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review of WATSA booklet on Thomas, part 3 of 3

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  • chaptim45
    Part Three of Three-- WATSA: What Are They Saying About The Gospel of Thomas? By Dr. Christopher W. Skinner. A review by Tim Staker, Chaplain, Indianapolis,
    Message 1 of 11 , Apr 11, 2012
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      Part Three of Three-- WATSA: What Are They Saying About The Gospel of Thomas? By Dr. Christopher W. Skinner. A review by Tim Staker, Chaplain, Indianapolis, IN.

      Part Three contains chapters on Thomas' genre and theology; the Gospel of Thomas and the historical Jesus; and then Skinner's conclusion.

      3. What are they saying about the Gospel of Thomas' genre and theological outlook.

                      A. Gnosticism and Wisdom in Thomas. Early researchers on the Gospel of Thomas considered it Gnostic primarily because it was found with so many Gnostic books. However, it has been pointed out that not all the materials found at Nag Hammadi are Gnostic (Plato was among the cache).  And also, just because a book was used by Gnostics does not mean the book itself must be Gnostic since the Gnostics made use of many sources including Genesis, Psalms, Homer, the Synoptics, Paul, etc. And since the definition of the term "Gnostic" is rather nebulous, one must wonder if it is really helpful to use this label unless it is well-defined ahead of time.

                      Early researchers [Lucien Cerfaux and Cerard Garitte] identified Thomas as Valentinan, while others [such as William Schoedel] saw a connection with Naassene Gnosticism. This gave way, though, to a general theory that Thomas was some sort of  "garden variety" form of Gnostic religious expression.

      In more recent times, E.E. Popkes [Kiel University, Germany] has argued that Thomas has a Gnostic perspective, finding parallels to the Apocryphon of John.  Marvin Meyer interprets Thomas as a document used by Gnostics, but falls short of calling it Gnostic, saying it is a gospel with an "incipient" Gnostic outlook. William Arnal [University of Regina, Canada] sees Thomas containing both Wisdom and Gnostic material, with the Gnostic being pressed into an original Wisdom gospel. Antti Marjanen [Helsinki, Finland] notes the difference between Jewish Wisdom and Gnostic ideas in Thomas, and when asked if Thomas is Gnostic, he answers both "yes" and no".

      Skinner believes scholarship on Thomas is moving toward recognizing the Gospel of Thomas belonging to the genre of Wisdom literature. Stephen Patterson, a student of both Koester and James M. Robinson, affirms the Gospel of Thomas, like Q, belongs to the specific genre of "logoi sophon", that is, "sayings of the wise". Patterson, Pilsch, Arnal and others see Thomas as "wisdom moving toward Gnosis".  Alexi Siverstev [Jewish Scholar at DePaul, Chicago] sees Thomas as Wisdom literature fitting into the context of 2nd – 3rd century Syriac Christian literature, instead of Gnostic.

                      B. Thomas and Asceticism. Richard Valantasis [Institute for Contemplative Living, Sante Fe, NM] advocates viewing Thomas' Gospel primarily as an ascetical text. It would have been used by Encratite (extreme ascetics) Christians in Syria, such as Tatian and Marcion, to help guide a person in the ascetic spiritual life. The Gospel of Thomas reveals the ascetic life not to be restrictive, but liberating as the "self" is reformed with a new vision of life.  Such a document could be used in a variety of settings, from Gnostic to monastic to communal. And, as Ristro Uro [Helsinki, Finland] points out, Encratism and Gnosticism are not mutually exclusive.

                      C. Thomas and Mysticism. April DeConick [Rice University, Houston TX] contends that Thomas' Gospel, as a repository of early Christian communal memory, should not be called Gnostic but rather "ascent and vision mysticism". As such it is early Syrian Christianity and a precursor to Eastern Orthodox spirituality which is about "a mysticism of the heart and the progressive transformation of the soul into its glorious Image". According to DeConick, the Gospel of Thomas reflects a trajectory of proto-Orthodox Christianity that valued mystical teaching.

                      D. Thomas and Platonism. Howard Jackson [Claremont, 1985] concluded, after studying Gnostic documents, that the "lion saying" in L7 of the Gospel of Thomas is more likely to be based on Plato's anthropological understanding of the lion as the spirited and passionate aspect of the soul. This understanding is found in the Nag Hammadi version of Plato's Republic 588e, which was found in the Coptic cache with the Gospel of Thomas.

      Since then, Stephen Patterson has delved into finding other examples of Plato's influence on Thomas. Since Thomas' Gospel was written during the era of Middle Platonism, Patterson has focused on influence from Philo of Alexandria, the foremost Jewish Platonist of the period. He notes the idea of Platonic dualism where the material world is inferior to the spiritual is prominent in Thomas' thought. He compares ideas about light, image of God and "motion and rest".  He is cautious about labeling the Gospel of Thomas as Platonic, but does assert that this Gospel stands at the beginning of the lengthy tradition of Platonic Christian theology.

      Skinner concludes this section by saying that Thomas' Gospel eludes any rigid theological categorization. It is clear that Thomas' genre as a list of sayings allowed it to be utilized by many different groups.  And while there is not much scholarly consensus on its theological outlook, there is potential for scholarly conversation in this area.

       

      4. Thomas and the Historical Jesus.  Scholars who regard the Gospel of Thomas as an early Christian document place an unusually high value on this Gospel.  Of course, the opposite is true as well for scholars who believe Thomas is late.  Skinner looks at three historical Jesus projects and how Thomas' Gospel is used in them.

                      A. In his five volume _A Marginal Jew_ John Paul Meier [Notre Dame] rejects the idea that Thomas' Gospel was early. He cites the Gospel's "strange mixture" of theology and its "realized eschatology in its most radical form" as reasons for dating it in the second century, though it may be debated that Thomas preserves early material. Meier believes that many sayings in Thomas' Gospel are "bizarre examples of Christian imagination run amok". He conjectures that Thomas truncated many canonical Jesus sayings in order to make them shorter, more mysterious formulations. Therefore the Gospel of Thomas does not play much of an influence on his construction of the historical Jesus.

                      B. The Jesus Seminar [Westar Institute in Salem, OR] came to the conclusion during its deliberations that the Gospel of Thomas represents an early independent tradition as early—or even earlier—than the canonical gospels. As a comparative tool, Thomas' Gospel has helped prove the authenticity of many sayings of Jesus for the Jesus Seminar Fellows. A full 36 sayings in Thomas' Gospel were given pink or red designations.  Of these, 34 have canonical Gospel parallels. Two of these, L97 (Woman with the Broken Jar) and L98 (the Assassin), were given pink ratings although they had no witnesses in any other writings. Skinner regards the Jesus Seminar's usage of the Gospel of Thomas as "moderate" compared to John Dominican Crossan.

                      C. The scholar John Dominican Crossan maintains that the Gospel of Thomas (at least the first layer) was written between 50-70 CE.  This would make the Gospel of Thomas contemporary with Paul's authentic epistles. He believes that Thomas' sapiential teaching clashed with Paul's apocalyptic theology, as witnessed in 1 Corinthians 1-4.  Recognizing the historicity of this conflict, Crossan then discerns that Q—which contains both apocalyptic and sapiential sayings— must have been put together at an extremely early stage from diverse sources.  With help from John Kloppenborg's work, "The Formation of Q", Steven Davies on "The Gospel of Thomas and Christian Wisdom" and Helmut Koester's writings, Crossan is able to propose a reconstructed history of the texts found in Thomas and Q.

       

      Conclusion. Skinner states one of the reasons for this WATSA book is discover what scholars actually agree upon concerning Thomas' Gospel, which creates the possibility for points of consensus. Many scholars believe Thomas has a strong Syrian connection. Further explorations into the Syrian context could prove fruitful. Another area where there is near-consensus is that the Gospel of Thomas was written first in Greek and later translated in Coptic. Skinner suggests that the consensus about the manuscripts may lead to a generally accepted consensus about Thomas' date, relationship to the New Testament and theological outlook. Skinner also calls for scholars to look beyond old categories used in the past in order to get beyond the current impasse in Thomasine scholarship.

      At the back of the book Skinner has a two page glossary; 25 pages of footnotes—many which are explanatory; a selective bibliography rated by ease of reading; an index; and a list of recommended websites:

      Early Christian Writings--  www.earlychristianwritings.com/thomas.html

      The Gnostic Society Library: Gospel of Thomas Collection--  www.gnosis.org/naghamm/nhl_thomas.htm

      The Gospel of Thomas Resource Center--  http://gospel-thomas.net/

      Gospel of Thomas Homepage-- http://home.epix.net/~miser17/Thomas.html

      The New Testament Gateway: Gospel of Thomas   www.ntgateway.com/noncanonical-texts/gospel-of-thomas/

      Gospel of Thomas: Bibliography, Coptic and Greek Texts--   www.agraphos.com/thomas/

       

      End of part 3 >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    • William Arnal
      Thanks for this overview! There were a handful of references in it that I just can t help but comment on, mainly for personal reasons. (So my comments may not
      Message 2 of 11 , Apr 11, 2012
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        Thanks for this overview! There were a handful of references in it that I just can't help but comment on, mainly for personal reasons. (So my comments may not be all that edifying.)

        >Skinner believes scholarship on Thomas is moving toward recognizing the Gospel of Thomas belonging to the genre of Wisdom literature. Stephen Patterson, a student of >both Koester and James M. Robinson, affirms the Gospel of Thomas, like Q, belongs to the specific genre of "logoi sophon", that is, "sayings of the wise". Patterson, Pilsch, >Arnal and others see Thomas as "wisdom moving toward Gnosis". 

        For what it's worth, while I continue to see in Thomas an expression of wisdom literature, I would personally no longer characterize it as "Gnostic." Yes, I know I said that in print, but it was a long time ago. Thanks to Michael Allen Williams and Karen King, I'm sure of the cogency of "Gnostic" as a classifier generally. And I think that I (and others) have tended to use "Gnostic" as a label for anything in Thomas that seems obscure. These days, I am MUCH more in the Platonist camp.

        >Alexi Siverstev [Jewish Scholar at DePaul, Chicago] sees Thomas as Wisdom literature fitting into the context of 2nd – 3rd century Syriac Christian literature, instead of Gnostic.

        OK, this is FUNNY. The article in question, described here, if it's the one I think it is, originated as a seminar presentation for a grad class of mine way back in 1998. The presentation was given on the last day of class, so I brought beer to class. Also, I had just gotten back from the AAR-SBL when it was in Orlando, and had brought a pair of Mickey Mouse ears to class. So Alexej put on my mouse ears, cracked open a beer, went to the front of the room and gave, more or less off the top of his head, the best seminar presentation I have ever seen. I insisted he publish the results . . . and he did. It's AWESOME to see him make an appearance on this list.

        >4. Thomas and the Historical Jesus.  Scholars who regard the Gospel of Thomas as an early Christian document place an unusually high value on this Gospel.  Of course, the >opposite is true as well for scholars who believe Thomas is late.  Skinner looks at three historical Jesus projects and how Thomas' Gospel is used in them.

        Completely agreed on this point in general, but do want to point out that I tend to view Thomas as an early document, but do not regard it as a useful source for the historical Jesus.

        Again, many thanks for this summary. I'm away from home and will not be able to read the book until I get back in May.

        cheers,
        Bill
         

        End of part 3 >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>


      • Christopher W. Skinner
        Tim, many thanks for reviewing the book in this forum. I hope you found it useful. Bill, just so you know, I cite one of your articles in the book and in a
        Message 3 of 11 , Apr 11, 2012
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          Tim, many thanks for reviewing the book in this forum. I hope you found it useful.

          Bill, just so you know, I cite one of your articles in the book and in a forthcoming Forschungbericht. I hope you find the book to be a potential resource for your students. 

          Best,

          Chris Skinner

          On Wed, Apr 11, 2012 at 2:02 PM, William Arnal <warnal@...> wrote:
           


          Thanks for this overview! There were a handful of references in it that I just can't help but comment on, mainly for personal reasons. (So my comments may not be all that edifying.)

          >Skinner believes scholarship on Thomas is moving toward recognizing the Gospel of Thomas belonging to the genre of Wisdom literature. Stephen Patterson, a student of >both Koester and James M. Robinson, affirms the Gospel of Thomas, like Q, belongs to the specific genre of "logoi sophon", that is, "sayings of the wise". Patterson, Pilsch, >Arnal and others see Thomas as "wisdom moving toward Gnosis".
           

          For what it's worth, while I continue to see in Thomas an expression of wisdom literature, I would personally no longer characterize it as "Gnostic." Yes, I know I said that in print, but it was a long time ago. Thanks to Michael Allen Williams and Karen King, I'm sure of the cogency of "Gnostic" as a classifier generally. And I think that I (and others) have tended to use "Gnostic" as a label for anything in Thomas that seems obscure. These days, I am MUCH more in the Platonist camp.

          >Alexi Siverstev [Jewish Scholar at DePaul, Chicago] sees Thomas as Wisdom literature fitting into the context of 2nd – 3rd century Syriac Christian literature, instead of Gnostic.

          OK, this is FUNNY. The article in question, described here, if it's the one I think it is, originated as a seminar presentation for a grad class of mine way back in 1998. The presentation was given on the last day of class, so I brought beer to class. Also, I had just gotten back from the AAR-SBL when it was in Orlando, and had brought a pair of Mickey Mouse ears to class. So Alexej put on my mouse ears, cracked open a beer, went to the front of the room and gave, more or less off the top of his head, the best seminar presentation I have ever seen. I insisted he publish the results . . . and he did. It's AWESOME to see him make an appearance on this list.

          >4. Thomas and the Historical Jesus.  Scholars who regard the Gospel of Thomas as an early Christian document place an unusually high value on this Gospel.  Of course, the >opposite is true as well for scholars who believe Thomas is late.  Skinner looks at three historical Jesus projects and how Thomas' Gospel is used in them.

          Completely agreed on this point in general, but do want to point out that I tend to view Thomas as an early document, but do not regard it as a useful source for the historical Jesus.

          Again, many thanks for this summary. I'm away from home and will not be able to read the book until I get back in May.

          cheers,
          Bill
           

          End of part 3 >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>



        • Judy Redman
          Yes, Tim, Thanks for your review. And Chris, thanks for writing the book - I am going to find it very useful when my copy finally arrives in mid-May (the joys
          Message 4 of 11 , Apr 11, 2012
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            Yes, Tim,

             

            Thanks for your review. And Chris, thanks for writing the book – I am going to find it very useful when my copy finally arrives in mid-May (the joys of living on the other side of the world and the vagaries of the publishing world).

             

            Judy

             

            --

            Judy Redman
            PhD Candidate, School of Humanities
            University of New England
            Armidale 2351 Australia
            ph:  +61 2 6773 3401
            mob: 0437 044 579
            web:  http://judyredman.wordpress.com/
            email:  jredman2@...
             

             

            From: gthomas@yahoogroups.com [mailto:gthomas@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Christopher W. Skinner
            Sent: Thursday, 12 April 2012 5:11 AM
            To: gthomas@yahoogroups.com
            Subject: Re: [GTh] review of WATSA booklet on Thomas, part 3 of 3

             

             

            Tim, many thanks for reviewing the book in this forum. I hope you found it useful.

             

            Bill, just so you know, I cite one of your articles in the book and in a forthcoming Forschungbericht. I hope you find the book to be a potential resource for your students. 

             

            Best,

             

            Chris Skinner

            On Wed, Apr 11, 2012 at 2:02 PM, William Arnal <warnal@...> wrote:

             


            Thanks for this overview! There were a handful of references in it that I just can't help but comment on, mainly for personal reasons. (So my comments may not be all that edifying.)

            >Skinner believes scholarship on Thomas is moving toward recognizing the Gospel of Thomas belonging to the genre of Wisdom literature. Stephen Patterson, a student of >both Koester and James M. Robinson, affirms the Gospel of Thomas, like Q, belongs to the specific genre of "logoi sophon", that is, "sayings of the wise". Patterson, Pilsch, >Arnal and others see Thomas as "wisdom moving toward Gnosis".

             

            For what it's worth, while I continue to see in Thomas an expression of wisdom literature, I would personally no longer characterize it as "Gnostic." Yes, I know I said that in print, but it was a long time ago. Thanks to Michael Allen Williams and Karen King, I'm sure of the cogency of "Gnostic" as a classifier generally. And I think that I (and others) have tended to use "Gnostic" as a label for anything in Thomas that seems obscure. These days, I am MUCH more in the Platonist camp.

            >Alexi Siverstev [Jewish Scholar at DePaul, Chicago] sees Thomas as Wisdom literature fitting into the context of 2nd – 3rd century Syriac Christian literature, instead of Gnostic.

            OK, this is FUNNY. The article in question, described here, if it's the one I think it is, originated as a seminar presentation for a grad class of mine way back in 1998. The presentation was given on the last day of class, so I brought beer to class. Also, I had just gotten back from the AAR-SBL when it was in Orlando, and had brought a pair of Mickey Mouse ears to class. So Alexej put on my mouse ears, cracked open a beer, went to the front of the room and gave, more or less off the top of his head, the best seminar presentation I have ever seen. I insisted he publish the results . . . and he did. It's AWESOME to see him make an appearance on this list.

            >4. Thomas and the Historical Jesus.  Scholars who regard the Gospel of Thomas as an early Christian document place an unusually high value on this Gospel.  Of course, the >opposite is true as well for scholars who believe Thomas is late.  Skinner looks at three historical Jesus projects and how Thomas' Gospel is used in them.

            Completely agreed on this point in general, but do want to point out that I tend to view Thomas as an early document, but do not regard it as a useful source for the historical Jesus.

            Again, many thanks for this summary. I'm away from home and will not be able to read the book until I get back in May.

            cheers,
            Bill
             

            End of part 3 >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

             

             

          • Mike Grondin
            I m happy to join in the praise of Chris book and Tim s review of it. I d never heard of the WATSA series before, but the list of other books in the series
            Message 5 of 11 , Apr 12, 2012
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              I'm happy to join in the praise of Chris' book and Tim's review of it.
              I'd never heard of the WATSA series before, but the list of other books in the
              series looks pretty interesting. If they're as well done as Chris' contribution to
              the series, they'd be worth having. One can get a very good overview of the
              subject in a short read, and for minimal cost. Everyone here should certainly
              have a copy, and it seems suitable for intro classes as well. I particularly like
              Chris' system of classifying the books in his bibliography according to whether
              they're (1) "accessible to the non-specialist", (2) "written on an academic level
              but accessible to the nonspecialist", or (3) "intended for those with background
              knowledge of early Christian literature and the requisite research languages."
              It must have taken a lot of work for Chris to do this survey, and I hope he
              knows that those of us who read it appreciate that.
               
              I gather that Chris' experience with this publication wasn't the best. It was a very
              long time from the initial writing, and then suddenly everything was hurry-up. As
              a result, a couple minor errors escaped notice, and I'm partially responsible for that,
              inasmuch as I went over the thing in advance. The errata I notice now are these:
               
                  On p.6, there's some miswording about the P.Oxy. fragments. They're all
              called 'scrolls' there, but P.Oxy.1 is from a codex, and in any case they're only the
              equivalent of a page or so from three manuscripts, certainly not the whole thing.
                  On p.114, under "English Translations", the translation in Robinson's NHL is
              attributed to Helmut Koester and Thomas O. Lambdin. Actually, the translation
              is Lambdin's. Koester just wrote the intro.
               
              There may be other little things as well, but this isn't anything to count against
              Chris' book, since just about every publication has some errata. (Including the
              mystery novel I'm reading - now that really gets my goat! And I'm sure you
              all know how annoying it is when someone takes your goat.)
               
              Mike G.
            • Judy Redman
              And now that I m not at work For what it s worth, while I continue to see in Thomas an expression of wisdom literature, I would personally no longer
              Message 6 of 11 , Apr 12, 2012
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                And now that I’m not at work
                For what it's worth, while I continue to see in Thomas an expression of wisdom literature, I would personally no longer characterize it as "Gnostic." Yes, I know I said that in print, but it was a long time ago. Thanks to Michael Allen Williams and Karen King, I'm sure of the cogency of "Gnostic" as a classifier generally. And I think that I (and others) have tended to use "Gnostic" as a label for anything in Thomas that seems obscure. These days, I am MUCH more in the Platonist camp.

                [Judy:] Bill – do you actually mean “I’m *not* sure of the cogency of “Gnostic” as a classifier generally”?

                If so, I tend to agree with Birger Pearson, who doesn’t want to ditch the term altogether, but suggests that it needs a much tighter definition than has been generally used. I think that people have tended to do as you say, or to say that anything that suggest that ‘knowing stuff’ is important in getting into heaven is Gnostic.

                Pearson (Ancient Gnosticism Traditions and Literature. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2007, 12-15) says that Gnosticism is characterised by:

                ·         The idea that saving gnosis comes by revelation from a transcendent realm, mediated by a revealer who has come from that realm to waken people to a knowledge of God and of true human self

                ·         A dualistic way of looking at God – there is a super-transcendent supreme God utterly alien to the world and a lower deity who is responsible for creating and governing the world

                ·         A dualistic way of looking at human beings – true human self is also utterly alien to the world – an immaterial divine spark imprisoned in a material body

                ·         The universe in which we live is a prison in which the true human self is shackled. The goal of the Gnostic is to be saved from the cosmic prison and to be restored to the realm of light from which it originated

                ·         Mythopoeia – construction of elaborate myths through which revealed gnosis is transmitted

                Clearly Thomas doesn’t fit this definition, but the Gospel of Judas does.

                >Alexi Siverstev [Jewish Scholar at DePaul, Chicago] sees Thomas as Wisdom literature fitting into the context of 2nd – 3rd century Syriac Christian literature, instead of Gnostic.

                OK, this is FUNNY. The article in question, described here, if it's the one I think it is, originated as a seminar presentation for a grad class of mine way back in 1998. The presentation was given on the last day of class, so I brought beer to class. Also, I had just gotten back from the AAR-SBL when it was in Orlando, and had brought a pair of Mickey Mouse ears to class. So Alexej put on my mouse ears, cracked open a beer, went to the front of the room and gave, more or less off the top of his head, the best seminar presentation I have ever seen. I insisted he publish the results . . . and he did. It's AWESOME to see him make an appearance on this list.

                [Judy:] J


                Completely agreed on this point in general, but do want to point out that I tend to view Thomas as an early document, but do not regard it as a useful source for the historical Jesus.

                [Judy:] This sounds interesting. Can I ask why? I mean, obviously, I can *ask*, but can you give a brief summary of your reasoning?


                Judy

              • William Arnal
                Hi Judy: [Judy:] Bill – do you actually mean “I’m *not* sure of the cogency of “Gnostic” as a classifier generally”? Yes, this is exactly what I
                Message 7 of 11 , Apr 12, 2012
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                  Hi Judy:

                  [Judy:] Bill – do you actually mean “I’m *not* sure of the cogency of “Gnostic” as a classifier generally”?

                  Yes, this is exactly what I mean. Sorry about the typo.

                  And yes, there is the argument that we can retain "gnosticism" if we clarify and narrow it (a position also taken by David Braake in a recent book). The kind of criteria mentioned by Pearson, it seems to me, rely on hyperbole (God must be "utterly alien," not just "alien" ; the universe is a "prison", not just a bad place; and so on) -- failing that hyperbole, "Gnosticism" ends up just being a statement of Platonic, Jewish, and Christian truisms: God is transcendent, this world is not perfect, we can make contact with the divine through some form of discipline (intellectual or otherwise), etc. I also find the mythopoeisis statement interesting: so are non-Gnostic Christian myths not "elaborate" or not "constructed"? Or is "myth" not a property of non-heretical Christians? Hmmm.

                  But whether one buys the argument or not, as you note, it is clear that a more sharply (and narrowly) delineated "gnosticism" does NOT include Thomas.

                  [Judy:] This sounds interesting. Can I ask why? I mean, obviously, I can *ask*, but can you give a brief summary of your reasoning?


                  Well, it seems to me that Thomas has a very coherent ideological position that is both dictated by its authors' interests, and so utterly ordinary that it fails to give us any evidence for any distinctive historical individual. Hence the text is both slanted by its agenda, as are all the canonical gospels as well, and fails to convey anything of interest at the same time. I also happen to think that chasing after the HJ is a waste of time, and tends to poison discussions of what would otherwise be fairly straightforward issues, by investing them with an ideological weight that they might not otherwise have. That said, IF Thomas is independent of the synoptics (which is an issue that need not correlate directly with date: it could be late and still independent), then its versions of saying can be compared to those in the synoptics to get a sense of the development of sayings traditions. But I doubt that'll get us to Jesus.


                  cheers,

                  Bill


                  Recent Activity:
                    Gospel of Thomas Homepage: http://users.misericordia.edu/davies/thomas/Thomas.html
                    Coptic-English translation: http://www.gospel-thomas.net/x_transl.htm
                    Related Biblioblogs:
                    PEJE IESOUS (Chris Skinner) http://pejeiesous.com
                    Judy's Research Blog (Judy Redman) http://judyredman.wordpress.com
                    The Forbidden Gospels (April DeConick) http://forbiddengospels.blogspot.com
                    ------------------------------------
                    .

                  • Judy Redman
                    Hi Bill [Judy:] Bill - do you actually mean I m *not* sure of the cogency of Gnostic as a classifier generally ? Yes, this is exactly what I mean. Sorry
                    Message 8 of 11 , Apr 12, 2012
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                      Hi Bill

                      [Judy:] Bill – do you actually mean “I’m *not* sure of the cogency of “Gnostic” as a classifier generally”?

                      Yes, this is exactly what I mean. Sorry about the typo.

                      [Judy:] J

                      And yes, there is the argument that we can retain "gnosticism" if we clarify and narrow it (a position also taken by David Braake in a recent book). The kind of criteria mentioned by Pearson, it seems to me, rely on hyperbole (God must be "utterly alien," not just "alien" ; the universe is a "prison", not just a bad place; and so on) -- failing that hyperbole, "Gnosticism" ends up just being a statement of Platonic, Jewish, and Christian truisms: God is transcendent, this world is not perfect, we can make contact with the divine through some form of discipline (intellectual or otherwise), etc. I also find the mythopoeisis statement interesting: so are non-Gnostic Christian myths not "elaborate" or not "constructed"? Or is "myth" not a property of non-heretical Christians? Hmmm.

                      [Judy:] I summarised several pages of Pearson’s argument – it is more nuanced than my summary. He delineates ways in which what he characterises as Gnosticism parts company with orthodox Christianity.

                      But whether one buys the argument or not, as you note, it is clear that a more sharply (and narrowly) delineated "gnosticism" does NOT include Thomas.

                      [Judy:] This sounds interesting. Can I ask why? I mean, obviously, I can *ask*, but can you give a brief summary of your reasoning?

                      Well, it seems to me that Thomas has a very coherent ideological position that is both dictated by its authors' interests, and so utterly ordinary that it fails to give us any evidence for any distinctive historical individual. Hence the text is both slanted by its agenda, as are all the canonical gospels as well, and fails to convey anything of interest at the same time. I also happen to think that chasing after the HJ is a waste of time, and tends to poison discussions of what would otherwise be fairly straightforward issues, by investing them with an ideological weight that they might not otherwise have. That said, IF Thomas is independent of the synoptics (which is an issue that need not correlate directly with date: it could be late and still independent), then its versions of saying can be compared to those in the synoptics to get a sense of the development of sayings traditions. But I doubt that'll get us to Jesus.

                      [Judy:] Yes, I agree entirely. I am not sure whether I think that the gospels are more or less likely to get us to the historical Jesus than other contemporary writings are to get us to the historical Caesar etc – the gospel writers clearly had an ideological agenda that slants their writings, but it’s difficult to tell whether it slanted their writing more than the agendas of people who wrote about the lives of non-religious figures.

                      While I think that it is *possible* that somewhere in the various gospels we might have a faithful, accurate account of the life and teachings of Jesus, there is no way of being sure what it is because we simply don’t have access to the right kind of material. Unless someone develops the ability to travel through time, all that we have in the way of guarantees of accuracy are the faith claims of practising Christians. As a practising Christian, I happen to believe the faith claims, but I am also very aware that they do not constitute historical proof.

                      Judy

                      __

                    • Jordan Stratford
                      ... According to Pearson s criteria, it most certainly does – particularly on the soteriological front. Gnosis saves is hard to avoid in Thomas. Jordan On
                      Message 9 of 11 , Apr 12, 2012
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                        On 2012-04-12, at 4:04 PM, Judy Redman wrote:

                        But whether one buys the argument or not, as you note, it is clear that a more sharply (and narrowly) delineated "gnosticism" does NOT include Thomas.

                        According to Pearson's criteria, it most certainly does – particularly on the soteriological front.  "Gnosis saves" is hard to avoid in Thomas.

                        Jordan
                      • Judy Redman
                        Jordan said: On 2012-04-12, at 4:04 PM, Judy Redman wrote: [Judy:] Actually, that was Bill agreeing with me. J But whether one buys the argument or not, as you
                        Message 10 of 11 , Apr 12, 2012
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                          Jordan said:

                          On 2012-04-12, at 4:04 PM, Judy Redman wrote:

                          [Judy:] Actually, that was Bill agreeing with me. J



                          But whether one buys the argument or not, as you note, it is clear that a more sharply (and narrowly) delineated "gnosticism" does NOT include Thomas.

                           

                          According to Pearson's criteria, it most certainly does – particularly on the soteriological front.  "Gnosis saves" is hard to avoid in Thomas.

                           

                          [Judy:] Well, yes, and there is a significant ascetical emphasis, but no evidence of the cosmogeny that has the earth created and overseen by a secondary divine being. While I agree that Thomas is a text that could well have been used by Gnostics, it is also amenable to use by people with other emphases, whereas Judas has the unmistakably Gnostic cosmogeny.

                           

                          Judy

                        • chaptim45
                          Chris, I found it useful indeed. When I was in seminary (graduated 1990) the Gospel of Thomas was not even mentioned. And since the textbook we had there for
                          Message 11 of 11 , Apr 13, 2012
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                            Chris,

                            I found it useful indeed. When I was in seminary (graduated 1990) the
                            Gospel of Thomas was not even mentioned. And since the textbook we had there for New Testament studies was by Luke Timothy Johnson there was no mention of the Jesus Seminar, either. So, I've always felt there were some big holes in my knowledge concerning these areas.

                            Ever since I ran across Mike Grondin's Gospel of Thomas site several
                            years ago, I've become very interested in Thomas and Thomasine studies. Your book has been very helpful to me in showing me the breadth and variety that exists in the current scholarship on the Gospel of Thomas.

                            Honestly, I think you brought it all together very succinctly. I
                            especially appreciated the way you were to discuss all the many theories equally and quite fairly and with respect.

                            So thank you for publishing this book for me and the many, many others
                            of folks who want to learn what's going on in Thomasine scholarship.

                            Tim Staker
                            Chaplain, Indianapolis, IN


                            --- In gthomas@yahoogroups.com, "Christopher W. Skinner"
                            <christopherwskinner@...> wrote:
                            >
                            > Tim, many thanks for reviewing the book in this forum.
                            > I hope you found it useful.
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