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Re: [GTh] The Earliest Self-Identified Gnostic Text

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  • Bob Schacht
    ... The self-identification framing *sounds* good, but relies on the labeling prowess of people who may not have been around when the movement started, and
    Message 1 of 4 , Sep 19, 2011
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      At 05:48 PM 9/19/2011, E Bruce Brooks wrote:


      To: GThos
      On: Self-Identified Gnostic Texts
      From: Bruce
       
      Bob Schacht had objected to the whole idea of self-identification in this way:
       
      Q: What would be the result of applying this rule to the New Testament? Would any of it be considered "Christian"?

      A:  Yep; all of it, including the Epistle of James. (Though the qualifying “Jesus” identifications in that text happen to be later interpolations, most people don’t know that)....

      The "self-identification" framing *sounds* good, but relies on the labeling prowess of people who may not have been around when the movement started, and who may not have belonged to the movement.

      Furthermore, did not the label of "Christian" originate as a polemic by a non-Christian writer (Tacitus, IIRC)?

      ^ #Wuest-1973 p. 19. The word is used three times in the New Testament, and each time as a term of reproach or derision. Here in Antioch, the name Christianos was coined to distinguish the worshippers of the Christ from the Kaisarianos, the worshippers of Caesar.

      The earliest occurrences of the term in non-Christian literature include Josephus, referring to "the tribe of Christians, so named from him;" [11] Pliny the Younger in correspondence with Trajan; and Tacitus, writing near the end of the 1st century. In the Annals he relates that "by vulgar appellation [they were] commonly called Christians" [12] and identifies Christians as Nero's scapegoats for the Great Fire of Rome. [13]

      The above quotes are from the Wikipedia article on "Christian," http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian

      If we were really looking for self-identification, wouldn't we be using "The Way" or "Nazarenes"?

      Of course, the case for the 3 NT uses is greater if we accept the correct historicity of their reports, especially 1 Peter 4:16 , which supposedly comes from Peter himself.

      Bob Schacht
      Northern Arizona University

    • E Bruce Brooks
      To: GThos In Response To: Bob Schacht From: Bruce I had suggested that all NT texts self-identify themselves as Christian. On the term Christian, we had: BOB:
      Message 2 of 4 , Sep 19, 2011
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        To: GThos

        In Response To: Bob Schacht

        From: Bruce

         

        I had suggested that all NT texts self-identify themselves as Christian. On the term Christian, we had:

         

        BOB: Of course, the case for the 3 NT uses is greater if we accept the correct historicity of their reports, especially 1 Peter 4:16 , which supposedly comes from Peter himself.

        BRUCE: Which it doesn’t. But the point for identification purposes is not that a text say “This is a Christian text” (Christian, as the dubiously reliable Luke perhaps helpfully suggests, being in all probability an outsider term for the sect), but that it acknowledge Jesus as the Christ, or shall we say Messiah. I should imagine that the point for a Gnostic text, if there are any, is not that it carry a colophon saying “published by the Gnostic Distribution House,” but that it internally focus on knowledge, rather than repentance and forgiveness, or yet on vicarious atonement, as the way to get out of the mess of this life.

         

        A very Buddhist thought, by the way, is it not? Which makes it only that much more interesting that some of the Nag texts mention reincarnation.

         

        E Bruce Brooks / University of Massachusetts at Amherst

         

      • Bob Schacht
        ... Oh, so now you want a confession of faith-- from who? The author? You have moved the goalposts again. We don t need This is a Christian text, but
        Message 3 of 4 , Sep 19, 2011
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          At 07:41 PM 9/19/2011, E Bruce Brooks wrote:


          To: GThos
          In Response To: Bob Schacht
          From: Bruce
           
          I had suggested that all NT texts self-identify themselves as Christian. On the term Christian, we had:
           
          BOB: Of course, the case for the 3 NT uses is greater if we accept the correct historicity of their reports, especially 1 Peter 4:16 , which supposedly comes from Peter himself.

          BRUCE: Which it doesn�t. But the point for identification purposes is not that a text say �This is a Christian text� (Christian, as the dubiously reliable Luke perhaps helpfully suggests, being in all probability an outsider term for the sect), but that it acknowledge Jesus as the Christ, or shall we say Messiah.

          Oh, so now you want a confession of faith-- from who? The author?
          You have moved the goalposts again. We don't need "This is a Christian text," but language such as "when the Christians met in Antioch," or "when Paul met the Christians in Jerusalem" or when Paul had that issue with the Baptism of John, that could have been framed in terms of a "Christian" requirement-- but it wasn't. We do have 3 uses of the term Christian in the NT, however.

          I should imagine that the point for a Gnostic text, if there are any, is not that it carry a colophon saying �published by the Gnostic Distribution House,� but that it internally focus on knowledge, rather than repentance and forgiveness, or yet on vicarious atonement, as the way to get out of the mess of this life....

          Your phrase beginning "not that it carry..." is a mere parody and is not worth serious consideration. You are right to focus on knowledge-- here is the way the Wikipedia article on Gnosticism described this:

          A common characteristic of some of these groups was the teaching that the realisation of Gnosis (esoteric or intuitive knowledge), is the way to salvation of the soul from the material world. They saw the material world as created through an intermediary being (demiurge) rather than directly by God.

          So, by their soteriology shall we know them. Also, they were wedded to a particular cosmology alluded to by the second sentence. This of course is the cosmology of the neoplatonists, and different in significant respect from what Christian soteriology and cosmology would become.

          Bob Schacht
          Northern Arizona University

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