Re: [GTh] Gthomas "Premises" : (Is Gth a Literary Work?)
> Sent: Thursday, June 07, 2001 6:31 AMThank you Rick and Jack.
> Subject: RE: [GTh] Gthomas "Premises" : (Is Gth a Literary Work?)
> > [Tom Wrote]
> > "I would argue that the GoT is in affect a literary work based upon
> > its very planned configuration ....."
I have had a little time to think about explaining the GoT as a literary
I quite imagine that artists, say the Bellini School, had the same kind of
fascination the first time they ever saw a triptych. Instead of a singular
rectangle containing synergies inside the rectangle, the triptych's center,
or internal chamber has its synergies both from the center painting and the
What a dangerous concept for a religious painting. Its heresey in the first
order. An external in synergy with an internal theme. Does this make the
triptych void and delete as a work of art produced by Gnostics? No, it makes
it a more complex work of art, which requires a different approach to the
Many triptychs fold up into a case. Whether or not the GoT can correlate
with a calendar it can be compared to the triptych in the sense that it does
seem to unfold and correlate in many ways with the works of many others.
I don't know a literary term synonomous to the artistic term triptych, but
some of you might.
> The first part of what you say is probably representative of the viewWhile it may not have internal structure of higher order
> of the majority of people, i.e., that it is "in affect [sic] a
> literary work..." There are, I suppose, dozens of reasons why this
> notion is embraced and the idea that Gth has some "planned
> configuration" (organizational structure) is certainly one of the
> Interestingly, the *absence* of organizational structure is frequently
> invoked as evidence that Gth is *not* a literary work, in the sense
> that it does not reflect the creativity of an "author." The
> alternative is that it simply a list (or in other terminology, a
> "database") of Jesus sayings.
than an individual saying and lower than the list which is
the work as a whole, I think it does have a unifying
principle controlling the selection and redaction of sayings.
From the "Scholar's Translation":
> These are the secret sayings that the living JesusFor "secret" other translations have "hidden" or "obscure", which
> spoke and Didymos Judas Thomas recorded.
> 1 And he said, "Whoever discovers the interpretation
> of these sayings will not taste death."
I think better captures the intent of the author. It is not the sayings
themselves that are secret, but the understanding of them that is.
This knowledge, presumably only obtainable from the cult that
produced the book, is what grants salvation according to saying 1.
The sayings are selected and redacted to remove anything
self-interpretive, hence the alleged "more primitive form" often noted.
This path to salvation contrasts starkly with the faith of Paul's
teaching and the faith revealed by works of James' teaching. I
would thus argue that GTh postdates that period. Since it has
parallels to Gospel of John and one of the Gospel of Hebrews
(Ebionite? Gospel) as well as the Synoptics, and because I think
its forms of those sayings are redacted to its purpose, I think
it likely that it is ultimately dependent on those works, and
thus dates to the second century.
The lack of order corresponding to the sources' order is,
I suggest, because the compiler is not the redactor. That is,
the compiler of the sayings is recording sayings he was taught
orally by the cult leader/founder who was the actual redactor.
- What Jeffrey says here is a remarkable insight, in my opinion.
"'For secret" other translations have "hidden" or "obscure", which
I think better captures the intent of the author.'"
It is appropriate that focus should be shifted away from the
conventional "genre" discussion to the broader, and perhaps more
relevant question, "What was the intent of the compiler?" In short,
why was this document assembled?
"It is not the sayings themselves that are secret, but the
understanding of them that is. This knowledge, presumably only
obtainable from the cult that
produced the book, is what grants salvation according to saying 1."
The central element of gnosticism is arguably the process of
redemption (akin to "salvation," but which bears a slightly different
connotation from a technical perspective).
"This path to salvation contrasts starkly with the faith of Paul's
teaching and the faith revealed by works of James' teaching."
This is an obvious, but to my mind, consistently ignored, fact that
has lead to an over-emphasis on how Gth "parallels" orthodox
Christianity, instead of how it differs from it.
No doubt, all of this will stimulate further discussion along these
Humble Maine Woodsman
- On the subject of whether the GoT is a literary work, a liturgical work, or
a simple collection of wise sayings, it seems to me that I read somewhere
quite some time ago that wandering teachers of those times carried such
sayings-collections about, and used them as proof texts or aide memoires for
an accompanying Oral teaching. The sayings in Thomas are so bereft of
context that without such an accompanying Oral exposition they are virtually
unintelligible. They beg for an Oral expositor. It seems to me that we have
such difficulty with Thomas that the document must have been intended to be
accompanied by a Teacher who would explain the sayings. The Teachers
vanished and regrettably, we have only the document. So I don't think it was
intended as a literary work or liturgical one, and it certainly isn't a
----- Original Message -----
From: "Jack Kilmon" <jkilmon@...>
Sent: Thursday, June 07, 2001 6:08 AM
Subject: Re: [GTh] Gthomas "Premises" : (Is Gth a Literary Work?)
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- [Ron wrote:]
"On the subject of whether the GoT is a literary work, a liturgical
a simple collection of wise sayings, it seems to me that I read
quite some time ago that wandering teachers of those times carried
If you can recall where you saw the writing to which you refer, it
would be enlightening to read, I'm sure.
"So I don't think it was intended as a literary work or liturgical
one, and it certainly isn't a Gospel."
On the question of whether Gth should be defined as a gospel, Helmut
Koester suggests, "This corpus [the writings that are candidates]
should include all those writings which are constituted by the
transmission, use and interpretation of materials from and about Jesus
of Nazareth." _Ancient Christian Gospels_. Philadelphia: Trinity Press
International, 1990 (p47). In fact, in the opening pages of the book,
there is a relatively lengthy treatment of the whole issue of "what's
a gospel?" Good reading and thought provoking.
Humble Maine Woodsman