Thursday, October 21, 2010

Did Thomas write a gospel?

The Gospel of Thomas is one of the Nag Hammadi (A complete version in Coptic (an Egyptian language derived from the Greek alphabet) was found at Nag Hammadi, Egypt in 1945. The complete text has been dated to about 340 AD, while some of the Greek fragments have been dated as far back as 140 AD) documents. It is not really a "Gospel" as we might expect, but, collection of random sayings attributed to Jesus. The author is unknown and since these sayings are not tied to historical events we cannot determine validity. There are also purported questions/statements from Simon Peter, Matthew, Thomas, and Mary.
Any of the discussions about this purported catalog of comments begin with disqualifiers such as:
How Many of the Sayings in the Gospel of Thomas come from Jesus? Who knows for sure?
Does the Gospel of Thomas reflect the views of Jesus? That is unclear.
Is the Gospel of Thomas Gnostic? It all depends on what you mean by Gnostic. Maybe.
When was the Gospel of Thomas written? This is a question hotly debated by scholars.
There are a couple things I would note. The Gospel of Thomas is very different in tone and structure from the four Canonical Gospels and even the NT apocrypha. It is not a narrative account of the life of Jesus; and while the text contains a possible allusion to the death of Jesus there is no mention of crucifixion, resurrection, or final judgment.
The Early Church believed it to be a false gospel. Eusebius, for example, included it among a group of books that he believed to be not only spurious, but "the fictions of heretics" that should be thrown out as absurd and impious.
The Gospel of St. Thomas is considered "Gnostic" in that it holds that salvation of the soul comes from a quasi-intuitive knowledge of the mysteries of the universe and of secret formula indicative of that knowledge.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The more you want the less you have.

It seems to me that when someone says, "More than anything in the world I would like..." they set themselves up for disappointment. Should they get that person, dream, thing, cash they will soon find it is not the panacea they at first thought.

This is not, I am sure the reader is aware, a new insight. The epiphane for me is that so many people seem to have a dream of how their lives will progress and even if most of what they dream seems to be in process they are depressed that it is not now available. They almost seem to resent the effort needed to make it thus or the time it takes for fruition.

So they wail, "I do not have my dream" when their joy could be found in, "I have and that is a joy in itself."

More is to often the salt of life when God has asked followers of Jesus to be the salt. When "more" is the salt we drink from the fountain of materials, sexual pleasure, substance intake and search for power. When followers of Jesus are the salt we drink from the water of life - and while never entirely filled - nor are we ever entirely parched.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

When did "Jew" mean "Hebrew" and more

Ok – we can all agree that Sherman is still getting used to the technology. I posted this once but did something wrong and so I am posting again. My mistake from which I learned to “post” before exiting.
Question One from last Sunday was, “When did the Hebrew people become known as the Jews?”
The Torah (Hebrew word meaning "teaching" or "instruction", or "law" also known as the Pentateuch which are the Five Books of Moses and comprise the entirety of Judaism's founding legal and ethical religious texts) does not refer to “Jews” as it is found in the post exilic period. The word Jew comes from Yehuda, the son of Yaakov who become the leader after Shimeon lost that position over the tribe of Judah.

Question Two “Was Adam a Jew?”
Adam was the first human (his name is an ancient Hebrew word for any human) which makes him the archetype (when God made human male and female Eve became the archetype female) and given the fallen nature of human – I have to believe we have no idea what Adam looked like. He and Eve were a standard to themselves.

Question Three came from a text which was truncated but here is the question I received, “The assumption that Noah had a sex act that caused the family disruption is just assumption. It could just be what it says: That…”
Very good question as we don’t really know what happened. We do know that what ever it was turned out to be bad enough to cause curses to be placed by a father on a son. Here are some of the explanations I found on Wikipedia which is quoted in several other sites with Jewish contributors.
“The Talmud deduces two possible explanations (attributed to Rab and Rabbi Samuel) for what Ham did to Noah to warrant the curse. (Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 70a.) According to Rab, Ham castrated Noah on the basis that, since Noah cursed Ham by his fourth son Canaan, Ham must have injured Noah with respect to a fourth son, by emasculating him, thus depriving Noah of the possibility of a fourth son. According to Samuel, Ham sodomized Noah, on the analogy between “and he saw” written in two places in the Bible: With regard to Ham and Noah, it says, “And Ham the father of Canaan saw the nakedness of his father (Noah)”; while in Genesis 34:2, it says, “And when Shechem the son of Hamor saw her (Dinah), he took her and lay with her and defiled her.” According to this argument, similar abuse must have happened each time that the Bible uses the same language. The Talmud concludes that, in fact, "both indignities were perpetrated."
In more recent times, some scholars have suggested that Ham may have had intercourse with his father's wife. Under this interpretation, Canaan is cursed as the "product of Ham's illicit union."
This "curse of Canaan" by Noah was likely connected to the conquest of Canaan by Israel. Both the conquest of Canaan and the curse, according to the Book of Jubilees 10:29-34, are attributed, rather, to Canaan's steadfast refusal to join his elder brothers in Ham's allotment beyond the Nile, and instead "squatting" within the inheritance of Shem, on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean, in the region later promised to Abraham.”
See you Sunday

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Why do we trust the Canon?

The Bible’s authority comes from its being the inspired witness to the revelations of God. God did not dictate the Bible but communicated His will through His prophets and apostles.
Religion is humankind’s attempt to reach God and Christianity is God’s attempt to reach humankind. Generally God reveals Himself in His creation. He gives His Special Revelation through specific revelations and disclosures. He revealed His name, His covenant, His Commandments etc. The Bible is God’s infallible special revelation and it is reliable and trustworthy in His revelation of Himself and His will.
The canon we have today comes from thousands of years of critical testing. In some cases, where the authorship is clear, as in the case of The Gospels, their inspiration is accredited due to their closeness to the source, Jesus. Other books are included in the canon because spiritual leaders who we know and trust in history proclaimed them as inspired. The external test lies in the number of copies of portions, in some cases, and, whole books in others, though separated by centuries are found to be substantively and functionally identical. With over five thousand manuscripts in hand – some dating back to 400 years before Christ – we find less that a tenth or a percent difference in the final collection.
This compares to the minuscule number of late copies of the writings of Plato, Aristotle, or Shakespeare. As archeological discoveries reveal time and again the truth of the Biblical record there is now more reason to believe God’s special revelation today than on the day of Pentecost immediately following the resurrection of Jesus in which 3000 accepted God’s promise through Jesus Christ.