Author Topic: Thomas in 2 Clement  (Read 175 times)

Offline The Theosist

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Thomas in 2 Clement
« on: September 09, 2020, 06:23:50 PM »
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2Clem 12:2
For the Lord Himself, being asked by a certain person when his
kingdom would come, said, When the two shall be one, and the
outside as the inside, and the male with the female, neither male
or female.

2Clem 12:3
Now the two are one, when we speak truth among ourselves, and
in two bodies there shall be one soul without dissimulation.

2Clem 12:4
And by the outside as the inside He meaneth this: by the inside he
meaneth the soul and by the outside the body. Therefore in like
manner as thy body appeareth, so also let thy soul be manifest by
its good works.

2Clem 12:5
And by the male with the female, neither male nor female, he
meaneth this; that a brother seeing a sister should have no thought
of her as a female, and that a sister seeing a brother should not
have any thought of him as a male.

2Clem 12:6
These things if ye do, saith He, the kingdom of my father shall come.

This purported saying of Jesus occurs in just one other ancient text, namely the Gospel of Thomas. So, either the author was reading Thomas or both are drawing upon sources of common origin. He regards it as genuine. And why wouldn't he? He even gives a rather mundane and unimpeachably orthodox exegesis of it. Much of the content of Thomas is shared with the Synoptics, and I really can't see much reason for rejecting the rest as spurious other than having a preconceived picture of "the historical Jesus" of scholars or a  religious prejudice against the text because it may have been dismissed by some Fathers as canonical and is usually labelled "gnostic", though I don't rightly understand why. The Christian apologetics I've looked at appear to boil down to "This saying is babbly nonsense because I can't understand it, therefore the whole thing is fake and diabolical", while my subjective impression from the very start, once I'd rid myself of preconceptions, has been that this sounds like Jesus to me.
 

Offline Daniel

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Re: Thomas in 2 Clement
« Reply #1 on: September 09, 2020, 07:38:48 PM »
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« Last Edit: September 09, 2020, 09:57:47 PM by Daniel »
 

Offline Vetus Ordo

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Re: Thomas in 2 Clement
« Reply #2 on: September 09, 2020, 09:15:49 PM »
...while my subjective impression from the very start, once I'd rid myself of preconceptions, has been that this sounds like Jesus to me.

The Jesus in the text can sound like Jesus and yet not actually be Jesus.

The historicity (apostolic authority), antiquity, catholicity and orthodoxy of the evangelical reports were criteria that came into play when trying to ascertain their authenticity. Ultimately, the canonical status of any text is a decision left to the competence of the Church.
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Offline aquinas138

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Re: Thomas in 2 Clement
« Reply #3 on: September 09, 2020, 09:21:56 PM »
We read Thomas when I studied Coptic in grad school. There are some sayings that seem a bit "gnostic," which is a really nebulous term that, to me, usually just means "sounds weird,"  and there are some analogues of canonical sayings with curious inversions of the canonical ones, but on the whole, Thomas did not seem nearly as crazy as the Manichaean psalms we studied. Most references to Thomas in the patristic age are probably by people who know it by name and a received impression of it, not that they have necessarily read it. Since it lacks any narrative structure and is just a list of sayings (and assuming the essential orthodoxy of its content), it's not hard to see why it may have "lost out" to the canonical gospels.
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Offline The Theosist

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Re: Thomas in 2 Clement
« Reply #4 on: September 10, 2020, 04:43:30 AM »
...while my subjective impression from the very start, once I'd rid myself of preconceptions, has been that this sounds like Jesus to me.

The Jesus in the text can sound like Jesus and yet not actually be Jesus.

I would never have known.

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The historicity (apostolic authority)

Conflating historicity with "apostolic authority" is specious, especially when the identification of authorship, even where it is internally purported, is as impossibly murky as it is. Thomas claims apostolic authorship, and 2 Clement at least attests to one of its unique sayings, and why an impartial analysis should favour the claim of a Father over these is anyone's guess. The entire exercise of accepting, say, a Mark or a John and dismissing Thomas is tendentious and built upon logical inconsistency and special pleading in order to arrive at a desired conclusion. The more I look at the apologetic counter-arguments, the more that becomes clear to me.

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, antiquity,

Scholarship has assigned to Thomas an antiquity in a similar range to that of the canonical gospels.

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catholicity

Yes, if one purposefully narrows down the selection of representatives of "the true church" enough one can arrive at or dismiss "catholicity" for any text. And the criteria for that? Apostolicity and orthodoxy. It's a circular mess.

Quote
and orthodoxy
of the evangelical reports were criteria that came into play when trying to ascertain their authenticity.

The "orthodoxy" of a text is a terrible argument for authenticity without the presupposition that "orthodoxy" is correct, and it's even worse when that "orthodoxy" is itself constructed out of a particular choice of texts deemed to be authentic (or apostolic, catholic, etc.), for then it's just a self-affirming exercise in question begging.

Quote
Ultimately, the canonical status of any text is a decision left to the competence of the Church.

Obviously, if you're a Roman Catholic or place similar faith in councils that decided this to do a better job than we can with our access to texts, manuscripts, comparative data and techniques of analysing them.
 

Offline The Theosist

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Re: Thomas in 2 Clement
« Reply #5 on: September 10, 2020, 04:55:05 AM »
We read Thomas when I studied Coptic in grad school. There are some sayings that seem a bit "gnostic," which is a really nebulous term that, to me, usually just means "sounds weird,"  and there are some analogues of canonical sayings with curious inversions of the canonical ones, but on the whole, Thomas did not seem nearly as crazy as the Manichaean psalms we studied. Most references to Thomas in the patristic age are probably by people who know it by name and a received impression of it, not that they have necessarily read it. Since it lacks any narrative structure and is just a list of sayings (and assuming the essential orthodoxy of its content), it's not hard to see why it may have "lost out" to the canonical gospels.

Apropos which it's interesting how Cyril speaking in the 4th century insisted it was a product of the Manichaeans, which is completely false, or how 3rd century "Hippolytus" grossly misquotes Thomas 4, meaning he or a later "editor" was dishonestly representing it, either because he didn't have the text or was lying. To me this is just indicative of the problem, namely, how wrong and careless the Fathers could be in their historical musings. I'm afraid we do have a better understanding of the origin of these texts than any Father writing centuries after the fact.
 

Offline Daniel

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Re: Thomas in 2 Clement
« Reply #6 on: September 10, 2020, 08:30:37 AM »
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catholicity

Yes, if one purposefully narrows down the selection of representatives of "the true church" enough one can arrive at or dismiss "catholicity" for any text. And the criteria for that? Apostolicity and orthodoxy. It's a circular mess.

Doesn't "catholicity" refer to how widespread the text was? Texts that were used by the universal Church are "catholic"; texts that were localized to just one region are not. The attestation in 2 Clement shows only that St. Clement was familiar with the text. This does not necessarily indicate that the text was used universally, throughout the Church.

Quote
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and orthodoxy
of the evangelical reports were criteria that came into play when trying to ascertain their authenticity.

The "orthodoxy" of a text is a terrible argument for authenticity without the presupposition that "orthodoxy" is correct, and it's even worse when that "orthodoxy" is itself constructed out of a particular choice of texts deemed to be authentic (or apostolic, catholic, etc.), for then it's just a self-affirming exercise in question begging.

You're overlooking the fact that the Christians of the day would have been able to recognize whether or not the book's contents were consistent with the stuff that St. Thomas actually preached. If it was consistent, they'd have reason to believe that St. Thomas wrote it. If it wasn't consistent, they'd have reason to reject the book as a forgery. That's where orthodoxy comes from. It's not an arbitrary or artificial label; the only teachings that can be called "orthodox" are those teachings which are consistent with what the apostles taught. The apostles were all in agreement with one another, so there's no picking and choosing what's "orthodox".


The fact that the gospel of Thomas never caught on would seem to indicate that it wasn't actually written by St. Thomas; or, at the very least, it would indicate that the early Church did not believe it to have been written by St. Thomas.

Now, if you're trying to argue that it did catch on but was later suppressed, all I can say is no. Despite what certain atheistic, agnostic, gnostic, or otherwise anti-Catholic scholars may posit, there was no conspiracy. Nothing was suppressed by Constantine or by anyone else; the Church today believes and teaches the same stuff that it has believed and taught since the very beginning. And nothing has ever been removed from the Catholic canon.

If you acknowledge that the book did not catch on initially, and was never a canonical book, but you are merely trying to argue that it's nevertheless authentic, then I suppose maybe that's possible. But it doesn't seem too important to me. It's not as if important truths of the faith were ever lost, or that the gospel of Thomas can possibly shed any more light on the faith than can the canonical texts. The fact that God allowed it to fall into obscurity proves that its contents are not necessary for salvation, regardless of whether or not it was actually written by St. Thomas. (Comparably, literally all of the apostles' oral preaching has been lost to time, yet no part of the deposit of faith was ever lost. Everything that we need to know has been preserved in the sacred scripture and in the sacred oral tradition.)


Apropos which it's interesting how Cyril speaking in the 4th century insisted it was a product of the Manichaeans, which is completely false,

Does he ever quote from the text? Maybe he was referring to a different "gospel of Thomas"? I wouldn't be suprised if there were multiple fake gospels attributed to St. Thomas. And maybe one of them (now lost) was the product of the Manichaeans.

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or how 3rd century "Hippolytus" grossly misquotes Thomas 4, meaning he or a later "editor" was dishonestly representing it, either because he didn't have the text or was lying. To me this is just indicative of the problem, namely, how wrong and careless the Fathers could be in their historical musings.

What passage in Hippolytus are you referring to? Maybe he was quoting from a corrupt manuscript or something. Or maybe he was quoting it from memory (and/or paraphrasing it). There are all sorts of possible reasons why the text might not match. If it's not a fair representation then that's unfortunate, but it doesn't mean that Hippolytus was dishonest or even careless. Or it could just be that he was going for breadth rather than depth, and was focusing more on the gist rather than on accuracy of every little detail.
« Last Edit: September 10, 2020, 08:50:39 AM by Daniel »
 
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Offline The Theosist

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Re: Thomas in 2 Clement
« Reply #7 on: September 10, 2020, 11:08:54 AM »
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catholicity

Yes, if one purposefully narrows down the selection of representatives of "the true church" enough one can arrive at or dismiss "catholicity" for any text. And the criteria for that? Apostolicity and orthodoxy. It's a circular mess.

Doesn't "catholicity" refer to how widespread the text was? Texts that were used by the universal Church are "catholic"; texts that were localized to just one region are not. The attestation in 2 Clement shows only that St. Clement was familiar with the text. This does not necessarily indicate that the text was used universally, throughout the Church.

To clarify, 2 Clement is not generally regarded to have been written by Clement, and the text makes no such claim. If 2 Clement were in fact the work of a purported Pope, that would be a very big deal for Roman Catholic theology.


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and orthodoxy
of the evangelical reports were criteria that came into play when trying to ascertain their authenticity.

The "orthodoxy" of a text is a terrible argument for authenticity without the presupposition that "orthodoxy" is correct, and it's even worse when that "orthodoxy" is itself constructed out of a particular choice of texts deemed to be authentic (or apostolic, catholic, etc.), for then it's just a self-affirming exercise in question begging.

You're overlooking the fact that the Christians of the day would have been able to recognize whether or not the book's contents were consistent with the stuff that St. Thomas actually preached. If it was consistent, they'd have reason to believe that St. Thomas wrote it. If it wasn't consistent, they'd have reason to reject the book as a forgery. That's where orthodoxy comes from. It's not an arbitrary or artificial label; the only teachings that can be called "orthodox" are those teachings which are consistent with what the apostles taught. The apostles were all in agreement with one another, so there's no picking and choosing what's "orthodox".

Yes, but we're not talking about people who knew Thomas or lived around the time of his apostolate.

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The fact that the gospel of Thomas never caught on would seem to indicate that it wasn't actually written by St. Thomas; or, at the very least, it would indicate that the early Church did not believe it to have been written by St. Thomas.

A reason it wouldn't have reached the same popularity and status as the other gospels in Christian communities anyway is that the latter are narrative accounts of the life of Jesus and had, maybe even grew out of, a liturgical use. A list of difficult sayings appeals to a different kind of person, say a mystic, and serves a different function than these or letters of instruction. Regardless, an unorthodox text wouldn't have caught on in what would call itself the orthodox group by definition.

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Now, if you're trying to argue that it did catch on but was later suppressed, all I can say is no. Despite what certain atheistic, agnostic, gnostic, or otherwise anti-Catholic scholars may posit, there was no conspiracy. Nothing was suppressed by Constantine or by anyone else;

That's obviously not true. I'm not arguing that it "caught on" only to be suppressed but that a specific version of things, popularised in the 4th century, became the established Christianity backed by Roman political power. The heterodox were snuffed out and their texts were destroyed. This is no controversial statement.

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the Church today believes and teaches the same stuff that it has believed and taught since the very beginning. And nothing has ever been removed from the Catholic canon.

This is, as always, identifying the 4th century group with "the Church" and projecting it back onto the formative period of Christianity where the data that would concern differences between this "Catholic" group and others is sparse and ambiguous. Maybe it's an article of faith, but I don't think one can honestly claim to derive this through historiography, though it might be one consistent explanation of the data.

The only solution to me, and the only one that matters, is partially present in Calvin's notion of sola scriptura: the text, to the Christian enthused with the Holy Spirit, must speak for itself. Either one encounters Jesus Christ and his truth in it, and it serves the practical function of deepening gnosis and theosis, or it does not. If it does, it shows its authenticity, and if it does not it is worthless to me anyway.

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If you acknowledge that the book did not catch on initially, and was never a canonical book, but you are merely trying to argue that it's nevertheless authentic, then I suppose maybe that's possible. But it doesn't seem too important to me. It's not as if important truths of the faith were ever lost, or that the gospel of Thomas can possibly shed any more light on the faith than can the canonical texts. The fact that God allowed it to fall into obscurity proves that its contents are not necessary for salvation, regardless of whether or not it was actually written by St. Thomas. (Comparably, literally all of the apostles' oral preaching has been lost to time, yet no part of the deposit of faith was ever lost. Everything that we need to know has been preserved in the sacred scripture and in the sacred oral tradition.)

Something like that, yes.

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Apropos which it's interesting how Cyril speaking in the 4th century insisted it was a product of the Manichaeans, which is completely false,

Does he ever quote from the text? Maybe he was referring to a different "gospel of Thomas"? I wouldn't be suprised if there were multiple fake gospels attributed to St. Thomas. And maybe one of them (now lost) was the product of the Manichaeans.

It's possible, but the Syrian Manichaeans used the peculiar title Dydimus Judas Thomas for the Apostle, which the gospel also does, and it would seem they did use the text. It's too much of a coincidence for me to warrant positing another gospel "according to Thomas" used by the Manichaeans.

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or how 3rd century "Hippolytus" grossly misquotes Thomas 4, meaning he or a later "editor" was dishonestly representing it, either because he didn't have the text or was lying. To me this is just indicative of the problem, namely, how wrong and careless the Fathers could be in their historical musings.

What passage in Hippolytus are you referring to? Maybe he was quoting from a corrupt manuscript or something. Or maybe he was quoting it from memory (and/or paraphrasing it). There are all sorts of possible reasons why the text might not match. If it's not a fair representation then that's unfortunate, but it doesn't mean that Hippolytus was dishonest or even careless. Or it could just be that he was going for breadth rather than depth, and was focusing more on the gist rather than on accuracy of every little detail.
[/quote]

This is also a possibility, if he had a "corrupt" manuscript. However, the difference is considerable. He quotes, "The one who seeks me will find me in children of seven years and older, for there, hidden in the fourteenth aeon, I am revealed", rather than, "Jesus said, 'the man old in days will not hesitate to ask a small child seven days old about the place of life, and he will live. For many who are first will become last, and they will become one and the same'". This is very different, but close enough that, given the attribution to a "Gospel according to Thomas", they can reasonably be connected. I'm inclined to believe whoever wrote this didn't have the text.

« Last Edit: September 10, 2020, 11:14:40 AM by The Theosist »