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Re: [GTh] Timelessness

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  • Mark Goodacre
    ... What I was trying to think about was whether we d be able to work out when and where the Gospel was set if we had no reference to characters known
    Message 1 of 20 , May 13, 2003
      On 19 Apr 2003 at 12:12, Michael Grondin wrote:

      > I didn't realize you were trying to follow Mark's thought experiment.
      > You seem to have deviated from it at key points, such as when you
      > discussed Caesar's coin. As I understand Mark's "game", it was to
      > pretend that we didn't know who any of the persons were in GTh. That
      > would presumably include Caesar.

      What I was trying to think about was whether we'd be able to work out
      when and where the Gospel was set if we had no reference to
      characters known primarily from early Christian literature, Thomas,
      Peter, Matthew, Mary Magdalene etc. In other words, there is no
      specifically datable "political" figure in Thomas like Pontius
      Pilate, Herod Antipas, Caiaphas, which provides a contrast with the
      canonical Gospels. But as Frank points out, there is Caesar in 100;
      I suppose that's about as specific as Thomas gets with political
      figures.

      Even in 100, is Thomas rather less specific than the canonicals? We
      have a "gold piece" (NOUB) compared to "tribute money" (KHNSOS).

      > I myself, however, wasn't playing the
      > game, since it seems to me to be seriously flawed. At the very least,
      > it seems to do nothing other than to guarantee its own point. If we
      > cannot know who John the Baptist was - or Jacob the Righteous - then
      > of course we don't know anything at all.

      Good point; I wondered if that was too great a flaw before suggesting
      the thought experiment, not least because we do know of John the B.
      and James from Josephus. Even here, though, they are not major
      leaders / political figures in the same way Antipas, Pilate et al
      are, are they? Or is that too simplistic a way of looking at the
      text?

      > If our not knowing anything
      > at all makes the text "timeless", then so be it, but that seems an
      > empty and artificial "timelessness" indeed. GThomas was written in a
      > context and assumes reader's knowledge of that context - whether that
      > context was itself written or oral or both - and that context made
      > sense of it, and without that context there's little sense to be made
      > of it.

      I'm interested in this. How do we know that the the text assumes its
      readers' knowledge of the context within which it was written?

      Thanks
      Mark
      -----------------------------
      Dr Mark Goodacre mailto:M.S.Goodacre@...
      Dept of Theology tel: +44 121 414 7512
      University of Birmingham fax: +44 121 414 4381
      Birmingham B15 2TT UK

      http://www.theology.bham.ac.uk/goodacre
      http://NTGateway.com
    • Michael Grondin
      ... No question but that Thomas is less specific than the canonicals - though we couldn t prove it by Th100, wherein it is specified that the gold piece is
      Message 2 of 20 , May 13, 2003
        Mark Goodacre writes:
        > Even in 100, is Thomas rather less specific than the canonicals? We
        > have a "gold piece" (NOUB) compared to "tribute money" (KHNSOS).

        No question but that Thomas is less specific than the canonicals - though we
        couldn't prove it by Th100, wherein it is specified that the gold piece is
        intended as "tribute" (or "taxes" - or, as in 64.9, "rent" - the same Coptic
        word serving interchangeably).

        > How do we know that the the text assumes its
        > readers' knowledge of the context within which it was written?

        Primarily, I'd say it was the use of names without any explanation of who
        they were. Leaving aside the name 'IS', there's perhaps four or five levels
        of name-recognition involved, progressively narrowing the presumed audience.
        The title 'Caesar' would have been pretty well known far and wide over an
        extended period of time. The name of John the Baptist would have been
        familiar to non-Christians from Josephus and other sources (including the
        on-going Baptizer cult). James/Jacob is also mentioned by Josephus, as you
        note, though his name would most probably have been less well-known
        generally than John's. The Christian names - Peter, Mary, Matthew, and
        Thomas - further narrow the presumed audience to Christians. Finally, the
        mention of Salome seems to narrow it even further to a Christian sub-culture
        within which the name 'Salome' would have been more meaningful than it was
        in the canonicals.

        Getting back to 'IS', this was, of course, a "sacred name" abbreviation the
        meaning of which presumably would have been indecipherable to an audience
        unfamiliar with that particular Christian naming-convention. ("Sacred names"
        of non-persons, such as PNA for PNEUMA, and the abbreviation of 'stavros'
        ['cross'] in Th55- with its special symbol for combined 'T' and 'R' - also
        prima facie assume a Christian knowledge-base.)

        "Timelessness" (as perhaps in the Sentences of Sextus) would presumably
        entail the eschewing of names entirely, or the addition of identifying
        information for each one. Less universally, if one wanted to write for
        non-Christians in the time before Christianity became the official religion
        of the Roman Empire, one could have added extra identifying material to just
        the Christian names. The fact that this wasn't done at any of the various
        levels of name-recognition seems to indicate that a sub-culture of
        Christianity (perhaps Edessan) was the assumed context and/or knowledge-base
        of the audience.

        Respects,
        Mike Grondin
        Mt. Clemens, MI
      • Mark Goodacre
        ... I think it sounds vaguer -- NOUB (gold piece) and WwM (tax, rent) in Thomas over against KHNSOS (tribute money) and DENARION (denarius) in Mark, but it s a
        Message 3 of 20 , May 13, 2003
          On 13 May 2003 at 14:38, Michael Grondin wrote:

          > No question but that Thomas is less specific than the canonicals -
          > though we couldn't prove it by Th100, wherein it is specified that the
          > gold piece is intended as "tribute" (or "taxes" - or, as in 64.9,
          > "rent" - the same Coptic word serving interchangeably).

          I think it sounds vaguer -- NOUB (gold piece) and WwM (tax, rent) in
          Thomas over against KHNSOS (tribute money) and DENARION (denarius) in
          Mark, but it's a close call.

          > Primarily, I'd say it was the use of names without any explanation of
          > who they were. Leaving aside the name 'IS', there's perhaps four or
          > five levels of name-recognition involved, progressively narrowing the
          > presumed audience. The title 'Caesar' would have been pretty well
          > known far and wide over an extended period of time. The name of John
          > the Baptist would have been familiar to non-Christians from Josephus
          > and other sources (including the on-going Baptizer cult). James/Jacob
          > is also mentioned by Josephus, as you note, though his name would most
          > probably have been less well-known generally than John's. The
          > Christian names - Peter, Mary, Matthew, and Thomas - further narrow
          > the presumed audience to Christians. Finally, the mention of Salome
          > seems to narrow it even further to a Christian sub-culture within
          > which the name 'Salome' would have been more meaningful than it was in
          > the canonicals.

          Thank you -- an excellent survey. I like the idea of arranging it in
          these increasingly narrowing circles.

          > Getting back to 'IS', this was, of course, a "sacred name"
          > abbreviation the meaning of which presumably would have been
          > indecipherable to an audience unfamiliar with that particular
          > Christian naming-convention. ("Sacred names" of non-persons, such as
          > PNA for PNEUMA, and the abbreviation of 'stavros' ['cross'] in Th55-
          > with its special symbol for combined 'T' and 'R' - also prima facie
          > assume a Christian knowledge-base.)

          This is a good point as far as the texts are concerned (Nag Hammadi &
          Oxyrhynchus), though we don't know what the authograph(s) had, do we?
          We wouldn't judge anything about Matthew's assumed intended audience
          on the basis of nomina sacra in extant texts of Matthew, would we?

          > "Timelessness" (as perhaps in the Sentences of Sextus) would
          > presumably entail the eschewing of names entirely, or the addition of
          > identifying information for each one. Less universally, if one wanted
          > to write for non-Christians in the time before Christianity became the
          > official religion of the Roman Empire, one could have added extra
          > identifying material to just the Christian names. The fact that this
          > wasn't done at any of the various levels of name-recognition seems to
          > indicate that a sub-culture of Christianity (perhaps Edessan) was the
          > assumed context and/or knowledge-base of the audience.

          Thanks for that. I suppose "timelessness" is a bit of a useless word
          -- too ambiguous. What I was thinking of was the lack of what
          Koester calls "historicizing" in Thomas, but I don't like that word
          because it could be taken to imply that the concrete historical
          realia in other texts are secondary. The interesting point you make
          here is that the lack of additional information about the characters
          in Thomas in a way limits Thomas to a more specific time-frame and
          assumed in-group -- it is not trying to introduce these characters
          for people who have never heard of them. This is actually quite a
          stark contrast with, say, Luke, who often introduces new characters
          with "there was a certain . . . ." etc.

          Perhaps the term I am looking for is something like de-historicizing.
          Does Thomas have a de-historicizing tendency?

          Mark
          -----------------------------
          Dr Mark Goodacre mailto:M.S.Goodacre@...
          Dept of Theology tel: +44 121 414 7512
          University of Birmingham fax: +44 121 414 4381
          Birmingham B15 2TT UK

          http://www.theology.bham.ac.uk/goodacre
          http://NTGateway.com
        • Michael Grondin
          ... The tax/tribute distinction doesn t strike me as being a significant difference, because it may be accounted for by the vagaries of the languages involved,
          Message 4 of 20 , May 13, 2003
            Mark Goodacre:
            > I think it sounds vaguer -- NOUB (gold piece) and WwM (tax, rent) in
            > Thomas over against KHNSOS (tribute money) and DENARION (denarius) in
            > Mark, but it's a close call.

            The tax/tribute distinction doesn't strike me as being a significant
            difference, because it may be accounted for by the vagaries of the languages
            involved, but NOUB/DENARION does - as well as other features of Th100 that
            make it more generic than the canonical versions (no mention of Caesar's
            image on the coin, e.g.), but also evidently with a different point to it
            (as per the additional "and give me what is mine" clause). So, yes, I'd
            agree that it's less historically-specific than the canonical versions.

            > This is a good point as far as the texts are concerned (Nag Hammadi &
            > Oxyrhynchus), though we don't know what the authograph(s) had, do we?
            > We wouldn't judge anything about Matthew's assumed intended audience
            > on the basis of nomina sacra in extant texts of Matthew, would we?

            In both cases, lack of knowledge of the autograph prevents us from drawing
            any conclusion about the autograph's intended audience, but the question I
            put to myself is about the possibility of a *conditional* judgement. That
            is, can we not say in general that IF ms X contains numerous Christian
            nomina sacra, then the intended READER of X would probably have been a
            Christian? The reason I use the word 'reader' rather than 'audience' is that
            it may be that the ms X in question was intended to be read aloud to an
            audience by a Christian reader - to whom the abbreviations would have been
            meaningful ex hypothesi, and who would presumably have "translated" them for
            his audience as he read. Put this way, I think the answer is affirmative -
            the reader of a ms containing nomina sacra would almost certainly have had
            to have been familiar with them. The "audience", however, need not have
            been - unless the reader *was* the audience (i.e., reading to and for
            himself).

            BTW, can you recommend any source on the use of nomina sacra in the extant
            canonical mss? I have the impression it was widespread, perhaps universal,
            but can't recall a definitive source on this (except for one that
            speculatively tied the use of nomina sacra to the development of the codex).
            Even (some of) the Greek reconstructions seem to ignore this syntactical
            device - routinely spelling out the entire word rather than the
            abbreviation.

            > Perhaps the term I am looking for is something like de-historicizing.
            > Does Thomas have a de-historicizing tendency?

            Yeah, I thought that might have been what you were after. And I'd agree that
            the answer is clearly "yes". We at least know from inference (Th13) that
            Peter and Matthew and Thomas were disciples of Jesus, but neither he nor
            they seem to have very much at all in common with "those Judaeans". How
            would you say this compares with Paul's de-historicizing tendencies?

            Regards,
            Mike
          • fmmccoy
            ... From: Mark Goodacre To: Sent: Tuesday, May 13, 2003 3:16 PM Subject: Re: [GTh] Timelessness ... Dear
            Message 5 of 20 , May 19, 2003
              ----- Original Message -----
              From: "Mark Goodacre" <M.S.Goodacre@...>
              To: <gthomas@yahoogroups.com>
              Sent: Tuesday, May 13, 2003 3:16 PM
              Subject: Re: [GTh] Timelessness


              > Thanks for that. I suppose "timelessness" is a bit of a useless word
              > -- too ambiguous. What I was thinking of was the lack of what
              > Koester calls "historicizing" in Thomas, but I don't like that word
              > because it could be taken to imply that the concrete historical
              > realia in other texts are secondary. The interesting point you make
              > here is that the lack of additional information about the characters
              > in Thomas in a way limits Thomas to a more specific time-frame and
              > assumed in-group -- it is not trying to introduce these characters
              > for people who have never heard of them. This is actually quite a
              > stark contrast with, say, Luke, who often introduces new characters
              > with "there was a certain . . . ." etc.
              >
              > Perhaps the term I am looking for is something like de-historicizing.
              > Does Thomas have a de-historicizing tendency?

              Dear Dr Mark Goodacre:

              Does not the phrase "a de-historicizing tendency", when applied to GTh,
              imply that it is later than the canonical gospels--which have a greater
              emphasis on history? If so, is not as "loaded" a phrase as "lack of
              historicizing"?

              In any event, I agree that, relative to the canonical gospels, there is less
              of an emphasis on history in GTh.

              Each canonical gospel is chronologically arranged. That is, it begins
              with the earliest time frame and continues in chronological order until
              ending with the latest time frame. Too, there are temporal brackets for
              Jesus' ministry: with John the Baptist being alive when his ministry begins
              and Pontus Pilate being the Prefect when his ministry ends. Further, Jesus
              not only moves around, but geographical markers are given so that we always
              know at least in a general sense where he is. So, at any given point in the
              gospel, we have a fairly decent idea of where Jesus is, both temporally and
              geographically. Finally, Jesus is identified as being from a town called
              Nazareth, as being from the province of Galilee, and as being a Jew.

              In contrast, the sayings/dialogue units in GTh do not appear to be given in
              chronological order. Too, there are no temporal brackets given for Jesus'
              ministry period. Further, it is never said what town, city, province, or
              country Jesus is in. So, at any given point in the gospel, we have no good
              idea of where Jesus is, either temporally or geographically. He departed
              (12), but the circumstances and manner of that departure are not given.
              His home town is never mentioned, his home country or province is never
              mentioned, and even his ethnic identity is never mentioned.

              ISTM that these contrasts arise out of the world-perspective of the Thomas
              community.

              As I perceive it (a big qualification), in this world-perspective, there is
              the Kingdom and the Cosmos. The Kingdom is a spiritual realm. The Cosmos
              is a material realm. The Kingdom is an eternal realm. The Cosmos is a
              temporal realm. The Kingdom is a realm of Life. The Cosmos is a realm
              of Death. In the Kingdom are God, the Son, the Spirit, angels, and human
              spirits. In the Cosmos are beings with body/flesh. Since this is the realm
              of Death, all such beings of body/flesh are mortal and die.

              One class of being of body/flesh is unique--mankind. Within each human
              of body/flesh is a human spirit which has pre-existed in the Kingdom, but
              now exists within the body/flesh. Unless it can re-gain contact with the
              Kingdom, even while it is yet in the body/flesh, it will share in the death
              of the body/flesh.

              From the Kingdom, the Son entered into the body-flesh by being born of a
              human woman. He revealed to a select group of disciples the sayings which,
              if properly understood, enables the spirit to re-gain contact with the
              Kingdom, even while yet in the body/flesh, so that, when the body/flesh
              dies, it regains eternal life in the Kingdom. Then, when came the time for
              the death of his body/flesh, the Son, as he had maintained contact with the
              Kingdom, resumed his eternal life in the Kingdom.

              From this world-perspective, what is essential is recording these sayings
              uttered by the Son--for it is by understanding them that one's spirit can
              re-gain eternal life in the Kingdom. All the rest of his existence in the
              body-flesh is only of idle curiousity interest--for it is of no real
              importance. Hence, there is no need to mention when or where he was born,
              or to mention the ethnic group to which he belonged, or to mention where he
              lived, or to mention where or when he taught, or to mention where or when
              or how he died, etc..

              So, I suggest, GTh, unlike the canonical gospels, is a saying/dialogue
              gospel with almost no historical information on Jesus because the
              world-perspective of the Thomas community was radically different from the
              world-perspective of the canonical gospel communities.

              The suggested world-perspective of the Thomas community raises questions.
              Why is the Cosmos the realm of death? Why is there even death? Why do
              pre-existing human spirits enter into body-flesh? Why are they in ignorance
              of their pre-existence? Why was it necessary for the Son to come and give
              the sayings which, when properly understood, can enable a human spirit to
              avoid participating in the death of the body/flesh? Etc. Etc. Out of
              these sorts of questions, I suggest, Gnostic systems arose. So, while I do
              not deem GTh to be a Gnostic text, I, yet, think that the world-perspective
              underlying it had a lot to do with the rise of the various Gnostic systems.

              Regards,

              Frank McCoy
              1809 N. English Apt. 17
              Maplewood, MN USA 55109
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