Gospel of Thomas

Discussion in 'Christianity' started by heaven_id, Nov 19, 2005.

  1. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    Hi all - interesting points raised - and here's some thoughts:

    Is not the notion of 'Q' that there is a prototypical gospel? There are four witnesses to an event, and they each give a different story, according to their own experience, and based on this, someone suggests that there was one record, from which the four have drawn their account. Have I got that right? Sounds very unlikely to me ...

    Whilst there are many debates as to its provenance, the linguistic style of Thomas dates it to the 4th century - however that does not mean it is not a 4th century record of an older oral tradition...

    ... the problem then is that none of the commentators reference that tradition, so that Thomas was never around to be included as canonical.

    Contrary to Pagel's opinion, many scholars refute the notion of Thomas as a gnostic gospel, because it does not share those doctrines that were common to the broad spread of gnosticism.

    On the gnosticism of the 2nd century - Christians were not the only opponents. Many Platonic and Stoic philosophers also vilified gnostic teachings as being 'bad' or 'mob philosophy' it is a populist philosophy - all very attractive with a rich symbolism robbed from every philosophical tradition going, but in the end there are so many barriers between man and God - and the gnostic gods themselves act in the manner of totally vainglorious humans - motivated by ignorance, envy, greed, etc., that the comdemnation of Plato speaking of the Olympic pantheon applies equally in this case - if they are gods, then they ought to act so, and not display the worst facets of human nature.

    On the Apostle:
    Two things we know of Thomas:

    One - when Christ yold his disciples he was going to Jerusalem, they were dumbstruck. It was Thomas who stated the obvious - let us all go, and die with him - Thomas, in symbolist terms the voice of the reason (Peter is the will, John the Baptist the human intellect, John the Theologian the spiritualised intellect) knew the outcome of such a decision - but like all the disciples, he had no foreknowledge of God's plan for mans' salvation.

    Two - when Christ appeared to the disciples after the resurrection, Thomas was not there. Did Christ not know that one of the number was missing? Of course not - Thomas was absent because he had yet his part to play in the mission.

    Also - where was he? The others were in hiding, behind locked doors, fearful of the mob. Not Thomas. He was out, again reason in action, he went up to Jerusalem to die with his Master, and would continue doing what he thought best until that time should come...

    Lastly - Thomas was the first to acclaim Jesus as Divine - Peter had done so on the descent from Tabor, but only referring to Jesus as 'the Christ' - the saviour. John, in his gospel, notes that when he and Peter ran to the empty tomb, even when they looked inside they still did not believe, they still did not understand.

    Thomas' "My Lord and my God!" was the first human acknowledgement of Christ as God - but only after Jesus 'proved' his resurrection - only after Thomas placed his hands in the wounds to prove to himself this was a risen body, and not an apparition. Again, as Jesus rebuked him, blessed are those who believe and have not seen (faith) above those who have seen (reason).

    Thomas
     
  2. FriendRob

    FriendRob Well-Known Member

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    Q as defined by scholars is the hypothetical document from which Matthew and Luke drew many of their sayings and stories that did not come from Mark. Kloppenborg (The Formation of Q) thinks that the Q we can reconstruct is essentially complete. Even if he is wrong about this (and unless someone finds a copy we will never know), we can be pretty darn sure that Q isn't Thomas for several reasons. One, the Q sayings are not identical word-for-word with the Thomas sayings that are parallel. It would be extremely unlikely for Matt and Lk to have changed the Thomas sayings in just the same way. Two, there is no trace in Q of the more mystical/gnostic sayings in Thomas.

    I'm not sure which part of my post this question refers to. For Q, I'm following Kloppenborg, Koester, Crossan, and numerous other scholars. For development of the canon, see Metzger and McDonald.
     
  3. aged hippy

    aged hippy drifting gently

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    Hello Thomas,
    You said:
    — with all due respect, it's my impression that only one Entity - in Gnostic thought - behaves in this fashion, and that's Samael/Yaltabaoth. He is the Chief (Primary) Archon of "The Apocryphon of John".

    To be fair, His Angels also behave in the same fashion, it is them who cause strife in this world - via our selves.
     
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2005
  4. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    "Sophia longed to comprehend the first cause of her being, and conceived a Plan to do so, but was restrained ... She aborted her plan, and fell into a torment ... from her tormented and confused passions arose the Demiurge ... (Ialdabaôth, from the Hebrew El-Dibahoth, "God of Slanders"), who existed outside the Plêrôma. From this abortion arose Achamôth (who) threatened to upset the balance of the Plêrôma. Bythos exiled her into the world of the Demiurge ... excluded from the Plêrôma and thrust into the darkness without benefit of form or intelligence, Achamôth became violently agitated. Christos projected himself through Stauros and provided her with form, but she was still without intelligence. Christos immediately withdrew back into the Plêrôma, and Achamôth attempted to follow him. She pressed herself against Stauros, which restrained her. In her agony, she uttered the mystic name IAO, and her Passions produced the material world (Hylê). From her Grief sprang Air, from her Fear came Water, from her Confusion came Earth, and from all three together arose Fire..."

    All the stuff of a good soap opera! Especially when Sophia (Wisdom) seems to be the cause of it all! It makes you wonde just how 'wise' she was - and this is my point, if Sophia is Wisdom itself, then she could not fail to comprehend the outcome of her actions - but according to this account we must acknowledge then that Wisdom is severely limited.

    I do not dispute an often genuine attempt at understanding, but as the 'doctrine' developed it became increasingly more involved, complex, and metaphysically 'creaky' - it has a glamour all of its own, to be sure, and to which I was personally enamoured for a number of years, but the underlying metaphysic is ill-conceived and just doesn't stand up to scrutiny.

    And it is so complex! Thirty Aeons! Level upon level has to be surmounted. And three human races (the pneumatic, psychic and hylic), whereas in Christianity, and to some degree in Platonic Theurgy (original and the later forms which were themselves 'informed' by Christianity), there is a beauty and a simplicity that speaks for itself.

    Thomas
     
  5. aged hippy

    aged hippy drifting gently

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    There are, to be fair, some very complex heirarchies in some schools of Gnostic Christianity, but - as with much of the additional accretions to conventional Christian thought (long lists of 'begats', etc.) - these only serve to further muddy the waters. It seems to me that the Gnostic Christian world-view is simple, but has been made unnecessarily complicated by lists of names of entities, æons, and metaphysical concepts, etc., and this makes it daunting to those who don't have the time or resources to make sense of all the relationships and unravel the knots.


    You said: "All the stuff of a good soap opera! Especially when Sophia (Wisdom) seems to be the cause of it all! It makes you wonde just how 'wise' she was - and this is my point, if Sophia is Wisdom itself, then she could not fail to comprehend the outcome of her actions - but according to this account we must acknowledge then that Wisdom is severely limited." — No, i don't acknowledge this point, Sophia didn't forsee the outcome of her actions because she acted of her own volition (without her Masculine aspect - the Christ), and moreover - there was no precedent, and so she could not have known. She was an æon, but not prescient.

    Concerning the soap opera - yes, i certainly agree with that, it seems typical of the Abrahamic religions - murder, mayhem and complicated relationships. :)


    You also said: "And three human races (the pneumatic, psychic and hylic)," — this is - with respect - a misunderstanding, these are three types of human spirituality, it's explained clearly here:
    http://essenes.net/TheGreatSchoolsOfChristianGnosis.html



    http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=1&letter=C&search=qabbala





    We do seem to be leading the thread (Gospel of Thomas) off-topic somewhat, would you like to continue the discussion of these concepts in another thread? If so, i'll follow you there.



    p.s. Would you give a reference/web address for your above quote please, i can't track it down anywhere.
     
  6. aged hippy

    aged hippy drifting gently

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    Hello sara[h]ng,
    You said:
    "My yoga instructor told me just tonight that yoga means 'union' and that it refers to union of the body and spirit."
    "and when you make male and female into a single one, so that the male will not be male nor the female be female" — seems - to me - to mean that when we reconcile (unite?) our Masculine (Physical) aspect to our Feminine (Spiritual) aspect, is when we will become one with the Father/enter the Kingdom/attain Enlightenment/your description here.

    True Union.
     
  7. Ahanu

    Ahanu Well-Known Member

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    So should the Gospel of Thomas be considered the fifth gospel or what?
     
  8. apexcone

    apexcone Trackdayguy

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    Sounds interesting. I recently read the Gospel of Magdalene an a great book about Jesus relationship with her.
     
  9. wil

    wil UNeyeR1 Moderator

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    Many do, many decry it. The Jesus Seminar which also many decry, determined it to contain the most actual quotes of Jesus, the most actual actions of Jesus, and the most actual if not what he said or dids but in the tenor of what he would have said or dids even if not trues. (They went way beyond simply red lettering)
     
  10. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    Contrary to supposed opinion, the Early Church went to some lengths to validate the texts they accepted as canonical.

    They asked questions like, was the author an apostle or someone with a close connection to the apostles? Was the book accepted by the community (ie Tradition)? Did the work contain consistency of doctrine and teaching according to the emerging Tradition? Did the book bear evidence of the moral and spiritual values that would reflect a work of the Holy Spirit?

    The GoT failed these checkpoint questions.

    When one considers the disputes and questions about the origins of the Synoptics and John, then Thomas hasn't got a leg to stand on.

    And it's interesting that all too often an ardent critic of the canon will accept the GoT without hesitation, even though it fails every challenge the critic lays before the canonical scribe.

    Also, the GoT emerged when the Church was having issues with those sects later defined as 'Gnostic'. These tend to be intrinsically dualist sects (where the Bible is holistic), somewhat Hellenic or Egyptian-oriented, although the Greeks themselves ripped into the often-flawed philosophy underpinning the Gnostic ideas about the creation and origin of man.

    The GoT is not itself a Gnostic text, it doesn't tick the gnostic boxes, but neither does it really promote gnosis, but reinforces a tendency later enshrined in Gnosticism that 'illumination' depends on being 'switched on' as it were by a Master.

    Nor does the book actually 'reveal' anything. The Christ of the GoT remains a mystery, which only Thomas (in the GoT) has perceived — and here again we have a common figure of Gnostic texts, that Jesus seems to have told each author (Thomas, Judas, etc.) that 'they alone' had their eyes opened and that everyone else was blind!

    What is interesting is that the text is spun round a number of sayings of Christ held to be authentic, and it would appear the GoT dates from quite early on (140AD). But it tells us nothing of the person of Christ, nor really His mission or message, in other than the most nebulous terms.

    I rather regard the GoT, along with the Gnostics, as a kind of 'New Age' appropriation of their day ... huge popular appeal, but philosophically unsound. The Book a bundle of right-on sayings, without depth or substance. It's like someone's published a book of koans, as if reading them was what a koan is all about.
     
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  11. Cino

    Cino Big Love! (Atheist mystic) Admin

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    Now that you mention it, there is a book actually called The Gnostic New Age, by April D. DeConinck. Never read it, but the title stuck.

    But I read the Gospel of Thomas. My impression is that it could indeed have functioned like a collection of koans, i.e. as part of mystical exercises or initiation training, maybe even in Gnostic contexts. But it's easy to speculate about the Gnostics, since we don't know that much about them, and they were a secretive and diverse bunch.
     
  12. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    Now here's the thing.

    I looked at the cover blurb from the university website and found myself at odds with almost every statement! But then that's no big deal – I have a very poor view of publishing these days, which too often seems aimed at sensationalism for the sake of sales rather than scholarship for the sake of scholarship.

    Possibly, but again that's largely our speculation, without proof or evidence. Nor, as far as I am aware, is there a philosophical model of the koan-type of teaching in the West, although I stand to be corrected there. Also, koans are paradoxical, whereas the sayings aren't that kind of thing.
     
  13. Cino

    Cino Big Love! (Atheist mystic) Admin

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    Well, number 7 (the lion-eating man and the man -eating lion) is pretty koan like, as are a few others.

    The last one, about Mary's sex change, is also nicely confusing.
     
  14. apexcone

    apexcone Trackdayguy

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  15. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    Seems to rank along with The DaVinci Code?

    The Kirkus review of Books says:
    "... many readers will find Joseph and Aseneth allegorical at best, hopelessly mysterious at worst."
    It was long believed to be an allegory of the union of Christ and His Church. As far as I can gather, the above authors have spun a Christ/Magdalene myth from nothing?

    "... It is only through what appears as speculation that Jacobovici and Wilson piece together a fantastical tale of love, intrigue and, of course, sex, around Jesus and Mary Magdalene. Wrapped in the modern trend to discount New Testament writings and push forward even the most tenuous Gnostic texts, the authors write that “[w]hat seemed like fantasy is actually history, and what seems like history turns out to be carefully edited spin.” Yet the authors’ subjective tone, dramatic language and willingness to stretch logic leave readers skeptical from the first page.
    This intriguing ancient text deserves a solid academic study by serious scholars. Unfortunately, this book is not it."
     
  16. RJM

    RJM God Feeds the Ravens Admin

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    By the way, has anyone read the last quotation (114) of this gospel?

    EDIT: Oh sorry @Cino I see you've caught that one
     
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  17. RJM

    RJM God Feeds the Ravens Admin

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    Last edited: Jan 3, 2019
  18. Ahanu

    Ahanu Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for your detailed reply. I will have to do further research on the points you discussed.
     
  19. RJM

    RJM God Feeds the Ravens Admin

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  20. wil

    wil UNeyeR1 Moderator

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