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What Is Gnosticism?

I have been talking about how I came to learn about the Gnostic Gospel of Judas, the most significant Christian document discovered in modern times (since the 1940s).  Now I want to explain what the Gospel is.  I have just called it a “Gnostic” Gospel, and so to begin I need to say something about what Christian Gnosticism was.  It is a fascinating topic, but widely misunderstood.

The reading-public-at-large was *somewhat* introduced to it in the 1950s with the publication of the Gospel of Thomas (which scholars today are reluctant to label “Gnostic,” as it turns out); but it became much more widely known in the 1970s when Elaine Pagels published her blockbuster, The Gnostic Gospels.  She too has changed her views on lots of things (including the Gospel of Thomas), but her book is still a terrific read.  I assign it to my undergrads.

I talk about Gnosticism in a number of my books.  The following is some of the basic information from my textbook on the New Testament.  In the next post I’ll get a bit more into the weeds to talk about the major views of a dominant form of Gnosticism, the one that the Gospel of Judas is related to and derives from.

Gnosticism: Problems of Definitions, Sources, and Dating

Over the past fifty years scholars have engaged in heated debates over how to define Gnosticism. These debates are intimately related to the problems that we have with the ancient sources that describe Gnostics or were written by Gnostics. Until about a hundred years ago, our only sources for understanding Gnosticism were the writings of its most vocal opponents, the proto-orthodox church fathers of the second, third, and fourth centuries. In our discussion of the Johannine epistles, we have already seen some of the problems with reconstructing a group’s beliefs and activities on the basis of an attack by its enemies. With regard to Gnosticism the problems are even more severe. Proto-orthodox church fathers such as Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and Tertullian saw Gnosticism as a major threat to the success and unity of Christianity and pulled out all the stops in their assaults on it. Many of their charges—for example, their claim that certain groups of Gnostics engaged in wild sexual orgies and bizarre nocturnal rituals that involved eating babies—must be scrutinized with care.

One of the most significant archaeological discoveries of the twentieth century provided us with an entirely new source of information about Gnostics, a source not produced by its opponents but by Gnostic Christians themselves. In 1945, just over a year before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, some Egyptian peasants stumbled upon a jar containing thirteen ancient books. These books contained some fifty-two literary works, most of them previously unknown. When they finally made their way through antiquities dealers into the hands of competent scholars, it became clear what they were. These peasants had accidentally unearthed a collection of ancient Gnostic texts written in Coptic, an ancient Egyptian language.

The books themselves were manufactured in …

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Sethian Gnostics and the Gospel of Judas
How I First Learned About the Gospel of Judas Iscariot

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Comments

  1. Avatar
    doug  August 2, 2020

    “The anti-Gnostic church fathers maintained that Gnosticism was a Christian heresy invented by evil persons”. Was this a common view of early Christian writers – If you disagree with my Christian beliefs, you are evil ?

  2. Avatar
    Maracus  August 2, 2020

    Dr. Ehrman, on an unrelated note (sorry not to adress the subject of the post), I have been looking into the debate surrounding the beloved disciple. The most persuasive argument yet for me is the idea that Lazarus seems to be this disciple in the eyes of the author(s) of the gospel of John. This at least can be derived from the text itself, as opposed to the idea of John as the BD, which seems to start with tradition and then makes its way into the text in rather violent and artificial ways.
    Assuming that one calls Lazarus the beloved disciple (possibly you disagree with that), doesn’t that reframe the notion of authorship of the gospel? After all, 21:24 suggests that, although the final redaction of the gospel falls into the hands of third parties, the tradition behind it goes back to Lazarus. I wouldn’t say this makes the gospel automatically pseudoepigraphy as opposed to an anonymous work, but it does seem to suggest the idea of a pseudoepigraphic tradition surrounding the main source of information (according to the authors).

    • Bart
      Bart  August 3, 2020

      Yes, some have thought that, and I see the logic of it. But John 12:10 appears to suggest that the Jewish authorities executed Lazarus. It gets translated in various ways, but the Greek appears to say “So the Chief Priests held a council so they could put Lazarus to death.” Apart from that the BD appears to be a member of the twelve (he’s at the last supper with the other disciples, sitting right next to Jesus in 13:23; and is said to be one of “the” disciples (21:1, 20); and there aren’t any traditions that make Lazarus one of the twelve. When he first get introduced in 11:1, it’s pretty clear he’s not one of those going around with Jesus and the other disciples.

  3. Avatar
    tcasto  August 2, 2020

    It struck me that your recent post (Protogospel of James) re the baby Jesus had a heavy flavor of Gnostism. A newborn walking around and performing miracles doesn’t strike me as “fully human”.

    • Bart
      Bart  August 3, 2020

      No he doesn’t! But there were lots of non-Gnostic groups that also thoguht Jesus was so divine he wasn’t really human.

  4. NulliusInVerba
    NulliusInVerba  August 2, 2020

    Essential. Thank you.

  5. Avatar
    emperorofguam  August 2, 2020

    Thank you Dr. Ehrman for another interesting post!

    I am always thankful to you when you invite your readers to not take your word on a topic, but to look for themselves and make an informed decision. For a layperson not familiar with languages other than English, and like most who are fluent in English, not particularly good at it, is there a point where we must listen to scholarly debate and choose which side to accept based upon another’s research and argumentation? I’ve listened to several of your debates with theists who, using the same source material, have radically different opinions about what conclusions we could and should draw. In the end, are we left with the option to either go further down the proverbial rabbit hole and continue to expand our capabilities until we can digest the original source material for ourselves, or make a choice based upon another’s interpretations?

    • Bart
      Bart  August 3, 2020

      We’re all in the same boat. Outside of my own field of expertise, I have the same problem! All you can do is read a various “authorities” who are accepted as “authorities” by the major scholars in a field, and make a decision. When I want to know about cosmology (the Big Bang!), biology (evolution!), or … well, anytyhing else, that’s all I can do. I don’t think a fundamentalist Christian who believes the Bible is inerrant is as useful to me when it comes to determining how old the earth is or whether there was a world-wide flood as those who are reputable scientists with advanced expertise in, say, cosmology and geology, especially when all of them are in agreement.

  6. Avatar
    AstaKask  August 2, 2020

    Did the gnostics call themselves “gnostics”?

  7. Avatar
    Eskil  August 2, 2020

    Is there a special reason why you don’t mention the earlier Gnostic manusicipts, Askew, Bruce and Berlin Codexes?

    • Bart
      Bart  August 3, 2020

      Just tryin’ to make things simple here. The most amazing thing about those codexes in relation to scholarship is that even though they were produced by Gnostics embracing Gnostic views, scholars ignored them when trying to explain Gnosticism, since the views they embraced were different from what the orthodox church father said *about* Gnosticism!! So the enemies’ reports were more reliable than what the Gnostics said about themselves, when talking among themselves. Ai yai yai. It wasn’t until Nag Hammadi thaat scholars realized that didn’t make any sense and was just a pro-orthodox bias.

  8. Avatar
    JeffreyFavot  August 2, 2020

    Bart,
    In 1 Samuel, the ark gets taken for 7 months by the Philistines. They experience terrible things due to it. They ask the diviners for advice. They tell them to send the ark back with an offering. They mention to not harden their hearts like the Egyptians and Pharaoh. How do you think the Philistines learned about what took place in Egypt? How would that story make its way to Philistine territory?

    • Bart
      Bart  August 3, 2020

      I think it’s unlikely, but I suppose if you want to affirm they did hear, you would say they learned it from merchants who had been there.

  9. Sherwinnipeger
    Sherwinnipeger  August 2, 2020

    This is a test comment, because a couple of my comments aren’t getting posted since I opted to pick “send notification when new comment or answer to question” below. So maybe that’s what’s causing it or I might be typing something silly or offensive, for which I doubt.

    Dr. Ehrman

    I came across a youtube video of Bishop Spong saying that he suspects Judas Iscariot is not a person of history but a composite figure. Please comment

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=UdDUkkX6PNA

    I hope I got that link right. You may not have time to watch the video it’s more than an hour long. But I thought to still put the link here in case you’d like to check 🙂

    Thank you

    • Bart
      Bart  August 3, 2020

      Sorry your comments are showing up. I believe I’m posting everything I get. The only exceptions is if they are wildly irrelevant to anything on the blog or snarky or offensive, and I doubt if yours fall into that camp!

      Yes, that theory has been around for a long time, and Bishop Spong is simply reiterating it. I’ve considered it seriously, but I don’t think it can be right. If you look up Judas Iscariot by doing a word search on the blog, you’ll find a post (maybe more) why I explain why I think he had to be a historical figure.

  10. Avatar
    Syahreza Ali  August 3, 2020

    Mr ehrman is it true most of bible artifact end up in trash can or garbage ? Because our prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said if you didn’t use a quran because you have mistake or you make mistake scribe in it you should burn it not just keep it or thrown it or buried it because it’s might end up in trash heap in the future when people found it , that’s why many quran artifact found in a good place

    • Bart
      Bart  August 3, 2020

      Yes, I don’t know of Christian scribes burning their Bibles.

  11. kt@rg.no
    kt@rg.no  August 3, 2020

    Interesting!

    I’m sure there are ideas from, Hellenistic-Platon / Neoplatonism (i.e soul descend and ascend, upper / lower world ) and Aristotle – i.e. 4 elements, in addition to possible ancient Babylonian, Egyptian and definitely about Judaism, as to finally refined this ideology.

    I find this early christian cosmology interesting, in the middle of its colorful imaginary, an ideology where the soul originates from God, and descends through “phases” / consciousnesses, to matter and return back to unity with God. And, in my mind, at least, there are a lot of similarities with the Judaistic esoteric thoughts that some claim was the basis of the Hebrew Bible.

    An intriguing thought for me is if there were some ideologic relationship to the Johannine community / Gospel of John, in relation to the divinity of Christ, the use of “I am” sayings. Some even claim the Odes of Solomon which has at least some Gnostic related views (perhaps also Essene thoughts), which (perhaps) can be dated back to when the Gospel of John was written and even influenced the Revelation (which I suspect uses symbology of the soul ascend, not (only)refering to the Roman empire) and the Gospel of John.

    Do you think there are gnostic influences in the Johannine “community” and in the authorship of the Gospel/Revelation ?

    • Bart
      Bart  August 3, 2020

      None in Revelation. With the Gospel of John the influence went the other way: the views found in John were amenable to Gnostics (who came along only later.

      • kt@rg.no
        kt@rg.no  August 21, 2020

        One link to parallels in the Revelation:

        https://theaeoneye.com/2015/05/04/gnostic-exegesis-in-revelations-12/

        ,,,a link which deals with a whole lot of possible similarities, primarely in the ch.12 in the Revelation and a few others. And this article just deal with some of the possible paralells I have in mind.

        John D. Turner, Cotner Professor of Religious Studies and Charles J. Mach University Professor of Classics and History Classics & Religious Studies at the University of Nebraska (translators of the Nag Hammadi library) also point to the idea that Gnosticism had a pre-christian origin, particular the Barbeloites in the Gnostics Sethian branch.

        It is so difficult for me not to see that the Revelation is about the story of the ascending soul, not too different from what the Gnostics intended to tell (both descending and ascending of the soul) in the in the Gnostic scriptures. The symbolic paralels of different symbols which seems to be in their texts, weigh in on my conviction that the purpose of the Revelation might have been to tell the same type of story as the Gnostic did, with similar and sometime same very strange and colorful images and symbols.

  12. Avatar
    GeoffClifton  August 3, 2020

    Very interesting post. I first ‘discovered’ Gnosticism when reading books like Holy Blood, Holy Grail and the Templar Revelation back in the 80s and 90s. Those books mainly considered the Cathars (medieval gnostics) who were effectively wiped out during the Albigensian crusade, which goes to show how much gnosticism really upset the regular Church, even into more recent times.

  13. Avatar
    moose  August 3, 2020

    mr. Ehrman.
    I know that you have a deep understanding of the Book of Job, and I therefore want to point out something that can give a (gnostic) understanding of the baptism of Jesus under John the Baptist.
    God shows himself to Job in a whirlwind and asks, “Where was you when I created the world?” Implied: I was there long before you was created!
    What is then interesting is that God points out, for Job, a “being” which in the Hebrew text is called Behemoth. This name of the “being” is omitted in the Greek Septuagint, where the “being” is almost portrayed as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!»
    It may seem that a theological connection is made here between Isaiah 53 and the Book of Job 40ff. The connection will be clarified in my next post.

    • Avatar
      moose  August 3, 2020

      I know that this is a very creative reading of the text, but is not theological creativity precisely something we read page after page in Christian texts?

      Job 40:15 But now look at the wild beasts with thee(…)19 This is the chief of the creation of the Lord; made to be played with by his angels(…) 24 [Yet one] shall take him in his sight; [one] shall catch [him] with a cord, and pierce his nose(…) 29 And wilt thou play with him as with a bird? or bind him as a sparrow(…) 30 And do the nations feed upon him?(…) 32 But thou shalt lay thy hand upon him.
      Job 41:1 Hast thou not seen him? and hast thou not wondered at the things said [of him]? 2 Dost thou not fear because preparation has been made by me?(…) 23 he regards the sea as a pot of ointment, 24 and the lowest part of the deep as a captive.

    • Avatar
      moose  August 4, 2020

      Mark 1:4 «And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins». As Job did for his four friends (possibly except for Elihu).
      But Job and his friends still had something to learn, and that doctrine was symbolized by a dove.
      Matt 10:16 «Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves».

      According to the biblical story, a dove was released by Noah after the flood in order to find land; it came back carrying a freshly plucked olive leaf, a sign of life after the Flood and of God’s bringing Noah, his family and the animals to land. Rabbinic literature interpreted the olive leaf as “the dove’s preference for bitter food in God’s service, rather than sweet food in the service of men.

      The dove was a picture of what Job had to learn from his sufferings.

    • Avatar
      moose  August 4, 2020

      The Talmud (Bava Batra 74b) understands the Behemoth to be a creature unknown to man today, but one which will play a role in the Messianic Era. Classic works also refer to this beast as the “wild ox” (“shor ha’bar”).
      In this regard, the Behemoth relates closely to the Leviathan. That too is a fearsome beast – a water creature too huge and powerful for man to control, and which too will be served to the righteous at the Messianic feast.
      The Midrash likewise talks of a colossal battle between the Behemoth and Leviathan at the End of Days, in which they will kill each other in preparation for the final feast (Vayikra Rabbah 13).
      Some explain that the flesh of these animals represents the spiritual food the righteous will consume at the End of Days, and which will nourish their bodies to live eternally with their souls.

    • Avatar
      moose  August 5, 2020

      There Were Two Embassies to John the Baptist;
      The first embassie were Eliphaz, Baldad and Sophar(the priest and Temple assistants). The second Elihu(the Pharisees)

      The first Embassie:

      John 1:19 «the Jewish leaders sent priests and Temple assistants from Jerusalem to ask John, “Who are you?”»

      Job 2:11-12 «Now Eliphaz, Baldad, Sophar: and they came to him(…) 12 And when they saw him from a distance they did not know him».

      The second Embassie:

      John 1:24-25 «Then the Pharisees who had been sent 25 asked him, “If you aren’t the Messiah or Elijah or the Prophet, what right do you have to baptize?”

      Job 35:1-2 «And Elius resumed and said, 2 What is this that thou thinkest to be according to right? who art thou that thou hast said, I am righteous before the Lord?»

  14. Avatar
    brenmcg  August 3, 2020

    Do you think gnostics used that word to describe themselves and it always meant secret knowledge for the initiated?

  15. Avatar
    fishician  August 3, 2020

    In general, do you think the proto-orthodox thinkers in the early church took the stories in their Scriptures literally, like today’s fundamentalists, or did they sometimes or often interpret them as allegories and symbolic tales? I think of the Epistle of Barnabas, which took the Law of Moses as highly symbolic, not literal. Do you think the desire to develop one “true” Christianity forced the proto-orthodox into a narrow interpretation of the Scriptures, rather than allowing more free thought?

    • Bart
      Bart  August 4, 2020

      My sense is that most took the stories literally; I would say Barnabas took the *laws* figuratively, but he still thought Moses really smashed the ten commandments.

  16. Avatar
    John Enderby Jr  August 3, 2020

    Hi Bart, I have a question as it might relate to “Gnosticism”.

    What is the etymology of “bridegroom” and why did the authors of the Bible mention the bridegroom and what has caused its modern day mysticism?

    For example, Matthew 9:15 “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.” and also in Isaiah 62:5 “For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your sons marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.”

    • Bart
      Bart  August 4, 2020

      I guess the etymology is simply that this is the husband (groom) of the bride. At a wedding everyone is happy about the new husband and he tends to be very happy to. At the wedding feast everyone eats and drinks and has a good time. Christ is the “bridegroom” who is married to the church “the bride.” While he was in the world, everyone wsa to be happy, and go into mourning only when he went away.

  17. TimOBrien
    TimOBrien  August 3, 2020

    Most of what I see on Christian Gnostics seems to focus on their creation mythology and/or rituals. Notwithstanding any disagreement they had on those details, isn’t the far more crucial issue the difference between the gnostic and orthodox conceptions of salvation?

    The Rich Young Ruler asked the $64,000 question: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

    It seems to me that the gnostic answer underlies and justifies all that Jesus taught throughout his ministry; whereas the orthodox answer renders it all academic. If salvation comes from merely accepting Jesus as the substitute-sacrifice to appease the wrath of Yahweh for Adam’s disobedience, thereby reconciling all mankind, why all the preachy talk about loving and forgiving, the primacy of substance over form, eschewing worldly entanglements, etc.? What’s the point?

    BTW your textbook on the New Testament sounds like it is a bit more in-depth than your popular works. If it’s for your Intro course, I assume it’s not so advanced that an interested amateur would become “It’s all Greek to me” lost in the details (the way some books on Copenhagen vs. Many Worlds have left me.) What is the title and is it available for purchase at Amazon, etc.?

    • Bart
      Bart  August 4, 2020

      I think descriptions focus on the creation myths since most of the texts that explain the various kind of gnostics tend to be about or based on the myths (cosmologies; theogonies), rather than on understandings of salvation.

      • TimOBrien
        TimOBrien  August 6, 2020

        A logical corollary. But salvation — and how to attain it — is ALWAYS the overarching issue. Paul’s substitute-sacrifice theology is the camel in the room here — the big, hairy beast the orthodox church has always been “on a mission from God” to thread through a needle.

        Yesterday’s WSJ reviewed a book whose author attributes the growing secularization of 21st-century America to a contemporary wont to “prioritize intuitional spirituality over institutional religion.” That cleverly expressed assessment just as succinctly characterizes 2nd and 3rd century gnostics.

        If salvation comes from having particular knowledge, whether it is passwords to circumvent archons or prioritizing devotion to God and love of neighbor, is academic. When individual, personal insight and the behavior it inspires as the narrow path to heaven are jettisoned, the baby goes out with the bathwater.

        The orthodox decree that the torture and death of Jesus had finally sated Yahweh’s thirst for revenge and cleared the way to heaven for all of Adam’s progeny established an ill-defined path to salvation — an amorphous standard of belief that only a pope can clearly see. One that reserves to the church the authority to declare what splinters impair the vision of everyone else.

  18. Telling
    Telling  August 3, 2020

    The AMORC Rosicrucian Digest published my article on the Gospel of Thomas in 2011. In the article I mention that Marvin Meyer, a professor of religion and leading expert of Gnosticism suggests that the Thomas gospel (quoting from my article) “may be one of the oldest recorded gospels of Jesus”.

    Based on evidence from earlier-found page fragments of the Thomas Gospel, this gospel may be from a very early date. Meyer cites the work of leading papyrologist Soren Giversen. Meyer concluding it may rival “that of any of the New Testament gospels,” in regard to how soon the gospel was recorded in writing after the ministry of Jesus was done. And “in literary genre and content” the gospel is consistent with some earliest known texts.

    He mentions that Thomas parables of Jesus appear simply as stories, yet New Testament gospels often have “allegorical interpretations” appended to them that appear to reflect “new situations” experienced by Jesus followers, that is, narratives useful to later authors tend to be added to the base phrases as time passes.

    He concludes that the early written Thomas Gospel may be more reliably closer to what Jesus thought.

    Link:
    http://arthurtelling.com/Articles/04_telling_112311%5B1%5D.pdf

    • Bart
      Bart  August 4, 2020

      Marvin Meyer was a superb scholar and an even more superb human being. On this point I disagree with him; the view had more popularity at one time, but almost no one holds it today to my knowledge.

      • Telling
        Telling  August 4, 2020

        I do realize that’s the view today, but he did have leading experts on three distinct elements. Your view as I understand from reading your books is you get around this problem on the idea that some of the phrases appear to be very early but there were “Gnostic” phrases added later. And I think as I understand (please correct me if I’m wrong) is you reject the Gnostic phrases as being first century on the idea that there is no evidence of such “Gnostic” mindset during the first century.

        I have to wonder though, might historians be attributing to the first century the ideas found in the canonical gospels because the canonical texts ARE the surviving preserved ideas? How do we know there were no Gnostic ideas in the first century that the Pauline church rejected and thus destroyed or failed to transcribe?

        • Bart
          Bart  August 5, 2020

          No, I don’t think Gnostic phrases were add to the text later. But yes, one way to know if ideas make sense at one time or another is to see if there are other texts at the time express them. For example, you wouldn’t expect to find discussions about Black Lives Matter (using that phrase) in, say, the 1950s.

          • Telling
            Telling  August 6, 2020

            It was a Great Courses Video, probably “Lost Christianities” with a 2002 copyright date on the DVD.

            I recall well, although it was nearly a decade ago when I watched it. In this video you said (as I recollect) there was good reason to believe it was an early gospel, mentioning same Meyer’s points, but you thought it a later gospel due to Gnostic content, reconciling these differences on the Gnostic phrases having maybe been added later. But it’s a moot point. My interest is your evidence-based opinion today.

            Favoring an early date (per Meyer):
            1. Page fragments earlier found are of very early dating per leading papyrologist Soren Giversen.
            2. “in literary genre and content” the gospel is consistent with some earliest known texts.
            3. Thomas parables of Jesus appear as simple stories, yet New Testament gospels often have “allegorical interpretations” appended to them that appear to reflect “new situations” experienced by Jesus followers.

            I personally don’t see any “Gnostic” influence that wouldn’t be around in 1st century. Mysticism has been around forever.

            So I have trouble buying the Gnostic content idea. Interested in your thoughts and opinions as always.

          • Bart
            Bart  August 7, 2020

            1. The fragments are from the early cneturies, yes, but they are not earlier than fragments of the other Gospels.
            2. No, not true. We don’t have any surviving Gospels filled only with sayings befoer Thomas.
            3. Yes indeed, that is true. That shows that the traditions behind some of Thomas’s sayings may predate the forms of the sayings as found in the NT Gospels (as many scholars have said). But it doesn’t mean that hte *Gospel* itself is earlier than the other Gospels.

          • Telling
            Telling  August 7, 2020

            I appreciate your time, Bart.

            I remain confused as to why you believe the Gospel of Thomas is second century.

            Your answer to #1 is neutral regarding Thomas and the other gospels.

            I’m not sure what you mean by your #2 answer. My understanding is Meyer was saying the style and structure is consistent with some earliest known texts.

            And #3, you agree (it seems) that Thomas sayings are often simpler than same sayings in other gospels. Scholars, as I understand, believe the simpler version is likely to be the original one, not having “allegorical interpretations” appended to them that appear to reflect “new situations” experienced by Jesus followers.

            I don’t see anywhere in these three points suggesting the Thomas Gospel is second century. It appears evidence points the other way. Can you clarify?

          • Bart
            Bart  August 9, 2020

            The reason for thinking it is second century is because some of the verses attest views that otherwise are found nowhere in any surviving Christian writing until the second century; other verses are like what you can find in first century sources. Everything in the Gospels of the NT makes perfect sense in the first century. Not many of the sayings of Thomas. So many of the sayings *are* from the first century; but the Gospel as a whole does not appear to be that early, since it contains later materials.

          • Telling
            Telling  August 9, 2020

            You said: “Everything in the Gospels of the NT makes perfect sense in the first century, not many of the sayings of Thomas.”

            I believe historians have created a cyclic redundancy: Everything in the NT is first century because it is a first century book, and we know it is a first century book because everything in it is first century.

            Thomas contains phrases that are not first century because they are not in the “first century” NT, thus Thomas is not first century.

            Seems a classic case of the victors writing the history.

            Otherwise, what “first century” ideas exist outside of the NT and the resulting “orthodox” Church fathers?

          • Bart
            Bart  August 10, 2020

            We have about thirty or forty Christian writings (depending on how you count) from about 120 CE or before, and none of them has these views in them.

    • TimOBrien
      TimOBrien  August 8, 2020

      I have been fascinated by the more mystical Gospel of Thomas since first hearing of its (re)discovery and reading the lost teachings of Jesus it contains. This assumes, of course, that these sayings are authentic. But the fact that at least half of them are independently attested — in whole or in part — in the canonical gospels IMHO provides a good deal of validation for the rest.

      I was especially intrigued by the “Parable of the Broken Jar.” This pericope, that is, unfortunately, preserved nowhere else, seems to me to have a clear ring of authenticity. It makes one wonder about the erstwhile existence of other teachings that were declared heretical and then lost — probably forever.

      Perhaps we can prevail on Prof. Ehrman to comment on this unique parable and/or start a thread on the topic. I have my own assessment of its meaning and import. However, I would very much like to see analyses by scholars who are better equipped than I am for the task. I have never come across any — undoubtedly because only a heretic would attempt to interpret a heretical teaching.

      In any case thanks for sharing this excellent article.

  19. Sherwinnipeger
    Sherwinnipeger  August 3, 2020

    That works. I guess when I picked the “send email notification…” under the add comment button creates a glitch on my end here. Maybe I will just write the title of the post I commented on so I can keep track as I go jump from a random topics to another.

    Anyways, I will check Judas Iscariot post that you suggested. Thank you Dr. Ehrman 🙂

  20. Avatar
    Eskil  August 3, 2020

    Do you consider The Odes of Solomon belonging into Gnostic or maybe into Johannine tradition?

    • Bart
      Bart  August 4, 2020

      They are related to both but there is not necesssarily any literary dependence either way.

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