Friday, July 18, 2008

Apocryphote of the Day: 7-18-08

"Do not think partially, Rheginos, nor live in conformity with this flesh for the sake of unanimity. But flee from the divisions and fetters, and already you have the resurrection. For if we who are going to die, know that we will die - even if we spend many years in this life, we are brought to this - why not consider yourself as risen and (already) brought to this?"

Treatise on the Resurrection 49.9-25 (second century Valentinian text)

Commentary: I moved the second sentence into first person ("we") instead of third person ("he") to have a gender inclusive reading. Here is a group of Christians who thought that in Christ they had already obtained the resurrection. Does their discussion seems to imply a more general Christian resurrection expectation at personal death (not just eschatological, on the last day)? I wonder.

11 comments:

JMS Providence said...

The Resurrection "now" without Christ's continuous word(s) had to be postponed (otherwise, how does one truly resurrect - i.e. to perfect oneself, Phil 3, Mt 5:49), though indeed (as this treaty states) they were resurrected (i.e. to the NT time period from the OT time period), yet Paul, (I think) realized the absolute need for Christ - particularly the Physically (and Spiritually) Living Christ (who was then, obviously, physically, dead, and only resurrected in spirit, being seen ONLY by those who believed in him), thus, perhaps a ruse, nevertheless, Paul kicks the expectation of The Resurrection forward to the 2nd Coming.

Bob MacDonald said...

How then shall we flee? The apostle tells us - if you by the Spirit do put to death the deeds of the flesh, then you will live - for the Spirit gives life to our mortal bodies not just in some predetermined and hoped for future, but in this present life. So the instruction to flee is repeated since there is such a startling truth revealed by the humility of the Spirit that our previous ideas of holiness or completeness are shaken to their foundations and shown to have had no reality apart from our own imagination - which compared to fullness is indeed a chasing of the wind.

Geoff Hudson said...

The earliest Christians/ prophets/Essenes believed that their souls/spirits were immortal. They came out of the 'air' to be united with their bodies, and when they were set free from the bonds of the flesh they rejoiced and mounted upwards (War 2.8.11). Of course the Flavian editor of Josephus's writings just had to confuse matters with Greek ideas and language, as though the 'Essene' thinking was derived and relatively new. Their true long-held Jewish beliefs were that spirits were created by God, were sown into bodies animating them (1 Cor.15), and left the bodies at death to either rise to glory (or go to a "dark and tempestuous den, full of never ceasing punishments" - in the words of Josephus's Flavian editor). (War 2.8.11). By contrast, the priestly view was that spirits lingered in the earth for judgement to determine which way they went. This developed into the so-called Sadducees not believing in the resurrection. Resurrection of the body just has to be a post war or post prophetic idea among Jews and Christians alike.

Jim Deardorff said...

Being from Valentinus, where he mentions "this life", that last sentence implies the assumption that we will all undergo future lives (reincarnation). Then resurrection could be thought of as the same as our present lives, if Jesus was resurrected (rose from the tomb) in a physical form in the flesh, as emphasized by Ignatius, and even needed to eat. So, while we are in this life, why not consider ourselves while in the flesh as being resurrected right here and now, as Jesus seemed to be even after he had arisen?

If we ourselves were to think of it in this way, we would then need to start examining all the Jesus-along-the-Silk-Road evidence and Jesus-in-India evidence!

Geoff Hudson said...

The language of Romans 8:19-20 gives the editor's game away. It more or less shows that the original belief of the earliest 'Christians' was indeed like that of the 'Essenes' in the writings attributed to Josephus. I suggest that the original text was about the spirit of an individual, not about "the creation". Given this, the original would have been:

8.19.The SPIRIT waits in eager expectation for God to be revealed.

8.2O.For the SPIRIT was subjected to BONDAGE, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it,

8.21.that the SPIRIT will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the GLORY of God.

Geoff Hudson said...

And I can't reisist a snigger when I think about James Davila's caution of the perils of parallels.

April DeConick said...

We don't have to turn to the east for reincarnation theories. They were part and parcel of Platonic thought and highly influenced the early Christians. Most Gnostic Christians believed in reincarnation. See for instance this opinion expressed in the Apocryphon of John and in what we know about Basilides. I think Valentinus probably had some reincarnation concept too.

The Platonic idea was that the soul which remained corrupted, at death was weighted down by its sins and attachments and so was reembodied. It could not break free and fly up to the GOOD ONE. The Christian Gnostics assumed this and attempted to bring this together with Jewish-Christian theories about resurrection.

José Solano said...

“Behold, now is the accepted time; behold now is the day of salvation.” (2 Cor. 6.2)

The Epistle to Rheginos is fairly orthodox Christianity. Revealed eschatology has a biblical foundation because through the Resurrection of Jesus death has been conquered and freedom through faith in Christ means we are rescued from death’s power and ushered into Christ’s eternal Kingdom right now. As it is said: “Death is swallowed up in victory” (Paul) and “whoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die (John).”

Bultmann understood that orthodox Christianity had certain affinities with Gnosticism in placing the eschatological event in the present. It appears to me that the teacher of Rheginos is saying essentially the same thing that we earlier read in Makarios. As faithful Christians we in a sense have already been spiritually “resurrected” but we nevertheless await The End in which the dead in Christ will be reconstituted spiritually and physically with an incorruptible and integrated body and soul. Therefore, recognizing this truth and walking in the certainty of your faith, “why not consider yourself as risen and (already) brought to this?”

“We have received salvation from end to end. Let us think in this way! Let us comprehend in this way!”

Watchman said...

This is a good discussion, particularly well timed with the controversy stirred up by the Ethan Bronner article in the July 6, 2008 Sunday NY Times about the stone tablet and the three days leitmotif mentioned in it. The text Dr. DeConick cites from the Treatise on the Resurrection does indeed reinforce the notion that individual resurrection is spiritual, rising from spiritual death to spiritual life, not physical. Such a notion can easily be reconciled with the teachings from the Apostle Paul. Christ presents a model or pattern to emulate in the resurrection, dying to rise up to new life. The three days leitmotif corresponds to the anthropology presented in 1 Thessalonians 5:23 of "spirit and soul and body" in which each person can rise from the materialistic condition of "body" (dying to the old way of being, symbolized by the crucifixion) through the "wandering in the wilderness" phase of soul to the spiritual state of perfection, freed from materialistic limitations. None of this requires an explanation related to reincarnation, which merely obfuscates the discussion.

Watchman said...

This is a good discussion, particularly well timed with the controversy stirred up by the Ethan Bronner article in the July 6, 2008 Sunday NY Times about the stone tablet and the three days leitmotif mentioned in it. The text Dr. DeConick cites from the Treatise on the Resurrection does indeed reinforce the notion that individual resurrection is spiritual, rising from spiritual death to spiritual life, not physical. Such a notion can easily be reconciled with the teachings from the Apostle Paul. Christ presents a model or pattern to emulate in the resurrection, dying to rise up to new life. The three days leitmotif corresponds to the anthropology presented in 1 Thessalonians 5:23 of "spirit and soul and body" in which each person can rise from the materialistic condition of "body" (dying to the old way of being, symbolized by the crucifixion) through the "wandering in the wilderness" phase of soul to the spiritual state of perfection, freed from materialistic limitations. None of this requires an explanation related to reincarnation, which merely obfuscates the discussion.

Watchman said...

This is a good discussion, particularly well timed with the controversy stirred up by the Ethan Bronner article in the July 6, 2008 Sunday NY Times about the stone tablet and the three days leitmotif mentioned in it. The text Dr. DeConick cites from the Treatise on the Resurrection does indeed reinforce the notion that individual resurrection is spiritual, rising from spiritual death to spiritual life, not physical. Such a notion can easily be reconciled with the teachings from the Apostle Paul. Christ presents a model or pattern to emulate in the resurrection, dying to rise up to new life. The three days leitmotif corresponds to the anthropology presented in 1 Thessalonians 5:23 of "spirit and soul and body" in which each person can rise from the materialistic condition of "body" (dying to the old way of being, symbolized by the crucifixion) through the "wandering in the wilderness" phase of soul to the spiritual state of perfection, freed from materialistic limitations. None of this requires an explanation related to reincarnation, which merely obfuscates the discussion.