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RE: [GTh] Is Thomas Christian?

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  • Judy Redman
    ... I agree. In the case of the Thomas community, I don t think we have sufficient information to make a definitive statement either way. On the basis of the
    Message 1 of 11 , Jan 20, 2006
      Ed writes:

      > But it seems to me to be at least
      > potentially misleading or confusing to term a community
      > "Christian" if
      > we have no evidence that they believed in a Christ at all.

      I agree. In the case of the Thomas community, I don't think we have
      sufficient information to make a definitive statement either way. On the
      basis of the evidence before us the Thomas may or may not have believed in a
      Christ and if they did, may or may not have believed that Jesus was the
      Christ. I guess this means that, if we are being careful about our
      labelling, we should refer to it as "a document of the early Christian era".

      Judy

      --
      "One can easily understand a child who is afraid of the dark. The real
      tragedy of life is when grown men and women are afraid of the light." -
      Plato

      Rev Judy Redman
      Uniting Church Chaplain
      University of New England
      Armidale 2351
      ph: +61 2 6773 3739
      fax: +61 2 6773 3749
      web: http://www.une.edu.au/campus/chaplaincy/uniting/
      email: jredman@...


      > -----Original Message-----
      > From: gthomas@yahoogroups.com
      > [mailto:gthomas@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Lee Edgar Tyler
      > Sent: Saturday, 21 January 2006 1:26 PM
      > To: gthomas@yahoogroups.com
      > Subject: Re: [GTh] Is Thomas Christian?
      >
      >
      > Judy Redman wrote:
      >
      > >Ed writes:
      > >
      > >
      > >>Hello, Mike,
      > >>
      > >>While I agree that a demand for orthodoxy even to the point
      > >>of belief in
      > >>the resurrection is not an appropriate litmus test for what
      > should be
      > >>considered a form of ancient Christianity, the name itself
      > implies an
      > >>identification of Jesus as "Christ." That is, it seems to me
      > >>that there
      > >>were movements that followed Jesus and/or his attributed
      > >>teachings that
      > >>would not properly fit the term "Christian." Can we really
      > >>consider the
      > >>Thomas community "Christian" in the absence of evidence that they
      > >>thought Jesus was Christ?
      > >>
      > >>
      > >
      > >Good point. OTOH, can we consider them *not* Christian in
      > the absence
      > >of concrete evidence that they didn't?
      > >
      > >
      > That judgment would depend upon several things. Could you really
      > *expect* a definitive statement in Thomas to the effect
      > "Jesus said: 'I
      > am not a Christ'" the way Nixon said "I am not a crook"? I
      > don't think
      > so. So we would have to decide what constitutes convincing evidence
      > that the Thomas community did not regard Jesus as the Christ.
      > Would a
      > complete absence of such an attribution in a text the length
      > of Thomas
      > constitute such evidence? While I'm inclined to think so, I wouldn't
      > bet the farm on it.
      >
      > I am comfortable in asserting that given the present
      > resources we have
      > no warrant to label the Thomas community "Christian," if we
      > define the
      > term as a community that held Jesus to be the Christ. There is no
      > problem that I can see in allowing for agnosticism on that
      > point in our
      > methodology. If next week another Mohammed Ali comes across another
      > Coptic library that reveals the Thomas community thought
      > Jesus was the
      > Christ (whether they made his resurrection a dogma or not) then we'd
      > need to reevaluate our taxonomy.
      > Ed Tyler
      >
      >
      > >Given that Thomas displays no interest in any other aspect of Jesus'
      > >life than his teachings and is essentially a sayings source
      > rather than
      > >a gospel like the Christian canonicals, I think it is virtually
      > >impossible to know what Thomas' take on the resurrection is. What
      > >GThos says about understanding Jesus' words being the key to eternal
      > >life (fairly radical paraphrase, I know) would certainly move it
      > >outside the orthodox Protestant formulation of Christianity where
      > >salvation comes by grace through faith alone, although one
      > might well
      > >argue that the role of the Spirit is to give knowledge so that
      > >understanding Christ's teachings might well be the result of the
      > >indwelling of the Spirit that comes with faith in Christ.
      > The Catholic
      > >understanding gives, I think, more status to one's actions combined
      > >with faith but obviously both these formulations are far newer than
      > >GThos.
      > >
      > >However, the first ecumenical Council of the church, held in
      > Nicaea in
      > >325 CE, formulated orthodox Christian belief as follows:
      > >
      > >"We believe in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of all
      > things visible
      > >and invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only
      > begotten of the
      > >Father, that is, of the substance [ek tes ousias] of the
      > Father, God of
      > >God, light of light, true God of true God, begotten not made, of the
      > >same substance with the Father [homoousion to patri],
      > through whom all
      > >things were made both in heaven and on earth; who for us men and our
      > >salvation descended, was incarnate, and was made man,
      > suffered and rose
      > >again the third day, ascended into heaven and cometh to judge the
      > >living and the dead. And in the Holy Ghost. Those who say:
      > There was a
      > >time when He was not, and He was not before He was begotten;
      > and that
      > >He was made our of nothing (ex ouk onton); or who maintain
      > that He is
      > >of another hypostasis or another substance [than the
      > Father], or that
      > >the Son of God is created, or mutable, or subject to change,
      > [them] the
      > >Catholic Church anathematizes."
      > >
      > >(I got this from the Catholic Encyclopaedia and I think that
      > it would
      > >be equally or maybe even more legitimate to use lowercase and say
      > >"catholic
      > >church")
      > >
      > >Because I am fairly new to the study of GThos and I am investigating
      > >something other than this, I don't wish to be dogmatic but my
      > >impression is that GThos could not be definitively labelled "not
      > >Christian" on the basis of this creed. Or could it?
      > >
      > >Judy
      > >
      > >
      >
      >
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    • David Renfro
      If we use terms like Early Christian , proto-Christian , Thomasine Christian , don t we prejudice our discussion with a suggestion that somehow, someway,
      Message 2 of 11 , Jan 20, 2006
        If we use terms like "Early Christian", "proto-Christian", "Thomasine Christian", don't we prejudice our discussion with a suggestion that somehow, someway, the GThom is Christian.
        Dave R.
      • Michael Grondin
        ... Let me push this a little further, if I may, and see if I can formulate a proposal for purposes of discussion. Although there s no titles given for Jesus
        Message 3 of 11 , Jan 20, 2006
          [Ed]:
          > But it seems to me to be at least potentially misleading or confusing to
          > term a community "Christian" if we have no evidence that they believed in
          > a Christ at all.

          [Judy]:
          > I agree. In the case of the Thomas community, I don't think we have
          > sufficient information to make a definitive statement either way. On the
          > basis of the evidence before us the Thomas may or may not have believed
          > in a Christ and if they did, may or may not have believed that Jesus was
          > the Christ. I guess this means that, if we are being careful about our
          > labelling, we should refer to it as "a document of the early Christian
          > era".

          Let me push this a little further, if I may, and see if I can formulate a
          proposal for purposes of discussion. Although there's no titles given for
          Jesus in GThom, there is in the Book of Thomas the Contender. If this text
          belongs to the same community, then it's significant that therein he's
          referred to with two titles - 'Lord' (the Coptic word, not the Greek) and
          'Savior' (SWTHR abbreviated and overstroked as SWR - indicating a
          "sacred name"). But he's not called 'Christ' there either. Why not?

          One explanation that strikes me as plausible is that the Thomas community
          had rejected the notion of defining Jesus in terms of the Hebrew concept of
          Messiahship - hence avoided the title 'Christ' - even though it used other
          titles that were every bit as exalted - if not more so. The chief piece of
          supporting evidence for this view is saying 52, which I take as rejecting
          the process of proof-texting from the Hebrew scriptures. As Valantasis
          remarks about this saying:

          "The narrator portrays Jesus as rejecting the textualized prophecies of the
          Israelite Scriptures - these are dead writings - in favor of the narrator's
          own constructed 'living' voice from the 'living one' who speaks the sayings
          of Jesus." (_The Gospel of Thomas_, p.130)

          But the concept of Messiahship is contained in those scriptures and
          prophecies. To embrace Messiahship then, may have been seen as treating
          those scriptures and prophecies as 'living', not 'dead', and that was
          something that the Thomas community seems to have been unwilling to do,
          for whatever reasons (which I won't get into here.)

          Aside from whether the proposal is felt to have merit, let's think of it
          this way:: suppose that I'm a person whose notion of Jesus is
          every bit as elevated as any Christian, but for whatever reason, I don't
          want to associate him with messiahship. Maybe I think that concept is too
          limited or too provincial, for example (my reasons don't have to be good
          ones). Am I a Christian? Apparently not, strictly speaking. But should we
          speak strictly in this case? Because to say that I'm non-Christian
          doesn't sound right either - since that seems to imply that I don't share
          the Christian's view of Jesus as divine, which I do (in this hypothetical
          example). Is there any term that we could use so as to avoid lengthy
          circumlocutions? 'Yeshuine', perhaps? Or is this a problem for which there
          is no good solution?

          Regards,
          Mike Grondin
        • Judy Redman
          ... [Mike] ... Where I come from, the conservative Christians would be quite happy to include someone who names Jesus as Lord and Saviour as one of them - it s
          Message 4 of 11 , Jan 21, 2006
            > [Ed]:
            > > But it seems to me to be at least potentially misleading
            > or confusing
            > > to term a community "Christian" if we have no evidence that they
            > > believed in a Christ at all.
            >
            > [Judy]:
            > > I agree. In the case of the Thomas community, I don't
            > think we have
            > > sufficient information to make a definitive statement
            > either way. On
            > > the basis of the evidence before us the Thomas may or may not have
            > > believed in a Christ and if they did, may or may not have believed
            > > that Jesus was the Christ. I guess this means that, if we
            > are being
            > > careful about our labelling, we should refer to it as "a
            > document of
            > > the early Christian era".

            [Mike]
            > Let me push this a little further, if I may, and see if I can
            > formulate a proposal for purposes of discussion. Although
            > there's no titles given for Jesus in GThom, there is in the
            > Book of Thomas the Contender. If this text belongs to the
            > same community, then it's significant that therein he's
            > referred to with two titles - 'Lord' (the Coptic word, not
            > the Greek) and 'Savior' (SWTHR abbreviated and overstroked as
            > SWR - indicating a "sacred name"). But he's not called
            > 'Christ' there either. Why not?
            >
            > One explanation that strikes me as plausible is that the
            > Thomas community had rejected the notion of defining Jesus in
            > terms of the Hebrew concept of Messiahship - hence avoided
            > the title 'Christ' - even though it used other titles that
            > were every bit as exalted - if not more so.

            Where I come from, the conservative Christians would be quite happy to
            include someone who names Jesus as Lord and Saviour as one of them - it's
            one of their tests for orthodoxy. I am not sure that using the *title*
            Messiah is essential if the understanding of the messianic *work* is there.
            This would be especially true if the Thomas community were largely not
            Hebrew or Aramaic speakers and largely non-Jewish in background. There
            might be seen to be little point in insisting that people learned a new word
            if they already had one that would work quite well in their own language.
            So another explanation would be that the leaders of the community had simply
            decided not to use a title that they would have to define to a group of
            non-Jewish, non-Hebrew/Aramaic speakers. To a certain extent, this hinges
            on what you understand to be the provenance and original language of GThos
            (and Thomas the Contender) and there is still contraversy over this.

            I don't know if this takes us any further forward, but I find it
            interesting. :-)

            Judy
          • David Renfro
            Mike writes: Is there any term that we could use so as to avoid lengthy circumlocutions? Yeshuine , perhaps? Or is this a problem for which there is no good
            Message 5 of 11 , Jan 21, 2006
              Mike writes:
              Is there any term that we could use so as to avoid lengthy
              circumlocutions? 'Yeshuine', perhaps? Or is this a problem for
              which there is no good solution?

              Mike,
              As you know, I've been using the term "Yeshuaism" for a while now.
              Before we can define what "Yeshuaism" is, we must decide what the
              parameters of Christianity are. And if there is merit in coining a new
              word that makes that distinction.
              Christianity, as a term, has become a broad brush with which all
              "Jesus Worship" is painted. This taints any "Thomasine Jesus Worship":
              with a "Hellenized" prejudice.
              I've been avoiding using "Yeshuaism" "Yeshuine" "Yeshuite" on this
              forum until the soft edges of "Christianity" could be defined. As this
              topic is under debate, I hope I'm not premature in suggesting,
              Yeshuaism: Non-Christian worship of Yeshua Ben Yosef.
              Dave R.
              Sanford Fl.














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            • David C. Hindley
              ...
              Message 6 of 11 , Jan 21, 2006
                --- In gthomas@yahoogroups.com, "Judy Redman" <jredman@p...> wrote:

                <<Where I come from, the conservative Christians would be quite happy
                to include someone who names Jesus as Lord and Saviour as one of
                them - it's one of their tests for orthodoxy. I am not sure that
                using the *title* Messiah is essential if the understanding of the
                messianic *work* is there. This would be especially true if the
                Thomas community were largely not Hebrew or Aramaic speakers and
                largely non-Jewish in background. There might be seen to be little
                point in insisting that people learned a new word if they already had
                one that would work quite well in their own language. So another
                explanation would be that the leaders of the community had simply
                decided not to use a title that they would have to define to a group
                of non-Jewish, non-Hebrew/Aramaic speakers. To a certain extent,
                this hinges on what you understand to be the provenance and original
                language of GThos (and Thomas the Contender) and there is still
                contraversy over this.>>

                Maybe I'm not paying sufficient attention, but hasn't this discussion
                been glossing over the difference between a Jewish messiah
                ("Christos" in Greek) and the LATER title applied to Jesus that
                indicated he is a *divine redeemer* figure?

                In the former case "christian" (small "c") would mean
                essentially "messianist," and cannot necessarily be restricted to
                followers of Jesus alone. Others may also have claimed to be, or had
                been ascribed, the mantle of Jewish messiahship, and they would have
                had followers too. This concept can be applied to any formally
                anointed ruler figure, including the Jewish High Priest or perhaps
                one of the Herodian client kings. This has significance when
                considering what kind of people an author like Tacitus means when he
                speaks of "christians". In Roman eyes, "messianism" is tantamount
                to "rebellion against the Roman order" (except perhaps in the case of
                an officially recognized client king or High Priest). This is
                apparently what folks are referring to as "low" christology. While
                there is difference of modern opinion about how "high"
                the "christology" of early Jewish followers of Jesus was, I'd be
                inclined to think that the earliest followers, both Jewish and
                gentile, would have been strictly messianists, and thus best
                described as "christians" (small "c").

                The later use of the term "christos" seems to be associated with
                followers of Jesus *as some form of redeemer*. This is apparently
                what folks are referring to as "high" christology. Followers of Jesus
                the divine redeemer would thus be "Christians" (big "C"). When WE
                think of "Christian", we are thinking of the latter use. Those
                followers of Jesus who re-thought the concept of messiahship and
                transformed it from a distinctly Jewish title of earthly authority to
                a title of divine redeemership, would be "Christians". Probably also
                Gnostics (big "G") would belong in this latter class. Even after
                Jesus' death, many of his followers probably did not immediately
                elevate him to divine redeemer status, and some may never have. Maybe
                we could tuck Ebionites into this last category and treat them
                as "christians" (small "c").

                The author of Gospel of Thomas does not seem to put itself into
                either camp. Jesus is someone who they believed said profound things.
                Mikes' suggestion of something like "Yeshuan" (or simply a "follower"
                of Jesus, or collectively a "Jesus movement") seems good. If the
                term "gnostic" (small "g") is taken to be those who love profound
                truths (in writings) not readily seen on the surface, as opposed to
                Gnostics (big "G") who believe in (a) divine redeemer figure(s), then
                the Thomas community would be "gnostics" and not "christians"
                or "Christians."

                Respectfully,

                Dave Hindley
                Cleveland, Ohio USA
              • David Arbuckle
                Hello all, I have not posted on this list much as I have been busy on other yahoo groups, but have followed this thread with great interest. I have always
                Message 7 of 11 , Jan 21, 2006
                  Hello all,


                  I have not posted on this list much as I have been
                  busy on other yahoo groups, but have followed this
                  thread with great interest.

                  I have always thought that the sayings in Thomas
                  that have parallels in the NT seem to the laymen (me)
                  to be more primitive then their counterparts in the
                  NT. I have always filed that in my brain as proof that
                  Thomas was earlier at least in part then the NT. It
                  seems that if I am right, and the fact that Acts is
                  quite late, and that it is generally regarded as the
                  the source that most use as the origin of that term
                  (christian) that maybe the term 'christian' had not
                  even been coined as yet when Thomas was first penned.

                  It would seem to make sense that the followers of
                  Yeshua of the Thomasine community and the author(s) of
                  Thomas may not have been even aquainted with the term.


                  At any rate, I personally like the term Yeshuines,
                  Yeshuaism over christian or christianity as it brings
                  the focus back to the man instead of the deity that
                  would appear to be a late invention.

                  my two cents.

                  dave

                  --- Lee Edgar Tyler <leeedgartyler@...> wrote:

                  > Judy Redman wrote:
                  >
                  > >Ed writes:
                  > >
                  > >
                  > >>Hello, Mike,
                  > >>
                  > >>While I agree that a demand for orthodoxy even to
                  > the point
                  > >>of belief in
                  > >>the resurrection is not an appropriate litmus test
                  > for what should be
                  > >>considered a form of ancient Christianity, the
                  > name itself implies an
                  > >>identification of Jesus as "Christ." That is, it
                  > seems to me
                  > >>that there
                  > >>were movements that followed Jesus and/or his
                  > attributed
                  > >>teachings that
                  > >>would not properly fit the term "Christian." Can
                  > we really
                  > >>consider the
                  > >>Thomas community "Christian" in the absence of
                  > evidence that they
                  > >>thought Jesus was Christ?
                  > >>
                  > >>
                  > >
                  > >Good point. OTOH, can we consider them *not*
                  > Christian in the absence of
                  > >concrete evidence that they didn't?
                  > >
                  > >
                  > That judgment would depend upon several things.
                  > Could you really
                  > *expect* a definitive statement in Thomas to the
                  > effect "Jesus said: 'I
                  > am not a Christ'" the way Nixon said "I am not a
                  > crook"? I don't think
                  > so. So we would have to decide what constitutes
                  > convincing evidence
                  > that the Thomas community did not regard Jesus as
                  > the Christ. Would a
                  > complete absence of such an attribution in a text
                  > the length of Thomas
                  > constitute such evidence? While I'm inclined to
                  > think so, I wouldn't
                  > bet the farm on it.
                  >
                  > I am comfortable in asserting that given the present
                  > resources we have
                  > no warrant to label the Thomas community
                  > "Christian," if we define the
                  > term as a community that held Jesus to be the
                  > Christ. There is no
                  > problem that I can see in allowing for agnosticism
                  > on that point in our
                  > methodology. If next week another Mohammed Ali
                  > comes across another
                  > Coptic library that reveals the Thomas community
                  > thought Jesus was the
                  > Christ (whether they made his resurrection a dogma
                  > or not) then we'd
                  > need to reevaluate our taxonomy. But it seems to me
                  > to be at least
                  > potentially misleading or confusing to term a
                  > community "Christian" if
                  > we have no evidence that they believed in a Christ
                  > at all.
                  >
                  > Ed Tyler
                  >
                  >
                  > >Given that Thomas displays no interest in any other
                  > aspect of Jesus' life
                  > >than his teachings and is essentially a sayings
                  > source rather than a gospel
                  > >like the Christian canonicals, I think it is
                  > virtually impossible to know
                  > >what Thomas' take on the resurrection is. What
                  > GThos says about
                  > >understanding Jesus' words being the key to eternal
                  > life (fairly radical
                  > >paraphrase, I know) would certainly move it outside
                  > the orthodox Protestant
                  > >formulation of Christianity where salvation comes
                  > by grace through faith
                  > >alone, although one might well argue that the role
                  > of the Spirit is to give
                  > >knowledge so that understanding Christ's teachings
                  > might well be the result
                  > >of the indwelling of the Spirit that comes with
                  > faith in Christ. The
                  > >Catholic understanding gives, I think, more status
                  > to one's actions combined
                  > >with faith but obviously both these formulations
                  > are far newer than GThos.
                  > >
                  > >However, the first ecumenical Council of the
                  > church, held in Nicaea in 325
                  > >CE, formulated orthodox Christian belief as
                  > follows:
                  > >
                  > >"We believe in one God the Father Almighty, Maker
                  > of all things visible and
                  > >invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only
                  > begotten of the Father,
                  > >that is, of the substance [ek tes ousias] of the
                  > Father, God of God, light
                  > >of light, true God of true God, begotten not made,
                  > of the same substance
                  > >with the Father [homoousion to patri], through whom
                  > all things were made
                  > >both in heaven and on earth; who for us men and our
                  > salvation descended, was
                  > >incarnate, and was made man, suffered and rose
                  > again the third day, ascended
                  > >into heaven and cometh to judge the living and the
                  > dead. And in the Holy
                  > >Ghost. Those who say: There was a time when He was
                  > not, and He was not
                  > >before He was begotten; and that He was made our of
                  > nothing (ex ouk onton);
                  > >or who maintain that He is of another hypostasis or
                  > another substance [than
                  > >the Father], or that the Son of God is created, or
                  > mutable, or subject to
                  > >change, [them] the Catholic Church anathematizes."
                  > >
                  > >(I got this from the Catholic Encyclopaedia and I
                  > think that it would be
                  > >equally or maybe even more legitimate to use
                  > lowercase and say "catholic
                  > >church")
                  > >
                  > >Because I am fairly new to the study of GThos and I
                  > am investigating
                  > >something other than this, I don't wish to be
                  > dogmatic but my impression is
                  > >that GThos could not be definitively labelled "not
                  > Christian" on the basis
                  > >of this creed. Or could it?
                  > >
                  > >Judy
                  > >
                  > >
                  >
                  >
                  >
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