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Thanks, Dave, I enjoyed the review.

Any suggestions on books that give overviews on currently fashionable academic views on the New Testament and early church?

"It appears that gnostic Christians weren't heretics until aggessive orthodox leaders of the third and fourth century made them so."

Depends on how you define your terms. Some of the heaviest of heavy gnostic beliefs -- especially the idea that Jesus came in opposition to the evil YHWH of the Old Testament -- are certainly at odds with the Christianity taught by the canonical writers.

Christian, I've read Crossan's books on the early Church, but he's at the far end of the academic spectrum relative to LDS thinking. I have (and would recommend) Raymond Brown's excellent introduction to the New Testament, which covers each book in considerable depth and detail. It also gives plenty of background material. Brown was a well-regarded Catholic scholar, but the book is not written from a sectarian perspective.

Nathan, the problem with the term "gnostic" (from gnosis, knowledge) is that orthodox writers use it to disparage anyone they disagree with, equating gnosis with "false knowledge." So disparate movements and writings get lumped under the gnostic label. Ignoring labels, it would appear the Gospel of Thomas (viewed as a historical document) is as legitimate or reliable as the canonical gospels.

the problem with the term "gnostic" (from gnosis, knowledge) is that orthodox writers use it to disparage anyone they disagree with

Kind of like intellectual?

The battle between the postulated Johnnines and the Thomists is in a way parallel to certain events in church history between 1894 and 1930. Those who claim second annointings gave them the right to be a light to themselves versus the brethren who claimed that this wasn't the case. It was a big battle over apostasy which brought most of the apostate sects that still are around Utah.

As with LDS history, the "secret teachings" both groups claimed were largely accurate. The problem was more a theological matter and a matter of questions of authority. I wonder if something similar went on in the early Palestine church.

Really interesting, review.

"Where John depicts Jesus as the light of the world to whom each must look for salvation, Thomas has Jesus teaching that each person is a light unto themselves and must tap that inner light in order to achieve what we would now term spiritual growth."

I'm not sure the dichotomy is that strong. The Quakers (and some anabaptists) have long pointed to sections of John's gospel to affirm the light of God in each person. So, there's certainly a close connection between the two ideas.

I also don't buy the doubting Thomas idea. Actually, I think we only read it in that way 'cos we know the term. Seems to me that John doesn't make any kind of judgement on Thomas - whose always seemed quite sensible to me!

"It appears that gnostic Christians weren't heretics until aggessive orthodox leaders of the third and fourth century made them so."

So true. Some of my friends who live as part of a Celtic community use the phrase "the heretical imperative." The idea is that until we've recognised that we are heretics we are in no position to dialogue.

Nathan,
The works of Bart Ehrman are also a good place to go to understand current approaches to the New Testament and Early Christianity.

The Gospel of Thomas is the center of an entire movement in scholarship which attempts to reduce the historical Jesus using Thomas as the touchstone for what is historical and what is not. Reading it is always important to understanding those who act as if the Christ were really just a zen scholar wandering about.

Perhaps that's true, Stephen, but that's not the fault of Thomas. The roots of the "historical Jesus" scholarship goes back well into the 19th century, whereas the full text of Thomas dates only from the mid-20th century.

The question, I think, is why those scholars who argue for an "orthodox Jesus" are so resistant to using historical documents like Thomas, whereas scholars arguing for an "unorthodox Jesus" or a "historical Jesus" are so much more open to non-canonical texts. That's interesting in the LDS context because Mormons put forward texts (BoM, PoGP) that likewise fall outside the orthodox canon.

Clark, I've noticed you bring up this part of Church history a few times now, and I'm getting more and more hot to learn more. What are some good sources?

(Dave, thanks for the tip on Raymond Brown, looks like just the thing I was asking about.)

Christian, Clark may have a specific reference on the second anointing dispute (Bergera, maybe), but the classic treatment of that period of LDS history is Thomas Alexander's Mormonism in Transition. You might check your local public library--mine has a copy of it.

I'm not saying that the Shepherd of Hermes, the Pearl, the Gospel of Thomas, etc. are not valuable, it is just interesting how one part of one movement has laid hold so strongly on Thomas.

Yes, it's a strange replay of history. Scholars view the texts as being championed by various early Christian communities. Thomas is popular in our day because it has again become a text supported by a community of sorts.

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