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Strata in Thomas: A proposed Reading of #88

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  • rahelzer
    There s been some talk of trying to identify the strata in Thomas; I d like to hypothesize that saying 88 was added to the gthomas somewhere between 50-80CE.
    Message 1 of 15 , Mar 27, 2002
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      There's been some talk of trying to identify the strata in Thomas; I'd
      like to hypothesize that saying 88 was added to the gthomas somewhere
      between 50-80CE. :-) Here's why.

      The saying is:

      Jesus said, "The messengers and the prophets will come to you and give
      you what belongs to you. You, in turn, give them what you have, and
      say to yourselves, 'when wll they come and take what belongs to
      them?'"

      I'm not aware of any previous hypothesis of what this saying means.
      _The_five_gospels_ says that its meaning is "unknown" and chalks it up
      to the tendency of the thomas community to produce saying which are
      "mystifying, secretive, dark, impenetrible."

      Having just finished reading the Didache, however, it occurs to me
      that the meaning of saying 88 might not be enigmatic at all--but
      rather, it is just a good old-fashioned appeal for money to support
      misionary work.

      Perhaps this saying stems from the time when there were establishd
      churches and itinerate "prophets and messangers" would circulate,
      bringing news and exhorting the bretheren. I think it is significant
      that the Didache specifically refers to some of these itinerates as
      "prophets"---a class of ministers which rapidly declined.

      Paul himself was one such itinerate, and made similar appeals like "a
      workman is worthy of his hire". By the time the Didache was written,
      however, apparently there had been a bit too much fleecing of the
      flocks by "false prophets", so the Didache gives critieria to
      distinguish false from true prophets, etc.

      Hence the hypothesis about when this saying was added to gthomas. If
      it is an appeal to help circuit ridin' prophets, it must have been put
      there after some churches were established (which determines the
      earliest date at which it could have been added) and before the
      itinerates were becomming a nuicence (which determines the latest date
      at which it could have been added). When was this? Since the Didache
      was written c. 100CE, it was before that. Also notable is that these
      itinerates were still called "prophets and messangers". I would
      argues for a somewhat early date, c. 80ce.

      Are there any other thoughts as to the "interpretation" of saying 88
      is that I have overlooked, or has anybody else proposed a similar
      reading? Have there been any other speculations as to when this
      saying was added?

      Thanks,
      -Randy
    • Tom Saunders
      Randy.... Below is a passage from the Apocalypse of Adam which may be at least indirectly related to 88. There are a number of passages in the Nag Hammadi
      Message 2 of 15 , Mar 27, 2002
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        Randy....

        Below is a passage from the "Apocalypse of Adam" which may be at least indirectly related to 88. There are a number of passages in the Nag Hammadi referring to Angels, most of which are prone to Old Test. ideas, and ways of expression. The Gospel of the Egyptians has a number of references in this vain.

        "For rain-showers of God the almighty will be poured forth, so that he might destroy all flesh [of God the almighty, so that he might destroy all flesh] from the earth on account of the things that it seeks after, along with those from the seed of the men to whom passed the life of the knowledge which came from me and Eve, your mother. For they were strangers to him. Afterwards, great angels will come on high clouds, who will bring those men into the place where the spirit of life dwells [...] glory [...] there, [...] come from heaven to earth. Then the whole multitude of flesh will be left behind in the waters."

        One major difference in the above passage that I note is the difference in epistemologies between the idea of a personified God with the power to manifest destiny, compared with the idea of the mind being the treasure in the pursuit of a competing destiny. Thomas Aquinas had a lot of trouble with this idea, and was prone to thinking about God in the personified mode.

        This clashes with the idea that God created the 'powers' of the pleroma, which is reflected in a number of Nag Hammadi texts, especially Gospels and Apocraphons. Those texts in the NH attributed to those who knew Jesus have a tendency to promote the powers of the pleroma idea. In this case man is matter, which perishes. Man is subject to his own development of soul and spirit. Demons and angels are metaphorical to this idea.

        I think the above passage reflects the idea to try and justify the Old Testament idea of a personified God with the newer idea of the powers in the pleroma. My guess is that it is a later text in the collection. I think the use of angels in the 88 passage indicates that it may be older in origin.

        Tom
      • Rick Hubbard
        [Randy wrote:] There s been some talk of trying to identify the strata in Thomas; [Snip] It seems very likely to me that there are at least 2 (maybe more)
        Message 3 of 15 , Mar 28, 2002
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          [Randy wrote:]
          There's been some talk of trying to identify the strata in Thomas; [Snip]

          It seems very likely to me that there are at least 2 (maybe more) strata in
          GTh. Recent scholarship seems to justify this conviction. So far though, no
          one seems to have clearly identified the precise boundaries of each stratum.
          I'm not even sure they have been properly named (although the general
          nomenclature "Wisdom" and "Gnostic" seems to be serving adequately).

          One of the characteristics of the stratum called "Gnostic" is an inherent
          impenetrability. The material that is classified as part of that stratum
          seems to demand from the reader an elusive hermeneutic that is almost alien
          to conventional ways of understanding. In that respect, T5G correctly
          assesses the character of GTh 88 (and obliquely, a dozen or so other
          sayings) as "mystifying, secretive, dark, impenetrable" (p 520).

          I suppose it is our nature as human beings to seek to understand that which
          is unknown. Similarly, it is characteristic of scholars to focus on that
          which is inexplicable and to try to tease out some explanation. Some things,
          however are less possible than other things. Attempting to find the
          "meaning" of GTh 88 may fall into the latter category. T5G got it right with
          this admission, "The meaning of this saying is simply unknown." While that
          may sound like a defeatist attitude, there is certainly nothing wrong with
          exercising some patience and waiting until we can learn more certainly
          about the nature of the social circumstances from which this saying
          originated.

          For my part, I'm content at this point to make just three observations.

          First, we have no certain understanding of who the "messengers and prophets"
          are in this logia. Perhaps, as Randy suggests, these are technical terms
          that describe some institutional responsibility. Then again, perhaps not.
          There may be covert cosmological significance to "messengers and prophets"
          that was meaningful to only a select few people. If that is the case, since
          we are not among the "select few" we will continue to be baffled by the
          saying. Then again, it may not be that either. "Messengers and Prophets" may
          not be anything more than an idiom similar to "the high and the mighty."

          Second, the identity of the actors in this exchange is open to question.
          Actor 1 is alleged to be Jesus, but we do not know if Jesus actually said
          such a thing (or if he *did* say it, that it originated with him). My
          personal opinion is that Jesus was neither the originator of this remark,
          nor its "repetitor." If we remove the "Jesus Factor" from this saying its is
          no more meaningful, to be sure, but it is much less tempting to look for
          some profound interpretation.

          Third, having already admitted that we do not know the identity of Actor(s)
          2 ("messengers and prophets") and opened the possibility that Actor 1 does
          not belong in the scene at all, we are then left with Actor(s) 3. If there
          is any surface meaning in this saying, it seems to derive from the behavior
          and concerns of these remaining actors. An implied exchange has taken place
          here. Actors 3 exchange something (perhaps something of value) with Actors
          2. Then Actors 3 begin to fret that Actors 2 might renege on the exchange
          and take back what they had given as their part of the bargain. If we can
          get Jesus out of the mix (and, please, lets do), what we have here is
          nothing more than expression of uncertainty about the nature of "doing
          business." This is precisely the kind of concern that one might hear
          expressed by a marginalized social group that had lasting memories of
          "getting screwed by the man." In that case, no covert "religious
          significance" is present at all. Its just the recollection of some folks
          who lived on the edge of subsistence and who recognized the uncertainty of
          life.


          But, still again, maybe T5G has it right: no one knows. Moreover, if GTh 88
          and its ilk are "impenetrable," and if they all share the property of being
          "Gnostic," then maybe what we should do is re-think the social ramifications
          of being a Gnostic. Maybe there is more to gnosticism than its frequently
          described cosmological speculations. Perhaps the *real* defining
          characteristic of a Gnostic is some particular social status (which I would
          be tempted to describe as off-center from whatever one understands to be
          conventional and which is also likely to at the lower end of the social
          order).


          Rick Hubbard
          Humble Maine Woodsman
        • rahelzer
          [Rick writes:] I suppose it is our nature as human beings to seek to understand that which is unknown. Similarly, it is characteristic of scholars to focus on
          Message 4 of 15 , Mar 28, 2002
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            [Rick writes:]
            I suppose it is our nature as human beings
            to seek to understand that which is unknown.
            Similarly, it is characteristic of scholars
            to focus on that which is inexplicable
            and to try to tease out some explanation.

            [me again]
            Indeed, both very true statements. But wouldn't
            you also agree that it is also characteristic
            of the curious to see mysteries where there are
            none?

            [Rick again:]
            There may be covert cosmological significance to
            "messengers and prophets" that was meaningful to
            only a select few people.

            [me again:]
            I agree that for some sayings in GTh, there are
            probably cosmological code words which we can't
            figure out. But for this particular saying--GTh 88--
            why do you think that this is a possibility?
            Wouldn't positing covert cosmological significances
            be multiplying entities unnecessarily?

            Compare with another saying:

            "Fortunate are those who are hungry,
            so that the stomach of a needy one can
            be filled"
            (GTh 69).

            I don't think there's any need to posit any cosmic
            conception of, say, "soul-famine" or what-not in
            order to understand this saying. Why do you think
            that GTh 88 is so much different from GTh 69?
            Does it GTh 88 contain other elements which would
            lead you to classify it in the impentrable Gnostic
            stratum?


            [Rick again:]
            One of the characteristics of the stratum called
            "Gnostic" is an inherent impenetrability. The material
            that is classified as part of that stratum seems to
            demand from the reader an elusive hermeneutic that is
            almost alien to conventional ways of understanding.
            In that respect, T5G correctly assesses the character
            of GTh 88 (and obliquely, a dozen or so other sayings)
            as "mystifying, secretive, dark, impenetrable" (p 520).

            [me again]
            The argument seems to be:

            P1: Any saying in the Gnostic stratum of GTh is
            mystifying, secretive, dark, impenetrable.

            P2: GTh 88 belongs to the Gnostic stratum.

            -------------------------------------------------

            C1: ergo, GTh 88 is secretive, dark and
            impentrable, and we shouldn't
            speculate as to its meaning.


            This is a valid argument, inasmuch as its conclusion
            follows from its premesis. But what about premise
            P2? How do we know that GTh 88 belongs to the
            impenetrable Gnostic stratum? Before classifying
            the saying as part of the Gnostic stratum, I should
            first like to determine if there is any real mystery
            there. Is it really so dark and impenetrable?

            Why not take the words "Messangers and Prophets"
            at face value? We know from the Didache and from
            the writings of Paul that the earliest churches in
            various cities would be visited by itinerate messengers
            and prophets. Both also tell us that funding these
            messengers and prophets was a point of some friction.

            Given that it was >>exactly<< these messengers
            and prophets who would be the ones circulating
            around the growing collection of sayings
            which would become the Gospel of Thomas, it would
            seem natural that at some point a saying would get
            tossed in which would validate their office and
            ensure their daily bread, wouldn't it?

            Why not take GTh 88 at face value? Methodologically,
            how do we proceed? Is a saying mysterious until
            proven plain, or plain until proven mysterious?

            I suppose that since the whole collection is prefaced
            "These are the secret sayings," the default should be
            to consider the sayings mysterious--for the final
            redactor! But when we talk about identifying the
            strata, why shouldn't the default be to look for
            an ur-reading which is plain, but which may in
            process of time have accumulated some mysterious
            baggage?

            -Randy
          • David C. Hindley
            ... occurs to me that the meaning of saying 88 might not be enigmatic at all--but rather, it is just a good old-fashioned appeal for money to support misionary
            Message 5 of 15 , Mar 28, 2002
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              Randy [Helzer?] says:

              >>Having just finished reading the Didache, however, it
              occurs to me that the meaning of saying 88 might not be
              enigmatic at all--but rather, it is just a good
              old-fashioned appeal for money to support misionary work.

              Perhaps this saying stems from the time when there were
              establishd churches and itinerate "prophets and messangers"
              would circulate, bringing news and exhorting the bretheren.
              I think it is significant that the Didache specifically
              refers to some of these itinerates as "prophets"---a class
              of ministers which rapidly declined.

              Paul himself was one such itinerate, and made similar
              appeals like "a workman is worthy of his hire". By the time
              the Didache was written, however, apparently there had been
              a bit too much fleecing of the flocks by "false prophets",
              so the Didache gives critieria to distinguish false from
              true prophets, etc.

              Hence the hypothesis about when this saying was added to
              gthomas. If it is an appeal to help circuit ridin'
              prophets, it must have been put there after some churches
              were established (which determines the earliest date at
              which it could have been added) and before the itinerates
              were becomming a nuicence (which determines the latest date
              at which it could have been added). When was this? Since
              the Didache was written c. 100CE, it was before that. Also
              notable is that these
              itinerates were still called "prophets and messangers". I
              would argues for a somewhat early date, c. 80ce.<<

              Using the Didache for comparative purposes has all sorts of
              problems associated with it. That document is hardly firmly
              dated or even established as authentic with a high degree of
              certainty. Gerd Theissen's proposal that the prophets and
              teachers of the Didache were wandering itinerants directly
              related to the Galilean environment in which Jesus developed
              his ministry resonated with those who see a Cynic-like core
              to Q and those who see Thomas as developing parallel to or
              even preceding Q. However, each of these positions makes
              assumptions about the other documents that are often
              inconsistent with one another and cannot easily be worked
              into a general theory.

              Respectfully,

              Dave Hindley
              Cleveland, Ohio, USA
            • rahelzer
              ... Which is better in the firmly dated and authentic deparment: The Didiche or the Gospel of Thomas? :-) I share your caution at just using one source (and a
              Message 6 of 15 , Mar 28, 2002
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                Dave writes:
                > [The Didache] is hardly firmly dated or even established
                > as authentic with a high degree of certainty.

                Which is better in the firmly dated and authentic deparment:
                The Didiche or the Gospel of Thomas? :-)

                I share your caution at just using one source (and a
                noncannonical source at that) in making my hypothesis--
                that's why I invoked Paul's name as well.

                I think that Paul's epistels and Acts make it clear that
                there was a time when churches were visited by itinerate
                messangers and prophets, don't you? Do you think it at all
                likely that GTh 88 was refering to this very class of
                messangers and prophets? Why or why not?

                -Randy

                p.s. I just noticed something interesting. In GTh 13
                (Where Jesus asks to be compared to something)
                Simon Peter calles him "a just messanger". In the
                parallel Mark 8:23 Jesus is called "one of the
                prophets". Come to think of it, Jesus himself resembled
                these "messangers and prophets" quite a bit.....
              • David C. Hindley
                ... deparment: The Didiche or the Gospel of Thoma?
                Message 7 of 15 , Mar 28, 2002
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                  Randy responded:

                  >>Which is better in the firmly dated and authentic
                  deparment:
                  The Didiche or the Gospel of Thoma?<<

                  Actually Thomas is more firmly dated, because we have
                  fragments of a Greek version, found in Oxyrhynchus, Egypt,
                  with a writing style that places that copy at about 200 CE
                  (although my memory may be failing me here). The complete
                  version, which appears to have a somewhat rearranged order
                  and noticeable gnosticizing tendencies, was discovered in a
                  Coptic manuscript dating to the 4th century CE. There are no
                  later manuscripts of Thomas at all, none, that anyone
                  currently knows of.

                  The earliest Didache fragment, I think, is also in Coptic,
                  and dates to about the same period that the gnosticized
                  version of Thomas was produced (4th century CE). Otherwise,
                  our complete manuscripts come from no earlier than the 10th
                  century CE, but there are several. The Apostolic
                  Constitutions, preserved mainly in Syriac I think, seems to
                  have used the Didache as a base, but these Constitutions are
                  not securely dates either, and probably do not go back
                  further than the third century CE.

                  >>I share your caution at just using one source (and a
                  noncannonical source at that) in making my
                  hypothesis--that's why I invoked Paul's name as well.<<

                  The non-canonical status of Thomas or the Didache really
                  does not bother me, as I am not a Christian. To *me* the
                  Pauline epistles also present difficulties that cannot be
                  resolved without assuming some significant editing when it
                  was prepared for publication.

                  >>I think that Paul's epistels and Acts make it clear that
                  there was a time when churches were visited by itinerate
                  messangers and prophets, don't you? Do you think it at all
                  likely that GTh 88 was refering to this very class of
                  messangers and prophets? Why or why not?<<

                  I think you will find that the prophets and teachers of the
                  Didache are quite a different breed from the missionaries
                  mentioned in the Pauline epistles. If Theissen is right, the
                  Didache's itinerants are apparently rural in origin and are
                  what they are due to economic pressures. To Aaron Milavec,
                  who develops Theissen's picture if these itinerants, they
                  are essentially on the run from tax collectors and debtors
                  who have already taken their farm and sold their families
                  into slavery. Having lost everything, they wander about
                  obsessed with speculations about end of the world age. They
                  live on the charity of other (obviously better off) rural
                  householders in exchange for the entertainment/edification
                  value of the itinerants' fervent sermons about the coming of
                  the messiah. Think of them as hobos with a message.

                  Paul's fellow-travelers are urbanites and relatively mobile
                  and working in the open. Setting aside the Christ theology,
                  which I feel is not well integrated into the fabric of the
                  letters and hence represents the theology of the
                  editors/publishers mentioned above, the "missionaries" of
                  the Pauline epistles have an agenda - greater Jewish
                  acceptance of faithful Gentiles - which they seek to enhance
                  by lobbying Synagogue leaders and by organizing the faithful
                  Gentiles to enhance their bargaining power as they too
                  pressed for a greater degree of association. This is
                  consistent with the picture of them found in Acts, although
                  their motivation in Acts is theological, not social. Think
                  of them as union organizers and representatives.

                  Respectfully,

                  Dave Hindley
                  Cleveland, Ohio, USA

                  PS: Randy, don't forget to sign your full name as list
                  protocol's require. Also, it might help to make use of your
                  spell checker. <g>
                • rahelzer
                  ... OK, can I take it then that you don t think comparing/contrasting the Didache and the letters of Paul with the Gospel of Thomas is going to help me try to
                  Message 8 of 15 , Mar 28, 2002
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                    Dave writes:
                    > The earliest Didache fragment, I think, is also
                    > in Coptic, (etc.)

                    OK, can I take it then that you don't think
                    comparing/contrasting the Didache and the letters
                    of Paul with the Gospel of Thomas is going to help
                    me try to discern the strata of the Gospel of
                    Thomas? :-)

                    What _would_ be the best methods for discerning
                    those strata? Let me tell you what I'm looking
                    for. The introduction to "The Five Gospels"
                    enumerates some criteria to determine whether one
                    saying is older than another--things like "hard
                    sayings tend to be softened over time" and
                    "if the same saying if found in two different
                    contexts it probably circulated orally
                    independent of either contex"--things like that.
                    You know what I'm talking about.

                    Do you know of any good ways of determining the strata
                    of Thomas, or in trying to make plausible conjectures
                    as to when a particular saying might have been added
                    to the list? Or do you believe it to be a quixotic
                    quest?

                    Dave writes:
                    > The non-canonical status of Thomas or the Didache
                    > really does not bother me, as I am not a Christian.

                    It doesn't bother me either--its just that there are
                    so many more witnesses to the text of the Canonical
                    books, that's all.

                    > I think you will find that the prophets and teachers of the
                    > Didache are quite a different breed from the missionaries
                    > mentioned in the Pauline epistles.

                    Oh no! I wasn't referring to the missionaries Paul
                    mentions--they are obviously something quite different.
                    Rather, I was refering to the _prophets_ he mentions,
                    as in:

                    "If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom
                    all mysteries...and have not love I am nothing"
                    (1Cor 13:2)
                    and

                    "If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in
                    proportion to his faith" (Rom 12:6).

                    (Whoever these prophets were, they must have been a
                    nuscence--both Paul and the Didachist sure seem to be
                    trying to keep them under control.)

                    Perhaps this is the root of our disagreement? I'm not
                    trying to identify the missionaries mentioned by Paul
                    with the prophets of the Didachist--no no! But I _do_
                    think that it is quite plausible that the prophets which
                    exasperated Paul are of the same ilk as the prophets
                    which exasperated the Didachist. Both, for example,
                    are said to do thinks like "prophesy in the spirit"
                    and things like that.

                    [Dave then goes on to give a nice summary of the various
                    itinerary ilk of the early first century]

                    So do you think that any of these itinerates
                    which you describe, or any of those who were
                    called prophets or messangers in:

                    * the letters of Paul (as we have them today) or
                    * the Didache (as we have it today)
                    * the canonical gospels (as we have them today),

                    and seeing as Jesus himself was apparently considered
                    by some to be a prophet (Mark 8:28) and by others to
                    be a messanger(GTh 13:2)--do you think that GTh 88
                    might be talking about any kind of these kinds of
                    prophets and messangers, or any of the kind that you
                    mentioned above? Or do you think that GTh is talking
                    about _yet_another_ category if prophets and messangers?
                    If so, why? If not why not?


                    > PS: Randy, don't forget to sign your full name as list
                    > protocol's require. Also, it might help to make use of your
                    > spell checker. <g>

                    Thanks for helping me norm,
                    -Randy Helzerman
                  • Rick Hubbard
                    [Randy Wrote:] Do you know of any good ways of determining the strata of Thomas, or in trying to make plausible conjectures as to when a particular saying
                    Message 9 of 15 , Mar 29, 2002
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                      [Randy Wrote:]

                      Do you know of any good ways of determining the strata
                      of Thomas, or in trying to make plausible conjectures
                      as to when a particular saying might have been added
                      to the list? Or do you believe it to be a quixotic
                      quest?

                      With respect to your latter question, No, it's not Quixotic by any means. As
                      for the former question, I'm not sure there is any single, good, way (if
                      there were, the matter would have likely been settled by now). If you've
                      been following the conversations on this forum, you may recall seeing
                      frequent references to Bill Arnal's article, “The Rhetoric of Marginality:
                      Apocalypticism, Gnosticism, and Sayings Gospels,” _Harvard Theological
                      Review_ [88:4 (1995) 471-494]. This is a representative attempt to
                      distinguish between the (early?) wisdom strata and the (later?) gnostic
                      strata. If you have access to a library, there's no doubt it would provide
                      you with some helpful clues. If you can't locate the article you can at
                      least look at a summary of it in the gthomas archives:
                      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/gthomas/message/3998. If that doesn't provide
                      enough information to help you, I have a breakout of Bill's strata
                      assignment in an Excel spreadsheet. If you want a copy of that, contact me
                      off-list.

                      [Snip]

                      [Randy asked:]
                      mentioned above? Or do you think that GTh is talking
                      about _yet_another_ category if prophets and messangers?
                      If so, why? If not why not?

                      It's uncertain to me which is the case (although maybe Dave has a more
                      certain answer). It my **personal opinion**, however, that the PROQHTHS and
                      AGGELOS mentioned in GTh 88 are generic representatives of some other, and
                      much broader, "class" of individuals. PROQHTHS are mentioned elsewhere in
                      Thomas (31 and 52). In the former case, the proverbial saying that "no
                      prophet is welcome in his own home" is placed on the lips of Jesus (whether
                      it is self referential is another question). In the latter case, 52, the
                      term PROQHTHS is clearly a metaphorical reference that **may** have been
                      intended to deprecate the conventions of late second-temple Judaism
                      (emphasis on **may**). One might be tempted to conclude from these
                      observations that Thomas does not use PROQHTHS in a consistently meaningful
                      way. In neither case, however, does the term seem to refer to any kind of
                      quasi-official functionary (such might be the case with PROQHTHS in the
                      earliest church).

                      The term for messengers, AGGELOS, appears one other time in GTh at 13.2. Two
                      things are noteworthy here. First, the AGGELOS is paired with NOURWMA
                      MFILOSOFOS (a man of philosophy). In other words, in 13.2,3 we have the
                      pair, "messenger + philosopher" (which contrasts, from my perspective, with
                      the pair "messenger and prophet" in 88). Second, if there is a single logion
                      in Thomas that is almost certainly an artificial construction that belies
                      editorial activity, it is this one. Therefore, if you are looking for
                      evidence of strata in Thomas here is as good a place to begin as any. The
                      reference to the bubbling spring and intoxication qualify, by most
                      definitions, as "gnostic" in character. But what about the messengers and
                      philosophers? Are they "gnostic"? Maybe.

                      Just for the record, the _HTR_ article mentioned above places GTh 31 in the
                      Sapiential Stratum, while 13 and 88 go into the "gnostic" column. GTh 52 is
                      not categorized (nor are 51 other sayings = about 243 lines of the Coptic
                      mss).

                      This probably does more to confuse than to clarify the issue. So, just to
                      restate: No, it does not seem likely to me that "prophets and messengers"
                      are consistently understood in Thomas in the same way that they are
                      understood elsewhere in the proto-orthodox Xtn tradition of the late
                      1st/early 2nd centuries.

                      Rick Hubbard
                      Humble Maine Woodsman
                    • David C. Hindley
                      ... comparing/contrasting the Didache and the letters of Paul with the Gospel of Thomas is going to help me try to discern the strata of the Gospel of
                      Message 10 of 15 , Mar 29, 2002
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                        Randy Helzerman comments:

                        >>OK, can I take it then that you don't think
                        comparing/contrasting the Didache and the letters
                        of Paul with the Gospel of Thomas is going to help me try to
                        discern the strata of the Gospel of
                        Thomas?<<

                        No, no. I just caution not to hastily jump to conclusions!

                        >>What _would_ be the best methods for discerning those
                        strata? Let me tell you what I'm looking
                        for. The introduction to "The Five Gospels" enumerates some
                        criteria to determine whether one
                        saying is older than another--things like "hard sayings tend
                        to be softened over time" and
                        "if the same saying if found in two different contexts it
                        probably circulated orally
                        independent of either contex"--things like that. You know
                        what I'm talking about. <<

                        That is a good question. The kinds of clues or criteria
                        mentioned above are in reality quite subjective, and are not
                        established empirically. for example, E. P. Sanders wrote
                        his Ph.D. dissertation on this question, later published as
                        _Tendencies of the Synoptic Gospels_ (Cambridge U.P., 1969).
                        His intent was to try as best as he could to discern whether
                        any general rules could be inferred from the various
                        presumed relationships between the three synoptic gospels
                        (Matthew, Mark, Luke).

                        Sanders concludes: "There are no hard and fast laws of the
                        development of the Synoptic tradition. On all counts the
                        tradition developed in opposite directions. It became both
                        longer and shorter, both more and less detailed, and both
                        more and less Semitic. Even the tendency [of individual
                        authors] to use direct discourse for indirect, which was
                        uniform in the post-canonical material which we studied, was
                        not uniform in the Synoptics themselves. For this reason,
                        *dogmatic statements that a certain characteristic proves a
                        certain passage to be earlier than another are never
                        justified.* (page 272, emphasis is in original)

                        As for assumptions of relationships between passages, the
                        possibilities simmer down to these:

                        1. A tradition is directly related to an earlier source
                        (subject to editorial and rhetorical changes made by the
                        author who employed the source)

                        2. A tradition is not directly related to a known (but
                        similar) tradition, but from a parallel tradition that may
                        or may not be currently preserved (again, subject to
                        editorial and rhetorical changes made by the authors who
                        employed the source, at each level the tradition took)

                        3. A tradition is not directly related to a known (but
                        similar) tradition, but from a completely independent
                        tradition that may or may not be currently preserved (again,
                        subject to editorial and rhetorical changes made by the
                        authors who employed the source, at each level the tradition
                        took)

                        We can try to discern the tell-tale signs that sources were
                        being utilized (called "aporias," meaning things that should
                        give one pause to think), but even here there are different
                        schools. An "good" editor may leave few such clues, or the
                        apparent seams, etc, are really rhetorical devices intended
                        to make the reader/hearer think a certain way.

                        >>Oh no! I wasn't referring to the missionaries Paul
                        mentions--they are obviously something quite different.
                        Rather, I was refering to the _prophets_ he mentions, as in:

                        "If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom
                        all mysteries...and have not love I am nothing"
                        (1Cor 13:2)
                        and

                        "If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in
                        proportion to his faith" (Rom 12:6).

                        (Whoever these prophets were, they must have been a
                        nuscence--both Paul and the Didachist sure seem to be trying
                        to keep them under control.)

                        Perhaps this is the root of our disagreement? I'm not
                        trying to identify the missionaries mentioned by Paul with
                        the prophets of the Didachist--no no! But I _do_ think that
                        it is quite plausible that the prophets which exasperated
                        Paul are of the same ilk as the prophets
                        which exasperated the Didachist. Both, for example, are
                        said to do thinks like "prophesy in the spirit" and things
                        like that.<<

                        I'd still say that these "prophets" were actually
                        participating in the meetings that Paul's faithful Gentiles
                        had (whether in privates houses, or in synagogue buildings,
                        etc., it does not matter). Paul speaks of "speaking in
                        tongues," which he expects others to "interpret," and these
                        interpreters are what, I think, he is calling "prophets." We
                        would still be talking about urbanites, as I doubt that the
                        rural folk hung about towns the size of those Paul visited,
                        except to unload a wagon of wheat or to visit the city
                        market for some specific tool or "luxury" item that local
                        villages could not supply him with.

                        "Prophets" in the gospels, Acts and later patristic
                        traditions, seem to be an artificial construct meant to make
                        a rhetorical point. In this tradition, "prophets" are
                        persecuted and killed, but the prophets mentioned in the
                        Jewish scriptures, while occasionally persecuted, were not
                        known to have been killed (except in an extracanonical
                        tradition about Isaiah, who Hezekiah supposedly sawed in
                        half). So they probably were referring to a class of people
                        who were *called* "prophets" in their own, or recent, times.
                        Were these the prophets of 1 Corinthians? I doubt that,
                        because the gospels place sayings about them on Jesus' lips,
                        clearly suggesting a rural setting for them, or at very
                        least one that is limited to a Jewish context. This is,
                        essentially, at the heart of G. Theissen's proposal for
                        rural, generally Jewish, itinerants.

                        >>So do you think that any of these itinerates which you
                        describe, or any of those who were
                        called prophets or messangers in:

                        * the letters of Paul (as we have them today) or
                        * the Didache (as we have it today)
                        * the canonical gospels (as we have them today),

                        and seeing as Jesus himself was apparently considered by
                        some to be a prophet (Mark 8:28) and by others to be a
                        messanger (GTh 13:2) -- do you think that GTh 88 might be
                        talking about any kind of these kinds of prophets and
                        messangers, or any of the kind that you mentioned above? Or
                        do you think that GTh is talking about _yet_another_
                        category if prophets and messangers? If so, why? If not why
                        not?<<

                        Another category, but one the author(s) of Thomas created
                        for themselves to express their understanding of the *real*
                        meaning of Jesus' teaching. They borrow the words but change
                        the meaning.

                        Respectfully,

                        Dave Hindley
                        Cleveland, Ohio, USA
                      • rahelzer
                        ... least indirectly related to 88. There are a number of passages in the Nag Hammadi referring to Angels, most of which are prone to Old Test. ideas, and
                        Message 11 of 15 , Apr 1 9:27 AM
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                          Tom writes:

                          > Below is a passage from the "Apocalypse of Adam" which may be at
                          least indirectly related to 88. There are a number of passages in the
                          Nag Hammadi referring to Angels, most of which are prone to Old Test.
                          ideas, and ways of expression. The Gospel of the Egyptians has a
                          number of references in this vain.

                          Hi Tom,

                          It would definately be useful to know whether
                          the Nag Hamaddi texts generally used "messanger"
                          in a technical way.....but the exact connection
                          between this text you quote:

                          > Afterwards, great angels will come on high clouds, who will bring >
                          those men into the place where the spirit of life dwells [...] glory
                          [...] there, [...] come from heaven to earth.

                          etc, is a little unclear to me. Is there anything
                          more than a catchword "messanger" connection
                          between these two passages which leads you to think
                          that the one would shine light on the other?

                          Also, since we are dealing with uncovering
                          _strata_ in Thomas, it might very well be that
                          "messanger" meant different things at different
                          times. What I'm interested in knowning is was
                          there a time in the history of GTh 88 that the word
                          "messanger" _didn't_ have a cryptic code-word meaning, but
                          simply meant "messanger" or "mailman". Do you know
                          of any way I could muster evidence for or against that
                          hypothesis?

                          Thanks,
                          -Randy Helzerman
                        • rahelzer
                          Hi, hope ya ll had a happy Easter. ... Actually, perhaps not; I think I m beginning to understand your argument better, but there s one place I still go off
                          Message 12 of 15 , Apr 1 12:33 PM
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                            Hi, hope ya'll had a happy Easter.

                            Rick writes:
                            > This probably does more to confuse than
                            > to clarify the issue.

                            Actually, perhaps not; I think I'm beginning
                            to understand your argument better, but there's
                            one place I still go off the rails; perhaps
                            you can help me make the leap?


                            Previously, I had your argument down as:


                            P1: Any saying in the Gnostic stratum of GTh
                            is mystifying, secretive, dark, impenetrable.

                            P2: GTh 88 belongs to the Gnostic stratum.

                            ----------------------------------------------

                            C1: ergo, GTh 88 is secretive, dark and
                            impentrable.


                            and I asked why you believed in P2. You wrote:


                            > It my **personal opinion**, however, that the PROQHTHS
                            > and AGGELOS mentioned in GTh 88 are generic
                            > representatives of some other, and much broader,
                            > "class" of individuals.

                            and

                            > The term for messengers, AGGELOS, appears one
                            > other time in GTh at 13.2. Two things are noteworthy
                            > here. First, the AGGELOS is paired with NOURWMA
                            > MFILOSOFOS (a man of philosophy). In other words,
                            > in 13.2,3 we have the pair, "messenger + philosopher"
                            > (which contrasts, from my perspective, with
                            > the pair "messenger and prophet" in 88).

                            and:

                            > The reference to the bubbling spring and intoxication
                            > qualify, by most definitions, as "gnostic" in character.
                            > But what about the messengers and philosophers?
                            > Are they "gnostic"? Maybe.


                            which I reconstruct into the following argument:


                            P4: GTh 13 contains gnostic redactional elements
                            ("intoxication" and "babbling brook")


                            P5: If a saying contains a term which is
                            known to be Gnostic, then it is likely
                            that other terms contained in the saying
                            are also Gnostic

                            P6: GTh 13 contains the word "AGGELOS"

                            ----------------------------------------------

                            P6: ergo, "AGGELOS" is likely to be understood as
                            gnostic (in both GTh 13 and the rest of
                            Thomas)


                            From P6, we can argue for P2, like this:


                            P6: "AGGELOS" is likely to be understood as
                            gnostic (in both GTh 13 and the rest of
                            Thomas)

                            P7: GTh 88 contains "AGGELOS"

                            ---------------------------------

                            P2 ergo: GTh 88 belongs to the Gnostic stratum.


                            This is actually a very good argument, and I can see
                            much plausibility in your conclusion.

                            However, you also offer an argument which would tend
                            to diminish the plausibility of P6, when you
                            write:


                            > PROQHTHS are mentioned elsewhere in
                            > Thomas (31 and 52). In the former case,
                            > the proverbial saying that "no
                            > prophet is welcome in his own home"
                            > is placed on the lips of Jesus (whether
                            > it is self referential is another question).
                            > In the latter case, 52, the term PROQHTHS
                            > is clearly a metaphorical reference that
                            > **may** have been intended to deprecate
                            > the conventions of late second-temple Judaism
                            > (emphasis on **may**). One might be tempted
                            > to conclude from these observations that
                            > Thomas does not use PROQHTHS in a consistently
                            > meaningful way.

                            The argument here is:


                            P8: In GTh 31, PROQHTHS is used in a
                            proverb placed on the lips of Jesus


                            P9: In GTh 52, PROQHTHS is used in
                            a metaphorical reference

                            ----------------------------------

                            ergo P10: one might be tempted to conclude
                            from these observations that
                            Thomas does not use PROQHTHS in a
                            consistently meaningful way.


                            This is a somewhat weaker argument--which
                            is probably why you're are only tempted to
                            conclude it. In fact I am inclined to yield
                            to the same temptation, however, and conclude
                            that Thomas doesn't use RROQHTHS in any
                            consistent way at all.

                            This conclusion becomes even MORE plausible
                            when we recall that we're talking about
                            STRATA here. PROQHTHS is probalby not being
                            used consistantly from saying to saying in
                            Thomas--but even within the _same_ saying
                            PROQHTHS likely had an evolving meaning as
                            the various strata were added.

                            Where I _can't_ follow you is when you draw this
                            conclusion:

                            > In neither case, however, does the term
                            > seem to refer to any kind of
                            > quasi-official functionary (such might
                            > be the case with PROQHTHS in the
                            > earliest church).

                            I'm missing something; I just can't make that leap.
                            In fact, I think I could argue against that
                            conclusion in this way:

                            RP1: In GTh 31, PROQHTHS is used in
                            a proverb placed on the lips of
                            Jesus.


                            RP2: GTh is paralleled in Mark 6:4 in
                            a non-Gnostic context

                            ---------------------------------------

                            RP3: ergo, when the proverb containing
                            PROQHTHS was placed on the lips
                            of Jesus, it did _not_ have a
                            Gnostic meaning.


                            Which evokes the question: what meaning
                            _did_ PROQHTHS have when placed on the lips
                            of Jesus? Would you agree that the proverb
                            as originally circulated was talking about
                            exactly these "quasi-official functionary
                            (such might be the case with PROQHTHS in the
                            earliest church)"?

                            In which case why would it be at all dubious
                            that GTh 88--at one point in the history of
                            the saying--on one stratum--GTH was not using
                            the term in the same sense?

                            In conclusion, let me ask for some advice:
                            One of the few things we know for sure about
                            the Gospel of Thomas is that it was circulated
                            around by messengers (in the sense of "mailmen").

                            It is very likely that the evolving Gospel of
                            Thomas was also circulated around by these
                            quasi-official "prophets" (who were after all
                            just "messengers from God).

                            So my strategy has been to try to identify a
                            strata which might have been layed down by
                            these messengers and prophets. Do you think
                            that's a good strategy or a bad strategy?
                            What tools/tricks could I use to identify
                            sayings which may have been added during
                            this time?

                            -Randy Helzerman

                            P. S. You pointed me to a article by Bill Anal--yeah, I saw it
                            and asked our librarian to get me a copy. Can't wait to
                            read it.
                          • Tom Saunders
                            Randy writes: It would definately be useful to know whether the Nag Hamaddi texts generally used messanger in a technical way.....but the exact connection
                            Message 13 of 15 , Apr 2 2:22 AM
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                              Randy writes:

                              It would definately be useful to know whether
                              the Nag Hamaddi texts generally used "messanger"
                              in a technical way.....but the exact connection
                              between this text you quote:

                              I don't think it is likely to sort out this puzzel of "messenger" without knowing the exact intent of the writer at the time seperate texts were written. One problem I see in the Nag Hammadi are two seperate epistemologies. Generally a reference to an angel is an idea common to Jewish accounts of how spirit works. References in Acts referring to Peter and Paul encountering angels refers to them as a personification which materializes. Angels are generally portrayed as messengers, even the one that sprung Peter from a Roman jail. Neat trick.

                              The other scenerio has the spirit in a more docetic form, and there is no real manifestation of spirit into matter, just thought. I am probably a little over zealous at trying to explain this model, as it is very much like that of Daoist origin, and resembles many Oriental models of the day. Anyway in this form the idea of messenger is different, just due to the difference in how spirit is presented to work.

                              I suspect that some of the texts in the Nag Hammadi, like 'Egyptians' are trying to bridge the gap between the 'law of Moses' and the model of personified spirits, with the model of spirit in say "Exegesis of the Soul," or "Discourse of the 8th and 9th." In this context messengers or angels would be metaphores for the way spirit is portrayed to work, which does not become matter.

                              This difference can be seen in the way Luke describes spirits (demons), which tends to be like the Jewish model and Paul's description in Romans 8-8 to 8-16 which is more in context with the docetic model......

                              Romans 8-8.) "and they that are in the flesh cannot please God.
                              9. But ye are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you. But if any man hath not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
                              10. And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the spirit is life because of righteousness.
                              11. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwelleth in you, he that raised up Christ Jesus from the dead shall give life also to your mortal bodies through his Spirit that dwelleth in you.
                              12. So then, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh:
                              13. for if ye live after the flesh, ye must die; but if by the Spirit ye put to death the deeds of the body, ye shall live.
                              14. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.
                              15. For ye received not the spirit of bondage again unto fear; but ye received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father."

                              Messengers could be prophets, avatars, and demons too, and certainly this confuses things. I hope I helped a little.

                              Tom Saunders
                              Platter Flats.

















                              [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                            • rahelzer
                              Dave offers a critique of the Rules of ... and then then cites some relevant research which strongly supports his point. That got me thinking about the
                              Message 14 of 15 , Apr 2 1:38 PM
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                                Dave offers a critique of the Rules of
                                written evidence used by the Jesus Seminar:

                                > The kinds of clues or criteria
                                > mentioned above are in reality quite
                                > subjective, and are not established
                                > empirically.

                                and then then cites some relevant research
                                which strongly supports his point. That got
                                me thinking about the subjective vs. objective
                                contrast....

                                Question: (to Dave or anybody else) What *would*
                                qualify as an "Objective" aporia--and how would
                                it be established empirically?

                                Is classidfying aporia as "objective vs.
                                subjective" a useful classification?

                                -Randy Helzerman
                              • dchindley
                                ... Jesus Seminar ... That got me thinking about the subjective vs. objective contrast.... Question: (to Dave or anybody else) What *would* qualify as an
                                Message 15 of 15 , Apr 5 8:01 PM
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                                  Randy Helzerman asks:

                                  >>Dave offers a critique of the Rules of written evidence used by the
                                  Jesus Seminar ... That got me thinking about the subjective vs.
                                  objective contrast....

                                  Question: (to Dave or anybody else) What *would* qualify as
                                  an "Objective" aporia--and how would it be established empirically?

                                  Is classidfying aporia as "objective vs. subjective" a useful
                                  classification?<<

                                  Unfortunately, I am on vacation in Florida for a couple of weeks, and
                                  won't be back until the 13th.

                                  However, if you have access to the XTalk list archives, there was
                                  something about the nature of aporias in a couple posts of mine from
                                  about a year ago, maybe longer, under the name "Lingo and History"
                                  (or something like that). But heavens, I am not an authority on the
                                  subject. "Aporia" is just a technical term for an aspect of a
                                  communication that just doesn't seem right.

                                  It could be a grammatical irregularity, or a change in subject where
                                  one might not expect it, all sorts of things like that. The issue
                                  came to the forefront in the 19th century during the initial surge of
                                  historical-critical thought. Initially, they thought that they might
                                  indicate the not-so-skillful reworking of sources by ancient editors.

                                  More recently, the reader-response and rhetorical-critical schools
                                  have started to look at them rather as forms of rhetorical devices.
                                  To them, it is not reasonable to assume that ancient Christian
                                  editors were all relatively unskillful (this is a simplification), so
                                  they look for other explanations. Rhetoric does have a place for the
                                  unexpected argument or example, and sometimes the author introduces a
                                  variety of proofs and premises that may, at first glance, seem to
                                  make no sense.

                                  But these two positions are really two interpretations of the same
                                  evidence. Are they both "objective?" Sure. However, it will depend on
                                  the accuracy of the assumptions upon which the interpretations were
                                  based. But the accuracy of the assumptions is part of the
                                  subjectivity problem. So, there is a kind of circularity involved.

                                  If this thread survives until I return, I can look up some of the the
                                  authors that may be relevant to this question.

                                  Dave Hindley
                                  Cleveland, Ohio, USA

                                  If this thread
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