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RE: [GTh] review of WATSA booklet on Thomas, part 3 of 3

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  • 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 1 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 2 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 3 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 4 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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