The Hypergnostic / Hyperorthodox
When Gnosticism, a controversial
belief system within the 2nd
century Christian community was
heretical many of the writings branded as Gnostic were tarnished,
dismissed, and some
even destroyed by the dominant “orthodox”
example of a favourite early text that had to be
protected was “The Gospel of Thomas."
examples even include some of Paul’s
of these texts have much to contribute. Guilt by
association to the Gnostics, or the later debates may not be useful.
read the Gospel of Thomas or to “read Paul either way
as hypergnostic or hyperorthodox – is to read unhistorically,
interpret the apostle’s theology in terms of categories
formulated in second
century debate.” …
of what has been described as “gnostic terminology”
the Pauline letters may be explained more plausibly instead as Pauline
in the Gnostic writings.…
takes account of the total evidence may learn from
the debate to approach Pauline exegesis with renewed openness to the
(The Gnostic Paul, Page 164, by Elaine Pagels)
Regarding “The Gospel of Thomas”, Barnstone and Meyer point out that although it had “a considerable influence on the development of religions including gnostic religions” it is not “unequivocally gnostic”, but rather "proclaims a mystical wisdom and knowledge." (The Gnostic Bible, Barnstone and Meyer, Page 115)
other words, some of the early writings have been misunderstood
because we have imposed our own historical understanding, the winnings
interpretation onto the author’s words. Rather than
approaching the text with subsequent
historical debates in mind, and the labels they imposed, we do better to let the authors
speak themselves. Rather
than approaching the text with preconceived ideas about who won
debates about the text, it may be useful to hear both sides, and then
the debate and back to the author.
For those with a willingness to seek, they may even find The Gospel of Thomas
to be a good read.
The Gnostic Paul
Gnostic Exegesis of Pauline Letters
Books by Elaine Pagels
"Gospel of Thomas" Audiobook
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