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Re: [gthomas] Androgynous ideal

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  • Michael Grondin
    ... For the moment, I ll concentrate just on 101 and 55, which are the pair of sayings that mention hating one s parents. Although certainly one s sexual
    Message 1 of 2 , Apr 5, 2000
      At 05:22 PM 04/04/00 -0700, joe lieb wrote:
      > I ask now about GOT 101 where it is stated that it is
      > necessary to hate one's father and mother. Also GOT 15
      > and 105 have a related theme. Are we being told to hate
      > the sexual aspect of our nature?

      For the moment, I'll concentrate just on 101 and 55, which are the pair of
      sayings that mention hating one's parents. Although certainly one's sexual
      nature is part of the world, and therefore is one of the things from which
      Thomas recommends abstaining, I wouldn't think that *these sayings* were
      directly related to that. One interpretation of them is that they derive
      from an early stage of Xianity, when to be a Xian often involved cutting
      oneself off from one's (non-Xian) family. But even if so, they would have
      been reusable in a later and different historical situation - one in which,
      say, one's parents were Xians, but one wanted to leave them anyway and go
      off and be an ascetic monk. Or join a group of wandering "teachers".

      > If so this certainly answers the question discussion members
      > have asked about whether 'androgyny' means lack of sex or both
      > sexes at once. In the sense that we all have a mother and father
      > we are both sexes at once. And we are told to hate this situation.

      I don't think this line of reasoning holds up. If the authors of Thomas
      believed that everybody was *already* androgynous in some sense, it would
      hardly be necessary for them to *recommend* that folks become so. A
      recommendation (or commandment) implies the ability to fail to follow it.

      > Is the implication meant to be that we have some other mother
      > and father of a spiritual nature?

      Oh, my, yes! Here, 105 and 101 are relevant, as well as a couple of others:

      101: Of course we're all familiar with the love-hate relationship that one
      has with one's parents, and there may be echoes of that here, but in light
      of other sayings in Thomas, what I think is being said is that one ought to
      hate (or cast off) one's *natural* parents, and love one's "real" (i.e.,
      heavenly) parents. This is made explicit in 101.3: "For my mother brought
      me forth, but my true mother gave me Life." (You may recall what I said
      recently about the female-gender Greek word 'pneuma' connoting spirit,
      breath, and even life itself. This is one indication that the phrase "my
      true mother" in this saying refers to "the Holy Spirit".) (Also, insofar as
      one's parents are considered one's "masters", the saying about the
      impossibility of serving two masters may be relevant.)

      105: ("He who will know the Father and the Mother will be called 'The Son
      of the Harlot'.") I guess what's most controversial about this saying is
      whether it refers to Jesus or not. I believe that it does echo historical
      charges of illegitimacy, and that that is what made it serviceable for
      another purpose in Thomas, namely (and this is arguable) that Thomas
      expresses the view of a group of early Xians who took the "Holy Spirit" to
      be a female aspect of the godhead, and that this group was subjected to
      ridicule and insult by other Xians who were staunchly patriarchal. This
      ridicule and insult would have reminded this female-Spirit group of the
      insults to which Jesus was subjected either before or after his death, and
      they thus made appeal to that other historical situation in order to
      vindicate themselves.

      Now two others that I think are crucial:

      44: (Whoever blasphemes against the Father or the Son will be forgiven, but
      whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.) Why not?
      Well, there may be a number of reasons, but I believe that one of them must
      be that the "Holy Spirit" is taken in Thomas to be a female element. You
      simply don't insult one's mother. (And this is not an anachronism.)

      85: "Adam came into being from a great power and a great wealth..."
      One is tempted to take it to be a meaningless coincidence that Adam is said
      to derive from *two* different things. I think it's neither meaningless nor
      coincidence. The word for 'power' is the Greek word 'dynamis', while the
      word for 'richness/wealth' is a Coptic feminine form deriving from a
      masculine root word. I believe that the implication here is that Adam came
      from both a Father and a Mother, rather than from a Father alone. This,
      together with the other sayings above, leads me to believe that the
      cosmology of Thomas is basically that of a family group: Father, Mother,
      Son, with Mother yet being subservient to Father. "The Mother" (i.e., the
      Holy Spirit) is elevated in Thomas to a position of near (but not total)
      equality with the Father. Rather than being the source of evil (as the
      insult "Son of the Harlot" implies), the female element is seen as being
      the source of eternal life - provided, however, that it can't work alone.
      (The Apocryphon of John apparently seized on some of these ideas, and built
      them into an elaborate myth; there we find a Mother-Father figure called
      'Barbelo', which is said to be the first creation of "the Monad".)

      Insofar as the canonical gospels agree with Thomas' view of the importance
      of the Spirit, it can be said that Thomas won out over its opponents,
      though it may have won the battle only to lose the war, since the implicit
      gender of the Holy Spirit seems to have been mostly lost. Looked at in this
      way, Thomas may have preserved a historical moment when the outcome of the
      battle over the Spirit was very much in doubt. But Steve Davies knows much
      more about this, and will, I hope, tell me where I've gone astray.


      The Coptic Gospel of Thomas, saying-by-saying
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