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Secrecy and the Structure of the Jesus Movement

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  • Daniel N. Washburn
    This is really long, so be prepared to spend some time on it if you decide to go ahead. SECRECY AND THE STRUCTURE OF THE JESUS MOVEMENT Over the last several
    Message 1 of 5 , Aug 7, 2008
      This is really long, so be prepared to spend some time on it if you
      decide to go ahead.


      Over the last several months (Jan-Feb-Mar of 2008) I have answered a
      host of questions about early Christianity to my own satisfaction, such as:

      Why doesn’t Paul ever quote the sayings of Jesus?

      What was the mission of the mission pairs sent out by Jesus?

      What relation does the Gospel of Thomas have with the pre-Easter Jesus

      What did Jesus think life would be like in the Kingdom after it came?

      How did Jesus heal?

      What actually happened at Pentecost?

      Why didn’t Apollos know about baptism in the Holy Spirit?

      It would take a couple of years of research to write all of this up as a
      formal paper. Since my wife and I have just adopted a six-year old girl
      from Russia and I am working hard on other projects, a scholarly paper
      is not possible at the present time. So I have put down my notes and
      fluffed them into an intelligible presentation for you.

      Why doesn’t Paul cite the sayings of Jesus?

      By and large Paul says little about the life and teachings of the human
      Jesus. He does not cite the sayings or parables familiar to us from the
      Gospels. Why doesn’t he use this material in his letters?

      Various answers have been given: Paul did not know the sayings
      tradition, or he was uninterested in it, or he had theological
      difficulties with it, or he didn’t mention it because he assumed that
      everyone was familiar with it already. (See the Q Thomas Reader p 110)
      None of these reasons makes any sense. It is unlikely that he didn’t
      know the sayings tradition, since he was in touch with people who
      actually knew Jesus. Paul considered Jesus to be the Lord of the
      universe, how could he be uninterested in what Jesus had said during his
      lifetime on earth? If he had difficulties with the theology, why doesn’t
      he cite and reinterpret the sayings he had problems with. Today we are
      all familiar with the sayings of Jesus but it doesn’t stop people from
      quoting his words. Why should it have stopped Paul?

      My own answer to the question is that in the early days of Christianity
      the sayings of Jesus were secret. They were reserved for advanced
      disciples. They were not just secret from outsiders but from the general
      population of Christians.

      Thomas begins with the words ‘These are the secret sayings of the living
      Jesus that Dydimus Judas Thomas wrote down.’ These sayings were secret,
      although about half of them are similar to sayings that we find in the NT.

      The earliest Gospel, Mark, contains a life of Jesus but little teaching
      material. Mark tells us that Jesus spoke in parables to the crowds but
      only explained what he meant to the disciples. In other words, much of
      his teaching was cryptic to outsiders. The real secrets were revealed to
      his personal disciples.

      According to Mark, explanation of the parables is given to those who
      have received the Mystery of the Kingdom of God (Mk 4:10-12; 33-34).
      Morton Smith has identified this Mystery as a night long baptismal
      initiation ceremony. He believed that the ceremony actually admitted one
      into the Kingdom. On other evidence Joachim Jeremias concluded: “… In
      Jesus’ eyes, being a child of God is not a gift of creation, but an
      eschatological gift of salvation. Only the one who belongs under the
      kingly rule of God may call God ‘Abba …, already has God as his Father,
      is even now a child of God. For the disciples, being children means
      sharing Jesus’ sonship.” (New Testament Theology, p 181)

      I believe that the sayings of Jesus were confined to the inner circle of
      the Jerusalem community. When the community was dispersed in 70 AD after
      the destruction of the Temple, these teachings also began to be
      disseminated to the general population of Christians.

      Thomas contains a logion that says that after Jesus is gone, if the
      disciples are looking for a leader, they are to go to James the Just,
      for whose sake heaven and earth came into being. (Gt 12) This anchors
      the source of the Thomas tradition in the Jerusalem community, since
      James was its leader for many years, even though Thomas was probably
      written down later in Syria.

      In the 80s and 90s the teaching material in Q was integrated into the
      biography of Jesus in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. The secrecy that
      separated the advanced disciples from the ordinary Christian was
      breaking down after the dispersal of the Jerusalem community.

      Did Paul actually know the sayings of Jesus? I believe the answer to
      this question is ‘yes.’ I will return to the question later in order to
      answer it more fully.

      If the secrecy hypothesis is correct, in considering the evolution of
      oral tradition we now need to take into account the fact that
      development proceeded on two levels, one inner and secret and the other
      outer and revealed. Hence we should see the locus for the evolution of
      much of the oral tradition about Jesus after his death not as Christian
      preaching to the masses but as secret instruction in the hidden sayings
      from master to pupil.

      Similarly most of our picture of Jesus preaching to the crowds during
      his lifetime is false. The Sitz im Leben of the sayings and parables is
      Jesus’ secret instruction to his inner circle of disciples not his
      discourses to the assembled crowds.

      The sayings of Jesus are far more authentic than we normally believe.
      They were not part of the preaching of the early evangelists who, in
      channeling Jesus, might have changed the sayings or made up new ones.
      They were carefully memorized and handed on from spiritual master to
      initiated pupil, care being taken to preserve the precious treasures of
      the secret tradition.

      The Itinerant Disciples were already in the Kingdom

      Theissen in his Sociology of Palestinian Christianity did a social role
      analysis of early Christianity in which he stressed that Jesus brought
      into being a movement of wandering charismatics who worked with and were
      aided by local supporters who were Jewish villagers.

      Lk 10:4 Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and salute no one on the road.

      Why were the charismatic mission pairs sent out to the towns of Galilee
      with the instruction to greet no one on the road? This was a mark of
      extreme urgency. They were not to waste time socializing with anyone
      they met. They were to proceed directly to a new town to complete their
      mission. There were people there who could be rescued from death before
      the Kingdom of God broke in and the final Judgment began. Elisha gave
      the same kind of command when he sent his servant Gehazi to lay his
      staff on the dead son of the Shunammite woman. “…take my staff in your
      hand, and go. If you meet anyone, do not salute him; and if anyone
      salutes you, do not reply; and lay my staff on the face of the child.”
      (2 Kings 4:29) The command to the apostles not to greet anyone on the
      way indicates that they were not just itinerant wanderers bringing
      countercultural wisdom to whomever they met but were on an urgent
      life-or-death mission.

      Lk 10:1 says their mission was to every town and place where Jesus
      himself was about to come, so the mission pairs can be thought of more
      as advance men for the coming of Jesus than as wanderers.

      Theissen is correct in saying that the wandering charismatics separated
      themselves from home, family, and possessions in order to follow Jesus.
      However, he missed the fact that, having made that sacrifice, they are
      now, at the present moment, in the Kingdom. Jesus says men of violence
      can seize the kingdom. (Mt 11:12) He means that those who can give their
      money to the poor, who can leave their families behind, who can take up
      the itinerant existence of a healer-herald, can enter the Kingdom now.
      When he says that the least in the Kingdom of God is greater than John
      the Baptist, he means that some of his followers are already in the
      Kingdom. (Mt 11:11)

      The Roots of Q and Thomas in the Ministry of Jesus

      In my view, Q is a mission handbook for healer-heralds, probably
      formulated as an oral Mishnah

      in Jerusalem by the 12 from their memories of Jesus’ instructions to his
      Galilean healer-heralds shortly after the resurrection, when large
      numbers of converts were coming in to the movement. Acts puts the number
      at several thousand. Most of these would be local supporters, but a
      significant portion would have sold all their possessions and joined the
      Jerusalem commune to be trained as heralds for the Kingdom.

      If you look at the clusters in Q1, they can all be interpreted as
      instructions for the charismatic wanderers of the Jesus Movement.

      Why is there so much material about John the Baptist in Q? Because the
      healer-heralds of both the pre and post-Easter Jesus Movement were
      following in the footsteps of John. The people believed that John was a
      true prophet and that he had predicted the coming of a spirit-filled man
      who would initiate the reign of God. The heralds would be telling those
      who believed in John that Jesus was indeed the coming one. Long ago B.
      H. Streeter proposed that Q was a handbook for missionaries and pointed
      to the material on John the Baptist as an example of how the
      missionaries should deal with followers of the Baptist. (Q Thomas Reader
      – Kloppenborg – pp 17-18)

      Why is Q sapiential both in form and content? Because Jesus was an
      exorcist, a practitioner of Jewish magic, and the tradition of Jewish
      magic had King Solomon as its fountainhead. King Solomon was also the
      hero of the Wisdom tradition in Israel. A Jewish healer-exorcist would
      be interested in all traditions stemming from Solomon.

      If Q was the mission handbook of the movement, Thomas was its manual of
      spiritual discipline.

      The Q Thomas Reader says of the theology of Thomas: “The Reign of God is
      not something for which one must wait, a future event. The Reign of God
      becomes possible, a real potentially present thing, whenever this word
      is preached and accepted as true.” (p 119) The itinerant healer-heralds
      were actually in the kingdom and Thomas is a collection of Jesus’
      sayings about being able to achieve experience of the Kingdom now, in
      the present moment. It contains teachings about spiritual discipline and
      mystical union. Two of its main themes, Divine Light and unitary
      experience of the One, are absolutely typical of mystical experience.

      Neither Q nor Thomas contains references to crucifixion and resurrection
      because they are collections of sayings of the pre-Easter Jesus who did
      not know about the crucifixion and resurrection. Hence Q and Thomas can
      be given an early date, since they are not infected with the
      post-resurrection kerygma of the cross. Thomas is not very apocalyptic
      because its focus is on being in the kingdom now, something that was
      available to the healer-heralds, not waiting for the kingdom to arrive,
      which was the hope of the local supporters. Hence April DeConick’s
      identification of the earliest strata of Thomas as those sayings with
      apocalyptic content misses the mark. Thomas was concerned with the
      teachings of Jesus on how the itinerant disciples, the healer-heralds,
      could achieve experience of the Kingdom in the immediate present. In the
      form we have them these teachings were, of course, filtered through the
      perspective of Syrian Thomasine Christianity.

      Jesus’ personal teachings were reserved for his itinerant
      healer-heralds, not the mass of local Galilean supporters. We can infer
      this from the principle that the Jerusalem community was set up on the
      same lines as the Galilean Jesus Movement: As I have tried to show
      above, Paul does not cite any of the sayings of Jesus because they were
      secret teachings reserved for the itinerant disciples connected with the
      Jerusalem commune rather than the mass of Christian supporters. Hence
      Jesus’ personal teachings were reserved for his itinerant healer-heralds.

      The Social Role of the Itinerant Disciples

      If Jesus personal teaching was reserved for the itinerant disciples,
      what was the message given to the local supporters? To answer this
      question we have to extend Theissen’s social role analysis of the
      wandering charismatics. Here are some of the interactions that may have
      taken place when a pair of itinerant disciples arrived at a village.

      1. Discussion of oppression: Herod, Roman taxes, Jewish taxes, Temple
      taxes, tax collectors, landowners, debts, the Temple in the hands of the
      impure, God’s country occupied. The failure of the scribes and Pharisees
      to interpret God’s word in a way that helps the common people.

      2. Discussion of end-time prophesies, especially Joel – the spirit will
      be poured out on the earth/everyone who calls on the name of the Lord
      will be saved. Daniel, coming of the son of man on the clouds of heaven.

      3. Discussion of John the Baptist and his teachings.

      4. Proclamation of Jesus: As John prophesied, the one who baptizes with
      holy spirit and fire is here. The quenched Spirit has returned. The
      prophet Jesus is possessed by the Holy Spirit and works miracles. The
      reign of God and judgment on the wicked is near.

      5. Personal witness to miracles performed by Jesus.

      6. Personal witness to the coming of the Spirit. Jesus has laid his
      hands on me and I have received power from on high. I too can heal and
      cast out demons.

      7. Personal witness to life in the Kingdom. I have sold my possessions
      and given everything to the poor. I have separated myself from home and
      family. God is now my father. Everywhere is my home. I don’t need to
      worry, I don’t need to work, God provides food and clothing. I wander
      for the word of God. I go where the spirit takes me. In the future, in
      the kingdom, we won’t need to work, God will provide, he will be our
      parent, wickedness, unfairness, and oppression will all be banished,
      money and possessions will disappear, all demons will be vanquished, we
      will be at home everywhere, everyone will be our brother and sister,
      heaven will join to earth and love will reign over all. (The fact that
      the itinerant disciples didn’t have to work, that they trusted in the
      providence of God, echoes a theme from the Gospel of Thomas – Jesus
      thought of the Kingdom as a return to Eden before the fall.)

      8. Proclamation of the Love of God: God loves us. We are his chosen
      people. He is the father above who does not want any of his little ones
      to perish.

      9. Proclamation of End Time Events: Jesus has told us that tribulations
      are near and that after the tribulations the Son of Man will come on the
      clouds of heaven.

      10. The call to return to God. In the last days, God is offering
      amnesty. Everyone who calls on the name of the lord will be saved. You
      can return to god, even if you are unclean, a toll collector, a thief, a
      prostitute, a shepherd, a swineherd, a blemished one who is crippled, or
      blind, or covered with skin lesions. Even if you have not paid your
      Temple taxes. No matter what you have done, your sins will be forgiven,
      and your relationship with God will be restored. The time is short, the
      opportunity is now, the Reign of God is beginning.

      11. Healing in the name of Jesus: Laying on of hands and pronunciation
      of the divine name. Use of the divine name YAHWEH for magical purposes
      was strictly forbidden, with a punishment of death. The name Jesus is
      very similar, however. It is Yahweh with the addition of a shin:
      YAHSHWEH. When the itinerant disciples healed in the Name of Jesus, cast
      out demons in the Name of Jesus, and baptized in the Name of Jesus,
      those who received the blessing would certainly know that it was the
      power of the divine name YAHWEH that was being invoked through his
      earthly prophet Jesus. The procedure was legal but skirted close to the
      edge of the law. Jesus gave alternate names to some of his disciples,
      such as Peter for Simon, so it is possible that he deliberately chose
      the name Jesus for himself because of its similarity to the divine name.

      Sudden hope for the future and relief from being named unclean by your
      own religion produced miraculous cures from diseases brought on by
      hopelessness and shame. What the itinerant disciples taught generated an
      ecstasy of expectation for a coming release from suffering. In the
      kingdom people would be free from oppression, free from disease, free
      from worries about food and clothing, free from backbreaking work, free
      from aging and death. The power of God was even now at work in the world.

      12. Baptism in the name of Jesus: Those who wanted to commit to the
      Kingdom would be baptized using a rite similar to John’s but with the
      addition of the name of Jesus/YAHSHWEH. Everyone who calls on the name
      of the Lord will be saved. However, this was not a baptism that gave the
      Spirit; that was reserved to Jesus. (See below for a justification of
      these statements.)

      13. Arrangements for a Kingdom Celebration: The itinerant disciples also
      tried to locate a new follower or group of followers who had enough
      money to sponsor a Kingdom Celebration—this was a banquet with Jesus as
      the guest of honor, open to everyone in the community including those
      usually considered impure. Some of the new converts were not just
      peasants but well-to-do prostitutes and publicans who had the money to
      put on a big party. Lk 10:1 tells us that the mission of the itinerant
      disciples was to every town and place where Jesus himself was about to come

      The Kingdom Celebration and Jesus’ Healing

      Later, when it came time for the messianic banquet of the Kingdom
      Celebration, Jesus would arrive with three or four of his closest
      disciples. Here is how I imagine what might have happened at the
      celebration. The room would be crowded with all kinds of people. Jesus
      would speak briefly about the love of God and how we will all share in
      this love in the coming Kingdom. A hymn of thanksgiving would be sung
      and Jesus would inaugurate the banquet by breaking bread. There would be
      eating and drinking with storytelling by the disciples to much laughter.
      After a set of psalms was sung Jesus would speak for about an hour.
      Major themes would be the coming of the Spirit, with a retelling of what
      happened at his own baptism, the power of the Spirit to heal, and its
      gifts of prophecy and speaking in tongues. “If you want to commit
      yourself to the Kingdom and receive the Spirit, you must fast for a day.
      Come back tomorrow night and I will lay hands on you to impart the
      Spirit. You will prophecy and speak in the tongues of angels for the
      Kingdom of God is at hand and the Spirit is being poured out on all flesh.”

      Jesus would then lay hands on all the afflicted who wanted to be healed.
      How did Jesus heal? He was the most successful exorcist and healer
      recorded in ancient times. Short of a supernatural explanation, how were
      these miracles accomplished? We can get some insight from historical
      reports of the healing done in the 17 hundreds by Franz Anton Mesmer,
      who believed in the existence of animal magnetism, an etheric healing
      fluid. Mesmer had a large tub called a Baquet full of iron filings.
      Patients were told that the tub radiated the healing energy of animal
      magnetism and that absorbing this energy would cause a healing
      convulsion to occur. When a group was gathered, they held iron rods
      extending from the tub. Soon the more suggestible would begin to shake
      and after a while they would fall to the ground. The less suggestible
      would be convinced of the power of the Baquet and they too would begin
      to experience shaking and swooning. Those still standing were given
      magnetic hand passes by Mesmer dressed in impressive robes until they
      too succumbed. The patients frequently reported miraculous cures from
      this procedure.

      When healing at a Kingdom Celebration Jesus would have first laid hands
      on his own disciples. They would be slain in the Spirit, knocked over by
      the power Jesus imparted through his hands. This kind of manifestation
      of the Spirit is common among today’s charismatic Christians. Having
      seen this demonstration, when Jesus laid his hands on the afflicted and
      invoked the divine name, they too they would fall into a swoon. When
      they recovered, they would report being healed of their illnesses. Jesus
      would be careful to work with the most suggestible first, so that the
      less suggestible would have more and more evidence of the Spirit at
      work. If someone had trouble succumbing to the power, Jesus would give
      that person special attention using common techniques from magical
      practice, such as anointing with spittle.

      The Jerusalem Community

      After the resurrection the Galilean disciples who remained in Jerusalem
      were overwhelmed by an influx of new recruits. Acts tells us that there
      were 3,000 baptisms after the events of Pentecost and another 5,000
      after the healing of the cripple at the Temple Gate. Following the Way
      that Jesus taught, the 12 imparted the sayings of Jesus only to those
      who vowed poverty and who joined the Jerusalem commune to be trained as
      itinerant disciples not to the mass of local supporters.

      Chapter 8 in Acts gives us significant insight into what happened in the
      early Jerusalem commune: Philip, one of the Hellenist leaders, is driven
      out of Jerusalem during the persecution initiated by the chief priests
      after the death of Stephen. He goes to Samaria and converts a large
      number of people there, baptizing them in the name of Jesus. (Acts 8:16)
      The twelve, learning of his success, send Peter and John, a mission
      pair, to Samaria. When they arrive they baptize with the Holy Spirit.
      Why didn’t Phillip baptize his converts with the Spirit in the first
      place? He was not authorized to do so. This kind of baptism was reserved
      for the 12.

      This suggests an explanation for what actually happened at Pentecost:
      Let us assume that during the Galilean ministry only Jesus was empowered
      to give the Spirit by the laying on of hands. After the resurrection,
      during a meeting of potential followers, the 12 discovered that they,
      too, could now give the Spirit. They had certainly seen Jesus lay on
      hands innumerable times. Now they dared to do the same, while praying
      for the descent of the Spirit. In the highly emotional mood immediately
      after the resurrection masses of new converts received the Spirit. From
      then on the 12 were empowered to give the Spirit, but only the 12.
      Phillip and the other itinerant disciples were restricted to baptizing
      in the name of Jesus, just as Jesus’ itinerant disciples had been
      restricted during the Galilean ministry.

      This explains the odd events related in Acts 18:24-19:7. Apollos, an
      itinerant teacher from Egypt, is fully conversant with Christian
      doctrine but baptizes only with the baptism of John, not with the
      baptism of the Holy Spirit. Why is he ignorant of true Christian baptism
      in the Spirit? Because he learned his Christianity from one of the
      itinerant disciples from the early Jerusalem commune, sent out
      intentionally or scattered during the persecution, who was not empowered
      to baptize with the Holy Spirit.

      Under James the brother of Jesus the Jerusalem community was
      significantly more centered in Law and Temple worship than Jesus himself
      had been in Galilee. In order to protect the community from
      Temple-directed persecution and to cater to his new converts, who were
      cosmopolitan Jews committed to Law and Temple rather than the peasant
      stock of Galilee, James kept a public face of orthodoxy, leaving behind
      the anti-Temple rhetoric and the antinomian sayings of Jesus. These
      traditions were studied in secret by those advanced students judged to
      be receptive.

      Comments on Q

      Kloppenborg writes, “Important for the later development of the study of
      Q is Koester’s observation that there are in the genre ‘wisdom gospel’
      or logoi sophon a multitude of diverse forms, some of which are more
      typical of the genre and others which are less so. Wisdom sayings, legal
      pronouncements, prophetic sayings, such as ‘I’-words, blessings and
      woes, and parables are evident, whereas apocalyptic sayings and
      apocalyptic Son of Man sayings are least evident. On the basis of this
      observation Koester argues that the introduction of apocalyptic
      eschatology would have come relatively late in the history of the Q
      document, representing perhaps a secondary redaction of an earlier
      wisdom book. … This observation offers a way to disentangle and stratify
      the diverse forms present in Q, by viewing the wisdom sayings as more
      primitive and the apocalyptic sayings as late.”

      Unfortunately this approach has resulted in a picture of Jesus as a
      Wisdom Sage, shorn of his message of the immanent coming of the Kingdom
      of Heaven. Paul, however, was thoroughly apocalyptic in his belief in
      the immanent return of Jesus, he studied with Peter, a direct disciple
      of Jesus, and was given the seal of approval by the Jerusalem community,
      the home base of the 12 apostles of Jesus. In my view it is virtually
      impossible for Jesus not to have taught that the Kingdom of God was at hand.

      Since a stratification of Q that places Wisdom sayings at the earliest
      level leads to false conclusions, there must be some other explanation
      as to why the apocalyptic sayings are the least evident. Remember that
      in my theory Q and Thomas in their beginnings were secret oral
      traditions reserved for advanced Christians. In considering the
      evolution of oral tradition we need to take into account the fact that
      development proceeded on two levels, one inner and secret and the other
      outer and revealed and that this division goes back to Jesus and his
      healer-heralds. Q developed on the inner, hidden, track, whereas
      apocalyptic doctrines were part of the outer track known to all. Q was
      based on the secret words of Jesus to his itinerant disciples and did
      not include much apocalyptic material, because the eschatological
      teachings were part of the public face of the Jesus Movement.

      We need not go so far as to reject current ideas on the stratification
      of Q, however, since various scholars using various approaches have come
      to similar conclusions (Robinson, et al, The Sayings Gospel Q in Greek
      and English, pp 59-60), but only the improper inference drawn from the
      stratification, that literary level indicates tradition-historic level.
      If we accept the idea that there was a secret tradition of wisdom
      sayings and a public ministry of apocalyptic pronouncements, both of
      which went back to Jesus, then the later stages of Q represent the
      melding of these two equally valid streams of tradition.

      Paul and Hidden Wisdom

      Steven J. Patterson writes (Q-Thomas Reader p 112) that Paul quotes
      saying 17 from the Gospel of Thomas. …“What no eye has seen, nor ear
      heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those
      who love him,”… 1 Cor 2:9-10. There is no known source for this
      quotation other than the Gospel of Thomas. Were Paul’s opponents in
      Corinth Thomasine Christians? Patterson does not go so far as to make
      that identification, but he does suggest that the sayings tradition has
      the potential for producing the kind of views that Paul was combatting
      in Corinth: Wisdom speculations that give rise to claims of special
      knowledge and special status in the community (1:10-4:21). (p 112) “…
      their knowledge has already projected them into the new age that is to
      come. They have already begun to ‘rule’ (4:8); they have already become
      immortal (ch. 15); they have already begun to practice the freedom that
      will accompany the new age (6:12; 10:23).”

      Here is some evidence then that a sayings tradition similar to the
      Gospel of Thomas was in existence as early as the 50s. Paul is aware of
      it, he quotes from it, but his own spiritual understanding of Christ’s
      crucifixion and triumphant return is in conflict with its emphasis on
      the realization of the kingdom in the present moment.

      Paul never labels anything as a quotation from Jesus. At most he
      paraphrases instruction from Jesus and tells us that the Lord taught
      this particular doctrine. When he quotes saying 17 from the Gospel of
      Thomas he does not preface it with ‘Jesus said.’ He obviously knows
      certain teachings of Jesus but declines to use them in their sayings
      form. “…do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord
      comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and
      will disclose the purposes of the heart.” (1 Cor 4:5) These are
      derivations from sayings such as, ‘Judge not and you shall not be
      judged’ and the pronouncement that everything hidden will be revealed.
      If Paul knows the sayings tradition, why doesn’t he cite it? My answer
      is that in the early days of Christianity the sayings tradition was
      secret doctrine. Paul himself says that he has a secret wisdom: “…among
      the mature…we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God
      decreed before the ages for our glorification.” (1 Cor 2:6-7) “And we
      impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the
      Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who possess the Spirit.”
      (1 Cor 2:13) Paul identifies Jesus with the Spirit. “But we have the
      mind of Christ.” (1 Cor 2:16) “…the Lord is the Spirit.” (2 Cor
      3:17,18). Therefore the words taught by the Spirit could easily be the
      words taught by Jesus. Paul is of course emphasizing that understanding
      these words is a matter of spiritual discernment brought about by our
      current possession of the Spirit. He is not talking about the gift of
      interpreting prophetic utterances, since this occurs in general church
      meetings and Paul is speaking here about the hidden wisdom taught to the
      mature in Christ. Why does he say that the words are taught by the
      Spirit rather than saying directly that they come from Jesus? Because
      the very existence of the sayings tradition is a secret belonging to
      those Christians who are mature in Christ.

      Identification of Jesus with the Spirit also explains why Apollos’
      disciples had not been taught about the Holy Spirit: at a very early
      time in the development of Christianity the functions of the Spirit were
      transferred to religious experience of the risen Jesus.

      The Importance of Thomas

      If my analysis of the structure of the Jesus Movement is correct, then
      the most important task we can undertake in the study of early
      Christianity is to understand the Gospel of Thomas, since it contains
      the secret spiritual instructions Jesus gave to his healer-heralds on
      how they can experience the Kingdom now, in the present moment.


      A friend of mine, having read the above, writes:

      Cf. Isaiah 64:4 for the source of Paul's statement. Only a very small
      proportion of scholars (all under the influence of Helmut Koester) now
      support the early dating of Thomas. By text form, it is not earlier than
      the second century. Interesting, of course, but not the Rosetta Stone.

      My answer:

      Isaiah 64:4 is too different to be the source for 1 Cor 2:9-10. It’s in
      the second person, ‘you’, as an address to God, while Cor is in the
      third person. Isaiah starts with ear and goes to eye, whereas Cor starts
      with eye and goes to ear, as does Thomas. Isaiah does not mention ‘the
      human heart conceived’, whereas a similar phrase is in Thomas. Even if
      the original root of the saying is in Isaiah, Paul is citing the Thomas
      version. Further, the context of Paul’s citation is Christian Wisdom
      traditions and secret teachings, which suggests that the locus of the
      saying is in a proto-Thomas tradition of sapiential secret sayings.

      A second century dating for the Gospel of Thomas requires us to believe
      that a group of Syrian mystical Christians hijacked the sayings
      tradition of Jesus, dispensed with the cross, dispensed with the
      resurrection, dispensed with the apocalypse, distorted the sayings into
      a panegyric celebration of present-time personal experience of the
      Kingdom, peppered this stew with a whole series of made-up Jesus
      sayings, and served it up as a secret tradition that would, decoded,
      bring one to immortality—all of which are acts of incredible hypocrisy.
      The whole scenario is highly unlikely, doing violence to the history of
      the traditions in Thomas. Both the form and the content of Thomas are
      too close to first century sayings to allow for the hijack hypothesis.
      The question is, what kind of first century Christianity produced
      Thomas? It is possible to believe in Syrian mystical liars because we
      don’t know where these traditions could have come from during the
      earliest stages of Christianity. I have tried to show that Thomas goes
      back to Jesus himself and the secret spiritual instruction he gave to
      his healer-heralds who were already in the Kingdom and hence were open
      to present-time mystical experience.

      Patterson writing in the Q Thomas Reader (pp 86-88) says:

      1 “There are perhaps five instances in the entire text of Thomas in
      which one must conclude that the canonical texts have indeed influenced
      Thomas to some degree.” (And three where the order of sayings is
      involved.) Hence there is no consistent and extensive pattern of
      dependence and the influences seen can be explained by scribes
      harmonizing the text before them with what they know from the synoptic

      2. “Most of the sayings in Thomas which have synoptic parallels occur in
      forms which are more primitive than their synoptic parallels. …
      secondary features are unique to the Thomas version … It is clear that
      they have undergone this process of development independently from the
      parallel synoptic tradition.”

      Both of these facts argue for an early date, a date before the synoptic
      gospels became highly influential.

      3. As a literary form Thomas is most similar to Q, a first century

      4. There is no cross or resurrection in Thomas, which argues that Thomas
      goes back to Jesus, who did not know about the cross and resurrection,
      not that a group of second century Christians decided to ignore these
      vital parts of their religion. (exception )

      5. According to Mark Jesus taught in cryptic sayings which he explained
      in detail to his inner group of disciples. Thomas follows this form of
      teaching; it is a collection of Jesus’ cryptic sayings preceded by a
      challenge to decipher the puzzle and win immortality.

      6. How could Thomas call itself the secret sayings of the living Jesus
      in the second century when half of its sayings were openly available to
      second century Christians in the gospels of Mathew and Luke? The answer
      is not that Thomasine Christians didn’t know Matthew and Luke in the
      second century, but that the Gospel of Thomas goes back to the first
      century before Matthew and Luke were written.

      7. Paul quotes saying 17 from Thomas.

      8. Birger Pierson writing in his textbook Ancient Gnosticism: Traditions
      and Literature (p 257) says, “The Gospel of Thomas is not a Gnostic
      text…there is no doctrine of pleromic emanations in it, no Sophia myth,
      and no ignorant or malevolent Demiurge. What it does share in common
      with Gnosticism is the emphasis on self-knowledge, but that is not
      something that is specific to Gnosticism as we have defined it.” The
      Gospel of Thomas was not part of the wave of Gnosticism that swept
      through Christianity during the second century. Free of the Gnostic
      historical context we are open to believe that it might well have been a
      product of the first century.

      Pierson writes (p 267), “The core sayings in the Gospel of Thomas
      probably come from a collection of Jesus’ sayings dating to as early as
      the mid-first century, probably assembled in Jerusalem. (Of course, a
      number of these go back to the historical Jesus, that is, before AD 30.)
      This collection was brought to Edessa in Mesopotamia, perhaps as early
      as the late first century. Sayings were added after that to the core
      collection, reflecting changes in the beliefs and practices of the
      Edessene Christian community. The Gospel of Thomas as we know it, that
      is, as translated from a Greek (or possibly Syriac) original, was
      probably composed sometime around 140. It was brought to Egypt and
      circulated there in the second half of the second century. It was
      probably translated into Coptic sometime in the late third century.”

      What was the core collection? Which sayings go back to the historical
      Jesus? What was added in Edessa? What was transformed by the Thomasine

      The answers to these questions depend in large measure on your picture
      of the historical Jesus, your understanding of who he was, what he did,
      what he taught, and the nature of the movement that he began. In this
      paper I have tried to show that the mysticism found in the Gospel of
      Thomas could go back to the mystical practices of Jesus himself, given
      as secret teachings to his itinerant disciples. These disciples were
      already in the Kingdom and so were open to present-time mystical
      experience of the Kingdom.

      This is a starting point for a detailed analysis of Thomas. Most of the
      work of tracing the development of Thomas from the point of view of the
      mystical Jesus is yet to be done. There are some interesting results
      already, though. A theme in Thomas is that Jesus thought of the Kingdom
      as a return to Eden before the fall. This theme can be traced back to
      the life of the itinerant disciples--God was their father, they trusted
      in his care, they didn’t have to work for a living. In other words their
      life in the Kingdom was a return to Eden before the fall.

      Since all of the above was written, I have been doing more research into
      the problem of dating Thomas. I am particularly impressed with Nicholas
      Perrin’s book The Other Gospel. I am a bit confused about it all at the
      moment. I certainly have been too focused on proponents of an early date
      in my reading. I think there are answers to Perrin, but don’t have the
      time to go into it now.
    • Dominick Carlucci
      Dan, Thank you for this post. It was certainly worth it to spend the time to get all the way to the bottom, and come away with the desire to hear more! It s
      Message 2 of 5 , Aug 7, 2008

        Thank you for this post. It was certainly worth it to spend the time to
        get all the way to the bottom, and come away with the desire to hear
        more! It's obvious that you've spent a great deal of time and thought
        researching this, and I hope there is much more to come.

        Do you have a website where you catalogue your research? What is your
        research and theological background? And, have you read any of the
        works of Bart Ehrman? I've found his research and discussion
        particularly refreshing and enlightening for understanding this
        immensely rich and critical period in human history.

        Thanks again.

      • danw888
        ... time to ... hear ... thought ... I have a ton of other stuff on hand and even more in my head and in notes. I used to have a web site but various
        Message 3 of 5 , Aug 8, 2008
          --- In sacredlandscapelist@yahoogroups.com, "Dominick Carlucci"
          <scorpio_eagle2002@...> wrote:
          > Dan,
          > Thank you for this post. It was certainly worth it to spend the
          time to
          > get all the way to the bottom, and come away with the desire to
          > more! It's obvious that you've spent a great deal of time and
          > researching this, and I hope there is much more to come.
          > Do you have a website where you catalogue your research?

          I have a ton of other stuff on hand and even more in my head and in
          notes. I used to have a web site but various disasters happened and
          I didn't put the time in to regenerate it.

          What is your
          > research and theological background?

          MA in experimental psych and 30 years of reading on early
          christianity and the historical jesus. Raised catholic but
          excommunicated them in my teens.

          And, have you read any of the
          > works of Bart Ehrman? I've found his research and discussion
          > particularly refreshing and enlightening for understanding this
          > immensely rich and critical period in human history.

          A tiny bit - I'm certainly aware that he is out there but I haven't
          dipped much from the well.

          > Thanks again.
          Glad you enjoyed!


          > Dominick
        • scorpio_eagle2002
          For Dan Washburn, I came upon your piece - SECRECY AND THE STRUCTURE OF THE JESUS MOVEMENT (dated 8/6/2008) - in my files earlier tonight, and wanted to know
          Message 4 of 5 , Aug 1
            For Dan Washburn,

            I came upon your piece - SECRECY AND THE STRUCTURE OF THE JESUS MOVEMENT (dated 8/6/2008) - in my files earlier tonight, and wanted to know how your thoughts and research on the topic has developed over the last near-decade. I haven't been in Yahoo Groups for quite awhile and so would have missed any follow-up of yours posted here.

            Looking forward to your response - thanks.

            Dominick Carlucci
          • Dan Washburn
            Hi Dominick Can t remember the post. Can you re-post it or summarize? Gotta say my thoughts on Christianity have evolved quite a bit over the last ten years
            Message 5 of 5 , Aug 1
              Hi Dominick

              Can't remember the post.  Can you re-post it or summarize?  Gotta say my thoughts on Christianity have evolved quite a bit over the last ten years so it's likely my authoritative statement back then isn't quite so authoritative now.  


              Sent from my iPhone

              On Aug 1, 2017, at 3:55 AM, scorpio_eagle2002@... [sacredlandscapelist] <sacredlandscapelist@yahoogroups.com> wrote:

              For Dan Washburn,

              I came upon your piece - SECRECY AND THE STRUCTURE OF THE JESUS MOVEMENT (dated 8/6/2008) - in my files earlier tonight, and wanted to know how your thoughts and research on the topic has developed over the last near-decade. I haven't been in Yahoo Groups for quite awhile and so would have missed any follow-up of yours posted here.

              Looking forward to your response - thanks.

              Dominick Carlucci
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