Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.
 

Re: [GTh] Lost Christianities

Expand Messages
  • fmmccoy
    ... From: sarban To: Sent: Wednesday, January 28, 2004 6:26 PM Subject: [GTh] Lost Christianities ... Hi
    Message 1 of 9 , Jan 31, 2004
      ----- Original Message -----
      From: "sarban" <sarban@...>
      To: <gthomas@yahoogroups.com>
      Sent: Wednesday, January 28, 2004 6:26 PM
      Subject: [GTh] Lost Christianities


      > I ought to have posted this before but
      > Bart Ehrman's excellent new book
      > 'Lost Christianities' has a good chapter
      > on the Gospel of Thomas as well as a
      > general discussion of early forms of
      > Christianity later regarded as unorthodox.


      Hi Andrew!

      On pp. 122-126 of "Lost Christianities", Bart Ehrman has a section he calls
      "The Tenets of Gnosticism".

      Unfortunately, he proceeds in a narrative fashion, rather than listing
      the tenets one by one, so one must guess as to what these tenets are. I
      think that I have spotted six such tenets. What I am going to do in this
      post is to list these six tenets in order and, for each, address the
      question of whether it applies to GThomas.

      Here is the first tenet of Gnosticism,."As we have seen, Gnostic Christians
      maintained that in the beginning there was only One. This one God was
      totally spirit, totally perfect, incapable of description, beyond attibutes
      and qualities. This God is not only unknown to humans; he is unknowable."

      In GThomas, I do not think this tenet is applicable. There is a triad of
      Father, Son, and Spirit (44). There is no indication that there was a time
      when the Son and Spirit were not. Indeed, it appears that the Cosmos was
      created by the Son (77).

      Here is the second tenet of Gnosticism, "Thus there emerge from this One
      other divine entities, emanations from the one, called aeons (Thought,
      Eternality, Life, etc.), moreover, some of these aeons produce their own
      entities, until there is an entire realm of the divine aeons, sometimes
      called the Fullness or, using the Greek term, the Pleroma."

      In GThomas, I do not think this tenet is applicable. In 77, the Son
      declares, "It is I who am the light which is above them all. It is I who am
      the All." I suspect that either the "light" or the "All" in this statement
      is what Ehrman calls the Pleroma (Fullness). If so, then this entire realm
      of the divine aeons came into being within the Son rather than as emanations
      from the Father.

      Here is the third tenet of Gnosticism, ."Other myths have other ways of
      describing the creation of the material world and the creation of humans.
      What they share is the notion that the world we live in was not the idea or
      creation of the One true God, but the result of a cosmic disaster, and that
      within some humans there resides a spark of the divine that needs to be
      liberated in order to return to its real home."

      In GThomas, I do not think that this tenet is applicable. There is no
      indication that the creation is the result of a cosmic disaster. Judging by
      77, the Son created the Cosmos and holds it together by interpentrating
      himself through its whole extent.

      It is true that, in GThomas, there are humans in which reside a spark of the
      divine that needs to be liberated and returned to its real home. However,
      there is no indication that such human spirits are here on earth because of
      a cosmic disaster. Everything is under full control by the Father and the
      Son and, so, such human spirits are here on earth because this is the will
      of the Father and the Son. Perhaps the thought is that the Cosmos is a
      place of testing for a human spirit.

      Here is the fourth tenet of Gnosticism, "The only way this salvation can
      occur is for the divine spark to learn the secret knowledge that can bring
      liberation form its entrapment in the world of matter. Knowledge is thus
      central to these systems, knowledge of who one really is."

      In GThomas, I think that this tenet is applicable.

      Here is the fifth tenet of Gnosticism, "This knowledge can come only from
      revelation. One cannot simply look at the world and figure out how to be
      saved. This world is evil and any knowledge aquired within it is simply
      material knowledge. True knowledge comes from above, by means of a
      revelation. In Christian Gnostic circles, it is Christ who provides this
      knowledge."

      In GThomas, I think this tenet is applicable. However, I would add two
      qualifiers. First, while Ehrman speaks of the "Christ", this title for
      Jesus does not appear in GThomas and I think that this is significant.
      Also, while Ehrman speaks of the world as "evil", the world is not
      explicitly said to be evil in GThomas--even though it is, admittedly,
      likened to a corpse and spoken of as a poverty zone.

      .Here is the sixth tenet of Gnosticism, "But how can Christ enter into this
      world of matter and not be tainted by it? This is one of the puzzles the
      Gnostics had to solve, and different Gnostic thinkers did so in different
      ways. Some took the line we have already seen in Marcion and others,
      maintaining that Jesus was not a flesh-and-blood human being, but only
      appeared to be so....Most Gnostics, however, took another line, claiming
      that Christ was a divine emissary from above, totally spirit, and that he
      entered the man Jesus temporarily in order to convey the knowledge that can
      liberate sparks from their material existence."

      In GThomas, this tenet *might* be applicable. In 22, Jesus declares that "I
      appeared to them in flesh." This is ambiguous. This could mean that he
      became incarnate in the flesh as a human being. However, it can also be
      construed to mean that he merely appeared to be in the flesh or that he
      appeared to them while residing within a human body of flesh he took over.

      The final box score: GThomas appears to contain two of these six tenets of
      Gnosticism, might contain a third of these six tenets, and does not contain
      three of these six tenets. This is in line with Thomas thought belonging to
      an early stage of development of an early Christian tradition that
      eventually evolved into full-blown Gnosticism.

      Frank McCoy
      1809 N. English Apt. 15
      Maplewood, MN USA 55109
    • sarban
      ... From: fmmccoy To: Sent: Sunday, February 01, 2004 2:12 AM Subject: Re: [GTh] Lost Christianities ...
      Message 2 of 9 , Feb 3, 2004
        ----- Original Message -----
        From: "fmmccoy" <FMMCCOY@...>
        To: <gthomas@yahoogroups.com>
        Sent: Sunday, February 01, 2004 2:12 AM
        Subject: Re: [GTh] Lost Christianities


        >
        > ----- Original Message -----
        > From: "sarban" <sarban@...>
        > To: <gthomas@yahoogroups.com>
        > Sent: Wednesday, January 28, 2004 6:26 PM
        > Subject: [GTh] Lost Christianities
        >
        >
        > > I ought to have posted this before but
        > > Bart Ehrman's excellent new book
        > > 'Lost Christianities' has a good chapter
        > > on the Gospel of Thomas as well as a
        > > general discussion of early forms of
        > > Christianity later regarded as unorthodox.
        >
        >
        > Hi Andrew!
        >
        > On pp. 122-126 of "Lost Christianities", Bart Ehrman has a section he
        calls
        > "The Tenets of Gnosticism".
        >
        > Unfortunately, he proceeds in a narrative fashion, rather than listing
        > the tenets one by one, so one must guess as to what these tenets are. I
        > think that I have spotted six such tenets. What I am going to do in this
        > post is to list these six tenets in order and, for each, address the
        > question of whether it applies to GThomas.
        >
        > Here is the first tenet of Gnosticism,."As we have seen, Gnostic
        Christians
        > maintained that in the beginning there was only One. This one God was
        > totally spirit, totally perfect, incapable of description, beyond
        attibutes
        > and qualities. This God is not only unknown to humans; he is unknowable."
        >
        > In GThomas, I do not think this tenet is applicable. There is a triad of
        > Father, Son, and Spirit (44). There is no indication that there was a
        time
        > when the Son and Spirit were not. Indeed, it appears that the Cosmos was
        > created by the Son (77).

        I agree that Thomas does not seem to have the idea of a
        transcendent incomprehensible One.
        >
        > Here is the second tenet of Gnosticism, "Thus there emerge from this One
        > other divine entities, emanations from the one, called aeons (Thought,
        > Eternality, Life, etc.), moreover, some of these aeons produce their own
        > entities, until there is an entire realm of the divine aeons, sometimes
        > called the Fullness or, using the Greek term, the Pleroma."
        >
        > In GThomas, I do not think this tenet is applicable. In 77, the Son
        > declares, "It is I who am the light which is above them all. It is I who
        am
        > the All." I suspect that either the "light" or the "All" in this
        statement
        > is what Ehrman calls the Pleroma (Fullness). If so, then this entire
        realm
        > of the divine aeons came into being within the Son rather than as
        emanations
        > from the Father.

        I think the critical point is a realm of divine aeons not their precise
        life-history. IMO Thomas qualifies here.
        >
        > Here is the third tenet of Gnosticism, ."Other myths have other ways of
        > describing the creation of the material world and the creation of humans.
        > What they share is the notion that the world we live in was not the idea
        or
        > creation of the One true God, but the result of a cosmic disaster, and
        that
        > within some humans there resides a spark of the divine that needs to be
        > liberated in order to return to its real home."
        >
        > In GThomas, I do not think that this tenet is applicable. There is no
        > indication that the creation is the result of a cosmic disaster. Judging
        by
        > 77, the Son created the Cosmos and holds it together by interpentrating
        > himself through its whole extent.
        >
        > It is true that, in GThomas, there are humans in which reside a spark of
        the
        > divine that needs to be liberated and returned to its real home. However,
        > there is no indication that such human spirits are here on earth because
        of
        > a cosmic disaster. Everything is under full control by the Father and the
        > Son and, so, such human spirits are here on earth because this is the will
        > of the Father and the Son. Perhaps the thought is that the Cosmos is a
        > place of testing for a human spirit.

        saying 27 does appear tp radically separate the world of spirit from
        the world of flesh saying 87 and saying 112 appear similar
        saying 50 may express the idea of this world as being under the
        control of hostile powers which the spirit needs to know how to
        answer
        saying 56 appears to involve strong denigration of the world as
        does saying 80
        There is a general issue in sayings like 50 of statements that are not
        obviously Gnostic but resemble sayings in clearly Gnostic texts.
        >
        > Here is the fourth tenet of Gnosticism, "The only way this salvation can
        > occur is for the divine spark to learn the secret knowledge that can bring
        > liberation form its entrapment in the world of matter. Knowledge is thus
        > central to these systems, knowledge of who one really is."
        >
        > In GThomas, I think that this tenet is applicable.
        >
        > Here is the fifth tenet of Gnosticism, "This knowledge can come only from
        > revelation. One cannot simply look at the world and figure out how to be
        > saved. This world is evil and any knowledge aquired within it is simply
        > material knowledge. True knowledge comes from above, by means of a
        > revelation. In Christian Gnostic circles, it is Christ who provides this
        > knowledge."
        >
        > In GThomas, I think this tenet is applicable. However, I would add two
        > qualifiers. First, while Ehrman speaks of the "Christ", this title for
        > Jesus does not appear in GThomas and I think that this is significant.
        > Also, while Ehrman speaks of the world as "evil", the world is not
        > explicitly said to be evil in GThomas--even though it is, admittedly,
        > likened to a corpse and spoken of as a poverty zone.
        >
        > .Here is the sixth tenet of Gnosticism, "But how can Christ enter into
        this
        > world of matter and not be tainted by it? This is one of the puzzles the
        > Gnostics had to solve, and different Gnostic thinkers did so in different
        > ways. Some took the line we have already seen in Marcion and others,
        > maintaining that Jesus was not a flesh-and-blood human being, but only
        > appeared to be so....Most Gnostics, however, took another line, claiming
        > that Christ was a divine emissary from above, totally spirit, and that he
        > entered the man Jesus temporarily in order to convey the knowledge that
        can
        > liberate sparks from their material existence."
        >
        > In GThomas, this tenet *might* be applicable. In 22, Jesus declares that
        "I
        > appeared to them in flesh." This is ambiguous. This could mean that he
        > became incarnate in the flesh as a human being. However, it can also be
        > construed to mean that he merely appeared to be in the flesh or that he
        > appeared to them while residing within a human body of flesh he took over.
        >
        I agree that there is anmbiguity but the absense of any significance
        given to the death of Jesus together with the very 'high' Christology
        tips thebalance IMO towards docetism

        > The final box score: GThomas appears to contain two of these six tenets of
        > Gnosticism, might contain a third of these six tenets, and does not
        contain
        > three of these six tenets. This is in line with Thomas thought belonging
        to
        > an early stage of development of an early Christian tradition that
        > eventually evolved into full-blown Gnosticism.
        >
        The Critical issue is tenet 3. I agree tenet 1 is missing and the
        difference between tenet 2 and Thomas although real is clearly
        not all that large.
        The question is whether the world for Thomas is evil and under
        the dominion of evil powers. I would agree that this is not said
        unambiguously but there are several passages, which, particularly
        in the light of other Gnostic texts, point in this direction.

        Andrew Criddle
      • fmmccoy
        ... From: sarban To: Sent: Tuesday, February 03, 2004 12:09 PM Subject: Re: [GTh] Lost Christianities ...
        Message 3 of 9 , Feb 4, 2004
          ----- Original Message -----
          From: "sarban" <sarban@...>
          To: <gthomas@yahoogroups.com>
          Sent: Tuesday, February 03, 2004 12:09 PM
          Subject: Re: [GTh] Lost Christianities


          >
          > ----- Original Message -----
          > From: "fmmccoy" <FMMCCOY@...>
          > To: <gthomas@yahoogroups.com>
          > Sent: Sunday, February 01, 2004 2:12 AM
          > Subject: Re: [GTh] Lost Christianities

          (snip)

          (Frank)
          > > Here is the third tenet of Gnosticism, ."Other myths have other ways of
          > > describing the creation of the material world and the creation of
          humans.
          > > What they share is the notion that the world we live in was not the idea
          > or
          > > creation of the One true God, but the result of a cosmic disaster, and
          > that
          > > within some humans there resides a spark of the divine that needs to be
          > > liberated in order to return to its real home."
          > >
          > > In GThomas, I do not think that this tenet is applicable. There is no
          > > indication that the creation is the result of a cosmic disaster.
          Judging
          > by
          > > 77, the Son created the Cosmos and holds it together by interpentrating
          > > himself through its whole extent.
          > >
          > > It is true that, in GThomas, there are humans in which reside a spark of
          > the
          > > divine that needs to be liberated and returned to its real home.
          However,
          > > there is no indication that such human spirits are here on earth because
          > of
          > > a cosmic disaster. Everything is under full control by the Father and
          the
          > > Son and, so, such human spirits are here on earth because this is the
          will
          > > of the Father and the Son. Perhaps the thought is that the Cosmos is a
          > > place of testing for a human spirit.

          (Andrew)
          > saying 27 does appear tp radically separate the world of spirit from
          > the world of flesh saying 87 and saying 112 appear similar
          > saying 50 may express the idea of this world as being under the
          > control of hostile powers which the spirit needs to know how to
          > answer
          > saying 56 appears to involve strong denigration of the world as
          > does saying 80
          > There is a general issue in sayings like 50 of statements that are not
          > obviously Gnostic but resemble sayings in clearly Gnostic texts.
          > >

          Hi Andrew:

          As I perceive it, the major contrast in GThomas is between the realm of life
          and the realm of death. To the realm of life belongs God, the Spirit, the
          Son, angels, human spirits, the Kingdom, the place of light, and the words
          of God. To the realm of death belongs the Cosmos, the body, and the Law of
          Moses.

          While a human spirit belongs to the realm of life, it becomes a part of the
          realm of death when it enters into the body of an infant human being. The
          goal of such a human spirit is to re-enter into the realm of life before the
          body dies for, otherwise, it will share in the death of the body.

          Certainly, the "they" of 50 might be hostile powers, to whom one needs to
          say the proper things before one can return to whence one came. However, by
          the same token, they might be hostile people instead, e.g., Pharisees.

          One reason why I am skeptical that the "they" of 50 are hostile powers is
          that there is no mention of demons or of an Adversary (e.g., Satan, the
          Devil, or Belial) in GThomas. I realize that this is an argument from
          silence, but I think it significant that all four canonical gospels (as well
          as Pauline thought) explicitly recognize the existence of hostile powers,
          but GThomas does not.

          Another reason why I am skeptical that the "they" of 50 are hostile powers
          is that I perceive no great good vs. evil struggle in GThomas thought. The
          whole mind-set of such ethical dualism, with its accompanying division of
          divine beings into the forces of good and evil, seems to be absent from
          GThomas.

          (snip)

          (Frank)
          > > The final box score: GThomas appears to contain two of these six tenets
          of
          > > Gnosticism, might contain a third of these six tenets, and does not
          > contain
          > > three of these six tenets. This is in line with Thomas thought
          belonging
          > to
          > > an early stage of development of an early Christian tradition that
          > > eventually evolved into full-blown Gnosticism.
          > >

          Andrew)
          > The Critical issue is tenet 3. I agree tenet 1 is missing and the
          > difference between tenet 2 and Thomas although real is clearly
          > not all that large.
          > The question is whether the world for Thomas is evil and under
          > the dominion of evil powers. I would agree that this is not said
          > unambiguously but there are several passages, which, particularly
          > in the light of other Gnostic texts, point in this direction.
          >

          (Frank)
          You might be right, but doesn't interpreting GThomas in terms of later
          Gnostic texts run the risk of illegitmately importing Gnostic ideas into
          GThomas?

          Also, as mentioned above, I suspect that the basic dualism in GThomas to be
          a realm of death vs. a realm of (eternal life) dualism rather than a good
          vs. evil dualism.

          Does the word "evil" even occur in GThomas?

          Frank McCoy
          1809 N. English, Apt 15
          Maplewood, MN USA 55109
        • sarban
          ... From: fmmccoy To: Sent: Wednesday, February 04, 2004 1:41 PM Subject: Re: [GTh] Lost Christianities ...
          Message 4 of 9 , Feb 7, 2004
            ----- Original Message -----
            From: "fmmccoy" <FMMCCOY@...>
            To: <gthomas@yahoogroups.com>
            Sent: Wednesday, February 04, 2004 1:41 PM
            Subject: Re: [GTh] Lost Christianities


            >
            > ----- Original Message -----
            > From: "sarban" <sarban@...>
            > To: <gthomas@yahoogroups.com>
            > Sent: Tuesday, February 03, 2004 12:09 PM
            > Subject: Re: [GTh] Lost Christianities
            >
            >
            > (Andrew)
            > > saying 27 does appear tp radically separate the world of spirit from
            > > the world of flesh saying 87 and saying 112 appear similar
            > > saying 50 may express the idea of this world as being under the
            > > control of hostile powers which the spirit needs to know how to
            > > answer
            > > saying 56 appears to involve strong denigration of the world as
            > > does saying 80
            > > There is a general issue in sayings like 50 of statements that are not
            > > obviously Gnostic but resemble sayings in clearly Gnostic texts.
            > > >
            >
            > Hi Andrew:
            >
            > As I perceive it, the major contrast in GThomas is between the realm of
            life
            > and the realm of death. To the realm of life belongs God, the Spirit, the
            > Son, angels, human spirits, the Kingdom, the place of light, and the words
            > of God. To the realm of death belongs the Cosmos, the body, and the Law
            of
            > Moses.
            >
            > While a human spirit belongs to the realm of life, it becomes a part of
            the
            > realm of death when it enters into the body of an infant human being. The
            > goal of such a human spirit is to re-enter into the realm of life before
            the
            > body dies for, otherwise, it will share in the death of the body.
            >
            > Certainly, the "they" of 50 might be hostile powers, to whom one needs to
            > say the proper things before one can return to whence one came. However,
            by
            > the same token, they might be hostile people instead, e.g., Pharisees.
            >
            > One reason why I am skeptical that the "they" of 50 are hostile powers is
            > that there is no mention of demons or of an Adversary (e.g., Satan, the
            > Devil, or Belial) in GThomas. I realize that this is an argument from
            > silence, but I think it significant that all four canonical gospels (as
            well
            > as Pauline thought) explicitly recognize the existence of hostile powers,
            > but GThomas does not.
            >
            > Another reason why I am skeptical that the "they" of 50 are hostile powers
            > is that I perceive no great good vs. evil struggle in GThomas thought.
            The
            > whole mind-set of such ethical dualism, with its accompanying division of
            > divine beings into the forces of good and evil, seems to be absent from
            > GThomas.
            >
            I have recently come across an interesting discussion of Logion 50
            http://www.helsinki.fi/teol/hyel/thanatos/LasseC.pdf
            This article draws parallels between the saying and other accounts
            of questioning of the soul by spiritual powers but emphasises that in
            some of the closest parallels such as the Jewish Hekhalot material the
            powers, although potentially dangerous are not intrinsically evil.
            As a result of reading this article I am more convinced than before that
            "They" in 50 ARE spiritual powers rather than Pharisees but I agree
            with you there is no evidence within the saying that they are EVIL
            spiritual powers.

            Andrew Criddle
          • fmmccoy
            ... From: sarban To: Sent: Saturday, February 07, 2004 4:24 PM Subject: Re: [GTh] Lost Christianities ... Hi
            Message 5 of 9 , Feb 10, 2004
              ----- Original Message -----
              From: "sarban" <sarban@...>
              To: <gthomas@yahoogroups.com>
              Sent: Saturday, February 07, 2004 4:24 PM
              Subject: Re: [GTh] Lost Christianities


              > I have recently come across an interesting discussion of Logion 50
              > http://www.helsinki.fi/teol/hyel/thanatos/LasseC.pdf
              > This article draws parallels between the saying and other accounts
              > of questioning of the soul by spiritual powers but emphasises that in
              > some of the closest parallels such as the Jewish Hekhalot material the
              > powers, although potentially dangerous are not intrinsically evil.
              > As a result of reading this article I am more convinced than before that
              > "They" in 50 ARE spiritual powers rather than Pharisees but I agree
              > with you there is no evidence within the saying that they are EVIL
              > spiritual powers.

              Hi Andrew!

              Thanks for the tip on this research paper by Lasse Collman. I wonder if he
              was named after Lasse Viren, who won gold in the 5K and 10K at both the 72
              and 76 Olympics.

              As respects the context of 50, he lists four possible scenarios:
              1. A catechism paradigm
              2. Community dispute
              3. Interrogations of the soul at death
              4. Interrogations during mystical ascents.
              Besides these four, I am aware of another one as well, i.e., a missionary
              briefing (a suggestion made by Hugh Montefiore and H.E.W. Turner in Thomas
              and the Evangelists (p. 86)).

              He thinks the second (i.e., community dispute) is unlikely. However, we
              certainly know that there were disputes between the Thomas people and the
              scribes and Pharisees (39 and 102). Also, judging by 13, where Matthew is
              found wanting and so is the hero of Matthew's gospel (i.e., Peter), there
              were disputes between the Thomas people and the Matthew people. So, I am
              inclined to see the "they" of 50 as being opponents of the Thomas
              people--most likely, Pharisees and/or Matthew people.

              The one he selects as most likely is the fourth one, i.e., interrogations
              during mystical ascents. However, there apparently are no other sayings in
              Thomas that regard mystical ascents, so I think this unlikely.

              He notes that heavenly ascents before death are spoken of in Jewish
              apocryphal literature, in Jewish Hekhalot literature, and in the Mithras
              Liturgy.

              However, he then oversteps by appealing to Praem (43), where Philo states,
              "These no doubt are truly admirable persons and superior to the other
              classes. They have as I said from down to up by a sort of heavenly ladder
              and by reason and reflection happily inferred the Creator from His works."

              Regarding this passage from Philo, he states (Ibid.), "This parallel is
              extremely remarkable. Besides it gives us proof that motif of a heavenly
              ladder is also known in Greek philosophy, it gives us additionally proper
              proof that at the time of Philo (15BCE - 50 CE) already such a mystical
              tradition similar to the Merkovah - mysticiesm of our Hekhalot literature
              existed."

              However, Philo isn't referring to a literal heavenly ladder, nor is he
              speaking about a mystical ascent into heaven. Rather, he is referring to
              those who, noting how well-ordered and beautiful the Cosmos is, have
              inferred from this the existence of God and His care for what He has
              created. So, he states in 42 (which immediately precedes the citation from
              43 above), "Struck with admiration and astonishment they arrived at a
              conception according with what they beheld, that surely all these beauties
              and this transcendent order has not come into being automatically but by the
              handiwork of an architect and world maker; also that there must be a
              providence, for it is a law of nature that a maker should take care of what
              has been made."

              Then, he notes, in the Jewish apocryphal literature and in the Jewish
              Hekhalot literature, it is common for one making a heavenly ascent to be
              confronted by angelic beings whose job is to keep the unworthy out of the
              heavenly realm. Various techniques are used to get passed them, e.g.,
              showing them a seal, having a heavenly escort, outwitting them with magic,
              speaking the password, and (perhaps relevant to 50) having the proper
              answers for questions they ask you.

              Looking at this literature, it appears to me that most (if not all) of it is
              second century CE or later. This raises questions, IMO, as to its
              applicability to GTh 50.

              Next, he turns to the Mithras Liturgy. This appears to be horribly
              mis-named for, judging by the citations he makes from it, it is a
              hodge-podge of Egyptian religious and magical beliefs into which a little
              Hellenistic and Jewish thought is sprinkled. It does mention a
              Helios-Mithras, but, in Mithraism, Helios and Mithra(s) are separate
              deities. Mithra(s) is the Kosmokrator, who controls the celestial sphere of
              the fixed stars, while Helios rules the inner sphere of the planets.

              He states that it is third to sixth century CE, but appears to contain much
              earlier material.

              In any event, the conceptual universe of the Mithras Liturgy is so alien to
              the conceptual universe of the Thomas community, that I do not think that
              the Mithras Liturgy has any bearing on how to interpret 50.

              Next, he turns to 2 Cor 12:1-4, where Paul speaks of how a man was
              transported, whether in body or not is uncertain, into the third heaven.
              This is very important, for it established that, in Jewish thought, the
              concept of a heavenly ascent while one is still alive was in existence in
              the first part of the first century CE. However, this person apparently
              didn't have to confront any angelic powers in his ascent, so the relevance
              of this to 50 is highly unlikely.

              Next he turns to the Apocalypse of Paul, where Paul, in his ascent through
              the heavens, is confronted by an old man who asks Paul questions and expects
              the right answers. He does not date this text, so I am uncertain as to
              whether it is earlier or later than Thomas. If it is earlier than Thomas,
              then it might be relevant to 50. However, I suspect that it is later than
              Thomas..

              Next, he turns to the Gospel of Mary, where the soul is asked questions and
              must give the right answer. He notes that it is third century CE, so it is
              considerably later than Thomas. Consequently, I doubt that it has any
              relevance to 50.

              Then, after a brief summary, he notes that there are two texts, the
              Apocalypse of Paul and 3rd Enoch, in which one making a heavenly ascent is
              asked three questions. They represent, he suggests, close parallels to 50,
              which involves three questions.

              As already mentioned, he doesn't date the Apocalypse of Paul.

              As for 3rd Enoch, he dates it (sort-of) later in this paper. He included it
              in the Hekhalot literature, which he dates c. 200-700 CE and then includes
              it in a list of Hekhalot literature he dates to 2/3 century CE. However,
              how can any of this literature be 2nd century CE when the earliest such
              literature is c. 200 CE? Since it appears to date to c. 200 CE or later, it
              appears to be older than Thomas, so that its applicability to 50 appears to
              be improbable.

              Next, he raises the question of whether 59 relates to mystical ascents. It
              reads, "Take heed of the Living One while you are alive, lest you die and
              seek to see Him and be unable to do so."

              Sure, it's conceivable that "seek to see Him" means "seek to ascend into
              heaven to see Him", but I find it highly unlikely. I suspect that, the
              Thomas community believed, God resides within His Kingdom, which is both
              inside you and outside you (3) and spread out on the earth (110). So, I
              think it *highly* unlikely that, they believed, to see God one must ascend
              up into some heavenly sphere outside of the Cosmos, meeting angelic powers
              along the way to which one must give the proper answers to questions asked.

              Next, he turns to a discussion of the Hekalot literature--which discussion
              involves the dating discrepencies mentioned above. He states that it
              "describes the so-called Jewish Merkavah mysticism."

              He also notes that, while heavenly ascents in the Jewish apocryphal
              literature frequently involve some sort of aid, e.g., lifted up by an angel
              or by a whirlwind, heavenly ascents in Merkavah mysticism do not.

              He describes the requirements for one to able to make a mystical ascent and
              they include such things as study of the Torah, obedience to the Law,
              fasting, ritual washings, praying, etc.. In short, the requirements are,
              basically, the sorts of things that people are told *not* to do in Thomas.

              He ends by noting that there are some differences between heavenly ascents
              in Gnostic thought and in Merkavah mysticism, e.g., the angelic powers who
              confront the ascending person tend to be evil in Gnostic thought, but not so
              in Merkavah mysticism.

              I seriously doubt the relevance of the Hekalot literature to 50. Not only
              is the literature later than Thomas, but the whole conceptual mind set of
              the Hekalot literature (study the Torah, obey the Law, fast, ritually wash
              oneself, pray, etc.) is utterly alien to Thomas thought.

              Here, as I perceive it, are some weaknesses in the argument that 50 regards
              a meeting with angelic powers by someone making a mystic ascent into a
              heavenly realm populated by God and the angelic hosts:
              (1) there is a failure to establish that the idea that one making a mystic
              ascent into heaven will be confronted by angelic powers who will ask
              questions for which one needs the right answers to proceed existed in the
              first century CE. As a result, there is a serious question as to whether
              the application of this idea to 50 is anachronistic in nature.
              (2) there is a failure to establish that, in Thomas thought, there is a
              heaven literally above us where dwells God and the heavenly hosts. It is
              noteworthy that, in Thomas, the Kingdom is said to be both the Kingdom of
              God and the Kingdom of Heaven. So, I would think, in Thomas thought, the
              heavenly realm where dwells God is the Kingdom--which is both within us and
              invisibly spread over the earth. If so, then the Thomas community didn't
              even believe in a heaven literally above us where dwells God and the
              heavenly hosts, much less try to mystically ascend to such a place.
              (3) there is a failure to establish that any other passage in Thomas regards
              mystical ascents. 59 conceivably might, but, as mentioned, this appears to
              be *highly* unlikely.
              (4) Almost all of the literature cited appears to be later than Thomas,
              which raises serious questions as to its applicability to 50.
              (5) the Mithras Liturgy is a horribly misnamed collection of primarily Pagan
              thought, much of which regards magical techniques, and the Merkavay
              mysticism is based on a zealous for the Law type of Judaism, so it seems
              that they are too alien to Thomas thought to have any impact on 50.
              (6) the Jewish Apocryphal literature might have some bearing on 50, but the
              failure to date the cited literature leaves one in the dark as to whether
              any of it is early enough to be Pre-Thomas. Indeed, I suspect, all the
              quoted works (i.e., 3rd Enoch, Gem r (Bavli Hagigah), Apocalypse of Abraham,
              and Ascension of Isaiah) are later than Thomas.
              (7) there are some hints in this paper that there is evidence of
              mystical ascents in the Dead Sea scrolls. I presume the reference is to
              works like Songs for the Holocaust of the Sabbath (4Q400-407, 11Q17, Masada
              1039-200). However, hints won't do. We need to have the evidence laid out,
              so it can be critically examined.

              This research paper, IMO, fails to establish the validity of the hypothesis
              that 50 regards the questions that will be asked by angelic powers to people
              mystically ascending to a heavenly realm literally above us where dwells God
              and the angelic hosts.

              Frank McCoy
              1809 N. English Apt. 15
              Maplewood, MN USA 55109
            • sarban
              ... From: fmmccoy To: Sent: Tuesday, February 10, 2004 5:30 PM Subject: Re: [GTh] Lost Christianities ...
              Message 6 of 9 , Feb 11, 2004
                ----- Original Message -----
                From: "fmmccoy" <FMMCCOY@...>
                To: <gthomas@yahoogroups.com>
                Sent: Tuesday, February 10, 2004 5:30 PM
                Subject: Re: [GTh] Lost Christianities


                >
                >
                > Hi Andrew!
                >
                > Thanks for the tip on this research paper by Lasse Collman. I wonder if
                he
                > was named after Lasse Viren, who won gold in the 5K and 10K at both the 72
                > and 76 Olympics.
                >
                > As respects the context of 50, he lists four possible scenarios:
                > 1. A catechism paradigm
                > 2. Community dispute
                > 3. Interrogations of the soul at death
                > 4. Interrogations during mystical ascents.
                > Besides these four, I am aware of another one as well, i.e., a missionary
                > briefing (a suggestion made by Hugh Montefiore and H.E.W. Turner in Thomas
                > and the Evangelists (p. 86)).
                >
                > He thinks the second (i.e., community dispute) is unlikely. However, we
                > certainly know that there were disputes between the Thomas people and the
                > scribes and Pharisees (39 and 102). Also, judging by 13, where Matthew is
                > found wanting and so is the hero of Matthew's gospel (i.e., Peter), there
                > were disputes between the Thomas people and the Matthew people. So, I am
                > inclined to see the "they" of 50 as being opponents of the Thomas
                > people--most likely, Pharisees and/or Matthew people.
                >
                The questions asked appear unilkely IMO to be ones
                literally asked by human religious opponents.

                > The one he selects as most likely is the fourth one, i.e., interrogations
                > during mystical ascents. However, there apparently are no other sayings
                in
                > Thomas that regard mystical ascents, so I think this unlikely.

                I think it is at least as likely to be an ascent after death
                as a mystical ascent during life
                >
                > He notes that heavenly ascents before death are spoken of in Jewish
                > apocryphal literature, in Jewish Hekhalot literature, and in the Mithras
                > Liturgy.
                >
                > However, he then oversteps by appealing to Praem (43), where Philo states,
                > "These no doubt are truly admirable persons and superior to the other
                > classes. They have as I said from down to up by a sort of heavenly ladder
                > and by reason and reflection happily inferred the Creator from His works."
                >
                > Regarding this passage from Philo, he states (Ibid.), "This parallel is
                > extremely remarkable. Besides it gives us proof that motif of a heavenly
                > ladder is also known in Greek philosophy, it gives us additionally proper
                > proof that at the time of Philo (15BCE - 50 CE) already such a mystical
                > tradition similar to the Merkovah - mysticiesm of our Hekhalot literature
                > existed."
                >
                > However, Philo isn't referring to a literal heavenly ladder, nor is he
                > speaking about a mystical ascent into heaven. Rather, he is referring to
                > those who, noting how well-ordered and beautiful the Cosmos is, have
                > inferred from this the existence of God and His care for what He has
                > created. So, he states in 42 (which immediately precedes the citation
                from
                > 43 above), "Struck with admiration and astonishment they arrived at a
                > conception according with what they beheld, that surely all these beauties
                > and this transcendent order has not come into being automatically but by
                the
                > handiwork of an architect and world maker; also that there must be a
                > providence, for it is a law of nature that a maker should take care of
                what
                > has been made."

                I absolutely agree with you that Philo is not relevant at all here

                >
                > Then, he notes, in the Jewish apocryphal literature and in the Jewish
                > Hekhalot literature, it is common for one making a heavenly ascent to be
                > confronted by angelic beings whose job is to keep the unworthy out of the
                > heavenly realm. Various techniques are used to get passed them, e.g.,
                > showing them a seal, having a heavenly escort, outwitting them with magic,
                > speaking the password, and (perhaps relevant to 50) having the proper
                > answers for questions they ask you.
                >
                > Looking at this literature, it appears to me that most (if not all) of it
                is
                > second century CE or later. This raises questions, IMO, as to its
                > applicability to GTh 50.
                >
                > Next, he turns to the Mithras Liturgy. This appears to be horribly
                > mis-named for, judging by the citations he makes from it, it is a
                > hodge-podge of Egyptian religious and magical beliefs into which a little
                > Hellenistic and Jewish thought is sprinkled. It does mention a
                > Helios-Mithras, but, in Mithraism, Helios and Mithra(s) are separate
                > deities. Mithra(s) is the Kosmokrator, who controls the celestial sphere
                of
                > the fixed stars, while Helios rules the inner sphere of the planets.
                >
                > He states that it is third to sixth century CE, but appears to contain
                much
                > earlier material.

                The papyrus containing the Mithras liturgy is usually dated to
                the fourth century CE
                >
                > In any event, the conceptual universe of the Mithras Liturgy is so alien
                to
                > the conceptual universe of the Thomas community, that I do not think that
                > the Mithras Liturgy has any bearing on how to interpret 50.
                >
                > Next, he turns to 2 Cor 12:1-4, where Paul speaks of how a man was
                > transported, whether in body or not is uncertain, into the third heaven.
                > This is very important, for it established that, in Jewish thought, the
                > concept of a heavenly ascent while one is still alive was in existence in
                > the first part of the first century CE. However, this person apparently
                > didn't have to confront any angelic powers in his ascent, so the relevance
                > of this to 50 is highly unlikely.
                >
                > Next he turns to the Apocalypse of Paul, where Paul, in his ascent through
                > the heavens, is confronted by an old man who asks Paul questions and
                expects
                > the right answers. He does not date this text, so I am uncertain as to
                > whether it is earlier or later than Thomas. If it is earlier than Thomas,
                > then it might be relevant to 50. However, I suspect that it is later than
                > Thomas..

                The apocalypse of Paul is usually dated to the fourth century CE
                Its exact date is uncertain but as you suspect it is later than Thomas
                >
                > Next, he turns to the Gospel of Mary, where the soul is asked questions
                and
                > must give the right answer. He notes that it is third century CE, so it
                is
                > considerably later than Thomas. Consequently, I doubt that it has any
                > relevance to 50.
                >
                > Then, after a brief summary, he notes that there are two texts, the
                > Apocalypse of Paul and 3rd Enoch, in which one making a heavenly ascent is
                > asked three questions. They represent, he suggests, close parallels to
                50,
                > which involves three questions.
                >
                > As already mentioned, he doesn't date the Apocalypse of Paul.
                >
                > As for 3rd Enoch, he dates it (sort-of) later in this paper. He included
                it
                > in the Hekhalot literature, which he dates c. 200-700 CE and then includes
                > it in a list of Hekhalot literature he dates to 2/3 century CE. However,
                > how can any of this literature be 2nd century CE when the earliest such
                > literature is c. 200 CE? Since it appears to date to c. 200 CE or later,
                it
                > appears to be older than Thomas, so that its applicability to 50 appears
                to
                > be improbable.

                The Hekhalot literature is IMO 4th century or later. However it
                includes numerous alleged quotations from 2nd century rabbis.
                If these quotes are authentic (which is unlikely IMHO) then the
                core of the material would go back to the 2nd century.
                >
                > Next, he raises the question of whether 59 relates to mystical ascents.
                It
                > reads, "Take heed of the Living One while you are alive, lest you die and
                > seek to see Him and be unable to do so."
                >
                > Sure, it's conceivable that "seek to see Him" means "seek to ascend into
                > heaven to see Him", but I find it highly unlikely. I suspect that, the
                > Thomas community believed, God resides within His Kingdom, which is both
                > inside you and outside you (3) and spread out on the earth (110). So, I
                > think it *highly* unlikely that, they believed, to see God one must ascend
                > up into some heavenly sphere outside of the Cosmos, meeting angelic powers
                > along the way to which one must give the proper answers to questions
                asked.
                >
                > Next, he turns to a discussion of the Hekalot literature--which discussion
                > involves the dating discrepencies mentioned above. He states that it
                > "describes the so-called Jewish Merkavah mysticism."
                >
                > He also notes that, while heavenly ascents in the Jewish apocryphal
                > literature frequently involve some sort of aid, e.g., lifted up by an
                angel
                > or by a whirlwind, heavenly ascents in Merkavah mysticism do not.
                >
                > He describes the requirements for one to able to make a mystical ascent
                and
                > they include such things as study of the Torah, obedience to the Law,
                > fasting, ritual washings, praying, etc.. In short, the requirements are,
                > basically, the sorts of things that people are told *not* to do in Thomas.
                >
                > He ends by noting that there are some differences between heavenly ascents
                > in Gnostic thought and in Merkavah mysticism, e.g., the angelic powers who
                > confront the ascending person tend to be evil in Gnostic thought, but not
                so
                > in Merkavah mysticism.
                >
                > I seriously doubt the relevance of the Hekalot literature to 50. Not only
                > is the literature later than Thomas, but the whole conceptual mind set of
                > the Hekalot literature (study the Torah, obey the Law, fast, ritually wash
                > oneself, pray, etc.) is utterly alien to Thomas thought.

                You make some very good points. On the other hand one could
                argue that the presence of heavenly ascents in the third and fourth
                centuries in such diverse sources as the Mithras liturgy and the
                Hekhalot literature implies an origin for such ideas in much earlier
                times.
                Both may be somewhat alien to the world of Thomas but they are
                even more alien to each other.
                To some extent it depends on the date of Thomas and Logion 50.
                I would agree that a date in the 1st century CE makes reference to
                mystical ascents unlikely, whereas I would have no problem if the
                date is 150 or later.

                >
                > Here, as I perceive it, are some weaknesses in the argument that 50
                regards
                > a meeting with angelic powers by someone making a mystic ascent into a
                > heavenly realm populated by God and the angelic hosts:
                > (1) there is a failure to establish that the idea that one making a mystic
                > ascent into heaven will be confronted by angelic powers who will ask
                > questions for which one needs the right answers to proceed existed in the
                > first century CE. As a result, there is a serious question as to whether
                > the application of this idea to 50 is anachronistic in nature.
                > (2) there is a failure to establish that, in Thomas thought, there is a
                > heaven literally above us where dwells God and the heavenly hosts. It is
                > noteworthy that, in Thomas, the Kingdom is said to be both the Kingdom of
                > God and the Kingdom of Heaven. So, I would think, in Thomas thought, the
                > heavenly realm where dwells God is the Kingdom--which is both within us
                and
                > invisibly spread over the earth. If so, then the Thomas community didn't
                > even believe in a heaven literally above us where dwells God and the
                > heavenly hosts, much less try to mystically ascend to such a place.
                > (3) there is a failure to establish that any other passage in Thomas
                regards
                > mystical ascents. 59 conceivably might, but, as mentioned, this appears
                to
                > be *highly* unlikely.
                > (4) Almost all of the literature cited appears to be later than Thomas,
                > which raises serious questions as to its applicability to 50.
                > (5) the Mithras Liturgy is a horribly misnamed collection of primarily
                Pagan
                > thought, much of which regards magical techniques, and the Merkavay
                > mysticism is based on a zealous for the Law type of Judaism, so it seems
                > that they are too alien to Thomas thought to have any impact on 50.
                > (6) the Jewish Apocryphal literature might have some bearing on 50, but
                the
                > failure to date the cited literature leaves one in the dark as to whether
                > any of it is early enough to be Pre-Thomas. Indeed, I suspect, all the
                > quoted works (i.e., 3rd Enoch, Gem r (Bavli Hagigah), Apocalypse of
                Abraham,
                > and Ascension of Isaiah) are later than Thomas.

                If Thomas is 2nd century then Ascension of Isaiah might be
                contemporary I agree all the others are considerably later.

                > (7) there are some hints in this paper that there is evidence of
                > mystical ascents in the Dead Sea scrolls. I presume the reference is to
                > works like Songs for the Holocaust of the Sabbath (4Q400-407, 11Q17,
                Masada
                > 1039-200). However, hints won't do. We need to have the evidence laid
                out,
                > so it can be critically examined.

                I share your doubts whether the Qumran material is relevant
                IMO it is more about men on earth sharing in Angelic worship
                than about mystical ascent.

                The general issue as mentioned above is the diversity of witnesses to
                heavenly ascents from at least 300 onward. IMO this makes it an idea
                which is developing in the 2nd century among esoteric thinkers. If
                Thomas in its present form dates from the 2nd century it could witness
                to an early form of this idea. If Logion 50 dates from before AD 70
                I would agree it would be unlikely

                Andrew Criddle
              • rusty
                ... ... ... to ... witness ... If I may be so bold, ISTM that the concept of mystical ascents arose at least by the 5th Century BCE. I would
                Message 7 of 9 , Feb 14, 2004
                  --- In gthomas@yahoogroups.com, "sarban" <sarban@s...> wrote:
                  <snip>
                  > I would agree that a date in the 1st century CE makes reference to
                  > mystical ascents unlikely, whereas I would have no problem if the
                  > date is 150 or later.
                  >
                  <snip>
                  > The general issue as mentioned above is the diversity of witnesses
                  to
                  > heavenly ascents from at least 300 onward. IMO this makes it an idea
                  > which is developing in the 2nd century among esoteric thinkers. If
                  > Thomas in its present form dates from the 2nd century it could
                  witness
                  > to an early form of this idea. If Logion 50 dates from before AD 70
                  > I would agree it would be unlikely
                  >
                  > Andrew Criddle

                  If I may be so bold, ISTM that the concept of mystical ascents arose
                  at least by the 5th Century BCE. I would offer as an example
                  Parmenides Proem as pre-Socratic evidence.

                  When you say "developing in the 2nd century among esoteric thinkers"
                  do you refer to the Ophites for example?

                  Rusty
                • sarban
                  ... From: rusty To: Sent: Saturday, February 14, 2004 1:40 PM Subject: Re: [GTh] Lost Christianities
                  Message 8 of 9 , Feb 14, 2004
                    ----- Original Message -----
                    From: "rusty" <delightmaker1950@...>
                    To: <gthomas@yahoogroups.com>
                    Sent: Saturday, February 14, 2004 1:40 PM
                    Subject: Re: [GTh] Lost Christianities


                    > --- In gthomas@yahoogroups.com, "sarban" <sarban@s...> wrote:
                    > <snip>
                    > > I would agree that a date in the 1st century CE makes reference to
                    > > mystical ascents unlikely, whereas I would have no problem if the
                    > > date is 150 or later.
                    > >
                    > <snip>
                    > > The general issue as mentioned above is the diversity of witnesses
                    > to
                    > > heavenly ascents from at least 300 onward. IMO this makes it an idea
                    > > which is developing in the 2nd century among esoteric thinkers. If
                    > > Thomas in its present form dates from the 2nd century it could
                    > witness
                    > > to an early form of this idea. If Logion 50 dates from before AD 70
                    > > I would agree it would be unlikely
                    > >
                    > > Andrew Criddle
                    >
                    > If I may be so bold, ISTM that the concept of mystical ascents arose
                    > at least by the 5th Century BCE. I would offer as an example
                    > Parmenides Proem as pre-Socratic evidence.
                    >

                    I'm not sure that Parmenides's allegorical account of his passage
                    from the realm of night to the realm of day counts as an ascent
                    narrative at all.
                    However, I entirely agree that there are a number of pre-Christian
                    ascent narratives, eg some of the myths in Plato's dialogues, some
                    early apocalyptic (I Enoch), the 'Dream of Scipio' etc.
                    What I meant by the idea of heavenly ascents is when such ascents
                    become a standard form of spiritual experience to be sought after by
                    specific spiritual exercises.
                    I egard this concept as something that arises in the 2nd century CE

                    > When you say "developing in the 2nd century among esoteric thinkers"
                    > do you refer to the Ophites for example?
                    >
                    The Ophites according to Celsus according to Origen would be one
                    example. Some of the Nag Hammadi texts would also be relevant.
                    (A good example is the Hermetic Discourse on the Eighth and Ninth
                    also see the treatises Zostrianos and Allogenes)
                    The Pseudo-Chaldean Oracles are another good example.

                    Andrew Criddle
                  • fmmccoy
                    ... From: sarban To: Sent: Wednesday, February 11, 2004 6:31 PM Subject: Re: [GTh] Lost Christianities ...
                    Message 9 of 9 , Feb 15, 2004
                      ----- Original Message -----
                      From: "sarban" <sarban@...>
                      To: <gthomas@yahoogroups.com>
                      Sent: Wednesday, February 11, 2004 6:31 PM
                      Subject: Re: [GTh] Lost Christianities


                      >
                      > ----- Original Message -----
                      > From: "fmmccoy" <FMMCCOY@...>
                      > To: <gthomas@yahoogroups.com>
                      > Sent: Tuesday, February 10, 2004 5:30 PM
                      > Subject: Re: [GTh] Lost Christianities
                      >
                      >
                      > > The one he selects as most likely is the fourth one, i.e.,
                      interrogations
                      > > during mystical ascents. However, there apparently are no other sayings
                      > in
                      > > Thomas that regard mystical ascents, so I think this unlikely.


                      > I think it is at least as likely to be an ascent after death
                      > as a mystical ascent during life


                      Hi Andrew!

                      If 50 regards a meeting with angelic powers while ascending, I think that it
                      most likely involves an ascent after death.

                      The reason is that, while (to the best of my knowledge) there is no first
                      century CE example of the idea of a mystical ascent during one's life that
                      involves meeting angelic powers who bar the way unless one says the proper
                      thing, there is an apparent first century CE example of the idea of an
                      ascent after death that involves meeting divine beings who bar the way
                      unless one says the proper thing. This is in Mithraic thought.

                      When I speak of Mithraism, I am referring not to original Mithraism as
                      practiced in its homeland but, rather, to the Hellenized version of it that
                      initially spread through the Hellenistic states and then, later, through the
                      Roman Empire.

                      One of the important areas in which it was Hellenized was in respect to
                      cosmology. In particular, it embraced a new cosmology, based on
                      Eratosthenes' measurements of shadows at different latitudes proving that
                      the earth is round (although the theory that the earth is round was perhaps
                      first made by Pythagoreas). In this new cosmology, it was posited that
                      cosmos consists of a number of spheres, the innermost one being the earth.

                      Three basic spheres were posited: (1) the innermost sphere of the earth, (2)
                      an inner heaven sphere consisting of the seven planets, and (3) an outer
                      heaven sphere consisting of the fixed stars. Philo mentions the two
                      heavenly spheres in Cher (23), "One of the (two) Cherubim then symbolizes
                      the outermost sphere of the fixed stars. It is the final heaven of all, the
                      vault in which the choir of those who wander not move in a truly divine
                      unchanging rhythm, never leaving the post which the Father who begat them
                      has appointed them in the universe. The other of the (two) Cherubim is the
                      inner contained sphere, which through a sixfold division He has made into
                      seven zones of regular proportion and fitted each planet into one of them."

                      Further, as Philo hints at above, the inner heaven sphere was, itself,
                      divided into seven sub-spheres--one for each of the planets. So, the total
                      number of spheres, not counting the earth, was eight.

                      The totality of the cosmos, though, was conceived to be one sphere, whose
                      surface is identical to the surface of the outer heaven sphere
                      consisting of the fixed stars. This was called the cosmic globe and it was
                      frequently depicted with two crossed circles, one being the circle of the
                      zodiac and the other the circle of the celestial equator.

                      When Mithraism embraced this new cosmology, it posited that human souls
                      reside in the outer sphere of the fixed stars, that they descend from there
                      to earth, and that they return to their homeland in the fixed stars after
                      the death of the body by ascending up a cosmic ladder with eight gates, one
                      for each of the seven spheres of the planets and one for the eighth sphere
                      of the fixed stars.

                      So, in The Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries, David Ulansey (p. 87) states,
                      "According to Celsus, in the Mithraic mysteries 'there is a symbol of the
                      two orbits in heaven, the one being that of the fixed stars, and the other
                      that assigned to the planets, and of the soul's passage through these. The
                      symbol is this. There is a ladder with seven gates and at its top an eighth
                      gate.' In addition, the Neoplatonist Porphyry attributes to Mithraism a
                      complicated conception of the soul's celestial descent and ascent into and
                      out of incarnation...."

                      Further, it appears that each gate was guarded by an angelic being and that
                      one had to know the appropriate formula to say to each in order to proceed.
                      So, in The Mysteries of Mithra, Franz Cumont (pp. 144-145) states, "The
                      (inner) heavens were divided into seven spheres, each of which was conjoined
                      with a planet. A sort of ladder, composed of eight superposed gates, the
                      first seven of which were constructed of different metals, was the symbolic
                      suggestion in the temples, of the road to be followed to reach the supreme
                      region of the fixed stars. To pass from one story to the next, each time
                      the wayfarer had to enter a gate guarded by an angel of Ormazd. The
                      initates alone, to whom the appropriate formulas had been taught, knew how
                      to appease these inexorable guardians."

                      The realm of souls in the fixed stars, from which human souls came and to
                      which they returned, was a realm of light. Cumont (p. 145) states, "It
                      (i.e., the soul) was naked, stripped of every vice and every sensibility,
                      when it penetrated the eighth heaven to enjoy there, as an essence supreme,
                      and in the eternal light that bathed the gods, beatitude without end."

                      All this might relate to 50, "If they say to you, 'Where did you come
                      from?', say to them, 'We came from the light, the place where the light came
                      into being on its own accord and established [itself] and became manifest
                      through their image.' If they say to you, 'Is it you?', say, 'We are its
                      children and we are the elect of the Living Father.' If they ask you, 'What
                      is the sign of your Father in you?', say to them, 'It is movement and
                      repose.'"

                      In this case, we have, in 50, souls/spirits who have originated in the light
                      of the outer heaven of the fixed stars and who become incarnate in human
                      beings and who, upon the death of the body, are seeking to return from
                      whence they came. Further, in this case, the "they" are the angelic powers
                      who bar each of the eight gates through which these these souls/spirits must
                      pass. Finally, in this case, the three answers are three of the formulas a
                      soul needs to get past each of the eight angelic gate-keepers and ascend up
                      the cosmic ladder back to its original home in the light of the outer sphere
                      of the fixed stars.

                      Despite the good "fit" that can be made between the Mithraic belief system
                      and 50, I have serious reservations about the hypothesis that 50 ought to be
                      interpreted in terms of this Mithraic belief system.

                      In the first place, I find it noteworthy that the only two named sources on
                      Mithraism in the quotations above are Celsus and Porphry. Celsus wrote c.
                      170 CE and Porphry wrote almost a century later. As a result, if Thomas
                      dates to 150 CE or earlier, then the Mithraic belief system described above
                      is the Mithraic belief system as it was later than the writing of Thomas.
                      So, this is not necessarily the same Mithraic belief system in place when
                      Thomas was written.

                      More seriously, I suspect that there is a rejection of this Mithraic belief
                      system in the first part of GTh 11.

                      There is one part of this Mithraic belief system that I haven't mentioned
                      yet, but does need to be discussed before turning to the first part of GTh
                      11 because it appears to be alluded to in 11.

                      In this Mithraic belief system, there are two celestial twins, Cautes and
                      Cautopates, who are torch-bearers. Further, these two celestial twins who
                      are torch-bearers were equated with another set of twins, i.e., the Dioscuri
                      (Castor and Pollux). As a result, in Mithraic artwork, one sometimes finds
                      the two Dioscuri instead of (as expected) the two torch-bearers.

                      For example, in Backgrounds of Early Christianity, Everett Ferguson (p. 295)
                      states, "The seven degrees of initiation (into the Mithraic mysteries) thus
                      corresponded to the order of the seven planets in astrology. The initiate
                      who had passed through all degrees could, on his death, pass through the
                      planetary spheres to paradise. The Ostia mosaic shows before the seven
                      grades a large vase, thought to refer to some preliminary purification by
                      water and the helmets of the Dioscuri (who were often understood as
                      symbolizing the two celestial hemispheres)."

                      The two Dioscure, however, did more than just symbolize the two celestial
                      hemispheres. Rather, each was one of the two celestial hemispheres. So, in
                      Dec (56), Philo declares, "So too in accordance with the theory by which
                      they divided the (outer) heaven into two hemispheres, one above the earth
                      and one below it, they called them the Dioscuri and invented a further
                      miraculous story of their living on alternate days."

                      Underlying this belief is a variant of the legend of the Dioscuri in which
                      Castor was a mortal who was killed and that the other Dioscuri bestowed half
                      of his immortality on Castor, making each mortal in one respect, yet
                      immortal in another As a result, they alternate being dead and alive.

                      The upshot: In Mithraic thought, the two twin torchbearers were equated with
                      the Dioscuri. As the Dioscuri, they are the two hemispheres of the outer
                      heaven of the fixed stars and they alternate being dead and alive.

                      Now, let us turn to 11a, "This heaven will pass away, and the one above it
                      will pass away. The dead are not alive, and the living will not die."

                      "This heaven will pass away, and the one above it will pass away." That is
                      to say, the sphere of the inner heaven, the realm of the seven planets with
                      its seven sub-spheres, will pass away and the sphere of the outer heaven,
                      the realm of the fixed stars, will also pass away. So, I see this as a
                      denunciation of the Mithraic idea that the eternal realm of light, from
                      which human souls originate and to which they seek to return, is to be found
                      in the outer sphere of the fixed stars. Rather, this outer heaven is, like
                      the inner heaven of the planets with its seven sub-spheres, something that
                      will someday cease to exist.

                      "The dead are not alive, and the living will not die." The idea that the
                      two hemispheres of the outer heaven are the two Dioscuri and that they
                      alternately die and come to life is false. One who is dead remains dead,
                      and one who is immortal will not die. Hence, Castor cannot be restored to
                      life nor, if his twin brother is immortal, can he be subject to death. So, I
                      see this as a denunciation of the Mithraic idea that the two torchbearers
                      are the Dioscuri and that they are, as such, the two celestial hemispheres
                      and are alternately dying and coming again to life.

                      So, I think, the Thomas community was aware of this Mithraic belief system.
                      However, I see, in 11a, a rejection of this Mithraic belief system.
                      Therefore, despite the fact that 50 is readily interpretable in terms of
                      this Mithraic belief system, I think it highly unlikely that it ought to be
                      interpreted in terms of this Mithraic belief system.

                      Still, simply because they apparently were aware of this Mithraic belief
                      system, it could be that, even though they rejected it, they still were
                      influenced by it.

                      For example, take the notion, in 50, that human souls/spirits originate in a
                      place of light. This Thomistic notion might have arisen due to the the
                      influence of the Mithraic belief that human souls originate in a place of
                      light of the outer heaven of the fixed stars. However, if so, then the
                      Thomas community, as they believed the outer heaven of the fixed stars to be
                      perishable, assigned this place of light to a different location.

                      Indeed, in 2 Cor. 12:1-4, Paul speaks of a man who ascended into the third
                      heaven, which Paul calls Paradise.

                      So, I think it possible that the Thomas community, under Pauline influence,
                      transferred the place of the light, from which human souls/spirits
                      originate, from the second outer heaven of the fixed stars to a postulated
                      eternal third heaven above it and gave this postulated third eternal heaven
                      the name of Paradise. If so, then, in Thomas thought, the place of light,
                      from which human souls/spirits originate, is mentioned in 19b, "For there
                      are five trees of life for you in Paradise,..".

                      Again, it could be that the Thomas community was influenced by the Mithraic
                      notion of gates and gate-keepers and of the need of the soul/spirit to have
                      the necessary response for each gatekeeper in order to ascend back to whence
                      it came in the place of light, but reduced the gates to three: (1) a gate
                      into the inner heaven sphere of the seven planets, (2) a gate into the outer
                      heaven sphere of the fixed stars, and (3) a gate into the third eternal
                      heaven called Paradise. In this case, in 50, the "they" are the three
                      gatekeepers for these three gates and the three answers one ought to
                      memorize are the three necessary responses (one for each of the three
                      gatekeepers) that the soul/spirit needs to give in order to successfully
                      ascend back from whence it came in the place of light within the third
                      eternal heaven called Paradise.

                      The bottom line: Although the Thomas community apparently rejected
                      this Mithraic belief system, they apparently were aware of it and it might
                      have influenced their thought. For example, they might have been
                      influenced by the Mithraic notion that human souls/spirits originate in a
                      place of light before descending to earth into bodies, but have changed the
                      location of the place of light from the second heaven of the fixed stars to
                      Paul's eternal third heaven called Paradise. Again, they might have been
                      influenced by the Mithraic notion of a system of gates and gate-keepers and
                      necessary responses, but modified it into a system with one gate and
                      gate-keeper for each of the three heavens and one response to memorize for
                      each of the three gatekeepers.

                      This is all highly speculative, so I think it unlikely. Still, this is
                      within the realm of possibility and it does give a comprehensive explanation
                      of GTh 50--including an explanation as to why there are exactly three
                      answers to be memorized.

                      Frank McCoy
                      1809 N. English Apt. 15
                      Maplewood, MN USA 55109
                    Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.