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  #24  
Old September 21, 2003, 11:45 PM
Chris H.
 
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Default Response to the "Heathen Gnostic"

Michael,

It seems that we're branching out quite a bit from just the "canonicity" of the Gospel of Thomas. This is getting quite interesting. Let's proceed, shall we?

> I also find it interesting about the claim
> Thomas' work borrowed from other works which
> did end up being compiled into the Bible.

> WHO is to say that those other works did not
> borrow from Thomas?

Just to state for the record, when we talk of certain manuscripts being "authoritative", this is in regards to the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth, both in the events of His life/death/resurrection and what he (and later His apostles) actually taught.

As you stated in your response to Phil, the dating of a manuscript can indeed have strong bearing on its authoritativeness. In this particular case, where two manuscripts have some material in common, the one dated earlier could very well be the "original". Or, there may have been one or more other source(s) (written or oral) that the other two got the material from.

As it is, the canonical Gospels are conservatively dated from AD 65-100, which is at least a preliminary indication that they could be more authoritative than the Gnostic texts. While the manuscripts of both "camps" include doctrines/traditions that were around earlier, it is my understanding that the historical evidence points to that seen in the canonical Gospels appearing decades earlier than Gnostic teachings.

In addition, the canonical Gospels are both historically reliable and simply much closer to the authority of Jesus himself. Even world-class (and non-Christian) historians like Michael Grant and A.N. Sherwin-White agree that, when judged according to standards of ancient historiography in terms of date & reliability on issues that can be compared to other known data, the canonical Gospels measure well and ought to be accepted as good sources for historical information about Jesus.

N.T. critical scholar A.M. Hunter pointed out several reasons why the Gospels are trustworthy sources, which may be summarized as follows:

1) The earliest Christians were meticulous in preserving the tradition of Jesus' words and life.
2) The Gospel writers were close to the eyewitnesses and pursued the facts about Jesus.
3) There are indications that these authors were honest reporters.
4) The overall composite of Jesus as presented in the four Gospels is essentially the same.

Of course, there are other considerations for determining authoritativeness, but I'll stop there.

> The four Gospels in the "New"
> Testament are inconsistent too. They can't
> even tell the same story in the same way.
> And the differences are staggering.

>

> For example. Pick the story of the scene at
> the Cave, or the Nativity, or whatever. Then
> read all four versions of that same story
> one after the other. You will see the
> differences.

First, this is a different kind of inconsistency. My statement was mostly in regards to ideas & doctrines within gnostic teaching that are/were incompatible with that of orthodox Christianity. (Recognizing, of course, that there are/were various forms & brands of gnosticism.) The "inconsistencies" you refer to here are largely related to details in a narrative.

Second, I don't think a reasonable person would find it odd that 3 or 4 different people telling the same story (especially several years after the fact) would remember or choose to include a few different details. (If you talked to 4 witnesses of a car accident or a wedding, for example, would you expect to get 4 exact same accounts?) If you want to pick a specific example, I'll take a shot at explaining it.

> And does the Gnostics teaching things that
> are inconsistent with the Church's stance
> mean they are wrong? Not necessarily.

> Of course the Chuch would condemn the text.
> They have a vested interest in doing so.
> Because it undermines their power and
> authority. They would condemn anything that
> tried to teach you that "God is
> within." (There would be no need for
> them.)

Ignoring the cynical tone for the moment, I believe I've already touched on the illogic of such a thing. The bottom line is you can't be a true Christian and a true Gnostic at the same time.

> And fancy saying physical circumcision is
> wrong. Man oh man. The Jews can't have that.
> They tell everyone that that is their proven
> sign of being the "chosen"
> people." What heresy to have one of
> their own condemn such an act.

I have to admit I'm a bit confused here as to the connection. Was there a Gnostic teaching against physical circumcision? I do know that this was a big issue in the very early Christian church, when the Jewish Christians (specifically from the church in Jerusalem, who continued to adhere to Jewish orthodoxy) began to demand that Gentile converts be circumcised and follow the Law of Moses. As recounted in Acts 15, they called a Council at Jerusalem and, after much discussion, decided that the only things important enough for the Gentile Christians to do was abstain from food sacrificed to idols, blood, meat from strangled animals, and sexual immorality.

> Let me add.... according to the opinions of
> those who have a vested interest in
> condemning the Work.

> I actually find it funny that the Church
> does this a lot - passes off THEIR texts as
> true history and calls ancient real
> documents fantasy when they disagree with
> the church stance.

Care to give any examples?

OK, that's enough for now. To be continued...
 


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