Re: Strata in Thomas: A proposed Reading of #88
- Hi, hope ya'll had a happy Easter.
> This probably does more to confuse thanActually, perhaps not; I think I'm beginning
> to clarify the issue.
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
and I asked why you believed in P2. You wrote:
> It my **personal opinion**, however, that the PROQHTHSand
> and AGGELOS mentioned in GTh 88 are generic
> representatives of some other, and much broader,
> "class" of individuals.
> The term for messengers, AGGELOS, appears oneand:
> 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).
> The reference to the bubbling spring and intoxicationwhich I reconstruct into the following argument:
> qualify, by most definitions, as "gnostic" in character.
> But what about the messengers and philosophers?
> Are they "gnostic"? Maybe.
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
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
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
> PROQHTHS are mentioned elsewhere inThe argument here is:
> 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.
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
> In neither case, however, does the termI'm missing something; I just can't make that leap.
> seem to refer to any kind of
> quasi-official functionary (such might
> be the case with PROQHTHS in the
> earliest church).
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
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
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
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
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
- 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.
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
- Dave offers a critique of the Rules of
written evidence used by the Jesus Seminar:
> The kinds of clues or criteriaand then then cites some relevant research
> mentioned above are in reality quite
> subjective, and are not established
which strongly supports his point. That got
me thinking about the subjective vs. objective
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 asks:
>>Dave offers a critique of the Rules of written evidence used by theJesus Seminar ... That got me thinking about the subjective vs.
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
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.
Cleveland, Ohio, USA
If this thread