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[gthomas] Re: GThomas' original composition

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  • Stevan Davies
    ... I hope somebody else will take a crack at this because find I usually have no clue. All I know is that Gnosticism is probably earlier than previous
    Message 1 of 8 , Apr 6, 1999
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      > Steve mentions the dating of some of these writings. Can you give a
      > summary, for someone without an academic background in this field of study,
      > of how scholars arrive at the likely dates of origin. Thanks. Larry.

      I hope somebody else will take a crack at this because find I usually
      have no clue. All I know is that Gnosticism is probably earlier
      than previous generations of scholars thought it was. Why?

      To start with, as far as the gnostic material goes,
      there are reports in Irenaeus from around 180 of various gnostic
      groups. Irenaeus gives a history of gnosticism as he sees it
      that generally can be dated, and describes various gnostic
      points of view within that history that can be correlated with
      actual texts or points of view within texts. For example, he
      gives a version of the Apoc John. Thus, if Irenaeus can be counted
      on to be giving an accurate historical account, reasonably decent
      dates can be guessed at. Irenaeus' account is supplemented by
      the long later account of Hippolytus and with the accounts of
      other anti-heresy writers. So far so good.

      However.... there's a big problem.

      Irenaeus and the others have a view of Gnosticism that is
      extremely polemical and Christian-centric. Fundamentally,
      "Gnosticism arose as a variety of perversions of the true Christian
      teaching." Therefore two things: 1. There is no pre-Christian
      gnosticism and possibly no non-Christian gnosticism. 2. All
      gnosticism must have arisen after the establishment of true
      Christian teaching. Thus there cannot be much first century
      gnosticism (some is ascribed to the first century guy Simon
      Magus).

      However, the Nag Hammadi texts
      contain a splendid example of a non-Christian text "Eugnostos"
      that has systematically been transformed into a Christian text
      "Sophia of Jesus Christ." The Apocryphon of John seems to
      me obviously riddled with Christian interpolations and I am
      certain that there was a version of it that existed without
      Christian references. The Apocalypse of Adam has no Christian
      references.

      If the polemical view of Irenaeus etc. is found to be false
      [i.e. "it is not the case that all Gnosticism arose as perversions
      of Christian truth"] then the dating plan given by Irenaeus etc.
      is not at all reliable. Was there then a first century or earlier
      version of e.g. the Apoc John prior to its Christianization?
      [Its Christianization is what brought it into Irenaeus' purview,
      not what brought it into being.] Yeah. Probably. But when
      we sever ourselves from the anti-heretic writers' views of things
      we find ourselves floundering around when it comes to putting
      dates on things.

      And then, as always, there's the question of definition. "What
      do you mean by Gnosticism?" [My answer: things akin to the
      Apoc John.] But there are lots of other answers (hence
      the term is virtually meaningless) that will include such things
      as the positions of Paul's opponents in Corinth and the general
      perspective found in the Gospel of John.

      Possibly Gnostic scholarship tends to work from a "law of
      increasing complexity" so that the more convoluted a gnostic
      text is the later it is (this might be called the Pistis Sophia
      factor, that text being both incredibly convoluted and considered
      quite late). It might be suggested that the more Christian a
      gnostic text is the later it is (which rather reverses the order
      implicit in Irenaeus' theory).

      Steve Patterson... you there? What's your answer to Larry's
      question?

      Steve

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    • betadavid@hotmail.com
      Re: GThomas original composition (April 6) I hope someone else takes a crack at this (SD) Dear Larry & Keith I m knew to this list Larry but I ll take a
      Message 2 of 8 , Apr 6, 1999
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        Re: GThomas' original composition (April 6)
        "I hope someone else takes a crack at this" (SD)


        Dear Larry & Keith

        I'm knew to this list Larry but I'll "take
        a crack at it."

        'Seems to me christian gnosticism is a "suburban"
        thing that grew up as what we'd more or less call
        the `middle classes` adopted christianity;
        in its various forms (or It's various forms).

        I don't exactly know why you're asking -which
        would flavour my response- but I'll say Gibbon
        (Decline & Fall) has a 'middle of the road'
        treatment of the question.

        Realize however that "middle of the road"
        -as far as christian gnosticism goes- is
        negative.

        BetaDavid

        PS. I'd date the document earlier than
        Gibbon did; within the bounds of radiometric
        dating and where debate is to be found.

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      • laurac@ix.netcom.com
        Regarding: Gnosticism arose as a variety of perversions of the true Christian ... I believe that when he ( I assume Irenaeus) says perversions of the true
        Message 3 of 8 , Apr 7, 1999
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          Regarding:
          "Gnosticism arose as a variety of perversions of the true Christian
          > teaching." Therefore two things: 1. There is no pre-Christian
          > gnosticism and possibly no non-Christian gnosticism.

          I believe that when he ( I assume Irenaeus) says "perversions of the true Christain teaching" he means perversions of Jesus' teachings. All of the gnostic type sayings in GThomas existed long before Christain gnosticism, in the Hindu philosophies. I admittedly am NOT a scholar when it comes to eastern religions but I have a friend who lives in an ashram who I sometimes visit. He and I over the past 12 years, have had many discussions about such philosophies. Most of the material in GThomas that is considered to be gnostic: passages1,2,3,4,5,6,11,17,18,22,23,24,27,29,34,42,49,50,51,56,58,67,70,75,77,81,87,91, 106,108,110,111 and 112 are all things that are common in his religion (a form of Hinduism). To them these things are not mysterious. They believe in Pantheism and the world as a projection. This is what passage 29 is about (in my opinion). This is a common part of their belief: where most people just accept that conciousness is a product of the mind (or physical brain), they find this obsurd, and believe that the body is a product of conciousness (that is; the body is a projection, an illusion that's not real). For the Pantheist, one must break free of the illusion and see that everything is really ONE. I'm NOT proposing to know whether this is true or false, only that this is what they teach.
          He claims (though I have no idea how valid it is) that in their ancient texts, it is said that Jesus spent much of his early life in India and studied such things under various sages and gurus. After becoming a master (enlightened or whatever) he returned home and became a teacher.

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        • Chris Cutler
          ... I have never heard anyone suggest that Hemes Trismegistus was Christian, not that the writings were not Gnostic. Wouldn t that make them non-Christian
          Message 4 of 8 , Apr 9, 1999
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            > Regarding:
            > "Gnosticism arose as a variety of perversions of the true Christian
            > > teaching." Therefore two things: 1. There is no pre-Christian
            > > gnosticism and possibly no non-Christian gnosticism.

            I have never heard anyone suggest that Hemes Trismegistus was Christian,
            not that the writings were not Gnostic. Wouldn't that make them
            non-Christian gnosticism?

            -------------------------
            Chris Cutler
            "Auditeur Libre"

            What liberates is the knowledge of who we were, what we became; where we
            were, whereinto we have been thrown; whereto we speed, wherefrom we are
            redeemmed; what birth is, and what rebirth." (Exc. Theod. 78.2)


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          • joe baxter
            laurac@ix.netcom.com wrote: All of the gnostic type sayings in GThomas existed long before Christian gnosticism, in the Hindu philosophies. I admittedly am
            Message 5 of 8 , Apr 9, 1999
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              laurac@... wrote:

              "All of the gnostic type sayings in GThomas existed long before Christian
              gnosticism, in the Hindu philosophies. I admittedly am NOT a scholar when it
              comes to eastern religions but I have a friend who lives in an ashram who I
              sometimes visit. He and I over the past 12 years, have had many discussions
              about such philosophies. Most of the material in GThomas that is considered
              to be gnostic:
              passages1,2,3,4,5,6,11,17,18,22,23,24,27,29,34,42,49,50,51,56,58,67,70,75,77
              ,81,87,91, 106,108,110,111 and 112 are all things that are common in his
              religion (a form of Hinduism). To them these things are not mysterious. "


              You are quite right. The sayings you refer to are frequently deemed
              mysterious or obscure by western scholars. To a Hindu or a Buddhist, the
              sayings are much less mysterious, and frequently the meaning is quite
              obvious to them.

              As for your list, I would also add 8, 15, 19, 30, 33, 37, 41, 52, 53, 59,
              61, 71, 80, 86, 88, 98, 103, 104, 113 as meaningful within Hinduism or
              Buddhism.

              "They believe in Pantheism and the world as a projection. This is what
              passage 29 is about (in my opinion). This is a common part of their belief:
              where most people just accept that consciousness is a product of the mind
              (or physical brain), they find this absurd, and believe that the body is a
              product of consciousness (that is; the body is a projection, an illusion
              that's not real)."

              While you are mostly correct here, the center of gravity of Hindu-Buddhist
              belief does not subscribe to the view that the body is an illusion. Nor does
              GThomas. Nor does Pantheism best describe their belief system. But these are
              small points.


              " He claims . . . . that in their ancient texts, it is said that Jesus spent
              much of his early life in India and studied such things under various sages
              and gurus. After becoming a master (enlightened or whatever) he returned
              home and became a teacher. "

              He is referring to the Himis scriptures. Unfortunately, only a few
              individuals testify to having seen these scriptures. For the time being they
              are unavailable. Either they have been destroyed, or they have been removed
              from circulation. The third possibility, of course, is that they never
              existed. However, several of the individuals who saw the manuscripts are
              very credible individuals. Nonetheless, an unavailable manuscript really
              doesn't support anything beyond speculation.

              Most scholars believe that much of the Hindu-Buddhist material is the
              product of the Thomasine community, as opposed to Jesus himself. This view
              is apparently based upon the fact that Hindu-Buddhist influences do appear
              in the Middle East during the first and second centuries C.E. This is
              especially the case around Alexandria. In my opinion, this view is rather
              uninsightful. First of all, most of these scholars have no grounding in
              Hindu-Buddhist practice, so how can they understand anything about the
              origin of these passages. They are beyond their depth. That is why they
              call these passages obscure. So saying 34, [ Jesus said, "If a blind person
              leads a blind person, both of them will fall into a hole."] is fulfilled.

              Secondly, most HJ scholars tend to choose safe and skeptical lines of
              dependent origination. It is extremely safe to suggest the passages came
              from later influences.

              Third, most HJ scholars have a synoptic bias. As a result, any view of Jesus
              which conflicts with the synoptic paradigm is deemed non-historical.

              Few HJ scholars have considered the possibility that the above noted
              passages could have arisen out of self-knowledge. Mostly, this is a result
              of their failure to understand a set and setting in Jesus' life out of which
              the teachings could have arisen naturally.

              Given the proper set and setting, the teachings certainly could have arisen
              naturally. Hinduism and Buddhism are religions of auto-enlightenment. The
              teachings arise through self-realization. Thus, given appropriate life
              circumstances, the indicated teachings could have arisen without "Jesus
              [having] spent much of his early life in India and [without his having]
              studied such things under various sages and gurus."

              Thus, understanding the appropriate set and setting is the key.

              With kind regards,

              Joe

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            • laurac@ix.netcom.com
              ... Keith. ... eGroup home: http://www.eGroups.com/list/gthomas Free Web-based e-mail groups by eGroups.com
              Message 6 of 8 , Apr 10, 1999
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                Regarding:
                >
                > While you are mostly correct here, the center of gravity of Hindu-Buddhist
                > belief does not subscribe to the view that the body is an illusion. Nor does
                > GThomas. Nor does Pantheism best describe their belief system. But these are
                > small points.
                >
                > I assume that you're probably right, since most of what I know about eastern beliefs comes from the my friend Mike, who lives in an ashram. He belongs to what they call Syda (or Siddha) Yoga, and stydies under the Guru Swami Chidvilasinanda, who became a guru in 1981 when Baba Muktnanda died. I have no reason to doubt you when you say that most Hindu-Buddhist DON'T subscribe to the belief that the body and world is an illusion. But his particular sect does. They believe that conciousness is all that exists, and everything else is a manifestation of it. When GThomas says things like: when the two become one, when the up becomes the same as the down, the inside the same as the outside, etc., etc., I believe that it is POSSIBLE, (though I certainly don't know) that this is a way of saying: when you let go of the illusion of separateness, you will see that there is only ONE. In Syda Yoga, this is what one has to see to become enlightened.

                Keith.

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