Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

Re: [gthomas] Androgyny Reconsidered

Expand Messages
  • Robert Tessman
    ... Thank you for the kind response. Yes, I see. Perhaps I did take your argument out of context a bit and my apologies for this. What I wished to point out
    Message 1 of 5 , Apr 4, 2000
    • 0 Attachment
      >Robert-
      >
      >Good to hear from you again! As usual, I welcome your critique, some of
      >which is in line with my own developing thinking on this issue. Instead of
      >responding point-by-point to your note, I'd like to indicate what some of
      >those developments are, and then you can re-critique me if you wish. (BTW,
      >the word 'literal' was a wrong choice of words - I'm not concentrating on
      >the physical aspects of androgyny, but on the meaning of the word.)
      >
      >My Langenscheidt's Pocket Classical Greek Dictionary defines 'androgynos'
      >as meaning "man-woman, hermaphrodite, eunuch"(!) In terms of the logical
      >distinction I drew, a hermaphrodite of course would be both male and
      >female, a eunuch neither. The fact that the same word could be applied to
      >both a hermaphrodite and a eunuch indicates to me that either the ancient
      >mind wasn't too clear (or careful) about logical distinctions, or that in
      >their minds, 'both' was equivalent to 'neither' in some sense. There is, in
      >fact, some sense that can be made of the latter, but I won't bore everybody
      >by going into that right now, especially since the logical point isn't
      >crucial.
      >
      >The crucial argument that I would raise against Crossan's view is that what
      >Thomas says about Adam absolutely does not imply that it has an androgynous
      >view of him - in fact, it implies the opposite. The Adam of Thomas is the
      >simple physical Adam we're all familiar with, not the androgynous
      >Adam-of-the-spirit that derives from sophisticated intellectual exegesis of
      >Genesis. I don't see any evidence that the authors of Thomas had a
      >different, "secret", view of Adam (and paradise) that they didn't reveal.
      >To the contrary, the evidence seems to indicate that while the authors of
      >Thomas were entranced with this "make the two one" idea, they simply
      >enumerated various opposites without thinking the whole issue through very
      >carefully. Similarly, though they envisioned a return to the beginning,
      >they evidently didn't spend too much time thinking about what exactly that
      >would be like.

      Thank you for the kind response.
      Yes, I see. Perhaps I did take your argument out of context a bit and my
      apologies for this. What I wished to point out however was, although I
      agree with your suspicion of the androgeny and chastity suppositions, I do
      not think it is as discountable as your previous post suggested. Although
      there is no direct implication of androgeny in Thomas, I cannot agree that
      it implies the opposite.
      Earlier you wrote:

      >androgynous Adam: As far as I know, this is entirely a gnostic idea
      >related to the intellectual notion that God "himself" must be androgynous
      >therefore "man" (his "image") must also be androgynous, at least at first.
      >The notion of androgyny is prominent in the Apocryphon of John, for
      >example. But note that when *Thomas* mentions Adam, not only does it say
      >nothing that would indicate that he's being taken in that way, but in fact
      >it rather clearly implies that he is *not* being taken in that way ("he
      >[Adam] was not worthy of you").

      Here you seem to be implying that Adam is being depicted as a person that
      'should' have a lesser value according to the text. But I wonder if modern
      impressions are being infused into the idea of something 'not being
      worthy'. Does this mean that it is inherently worthless, in and of itself,
      or does this not point to the one valuating the thing. For instance, the
      majority of people, according to early christians did not value Jesus as
      they should. In this way he had no worth to them; he was not worthy of
      their attention. But because to certain people Jesus had no worth does
      that imply then an inherency in Jesus to 'not be worthy' in the sense that
      we understand this expression today?

      I suggest that Adam, as described in Thomas, WAS considered the
      ideal state for Thomasine ascetics to attain (i.e., to become Adam). Talk
      of being children of Adam occurs only when they are spreading the word or
      anouncing their state of being. The messenger is never the 'being' and can
      thus only be described as an offspring of the being. In this way Jesus too
      is often identified with his father except when he must speak about his
      being, then he must speak of himself as the son of the father, as though
      his words were his offspring or fruit of the tree. (As an aside I also
      wonder if 'father' in Thomas does not refer to Adam, and that the image
      that came into being before comming into being is God himself--the template
      for Adam's existence).
      Let me just poke at the saying you have used in showing that an
      androgenous Adam is not an ideal within the Gospel of Thomas.

      85. Jesus said, "Adam came from great power and great wealth, but he was
      not worthy of you. For had he been worthy, he would not have tasted death"

      Now assuming that Jesus is not speaking of the 'dead' here as the disciples
      did of the prophets etc., That is, assuming that Jesus is talking about and
      to his listeners and not about some distant, objectifying, abstraction from
      Genesis, perhaps this saying may take on more meaning for us--because it
      sure doesn't make much sense to me as it is commonly understood.

      85b. "..but he was not worthy of you", makes no sense to me if this is to
      be interpreted as pertaining to a past Adam's considerations of his
      worthiness to future (disciples?) which he never knew. Rather I think it
      is a statement about the disciple's considerations of Adam. Please correct
      me if I am way off base in this retranslation, but perhaps it would be
      better written, "..but he was of no worth to/for you.."--sort of in the
      same way that the world isn't worthy: It is of no worth or value. The
      teaching would thus be an admonishment of resent behavior to whomever Jesus
      is speaking to here.
      The last sentance is then a mirroring effect of the ideal of
      existence, Adam, and the audience of this saying. That is, if Adam had any
      real value to whomever Thomas has Jesus speaking to, then they would no
      longer taste death and in this way they would reinstitute the paridisical
      state of the ideal Adam because they would finally BE Adam.
      Thus in keeping with Paul, Adam, the once perfect man, must BECOME
      someone of value to the followers of Jesus if the curse of the Tree of
      Knowledge of Good and Evil is to be overturned--Jesus, of course, was
      considered to be the proof that the law could be overturned. Thus the
      saying jumps from primordial or even paradisical times, "Adam came from
      great power and great wealth,.." to a current past in the life of the
      DISCIPLES, "..but he was of no worth to you." to an explanation of why
      things were the way they were by showing it is because of the way things
      are now, the way they are, "For had he been of worth, he would not have
      tasted death".--he is made to speak here to the individual listeners of
      this saying as Adam as the ideal that died because he had no value for
      himself.
      In view of the fact that GThomas, if indeed there is an intent
      behind it all, rebukes the 'speaking' of the dead, I do not find it
      improbable that all historical or litterary references within the text lead
      not back to past ideas or abstractions but as symbols with which the
      ascetics were made to identify themselves --ideas that were to be applied
      to the present moment and the immediate person to which this was addressed.
      By such an interpretation, the logic becomes cyclical. And that is
      why I think it is the more appropriate interpretation. The ascetics were
      probably not logicians. The sayings, moreover, were probably inteded to
      confuse the intellect. And because of this assumption I think it is
      impossible to aproach the meaning behind these symbols with logic (as I can
      bear witness to, having failed somewhat in this endeavor i'm sure).

      Peace,
      Robert.
    • Michael Grondin
      ... You go to a great deal of trouble to show that #85 shouldn t be taken at face value, but I m really at a loss to understand why you prefer an
      Message 2 of 5 , Apr 4, 2000
      • 0 Attachment
        Robert Tessman writes:
        >I suggest that Adam, as described in Thomas, WAS considered the
        >ideal state for Thomasine ascetics to attain (i.e., to become Adam).

        in spite of Th 85:

        >"Adam ... was not worthy of you. For had he been worthy,
        > he would not have tasted death"

        You go to a great deal of trouble to show that #85 shouldn't be taken
        at face value, but I'm really at a loss to understand why you prefer
        an interpretation that appears to be the very opposite of what was
        intended. "not worthy of you" of course doesn't mean 'worthless',
        just that Adam wasn't as good as you (J's disciples) are. Thomas says
        the same thing about John the Baptist - he's the greatest among men,
        but he ain't as good as you are. This is the simple, straightforward
        interpretation, and Ockham's razor recommends that, all other things
        being equal, the simpler explanation is to be preferred, because it's
        more likely to be the correct one.

        I hope it's understood that I'm not denying that Thomas presents a
        sort of androgynous spiritual ideal. I'm just saying that, for
        Thomas, _Jesus_ is the prototype of that ideal, not Adam. As Paul
        might say, Jesus ain't just the greatest son of Adam the world has
        ever seen - he is himself _an entirely new and different Adam_
        (sinless, eternal, and all that). Indeed, sin and death are so often
        equated in early Xian writings that one suspects that part of what
        Thomas means by "not taste death" is simply "not sin". (And, of
        course, if you don't sin in this world, then you're gonna have
        eternal spiritual life in the other, so the two go hand-in-hand.) In
        any case, Thomas says that Adam "tasted death", but that the (true)
        disciples of Jesus won't. I don't see how it's possible to get around
        the implications of that. Adam is simply not an ideal to emulate.

        The theme of Adam as the ideal man may be common in other ascetic
        writings - I'm not denying that, and that is probably the background
        knowledge that brought Crossan to say what he did about Adam. If
        Thomas itself had said nothing about Adam, that might be a possible
        inference. But since Thomas does talk about Adam, and since what it
        says about him is consistent with its other views, I see no reason to
        suppose that Th 85 shouldn't be taken at face value.

        Regards,
        Mike
      • Robert Tessman
        ... What you mean is, I like to write allot and you are correct, but I don t know why I like to write allot. Maybe I even hate it to some degree. I think
        Message 3 of 5 , Apr 6, 2000
        • 0 Attachment
          >Robert Tessman writes:
          >>I suggest that Adam, as described in Thomas, WAS considered the
          >>ideal state for Thomasine ascetics to attain (i.e., to become Adam).
          >
          >in spite of Th 85:
          >
          >>"Adam ... was not worthy of you. For had he been worthy,
          >> he would not have tasted death"
          >
          >You go to a great deal of trouble

          What you mean is, 'I like to write allot' and you are correct, but I don't
          know why I like to write allot. Maybe I even hate it to some degree. I
          think maybe I assume people do not understand correctly what points I am
          trying to make so I try to make up for it by covering all forseable points
          of possible misunderstanding. Anyway I apologize to those who actually read
          what I write. I feel sorry for you all, but my intent is not to bore or
          say anything redundant. Unfortunately this post is especially long and I
          pray for you all.

          to show that #85 shouldn't be taken
          >at face value, but I'm really at a loss to understand why you prefer
          >an interpretation that appears to be the very opposite of what was
          >intended.

          Firstly we cannot assume that we know what was intended. Secondly, it is
          not exaclty opposite. Adam did taste death and for that reason he became
          seperated from 'great power' and 'great wealth' (although I don't know
          about the mother/father thing here it could just be emphasis on
          'greatness'). In this way we can distiguish two Adams, the one who came
          from great power and great wealth and the one after the fall. In this way
          we have ideal Adam juxtaposed to the corrupted or mortal Adam. The last
          line implies the conditions necessary to not 'taste death', by explaining
          why Adam tasted death.

          For fun, I'll give an ilustration of how Adam tasted death. When we are
          children at a very young age we all consider ourselves with a very healthy
          sense of self esteem. Later when we go to school and especially after
          puberty we begin to suspect that we are lacking and that we need to 'be'
          better than who we 'are'--At this point we no longer consider 'Adam' to be
          Worthy--because we have taken from the tree of knowledge--we want more
          because paradise is no longer good enough for us. The point at which Adam
          no longer was worthy of himself was the point at which he lost great power
          and great wealth.


          Here I am assuming that Adam (as fallen) is conceived as an Archetype for
          Man in general, and not just some story that the ascetics took in only an
          historical sense. Yet nowhere does it state which Adam is being spoken of.
          Adam seems to be either the one who came from great power and wealth or the
          one who tasted death, but in the GoT it is all the same Adam--and perhaps
          for a good reason. So when I say Adam is the ideal, I am partly wrong here
          and I apologize for the confusion. What I should say, rather, is that
          "Adam" is the main concern in the GoT. (or perhaps one symbol in the slew
          of symbols that represents the main concern).

          "not worthy of you" of course doesn't mean 'worthless',
          >just that Adam wasn't as good as you (J's disciples) are.

          Right. I should not have used the word 'worthless' because we are not
          dealing with an absolute valuation. It is instead a relative valuation.
          But my argument, nevertheless, rests upon who is concerned in this.

          ===============================================================================
          85. Jesus said, "Adam came from great power and great wealth, but he wasn't
          worthy of you [or 'wasn't valuable enough for you']. For had he been
          worthy, he wouldn't have tasted death."
          ===============================================================================
          The following are dramatic retellings in modern speach that are intended to
          illustrate the difference between these two interpretations.

          Reinactment of the First Interpretation (Adam < Disciple):
          Jesus said "Adam was really cool, he was an awsome dude, but man! you guys
          are way cooler. If he was as cool as you guys, I bet he wouldn't have
          tasted death man!"

          Reinactment of the Second Interpretation (Adam = Disciple):
          Jesus said "Adam was really cool, he was REAL man! Back when you first came
          to me you didn't give a shit about him. If you actually gave a shit about
          him all ya'll, like Adam, woulda never STOPPED bein' REAL. You were Real
          once just like Adam and then you stopped given a shit and you stopped bein
          real. And it's cause YOU stopped given a shit, that Adam got himself a
          taste a' death.
          ===============================================================================

          The last sentance of 85 in particular would appeal to the guilt complex
          that so many people had in the classical period. Everybody believed the
          universe depended upon them and their sacrifices. If there is an
          earthquake, it's probably because of that prayer I neglected. Here, if
          Adam tasted death it was because the disciples didn't value him enough.
          Furthermore because of the words 'taste death' a direct connection
          perhaps should be made to the opening phrase "whoever discovers the
          interpretations of these sayings...yada yada yada." Which brings me to
          your next statement.

          Thomas says
          >the same thing about John the Baptist - he's the greatest among men,
          >but he ain't as good as you are. This is the simple, straightforward
          >interpretation, and Ockham's razor recommends that, all other things
          >being equal, the simpler explanation is to be preferred, because it's
          >more likely to be the correct one.

          Indeed, wisdom to avoid insanity by! When my car doesn't start and I ask
          myself "what is wrong with my car?" the simplest explanation would usually
          be that I havent put the key in the ignition. However when we ask "what is
          wrong with me?", Ockham's razor would probably lead to the cutting of one's
          own wrists--because us humans refuse to understand exactly 'what' a simple
          explanation is. Regardless I fail to see how a 'face value' interpretation
          of this saying is a 'simple' explanation. How does praise help an ascetic?
          In my experience it only nurtures a sickly demand for more praise. I do
          not see how Jesus praising his disciples as being better than anyone
          immaginable is relevant to the ideas expressed in the rest of the GoT. Was
          the Ascetic community behind the GoT just a circle jerk, a group of people
          that got together for the purpose of flattering eachother with ideas of who
          they are all better than?
          I agree with 'Ockham's razor' in most cases as far as
          'explanations' are concerned. But we must remember who this text was
          written to. It was NOT written to people who were trying to understand the
          'ideology' or 'dogmatic world view' of a distant Thomasine community of
          ascetics. It was written to the ascetics themselves who would have cared
          for nothing of that. It was written to people who believed they were
          sinners, products of Adam etc., and who wished for a personal, internal,
          transformation--wished to attain a 'spiritual' state of existence.
          Everything written in this text should therefore be understood in terms of
          it being intended to reflect the reader or listener him or herself. This
          is why the sayings at least cannot be approached with logic, because logic
          objectifies the sayings rendering them abstract and impersonal. One has to
          approach them as an ascetic would, whose very life depended upon these
          sayings as though the sayings were the key to a complete change of their
          own being. As if the words were actually speaking to him and noone else.
          Logic may work 'outside' the text but 'within' the text logical
          explanation is virtually impossible especially considering that these ideas
          are not 'logical'.
          So perhaps J's Disciples ARE better than Adam--this would then make
          them what? Inhuman? And where would that leave us in understanding the
          text? It would seem that it is simply an exagerated statement of how
          'good' these disciples are in comparison to everyone else. Why would that
          be at all pertinent to the goal of the gospel--to discover the secret
          interpretations so that we do not taste death. Such a 'simple'
          interpretation would possess absolutely no transformative value to the
          reader.
          I will agree that this is perhaps one intended interpretation. But
          I will not agree that it is the 'only' intended interpretation. In this
          way I do not think you will find any stable 'value' for 'Adam' in the text.
          (That last sentance, for instance, has more meaning intended than just a
          surface one). On the one hand Adam is not valued as the ideal, on the
          other hand he IS valued as the ideal--depending on how you read this
          saying. Furthermore, when he IS the ideal, Jesus admonishes the past
          concerns of his followers for not valuing him enough!--and goes on to say
          that this is why they tasted death--because each one of them IS Adam not
          being worthy of Adam.
          No, when you are dealing with the writtings of ascetics, insanity
          becomes a great threat--because as any ascetic will tell a logician, there
          is absolutely no simple "explanation".

          >I hope it's understood that I'm not denying that Thomas presents a
          >sort of androgynous spiritual ideal. I'm just saying that, for
          >Thomas, _Jesus_ is the prototype of that ideal, not Adam. As Paul
          >might say, Jesus ain't just the greatest son of Adam the world has
          >ever seen - he is himself _an entirely new and different Adam_
          >(sinless, eternal, and all that).

          See, now you are revealing the illogic that even you must notice: "an
          entirely new and different Adam": The same man but different. What? Do
          you not see how this cannot be pinned down by rational thought? In the GoT
          especially, the sayings are not dogmatic but poetic. We cannot say that
          Adam was considered to be an anti-ideal, because he was an ideal, however
          it is wrong to say he was an ideal. There are so many layers of meaning
          that it is impossible to say yes or no to any of them. We must look at
          these sayings from many differing points of reference not just anagogically
          but anamorphically.

          Indeed, sin and death are so often
          >equated in early Xian writings that one suspects that part of what
          >Thomas means by "not taste death" is simply "not sin". (And, of
          >course, if you don't sin in this world, then you're gonna have
          >eternal spiritual life in the other, so the two go hand-in-hand.) In
          >any case, Thomas says that Adam "tasted death", but that the (true)
          >disciples of Jesus won't. I don't see how it's possible to get around
          >the implications of that.

          Adam 'tasted death' at the fall from his great wealth and great power. I am
          not getting around these implications I am simply reversing them. This
          reversal is what is implied in the Got--the beginning is where the end will
          be--The 'End' is the restoration of Adam to his great power and great
          wealth. But the 'Adam' tasting death is the person who seeks to discover
          the secret interpretations of these sayings. The one who discovers them
          however will be Adam and perhaps will even find in the text a validation of
          this.

          >Adam is simply not an ideal to emulate.

          Certainly not. Not as fallen. But I am not speaking of 'emulating' here.
          I am speaking about 'being'. He was the first and if all goes well for the
          ascetic he will be the last--everything inbetween is the tree of knowledge:
          Death. At first there was Adam then he fell into the realm of illusion
          controled by knowledge and until he reaches out and takes from the tree of
          life to 'Be' what he was once again, he will taste death. This it seems is
          how the Adam of Gen 2 and 3 is understood by GThomas. Every Ascetic must
          go back to the beginning face the twirling swords of the cherubim, and take
          from the tree of life. In this way they WILL BE Adam once again...new and
          different, but Adam nevertheless.

          >The theme of Adam as the ideal man may be common in other ascetic
          >writings - I'm not denying that, and that is probably the background
          >knowledge that brought Crossan to say what he did about Adam. If
          >Thomas itself had said nothing about Adam, that might be a possible
          >inference. But since Thomas does talk about Adam, and since what it
          >says about him is consistent with its other views,

          I wonder how many differing 'consistent views' there are of GThomas. The
          only thing that doesn't seem to be consistent with GThomas are the many
          differing opinions of how it is consistent.

          I see no reason to
          >suppose that Th 85 shouldn't be taken at face value.

          Because the text implies over and over again that the correct
          interpretations are hidden. If you think you got it, your probably wrong.
          It is ego-centric and socio-centric to believe that we live in such an age
          that our first impressions of the sayings are what the ancients tried so
          hard to get to. I highly doubt the age of enlightenment did that much to
          our collective psyche.

          Peace,
          Robert.
        • Michael Grondin
          Robert- I think we ve reached the point where we re just going to have to agree to ... You re not going to be able to convince me of that, since I m a
          Message 4 of 5 , Apr 6, 2000
          • 0 Attachment
            Robert-

            I think we've reached the point where we're just going to have to agree to
            disagree. I do want to clarify one point, however. I had said:

            >I hope it's understood that I'm not denying that Thomas presents a
            >sort of androgynous spiritual ideal. I'm just saying that, for
            >Thomas, _Jesus_ is the prototype of that ideal, not Adam. As Paul
            >might say, Jesus ain't just the greatest son of Adam the world has
            >ever seen - he is himself _an entirely new and different Adam_
            >(sinless, eternal, and all that).

            To which you responded:

            >See, now you are revealing the illogic that even you must notice: "an
            >entirely new and different Adam": The same man but different. What? Do
            >you not see how this cannot be pinned down by rational thought?

            You're not going to be able to convince me of that, since I'm a
            rationalist. I believe that anything can be "pinned down by rational
            thought" - even irrationality. Isn't that the basic assumption of
            psychiatry and psychology? But if you think otherwise, then what is the
            point of even trying to analyze Thomas?

            "The same man but different" doesn't really capture the idea of Jesus as
            the new Adam. The only sameness is in the fact that both were regarded as
            the first of a new species of man. As I see it, Thomas implicitly contrasts
            Adam as the first physical man with Jesus as the first "living spirit"
            (using the words of Th 114). Adam "tasted death", but Jesus didn't. That's
            why there's no talk of the crucifixion - because it's not *physical* death
            that Thomas is talking about - it's spiritual death. The (eternally)
            "living Jesus" is the one who spoke these words, according to Thomas - not
            the man who was crucified, died, and was buried.

            Adam is the worldly man of sin; Jesus is the spiritual sinless man - and so
            is Thomas, and anyone else who follows in this path. "Sinless" in the sense
            that, like a child of seven days (i.e., an uncircumcized child literally, a
            "child of creation" metaphorically), he's unaware of the difference between
            good and evil - which makes him innocent of any knowledge of the world. In
            other words, he doesn't eat of the fruit of that tree that Adam ate of.
            When Adam ate of that tree, he entered the world - the world of sin and
            death. By refusing to eat of that tree, one returns to the spiritual world
            of sinlessness and eternal life. (According to Thomas)

            Anyway, that's my take on it. If you want to differentiate the pre-sin Adam
            from the post-sin Adam (or the about-to-sin Adam), that's fine, but I don't
            see that Thomas was thinking that way. Maybe, as I said before, they just
            didn't think it through very carefully. If they had, they might have
            considered the pre-sin Adam as an ideal. But then, again, there was no
            reason for them to do that, since they already had Jesus as their ideal.
            *Other folks* might have believed that man can't possibly emulate Jesus,
            because of his divine nature, therefore pre-sin Adam must be the ideal man.
            But as you know, Thomas believed that man *can* emulate Jesus, so pre-sin
            Adam wasn't all that important to them.

            Regards,
            Mike

            The Coptic Gospel of Thomas, saying-by-saying
            http://www.geocities.com/athens/9068/sayings.htm
          Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.