Re: [GTh] Proto-Thomas
- Jim Bauer writes:
> the book it seems plausible there may be others. The NHL community mayWhat prevents monachs from nearby monastry Chenoboskion from having
> very well have had a Neoplatonist bias, if they were translating Plato.
translated and bound all the NHL stuff and some other coptic heretic
manuscripts found not far from there a few centuries ago?
- [Frank McCoy]:
> What I suspect is that the Thomas community viewed Jesus as having been aresult,
> hierophant, revealing, to those close to him, holy mysteries. As a
> I suspect, they weren't interested in his birth, they weren't interestedin
> his itinerary during the ministry period, they weren't interested in anyof
> his alleged miracles, they weren't interested in his death, etc., etc..Hi Frank-
> Rather, all they were interested in were his sayings.
While you and I are on separate paths, I would like to second this
suggestion that the GThomists saw Jesus as a hierophant, and to tie together
several sayings as a bundle of reasons for thinking so. I think that several
interpretational quandries may draw closer to solution in the process.
First, I want to draw some connections between #43 and #13, which is not
often done. Thom 43 talks about the disciples having become "like those
Jews" (or "like those Judaeans"), in that they either love the tree and hate
(or ignore) its fruit, or love the fruit and hate (or ignore) the tree. In
Thom 13, we are presented with the alleged views of two purported "Jews" -
Matthew and Peter. Matthew is made to say that Jesus is like a wise
philosopher, and in so doing it seems that he is being made to express a
love for the "fruit" of Jesus (i.e., his wise sayings), but an ignoring of
the presumed divine nature of the "tree" (Jesus) itself. On the other hand,
Peter is made to say that Jesus is like a "righteous" (DIKAIOS) angel (or
messenger), thereby seemingly being made to express a love for the "tree",
but an ignoring of its "fruits". Thomas is thus positioning itself in
opposition to these two alleged Jewish views of Jesus. It seems to regard
itself as a third force that incorporates a portion of (but not the whole
of) the other two views. Jesus is wise, as Matthew says, but his wisdom is
divine wisdom, not the practical or earthly wisdom of a human philosopher.
Peter is right to regard Jesus is a messenger from heaven, but he's wrong to
think of him as "righteous" in the sense of either or both (1) being an
advocate of Jewish Law and (2) bringing punishment for sinners.
Now then, I have to confront some seemingly contradictory evidence. Peter's
statement in 13 echoes the title of Jacob contained in 12. The word DIKAIOS
is used only twice in GThom - in 12 and 13. While #12 must be regarded as a
commendation of Jacob, the fact that Peter is clearly supposed to be wrong
in #13 must be taken, I think, to indicate that "righteousness" is _not_ to
be considered a divine quality of Jesus, in the final judgment of the
authors. A host of GThom sayings attests to that. So what about #12? I want
to suggest that it's a "weed" sown by "his enemy" among the "good seed", and
that it is the one who will "die" between the "two resting on a bed" (in
this case, 12 & 13, with the word DIKAIOS serving to conjoin the two). As
may be seen, this analysis reeks of my self-referential puzzle theory, but
there's no help for that - it has too much explanatory power to ignore. In
this case, it explains why Jacob's views (as presumably echoed by Peter) are
only partially correct, even though he's praised in #12. GThom is seemingly
aware of the claims that both Peter and Jacob saw the risen Jesus, and thus
that they have the status of important "witnesses" to J's divine nature (as
opposed to Matthew), but the text seems to criticize them for expecting him
to return to earth in a fiery (and righteous) apocalypse - and for
suggesting that the kingdom may not be here and now. Thus, GThom may be seen
as intermediary between the hypothetical non-narrative (and non-apocalyptic)
logia attributed to Matthew by Papias, and the narrative (and apocalyptic)
canonical view (which I do not presume to have been fully developed at the
time of origin of GThom, BTW).
The Coptic Gospel of Thomas, saying-by-saying
> ... GThom may be seennon-apocalyptic)
> as intermediary between the hypothetical non-narrative (and
> logia attributed to Matthew by Papias, and the narrative (and apocalyptic)Let me spell this out a little more. I believe that the original GThomists
> canonical view (which I do not presume to have been fully developed at the
> time of origin of GThom, BTW).
were responding to two texts that they had before them - the Sayings of the
Lord according to Matthew, and a version of the Gospel of Peter that
preceded the canonicals. Presumably, they incorporated material from both
sources, which explains two things: (1) the mixture of narrative
("Matthean") and non-narrative ("Petrine") material, and (2) the parallels
to later canonical material - caused by the fact that that material was
itself based on the sources available also to the GThomists. The GThomists
chose the "Matthean" sayings genre, probably because that was the older one,
but they incorporated elements of GP that would later show up in the
canonicals as well.
Mt. Clemens, MI
> ... the mixture of narrativeSorry, I got this backwards. Basically-narrative material would be "Petrine"
> ("Matthean") and non-narrative ("Petrine") material ...
and basically-non-narrative would be "Matthean". If I may add two
hypotheses: (1) the "Sayings of the Lord according to Matthew" = Q, and (2)
the later "Gospel of Matthew" was so-named because it incorporated the
earlier sayings-source attributed to Matthew - and was presumably the first
to do so. However, it joined that source (in the same way I'm positing that
GThomas joined two sources) with the narrative of Mark's gospel. This
hypothetical textual strategy common to GThom and GMatt, to "marry" two
sources (left-and-right? male-and-female? gentile-and Jewish?), can be seen,
I think, as a reflection of GThom 33 - "That which you will hear in BOTH
ears, shout from your housetops!" In other words, "if two [sources] make
peace with each other in this [textual] house" (in Jewish terms, if there's
two witnesses), they can "move mountains". (BTW, the second "ear phrase" in
GTh 33 is _not_ dittography, as Valantasis and others assert. Compare the
Greek version to see that this cannot be the case.)
Mt. Clemens, MI
----- Original Message -----
From: "Jim Bauer" <jbauer@...>
Sent: Thursday, October 31, 2002 2:16 AM
Subject: Re: [GTh] Proto-Thomas
> But the most important thing about the man, something that started a whole
> world religion, was the belief that he rose from the dead. No one would
> have noticed him were these stories not circulating from an early date.
> would be sort of like, let's say some movement grew up around Martin
> King & will become in the next few centuries a major world religion &
> noticed he was black. For this reason GTh seems more like somebody's
> notebooks on J's sermons--which might be what you were trying to say about
> Proto-Thomas & its community--than something highly structure &, at least
> for me, makes the entire mathematization you propose mere coincidence.
There is no question but that the type of Christianity found in the New
Testament, the type of Christianity that has bcome a world religion, is
anchored in the belief that Jesus rose from the dead and then ascended into
heaven, from whence he shall return someday. (Just the resurrection from
the dead would have been insufficient, e.g., the alleged resurrection of
Lazarus from the dead, even if real, did not make Lazarus worthy of worship
because he later died).
Still, there remains the possibility that, in early Christianity, there was
another type of Christianity that thought of Jesus as a hierophant and/or
teacher and/or sage and/or heavenly Revealer and that rejected the whole
idea of a bodily resurrection. Such early Christians would have rejected
the truthfulness of the claims that Jesus was bodily resurrected from the
dead and would have treasured the sayings attributed to Jesus.
Evidence for just such a variety of early Christianity is found not only in
GTh but, if it is real, also the postulated Q.
Certainly, if what Jesus said was highly esteemed even when he was still
alive, then some notebooks of his sayings might have been made, even before
his death, by some of his followers and later incorporated into GTh and/or Q
and/or antecedents of them like the postulated Proto-Thomas.
> Also, how often in your scheme do you suggest Thomas was redacted? ISTM
> that, even if the Proto-Thomas community wasn't interested in anything but
> his sayings, later writers would have tampered with it & inserted some of
> the material we encounter in the canonicals, be it fact or fiction.
What I envison is that, c. 85-90 CE, someone took two documents, i.e.,
Proto-Thomas and Pre-Thomas, and some oral traditions and combined them into
GTh. In this process, I assume, there was some redacting of the earlier
material, both written and oral, by the author of GTh.
> To me it looks like there are clearly Neoplatonic & Gnostic elements,
> I believe were inserted by a translator. This view springs from the
> translation of Plato in the NHL, which is so bad it wasn't even recognized
> as being the Republic until after several years. True, we don't know if
> same guy translated GTh, but if there's even one terribly bad translation
> the book it seems plausible there may be others. The NHL community may
> very well have had a Neoplatonist bias, if they were translating Plato.
Oh, I agree that there probably was redacting done to GTh after it was
Certainly, GTh has Neoplatonic and proto-Gnostic characteristics. Also,
they do seem to become more overt and common in what appear to be later
strata. However, they do appear to be present even in the earliest strata.
Could you give one or two examples of sayings, in GTh, where, you suspect,
a later redactor added Neoplatonic and/or Gnostic characteristics?
> Tell me--how do you see Thomas as fitting into the Gnostic movement? For
> them, the resurrection occurred _before_ death, ie, it was a symbol--but J
> still gets resurrected. If I remember correctly (correct me if I'm
> you date the final version of GTh to 90 CE. This was late enough to have
> been exposed to some of the earliest Gnostics, &/or their precursors. In
> any case, since Gnosticism evolved out of Jewish apocalypticism (among
> things), the laws of parallel evolution could have independently created
> Gnostic-like myths. This is a tentative statement on my part because
> wouldn't have to be a resurrection myth even if they paralleled other
> elements of Gnostic myth.
I see GThomas as giving us a look into an early phase of a Christian
movement that evolved into Gnosticism. I don't think that GThomas is
Gnostic--which is why, earlier in this post, I refer to it as having
proto-Gnostic elements rather than as having Gnostic elements.
How do you see Gnosticism as evolving out of Jewish apocalypticism?
> It still seems to me that, whether the sources are Gnostic or Christian,
> resurrection myth was central to the entire J movement. For this reason I
> still think it unlikely that all narrative would be missing from GTh
> it was extremely early, ie, most of the material composed during J's
> lifetime, or at least an oral tradition begun around HJ, which would
> why the narrative is absent. However, this could still point to the
> narrative as being late-dated, even though this contradicts what I said
> above, that no one would have noticed him without those stories.
I don't see a contradiction in what you say. Stories about Jesus must have
been present from the begiinning, but this doesn't necessitate that they got
written down right away. My own investigations into Q lead me to think that
the latest additions to it regard John the Baptist and related topics and
are quasi-narrative in format. From this, it is but one step to the
development of the first narrative gospel, i.e, GMark. So, as I perceive
it, the earliest Christian documents, such as the postulated Proto-Thomas,
were basically sayings gospels,. and only later did the narrative gospels
evolve into being.
Also, I don't see the resurrection as being central to the thought in
GThomas . Can you cite any passages, in GThomas, in which, you think, the
resurrection is alluded to?
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> > To me it looks like there are clearly Neoplatonic & Gnostic elements,
> > I believe were inserted by a translator. This view springs from the
> > translation of Plato in the NHL, which is so bad it wasn't even
> > as being the Republic until after several years. True, we don't know iftranslation
> > same guy translated GTh, but if there's even one terribly bad
> > the book it seems plausible there may be others. The NHL community may
> > very well have had a Neoplatonist bias, if they were translating Plato.
> Oh, I agree that there probably was redacting done to GTh after it was
> Certainly, GTh has Neoplatonic and proto-Gnostic characteristics. Also,
> they do seem to become more overt and common in what appear to be later
> strata. However, they do appear to be present even in the earliest
> Could you give one or two examples of sayings, in GTh, where, you
> a later redactor added Neoplatonic and/or Gnostic characteristics?Neoplatonism:
11) On the day when you were one, you became two. But when you become two,
what will you do?
The Neoplatonists believed that the world was created thru a process of
emanation from the One, the Beautiful, & the Good (as Plotinus hypostatized
God) into the Nous, or Mind, followed by the World Soul. This passage seems
to reflect that view. However, I cannot state this unambiguously as it is
also part of the Johannine tradition: "the Logos became flesh and dwelt
22) Jesus said to them: When you make the two one, and when you make the
inside like the outside and the above like the below and the male and female
one and the same, so that the male not be male and the female not be female;
and when you fashion eyes in the place of an eye, and hands in place of a
hand, and a foot in place of a foot, and a likeness in place of a likeness,
then you will enter the Kingdom.
The theme of "making the two one" is more characteristic of Gnostic (and
Oriental) thought than it is of Christianity, even though this idea was
central to the alchemical tradition and hence to many Christians up to the
point where the system was finally disproved. The Gnostic scriptures are
full of "making the two one" but I don't believe there's a single reference
to it in the canonicals.
> > Tell me--how do you see Thomas as fitting into the Gnostic movement?
> > them, the resurrection occurred _before_ death, ie, it was a symbol--butJ
> > still gets resurrected. If I remember correctly (correct me if I'mhave
> > you date the final version of GTh to 90 CE. This was late enough to
> > been exposed to some of the earliest Gnostics, &/or their precursors.In
> > any case, since Gnosticism evolved out of Jewish apocalypticism (amongThis belief is what Kurt Rudolph expressed in _Gnosis_. I personally
> > things), the laws of parallel evolution could have independently created
> > Gnostic-like myths. This is a tentative statement on my part because
> > wouldn't have to be a resurrection myth even if they paralleled other
> > elements of Gnostic myth.
> I see GThomas as giving us a look into an early phase of a Christian
> movement that evolved into Gnosticism. I don't think that GThomas is
> Gnostic--which is why, earlier in this post, I refer to it as having
> proto-Gnostic elements rather than as having Gnostic elements.
> How do you see Gnosticism as evolving out of Jewish apocalypticism?
believe that Hans Jonas' assessment is more accurate: he dates the
beginnings of Gnosticism to "the acute Hellenization of Oriental thought"
during the time of the Alexandrian Empire.