Re: [GTh] GTH 55- Cross saying
----- Original Message -----
From: "John Rumple" <johnrumple@...>
Sent: Friday, October 12, 2001 8:58 AM
Subject: RE: [GTh] GTH 77- Cross saying?
> Rick Wrote:
> The malleability of the text should be kept in mind also when reading GTh
> 55. It is universally acknowledged that GTh shows virtually no overt
> interest in the suffering-death-resurrection tradition of the canonical
> gospels. If one presumes that the reference to the cross in 55.2 alludes
> the crucifixion, then it stands out in contrast to the rest of Thomas like
> moose in a mousetrap. We tend to be conditioned to always make a
> between cross-bearing and the crucifixion of Jesus. Here, and perhaps in
> canonical gospels as well, we should not be obliged to accept that
> connection without a critical pause. There is some evidence that "Cross
> Bearing" was a metaphor for suffering and sacrifice that was present long
> before Jesus had been promoted to popularity (a discussion of this matter
> with a brief bibliography can be found in TDNT VII.578).
John G. Rumple comments:
> Obviously GTh was not interested in the death/resurrection event like any
> the canonical Gospels. However, even though "cross bearing" may have been
> metaphor for suffering prior to Jesus, I think that we have to taker
> seriously that the author/readers of GTH at least knew of the crucifixion
> Christ and that this was part of their understanding of sayings like GTH55
> and perhaps GTH77.
John G. Rumple:
There appears to have been several pre-Christian examples of cross bearing
as a symbol of some sort of self-denial.
For example, in Jesus and the Zealots (p. 145), S.G.F. Brandon states, "When
Jesus of Nazareth called upon his disciples to take up their cross, he
uttered a grim challange that every Zealot had to face for himself. The
cross was the symbol of Zealot sacrifice before it was transformed into the
sign of Christian salvation."
Too, as Rick points out above, there is some evidence that cross-bearing was
a pre-Christian metaphor for suffering and sacrifice.
Finally, there is Philonic thought--in which the things of the world are a
sort of cross or tree. So, in Sacr.(61), he states that
"it is necessity to souls that love the body that the body should be looked
upon as a brother, and that external good things should be valued
pre-eminently; and all souls in this condition depend on and hang from
lifeless things, for, like men crucified and nailed to a tree, they are
affixed to perishable materials till they die."
Note that it is those who depend and rely upon external good things that are
crucified upon this "cross" or "tree". Conversely, in this case, one who
"takes up" this "cross" or "tree", showing that he is the master of it,
rather than it being the master of him, is one who no longer relies and
depends upon external good things and, so, has renounced them.
So, to summarize, there are at least three pre-Christian examples of
cross-bearing as a symbol of some kind of self-denial. First, there
is the Zealot example of it as a symbol of martyrdom for those seeking to
free Palestine from Roman rule. Second, there is the example of it as a
symbol of suffering and sacrifice. Third, there is the Philonic example of
it as a symbol of the renunciation of worldly things.
Let us, now, look at GTh 55, "Whoever does not hate his father and his
mother cannot become a disciple to Me. And whoever does not hate his
brothers and sisters and take up his cross in My way will not be worthy of
If it be hypothesised that taking up one's cross, here, has the Philonic
meaning of renouncing all wordly things, then GTh 55 becomes, "Whoever does
not hate his father and his mother cannot become a disciple to Me. And
whoever does not hate his brothers and sisters and *renounce all worldly
things* in My way will not be worthy of me."
This, thus, makes GTh 55 a logia regarding how one who is a
disciple of Jesus will renounce both family and all material possessions..
Similarly, those becoming Therapeutae renounced both family and material
possessions. Also see Mark 10:21-31.
This also fits well into the immediate context of 55.
So, in 54, we have, "Jesus said, 'Blessed are the poor, for yours is the
Kingdom of Heaven.'" Perhaps this is to be understood, "Jesus said,
'Blessed are those who have renounced all earthly goods, for yours is the
Kingdom of Heaven.'"
Again, in 56, we have, "Jesus said, 'Whoever has come to understand the
world has found (only) a corpse, and whoever has found a corpse is superior
to the world.'" It is noteworthy that, in Philo's statement, he emphasises
that external things are "lifeless". Well, if all the things constituting
the world are lifeless, then the whole world is "lifeless", a corpse, so to
speak. Perhaps, then, 56 is to be understood, "Whoever has come to truly
understand the world has learned that it is lifeless, a corpse so to speak,
and whoever learns that the world is, so to speak, a corpse will renounce
the things of the world and, so, become superior to the world."
So, to summarize, if one hypothesises that the taking up of one's cross in
GTh 55 means one's renunciation of the things of the world, then GTh 54-56
can be seen as a giving a coherent message that those who renounce family
and their material possessions enter the Kingdom, are true disciples of
Jesus, and have proven themselves superior to the world.
That this hypothesis enables GTh 54-56 to have a coherent message is, to me,
an indication that it likely is valid.
John, you make the statement, "I think that we have to take seriously that
the author/readers of GTH at least knew of the crucifixion of Christ and
that this was part of their understanding of sayings like GTH55 and perhaps
I agree that the author and intended readers of GTh were aware that Jesus
was crucified--for this was common knowledge. However, it does not
necessarily follow that this awareness played any role in how they
interpreted GTh 55. Indeed, based on what I say above, I do not think that
this awareness played any role in how they interpreted GTh 55.
1809 N. English Apt. 17
Maplewood, MN USA