[gthomas] Re: Me (was asceticism)
- You will I'm sure be unhappy that I have snipped your long post. It is not
done to offend, or to indicate that I didn't read what you wrote carefully
but simply as a pragmatic way to make this message manageable.
The distinction I have made, and obviously not cleary explained, is in
topics of conversation (i.e. the substantive content of discussions).
1. Imagine a discussion of whether the Gospel of Thomas really does bring
illumination or really does not bring illumination or whether it is true or
false that 'Whosoever discovers the interpretation of these sayings will not
taste death' (saying 1): (i.e. the truth or falsity of the claims of the
text) This would be a _religious discussion_ in exactly the same way as if
we were to debate whether it is true or false that the Spirit proceeds from
the Father or whether it is true or false that Jesus is 'the way, the truth
and the life'. It is this kind of discussion that I believe is not within
the remit of this list.
2. Imagine a discussion of the historical context of saying 1 in first
century Palestine or in second century Egypt. Imagine a discussion of the
sources of the text of Gospel of Thomas. These are historical questions -
they involve us trying to understand individuals who lived and are now dead,
and what these dead people thought and how these dead people lived (as most
pausibly and imaginatively we can reconstruct). They are questions not about
us, and _our_ attitude to fasting, or alms giving, or prayer, or
contemporary christianity (however much we despise or approve of it): they
are questions about the past, about dead people and dead communities and
_their_ attitude to fasting, and _their_ attitude to alms giving and _their_
attitude to the religions around them. It is these broadly historical
questions (and moving towards the most reasonable historical answers to
them) that I see this list as being about.
In this historical process of questioning and tentatively suggesting
answers - I begin by attempting to understand the questions and answers of
those who are cleverer than me and who have studied the matter for longer
and more carefully than I have. In this context Richard Valantasis is one of
the world's foremost experts on the Gospel of Thomas, and as it happens, is
a leading theorist of asceticism. To reflect on his thoughts on the matter
isn't an attempt to conceal my own thoughts - but to encourage a theoretical
and historical deepening of my reflections and an appreciation and critique
of the 'current state of the question'.
I'm happy for you to have the last word on this - but I will not reply again
on list - because, as I'm sure you can imagine, I see it as off topic.