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Re: Lowlights of DSS / NHL Seminar

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  • 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 1 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 2 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 3 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.






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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 4 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
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