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Re: Inter-Christian Polemic in GJn?

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  • ianbrown6796
    Hi Mike, Thanks for the reply. ... I agree with you that is possible (even likely) that the Thomasine community attributed their gospel to the disciple Thomas
    Message 1 of 25 , Aug 28, 2009
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      Hi Mike,

      Thanks for the reply.

      You wrote:
      > Maybe what DeConick was thinking was that the original kernel of
      > Thomas was already associated with that name, even though the
      > text didn't yet contain any references to him.

      I agree with you that is possible (even likely) that the Thomasine community attributed their gospel to the disciple Thomas before the gospel was so named. I guess what I was trying to convey was that the point you raise should have been more clearly defended, rather than relying on the Gospel's name-sake.

      You wrote:
      > To me, the two go hand-in-glove, both historically and analytically.
      > To my way of thinking, theology is/was the hand-maiden of socio-
      > political considerations. Making a heavenly necessity out of earthly
      > longings, as it were. One of the intellectual slogans of the time was
      > "as above, so below", but the actuality seems to have been rather
      > that "as (we want it to be) below, so (it must be) above".

      To this I would respond that yes, I agree that theology and social situations are intimately tied to each other, but I think there is a limit to its usefulness. For example: when we are looking at the theology of GosThom alongside the theology of GosJohn I don't see this approach being as helpful, specifically in the way DeConick utilizes it. When the argument is raised that two documents share certain theological inclinations, we can pursue that argument by asking what the social conditions may have been that made these theological claims attractive to that group. Conversely if the argument is raised that two documents exhibit contradictory theological inclinations (as is argued for GosThom and GosJohn) then we can go on to ask whether or not the social conditions that made opposing the theological claims attractive to each groups may well have been opposing social conditions. I don't think this is the case with GosThom and GosJohn. Here it seems to me that the theological differences can be better explained by analyzing the social conditions of each group, rather than by hypothesizing an inter-gospel debate over proper soteriological understanding of Jesus.

      You wrote:
      > The problem for us, however, is that the theology of a given group
      > is explicit in its texts, but the socio-political status usually isn't.
      > Try to read the latter through the prism of the former,
      > or turn to some external tool like "the social approach"? One of the
      > problems I see with that approach is that it focuses (of necessity) on
      > large groups, so that the kind and scope of socio-political generalities
      > it typically produces may very well not apply to smaller groups in special
      > circumstances.

      I would have to disagree. I don't think we can excavate anything explicit from the Gospels. While I appreciate the fact that biblical studies has many wonderful tools with which we can use to analyze our primary sources, the fact of the matter is these tools barely scratch the surface of the world in which these texts were produced. I my mind we need external tools such as: literary criticism, post-colonial theory, critical theory, sociology, archaeology, feminist theory, and so on in order to shed new light on these texts. I share your concern that essentializing groups along theoretical lines set by us in the present isn't helpful, but I would argue that categorization and some degree of generalization can be very helpful in making new insights into ancient texts. Perhaps you could clarify for me your below statement,

      > In particular, the perceived status of small text-producing
      > groups - which is exactly what we're interested in. So while the "social
      > approach" might be helpful if it worked, I tend to think of it as a rather
      > clumsy macro-tool that doesn't work well at the micro-level needed.

      I don't think you are saying that the Thomasine community is so utterly unique that we cannot use any other tools to examine it and its gospel. But it does seem to me that you are limiting your tools of analysis, whereas my philosophy would be "the more tools the better."

      Sorry I quoted so much of your last post, but it was very thought provoking and I wanted to treat each part of it as fairly as I could.

      Ian
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