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[gthomas] Re: Thomas - an introvert?

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  • Mats Winther
    ... Från: Andrew Bernhard Till: gthomas@egroups.com Datum: den 2 januari 1999 10:05 Ämne: [gthomas] Re: Thomas -
    Message 1 of 7 , Jan 2, 1999
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      -----Ursprungligt meddelande-----
      Från: Andrew Bernhard <cabern@...>
      Till: gthomas@egroups.com <gthomas@egroups.com>
      Datum: den 2 januari 1999 10:05
      Ämne: [gthomas] Re: Thomas - an introvert?

      >I rather like your approach to looking at the Gospel of Thomas. It may not be what
      >people on this list are looking for or used to, but I think it is definitely
      >worthwhile. For me, your recent discussion with Jack has caused me to reflect on
      >the meaning of scholarship on religious texts such as the Gospel of Thomas. Some
      >people, such as Jack for instance, want to place the Gospel in its geographic
      >location and define its relationship to the synoptic gospels and so on, and that's
      >all well and good, but I have to ask myself: what's the point? I mean isn't the
      >purpose of studying the Gospel of Thomas to understand it? Does the historical
      >critical method help us understand it? Once, I would have said yes - in fact, it
      >is the only way of understanding it. But now, I feel that it really doesn't help
      >us understand it all that much at all. Maybe it does to a certain extent, but we
      >can only know so much about the Gospel by locating it in time and space, and our
      >tools don't even allow that great of precision in doing so. I think we need to
      >start looking at the Gospel of Thomas from other perspectives as well. Now, I'm
      >going to try to address Jack's criticism's of your proposed way of looking at the
      >Gospel of Thomas.

      Yes, it is the meaning we are after. If Jesus knew how much energy we waste on textual historical research instead of trying to understand it, he would have a fit of frenzy. But, of course, the scholars are mostly doing it for a living. The traditional method must underlie any psychological (or whatever) approach. But it is obvious that a certain understanding of the esoteric teaching in the text will be helpful to the researcher since he then can connect the different text not only by obvious reasons. For instance, different text may use a different symbolic language but the underlying meaning could be similar and thereby describing a similar paradigm. The psychological approach which I suggested may be used as a complement too. I really don't know how valuable it is, but there is no reason why we shouldn't use different approaches.

      I think that textual scholars can benefit from an improved symbolical understanding of the texts. That's why it is highly suitable to train this faculty by discussing the meaning of the different Jesus-words, which you do in this group.

      Mats Winther

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    • Mats Winther
      ... From: Jack Kilmon Till: gthomas@egroups.com Datum: den 2 januari 1999 01:25 Ämne: [gthomas] Re: Thomas - an
      Message 2 of 7 , Jan 2, 1999
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        -----Ursprungligt meddelande-----
        From: Jack Kilmon
        Till: gthomas@egroups.com
        Datum: den 2 januari 1999 01:25
        Ämne: [gthomas] Re: Thomas - an

        >> Although the
        >>Egyptian Gnostics got hold of the Thomas-Gospel they
        >>didn't turn it into a Gnostic document. Neither did
        >>they burn it.
        >I would say the Gnostics adopted GOT because it
        >was an ascetic work
        >that did not challenge their own paradigms.

        This is because it is so easy to pick out certain sayings and emphasize them, and it is also a question of how good the reader's faculty of understanding is. But one could actually pick out sayings and prove otherwise, that Jesus actually speaks against Gnostic dualism. The Gnostic paradigm is none other than the Platonic dualism i.e. that there exists two spheres; the material and the spiritual (heavenly). The latter is the goal to be attained by overcoming the material world. But, for instance, in logion 3 Jesus is very clear: "If your leaders say to you, 'Look, the (Father's) kingdom is in the sky,' then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, 'It is in the sea,' then the fish will precede you. Rather, the kingdom is within you and it is outside you. " Here Jesus contradicts the idea of a spiritual kingdom which is transcendent to the physical universe.

        When discussing the ascetic aspect of the text there is much here that contradicts ascetism. In logion 6 the disciples ask about fasting and what to eat but Jesus merely demands of them that they shall not lie, et cetera. And in logion 14 he even says: "If you fast, you will bring sin upon yourselves..."
        But Jesus wanted the disciples to understand what the true fasting and the true sabbath is. It is not about some silly fasting rules or cleansing rituals. That's why he says in logion 27 "If you do not fast from the world, you will not find the kingdom. If you do not observe the sabbath as a sabbath you will not see the Father."

        Obviously, the Gnostic monks could find support for a kind of ascetic life style in the Thomas-Gospel. However, it is clear that to Jesus the usual ascetism is not good at all. He is anti-ritualistic, in a sense. He wants people to be fasting in the spirit, not in the flesh.
        Anyway, The Gospel of Thomas cannot really be seen as promoting ascetism.

        >> Scholars have also underestimated the originality of Matthew
        >>until the three Matthew-fragments were found in
        >>Oxford, 1994....
        >I'm sorry, but Carsten Thiede is pregnantly wrong in his dating
        >of the Magdalen papyri. The Zeitschrift style continued in use
        >well into the 3rd century. The Gospel of Matthew clearly hails
        >from the last two decades of the 1st century, probably shortly
        >after the Birkhat ha Minim (and maybe in response to it) in 85 CE.

        I don't have the cunning to understand this debate. But in cases like this I tend to be suspicious about the motives of the defenders of the old truth. I mean, they have invested so much in the old truth of Mark as the source, et cetera.

        >> But instead of trying to unveil the author behind the text
        >>psychologically, the diverse
        >>scholars start fantasizing about the Q-source, et cetera. But, if
        >>we can paint a coherent multi-level picture of an author personality,
        >>then we have a much better grip of the text. Then we can
        >>assume that there is only one author, perhaps with minor
        >In spite of the overwhelming evidence of
        >literary, sourse and form criticism
        >against such a proposition, I wish you
        >well at it.

        I don't see why the methods can't complement each other. Let's take another example. The author of the Revelation is probably the same as the apostel John. This we can conclude from the following. His horrid vision on Patmos can partly (note: only partly) be understood as a result of ascetic living and a true goodness that is unfathomable to modern people. The horrid revelation can be understood psychologically as a compensation for John's goodness. All evil, fornication, violence, lust et cetera, strikes back violently since John cannot even allow himself to be slightly angry. Note that I am not trying to reduce the revelation to a psychological text, since it certainly has an immense meaning above that. But it is important to understand the personality behind the text.
        Comparatively, St. Paul could allow himself to be harsh and downright mad sometimes, so consequently he didn't experience any outpouring of evil from his unconscious.

        Why does John have this personality trait? Well, in the Gospel of John we can see that he like noone else emphasizes the message of love. Jesus is even concerned about his mother when he is hanging on the cross. He tells the disciples to love each other. The Gospel of John is the gospel of love and rightousness. John does not regard himself as being of this world. He probably overdoes it a little and does what many monks have done during the middle ages; an Imitatio Christi. John was one of the most important founders of Christianity. The Christian interpretation of his is situated somewhere between Gnosticism (world-denial) and the Thomasine interpretation.

        From all this we can conclude that the author of John is probably the author of the Revelation. Note that I have no scholarly knowledge at all about the actual texts. Nevertheless I dare making this assumption. I maintain that it is sometimes feasible and worthwhile to discuss the personality of the author. The reason then why the Gospels are different is because their respective personalities have understood the teaching of Christ differently. Well, perhaps I should soften this extreme standpoint and say that it is partly the reason.

        >Notice I have edited your word wrap to make the
        >post easier to read. You may want to set your word wrap to
        >avoid one single line 10 feet long.

        Since all people use different word wrap it nevertheless causes problems. I use no word wrap at all (except for new passage). This makes the job easy for me. But they who use word wrap will have to edit the cited text anyway, at most instances , as I understand it. I would like to hear peoples opinion on this. Is there a problem in your software when I have ten feet long lines? In that case I will start using wordwrap.

        Mats Winther

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