Re: [GTh] Timelessness
----- Original Message -----
From: "Mark Goodacre" <M.S.Goodacre@...>
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
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
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.
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