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[gthomas] Re: Me (was asceticism)

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  • Jacob Knee
    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
    Message 1 of 13 , Sep 13, 1999
      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.

      Best wishes,
      Jacob Knee
      (Boston, England)
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