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Ivan Miroshnikov on the Gospel of Thomas, Part II
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More discussion of the Gospel of Thomas, exploring the Middle-Platonist common notions to be found in the text.
Topics discussed include:
- A Middle-Platonistic origin for the conception, in the Gospel of Thomas, of the kosmos as a corpse,
- The curious notion of the divine reality lying hidden within the kosmic reality, found in several important sayings of the G. of T.,
- The possibility that saying 77, with its altered vocabulary in the Coptic version, shows signs of Manichæan redaction, à la the suggestion of Pettipiece 2012 (see below),
- Some reflections on the ‘twin’ theme in the Gospel of Thomas,
- The notions of unification and ‘being masterless’ in the G. of T.,
- Our evidence for the relationship between the Gospel of Thomas and proto-Orthodox Christian thinkers including Clement and Origen of Alexandria, likely readers of the Gospel of Thomas, and Didymus the Blind, who definitely quotes a saying from the G. of T., as well as two other groups – Manichæans and the mysterious Naasenes – who certainly valued the Gospel, but whom nobody would consider remotely ‘proto-Orthodox’,
- The curious concept of ‘standing’ as a marker of spiritual perfection in the Gospel, along with the notion of some special kind of spiritual ‘movement’, and likely Middle-Platonist sources for these concepts,
- And the image of the eikōn in the Gospel, with many Platonist exemplars of the dual use which the term seems to have in saying 83 of the Gospel of Thomas.
Ivan Miroshnikov is Pro futura scientia Fellow at the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study and Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Egyptological Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences. A coptologue, student of early Christianities, and man of parts. His book The Gospel of Thomas and Plato: A Study of the Impact of Platonism on the ‘Fifth Gospel’ is well worth a read, and is available free in digital form through open-access.
Works Cited in this Episode:
- Alcinoüs’ Handbook of Platonism 10.4: see Alcinous: The Handbook of Platonism. Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1993. Translated with an introduction by John Dillon for a handy English version.
- Aristotle Protrepticus: fr. 60 Rose = fr. 10b Ross = frs. B 106– 107 Düring.
- Clement of Alexandria on φῶς ἑστός: Strom. 220.127.116.11; cf. e.g. 18.104.22.168.
- Numenius fr. 15 Des Places.
- Plato: body as prison: Phædo 64a–70b; body as tomb (this is a pun on the similarity of the words sōma and sēma, body and tomb, in Greek): Crat. 400c; cf. Phædr. 250c.
- Plutarch on the Spartans: Apoph. lac. 210e.
- Stobæus 2.7.4a.
- Hugo Lundhaug and Lance Jenott. The Monastic Origins of the Nag Hammadi Codices. Number 97 in Studien und Texte zu Antike und Christentum. Mohn Siebeck, Tübingen, 2015.
- Timothy Pettipiece. Toward a Manichæan Reading of the Nag Hammadi Codices. Journal of the Canadian Society for Coptic Studies, 3-4:43–54, 2012.
- Philip H. Sellew. Jesus and the Voice from Beyond the Grave: Gospel of Thomas 42 in the Context of Funerary Epigraphy. In Jón Ma Ásgeirsson, April D. DeConick, and Risto Uro., editors, Thomasine Traditions in Antiquity: The Social and Cultural World of the Gospel of Thomas, volume 59 of Nag Hammadi and Manichaean Studies, pages 39–73. Brill, Leiden, 2006.
March 5, 2022
Thanks for a fascinating double episode! I just thought I would add that at 32.50, during the course of describing Didymus the Blind and his metaphor of ‘consumption and education’, Dr. Miroshnikov mentions that Didymus references “a saying about a lion and a human” which is “found in the Gospel of Thomas and nowhere else”. This must be ‘logion’ #7:
“Blessed is the lion
whom the man shall eat
and the lion becomes man;
but foul is the man
whom the lion shall eat
and the lion becomes man.”‘
– and this cryptic saying is the subject of a very interesting study (in fact, it was his doctoral thesis) ‘The Lion Becomes Man: The Gnostic Leontomorphic Creator God and the Platonic Tradition,’ by Howard M. Jackson (SBL Dissertation Series, 81, 1985).
March 5, 2022
Corrigendum: the last line (translation by Jackson) should read:
‘and the lion *shall become* man.’
April 26, 2022