Re: [GTh] Re: Gnosticism
- "Mike McLafferty" wrote:
> M. Cormier wrote:(Some material snipped.)
> > ... 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):
> (I do understand a distinction between 'gnosticism' and 'gnostic,' andhave
> no reason to doubt King's c11 etymology. Just thought I'd contribute.)Whoops, I think I dashed that reply off too quickly! To be more precise:
> Michael McLafferty
> Portland, Oregon, USA
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.
- --- In firstname.lastname@example.org, "Michael Grondin" <mwgrondin@c...>
(Snip, snip, snip ....)
> What subsequent notes have apparently shown is that:1. The sects attacked by the heresiologists DID use the word
> 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:
'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)
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 ...
- [Mike McLafferty]:
> (For that matter, I also was surprised at the lack of reaction to Johnthe
> Lupia's submittal back in March, likening GTh to the Toldoth Jeschu as
> "purposefully anti-Christian propaganda." In his draft essay, he called
> GTh writings "comical derisions and parodies of Jesus' sayings,"Lupia didn't make his "submittal" on this list, so I don't know where you
> "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.")
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.
- 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?
Mt. Shasta, CA
- --- In email@example.com, "Michael Mozina" <michael@e...> wrote:
> I'll toss this idea out since it's been nagging at me for some timenow.
>well have been a point of contention between the apostles all along.
> It seems to me that the notion of "becoming like Christ" may very
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
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 ...
- 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
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.
Mt. Shasta, CA
- [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:
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>
Mt. Clemens, MI
- [Michael McLafferty]:
> I'm sorry to have propagated it on your list. I didn't know you felt soNo problem, Mike. I did in fact hesitate to accept your note at first,
> strongly, and wasn't aware of your unanswered response to him.
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:
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