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Re: [John_Lit] The Thing Having Been Born of Spirit is Spirit

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  • fmmccoy
    INTRODUCTION Let us look at John 3:3-8, Answered Jesus and said to him (i.e., Nicodemus), Amen. Amen. I say to you, unless someone is born anwthen, he is
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 13, 2003
      INTRODUCTION

      Let us look at John 3:3-8, "Answered Jesus and said to him (i.e.,
      Nicodemus), 'Amen. Amen. I say to you, unless someone is born anwthen, he
      is not able to see the Kingdom of God.' Says to him Nicodemus, 'How is a
      man, being old, able to be born? He is not able to enter into the womb of
      his mother and to be born.' Answered Jesus, 'Amen. Amen. I say to you,
      unless someone is born of water and pneumatos, he is not able to into into
      the Kingdom of God. The thing having been born of the flesh is flesh, and
      the thing having been born of the pneumatos is pneuma. Do not marvel that
      I said to you, It is necessary (for) you to be born anwthen. The pneuma
      blows where it wishes, and the sound of it you hear, but you do not know
      where it comes from or where it goes away. So is everyone having been born
      of the pneumatos.'"

      In this post, it is suggested that, this passages means, in a dispute
      between Pauline Christians and Thomas Christians, the Johannine Chrisitans
      took the side of the Thomas Christians.

      This post has three main parts. The first part is an outline of a
      trajectory of Pauline thought based on the concept that a human being
      consists of a spirit (pneuma), soul (psyche), and a body (soma) of flesh
      (sarx). The second part is a related trajectory of Thomas thought, which
      initially is in synch with the trajectory of Pauline thought, but then makes
      a radical turn from the trajectory of Pauline thought. The third part is to
      show that, where the trajectory of Thomas thought makes its radical turn
      from the trajectory of Pauline thought, the above passage from GJohn
      indicate that the Johannine community took the side of Thomas thought rather
      than the side of Pauline thought.

      A TRAJECTORY OF PAULINE THOUGHT

      In Pauline thought, a human being consists of a spirit (pneuma), a psyche,
      and a body (soma) of flesh (sarx).

      So, in I Thess 5:23, Paul and Silvanus pray that God "sanctify you wholly,
      and (that) your whole spirit and psyche and body may be preserved
      blameless...".

      In Pauline thought, the psyche cannot maintain an independent existence and
      must either merge into the spirit, thereby becoming a part of the spirit, or
      else merge into the body of flesh, thereby becoming a part of the body of
      flesh. As a result, there is an effective dualistic opposition between the
      spirit and the body of flesh.

      So, in I Cor. 5:3-5. Paul declares that "though absent in body I am present
      in spirit" and also states that "you are to deliver this man to Satan for
      the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved on the day of the
      Lord Jesus."

      In Pauline thought, the spirit cannot maintain an existence independent of
      the psyche. As a result, either the psyche merges into the spirit, thereby
      becoming a part of the spirit, or else the spirit merges into the psyche,
      making itself a part of the psyche. Those whose spirits (pneumas) have
      absorbed their psyches, making each of their psyches a part of each of their
      spirits (pneumas), are the pneumatikos. Those whose spirits have been
      absorbed by their psyches, making each of their spirits a part of each of
      their psyches, are the psychikos. Further, as respects those who are
      psychikos, since (1) their psyches have not merged into their spirits, and
      since (2) their psyches must either merge into their spirits or else into
      their bodies of flesh, it is the case that (3) each of their psyches merge
      into each of their bodies of flesh, making each of their psyches a part of
      each of their bodies of flesh.

      See, for example, I Cor. 2:14-3:3, where Paul states, "The psychikos man,
      receiving not the things of the Pneuma (Spirit) of God, for they are folly
      to him, and he cannot know (them) because they are pneumatikos (i.e., by the
      pneuma) discerned. But the pneumatikos man judges all things, but he by no
      one is judged. 'For who did know (the) mind of the Lord? Who shall instruct
      him?' But we have (the) mind of Christ. And, I brethren, was not able to
      speak to you as pneumatikos, but as to fleshly, as to babes in Christ. I
      gave you milk to drink, not food; for not yet were you able; but neither yet
      are you able--for you are yet fleshly."

      Here, Paul divides mankind into two categories: (1) the pneumatikos, and (2)
      the psychikos, who are fleshly. A pneumatikos man is one whose psyche has
      merged into his spirit (pneuma), thereby becoming a part of his spirit
      (pneuma). A psychikos man is one whose spirit has merged into his psyche,
      making it a part of his psyche. His psyche then merges into his body of
      flesh, making it a part of his body of flesh. As a result, he is fleshly.

      In the psychikos man, both the psyche and the spirit become a part of the
      flesh, so such a person is, in effect, just flesh.

      One would expect, then, the opposite to be the case with pneumatikos man,
      with both the psyche and the body of flesh becoming a part of the spirit,
      making such a person, in effect, just spirit.

      However, this is not the case. Rather, in the pneumatikos man, only the
      psyche becomes a part of the spirit (pneuma) and, so, such a person is, in
      effect, both spirit and a body of flesh.

      Still, in Pauline thought, this is but a temporary situation. In the
      resurrection of the dead, their bodies of flesh will arise transformed into
      bodies of spirit. At that time, then, a pneumatikos man will, in effect,
      become just spirit.

      Thus, Paul states in I Cor 15:42-50, "So also is the resurrection of the
      dead. It is sown perishable, it is raised with imperishability. It is sown
      in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in
      power. It is sown a psychikon body, it is raised a pneumatikon body. If
      there is a psychikon body, there is also a pneumatikon. So also it has been
      written, 'Became the first man, Adam, a living psychen, the last Adam a
      life-giving Spirit.' But not first the pneumatkon but the psychikon,
      afterward the pneumatikon. The first man out of earth, made of dust, the
      second man out of heaven. As the man of dust, such also the men of dust.
      And as the heavenly, such also the heavenly ones. And as we bore the image
      of the man of dust, we will also bear the image of the heavenly man. No I
      say this brothers, that flesh and blood are not able to inherit the Kingdom
      of God, neither the perishable the imperishable."

      The psychikon body is the body of flesh and the pneumatikon body is the body
      of spirit.

      The first Adam became a living psyche. That is, his spirit merged into his
      psyche, making him a living person with a psyche rather than a living person
      with a spirit. His psyche then merged into his body of flesh, making him a
      body of flesh, i.e., a psychikon body. It is as such that he died. Each of
      our bodies is an image of the first Adam's psychikon body of flesh, which
      was made out of dust. Each of our bodies shares in the perishability of the
      first psychikon body and, so, dies. This is even true of the psychikon body
      of the second Adam.

      The second Adam became a life-giving Spirit. That is, his dead and buried
      psychikon body rose as a body of life-giving Spirit, i.e., a pneumatikon
      body. Each of us pneumatikos people will somedy rise with pneumatikon
      bodies, i.e., bodies of spirit, that are images of the second Adam's
      pneumatikon body. Only with such pneumatikon bodies, made of spirit
      (pneuma) rather than of flesh and blood, can we enter the Kingdom of God.

      A RELATED TRAJECTORY OF THOMAS THOUGHT

      In Thomas thought, as in Pauline thought, a human being consists of a
      spirit, a soul (psyche), and a body of flesh. See 112, "Woe to the flesh
      that depends on the soul; woe to the soul that depends on the flesh." Also
      see 14b, "And if you give alms, you will do harm to your spirits."

      In Thomas thought, as in Pauline thought, the soul (psyche) cannot maintain
      an independent existence and must either merge into the spirit, thereby
      becoming a part of the spirit, or else merge into the body of flesh, thereby
      becoming a part of the body of flesh. As a result, there is an effective
      dualistic opposition between the spirit and the body of flesh.

      See, for example, 29, "If the flesh came into being because of spirit, it is
      a wonder. But if spirit came into being because of the body, it is a wonder
      of wonders. Indeed, I am amazed at how this great wealth has made its home
      in this poverty."

      In Thomas thought, as in Pauline thought, the spirit cannot maintain an
      existence independent of the soul (psyche). As a result, either the soul
      merges into the spirit, thereby becoming a part of the spirit, or else the
      spirit merges into the soul, making itself a part of the soul. Further, as
      respects one whose spirit has merged into one's soul, as (1) this person's
      soul has not merged into this person's spirit, and since (2) one's soul must
      either merge into one's spirit or else into one's body of flesh, it is the
      case that (3) this person's soul merges into this person's body of flesh,
      making this person's soul a part of this person's body of flesh.

      See, for example, 7, "Blessed is the lion which becomes man when consumed by
      man; and cursed is the man whom the lion comsumes, and the lion becomes
      man."

      Here, the initial man is the inner man of the spirit, the lion is the soul,
      and the final man is the outer man of the body of flesh. (Note: the idea
      that there are two men--one that is the outer body of flesh and the other
      that is interior and non-fleshly--was widespread. So, in the Nag Hammadi
      text, The Sentences of Sextus, it is said in Sextus 392, "The philosopher
      who is an outer body, he is not one to whom it is fitting to pay respect,
      but (the) philosopher according to the inner man." Again, in Cong. (97),
      Philo states that "not only for the wooden and earthen mass of the body, not
      only for the unreasoning creatures, the senses, are we taught to praise the
      Benefactor, but also for the mind *which may be truly called the man within
      the man* (my emphasis), the better part within the worst, the immortal
      within the mortal.")

      So, it can be roughly paraphrased, "Blessed is the soul which becomes a part

      of the inner man (i.e., the spirit) when absorbed by this inner man. Cursed
      is the inner man whom the soul absorbs and the soul (is then absorbed by the
      outer man (i.e., the body of flesh) and, so,) becomes a part of this outer
      man.

      So, then, in 7, the kind of person who is blessed is, to use Pauline
      language, a pneumatikos man (whose spirit has absorbed his psyche (soul),
      thereby making his psyche a part of his spirit). Conversely, the the kind
      of person who is cursed is, to use, Pauline language, a psychikos man (whose
      psyche (soul) has absorbed his spirit, thereby making the spirit a part of
      his psyche (soul), and his psyche (soul), in turn, has been absorbed by his
      body of flesh, thereby becoming a part of his body of flesh.

      In Thomas thought, as in Pauline thought, one can only enter the Kingdom
      with a body consisting of the spirit. However, while, in Pauline thought,
      the body of spirit by which we enter the Kingdom will be a resurrected and
      transformed body of flesh, it is the case that, in Thomas thought, the body
      of spirit by which we enter the Kingdom *is* the spirit.

      See, for example, 87. "Jesus said, 'Wretched is the body that is dependent
      upon a body, and wretched is the soul that is dependent upon these two.'"

      That is to say, wretched is the body of spirit that is dependent upon the
      body of flesh for its continued existence, for the body of flesh is mortal
      and will die, and wretched is the soul that is dependent upon these two for
      its continued existence, for it will share in their mutual death.

      Also see 46. "Jesus said, 'Among those born of women, from Adam until John
      the Baptist, there is no one so superior to John the Baptist that his eyes
      should be lowered (before him). Yet I have said, whichever one of you comes
      to be a child will be acquainted with the Kingdom and will become superior
      to John.'"

      Anyone who has been transformed from the body of flesh to the body of spirit
      in a type of rebirth that makes you a child again, will, as the body of
      spirit enters into the Kingdom, enter the Kingdom and, so, will be superior
      to John the Baptist.

      Particularly important is 22. "Jesus saw infants being suckled. He said to
      his disciples, 'These infants being suckled are like those who enter the
      Kingdom.' They said to Him, 'Shall we then, as children, enter the Kingdom?'
      Jesus said to them, 'When you make the two one, and when you make the inside
      like the outside and the outside like the inside and the above like the
      below, and when you make the male and the female and and the same, so that
      the male not be male nor the female female; and when you fashion eyes in
      place of an eye and a hand in place of a hand, and a foot in place of a
      foot, and a likeness in place of a likeness; then you will enter [the
      Kingdom].'"

      This transformation from the body of flesh to the body of spirit is a
      rebirth in which one, once more, becomes a child.

      Unlike the body of flesh, the body of spirit has no up or down, no inside or
      outside, and no male and female. So, in this rebirth, these twos become
      ones.

      Still, the body of spirit is like the body of flesh in that it has spritual
      equivalents to fleshly eyes, fleshly hands, and fleshly feet. So, in this
      rebirth, there is the fashioning of spiritual eyes in place of a fleshly
      eye, of a spiritual hand in place of a fleshly hand, and of a spiritual
      foot in place of a fleshly foot: in short, the fashioning of spiritual
      likenesses in place of their fleshly likenesses.

      Once this rebirth is complete, so that you are a body of the spirit, then
      you can enter into the Kingdom, the place of Repose.

      Also see 114. Simon Peter said to them, 'Let Mary leave us, for women are
      not worthy of Life.' Jesus said, 'I myself shall lead her in order to make
      her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males.
      For every woman who will make herself male will enter the Kingdom of
      Heaven.'"

      The spirit is male in the sense that it is the inner man. As a result, in
      the rebirth from the body of flesh to the body of the spirit, if one is a
      female in terms of the body of flesh, then it is a transformation from being
      a fleshly female to being a spiritual male.

      Any one who is a woman in terms of the body of flesh who is reborn as a male
      body of spirit will be able to enter the Kingdom and, thereby, become a
      living spirit, i.e., a spirit with eternal life.

      Finally, see 53. "His disciples said to Him, 'Is circumcision beneficial or
      not?' He said to them, 'If it were beneficial, their father would beget them
      already circumcised from their mother. Rather, the true circumcision in
      spirit has become completely profitable.'"

      In the rebirth into a body of spirit, the body of spirit ceases to be a
      part of the body of flesh, thereby circumising itself from the body of flesh
      in a manner profitable for it to gain eternal life in the Kingdom.

      To summarize: there is a Thomas trajectory of thought that is, initially on
      track with a Pauline trajectory of thought. These two trajectories of
      thought share the concept that a human being is composed of a spirit, a soul
      and a body of flesh. They also share the idea that there are two basic
      types of humanity: (1) those whose souls have merged into their spirits and
      become a part of their spirits, and (2) those whose spirits have merged into
      their souls and become a part of their souls--with their souls, in turn,
      merging into their bodies of flesh and becoming a part of their bodies of
      flesh. They also share the idea that the first class of humanity are the
      ones who enter the Kingdom with bodies of spirit and, thereby, gain eternal
      life. However, they radically disagree as to the nature of the bodies of
      spirit. In the Pauline trajectory of thought, the bodies of flesh of such
      saved people will be resurrected from the dead at some unknown future date
      and be transformed into a bodies of spirit. In the Thomas trajectory of
      thought, one's spirit is a body, making it a body of spirit. All of the
      first class of humanity have such a (body of) spirit and, so, they enter the
      Kingdom in the here and now. Further, each person who belongs to the second
      of humanity can gain eternal life by being reborn as the first type of
      humanity and, thereby, entering into the Kingdom as a (body of) spirit.

      BACK TO JOHN 3:3-8

      Let us, now, re-look at John 3:3-8, "Answered Jesus and said to him (i.e.,
      Nicodemus), 'Amen. Amen. I say to you, unless someone is born anwthen, he
      is not able to see the Kingdom of God.' Says to him Nicodemus, 'How is a
      man, being old, able to be born? He is not able to enter into the womb of
      his mother and to be born.' Answered Jesus, 'Amen. Amen. I say to you,
      unless someone is born of water and pneumatos, he is not able to into into
      the Kingdom of God. The thing having been born of the flesh is flesh, and
      the thing having been born of the pneumatos is pneuma. Do not marvel that
      I said to you, It is necessary (for) you to be born anwthen. The pneuma
      blows where it wishes, and the sound of it you hear, but you do not know
      where it comes from or where it goes away. So is everyone having been born
      of the pneumatos.'"

      What we have here, I suggest, is the Thomist position that, to enter the
      Kingdom and be saved for eternal life, one needs to be reborn as (the body
      of) spirit. The Thomist position is nuanced in that it is, more
      specifically, argued that one need to be reborn *by the Spirit* as (the body
      of) spirit. Still, it is the Thomist position rather than the Pauline
      position--which is that, for one enter the Kingdom and be saved for eternal
      life, one's body of flesh will someday have to be resurrected from the dead
      and transformed into a body of spirit.

      Compare John 5:25-29 (RSV), "Truly, truly, I say to you, the hour is coming,
      and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those
      who hear will live....Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming when all
      who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come forth, those who have done
      good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the
      resurrection of judgment."

      Here, there is no flat out denial of a future resurrection of the dead.
      Indeed, it appears to be affirmed. Yet, by the same token, it is fatally
      subverted in the observation that it "now is". That is to say, one's
      rebirth as a (body of the) spirit is a type of resurrection from the "tomb"
      of one's body of flesh. So, while the Pauline position appears to be
      affirmed, it is, yet, fatally subverted and the net result is that the
      Thomas position is affirmed.

      This helps to explain why, although Thomas is severely chastised in GJohn
      for questioning the bodily resurrection of Jesus, he, in the end, becomes
      one of the innermost circle of disciples along with Peter and the sons of
      Zebedee ((21:2). As far as the Johannine community was concerned, although
      the Thomas community was mistaken in denying the bodily resurrection of
      Jesus, and deserved to be chastised for this, they were still within the
      pale of acceptable Christianity. One of the reasons why the Johannine
      Christians believed that the Thomas Christians were still within the pale of
      acceptable Christianity is that, the Johannine Christians believed, the
      Thomas Christians were correct in thinking that one enters the Kingdom and,
      thereby, attains to eternal life, by being reborn as spirit--and what could
      be more important than knowing what is necessary for attaining to eternal
      life?

      Frank McCoy
      1809 N. English Apt. 15
      Maplewood, MN USA 55109
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