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RE: [GTh] Strata and possibilities( Clarification)?

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  • Rick Hubbard
    More than a week ago, John Moon requested some additional clarification about the distinctions between gnostic and non-gnostic elements in GTh. My apology
    Message 1 of 4 , Aug 4, 2001
      More than a week ago, John Moon requested some additional
      clarification about the distinctions between "gnostic" and
      "non-gnostic" elements in GTh. My apology for the delay (see my
      response to Mark Goodacre for my excuse).

      [John wrote:]
      The lines between what (presumably Jesus) actually taught
      and the concept of Gnostic Christianity, where they (those lines)
      appear to
      get very shall we say fuzzy?

      It would appear that some evidence exists to suggest that a pre
      existed (which I believe we discussed on the list some time
      the question becomes might not the original (although possibly
      later) have been at least partially Gnostic.

      If I comprehend correctly, I think your first question can be
      restated this way:

      [1] Are the "lines of distinction" between the "gnostic" and
      "wisdom" strata always clearly defined?

      No, I don't think they are always clearly defined (if I
      understand Bill Arnal's HTR article, a discussion of which
      initiated this thread in the first place). That is not to say
      however, that there are not some "signals" that point to gnostic
      characteristics. These signals include (pp.478f):

      A. The presence of "gnostic mythological motifs" (e.g., 50, 101).
      B. "Deliberate obscurity and use of external points of reference"
      (15, 84).
      C. The presence of "named disciples" (13,21,61,114).
      D. "Tendency toward the dialogue form" (13,22,60,61).
      E. Word plays (18, 101).
      F. Arrangement of sayings in pairs (21+22, 27+28, 50+51, 60+61,
      G. Themes of:
      becoming one, single or alone (11, 22, 48, 61, 114);
      the end is the beginning (18, 49);
      salvation as the avoidance of death (18, 61, 111);
      use of the word "living" (11, 50, 101, 111);
      use of the term "repose" (50, 60);
      references to "light" (50, 61, 83);
      the image of drinking from Jesus' mouth (13, 28, 108).

      When more than one of these characteristics are present in a
      single saying (and as you can see from above, this happens
      frequently), it becomes most certain that it is evidence of
      gnostic redaction.

      John's second question seems to be:

      [2] Is it possible that the gnostic strata is original and the
      sapiential strata is secondary?

      Bill seems to say that the answer is "no." He offers three
      observations (p.479).

      A. "...in terms of the history of the tradition, this order
      [wisdom to gnostic] makes most sense in its progression from
      inversionary wisdom to Gnosticism."

      B. "... the interpretation of the document as a whole is
      controlled by the incipit and the first two sayings, directing
      the reader to a 'hermeneutic of penetration' for all that
      follows. It is precisely through this device that the gnostic
      redaction is able to subsume and interpret the wisdom material in
      line with its own perspective."

      C. "...although the themes which characterize each stratum appear
      to be distinct from each other, there are secondary glosses to
      the wisdom material from the gnostic perspective."

      It seems safe, therefore, to characterize the secondary strand as
      gnostic and the primary stratum as wisdom. I also think that
      John's concern that the distinctions between the two do not
      always "glow in the dark" is valid. One who wishes to attend to
      these distinctions is advised to read VERY carefully.

      Rick Hubbard
      Humble Maine Woodsman
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