Comments: Texts

Well, I find your insight into the esoteric Plato useful. It's based on about as much evidence as the Gnostic Jesus, too! Those hegemonic and doctrinaire classicists, gotta watch 'em.

Posted by Michael Tinkler at December 2, 2003 10:14 AM

Interesting thoughts! I dig yer blog-- I'll add it to my 'roll (as soon as I remember the stinkin' password).

Found you through Camassia-- just an fyi, in case you're interested, I've been/will be blogging on a verse of the Gospel of Thomas every day (or so). I'm currently up to 27-- drop by and take a look!

Posted by J. Puma at December 2, 2003 03:53 PM

I don't really know that Jesus sounds that much like a Jewish prophet, even in the canonical gospels. The prophets were pretty extreme characters, who served as mouthpieces for a very different concept of God than Jesus preached. Jesus sounds (in the gospels) more like a rabbi than like a prophet most of the time.
In any event, by the time of Jesus' ministry, Judaism had been fairly heavily influenced by Greek philosophy and/or mystery religions. This explains, in part, why the New Testament's loving God the Father is so very different in character from the Yahweh of the Old Testament.

Posted by Rob at December 2, 2003 04:20 PM

Thanks, all, for the comments. I'm sure that the good professor's comments are offered in the spirit of a good Medievalist. whose skepticism comes in part from the farsightedness he achieves by standing on his Classical brethern's shoulders...

Mr. Puma -- I'll add a link to you as well, and thanks.

As for Jesus's character, perhaps Rabbi is more accurate, although the money changers in the temple story always seems more like something a Prophet would do. A Rabbi might discourage it, but a Prophet would go in and kick their asses.

Posted by Bill at December 3, 2003 01:06 AM

The money changers...h-m-m. Okay, so Jesus was an *activist* Rabbi. Actually though, when Muslims say that Jesus was *only* a prophet, Christians tend to take offense. To Christians, Jesus was he concerning the coming of whom the prophets were sent to prophesy--John the Baptist, most notably in the Gospels.
Despite the money changers, I would still maintain that the teachings of Jesus are more like those of a Rabbi than like the ravings of an Old Testament prophet. Sorry for nit-picking, I loved your post.

Posted by Rob at December 3, 2003 04:48 AM

Historically speaking, I was always led to believe that the term "rabbi" wasn't used during Jesus's Era in the sense that it is now-- had different connotations when the temple/Jerusalem still existed.

In his book "Jesus the Magician," Morton Smith argues pretty convincingly that Jesus fit the bill of the "wndering magician/healer" type that was incredibly common in the Roman Empire. He also has an entire appendix devoted to comparing Jesus w/OT prophets to conclude that they're nothing alike.

Though I disagree with some of his conclusions, it's an excellent book-- highly recommended!

Posted by J. Puma at December 3, 2003 12:34 PM

J. Puma:
You are correct that the meaning of the term "Rabbi" as used in Jesus' time differs from how it is used now, but there were Rabbis before, during, and after Jesus, some of whose teachings were of a similar kind. My point was that we don't find Jesus serving as a conduit for the voice of Yahweh, cursing apostates with plagues and boils, or threatening to bring down the wrath of foreign potentates on anybody that doesn't listen to what he has to say, etc. I don't consider Jesus to have been a prophet, at least not in the tradition of Hebrew prophets that came before him. He was a teacher, a healer, perhaps a magician (I liked Smith's book, too), but not a prophet.

Posted by Rob at December 3, 2003 12:49 PM

Just another though, in reference to the dustflap of Meyer's translation that you quote: seems to me that since the Nag Hammadi texts were discovered so recently, the study of Gnosticism has been relegated to a few ivy league scholars who have "cornered the market," as it were. Meyer is one of them, Pagels is another, Morton Smith also comes to mind. The end result has been a sentimentalization of Gnosticism that completely ignores the diversity of material.

There were indeed Greco-Roman influences in Jesus's teachings; he lived in the Greco-Roman Era. Also, it's worth keeping in mind that Plato was the de facto final word in philosophy-- Jewish Platonists abounded (vide Philo). However, Meyer & Friends (and their publishers) are often guilty of painting the "Gnostics" with a broad brush indeed, and I've come to the conclusion that one can usually fairly safely ignore about 75% of anything written on Gnosticism by this cabal (and their publishers) in favor of reliance on the primary sources.

Just my two cents . . . .

Posted by J. Puma at December 3, 2003 12:56 PM