Colossians and The Gospel of Thomas - a work in progress
Thank you so much, Sylvia. You are a great help.
Your eyes and mind are exactly what I was hoping for.
My delay in responding is due only to our time differences. Greetings from Melbourne in the land of Oz.
Doug Mason: "...for your corrections, advice, and criticisms."
I have no time currently, to think about such esoteric stuff. Most of my spare time goes toward posting material of interest to Asian scholarship* on a FB page, I edit
But I did consider, if I was embarking on such a project, in what unusual area could I look for something interesting about your Thomas? And out of the wilder areas of my mind comes the idea, why India, of course! Because in Indian Christian mythology, St Thomas is considered to be the founder of that church.
Most modern scholarship does not believe that Thomas did found the Indian church, though, of course, it is clear that this particular branch of Christianity is quite old and certainly connected to Syriac Christianity which can be thought of as older than any other branch. Today only a few Christian groups have survived the ravages of time to remind us that once there were more Christians in Asia than anywhere else. While it may not have suited British Christians (of the time of British rule of India) to think that Christianity reached India before it reached Britain, it can only be said that it was possible. Jewish traders were surely trading in India at the time we are thinking about, and the first Christian missionaries (outside of the few mentioned in the NT) usually seemed to travel from Jewish group to Jewish group. So someone got to India in those early formative years.
What use is all that? Only this - that it may be useful to compare the 114 'secret teachings' of Jesus listed in the Gospel of Thomas to ideas that may still be current in the Indian church. Just possibly one could find an overlooked notion that will set the mind on fire (smile) or possibly upset all those smug western Christians who ignore the fact that early Christianity is far more intellectually varied than modern (European) Christians want to admit
* yeah! I know my statement is inconsistent - clearly your topic is Asian in origin and can only be seen through an Asian scholarship lens - but the vast field of Asian studies forces a focus on one section or the other and I choose East Asian studies.
Tharisapalli Copper plate grant (9th century) - One of the reliable documentary evidences of the privileges and influence that Saint Thomas Christians enjoyed in early Malabar. The document contains signatures of the witnesses in Pahlavi, Kufic and Hebrew scripts. It is the oldest documentary evidence available to attest the presence of a Persian Christian community in South India.
And the above copper plates are one reason why few scholars place any value on the Indian Thomas stories, but it does not necessarily mean that the story is a myth.
I believe Colossians and Ephesians were written by Marcion and the 8 other epistles by Cerdo.
As for Thomas I find it insanly funny however... seriously it is a 2nd centery oral gospel like Q
In my presentation, I tried very hard to focus on the contents rather than being concerned with the discussions about whether it is a 1st century or 2nd century document. For my purposes, I simply want to show the soteriologies that have been in play over time are quite varied.
I am not passing judgment on the veracity of any form of soteriology. I simply record them. Each soteriology was genuinely held by a group of faith.
As I noted, I see many similarities in soteriology between Colossians and Thomas. I suspect that Ephesians owes much to Colossians. The sequence in the NT is determined by length, not by chronology.
Thanks for your thoughts. I have no knowledge or information about the Thomas Christians of India at the moment. I will save your post for my records.
Perhaps I could mention the the Indian Thomases when I get to my final Chapter. I will make a note to myself to follow up on it at that time.
I currently have the thought that when I do get to the final Chapter (dealing with contemporary soteriologies) that it is possible I might find some interesting ties into the modern-day Orthodox Church. I understand that its ideas on the execution (crucifixion) of Jesus are at odds with those of the Western (RC and Protestant) Church.
All of the Gospels owe their origin to oral transmission. Mark, the earliest, was written 40 years after the "Jesus-event". Jesus wrote nothing. None of his hearers wrote anything. It was an oral society.
Each Gospel is the stories by a particular community. Each Gospel often tells us much more about the community than it does about Jesus. This understanding accommodates the differences between each of the Gospels, whether canonised or not. The Gospels are neither biographical nor are they literal narratives.
Here's an interesting aspect of the gospel message based on other extra-biblical records that many scholars still want no part of. In fact, I've never seen it covered by the JWs in any of its literature...based on Acts 1:3.
I cannot hope to offer anything beneficial to your project. I just have a few personal reflections which i have had very recently.
The similarities of the Gospel of Thomas and Buddhism are striking. I can see why it was not deemed appropriate to be put in the bible canon because it was not amenable to creating a power structure which must have been desirable for the Roman Empire. If one can be the same as Jesus by searching within oneself, then there is no place for external power structures.
Also, if one considers that there were many competing versions of Christianity in the early days that were fighting for domination, a version that emphased fellowship and creating group structures would seem to have an advantage over one which focused on a more individualised salvation.
On another note, regarding what Paul may or may not have written. I have had a negative view of Paul in some respects, particularly the way he spoke of women. I have only recently started to consider that those parts of the bible where he says these things probably were not written by him. They are found in Timothy which are highly disputed and a few verses in Corinthians which I read seem to be additions made at a later time, perhaps as a result of a margin note getting accidentally copied into the text. Its been stated that he actually spoke positively about women teaching and I think that is right, and now that I reassess the verses about women not speaking as not coming from him, it builds a picture of a man who I feel less antagonistic toward.
The above links are bad. Here are some working ones.
Forty Day MinistryFebruary 12, 1964 by Hugh Nibley
Lecture given February 12, 1964.
Listen to recording:
Even though the lecture was given in 1964, the info is still relevant. Since it was given, the topic is still studiously avoided in theological circles.