of a few questionable terms.
                              >
                              > On the whole though, you seem to *not* find his writing showing
                              > a "penchant for the conventional Christian view." I'll be
                              interested
                              > to see what your impressions are when you have a chance to hear Dr.
                              > Ehrman in person at the upcoming seminar.
                              >
                              >
                              > Cari



                              Not only "possible," but I'd say that Ehrman was most definitely
                              speaking "contextually" in the above example. It was merely the
                              wording of that "context" that I found to be occasionally awkward,
                              and potentially misleading.

                              Gerry
                            • Gerry
                              ... http://freshair.npr.org/day_fa.jhtml?display=day&todayDate=12/17/2003 ... [*note: link revised to expedite location of audio file] Hey Rodney. I dug this
                              Message 14 of 20 , Mar 4, 2004
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                                --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, "Rodney Cecil" <wvdog61@7...>
                                wrote:
                                >
                                >
                                > Hey folks,
                                >
                                > Last night on NPR's Fresh Air, Bart Ehrman (mentioned in
                                > the Time article above) discussed his book 'Lost
                                > Christianities'. I'll listen to the interview today but I
                                > read the section of his book that covered the Gnostics and
                                > his presentation was very positive. When he discussed the
                                > Gospel of Truth for instance, he described it as a writing
                                > that expressed nothing less than sheer joyful abandon.
                                >
                                > You can listen at the following link:
                                >
                                http://freshair.npr.org/day_fa.jhtml?display=day&todayDate=12/17/2003
                                >
                                > Go to the archive section for last night's broadcast.*
                                >
                                > Peace
                                >
                                > Rodney

                                [*note: link revised to expedite location of audio file]




                                Hey Rodney.

                                I dug this post up from the December archives. Your description of
                                Bart Ehrman's views on the Gospel of Truth had stuck with me,
                                certainly during the discussions here of some of his books and
                                interviews, and even during my trip to hear him speak last month.
                                Along with what I consider to be inconsistencies in his writing, and
                                descriptions of another book of his which I have not yet read, I'm
                                finally seeing why I've been so puzzled in trying to determine where
                                the professor actually stands with regards to Gnosticism.

                                Concerning the Gospel of Truth, I should start by pointing out that
                                your comments above are sort of a paraphrase of Ehrman's paraphrase
                                of the original author of the text, and one should not assume
                                that "sheer joyful abandon" is any reflection of his personal
                                feelings toward this work in particular, or that such apparent
                                jubilation would accurately characterize his assessment of Gnostic
                                works in general:

                                "These opening lines put the lie to those who may think of Gnosticism
                                as some kind of dour, intellectualizing, morally dubious kind of
                                religion, for here the joy of salvation is celebrated with
                                abandon . . . ." (_Lost Christianities_, pg. 127)

                                He's merely reporting on the tone of the original text, as can be
                                seen by looking at the first few lines of the actual Gospel. While
                                he occasionally seems to get carried away as he discusses either the
                                importance or content of a given find that sheds further light on
                                Early Christianity (as one might expect of any scholar passionate
                                about his field of study), his actual connection to those texts
                                impresses me as almost purely academic.

                                This isn't to say that Ehrman doesn't know what he's talking about.
                                Technically speaking, I've said before that he seems to have a firm
                                grasp of those criteria which are used to define the category of
                                Gnosticism, and he clearly recognizes difficulties encountered by
                                scholars and laity alike in classifying certain groups according to
                                whatever simplified definition we choose to use. Also, like you
                                observed, I feel that most of his descriptions of this subject are
                                very positive, but for me, there has always been some nagging
                                suspicion that it is simply not something with which he personally
                                relates.

                                As I commented to Betty previously, the seminar was called "The Dead
                                Sea Scrolls and the Nag Hammadi Manuscripts." Regardless of how much
                                we may enjoy the Gospel of Thomas, it seems foolish to let that *one*
                                text represent the entire NHL. The only other scripture covered was
                                The Gospel of Peter, which, of course, is not even part of that
                                collection. Very odd, indeed. Still, inasmuch as it's relevant to
                                the variety of thought present at the time of nascent Christianity, I
                                may take a moment to mention Peter:

                                http://www.gnosis.org/library/gospete.htm

                                Just as M.R. James notes in the introduction to that translation,
                                Ehrman observes two things about the Gospel of Peter: one can find a
                                brief indication that there may be a docetic portrayal of Jesus; and
                                the account may be seen as having an anti-Jewish bias. As for that
                                second part, there is no doubt that numerous factions were vying for
                                supporters in the first centuries of the common era. An anti-
                                Christian bent can be found from that period in one of the
                                benedictions recited in the Jewish "Amidah." Actually more of a
                                malediction, the section of that prayer known as "haMinim" (the
                                heretics) in the version from the Cairo Genizah is very clearly
                                worded against the Christian sectarians. Certainly by the Middle
                                Ages, that wording was revised and softened considerably to simply
                                denounce the actions of "slanderers," and from what I've read, some
                                Jews leave it out altogether today.

                                Anyway, as James notes in the translation linked above, this bias is
                                accompanied by a "whitewashing" of Pilate. Ehrman usually seems to
                                leave that part out when he writes about this gospel, but he gave it
                                considerable address in person . . . well, he did after being
                                questioned about it, anyhow. LOL The elderly lady seated directly
                                in front of me was trying to articulate the point that as anti-Jewish
                                rhetoric increased, wasn't it connected to something else? I think
                                she was trying to bring up the political power struggle, and as Prof.
                                Ehrman kept trying to coax the end of the question out of her, I
                                finally whispered to her, "pro- . . . Roman." Well, that seemed to
                                work, and he acknowledged at length that it's quite interesting to
                                observe how as scriptures gradually became increasingly anti-Jewish,
                                Rome was conversely depicted (not surprisingly) in a more and more
                                favorable light.

                                Back to the Gospel of Thomas . . . some things that the speaker
                                pointed out really impressed me, mostly because I was anticipating
                                having to make an argument for GTh actually *having* Gnostic
                                relevance. In the same book, though, Ehrman actually heads off that
                                argument by admitting that some scholars have been quick to make the
                                claim that this gospel lacks references to specifically Gnostic
                                concepts, but he contends that while it does not elaborate on those
                                concepts explicitly, the collection nonetheless "presupposes" an
                                understanding of Gnosticism. He likens it to looking in the sports
                                page for highlights of a baseball game. For an avid fan to properly
                                understand the report, the article need not go into detail regarding
                                the evolution of the game or how it is played, whereas someone
                                unfamiliar with the sport would be unable to make much sense of what
                                he was reading without access to that unwritten, background material.

                                Ehrman also mentions in his book how the discovery of GTh supported
                                the theoretical Q gospel. Many of those who had previously argued
                                against the existence of such a source did so on the grounds that
                                they couldn't imagine a gospel that would consist solely of the
                                teachings of Jesus, and would also fail to include accounts of his
                                crucifixion and resurrection. And yet, Thomas provides clear
                                evidence that such scripture could indeed exist. He has further
                                elaborated that as some of the sayings in GTh are shorter
                                and "pithier" than their canonical counterparts, it would not be out
                                of the question to assume that their brevity may indicate older, more
                                authentic versions——free from the embellishments of later redactions.

                                In another part of the book, this text is depicted in a timeline as
                                a "Collection of 114 sayings of Jesus, some possibly authentic,
                                others embodying Gnostic concerns, discovered at Nag Hammadi (pg.
                                xii)." A Gnostic connection to *some* of the logia seems to be
                                almost an afterthought in that passage. Elsewhere in the book,
                                Ehrman points out, "This then is the Gospel of Thomas, a valuable
                                collection of 114 sayings of Jesus, many of which may reflect the
                                historical teachings of Jesus, but all of which appear to be framed
                                within the context of later Gnostic reflections on the salvation that
                                Jesus has brought (pg. 64)."

                                By this point, I was thoroughly confused as to what he was trying to
                                convey. In some spots, the Gospel was portrayed as needing to be
                                seen entirely within a Gnostic context, and in others, that
                                connection is substantially minimized. Other seemingly conventional
                                sayings are possibly more authentic than similar ones in the Bible,
                                but the more difficult logia are deemed subsequent interpretations by
                                the Gnostics, i.e., "inauthentic," based on the dissimilarity of
                                those passages to proto-orthodox theology. I was beginning to think
                                that this was just a hopelessly muddled basket of apples and oranges,
                                at least as far as *he* was attempting to explain it. And this was
                                only the beginning.

                                Arriving at the lecture hall, I finally recalled what else it was
                                that had been gnawing at the back of my mind regarding Bart Ehrman
                                and his view of the Gospel of Thomas. I felt sure that I had seen
                                comments somewhere that just didn't mesh with what I had been reading
                                in the several books I possessed. There it was, though, on the table
                                amid numerous other books for sale in the lobby: _Jesus: Apocalyptic
                                Prophet of the New Millennium_. As soon as I saw the title, I
                                immediately remembered having once read a blurb from his publisher
                                while ordering some books on-line:

                                "Through a careful evaluation of the New Testament Gospels and other
                                surviving sources, including the more recently discovered Gospels of
                                Thomas and Peter, Ehrman proposes that Jesus can be best understood
                                as an apocalyptic prophet, a man convinced that the world would end
                                dramatically within his lifetime, and that a new kingdom would be
                                created on earth - a just and peaceful kingdom ruled by a benevolent
                                God. . . ."
                                http://www.us.oup.com/us/catalog/general/subject/ReligionTheology/Hist
                                oryofChristianity/?view=usa&ci=0195124731

                                [BTW, this view probably best represents Ehrman's personal
                                understanding of Christianity.]

                                That was exactly what had been making me so
                                uncomfortable. "Benevolent" or not, the very notion of a personal
                                god setting up an earthly kingdom seemed to me to have very little to
                                do with Gnosticism. IMO, such a notion is even antithetical to the
                                content of the Gospel of Thomas. The fact that the author is alleged
                                to use the GTh to support such a theory struck me as utterly
                                incongruous with his assertion that the same scripture is best
                                understood in a Gnostic context. Even more to the point, he makes
                                the opposite claim, also in _Lost Christianities_, on page 64:

                                "In this Gospel it is not Jesus' death and resurrection that bring
                                salvation. In this Gospel there is no anticipation of a coming
                                Kingdom of God on earth."

                                Sweeeeeet Pleroma——talk about conflicting reports! And keep in mind,
                                this was all before the lectures had even started. ;-) Needless to
                                say, I wasn't holding out for much hope that it would turn into a
                                fruitful weekend.

                                Well, so much for pointing out what I found interesting, objective,
                                or even remotely sympathetic regarding a Gnostic viewpoint at this
                                event. By this point, I was definitely in a mood, and most
                                everything else I noticed simply contributed to the overall feeling
                                of being stuck in a hostile environment.

                                In the same book, Ehrman places GTh as one of four examples in a
                                section called, "PART ONE: Forgeries and Discoveries." Make no
                                mistake, it's not listed simply as one of the discoveries, but like
                                this, "The Discovery of an Ancient Forgery: The Coptic Gospel of
                                Thomas." I mean . . . just how many canonical scriptures does he
                                feel were actually composed and/or written by the authority cited by
                                the text? It just seems like he's grasping there, or do such
                                decisions in the writing of his book reveal an underlying mainstream
                                bias? This is definitely something we should ask ourselves when an
                                author's textbooks appear in countless classrooms and other books and
                                articles are referenced in the popular media.

                                That question of bias brings me right back to another point I've
                                raised with other books he's written. Once again, we encounter the
                                problem of definitions in the introduction to this book. It's really
                                one long sentence, so I'll give it all for context. He actually does
                                very well, objectively speaking, right up until the last bit of
                                elaboration:

                                >>And then, as a coup de grâce, this victorious party rewrote the
                                history of the controversy, making it appear that there had not been
                                much of a conflict at all, claiming that its own views had always
                                been those of the majority of Christians at all times, back to the
                                time of Jesus and his apostles, that its perspective, in effect, had
                                always been "orthodox" (i.e., the "right belief") and that its
                                opponents in the conflict, with their other scriptural texts, had
                                always represented small splinter groups invested in deceiving people
                                into "heresy" (literally meaning "choice"; a heretic is someone who
                                willfully chooses not to believe the right things).<< (pg. 4)

                                Once again, it's as if he's crossed the line between objective and
                                subjective explanation of the term. I mean . . . seriously . . . why
                                in the world would anyone "willfully choose" to believe something
                                *false*? Does that make any sense at all——other than from an
                                orthodox perspective? For the life of me, I cannot imagine why
                                someone would write such a thing, especially a scholar, and after
                                claiming to give the "literal" meaning of a word.

                                Then, there was the whole explanation of how the Syrian tradition
                                claimed that Didymos Judas Thomas was the twin brother of Jesus.
                                Well, in order to explain that away, Ehrman suggests that we should
                                look to precedence in Greek mythology to account for fraternal twins
                                in which one is immortal and the other mortal, such as Hercules and
                                his twin half-brother Iphicles. You don't say! Does anyone else
                                find it odd that in a scripture which we're supposed to view in a
                                Gnostic context, we're now asked to resort to mythology in order to
                                make sense of an assumption that's based on a literalist
                                interpretation? Are y'all feeling my pain yet? ;-)

                                Well, just imagine that going to hear a speaker whose motives I was
                                questioning by the minute was but a drop in the bucket. It can be
                                difficult enough living in a traditionally conservative state and
                                hoping to have an open dialogue about this subject at what is
                                supposed to be a liberal university. In reactionary times like
                                these, though, that ol' Bible Belt seems to tighten up a notch or
                                two. To give a brief idea of the other participants attending, here
                                is the first question to arise from the audience after Prof. Ehrman
                                had concluded his lecture on the Gospel of Thomas:

                                "Could you comment on the Council of Nicea and the concept of the
                                Trinity?"

                                I should have an "LOL" attached somewhere in relation to that, but
                                frankly, I'm still not amused by it. At the time that it was asked,
                                I was torn between chuckling out loud and releasing an audible
                                groan. The moderator in me wanted to stand up and ask the
                                gentleman, "What in the world does that have to do with what we've
                                just been listening to?" It was un-real, and sadly, somewhat typical
                                of the level of thought that didn't go into other questions posed.

                                The most productive question (considering we weren't going to learn
                                much about Gnosticism!) was raised near the end of the final
                                session. The man was probing (at length) into Ehrman's personal
                                background, citing the various seminaries and universities he had
                                attended and wondering how those differing persuasions had influenced
                                his religious views. I was certainly glad he asked. Anyway, it
                                yielded one of the speaker's most thoughtful replies. Ehrman said
                                that indeed, he had been raised in an evangelical fundamentalist
                                background. After that, he became a liberal Christian, and then a
                                liturgical Christian, and eventually what he described as an agnostic
                                Christian. He claimed that he wasn't able to reconcile the
                                disturbing reality of the world around him with what religion had
                                taught him. I found this to be particularly poignant.

                                Throughout the lecture, he had made comments when speaking of the
                                Gnostics that indicated to me that he had no feeling for what they
                                were about. He could summarize their feelings of alienation from the
                                Source, he related their concept of recognizing a flaw in the world
                                around them, he perfectly recounted a Valentinian outline of the
                                natures of Man, and he even explained theodicy from a Gnostic
                                perspective, but in all this, it was as if to imply that they must
                                have been weird to have viewed those things in such a way.

                                Given everything I had heard and read from him up to that point, and
                                especially after hearing how religion had failed to bring him the
                                answers he needed, all I could think was, "the Father's kingdom is
                                spread out upon the earth, and people don't see it."


                                Gerry
                              • wvdog61
                                Gerry, I would have responded earlier but my DSL connection was out for a couple days and I ve been playing catch-up since then. First of all, I want to say
                                Message 15 of 20 , Mar 7, 2004
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                                  Gerry,

                                  I would have responded earlier but my DSL connection was out for a
                                  couple days and I've been playing catch-up since then.

                                  First of all, I want to say that your post was very informative (as
                                  your posts always are) and that reading it was a true pleasure. I
                                  have to admit that a few months ago when I heard you talking about
                                  attending the seminar I was green with envy, but after your
                                  critique, I'm glad I didn't use any vaction days from my work or
                                  spend money for airfare.

                                  I saw Ehrman's book, 'Lost Christianities", at a Books-A-Million and
                                  read parts of it for about an hour. Later on I heard that interview
                                  on NPR. I've never thought that he was a gnostic himself (especially
                                  after his use of 'forgery' in LC), but felt that perhaps he was at
                                  least broad enough in his viewpoint to allow that early gnostic
                                  christians were as fully deserving the name as their catholic
                                  counterparts.

                                  I suppose that having found (or been found by?) something as
                                  transformative and powerful as Gnosis, and being enthusiastic about
                                  it, I'm happy to hear positive (or at least partly so) things said
                                  about it from various quarters.

                                  >Ehrman said
                                  >that indeed, he had been raised in an evangelical fundamentalist
                                  >background. After that, he became a liberal Christian, and then a
                                  >liturgical Christian, and eventually what he described as an
                                  >agnostic
                                  >Christian. He claimed that he wasn't able to reconcile the
                                  >disturbing reality of the world around him with what religion had
                                  >taught him. I found this to be particularly poignant.

                                  How sad. The vast highway of Belief->Agnosis->Unbelief is littered
                                  with such folks.

                                  >Given everything I had heard and read from him up to that point, and
                                  >especially after hearing how religion had failed to bring him the
                                  >answers he needed, all I could think was, "the Father's kingdom is
                                  >spread out upon the earth, and people don't see it."

                                  Gerry the fact that Professor Ehrman, like so many scholars, has in
                                  his hands, before his very eyes, the writings of GTh and so much
                                  else from the NHL, makes his lack of `sight' a bitter irony.

                                  From post #9263:

                                  >On the other hand, I can't imagine how any new discoveries would
                                  >unhinge my own beliefs. The religious "connection" I feel isn't tied
                                  >to dogma, or faith, or a personal savior alleged to have existed
                                  >exclusively in one form or another, if he existed at all.

                                  >Gerry

                                  For me that's the utter beauty of the Gnosis. While I do `believe'
                                  that there was a real person named Jesus who lived and died in
                                  ancient Palestine, if someone could prove conclusively that he never
                                  existed it would be of no consequence for having gnosis.

                                  Peace

                                  Rodney
                                • Gerry
                                  ... No problem, Rodney. I know how those things go. ... I m very pleased to know that my report of personal disappointment brings you some relief. LOL I
                                  Message 16 of 20 , Mar 7, 2004
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                                    --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, "wvdog61" <wvdog61@7...> wrote:
                                    > Gerry,
                                    >
                                    > I would have responded earlier but my DSL connection was out for a
                                    > couple days and I've been playing catch-up since then.



                                    No problem, Rodney. I know how those things go.



                                    > First of all, I want to say that your post was very informative (as
                                    > your posts always are) and that reading it was a true pleasure. I
                                    > have to admit that a few months ago when I heard you talking about
                                    > attending the seminar I was green with envy, but after your
                                    > critique, I'm glad I didn't use any vaction days from my work or
                                    > spend money for airfare.



                                    I'm very pleased to know that my report of personal disappointment
                                    brings you some relief. LOL I often questioned if it was worth the
                                    4-hour drive for me even, but in the end, I suppose it was a learning
                                    experience (even if it wasn't what I had hoped to learn), and who
                                    says that learning has to be enjoyable.

                                    The thing is, Rodney, that it would have been fun if we'd had the
                                    audience peppered with our membership. Just think how we could have
                                    monopolized the Q&A sessions! As it was, though, the Gnostic
                                    contingent was considerably outnumbered. If I were you, I'd hang on
                                    to those vacation days for when Mike brings us news of the next
                                    Gnosticon conference.



                                    > I saw Ehrman's book, 'Lost Christianities", at a Books-A-Million
                                    and
                                    > read parts of it for about an hour. Later on I heard that interview
                                    > on NPR. I've never thought that he was a gnostic himself
                                    (especially
                                    > after his use of 'forgery' in LC), but felt that perhaps he was at
                                    > least broad enough in his viewpoint to allow that early gnostic
                                    > christians were as fully deserving the name as their catholic
                                    > counterparts.



                                    At this point, I'm really not sure if it could possibly matter to him
                                    *who* calls himself a Christian. Ya know, maybe I was just trying to
                                    be optimistic (which is a stretch for me), but I went through
                                    numerous books of his over many days' time before it became obvious
                                    that the introductions to texts in his anthology were mostly synopses
                                    of the texts themselves, rather than any sort of critical analysis.
                                    If that was becoming clear to you after an hour in the bookstore, I
                                    need to listen better to that nagging intuition and quit pretending
                                    that everyone is as open-minded as I'd like to believe.



                                    > Gerry the fact that Professor Ehrman, like so many scholars, has in
                                    > his hands, before his very eyes, the writings of GTh and so much
                                    > else from the NHL, makes his lack of `sight' a bitter irony.



                                    My thoughts exactly! Maybe one day, these works will strike him in
                                    such a way that they will be free of the heretical stigma that must
                                    haunt him.



                                    > For me that's the utter beauty of the Gnosis. While I do `believe'
                                    > that there was a real person named Jesus who lived and died in
                                    > ancient Palestine, if someone could prove conclusively that he
                                    never
                                    > existed it would be of no consequence for having gnosis.
                                    >
                                    > Peace
                                    >
                                    > Rodney



                                    Otherwise, what's the point of gnosis, right?

                                    Gerry
                                  • mheinich
                                    Gerry, I realize this is johnny come lately to this message but I am relativily new here. I get the feeling from your post that you did not like the book or
                                    Message 17 of 20 , Apr 8, 2004
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                                      Gerry, I realize this is johnny come lately to this message but I am
                                      relativily new here. I get the feeling from your post that you did
                                      not like the book or Ehrman due to his lack of belief or sympathies
                                      in Gnostism and some of the inconsistencies that you mentioned in his
                                      book. If I summarized unjustly then I apologize.

                                      I found the book very informative and it made me take a closer look
                                      at the Gnostic Tradition. I had heard the term Gnostic before but
                                      was not familier with it. I am currently trying to reconcile
                                      questions that arise in me from reading the books in the NHL and the
                                      articles I see on gnosis.org. Specially since the books (and
                                      sometimes the articles :) ) are not consistent when you read
                                      one "book" after the other. That probably isn't the best way, but I
                                      am wandering off topic.

                                      I first heard about the books and Ehrman from the NPR interview. I
                                      was raised Lutheren but have not been active for awhile. I do enjoy
                                      reading and studing history. So the comments he had about the early
                                      christian church was fastinating to me. I went out and bought both
                                      of his "Lost" books. I enjoyed Lost Christianties and found it very
                                      informative from my point of reference which was not a Gnosticism
                                      point of reference. I found out things I never knew and it raised
                                      alot of questions about my beliefs and what they were based on.

                                      His writing was engaging and he was able to present a scholarly point
                                      of view quite clearly. Not all books on Religion or History are able
                                      to pull that trick off.

                                      As for the Forgery question that was brought up. At first this
                                      bothered me but after thinking about it, it made sense. He is not
                                      putting them down or insulting them. He is just stating that he
                                      and/or other scholars don't believe that the book was written by the
                                      person it is attributed to, that is by definition then a Forgery. It
                                      may have been written in their name for a number of good reasons and
                                      not necessarily criminal or fraudulent ones. Most of the books of
                                      the New Testament get the same charge leveled at them in the book
                                      except for some of the letters of Paul. I also found that there were
                                      transcribing errors over time along with intential changes to the
                                      books of the new testement to support some groups' or person's views
                                      very interesting as well.

                                      Anyway, I did not get as put off or bothered by his treatment of the
                                      various books but found it eye opening. He covers alot of ground
                                      without bogging down and boring the reader.

                                      Too add a little Gnostic flavor I will now butcher a Gnostic verse:
                                      I could use saying #1 (or two depending on the translation) of the
                                      Gospel of Thomas to trace the beginning of my journey. I am seeking
                                      knowledge, what I am finding about early christianity and about
                                      gnosticism is astonishing me. Now the verse say that I will rule
                                      over the All, but I will settle with I will have control(rule) over
                                      my beliefs and will try not to close myself off to the possibilities.


                                      --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, "Gerry" <gerryhsp@y...> wrote:
                                      > --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, "Rodney Cecil" <wvdog61@7...>
                                      > wrote:
                                      > >
                                      > >
                                      > > Hey folks,
                                      > >
                                      > > Last night on NPR's Fresh Air, Bart Ehrman (mentioned in
                                      > > the Time article above) discussed his book 'Lost
                                      > > Christianities'. I'll listen to the interview today but I
                                      > > read the section of his book that covered the Gnostics and
                                      > > his presentation was very positive. When he discussed the
                                      > > Gospel of Truth for instance, he described it as a writing
                                      > > that expressed nothing less than sheer joyful abandon.
                                      > >
                                      > > You can listen at the following link:
                                      > >
                                      > http://freshair.npr.org/day_fa.jhtml?
                                      display=day&todayDate=12/17/2003
                                      > >
                                      > > Go to the archive section for last night's broadcast.*
                                      > >
                                      > > Peace
                                      > >
                                      > > Rodney
                                      >
                                      > [*note: link revised to expedite location of audio file]
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >
                                      > Hey Rodney.
                                      >
                                      > I dug this post up from the December archives. Your description of
                                      > Bart Ehrman's views on the Gospel of Truth had stuck with me,
                                      > certainly during the discussions here of some of his books and
                                      > interviews, and even during my trip to hear him speak last month.
                                      > Along with what I consider to be inconsistencies in his writing,
                                      and
                                      > descriptions of another book of his which I have not yet read, I'm
                                      > finally seeing why I've been so puzzled in trying to determine
                                      where
                                      > the professor actually stands with regards to Gnosticism.
                                      >
                                      > Concerning the Gospel of Truth, I should start by pointing out that
                                      > your comments above are sort of a paraphrase of Ehrman's paraphrase
                                      > of the original author of the text, and one should not assume
                                      > that "sheer joyful abandon" is any reflection of his personal
                                      > feelings toward this work in particular, or that such apparent
                                      > jubilation would accurately characterize his assessment of Gnostic
                                      <snip>
                                    • Gerry
                                      ... am ... did ... his ... I ll likewise apologize for taking so long to offer you a reply, Michael, but my non-cyber life continues to consume almost all of
                                      Message 18 of 20 , Apr 30, 2004
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                                        --- In gnosticism2@yahoogroups.com, "mheinich" <mheinich@y...> wrote:
                                        > Gerry, I realize this is johnny come lately to this message but I
                                        am
                                        > relativily new here. I get the feeling from your post that you
                                        did
                                        > not like the book or Ehrman due to his lack of belief or sympathies
                                        > in Gnostism and some of the inconsistencies that you mentioned in
                                        his
                                        > book. If I summarized unjustly then I apologize.



                                        I'll likewise apologize for taking so long to offer you a reply,
                                        Michael, but my non-cyber life continues to consume almost all of my
                                        time lately. I've been trying to keep up with at least reading the
                                        posts here, but even that only became an option a couple weeks ago
                                        after I finally got corrective lenses for the first time in my life.
                                        Now that some degree of clarity has been brought back to me, I'm just
                                        working toward getting the time I need to look at and read those
                                        things that I find interesting and which I most enjoy. I hope to
                                        eventually dig out from under all this tedious stuff that is keeping
                                        me tied up, but until then, my posting will be sporadic at best, so I
                                        hope no one will be offended if I'm not prompt in getting around to
                                        any replies.

                                        As for your summary (of my summary), I get the feeling that you
                                        looked back to the final post(s) I submitted on the subject of Prof.
                                        Ehrman. I still wouldn't say that I don't like him, but since we had
                                        been discussing him since last year, and my opinion of his works had
                                        greatly diminished after attending that seminar, you undoubtedly
                                        picked up on my lack of patience in that post.



                                        > I found the book very informative and it made me take a closer look
                                        > at the Gnostic Tradition. I had heard the term Gnostic before but
                                        > was not familier with it. I am currently trying to reconcile
                                        > questions that arise in me from reading the books in the NHL and
                                        the
                                        > articles I see on gnosis.org. Specially since the books (and
                                        > sometimes the articles :) ) are not consistent when you read
                                        > one "book" after the other. That probably isn't the best way, but
                                        I
                                        > am wandering off topic.



                                        Actually, I tried to defend Ehrman on a number of occasions. As you
                                        noted, some of his works are excellent for helping a person to
                                        appreciate the diversity of thought among the early Christians. I
                                        even mentioned that he apparently has a firm grasp of what criteria
                                        should be utilized in distinguishing Gnostic groups from others of
                                        their day. My primary beef with him was that because of those
                                        inconsistencies that I pointed out, tendencies of his that
                                        occasionally bear witness to his fundamentalist upbringing, I would
                                        not consider him a good resource for anyone interested in learning
                                        about Gnosticism. This, in fact, is not his area of specialization
                                        anyway, but rather, the broader subject of Early Christianity is. As
                                        such, I'm glad that you found value in his treatment of Gnosticism in
                                        _Lost Christianities_ and decided subsequently to pursue it further,
                                        but frankly, I wouldn't trust just anybody to read it with the same
                                        degree of open-mindedness.



                                        > I first heard about the books and Ehrman from the NPR interview. I
                                        > was raised Lutheren but have not been active for awhile. I do
                                        enjoy
                                        > reading and studing history. So the comments he had about the
                                        early
                                        > christian church was fastinating to me. I went out and bought both
                                        > of his "Lost" books. I enjoyed Lost Christianties and found it
                                        very
                                        > informative from my point of reference which was not a Gnosticism
                                        > point of reference. I found out things I never knew and it raised
                                        > alot of questions about my beliefs and what they were based on.
                                        >
                                        > His writing was engaging and he was able to present a scholarly
                                        point
                                        > of view quite clearly. Not all books on Religion or History are
                                        able
                                        > to pull that trick off.



                                        Engaging, yes. He even has a sense of humor, but as I've pointed
                                        out, he didn't miss an opportunity to exercise it at the expense of
                                        Gnostic concepts. That *definitely* rubbed me the wrong way. And
                                        while his writing is both scholarly AND accessible, it is not always
                                        objective. This gives me great concern with the rise of
                                        fundamentalism these days and the proliferation of his books in
                                        classrooms across the nation. Among people who aren't really
                                        interested in unbiased interpretations of what they consider to
                                        be "holy" scriptures, I hate to see careless comments in ostensibly
                                        scholarly works portraying anything non-canonical as being
                                        virtually "wicked." That's just unnecessary fuel for their fires.
                                        Since it's been a while, I am referring there to his habit of
                                        defining words like "heretic" and "heresy" from an orthodox context.



                                        > As for the Forgery question that was brought up. At first this
                                        > bothered me but after thinking about it, it made sense. He is not
                                        > putting them down or insulting them. He is just stating that he
                                        > and/or other scholars don't believe that the book was written by
                                        the
                                        > person it is attributed to, that is by definition then a Forgery.
                                        It
                                        > may have been written in their name for a number of good reasons
                                        and
                                        > not necessarily criminal or fraudulent ones. Most of the books of
                                        > the New Testament get the same charge leveled at them in the book
                                        > except for some of the letters of Paul. I also found that there
                                        were
                                        > transcribing errors over time along with intential changes to the
                                        > books of the new testement to support some groups' or person's
                                        views
                                        > very interesting as well.



                                        The forgery question struck me in the opposite way. At first, I
                                        didn't think anything of it, but the more I thought about it, the
                                        more it puzzled me. For those who haven't read _Lost
                                        Christianities_, let's point out how Ehrman outlines his book:

                                        PART ONE: Forgeries and Discoveries
                                        PART TWO: Heresies and Orthodoxies
                                        PART THREE: Winners and Losers

                                        For an even clearer look at the section in question, the first part
                                        is divided into four chapters covering the following subjects:

                                        • The Ancient Discovery of a Forgery: Serapion & the Gospel of Peter
                                        • The Ancient Forgery of a Discovery: The Acts of Paul and Thecla
                                        • The Discovery of an Ancient Forgery: The Coptic Gospel of Thomas
                                        • The Forgery of an Ancient Discovery? Morton Smith and the Secret
                                        Gospel of Mark

                                        Certainly, Ehrman's wit is apparent even in those headings, but the
                                        very fact that he chooses to categorize these works generally in this
                                        way still gives me pause. As you and I have both pointed out,
                                        canonical books aren't exactly free from the charge of having
                                        authority unduly attributed to them. Even Ehrman admits this, but
                                        I'd be curious to see if he presents any NT titles as "forgeries" in
                                        any of his books or classes. It's one thing to mention this in the
                                        commentary of a particular scripture, even quite interesting as he
                                        introduced the subject of forging in antiquity, but it just seems
                                        dismissive to openly classify the book as such.

                                        Again, he has commented that the GTh is perhaps the single most
                                        important find among texts discovered in recent years, but after
                                        reading a number of his books and even meeting him in person, I'm
                                        still not sure why it is that he believes this. The chapter
                                        described above doesn't mention the relevance of the book's being a
                                        forgery, so it impresses me as needlessly discrediting something (at
                                        least in some people's eyes) which he inexplicably finds of value.
                                        Similarly, as I've mentioned previously, if he prefers to regard the
                                        book foremost as a forgery, then why does he devote time in other
                                        works explaining the Syrian tradition of holding Judas Thomas to be
                                        the twin brother of Jesus? And if for some other reason it were
                                        important for us to consider a literal twin of a literal Jesus, why
                                        does he then propose the mythological precedent of fraternal twin
                                        brothers Hercules and Iphicles,——one immortal, the other mortal?
                                        It's just odd . . . resorting to myth to validate the literal man who
                                        had nothing to do with the Gospel bearing his name. Should we care?



                                        > Anyway, I did not get as put off or bothered by his treatment of
                                        the
                                        > various books but found it eye opening. He covers alot of ground
                                        > without bogging down and boring the reader.
                                        >
                                        > Too add a little Gnostic flavor I will now butcher a Gnostic verse:
                                        > I could use saying #1 (or two depending on the translation) of the
                                        > Gospel of Thomas to trace the beginning of my journey. I am
                                        seeking
                                        > knowledge, what I am finding about early christianity and about
                                        > gnosticism is astonishing me. Now the verse say that I will rule
                                        > over the All, but I will settle with I will have control(rule) over
                                        > my beliefs and will try not to close myself off to the
                                        > possibilities.



                                        I'd say you are already headed in a better direction than the
                                        professor. When he refers to Gnostics as Christians "in the know,"
                                        it makes me think he's looking at the whole thing as little more than
                                        a bunch of secret handshakes and whispered mantras that someone's
                                        keeping from him.

                                        Here's another book of his (that I picked up in the textbook
                                        department at UNC) which you may find interesting:

                                        _The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian
                                        Writings_. Oxford University Press, Third edition, 2004.

                                        While at the seminar, I heard part of this book referenced between
                                        lectures when one of the attendees was "educating" a group of other
                                        participants as to how Ehrman writes that Gnosticism grew out of the
                                        beliefs of the Christians from the Johannine community. My ears
                                        perked up on that note, but I had only had a brief opportunity to
                                        skim that particular book prior to arriving there. I had a good idea
                                        which chapter they were talking about, and was curious to see later
                                        what the author had actually said.

                                        As it turns out, that chapter is titled "From John's Jesus to the
                                        Gnostic Christ." What Ehrman sets out to do is to demonstrate that
                                        the docetic Christology of the Johannine secessionists was at least
                                        compatible to the views held by certain Gnostic groups. This could
                                        have facilitated the absorption of one group into another, but he did
                                        NOT say that one group LED to the other. Once again, it's a matter
                                        of people seeing what they are inclined to see, and in this case, it
                                        was probably based on little more than how the title of the chapter
                                        was worded. Here's what Ehrman actually said regarding this
                                        syncretic phenomenon:

                                        "The anti-Gnostic church fathers maintained that Gnosticism was a
                                        Christian heresy invented by evil persons who corrupted the Christian
                                        faith to their own ends. A good deal of modern scholarship has been
                                        committed to showing that this perspective cannot be right, that, in
                                        fact, Gnosticism originated apart from Christianity but was later
                                        merged with it in some religious groups, forming a kind of synthesis,
                                        a Gnostic Christianity.

                                        "It is difficult to know what cultural forces would have produced
                                        Gnosticism, but it appears to represent a creative combination of
                                        diverse religious and philosophical perspectives, melded together in
                                        an age in which numerous religions and philosophies were widely known
                                        and often linked. If this is right, then Gnosticism and Christianity
                                        may have started out at about the same time and, because of many of
                                        their similarities, which we will see momentarily, came to influence
                                        each other in significant ways. It is interesting to note that some
                                        of the Gnostic tractates discovered at Nag Hammadi appear to be non-
                                        Christian, which would be hard to explain if Gnosticism originated as
                                        a Christian heresy." (pp. 187-8)

                                        In this instance, I'm happy to show that Ehrman was NOT representing
                                        Gnosticism as those people had interpreted. At the same time, if you
                                        should check out that book, please note the "Something-to-think-
                                        about" block (Box 11.5) which is on the same page where the above
                                        passage ends. It begins, "How Do You Know a Gnostic When You See
                                        One?" Sort of sounds like the start of a bad ethnic joke, doesn't
                                        it. Well, I spared Betty and Rodney (and the rest of the members
                                        here) when I wrote about this previously, but here's how
                                        this "informative" passage ends:

                                        ". . . No wonder it was so difficult for the anti-Gnostic opponents
                                        to drive them out of the churches. It was not easy to recognize a
                                        Gnostic when you saw one."

                                        Rather equates them with vermin, doesn't it . . . as if the Gnostic
                                        predilection for metaphorical understanding of scripture necessitated
                                        the invention of ecclesiastical pest control to exterminate them.

                                        Again, I think one could find better sources for becoming acquainted
                                        with Gnosticism, but if Ehrman's books and audio interview worked for
                                        you, then let's just chalk one up for our side. It's sort of a
                                        Gnostic take on the when-life-gives-you-lemons scenario. When the
                                        fox tramples the grapes . . . make wine!

                                        Gerry
                                      • Michael Heinich
                                        Thank you for your informed reply. Using different filters , folks can come to different conclusions. I guess I was operating from a place that wasn t much
                                        Message 19 of 20 , Apr 30, 2004
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                                          Thank you for your informed reply.

                                          Using different "filters", folks can come to different
                                          conclusions. I guess I was operating from a place
                                          that wasn't much different then Ehrman's upbringing.

                                          I did pass up the opportunity to pick up his
                                          "Apocolyptic Jesus" which was one of themes in the
                                          book we are discussing. The fact that Jesus behaved
                                          or said things that indicated he believed the world
                                          was going to end soon.

                                          My studies are taking me in different directions.

                                          --- Gerry <gerryhsp@...> wrote:
                                          > I'll likewise apologize for taking so long to offer
                                          > you a reply,
                                          > Michael, but my non-cyber life continues to consume
                                          > almost all of my
                                          > time lately. I've been trying to keep up with at
                                          > least reading the
                                          > posts here, but even that only became an option a
                                          > couple weeks ago
                                          > after I finally got corrective lenses for the first
                                          > time in my life.






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                                        • Gavin Riggott
                                          Certainly, Ehrman s wit is apparent even in those headings, but the very fact that he chooses to categorize these works generally in this way still gives me
                                          Message 20 of 20 , May 1, 2004
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                                            "Certainly, Ehrman's wit is apparent even in those headings, but the
                                            very fact that he chooses to categorize these works generally in this
                                            way still gives me pause. As you and I have both pointed out,
                                            canonical books aren't exactly free from the charge of having
                                            authority unduly attributed to them. Even Ehrman admits this, but
                                            I'd be curious to see if he presents any NT titles as "forgeries" in
                                            any of his books or classes."

                                            I've recently purchased some DVDs from The Teaching Company. One set is by
                                            Bart Erham, titled "From Jesus to Constantine: A History of Early
                                            Chrstianity". So far (I'm just over half-way through it), he has mentioned
                                            several cases where books in the NT are probably not written by the authors
                                            they claim. I don't recall him calling them forgeries, though he might well
                                            have done - I wasn't on the look out for it. He has mentioned a couple of
                                            Christian apocryphal works though, and didn't seem to treat them any worse,
                                            or better, than the pseudopigriphical NT books he discussed. Although he
                                            hasn't talked about Gnosticism yet, I suspect that is comming soon, so I'll
                                            listen carefully to see if he treats it with a different standard to
                                            orthodoxy. I'll get back to you on that if anything interesting shows up.


                                            Gavin Riggott
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