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Re: [GTh] Lost Christianities

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  • fmmccoy
    ... From: sarban To: Sent: Tuesday, February 03, 2004 12:09 PM Subject: Re: [GTh] Lost Christianities ...
    Message 1 of 9 , Feb 4, 2004
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      ----- 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 2 of 9 , Feb 7, 2004
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        ----- 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 3 of 9 , Feb 10, 2004
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          ----- 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 4 of 9 , Feb 11, 2004
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            ----- 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 5 of 9 , Feb 14, 2004
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              --- 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 6 of 9 , Feb 14, 2004
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                ----- 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 7 of 9 , Feb 15, 2004
                • 0 Attachment
                  ----- 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
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