Re: Xmas Season Greetings
- [Tom Reynolds to Adrian Millar]:
I think that there is a lot we don’t know about 1st century culture and the issue of hearing/reading is just one of them.If we study the written text we are doing something they would never do. A few high-class Greeks might and it is possible that Herodian Jews might emulate the Greek upper classes but they would be reading the Greek Classics (Homer, Plato) not any of the texts written in common (Konia) Greek. It is important to understand that our in-depth analysis of the text may very well yield an understanding that neither the orator nor the hearer would envision.If we listen to the text we listen in a way completely differently from how they listened. We are a written society and our oral communication is conversation. (Give and take) Take a modern orator (Preacher) or a political debate. The standard approach is to “Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them.” In other words, to get something across orally it takes at least three repetitions. Even then, studies show that only a 20-30% retention is accomplished.In contrast, they were engaged in the story or, at least that’s what a Professor said in a teaching on Genesis The Professor pointed out that the entire story of Abraham is quite compact, about 40 modern pages, but insinuated that they listened in a more complete way. The implication was they could capture the story upon hearing it. This is necessary because one cannot go back to a previous page like a silent reader can.I theorize that what is retained both by the scribe and by the listener is the overall, sense of the message. I would expect the scribe to be able to ask questions for clarification and propose wordings to be rendered and I expect the speaker to, based on a give and take with the scribe, develop his/her thoughts but I fail to see the in-depth, obscure and/or hidden meaning either being developed by the speaker/scribe or understood by the listener.This is my thought experiment.Dictate the Gospel of Thomas to a scribe from memory. No notes. Make the scribe write with a fountain pen. No starting over. How accurate would you be?If you think that’s hard, try dictating Romans. The goal is not to reproduce the text but reproduce the thought. The scenario goes something like Jewish-Christians founded the various house churches in AD 33-34. However, in the mid 40’s they were expelled. After the emperor died the returned. What they found were some 100% Gentile Christian Churches. The result was a split between Jewish and Gentile Christians. Your basic argument is that being Jewish has no benefit in being Christian.I’ll give you a break. You can read Romans once through before starting. How would you do? How would I do? I’d get most of the main points but I’d never recover some of the subtleties that many commentators find in the letter.This is why I tend to reject the results of in-depth textural studies.In dealing with most of the writings of the 1st century, GT being the exception, the secret seems to read, or better, listen to the text over and over without consulting the text or stopping to contemplate it before one is finished. After one has read it several times one gets a sense of the author’s purpose. The next step is to look at the various paragraphs and see how they fit into accomplishing the author’s purpose. Finally, one can analyze individual passages and see how they fit. I think this is the best way to simulate how the original hearers understood the oral rendition.Using this approach it is rather easy to understand the purpose of most books in the New Testament, get an understanding of the viewpoint of most authors and a sense of the audience. This actually tells us a lot about the Christianity of AD 33-64 and a good deal about Ad 65-95.In my view, it is sad that most commentators don’t do this, preferring to build up a view of the book via an in-depth analysis of specific portions. I believe this approach is flawed. It does not take into consideration the culture and capabilities of antiquity.My question remains: Where does GT fit into what we know of 1st Century Christians? My answer is: “If it is Gnostic, it does not fit!” It is either NOT gnostic or NOT 1st century. To make it fit one must construct a 1st century Christianity that does not fit the available evidence. This, to me, is the theory defining the data when the data should generate the theory.From: Adrian Millar
To: Tom Reynolds
Sent: Friday, December 28, 2012 10:13 PM
Subject: Xmas Season Greetings
Thankyou Tom for your Christmas wishes. I have had a warm Australian Christmas on the road, catching up with family in several locations, and I turned off my mobile phone and did not check my email. Sweet ...I did read that preliminary paper on Orality, and I have seen such discussions before. My own point of view is that shifting the focus to the speech event can help balance our evaluation of an ancient text in community use against a strictly scribal focus, and furthermore that it simply MUST be discussed and debated. The difficulty (as with many of these issues) is the sheer lack of evidence of just how a text was used a couple of millenia ago by a multitude of communities with less than 21st Century communicative interactions to summize. Frustrating, absolutely.My interest is in the context and activity of the scribe as a creative agent in developing the various manifestations of religious, cultural, and philosophical�thinking. So when I study the GTh, I am looking at (speculating about) what the scribe is trying to communicate and with what resources. I am considering what value the community the text is being generated for hopes to gain in an environment of religious, and what value the scribe is hoping to gain by generating an original text in an environment of competition for work with specialized skills. A balance of these perspectives I think is a more productive enterprise.We will interact further I am sure.Merry Christmas Tom,Kind regards,Adrian MillarFrom: Tom Reynolds
To: Tom Saunders
Cc: Adrian Millar
Sent: Tuesday, 25 December 2012 11:07 AM
Subject:Tom, Adrian,�You may love this or you may hate this but Merry Christmas anyway.�It is,�I hope, a fresh viewpoint�Tom����------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------I understand the popular view what 1st century Gnostics believed but I have problems with it.�My basic problem is that we have almost zero evidence on 1st century Gnostics. �We have some 1st and 2nd BC data and we have some late 2nd century data but almost nothing from the critical era. We try to read forward from Qumran wisdom literature and backward from the late 2nd century and maybe interpret some fragments of 1st century Canonical material but I question the accuracy of this approach. A scholar will say “That’s the best we can do” but I, an engineer, say “The bridge can’t be built!” The result may be the best we can do from the internal genre of the text but is most probably incorrect.�A better approach from history:�In the proclamation era (Ad 32-64) Christ was a “Living Spirit” That is very clear from the writings of Paul. The result was subsequent revelation to what was revealed by Jesus in his earthly life. The entire proto-orthodox message of Paul is a subsequent revelation (subsequent to Jesus ministry with the 12 and revealed to someone other than the 12) and was much despised by a large section of the community. This message was not gnostic. Paul claimed special revelation from God and his adherents apparently had multiple experiences of the Risen Christ and received power from On High but the message was not secret. It was proclaimed everywhere in the Roman world until Christianity was declared illegal.�We also know from two sources [Clement (AD 95) and Ignatius (107)] that by the turn of the century the community had morphed into a bishop dominated environment. The bishops had ultimate authority as heirs to the Apostles and subsequent revelation limited to them. Subsequent revelation from an outsider such as Paul, one not appointed by the Bishops who were appointed by the Apostles who were appointed by Christ, would be rejected!�Based on these two data points we see a clear transition zone that would affect the Christianity. Much has been made of the transition from Jewish Christianity to Greek Christianity and the conflict between these two forms of Christianity. I submit however that the transition between subsequent revelation (proclamation period) and no subsequent revelation which developed in the transition period and is now the hallmark of orthodox Christianity is actually a greater transition.�I have no problem seeing a proto-gnostic movement developing during that transition (AD 64-110). I submit that the issue between proto-gnostic and proto-orthodox Christians in the period (64-110) was the issue of subsequent revelation. It would be natural for a gnostic to ask the question: “When did God stop speaking?” “Why should we focus on the actions of the earthly Christ over the actions of the Risen Christ?” “Is Christ dead or alive?”�Frankly those are VERY good questions.�I would submit that proto-Christian Gnosticism evolved from proto-Christianity not another source. �I have a serious problem believing that the Gnosticism of the late 2nd century (where the Jewish God is demoted) evolved from any Jewish root. The aeonology seen in 2nd century Gnostics is much more likely from a Greek source.�I submit that proto-Christian Gnosticism, the belief that revelation from the Risen Christ still continues, evolved from Greek speaking proto-orthodox Christians. The most telling proof text is, as one might suspect, in Jn. “I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you……He will guide you into all Truth…He will disclose to you what is to come.” Modern orthodox Christianity has largely substituted the Bishop, the Church and the New Testament for the Risen Christ. In many ways they have become historians looking back 2000 years as opposed to Christians that actually believe that Chris is alive in any real sense as the Christians of Paul’s letters seem to do.�Back to GT�If GT is a 2nd century work composed by Valentinus (AD 100-160) or a member of this school, then making it legitimate by including references to other Gospels makes sense. Valentinus desired to be the Pope and split from the Church when he was not selected. To sway Christians to his teachings from the proto-orthodox would be well within one would expect of him. This, however, makes GT a late 2nd century work. What concerns me about this approach is that while GT is implicit in its Gnosticism, it is not explicit to the extent of other writings of the time.�However if GT is a Sethian work why include semi-quotations from other Gospels? A quick study indicates that most Sethian writings are dated after AD100, most nearer 200AD. �It appears that Sethianism is an amalgam of a particular reading of GN 6 and Greek thought. To call them Jews would be problematical but they could have been thoroughly Hellenized Jews that had adopted Greek philosophical views. Jesus, of course, had a penchant for choosing followers from out of the mainstream so a Hellenized Jew is a possibility -- Thomas.�Therefore it is possible that GT is a legitimate source of Jesus’s sayings seen through the lens of Sethian thought. Nevertheless I find it inconceivable that a Jew-Thomas- would buy into the 2nd century Sethian/Gnostic/Greek view where one finds the triad of beings Man, Son of Man, and Third Male much less a demotion of the Jewish Creator to the status of a flawed entity.�Considering all this my hypothesis:�The Apostle Thomas became disenchanted with the direction of Christianity in the mid/late 1st century and, with other disenchanted Christians, sought out other areas of belonging. In the case of Thomas, Thomas spent time with a (possibly) Sethian group and told stories about Jesus to the group as well as speculated with the group about typical Sethian concepts: (1)Hellenistic-Jewish speculation on the figure of Sophia, the divine wisdom; (2) Midrashic interpretation of Genesis together with other assorted motifs from Jewish scripture and exegesis from a Greek perspective; (3) doctrine and practice of baptism Jewish/Christian/Sethian.�Later, an unknown, probable early 2nd century hearer of Thomas, wrote GT from a more developed Sethian/Gnostic/Greek view and, properly attributed the sayings to Thomas as the GT preamble indicates. In doing so the unknown author uses sources in existence as a memory aid ( a common practice) to remembering what Thomas said.�This is why the resulting GT is implicit in its Gnosticism, not explicit. This makes Thomas the origin of the sayings of Jesus but not the final redactor and author of GT.
- Continuing on this theme.The scribe will either be a first century Christian c.40- 70 who is recording of the speakers oration of what Thomas said or a 2nd century gnostic who is recording a later orator who is recounting the tradition of Thomas said. There is, of course, a mid-solution where a scribe records what an orator says he heard Thomas say which would place the text in the late Transition Era (AD 65-100).The first question to ask is simply why not assign GT as one of the “many” accounts that LK indicates exists when he wrote Lk-Acts? On the face of it GT looks like an orators notes, one of the many traveling orators of the Proclamation Period (AD 33-64). The standard answer is that GT is a Gnostic work and there is no evidence that gnostic ideas existed or would be tolerated during this period when Christianity is largely Jewish.However is that assignment true? Specifically, upon hearing an oration by someone using GT as notes, would the audience recognize the Greek thought supposedly embedded in it OR are later commentators reading into the text the thought of the school of Valentinus?As most scholars suggest, quite a few of the sayings appear gnostic while quite a few have an obvious parallel in a New Testament text. I am suggesting a reverse approach to what is typical in analyzing GT. Go through the likely gnostic sayings and try to resolve them to a non-gnostic, Jewish oriented Christianity. Further, treat the text as speaking notes and assume that the orator would expand on each saying as every preacher and every political candidate currently does.At this point in my study I don’t believe that one can completely resolve GT in the way I propose. Far more likely this is a work of the transition period and subsequent revelation is part and parcel of GT. However, I think this is the place to start and then see what is left.Gt (1-3) [Possible Amplification]These are the secret sayings that the living Jesus spoke and Didymos Judas Thomas recorded. They were spoken only to the 12 and the multitude remained ignorant as it does today. However, the Spirit has revealed all to the elect, both to the Jew and to the Greek.�Whoever discovers the interpretation of these sayings will not taste death." ��"Those who seek should not stop seeking until they find. 2When they find, they will be disturbed. 3When they are disturbed, they will marvel, 4 and will rule over all.For the mystery, which was hidden in the Scriptures was not what the scribes and Pharisees taught in their ignorance, but as prophesied by the Prophet Joel, the Grace of God has been poured out on all men, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. Oh the indescribable wisdom of God who has foreordained those He foreknew to rule and reign with Him. We are now more than conquerors through Christ who loves us.
- On 2012-12-29, at 4:30 PM, Tom Reynolds wrote:I'd respond that Birger Pearson sees the indisputably Sethian-Gnostic text "Apocalypse of Adam" as a 2nd Century BCE text. So we have Gnostics in the field at the time period. It's not unreasonable to posit a first century Gn text. Pagel's remarks on the Gospel of Mary are an example.I'd add that the overall tone of GT is Gnostic, in both its soteriology (the only thing which is really going to save you is gnosis) and its framing (this is secret stuff and if you understand it, you won't taste death). So it's without question *philosophically* and *epistemologically* Gnostic. If we are to say that it's NOT Gnostic, all we're really saying is that it isn't Sethian and it isn't Valentinian, which is certainly a distinction. But on Pearson's Gnostic checklist (cosmology, cosmogeny, soteriology and anthropogeny) GT contains two and implies (according to Erhman) the others. 1, 24, 30,50,67, 70, and 77 are just a few of the most obvious examples. GT70 is probably the most Gnostic line in the entire corpus of Gn studies.Now I'm not suggesting that GT necessarily is a first-century Gnostic text. – I doubt very much that it is first century. But I dispute your assertion that it doesn't fit the evidence when constructing the theory, which it most certainly does. We DO have Gnostics in the first century, and we DO have clearly-identifiable Gnostic teachings in Thomas. That doesn't mean that the dates and content coincide, but it also doesn't mean that they don't.Jordan
- [Tom Reynolds to Adrian Millar]:
> I think thatthere is a lot we don’t know about 1st century culture and the issue of hearing/reading> is just one of them. If we study the written text we are doing something they would never do. A few> high-class Greeks might and it is possible that Herodian Jews might emulate the Greek upper classes> but they would be reading the Greek Classics (Homer, Plato) not any of the texts written in common> (Konia) Greek. It is important to understand that our in-depth analysis of the text may very well yield> an understanding that neither the orator nor the hearer would envision.Seems to me that this overview plays fast and loose with the facts. My understanding is thatthe Jewish people were far advanced over their Mediterranean neighbors in the matter ofeducation in and knowledge of the written word. Not only did educated Judaeans study theHebrew scriptures (including portions in Aramaic), but diaspora Jews (notably those of Egypt)were responsible for the Pentateuch, which was of course Greek - though I don't know whetherit was Koine (that is the word, BTW). One would assume that Jewish Christians thus influencedGentile Christians in this matter as well, so that speakers/orators shouldn't be the only playersin view. There were readers/lectors as well - publicly reading from written texts in the churches,as was done in the synagogues. Missionary speechifying wasn't all there was, and shouldn'tbe used to minimize textual study, either then or now. In particular, while it is true that a textcan be over-analyzed, it's also true that it might contain features that a listener would miss,and those features are no less present for not being easily discernible upon hearing.Mike Grondin
- My understand is that the population was 5-10% literate and virtually everything was presented orally. Except for contracts most writings were memory/study aids. The Palistinian Jews studied the Jewish Scripture in Hebrew but the writing of commerce was Greek. The spoken language was Aramaic.
At the time written none of the 1st century writings, either writings now contained in the NT or GT were considered Scripture by Paleslinian Jews so it was unlikely they were studied like the Jewish Scriptures. The Scriptures of Christians were the Jewish Scripture. In was not till the mid-second century that NT books were analysized as we do so now.
Multiple works assert that all NT writings should be read, hopefully by a trained orator, in order to capture how the early Christians actually received them. If GT is a first Century work it should be teated the same way.
[Tom - to me, apparently - MWG]
- I have yet to see evidence of 1st century gnostics before AD 90 at the earliest. The evidence is, as you say, a reading back of 2nd century gnostics as pagels with the Gospel of Mary. Have you seen evidence that I haven't? Solid evidence would make a difference.
[Tom - apparently to Jordan - MWG]
- On 2012-12-30, at 4:37 PM, Tom wrote:According to Pearson we have Sethian Gnostic texts dating from the second century BCE.Pagels puts Gospel of Mary in the first century CE, before Gospel of Thomas (seeing some Thomas elements as rebuttals of GoM).Again this is not to say that the community of GT authorship belongs to first-century Sethian Gnostics, but rather to point out that there WERE first-century (and earlier) Gnostics.We have to remember that we have no first century archaeology on any of this, and all the dating is conjecture. We don't have a first century copy of anything, canonical or otherwise. We have mentions of Markan material (but not the material itself) from around 110 CE. We have a scrap of John from 140ish. We have Irenaeus around 190 trying to sort it all out, so that gives us about 80 years to get all these texts in writing, get them translated, circulate them, and argue about them. While we have Paul before all of that, we don't have him in any kind of circulation even 100 years after he wrote them. I don't think we'll ever have a coherent chronology of who had which texts when unless or until some decent archaeology surfaces. The best we can say is Thomas _as a written work_ is somewhere in this 110-190 CE textual frenzy.Jordan
- [Tom Reynolds]:
...> My understand [sic] is that the population was 5-10% literateWhat population? My understanding is that the literacy rate in Judaea(and among diaspora Jews, hence among Jewish Christians) wassignificantly higher.
contracts> ... and virtually everything was presented orally. Except for> most writings were memory/study aids.I doubt it. There were letters, for example. To say nothing of the worksof Plato and Aristotle, e.g.. Do you have any examples of memory aids?
were> In [sic] was not till the mid-second century that NT books> analysized [sic] as we do so now.That kind of analysis isn't much like what we do today.
> Multiple works assert that all NT writings should beread, hopefully by
actually> a trained orator, in order to capture how the early Christians> received them.What are some of these "multiple works" that assert that NT writingsshould be listened to (in the original language?)? And what interest isthere in "captur[ing] how the early Christians actually received them",even if that were possible? Actually, we do know some of that, fromthe interpretive material added by the evangelists in their gospels. Butof course they weren't illiterate, so by your standards they weren'trepresentative. Then again, who can be, unless they're illiterate, Koine-speaking, and live in the first century?Mike
- To: Mike [Grondin],�The statement 5-10% is the generally accepted estimate among both historical and religious scholars. To name a few, in addition to a direct seminar of Walt Russel, Phd (Biola University) I have heard it lately from at least�four University Professors in video presentations from the Teaching Company. One Professor, Luke Timothy Johnson, Phd is from Emory University while the another is from Eastern University. A third, Kenneth W. Hart is more of a history Professor as ia a fourth, �William R Cook. These are just a few of the sources I have read or heard. All these Professors make the point that the text was dictated orally to a scribe and then read to the audience.�It is true that highly educated Greeks read Plato, Aristotle, Homer and the Gilgamesh epic while highly educated Jews read the Jewish Scriptures but this was a very small percentage of the population. It is very unlikely that any of the 12 Apostles, or Jesus was literate in the sense we have today, save possibly Matthew. In fact the Pharisees were amazed at Jesus’ command of the Scripture because he was not “learnered”. Paul was literate but still used a scribe and Luke was probably literate. Among most Jews, literacy was limited to reading a verse or two of the Scripture. The ability to sit down and study a text as we do today was limited by both the ability and the availability of the text.�The answer to one question you ask nay be interesting. “What interest is there in capturing what the early Christians received even if that were possible?” I will send you directly a couple of PDF articles on this subject that you can choose to post or otherwise share if you wish.�In summary, there are three methods of interpretation.1-Historical, Author Centered2-Text centered3-Reader centered�The secret of the historical, author centered approach is to capture the original purpose of the author of the text. The historical part is understanding the historical setting at the time it was written and the people it was written to. The analysis is top down meaning one must discover the overall purpose before drilling down to specific passages. Another consideration is genre. What is the genre of the text. For example, one would interpret poetry different from a historical narrative.�In the case of GT, there is a dispute about who wrote it, where and when. If the text was written relatively early in Judah we know both the historical setting and the culture of the audience. OTOH, if it was written outside Judah, there is the different culture of a mixed Jewish-Greek nature. If it was written around the turn of the century, both the historical setting, culture and audience has changed dramatically. Finally, if it was written in the early-mid second century the culture was largely Greek. Note that in each of these time periods the likely author has changed.�In the historical-author centered method the challenge of GT is to determine the purpose of the author. This analysis will change depending on the period postulated for GT’s writing. We assume that the text was used within the historical context, received by the audience in the culture of the time and responded to based on the cultural attitudes of the hearers.�It, therefore, seems reasonable to interpret the text as it would have been understood within each cultural-historical setting in order to determine what we can about the author’s purpose.�Regards,�Tom ReynoldsFrom: Mike Grondin
Sent: Sunday, December 30, 2012 10:20 PM
Subject: Re: [GTh] Re: Xmas Season Greetings
...> My understand [sic] is that the population was 5-10% literate�What population? My understanding is that the literacy rate in Judaea(and among diaspora Jews, hence among Jewish Christians) wassignificantly higher.�
contracts> ... and virtually everything was presented orally. Except for>�most writings were memory/study aids.�I doubt it. There were letters, for example. To say nothing of the worksof Plato and Aristotle, e.g.. Do you have any examples of memory aids?�
were>�In [sic] was not till the mid-second century that NT books>�analysized [sic]�as we do so now.That kind of analysis isn't much like what we do today.
> Multiple works assert that all NT writings should beread,�hopefully by
actually>�a trained orator, in order to capture how the early Christians>�received them.�What are some of these "multiple works"�that assert that NT writingsshould be listened to (in the original language?)? And what interest isthere in "captur[ing] how the early Christians actually received them",even if that were possible? Actually, we do know some of that, fromthe interpretive material added by the evangelists in their gospels. Butof course they weren't illiterate, so by your standards they weren'trepresentative. Then again, who can be, unless they're illiterate, Koine-speaking, and live in the first century?�Mike