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Re: [GTh] On the Net: The Dick Harfield Story, pt.2

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  • M.W. Grondin
    ... Well, the hypothesis in question is that GTh was significantly de-gnosticized at some point in time. Seems clear that the kinds of changes arising from the
    Message 1 of 5 , Feb 18, 2011
      [Dave Hindley]:
      > I suppose it is possible to ... hypothesize
      from [Diatessaronic or other Syriac
      > origin] that the Greek or Coptic translations brought the
      sayings closer to the
      > forms found in the canonical gospels.
       
      Well, the hypothesis in question is that GTh was significantly de-gnosticized
      at some point in time. Seems clear that the kinds of changes arising from the
      process of translation alone wouldn't be enough to support that suggestion.
      Furthermore, any portion of GTh based on the Diatessaron wouldn't have
      required any de-gnosticizing changes, since the Diatessaron was itself a
      conglomeration of the Greek canonical gospels translated into Syriac.
       
      Mike
      p.s.: To correct a mistake in the postscript to my last note, the mentioned
      voting is on Yahoo Answers, not Answers.com. There are a number of significant
      differences in the way these sites handle Q-and-A's. Among other things, there's
      only one answer given on Answers.com (where I've interacted with Dick Harfield),
      and that answer can be modified or replaced without time limit, whereas on Yahoo
      Answers, there's a bunch of answers given by individuals, and a time limit on
      giving answers and then voting for the best one.
       
    • David C Hindley
      Mike, I can see how a Christian apologetics website could say something like that. Layton discusses the Myth of Origins (pg 360) in the Thomas tradition:
      Message 2 of 5 , Feb 18, 2011
        Mike,
         
        I can see how a Christian apologetics website could say something like that.
         
        Layton discusses the "Myth of Origins" (pg 360) in the Thomas tradition:
         
        "Despite these parallels [esp. with the Valentinian school] the Thomas literature shows no unmistakable signs of being Valentinian or classically gnostic. Instead, it presupposes only an uncomplicated Hellenistic myth of the divine origins of the self ...
         
        According to this myth, the individual true self (spirit, soul, living element) 'has come from' or 'has been sent from' the 'kingdom of light' in the East, i.e. belongs to the spiritual world. It [i.e., the true self] now resides resides within a realm, i.e. a state, of 'sleep, drunkenness, darkness, and death,' whose rulers are malevolent authorities ... By the will of the 'king' or 'father' a savior (Jesus), or a personified message, is sent to awaken , sober up, illuminate, and vivify the self, which learns to recognize itself [for what it is] and to distinguish between light and darkness. The saviors message causes the self to return to its proper home (the kingdom), i.e. to its proper state ...
         
        The myth of the soul is to some extent compatible with more complex systems like the gnostic or Valentinian myth ..."
         
        Not every critic agrees what "gnostic" was supposed to look like. Some see it as an either-or thing: You are either a Gnostic (i.e., wrong) or Orthodox (i.e., right thinking), there is no middle ground.  Others are not so convinced that the Latin or Arabic forms of the Diatessaron accurately translates the Syriac, which has not fully survived, simply because it was compiled by Tatian, who was said by Irenaeus "(Haer., I., xxvlii. 1, Ante-Nicene Fathers, i. 353) that after the death of Justin, he was expelled from the church for his Encratitic (ascetic) views (Eusebius claims he founded the Encratitic sect), as well as for being a follower of the gnostic leader Valentinius" (so Wikipedia). To these folks, the Latin and Arabic versions of the Diatessaron, and perhaps even the Syriac ones that were used in the 3rd & 4th centuries, have been made more orthodox to remove Tatian's own views.
         
        Per Wicki,
         
        "The starting-point of Tatian's theology is a strict monotheism which becomes the source of the moral life. Originally the human soul possessed faith in one God, but lost it with the fall. In consequence man sank under the rule of demons into the abominable error of polytheism. By monotheistic faith the soul is delivered from the material world and from demonic rule and is united with God. God is spirit (pneuma), but not the physical or stoical pneuma; he was alone before the creation, but he had within himself potentially the whole creation.

        The means of creation was the dynamis logike ("power expressed in words"). At first there proceeded from God the Logos who, generated in the beginning, was to produce the world by creating matter from which the whole creation sprang. Creation is penetrated by the pneuma hylikon, "world spirit," which is common to angels, stars, men, animals, and plants. This world spirit is lower than the divine pneuma, and becomes in man the psyche or "soul," so that on the material side and in his soul man does not differ essentially from the animals; though at the same time he is called to a peculiar union with the divine spirit, which raises him above the animals. This spirit is the image of God in man, and to it man's immortality is due.

        The first-born of the spirits fell and caused others to fall, and thus the demons originated. The fall of the spirits was brought about through their desire to separate man from God, in order that he might serve not God but them. Man, however, was implicated in this fall, lost his blessed abode and his soul was deserted by the divine spirit, and sank into the material sphere, in which only a faint reminiscence of God remained alive.

        As by freedom man fell, so by freedom he may turn again to God. The Spirit unites with the souls of those who walk uprightly; through the prophets he reminds men of their lost likeness to God."

         
        So, say a Syriac GOT was more in line with the myth as found in the Hymn of the Pearl or Tatian, which would fly in northern Mesopotamia, and it is being transmitted to areas where this kind of myth might not be so warmly received, but still has elements to admire, translators may file off the rough edges, to bring it back into conformity with Orthodoxy.
         
        However, I think you may well be right and Harfield simply thinks the IGT is the GOT, based either on the 1907 Catholic Encyclopedia article or on the ANF intro for the (Infancy) Gospel of Thomas. The ANF was published in 24 subscription installments between 1867-1872 from Edinburgh Scotland. The American edition, which is what one will find online, had new introductions and was condensed into 10 volumes, again published in subscription installments between 1885-1896.
         
        Respectfully,

        Dave Hindley
        Newton Falls, Ohio USA

         


        From: gthomas@yahoogroups.com [mailto:gthomas@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of M.W. Grondin
        Sent: Friday, February 18, 2011 2:09 PM
        To: gthomas@yahoogroups.com
        Subject: Re: [GTh] On the Net: The Dick Harfield Story, pt.2

        [Dave Hindley]:
        > I suppose it is possible to ... hypothesize from [Diatessaronic or other Syriac
        > origin] that the Greek or Coptic translations brought the sayings closer to the
        > forms found in the canonical gospels.
         
        Well, the hypothesis in question is that GTh was significantly de-gnosticized
        at some point in time. Seems clear that the kinds of changes arising from the
        process of translation alone wouldn't be enough to support that suggestion.
        Furthermore, any portion of GTh based on the Diatessaron wouldn't have
        required any de-gnosticizing changes, since the Diatessaron was itself a
        conglomeration of the Greek canonical gospels translated into Syriac.
         
        Mike
         
      • M.W. Grondin
        Further developments on this front: At YahooAnswers, my answer to the question of whether GTh has anything apocalyptic in it has been chosen best answer by a
        Message 3 of 5 , Feb 19, 2011
          Further developments on this front:
          At YahooAnswers, my answer to the question of whether GTh has anything
          apocalyptic in it has been chosen best answer by a landslide - 100% to 0%.
          (OK, there were only three votes, one of which was mine, but hey, a win's a win.)
           
          Over at Answers.com, I decided to try to give myself a "trust point". It worked:
          "We're writing to let you know that your contributions on Answers.com are appreciated.
          A fellow contributor has recommended you with a trust point, thanking you for your
           
          "Fellow contributor" indeed. Something's wrong with the system, I'd say.
          But hey, I now have one "trust point". Only 953 to go to match Harfield.
           
          Seriously, though, I've had a few exchanges the last couple days with Harfield.
          I mentioned our group, so he may be browsing these messages at some point.
          The latest disagreement I have with him is over his answer to the question
          "Why is the Gospel of St. Thomas dismissed by the Vatican as heresy?"
           
          Harfield's answer was this:
          "It is an accident of history that the Gospel of Thomas was not included in
          the New Testament. It was originally written in the Gnostic milieu, but was
          modified and widely adopted in the proto-Catholic-Orthodox branch of Christianity. 
          Thomas initially had much support for inclusion in the Bible, but Ireneus insisted that
          there must be only four gospels and that those were Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
          Thomas is not in the New Testament and is therefore heresy."
           
          Having already swapped a few introductory messages on our Answers.com message
          boards, I wrote him a short response to each claim in the above answer, as follows:
           
          (1) "It is an accident of history that the Gospel of Thomas was not included in the New Testament." 
          Your basis for this claim seems to be what Ireneus said, but I think you've misinterpreted that. See below. 

          (2) "It was originally written in the Gnostic milieu, but was modified and widely adopted in the
          proto-Catholic-Orthodox branch of Christianity." 
          As far as I know, it was not "widely adopted" and was not de-gnosticized. 

          (3) "Thomas initially had much support for inclusion in the Bible ..." 
          I'm unaware of any evidence for this claim. GTh seems to have been little-known,
          and those writers who knew of it didn't like it. 

          (4)" ... but Ireneus insisted that there must be only four gospels ..." 
          I think this is generally understood among scholars as Ireneus making a virtue of necessity. He didn't in fact "insist" 
          that there only be four gospels. There were generally agreed to be four and he presented the fait accompli as being
          divinely fore-ordained. If there had been general agreement on five, he would have come up with some other rationalization why THAT was divinely inspired. 

          (5) "Thomas is not in the New Testament and is therefore heresy." 
          Not true. There are other books (e.g., Shepherd of Hermas, Epistle of Barnabas) not included in the canon, but not
          considered to be heretical, either. It's the other way 'round - it was considered heretical and therefore isn't in the NT. 
           
          For the full context of this and other messages, see:
           
          I'm interested in what you all honestly think about Harfield's answer above, and my response
          to it. Were my responses historically and/or interpretationally correct? Are there a better ones?
          Or was Harfield right about some of these five points? How should the original question be
          answered?
           
          Best,
          Mike
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