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On the Reception History of GTh

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  • M.W. Grondin
    This new thread is conceptually connected with my previous note about Dick Harfield s Answers.com answer to the question Why is the Gospel of St. Thomas
    Message 1 of 14 , Feb 21, 2011
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      This new thread is conceptually connected with my previous note about
      Dick Harfield's Answers.com answer to the question "Why is the Gospel
      of St. Thomas dismissed by the Vatican as heresy?" Of course, the most
      direct answer is that the current Vatican (if it even thought about the matter)
      would certainly maintain its historical position, and that historical position
      is that GTh is heretical. But that only puts the question back. Why is that
      the historical position, and how exactly did it come about?
       
      Harfield also raises the question of the popular reception of GTh. Was it
      well-known among Christians, as he claims? Did it actually have a hope of
      being included in the canon, only to be dashed by Irenaeus?
       
      Last night I rummaged through my Thomas books trying to find something
      about what I've called here the "reception history" of GTh. Since I remembered
      that Elaine Pagels' Beyond Belief had a lot of material on Irenaeus and Thomas,
      I thought there would be something in there. But no. Almost nothing. The only
      thing that I think I have that bears on the question is a reputable list of testimonia
      from orthodox Christian writers, beginning with Hippolytus ca. 230 AD and reaching
      what seem to be two culmination points: (1) the semi-official statement of Eusebius
      something less than a hundred years later:
       
      "... the writings which are put forward by heretics under the name of the apostles,
      containing Gospels such as those of Peter, Thomas, and Matthias, and of some
      others besides." (Hist, 3.25.6)
       
      ... and (2) the official statement of the 2nd Council of Nicaea in 787:
       
      "Manichaeans have introduced the Gospel According to Thomas, which
      the Catholic Church piously rejects as something foreign."
       
      Of course, this claim is historically false. The Manichaeans couldn't have
      introduced GTh, because both Hippolytus and Origen referred to the work
      prior to the time of Mani. What is true is that, when Manichaeanism came into
      bloom some time later, some orthodox Christian writers attributed GTh to
      Mani and his followers (particularly one whose name was apparent 'Thomas').
      Indeed, the Manichaeans might have used it, but that didn't make it theirs.
      Irrespective of that, however, Hippolytus had already associated GTh with
      a gnostic sect - the so-called 'Naasenes' - and almost every reference thereafter
      (with the exception of Origen's neutrality) regards it as unacceptable.
       
      At any rate, the list of quotes I'm referring to appears in Layton's book
      Nag Hammadi Codex II, pp. 103-109. Plisch discusses these testimonia
      in his Gospel of Thomas, pp. 12-15. In the various historical quotes, GTh
      is often mentioned (though some mentions were borrowed from others) in
      conjunction with other gospels. Plisch focuses in particular on the conjunctive
      references to the Gospels of Philip or Matthias, and writes this about that:
       
      "The relatively late Gnostic compendium (3rd century) Pistis Sophia mentions
      Philip, Thomas, and Matthew as the three scribes who recorded the words of
      Jesus, and thus as the guarantors of the gospel tradition ..." (ibid, p.13)
       
      So what do the various "testimonia" tell us about the reception history of GTh?
      We know that Origen knew of GTh as early as 233 (In Luc.hom.), which is not
      long after Hippolytus wrote about it. Does that imply that the Naasenes weren't
      the only group using (a version of) the work? If so, does that imply that GTh
      was "popular", as Harfield claims? Or is it just that Origen was very well-read?
      And what about the paltry manuscriptal evidence? Does that tell us that GTh
      wasn't well-known, or that it was, but that copies were destroyed? And then
      there's the third variable to consider in trying to reach a conclusion about the
      popularity of GTh, namely the incipit. Does the phrase "secret words" indicate
      that the text wasn't intended for broad, indiscriminate dissemination, and hence
      that it might have tended not to be so disseminated?
       
      Unfortunately, I have more questions than answers. It would be most helpful
      if group members would chime in with whatever they think might be relevant,
      or help to clarify the issues that need to be decided to satisfactorily answer
      the questions of the church and popular reception-history of GTh. (I'd be
      willing to post all of the testimonia referred to here if that's felt necessary.)
       
      Mike G.
    • timster132@aol.com
      M.W. Grondin wrote on Mon Feb 21, 2011...
      Message 2 of 14 , Feb 22, 2011
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        "M.W. Grondin" wrote on Mon Feb 21, 2011...
         
        <<Unfortunately, I have more questions than answers. It would be most helpful if group members would chime in with whatever they think might be relevant, or help to clarify the issues that need to be decided to satisfactorily answer the questions of the church and popular reception-history of GTh. (I'd be willing to post all of the testimonia referred to here if that's felt necessary.) 
        Mike G.>>
         
        Mike,
         
        I know some commentators believe that Thomas’ emphasis on “one/single/alone” points to its readers being made up of solitaries, hermits and those who withdraw from society. But if this were so, how could it have survived at all, let alone in two languages and across several centuries?
         
        Also, we know that the Gospel of Thomas was likely to have been read at funerals, from the Oxyrhynchus linen funeral shroud which contains L5 in Greek.  This, to me, this implies a congregational setting for GTh.
         
        At the very least, I think its plausible to assume there was a non-orthodox Coptic congregation or religious group that perpetuated the GTh as a sacred text.
         
        Timster
      • Rick Hubbard
        Hi Timster BTW, a real name is sort of the list protocol, unless of course your real name IS in fact Timster). Anyway, this whole question about the
        Message 3 of 14 , Feb 22, 2011
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          Hi Timster

           

          BTW, a real name is sort of the list protocol, unless of course your real name IS in fact Timster).

           

          Anyway, this whole question about the “Reception History of Thomas” is somewhat addressed by April DeConick in her _Recovering the Original Gospel of Thomas_ (T&T Clark, 2005). Not everyone concurs with her assessment, however if you have a chance to pick up a copy of her monograph it might be worth your time to read. I think what she has to say there might modify your thinking somewhat (or at least provide a different frame to your suggestions).

           

          Rick Hubbard

           

           

           

          From: gthomas@yahoogroups.com [mailto:gthomas@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of timster132@...
          Sent: Tuesday, February 22, 2011 10:53 AM
          To: gthomas@yahoogroups.com
          Subject: Re: [GTh] On the Reception History of GTh

           

           

          "M.W. Grondin" wrote on Mon Feb 21, 2011...

           

          <<Unfortunately, I have more questions than answers. It would be most helpful if group members would chime in with whatever they think might be relevant, or help to clarify the issues that need to be decided to satisfactorily answer the questions of the church and popular reception-history of GTh. (I'd be willing to post all of the testimonia referred to here if that's felt necessary.) 

          Mike G.>>

           

          Mike,

           

          I know some commentators believe that Thomas’ emphasis on “one/single/alone” points to its readers being made up of solitaries, hermits and those who withdraw from society. But if this were so, how could it have survived at all, let alone in two languages and across several centuries?

           

          Also, we know that the Gospel of Thomas was likely to have been read at funerals, from the Oxyrhynchus linen funeral shroud which contains L5 in Greek.  This, to me, this implies a congregational setting for GTh.

           

          At the very least, I think its plausible to assume there was a non-orthodox Coptic congregation or religious group that perpetuated the GTh as a sacred text.

           

          Timster

        • M.W. Grondin
          Hi Tim, Thanks for taking the time and effort to post your thoughts on this issue. I wish others would do so as well, since layfolks often ask why Thomas isn t
          Message 4 of 14 , Feb 23, 2011
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            Hi Tim,
             
            Thanks for taking the time and effort to post your thoughts on this issue. I wish others would
            do so as well, since layfolks often ask why Thomas isn't in the Bible, and scholars shouldn't
            leave it to Dan Brown to answer.
             
            > ... we know that the Gospel of Thomas was likely to have been read at funerals, from
            > the Oxyrhynchus linen funeral shroud which contains L5 in Greek.  This, to me, this implies
            > a congregational setting for GTh. At the very least, I think its plausible to assume there was a
            > non-orthodox Coptic congregation or religious group that perpetuated the GTh as a sacred text.
             
            Well, there's no doubt that there was a "religious group" (whether formal or informal) that packed
            the NH jar with their books. There's also no doubt that there were "congregations" of gnostic groups
            of various types and sizes, because some of their practices were described by heresy-hunters. But
            as to the Oxyrhynchus funeral shroud, I don't think we can conclude very much from that. Certainly
            not (IMO) that "the Gospel of Thomas was likely to have been read at funerals". Note in the first place
            that the shroud doesn't contain the entirety of L5, as you imply. It only contains a tailing clause (5.2)
            that isn't present in the Coptic version of L5. Moreover, while a prima facie argument can be made
            that since the shroud is dated later than the Greek fragment containing 5.2, the shroud inscription
            must have come from 5.2, this simplistic prima facie argument doesn't hold up well to critical analysis.
            I'm fairly well persuaded by DeConick's remarks on the subject:
             
            "The Greek [version of GTh] witnesses an accretion in L. 5.2 not found in the Coptic, 'nor
            buried that [will not be resurrected]'. The saying is a well-known one from Egyptian burial
            practices. ... Since the content does not cohere with other Thomas logia and the saying is
            known in Egypt, it is probable that the Greek represents a late accretion brought into the text
            by a scribe. A saying [L5] that once referred to the acquisition of truth from Jesus has become
            in the Greek text a confession for the empty tomb and the future resurrection of the believer."
            (GOGTT, p.60, bracketed material mine)
             
            In other words, the direction of influence is more probably from funeral formula to text
            than vice versa, and the shroud inscription reflects the former.
             
            Regards,
            Mike
            p.s.: Rick is quite right. Please use your proper name.
          • Bob Schacht
            ... Well, here we have a nice example of what happens when the subject line becomes obsolete, and the key reference refers to something somewhere in the
            Message 5 of 14 , Feb 23, 2011
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              At 11:48 AM 2/21/2011, M.W. Grondin wrote:
              This new thread is conceptually connected with my previous note about
              Dick Harfield's Answers.com answer to the question "Why is the Gospel
              of St. Thomas dismissed by the Vatican as heresy?" Of course, the most
              direct answer is that the current Vatican (if it even thought about the matter)
              would certainly maintain its historical position, and that historical position
              is that GTh is heretical. But that only puts the question back. Why is that
              the historical position, and how exactly did it come about? ...

              Well, here we have a nice example of what happens when the subject line becomes obsolete, and the key reference refers to something somewhere in the message that the reader might have forgotten.
              For those others, who like me were scratching their heads,  the reference is to:

              At 12:51 AM 2/20/2011, M.W. Grondin wrote:

              ... 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?"
              http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Why_is_the_Gospel_of_St._Thomas_dismissed_by_the_Vatican_as_heresy

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

              I was kinda waiting for patristics scholar Tom Kopecek to respond to this question, because a key figure is Ireneus, but Tom doesn't belong to this list. So I forwarded the discussion about this matter to him, and hopefully he will respond.

              Bob Schacht
              Fellow head scratcher
            • timster132@aol.com
              Rick, Hi. Thanks for the suggested reading. I will check DeConick s book out-- probably through inter-loan since it is priced like a text book, a little bit
              Message 6 of 14 , Feb 23, 2011
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                Rick,
                 
                Hi.  Thanks for the suggested reading.  I will check DeConick's book out-- probably through inter-loan since it is priced like a text book, a little bit high.  From the reviews I read, her theory is that the original kernal of Thomas was apocalyptic in nature-- sort of a rebuttal against the JSem.  Which is good, since scholarship always needs to hear various sides of an issue.
                 
                Some have called me Timster, true, but not many ;)   So I'll sign with my birth name to comply with the list.
                 
                I'm a civilian, not an academic-- actually a chaplain in a hospital, but like to keep my mind sharp by reading Greek and exploring Coptic.
                 
                I enjoy the list here, and although I lurk a lot, I appreicate being able to ask questions from time to time so I can learn something.
                 
                Take care.
                 
                Tim Staker
                Indianapolis, IN
                 
                 
                 

                Posted by: "Rick Hubbard" rhubbard@... rickhubbardus
                    Date: Tue Feb 22, 2011 5:47 pm ((PST))

                <<Hi Timster

                BTW, a real name is sort of the list protocol, unless of course your real name
                IS in fact Timster).

                Anyway, this whole question about the “Reception History of Thomas” is somewhat
                addressed by April DeConick in her _Recovering the Original Gospel of Thomas_
                (T&T Clark, 2005). Not everyone concurs with her assessment, however if you have
                a chance to pick up a copy of her monograph it might be worth your time to read.
                I think what she has to say there might modify your thinking somewhat (or at
                least provide a different frame to your suggestions).

                Rick Hubbard >>



              • M.W. Grondin
                ... Even somewhat may be overly-generous. I m unable to find much of anything in there on the subject of textual reception external to the Thomas community.
                Message 7 of 14 , Feb 23, 2011
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                  [Rick]:
                  > ... this whole question about the "Reception History of
                  Thomas" is
                  > somewhat addressed by April DeConick in her _Recovering the
                  Original
                  > Gospel of Thomas_ (T&T Clark, 2005).

                  Even "somewhat" may be overly-generous. I'm unable to find much of
                  anything in there on the subject of textual reception external to the Thomas
                  community. Can you be more specific?

                  Mike


                • timster132@aol.com
                  Mike, Thanks for the info on Egyptian funeral traditions. That is very helpful in understanding the Oxyrhynchus linen funeral shroud. It is often hard to
                  Message 8 of 14 , Feb 25, 2011
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                    Mike,
                     
                    Thanks for the info on Egyptian funeral traditions. That is very helpful in understanding the Oxyrhynchus linen funeral shroud.  It is often hard to determine the direction of influence of oral vs. text.
                     
                    I'm curious: were these Egyptian funeral traditions Christian, or are we talking about non-Christian traditions such as the resurrection of Osiris?
                     
                    Timster
                    aka Tim Staker
                  • M.W. Grondin
                    ... Dunno, Tim. All I know is what DeConick wrote. The phrase Jesus says is part of the inscription, but I don t think we can conclude anything from that.
                    Message 9 of 14 , Feb 25, 2011
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                      > ... were these Egyptian funeral traditions Christian, or are we talking about
                      > non-Christian traditions such as the resurrection of Osiris?

                      Dunno, Tim. All I know is what DeConick wrote. The phrase 'Jesus says' is
                      part of the inscription, but I don't think we can conclude anything from that.
                       
                      "There is an inscription cited by J. Fitzmyer found on a burial shroud from the
                      fifth or sixth century that reads: 'Jesus says, "There is nothing buried which
                      will not be resurrected.'" (TGOTT, p.60)
                       
                      The citation is: Fitzmyer, J., 'The Oxyrhynchus Logoi of Jesus and the Coptic
                      Gospel According to Thomas', in Essays on the Semitic Background of the
                      New Testament (London: Geoffrey Chapman): 355-433.
                       
                      Since DeConick says that the inscription was "cited" by Fitzmyer, I would infer
                      that there isn't much (if any) discussion of the matter in his paper. Maybe you
                      could find more on the internet.
                      ---------------------------------------
                      Now on a procedural matter, when you or others are replying to a list note,
                      please take the time to make sure you aren't copying a lot of extraneous stuff.
                      In the case of folks like yourself, who receive a daily digest, the amount of
                      copied material can be very large. Actually, I tried to delete this material from
                      your note before it was posted, and thought I had, but obviously not. [In
                      general, contributors who routinely include copied material in their messages,
                      will find their messages routinely held up for editing by the moderators.]
                       
                      Mike G.
                    • Wieland Willker
                      The German Glaubenskongregation (AKA Inquisition) wrote me a while ago that they consider the Gospel of Thomas secondary, i.e. based on the Synoptic Gospels
                      Message 10 of 14 , Feb 25, 2011
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                        The German Glaubenskongregation (AKA Inquisition) wrote me a
                        while ago that they consider the Gospel of Thomas secondary,
                        i.e. based on the Synoptic Gospels (for the most part).
                        But they also said that they do NOT suppress it.

                        Full text here:
                        http://www-user.uni-bremen.de/~wie/texteapo/thomas-kgi.html


                        Best wishes
                        Wieland
                        <><
                        --------------------------
                        Wieland Willker, Bremen, Germany
                        http://www-user.uni-bremen.de/~wie
                        Textcritical commentary:
                        http://www-user.uni-bremen.de/~wie/TCG/
                      • M.W. Grondin
                        ... That may be so, and I may end up revising the sentence in question, but here is my reference material from Origen (http://www.ntcanon.org/Origen.shtml):
                        Message 11 of 14 , Feb 25, 2011
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                          With respect to the sentence:
                          > It was furthermore not believed by church writers to have been a
                          1st
                          > century document, nor authored by the apostle Thomas.
                           
                          ... Stephen Carlson writes:
                          > I argue that Origen thought it was a first-century document
                          >
                          that contained some reliable Jesus sayings.
                           
                          That may be so, and I may end up revising the sentence in question, but here
                          is my reference material from Origen (http://www.ntcanon.org/Origen.shtml):

                          From Origen's Homily on Luke (1:1), according to the Latin translation of Jerome:

                          That there have been written down not only the four Gospels, but a whole series from which those that we possess have been chosen and handed down to the churches, is, let it be noted, what we may learn from Luke's preface, which runs thus: 'For as much as many have taken in hand to compose a narrative' . The expression 'they have taken in hand' involves a covert accusation of those who precipitately and without the grace of the Holy Ghost have set about the writing of the gospels.

                          Matthew to be sure and Mark and John as well as Luke did not 'take in hand' to write, but filled with the Holy Ghost have written the Gospels. 'Many have taken in hand to compose a narrative of the events which are quite definitely familiar among us' . The Church possesses four Gospels, heresy a great many, of which one is entitled 'The Gospel according to the Egyptians', and another 'The Gospel according to the Twelve Apostles'. Basilides also has presumed to write a gospel, and to call it by his own name. 'Many have taken in hand ' to write, but only four Gospels are recognized. From these the doctrines concerning the person of our Lord and Savior are to be derived. I know a certain gospel which is called 'The Gospel according to Thomas' and a 'Gospel according to Matthias', and many others have we read - lest we should in any way be considered ignorant because of those who imagine that they posses some knowledge if they are acquainted with these. Nevertheless, among all these we have approved solely what the Church has recognized, which is that only the four Gospels should be accepted.

                          One can apparently infer from this that Origen believed GTh not to have been written by the apostle Thomas (since he seems to include GTh among gospels written "without the grace of the Holy Ghost"), but I see that you didn't disagree with that part of the sentence in question. Nor did the sentence claim what could scarcely be true, namely that GTh wasn't believed [by anyone] to contain any reliable Jesus sayings. So I guess the only point at issue is whether Origen thought that GTh was a 1st century document. That claim can easily be removed from the sentence in question, and is probably based on inference, as I'm unable to recall any specific textual support. Furthermore, as I think about it now, could the phrase "1st century" even have had any meaning prior to the adoption of the Gregorian calendar? If any of the early church writers had said or implied that a certain text had been written "in our time" or something like that, that's about the only thing I can think of to go on, as far as ascertaining their beliefs about dating. So I guess what I'm getting down to is yes, I'll probably take that out. Still, I'll be interested to read what you have to say about that in your paper.

                          Best regards, Mike

                        • Stephen Carlson
                          ... The interesting part is that Origen s own use of Thomas belies his explicit statement about Thomas. I think he was more sympathetic to the text than his
                          Message 12 of 14 , Feb 25, 2011
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                            On Fri, Feb 25, 2011 at 4:46 PM, M.W. Grondin <mwgrondin@...> wrote:
                             One can apparently infer from this that Origen believed GTh not to have been written by the apostle Thomas (since he seems to include GTh among gospels written "without the grace of the Holy Ghost"), but I see that you didn't disagree with that part of the sentence in question.

                            The interesting part is that Origen's own use of Thomas belies his explicit statement about Thomas.  I think he was more sympathetic to the text than his contemporaries, and he knew it.

                            Stephen
                            --
                            Stephen C. Carlson
                            Graduate Program in Religion
                            Duke University
                          • M.W. Grondin
                            ... Coincidentally, Pope Benedict has recently been the subject of some controversy for his use of Th108.1 ( Anyone who drinks from my mouth will become like
                            Message 13 of 14 , Feb 28, 2011
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                              [Stephen Carlson]:
                              > The interesting part is that Origen's own use of Thomas belies his
                              explicit
                              > statement about Thomas. I think he was more sympathetic to
                              the text than
                              > his contemporaries, and he knew it.
                               
                              Coincidentally, Pope Benedict has recently been the subject of some controversy
                              for his use of Th108.1 ("Anyone who drinks from my mouth will become like me") 
                              in a non-pejorative way in the first volume of his book Jesus of Nazareth. Seems that
                              there's an "Ignatius Press Blog" and the posting of Feb.25th (link below) was promoting
                              the 2nd volume of JN (JN2). One reader persistently objected to the way that B16
                              (Benedict XVI) used the Thomas saying in JN1. At one point, a member of the blogging
                              team tried the following argument:
                               
                              "Do you see that an author can quote a document in support of his position
                              without thereby endorsing everything [the] document says?"
                               
                              That didn't do it, however, since the questioner was convinced that TH108.1 was
                              itself heretical. After some back and forth, the passage from JN1 was quoted,
                              interspersed with comments [bracketed by me] from a member of the blogging team,
                              concluding that the questioner's interpretation of Th108.1 was incorrect, and that,
                              properly interpreted, the saying isn't heretical:
                               
                              "But now we must listen more carefully to the text. It continues: “As the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his body shall flow rivers of living water’” (Jn 7:38). Out of whose body? Since the earliest times there have been two different answers to this question. The tradition started by Origen, which is associated with Alexandria, though the great Latin Fathers Jerome and Augustine also subscribe to it, reads the text thus: “He who believes . . . out of his body . . .” The believer himself becomes a spring, an oasis out of which bubbles up fresh, uncontaminated water, the life-giving power of the Creator Spirit. Alongside this tradition there is another, albeit much less widespread, from Asia Minor, which is closer to John in its origins. It is documented by Justin (d. 165), Irenaeus, Hippolytus, Cyprian, and Ephraim of Syria. It punctuates the text differently: “He who thirsts, let him come to me, and let him who believes in me drink it. As the Scripture says: out of his body rivers will flow.” “His body” is now applied to Christ: He is the source, the living rock, from which the new water comes.

                              [So B16 refers to two traditions of interpretation re: Jn 7:38, one which applies it to the believer and one which applies it to Christ. After some discussion that further fills out the treatment, B16 writes:]

                              "The application of this passage primarily to Christ—as we saw earlier—does not have to exclude a secondary interpretation referring to the believer. A saying from the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas (108) points in a direction compatible with John’s Gospel: “Whoever drinks from my mouth shall become as I am” (Barrett, Gospel, p. 328). The believer becomes one with Christ and participates in his fruitfulness. The man who believes and loves with Christ becomes a well that gives life. That, too, is something that is wonderfully illustrated in history: The saints are oases around which life sprouts up and something of the lost paradise returns. And ultimately, Christ himself is always the well-spring who pours himself forth in such abundance."

                              [B16 understands the saying he quotes from the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas as pointing "in a direction compatible with" B16's reading of John's Gospel on the specific point of the believer becoming one with Christ in such a way that the believer becomes, subordinately and derivatively, a "well that gives life". He sees this principle illustrated by the saints. He does not understand the quote from the Gospel of Thomas in such a way as to imply the kind of equality with Christ you interpret it to mean.]

                               
                              I report this because it seems relevant on a number of levels.
                               
                              Mike (with thanks to Google Alerts)
                            • Bob Schacht
                              An interesting bit of exegesis, Mike. Thanks! A brief note below: ... This appeal to punctuation is interesting, because the punctuation occurs only in
                              Message 14 of 14 , Feb 28, 2011
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                                An interesting bit of exegesis, Mike. Thanks!
                                A brief note below:


                                At 10:36 PM 2/28/2011, M.W. Grondin wrote:


                                [Stephen Carlson]:
                                > The interesting part is that Origen's own use of Thomas belies his explicit
                                > statement about Thomas. I think he was more sympathetic to the text than
                                > his contemporaries, and he knew it.
                                 
                                Coincidentally, Pope Benedict has recently been the subject of some controversy
                                for his use of Th108.1 ("Anyone who drinks from my mouth will become like me")
                                in a non-pejorative way in the first volume of his book Jesus of Nazareth. Seems that
                                there's an "Ignatius Press Blog" and the posting of Feb.25th (link below) was promoting
                                the 2nd volume of JN (JN2). One reader persistently objected to the way that B16
                                (Benedict XVI) used the Thomas saying in JN1. At one point, a member of the blogging
                                team tried the following argument:
                                 
                                "Do you see that an author can quote a document in support of his position
                                without thereby endorsing everything [the] document says?"
                                 
                                That didn't do it, however, since the questioner was convinced that TH108.1 was
                                itself heretical. After some back and forth, the passage from JN1 was quoted,
                                interspersed with comments [bracketed by me] from a member of the blogging team,
                                concluding that the questioner's interpretation of Th108.1 was incorrect, and that,
                                properly interpreted, the saying isn't heretical:
                                 
                                "But now we must listen more carefully to the text. It continues: “As the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his body shall flow rivers of living water’” (Jn 7:38). Out of whose body? Since the earliest times there have been two different answers to this question. The tradition started by Origen, which is associated with Alexandria, though the great Latin Fathers Jerome and Augustine also subscribe to it, reads the text thus: “He who believes . . . out of his body . . .” The believer himself becomes a spring, an oasis out of which bubbles up fresh, uncontaminated water, the life-giving power of the Creator Spirit. Alongside this tradition there is another, albeit much less widespread, from Asia Minor, which is closer to John in its origins. It is documented by Justin (d. 165), Irenaeus, Hippolytus, Cyprian, and Ephraim of Syria. It punctuates the text differently: “He who thirsts, let him come to me, and let him who believes in me drink it. As the Scripture says: out of his body rivers will flow.” “His body” is now applied to Christ: He is the source, the living rock, from which the new water comes.
                                This appeal to "punctuation" is interesting, because the punctuation occurs only in translation, does it not? Are there any clues in how Greek or Coptic treats or links antecedents to the relevant text? It still is an interesting exegesis on a number of levels.

                                Thanks,
                                Bob Schacht


                                [So B16 refers to two traditions of interpretation re: Jn 7:38, one which applies it to the believer and one which applies it to Christ. After some discussion that further fills out the treatment, B16 writes:]

                                "The application of this passage primarily to Christ—as we saw earlier—does not have to exclude a secondary interpretation referring to the believer. A saying from the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas (108) points in a direction compatible with John’s Gospel: “Whoever drinks from my mouth shall become as I am” (Barrett, Gospel, p. 328). The believer becomes one with Christ and participates in his fruitfulness. The man who believes and loves with Christ becomes a well that gives life. That, too, is something that is wonderfully illustrated in history: The saints are oases around which life sprouts up and something of the lost paradise returns. And ultimately, Christ himself is always the well-spring who pours himself forth in such abundance."

                                [B16 understands the saying he quotes from the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas as pointing "in a direction compatible with" B16's reading of John's Gospel on the specific point of the believer becoming one with Christ in such a way that the believer becomes, subordinately and derivatively, a "well that gives life". He sees this principle illustrated by the saints. He does not understand the quote from the Gospel of Thomas in such a way as to imply the kind of equality with Christ you interpret it to mean.]
                                http://insightscoop.typepad.com/2004/2011/02/website-for-pope-benedict-xvis-jesus-of-nazareth-holy-week.html?cid=6a00d83451b7c369e20147e2e6a2ed970b#comment-6a00d83451b7c369e20147e2e6a2ed970b
                                 
                                I report this because it seems relevant on a number of levels.
                                 
                                Mike (with thanks to Google Alerts)


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