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Re: "The Lost Gospels"

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  • 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 1 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 2 of 20 , Jan 2, 2004
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        --- 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 3 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 4 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 5 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 6 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 7 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 8 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 9 of 20 , Apr 30, 2004
                    • 0 Attachment
                      --- 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 10 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 11 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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