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Re: [GTh] Re: Gnosticism

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  • Michael Grondin
    Maurice- ... What subsequent notes have apparently shown is that: 1. The word gnosticism is of relatively recent coinage, and 2. The word
    Message 1 of 9 , Aug 1, 2003
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      Maurice-

      Just a note on your original formulation of the question:

      > ... I recall reading somewhere that the word or expression "gnosticism"
      > was not popularized much before the 11th century. In other words, prior
      > to that date, what we call (Christian) gnosticism at least (whatever that
      > really means, I guess) was simply considered part of "greater
      > Christianity" in "the literature".

      What subsequent notes have apparently shown is that:
      1. The word 'gnosticism' is of relatively recent coinage, and
      2. The word 'gnostikos/gnostikoi' may have been an invention of the
      heresiologists, since the sects they describe may not have used the
      term of themselves (other than Origen's evidence).

      BUT, it's important to realize also that:
      1. The sects attacked by the heresiologists DID use the word 'gnosis'
      prominently as a special term - which may explain the heresiologists'
      use of 'gnostikos/gnostikoi' (derogatory?), and
      2. Gnostic sects were NOT considered "part of 'greater Christianity' in 'the
      literature'" prior to the coining of the term 'gnosticism'.

      This is not to say that I think that 'gnosticism' is a good umbrella-term.
      It's too broad and diffuse - as our discussions have shown. Nor is it to say
      that the time prior to the heresiologists wasn't characterized by tolerance
      of a wide variety of beliefs - though Paul didn't seem to be too tolerant of
      a sect which we might categorize as 'gnostic'. In any event, however, I
      think it needs to be stated plainly - lest misunderstandings creep in - that
      disapproval of "the Gnosis" didn't await the coining of the term
      'gnosticism'.

      Mike Grondin
      Mt. Clemens, MI
    • Wade and April
      ... (Some material snipped.) ... have ... Whoops, I think I dashed that reply off too quickly! To be more precise: Karen King is a proponent of the idea that
      Message 2 of 9 , Aug 2, 2003
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        "Mike McLafferty" wrote:

        > M. Cormier wrote:
        >
        > > ... I recall reading somewhere that the word
        > > or expression "gnosticism" was not popularized
        > > much before the 11th century. In other words,
        > > prior to that date, what we call (Christian)
        > > gnosticism at least (whatever that really means,
        > > I guess) was simply considered part of "greater
        > > Christianity" in "the literature".
        >
        > Wade replied:
        >
        > > The proponent of this idea is Karen King and a
        > > detailed discussion of it can be found in her 2003
        > > book <What is Gnosticism?>.
        >
        > I haven't read King yet, but Michael Allen Williams went further in his
        > essential book, _Rethinking "Gnosticism": an argument for dismantling a
        > dubious category_, Princeton: 1996, (0-691-01127-3):
        (Some material snipped.)
        > (I do understand a distinction between 'gnosticism' and 'gnostic,' and
        have
        > no reason to doubt King's c11 etymology. Just thought I'd contribute.)
        >
        > Michael McLafferty
        > Portland, Oregon, USA

        Whoops, I think I dashed that reply off too quickly! To be more precise:
        Karen King is a proponent of the idea that Gnosticism is a term that became
        popularized in the middle ages or Renaissance and discusses that in her new
        book <What is Gnosticism?> I didn't mean to imply (though I can see I did)
        that she attributes the usage to the eleventh century, but only that she
        attributes it to a late date. I am not sure precisely which century she
        argues for. My understanding of this comes from a discussion Dr. King had
        with my wife and we have not gotten a copy of the book yet so I can't look
        it up now.

        Wade
      • jmgcormier
        ... wrote: (Snip, snip, snip ....) ... 1. The sects attacked by the heresiologists DID use the word gnosis prominently as a special term - which may explain
        Message 3 of 9 , Aug 2, 2003
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          --- In gthomas@yahoogroups.com, "Michael Grondin" <mwgrondin@c...>
          wrote:


          (Snip, snip, snip ....)


          > What subsequent notes have apparently shown is that:
          > 1. The word 'gnosticism' is of relatively recent coinage, and
          > 2. The word 'gnostikos/gnostikoi' may have been an invention of the
          > heresiologists, since the sects they describe may not have used the
          > term of themselves (other than Origen's evidence).

          > BUT, it's important to realize also that:

          1. The sects attacked by the heresiologists DID use the word
          'gnosis' prominently as a special term - which may explain the
          heresiologists' use of 'gnostikos/gnostikoi' (derogatory?), and
          2. Gnostic sects were NOT considered "part of 'greater Christianity'
          in 'the literature'" prior to the coining of the term 'gnosticism'.

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

          Hello Mike !

          Re #2 above, my point wasen't that "sects" were or were not considered
          "part of greater Christianity in the litterature prior to the coining
          of the term gnosticism" ... but rather that elements of Thomas' brand
          of gnosticism (duality, oneness, light etc) was certainly tolerated of
          (if not indeed promoted towards) people claiming to be Christians.

          The Evangilist John, for example, speaks in no uncertain terms of
          "oneness with the Father" ... he has Jesus claiming to be "the light"
          ... he has Jesus claiming to testify "to" the light, (in John's
          mind was Jesus a Thomasene gnostic ?) etc etc.

          In a similar vein, Paul the great "religion builder" himself, preaches
          much along the same lines, constantly refering to "the spirit" and its
          duality dimension with carnal man, as does James who even speaks of
          "wisdom from above", etc. ... sounds a bit Thomasish to me at
          times .... no ?

          The problem, of course, is that the purging of early Church documents
          deemed to be non compliant towards (post Iraeneus) dogma, coupled to
          the questionable "reworking" (by some scholars) of several Pauline
          texts, leave us in a difficult position to clearly understand how near
          or how far so-called "Christian gnostic beliefs" may have very early
          on (prior to canon) been part of adherents' (tolerated or advocated)
          belief systems.

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

          Mike Grondin ...

          This is not to say that I think that 'gnosticism' is a good
          umbrella-term. It's too broad and diffuse - as our discussions have
          shown. Nor is it to say that the time prior to the heresiologists
          wasn't characterized by tolerance of a wide variety of beliefs -
          though Paul didn't seem to be too tolerant of a sect which we might
          categorize as 'gnostic'.

          ------------------------------------------------------
          ... again you are refering to a "sect" whereas I was simply raising it
          as part of "Thomasene-like dogma" as embraced by individuals ....

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

          Mike continues ...

          In any event, however, I think it needs to be stated plainly - lest
          misunderstandings creep in - that disapproval of "the Gnosis" didn't
          await the coining of the term 'gnosticism'.

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

          Yup ! I think we pretty well all agree with you there ...


          Cheers !

          Maurice Cormier
        • Michael Grondin
          ... the ... Lupia didn t make his submittal on this list, so I don t know where you saw it. I am familiar with his theory, however, and I don t see a shred
          Message 4 of 9 , Aug 2, 2003
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            [Mike McLafferty]:
            > (For that matter, I also was surprised at the lack of reaction to John
            > Lupia's submittal back in March, likening GTh to the Toldoth Jeschu as
            > "purposefully anti-Christian propaganda." In his draft essay, he called
            the
            > GTh writings "comical derisions and parodies of Jesus' sayings,"
            > "cacography," and bawdy "hilarotragoedia," written by the Sadducees and
            > Pharisees. Talk about provocative! Interestingly, Lupia's thesis implies a
            > dating of them even earlier than many Thomas fans dare hope for: "early
            > 30's, or perhaps earlier.")

            Lupia didn't make his "submittal" on this list, so I don't know where you
            saw it. I am familiar with his theory, however, and I don't see a shred of
            evidence for it. He doesn't care if Thomas is early so long as he can
            discredit it as a source of authentic Jesus material and/or a legitimate
            (albeit unorthodox) Christian view.

            Mike G.
          • Michael Mozina
            I ll toss this idea out since it s been nagging at me for some time now. It seems to me that the notion of becoming like Christ may very well have been a
            Message 5 of 9 , Aug 2, 2003
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              I'll toss this idea out since it's been nagging at me for some time now.

              It seems to me that the notion of "becoming like Christ" may very well have
              been a point of contention between the apostles all along. In John17, Jesus
              seems to be suggesting that EVERYONE is capable of this unity in God that he
              experiences. I've seen many folks suggest that the things Thomas couldn't
              write about were along the lines of Thomas becoming "like Christ".

              It seems to me that their could easily have been a skism developing between
              the Thomasine community who believed they COULD achieve this "state of
              consciousness" as Jesus did, and others who saw Jesus as a "holier than
              thou" Messiah, more along the lines of "God incarnate". If this debate
              began with Thomas the apostle, it might explain why the GoT was left out of
              the cannonization process, even though it was authentic material. Maybe
              those who saw Jesus as UNIQUELY Messianic just didn't want to add
              credibility to the notion that others were capable of this same connection
              with God. Comments?

              Michael Mozina
              Mt. Shasta, CA
            • jmgcormier
              ... now. ... well have been a point of contention between the apostles all along. In John17, Jesus seems to be suggesting that EVERYONE is capable of this
              Message 6 of 9 , Aug 3, 2003
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                --- In gthomas@yahoogroups.com, "Michael Mozina" <michael@e...> wrote:
                > I'll toss this idea out since it's been nagging at me for some time
                now.
                >
                > It seems to me that the notion of "becoming like Christ" may very
                well have been a point of contention between the apostles all along.
                In John17, Jesus seems to be suggesting that EVERYONE is capable of
                this unity in God that he experiences. I've seen many folks suggest
                that the things Thomas couldn't write about were along the lines of
                Thomas becoming "like Christ".

                It seems to me that their could easily have been a skism developing
                between the Thomasine community who believed they COULD achieve this
                "state of consciousness" as Jesus did, and others who saw Jesus as a
                "holier than thou" Messiah, more along the lines of "God incarnate".
                If this debate began with Thomas the appostle, it might explain why
                the GoT was left out of the cannonization process, even though it was
                authentic material.

                Maybe those who saw Jesus as UNIQUELY Messianic just didn't want to
                add credibility to the notion that others were capable of this same
                connection with God. Comments?
                >
                > Michael Mozina
                > Mt. Shasta, CA

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

                Hello Michael ....

                A few quick comments ...

                First, to me, it is not overly clear which conclusion you want to
                arrive at. Do you wish to demonstrate or explain (1) the reason why
                GoT was left out of the canonization process, or do you wish to
                (2) propose that the "pro Jesus messianic" crowd did not want to
                enhance the position of the "anti Jesus messianic" crowd. There is a
                slight difference on how one might arrive at either. The latter is
                perhaps easier to deal with, because one could almost use this kind of
                strategy as a "fill in the blanks" sort of exercise on any parallel
                question. For example, if circumcision were the issue here instead of
                the legitimacy of the Gospel of Thomas, then one could argue that the
                "anti circumcision" crowd simply became hostile towards the "pro
                circumcision" crowd at one point, and eventually beat them out of an
                opportunity to enhance their position. Or, one could "fill in the
                blanks" with "docetism", the validity of the Gospel of Mary, ... or
                almost any other issue where one faction lost out to another over
                time. (Sort of a "survival of the fitest" dynamic if you wish.)

                If, however, you are seeking to demonstrate why Thomas was never
                canonized, then you are dealing with a very specific challenge which
                cannot be resolved by way of the above.

                Personally I dont think such a claim will be easily demonstrable
                because of my current biases with regards to things which are going to
                be difficult to prove. For example, you are going to have to
                early on demonstrate that "the apostle" Thomas actually wrote GoT.
                (The Greek version, for example, tells us that someone called Judas -
                likely a "twin" wrote it ... and not necessarily an apostle or a
                disciple at that ...) Next you are going to have to demonstrate that
                there actually was "a" (or several) "Thomasene communities".
                (Personally I treat the "community" issue much like I do the "Gospel
                of "Q" issue .... unless and until we have proof of its existance,
                this is a "tough row to hoe.") Then there is the dating issue. You are
                going to have to satisfy arguments that GoT is "pre" canonical if it
                was withheld from it by design and volition. (The jury is still
                deliberating this one ... or at least I hope it is.) etc etc.

                Having said all of this however, the general thrust of your point is
                interesting and worth speculating on further for anyone who is not
                overly concerned with the above and other similar (historicity)
                issues. Wish I could add more ...

                Maurice Cormier
              • Michael Mozina
                Thanks for your comments Maurice. I m not sure I had a specific point in mind, I just tossed some ideas out there to get some feedback. I certainly couldn t
                Message 7 of 9 , Aug 3, 2003
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                  Thanks for your comments Maurice. I'm not sure I had a specific point in
                  mind, I just tossed some ideas out there to get some feedback. I certainly
                  couldn't hope to prove any of these ideas through the data I've seen to date
                  at least.

                  I guess my basic question stems from the notion that it does APPEAR to me
                  from the work of Steven Davies and others, that Mark and other synoptic
                  writers drew from the materials found in Thomas. ASSUMING (and we all know
                  that's dangerous) that these writers actually DID draw from a preexisting
                  Thomas, the "rational" (IMO) explanation for this is that this document was
                  already circulating and had "credibility" within the various communities at
                  that time. The "best" reason I can think of as to why this document was
                  respected is that it is in fact an "authentic" document of actual quotes
                  from Jesus that were written down by an apostle that spent time on the road
                  with Jesus the man.

                  *IF* that is so (a leap of faith to be sure), then I can't help but be
                  curious as to WHY this document wasn't included in the cannonization
                  process. It would APPEAR that there is an explanation here *IF*
                  Thomas/Judas (whomever) believed that HE TOO was capable of MESSIANIC LIKE
                  KNOWLEDGE as well, and others shunned him for the idea. It kind of ties in
                  with the less than flattering portrayal of Thomas in the gospels, and might
                  explain the part that Thomas claims he can't pen down for fear of ridicule.

                  Now please understand that I realize this is PURE, UNADULTERATED speculation
                  at this point, but it does seem to fit all the pieces of the puzzle pretty
                  well, and it SEEMS logical to me. I have no way of demonstrating any of
                  this other than logical speculation and stringing together tidbits of
                  information. I'm quite aware it's ultimately nothing more than a theory,
                  albeit an interesting one from my perspective at least.

                  Anyway, I appreciate your feedback and any other ideas that come to mind.
                  Thanks.

                  Michael Mozina
                  Mt. Shasta, CA
                • Michael Grondin
                  ... Mike- I can t find it on the Jesus Mysteries list. I m trying to subscribe to the Johannine list in order to answer his essay, but it was posted last
                  Message 8 of 9 , Aug 4, 2003
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                    [Michael McLafferty]:
                    > Turns out it was "Jesus Mysteries" where I saw it [Lupia's essay] again...

                    Mike-

                    I can't find it on the Jesus Mysteries list. I'm trying to subscribe to the
                    Johannine list in order to answer his essay, but it was posted last April,
                    and they may not allow such a late response. Lupia also published his
                    vitriolic views (though in shorter form) back in April, 2001 on the
                    Synoptic-L list. When my attention was drawn to that several months later, I
                    signed up for that list and sent a response which can be viewed at:

                    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/synoptic-l/message/6429

                    Lupia didn't respond. As I said in my earlier note here, Lupia has an axe to
                    grind. He's a rabid right-wing Roman Catholic who wants to discredit GThom
                    in any way possible so that scholars won't take it seriously, so that in
                    turn the canon will be regarded as the only legitimate early Christian
                    "voice". He makes a number of translational mistakes, but more importantly,
                    he interprets Thomas sayings in a twisted way that says more about him than
                    about Thomas - and as I say in the above note, he fails to realize that the
                    very same twisted interpretations can be constructed for canonical material.
                    I can't really express how angry and frustrated I am that his poisonous
                    excrement is still floating around unanswered, but if I ever catch up with
                    that SOB, I'd like to have a few words with him. <g>

                    Mike Grondin
                    Mt. Clemens, MI
                  • Michael Grondin
                    ... No problem, Mike. I did in fact hesitate to accept your note at first, because it would direct members to what I felt was a thoroughly disreputable view,
                    Message 9 of 9 , Aug 4, 2003
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                      [Michael McLafferty]:
                      > I'm sorry to have propagated it on your list. I didn't know you felt so
                      > strongly, and wasn't aware of your unanswered response to him.

                      No problem, Mike. I did in fact hesitate to accept your note at first,
                      because it would direct members to what I felt was a thoroughly disreputable
                      view, but it seemed best to let members read it, since you had referred to
                      it earlier. I'm still interested in whether Lupia has posted to the
                      JesusMysteries list. You said he had, but I can't find it there. Please let
                      me know one way or the other (offlist probably preferrable). As to the
                      John-Lit list, I have been accepted to membership there since my last note,
                      and my first note to that list has been posted. It's titled "Challenge to
                      Lupia", and can be found at:

                      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/johannine_literature/message/3376

                      I want to make it clear that this is not just an issue of whether Lupia's
                      "theory" (if you can call it that when one starts out with the intention of
                      discrediting the text by "proving" that it was authored by enemies of
                      Christianity) is correct or not. Of course, it's incorrect AFAIC - and badly
                      so. What makes me mad, however, is that he's dishonest about it. He pretends
                      to be impartial, but he isn't. Worse yet (if that's possible), his method of
                      discrediting the text is to come up with far-fetched and repulsive sexual
                      innuendos that make one cringe to even read them. Reminds me a bit of what
                      the old heresiologists used to do - the "icing on the cake" of an attack on
                      a non-orthodox sect was to claim that its members were guilty of sexual
                      lasciviousness. (This was sometimes true, but more often than not, it was
                      just vicious hyperbole on the part of the heresiologist.)

                      I'll let you know of further developments, if it seems worthy of list
                      attention.

                      Mike G.
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