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Adam Reconsidered

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  • 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 1 of 5 , Apr 6, 2000
      >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

      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
      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

      >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.

    • 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 2 of 5 , Apr 6, 2000

        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.


        The Coptic Gospel of Thomas, saying-by-saying
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