Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.
 

Re: "The Lost Gospels"

Expand Messages
  • 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 1 of 20 , Jan 7, 2004
      --- 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 2 of 20 , Mar 4, 2004
        --- 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 3 of 20 , Mar 7, 2004
          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 4 of 20 , Mar 7, 2004
            --- 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 5 of 20 , Apr 8, 2004
              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 6 of 20 , Apr 30, 2004
                --- 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 7 of 20 , Apr 30, 2004
                  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.






                  __________________________________
                  Do you Yahoo!?
                  Win a $20,000 Career Makeover at Yahoo! HotJobs
                  http://hotjobs.sweepstakes.yahoo.com/careermakeover
                • 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 8 of 20 , May 1, 2004
                    "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
                  Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.