An Op-Ed blog by April DeConick, featuring discussions of the Nag Hammadi collection, Tchacos Codex,
and other Christian apocrypha, but mostly just the things on my mind.
featuring discussions of the Nag Hammadi collection,
and other Christian apocrypha,
but mostly just the things on my mind.
“Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” Mt. 19:4-6. See corroboration in Mk. 10:6-9What’s going on here? Later writers are trying to expand on what the canonical texts state and are only partially understanding what is being said. In 2 Clement we are given some interesting psychological interpretations with reference to inner and outer. The relationship of men and women appears idealized as a lustless relationship in which men do not notice the female in a woman (sister) and vice versa. GT simply misquotes because the possibly student/scribe didn’t understand what he was re-recording and merely tried to piece together disparate statements gathered from somewhere or another. Unlike 2 Clement no interpretation is offered of the strange statements. This is particularly evident when GT starts interjecting “when you make eyes instead of an eye and a hand instead of a hand and a foot instead of a foot, an image instead of an image, then you will enter [the kingdom].” This appears to be some sort of confabulation on the part of the GT writer(s).
Jose, I think it is more likely that 2 Clement knows a saying quite like Thomas 22:4-7 and is not here expanding on any of the Synoptic Gospels.You believe Thomas is misquoting something. What do you think he is misquoting and why do you think that? Thomas 22 may sound strange to many of us, but how do you know this saying would have been strange to the author of Thomas and his community? A possible background for this saying is Jewish wisdom speculation in which Adam was first thought be androgynous. The unification theme in Thomas may reflect a return to this pre-fall ideal. The eye/hand/foot part of the saying may reflect the new body that is created when thew two become one, although it is possible that some corruption occurred during transmission of this saying over the course of a few centuries (note how plural/singular for the eyes becomes singular/singular for hand and foot).
I'll suspend judgment on the veracity (esp. because I've not read Clement) but make two observations.One: I think I can easily see how the content might have motivated early councils to keep this out of the cannon, given their pov. ;)Two: My initial impression was that it sounds much more vague than what Jesus usually said. But then, I must admit, I wondered if it may be just precisely as vague as things Jesus usually said. :)Still, I'll suspend judgment. I think that's the right thing to do for both 'sides' anyway. Interesting, though.Thanks for the post.
Of course it is “maybe this and maybe that.” It is to a considerable extant speculation and conjecture. You study the material as best you can and then share what you think. Then you listen carefully to the rebuttals, be totally honest, and alter your view if necessary. This is what should be happening in the Gospel of Judas discussion. Nevertheless, if something appears ridiculous and nonsensical you should state it and simply wait until someone can produce some convincing rhyme or reason out of it. What you say Richard may have some foundation but you or someone would need to develop that line of reasoning and till then what GT says stands as it is, something that appears to me in parts as nonsense and some sort of confabulation. To you it appears as if “some corruption” has occurred over the centuries. We are essentially in agreement that as it reads it makes no sense.You mention Bill that you “can easily see how the content might have motivated early councils to keep this out of the cannon [sic].” I also can see how this would be. You see it as “sounding much more vague than what Jesus usually said.” I fully agree with this. You then say you wish to “suspend judgment” but you have already made a very important and reasonable judgment. It is “vague.” That’s putting it mildly. A “judgment” need not be an absolute and irrevocable judgment. It is not necessarily an “ex cathedra” type of statement. Peace.
Jose, I appreciate you admitting that your ideas are to a large extent speculation and conjecture (unless this is not what you meant). You mention that somebody should work out the line of reasoning concerning the androgynous background of Thomas 22:4-7. This has been done quite a bit in the literature. If you are truly interested in this you should take a look at Stevan Davies' work on Thomas for starters (for example, his book The Gospel of Thomas and Jewish Wisdom and his article Christology and Protology of the Gospel of Thomas). I do not agree completely with Davies' views, but it is excellent work. Of course, many sayings in Thomas are esoteric and hard to understand without the background of the Thomas community. Still, this doesn't mean these sayings are nonsense, merely that they do not make sense to you. Some of the sayings in the Canonical Gospels would probably not make sense either if the authors had not given them a context and sometimes an explicit explanation. This could easily be the interpretation of the author or his community so this doesn't necessarily help you understand the original meaning of the saying. Btw, I did not say that it appears that some corruption has taken place, but I merely mentioned this as a possibility. The problem, of course, is that we only have a single (complete) manuscript of Thomas and this poses textual difficulties (but then again, we have similar problems with the Canonical Gospels despite the better textual basis). I think we should try to make sense of the sayings as they stand as much as possible unless there is clear evidence for 'corruption' (which I think is not really the case with 22:4-7).
GT 22 is a saying without context (the hearer was meant to discover the meaning in contemplation). Unlike with the GT, I think here it is a mistake to try to interpret or find the meaning of this saying outside of its context in 2 Clement. Look at the chapter as a whole:CHAPTER 12 12:1 Let us, therefore, in love and righteousness expect every hour the kingdom of God, since we know not the day of the appearing of God. 12:2 For the Lord himself, when he was asked by a certain man when his kingdom should come, replied, When two shall be one, and that which is without as that which is within, and the male with the female neither male nor female. 12:3 Now two are one when we speak the truth one to another, and there is, without hypocrisy, one soul in two bodies. 12:4 And by that which is without being as that which is within, he meaneth this: He calleth the soul that which is within, and the body that which is without; in like manner, therefore, as thy body is visible, let thy soul be made manifest by good deeds. 12:5 And by the male with the female neither male nor female, he meaneth this: When a brother seeing a sister doth not in any way regard her as a female, nor doth she regard him as a male; 12:6 When ye do these things, he saith, the kingdom of my Father will come.In context, we can better understand how this community of early (probably Jewish-) Christians understood the saying in 12:2. Robert M. Grant writes (The Anchor Bible Dictionary, v. 1, p. 1061): “Scholars have noted the "synoptic-type" Jewish piety of the sermon, perhaps surprising around A.D. 140-160 (the epistle's approximate date).” The author of 2 Clement may be quoting from an independent source or perhaps from GT, but whatever the source, it seems to be of a Judaic nature.In accord with such scholars as Cameron, Davies and Patterson, I believe the earliest core of GT arose as an independent tradition with Jewish-Christian roots, influenced by Jewish wisdom teachings which may well have originated with Jesus, his brother James and other original apostles (“messengers,” not a proper title) including Judas Thomas (“the Twin” – likely Jesus’ own brother), Mary Magdalene and perhaps even the “beloved disciple” of the Gospel of John. In his book The Gospel of Thomas and Jesus, Stephen J. Patterson came to the conclusion that Thomas represents an autonomous stream of tradition after comparison of the wording of each saying in Thomas to its synoptic counterpart. On the dating and provenance of Thomas, Patterson writes: While the cumulative nature of the sayings collection understandably makes the Gospel of Thomas difficult to date with precision, several factors weigh in favor of a date well before the end of the first century: the way in which Thomas appeals to the authority of particular prominent figures (Thomas, James) against the competing claims of others (Peter, Matthew); in genre, the sayings collection, which seems to have declined in importance after the emergence of the more biographical and dialogical forms near the end of the first century; and its primitive christology, which seems to presuppose a theological climate even more primitive than the later stages of the synoptic sayings gospel, Q. Together these factors suggest a date for Thomas in the vicinity of 70-80 C.E. As for its provenance, while it is possible, even likely, that an early version of this collection associated with James circulated in the environs of Jerusalem, the Gospel of Thomas in more or less its present state comes from eastern Syria, where the popularity of the apostle Thomas (Judas Didymos Thomas) is well attested. Ron Cameron states on the provenance of Thomas: The fact that Judas "the Twin" was the apostolic figure particularly revered in Syriac-speaking churches is important evidence for the date and place of composition of the text. For as Koester (in Layton 1989: 39) has shown, Gos. Thom.'s identification of this author as Jesus' brother Judas does not presuppose a knowledge of the NT, but "rests upon an independent tradition." In addition, the peculiar, redundant name Didymus Judas Thomas seems to be attested only in the East, where the shadowy disciple named Thomas (Mark 3:18 par.; John 14:5) or Thomas Didymus (John 11:16; 20:24; 21:2) was identified with Judas in the Syriac NT and called Judas Thomas (John 14:22).For me, 2 Clement 12:2 and GT 22 is very much in line with Jesus’ teachings that one must have right attitude or intention within one’s mind and heart (purity of heart) in conjunction with outward good deeds (or good works as Jesus’ own brother James put it, as prescribed by Torah). Therefore the inside must match the outside, otherwise one is a hypocrite. It mirrors Jesus’ sayings in Mt 23:25-26, "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.” Verse 12.3 echoes Paul’s (rather gnostic) concept of being one in Christ as well as Jesus’ teaching in Mt 5:37, “Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one” (which was also repeated by James). If one only speaks/prays/acts in what appears to be a righteous manner , but the inner intent/thoughts/attitude within one’s heart/mind/soul are not in alignment with the outward appearance, one is deluding oneself and therefore a hypocrite, not truly doing God’s will. When the inner intention is, however, in total alignment with the outer words and actions in accordance with God’s will (doing good works, loving one’s neighbor), then one enters the Kingdom of God. And this is why one must enter the Kingdom as a little child (or as a nursing baby in GT 22) – children/babies are still innocent, they haven’t learned deceit, they haven’t yet learned how to think one way and speak or act in a contrary manner. It also deals with the concept of seeing past external, physical differences (such as gender) to the true human within, which is spirit and neither male nor female. Unusual for his day, Jesus himself accepted female followers/students (“disciples”), as well as male disciples – his “brothers and sisters”; Mary listening attentively at Jesus feet and who, in his words, “hath chosen the better part,” certainly qualified as a disciple (and also as an apostle/messenger of the “good news”).Now, whether this saying (2 Clement 12:2; GT 22) in actuality did originate with Jesus or was just part of a Jewish wisdom tradition (which Jesus may have quoted), we may never know. I do heartily agree with Richard’s comments, above, that this saying is not dependent on the Synoptics at all, that it did not sound strange to the author of Thomas and his community, and that the unification theme was rooted in Jewish wisdom reflecting a pre-fall, ideal return to the concept of Adam’s perfect, spiritual body as androgynous. It could be, that because it was either not known by or misunderstood by certain non-Jewish/Gentile Christian groups (i.e., the Synoptic authors, who tended to follow Paul’s teachings of Christ as a savior through faith in his atoning death/resurrection, vs. as being saved via Jesus’ teachings as the Jewish Messiah), that a cryptic saying such as this could have been overlooked because it didn’t suit those gospel authors’ agendas/theology. We know the gospels were not historical biographies – authors chose to include what resonated with them and likely left out or altered what did not conform to their beliefs – and this is true of the authors of what became the canonical gospels as well as authors of apocryphal gospels. Matthew, Luke to a lesser or greater extent, each omitted or moderated parts of what Mark had written with which they didn’t agree, and each used other sources as well – they just may not have quoted perfectly accurately nor completely from any of their sources to create their own versions of the gospel. I do believe there is an element of gnosis or mysticism present in such sayings as that found in 2 Clement 12:2 and GT 22, as well as in more familiar of Jesus’ sayings as recorded in the Canon. And I do believe Jesus taught this element of gnosis/mysticism. Jesus’ sayings and parables were carefully composed to be understood on a deeper, spiritual level beyond just the obvious, literal, moral and socio-political level. When we hear the Greek word gnosis, we tend automatically to think of later Hellenistic Gnostics. But gnosis itself is the concept of internal knowledge, insight or spiritual revelation - it's a concept, not a religion. The Hellenists had no monopoly on this type of insight or revelation. I don’t know what the Hebrew or Aramaic equivalent word would be for this sort of insight or spiritual knowledge/revelation – Merkabah? But it is certainly what the Hebrew prophets must have experienced to come to their spiritual insights and revelations from YHVH via the Shekinah – and Jesus himself was considered a prophet through whom the Word of God spoke (even by Muslims – who learned this from the descendants of early Jewish-Christians!). So was Jesus teaching a moderate Jewish form of gnosis? I believe he was – it’s evident in Jesus’ teachings to seek within to find the Kingdom of God, which is manifest both within oneself (in spirit) and without (in the physical world). Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” If God is ineffable and invisible and no human can recreate His image in artwork, then how is it one would be able to “see” God? The Messiah was to be God’s chosen ruler on earth, but God Himself would not come marching into Jerusalem as a man would… The King of the Universe was/is invisible. So how was Jesus proposing to “see” God? Was this just a metaphor? Perhaps, but perhaps there was another, hidden meaning to his saying. Perhaps he meant for one to seek to see God/His Glory, as Ezekial and other prophets had done, via internal insight, i.e., Merkabah mysticism or what the Greeks called gnosis? It’s a deeper, mystical teaching Jesus might have saved only for his most advanced disciples, and not to be broadcast to the masses, but perhaps veiled so that only those with more spiritually attuned “ears to hear” could grasp it and seek that Kingdom within. One has to wonder why there are Gnostic texts that relate the ascents/visionary experiences of Jesus’ disciples such as James (his brother!) and Mary Magdalene… Perhaps they are rooted in a kernel of truth, in Jewish mysticism that may have originated with Jesus – teachings that were not written down, but only passed on orally and secretly to those who were spiritually advanced enough to comprehend, appreciate and practice them. It is my sense that Jesus was teaching people to become *aware* of the unseen aspect of the reality of the Kingdom, and the “how” of how one came to this awareness, or how one understood this reality of a human being’s spiritual nature, was not as important as the “what” - coming to be aware of this reality in the first place. Some understood it as an outpouring of Spirit and that would indwell a person, while others (e.g., the Thomas Christians - Syrian with Jewish roots, I might add!) saw this nature as pre-existent, from YHVH’s initial creation of Adam with an androgynous “body” of spirit or Light. These are just two different ways of comprehending man’s spiritual nature. By the Thomas/Jewish-Christian wisdom tradition, then coming to this internal transformation and understanding one’s God-given original nature as eternal Spirit, Jesus was teaching “salvation.” In a more simple sense, by teaching people to realign their heart/mind/soul’s internal intentions with their outward good works (rather than lip-service or actions for appearance’s sake), he was encouraging integration and wholeness, which meant walking the righteous path of God’s will - the Way of Life, according to Torah. With the addition of deeper, spiritual teachings to perceive the *unseen* spiritual aspect of the Kingdom that was already and ever present, Jesus was bestowing a key to an oppressed, victimized and impoverished people – a key that would raise their down-beaten self esteem and free them from the prison of victimhood. The ability to perceive that one was already *in* the Kingdom while awaiting God’s sovereign reign to manifest physically on earth was a brilliant coping mechanism for surviving very “evil” and difficult times. By taking action to transform themselves and thus to assist God in ushering in His Kingdom, these followers of Jesus were learning they need not be helpless victims even while they were desperately impoverished and oppressed by the Romans and their Sadducee allies. The last shall be first. This "Way" of perceiving spiritually was indeed a key to the Kingdom. Jesus was an amazingly great psychologist for his day! ;-)OK, I went on much longer than I probably should have, but I had much to share. Forgive me. :-) Shalom, all.
For those who are interested in Logion 22 of the Gospel of Thomas, André Gagné who just had been nominated Assistant Professor at Concordia University (Montréal, Canada) has succesfully defend his Ph. D thesis last month from both Université de Montréal and Université Catholique de Louvain. The title is (in French): «La figure de l'enfant et la symbolique du lait dans le logion 22 de l'Evangile de Thomas et dans la tradition paléochrétienne.»
Thank you Richard for your Steven Davies reference on the “androgynous background” of Thomas 22:4-7. I’ll see if I can obtain a copy. When I speak of speculation and conjecturing I’m not referring to just myself but to everyone involved with this material. To a considerable extent that’s what they are doing. Some things are not speculative though when taken at face value. When one reads GT 22:6-7 one cannot make any sense out of it and it is simply nonsense. “. . . A hand instead of a hand and a foot instead of a foot, an image instead of an image . . . .” The only rational response is “What??”Of course people can and will come up with fanciful interpretations that defy reasoning and they can expound on these bizarre interpretations through entire volumes. These are exercises in active imagination that may have some therapeutic value for the person expounding but they fall short of a rational explanation that can be convincingly conveyed to an objective mind. Certainly one may posit that the person writing this also offered some explanation to whomever he gave it but that thoroughly unsubstantiated assumption in no way alters the fact that the statement in itself is just nonsense. It would help clarify matters if analogous sayings are found elsewhere with explanations but the explanations given in 2 Clement at best only clarify a portion of GT 22. Now, if we wish to enter a discussion related to concepts about the reconciliation of the opposites in esoteric thought throughout the world from east to west, from oriental schools to alchemy, Gnosticism and biblical literature, etc. we can certainly go there. This has already been covered quite well by many scholars of comparative religion and philosophy. They have examined the Genesis symbolism of Adam’s original androgynous state that was divided into male and female and precipitated the fall of humanity. Many seek to return to that paradisical state but they are heading in the wrong direction. Neverhteless, this symbolism has many different and contradictory interpretations. My view is that the writers of the Gospel of Thomas, though parroting the words, simply did not grasp what they were recording. They borrowed and conflated statements from diverse sources. 2 Clement does much better.I can’t go more into this in this brief comment but I highly recommend Mircea Eliade’s The Two and the One. He elaborates at some length and detail quoting from Paul, the Gospel of Philip, 2 Clement, the Gospel According to the Egyptians, etc. From the psychological perspective Jung offers great insights into the coniuntio oppositorum. I must now grade papers and prepare a final exam. I will be leaving for England with my family soon so I may not be able to share more for a while except as I might drop into cybercafes. More likely it’ll be pubs.Adiós.
PS: Thank you Serge Cazelais for your reference on Logion 22. I’ll see if I can obtain a copy but I’ll probably have to brush up on my French.Thank you especially Dr. DeConick for providing this forum to engage in fascinating discussions.
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