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On dating the Gnostic literature after 325 CE

Discussion about the New Testament, apocrypha, gnostics, church fathers, Christian origins, historical Jesus or otherwise, etc.

Re: On dating the Gnostic literature after 325 CE

Postby Peter Kirby » Wed Mar 04, 2015 5:04 pm

Leucius Charinus wrote:do you agree that there are only twelve literary references to the existence of gnostic (more generally non canonical) texts in the "Church Fathers"? I would be happy to find more if they exist.


This all sounds like more work than I want to do right now. Good luck with your search.
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Re: On dating the Gnostic literature after 325 CE

Postby Leucius Charinus » Thu Mar 05, 2015 5:30 am

MrMacSon wrote:and a good point is noted here http://www.earlywritings.com/forum/view ... 981#p30981

Peter Kirby wrote:Apparently the Christianity Seminar, in fall 2014, takes a diametrically opposite position

    (to "automatically marginalizing their relevance", on account of their "gnosticism" and therefore "heresy or second-rate theology," and to treating "Gnosticism" as any kind of coherent group)
in calling for the abandonment of "Gnosticism" as an unhelpful and unworkable category, something suggested also by Michael Williams and Karen King.

http://www.westarinstitute.org/projects ... ng-report/


Thanks for the heads up on this development PK and Mac.

I have read this a couple of times now. There are quite a number of issues being raised here. But perhaps the greatest is that these people are using an Ante Nicene chronology which has been defined by the heresiologists. Nobody is thinking laterally and asking the obvious questions even when the Nag Hammadi Codices - the biggest single manuscript discovery in this area - are dated more than two decades after the establishment of the Christian State.

All their supposed problems would be cast into a new light if they momentarily considered the texts of the NHC and the so-called "Christian Gnostics" as Post Nicene authors who are reacting to the political nature of the Constantine Bible. There are some fascinating comments in this article ....




LC
A "cobbler of fables" [Augustine]; "Leucius is the disciple of the devil" [Decretum Gelasianum]; and his books "should be utterly swept away and burned" [Pope Leo I]; they are the "source and mother of all heresy" [Photius]
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Re: On dating the Gnostic literature after 325 CE

Postby Peter Kirby » Thu Mar 05, 2015 5:36 am

Leucius Charinus wrote:the Nag Hammadi Codices - the biggest single manuscript discovery in this area - are dated more than two decades after the establishment of the Christian State

Is that a fact? All of them? Could none of these codices be earlier "than two decades after the establishment of the Christian State"?
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Re: On dating the Gnostic literature after 325 CE

Postby Leucius Charinus » Fri Mar 06, 2015 1:12 am

Peter Kirby wrote:
Leucius Charinus wrote:the Nag Hammadi Codices - the biggest single manuscript discovery in this area - are dated more than two decades after the establishment of the Christian State

Is that a fact? All of them? Could none of these codices be earlier "than two decades after the establishment of the Christian State"?


All the physical codices were manufactured c.348 CE. The codices are Coptic translations of Greek originals. It could be reasonably postulated that the people who manufactured this cache of codices had in their possession either the original Greek texts, or copies of these. You are most likely asking what was the date of authorship of the original Greek texts. This is the $64,000 question.

MAINSTREAM HYPOTHESIS

The mainstream hypothesis is that the original Greek for most of these NHC texts was authored in earlier centuries prior to the revolutionary appearance of the Christian State. The evidence upon which this hypothesis is based are a small series of literary references in the ante Nicene "church fathers" attesting to existence of the following Greek texts:

    The Gospel of Thomas: Eusebius cites Hippolytus (155-235), Refutation of all Heresies, v. 1-6., as mentioning something similar to the received text, and cites Origen as mentioning some text of Thomas. Eusebius cites saying (No. 2 in the gThomas) as quoted by Clement of Alexandria (Miscellenies ii. 45. 5; v. 96.3), as coming from the Gospel according to the Hebrews. There is certainly some ambiguity here.

    The Gospel of Truth: some consider it to be mentioned by Irenaeus ?

    The Apocyphon of John: Mentioned by Irenaeus ?

    The Sentences of Sextus: appears to have been a Pythagorean. Some think it is quoted by Origen, Contra Celsum, viii. 30; Commentary on Matthew, xv. 3)

The mainstream theory for the production of the NHC (and indeed a wide range of other Coptic manuscripts and codices) sees them being manufactured in the cenobitic monastic system which was founded by Pachomius_the_Great in the decades which immediately followed c.325 CE.



ALTERNATIVE HYPOTHESIS

These codices were expensive to manufacture. The settlement that manufactured them was established immediately following c.325 CE, some 400 miles up the Nile from Alexandria. The Greek originals were being burnt by order of Constantine in Alexandria. Certain parties - we may view them as the resistance - decided to try and translate them to Coptic in order to preserve them for posterity.

There could be no greater political event in the history of the Christian cult than its sponsorship by Constantine. This sponsorship included a lavish and widespread publication of the NT Bible, imperial legislation that "Religious privileges are reserved for Christians", prohibition of pagan worship and temple practices, the destruction of ancient and highly revered pagan temples, example execution of chief pagan priests, the burning of so-called "anti-Christian" literature (Porphyry and Arius of Alexandria), the use of the army for support (such as search and destroy missions for "prohibited books", execution of those caught preserving these books, etc)

So were the Greek originals centuries old? Or were they less than decades old, and authored in response to these momentous political events under the rule of Constantine once he became the supreme commander of the East?

I think these are reasonable questions. But I don't see any academics asking questions like this.

What am I doing wrong?


Peter Kirby wrote:
Leucius Charinus wrote:do you agree that there are only twelve literary references to the existence of gnostic (more generally non canonical) texts in the "Church Fathers"? I would be happy to find more if they exist.


This all sounds like more work than I want to do right now. Good luck with your search.


Thanks. I appreciate that.



LC



LC
A "cobbler of fables" [Augustine]; "Leucius is the disciple of the devil" [Decretum Gelasianum]; and his books "should be utterly swept away and burned" [Pope Leo I]; they are the "source and mother of all heresy" [Photius]
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Re: On dating the Gnostic literature after 325 CE

Postby Peter Kirby » Fri Mar 06, 2015 8:27 am

Leucius Charinus wrote:
Peter Kirby wrote:
Leucius Charinus wrote:the Nag Hammadi Codices - the biggest single manuscript discovery in this area - are dated more than two decades after the establishment of the Christian State

Is that a fact? All of them? Could none of these codices be earlier "than two decades after the establishment of the Christian State"?


All the physical codices were manufactured c.348 CE. The codices are Coptic translations of Greek originals. It could be reasonably postulated that the people who manufactured this cache of codices had in their possession either the original Greek texts, or copies of these. You are most likely asking what was the date of authorship of the original Greek texts.

No, I am not asking that other question.

You have not answered the question.

Not that your answer would make any difference. The answer is a solid no, that is not a fact.

The argument uses the premise not simply that the statistical average of the probable dating of the manuscripts is "c. 348 CE" but further and to the contrary (which in no way folllows from the first fact at all, whatsoever-- it means something quite, quite different!) that the actual dating of all of the manuscripts is securely 345 or later (i.e., "more than two decades after the establishment of the Christian state").

[I say this not because of the specific language you use (which just refers to the idea of "dated," whatever that means) but because of how this functions in your argument.]

It's actually a bit ironic to see the guy who's so huge on questioning manuscript dates develop such a blind spot and become so quickly hoisted on his own petard, when it's his turn to try to make an argument... ;)
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Re: On dating the Gnostic literature after 325 CE

Postby Leucius Charinus » Sat Mar 07, 2015 2:33 pm

I don't quite understand the point you are making PK. AFAIK the dating of the NHC's is by a combination of methods which include examination of their cartonage and palaeography, and that most scholars seem happy enough to date them (terminus post quem) about the mid 4th century. This terminus post quem date is at least two decades after Nicaea.


LC
A "cobbler of fables" [Augustine]; "Leucius is the disciple of the devil" [Decretum Gelasianum]; and his books "should be utterly swept away and burned" [Pope Leo I]; they are the "source and mother of all heresy" [Photius]
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Re: On dating the Gnostic literature after 325 CE

Postby MrMacSon » Sat Mar 07, 2015 4:47 pm

In his book The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, Bart D. Ehrman tells us that, to counter second century heresies trying to separate the "physical" Jesus from the "spiritual" Christ, many passages were altered from just "Jesus" or just "Christ" to "Jesus Christ".

http://www.winternet.com/~swezeyt/bible/origins/christCult.htm
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Re: On dating the Gnostic literature after 325 CE

Postby Peter Kirby » Sat Mar 07, 2015 4:49 pm

Mr. Leucius Charinus, you owe me two scoops of ice cream and a coke.

At least one New Testament manuscript has been C-14 dated (and, yes, you get to see the calibrated date range):

http://alinsuciu.com/2014/04/06/radioca ... x-glazier/

Not that it means much of anything at all--but I'm sure you if anyone can overcome that problem! ;)

Indeed, by the very same argument you've used above, re: NHL, I believe we can confidently date Acts ca. 420-500 CE on this evidence! Hurrah!
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Re: On dating the Gnostic literature after 325 CE

Postby Peter Kirby » Sun Mar 08, 2015 12:58 am

Leucius Charinus wrote:I don't quite understand the point you are making PK. AFAIK the dating of the NHC's is by a combination of methods which include examination of their cartonage and palaeography, and that most scholars seem happy enough to date them (terminus post quem) about the mid 4th century. This terminus post quem date is at least two decades after Nicaea.


That is correct, for Codex VII. Not necessarily all the codices.

The other codices may have an earlier terminus post quem, since they wouldn't have any cartonnage to date.

But you've discarded paleography, generally speaking, have you not?

Relevant to this:

viewtopic.php?f=3&t=1393

Apparently, and based on your wording, as of the post I'm quoting, you are aware of the absence of any C-14 dating of the Nag Hammadi codices... right? Maybe you should update your website.
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Re: On dating the Gnostic literature after 325 CE

Postby Leucius Charinus » Sun Mar 08, 2015 5:35 am

Peter Kirby wrote:Mr. Leucius Charinus, you owe me two scoops of ice cream and a coke.


Should you ever visit Australia (the conversion rates are well in your favour atm) know that's a done deal.

At least one New Testament manuscript has been C-14 dated (and, yes, you get to see the calibrated date range):

http://alinsuciu.com/2014/04/06/radioca ... x-glazier/



COOL.


    On the 19th of May 1994, the report for the piece of leather was returned from Dr. Georges Bonani with the following report:
    from Lab. No. ETH-12270, a sample of leather produced
    the AMS 14C Age [y BP] of 1’565 ± 45
    with the results of δ13C[o/oo] of – 23.6 ± 1.1
    with the calibrated Age [BC/AD] of AD 420-598


The radiocarbon age (if I have added the numbers correctly) is 385 CE +/- 45 years or between 340-430 CE.



Not that it means much of anything at all--but I'm sure you if anyone can overcome that problem! ;)




I don't quite know how to read the ;) smiley at the end.


But it demonstrates IMO that C14 results have a penultimate symmetric age distribution whereas the final results have a asymmetric calibrated distribution.

It may follow therefore that we do not have the calibrated C14 results for the Gospel of Judas and that National Geographic has for some reasons as yet unknown bull-rushed the C14 "Age" result. Time will tell. The final report by UA would be cool.

But in the meantime I will try and run the age result above through the oxcal software to see if I can duplicate the given calibrated result above.

Thanks again for finding this C14 reference.


Indeed, by the very same argument you've used above, re: NHL, I believe we can confidently date Acts ca. 420-500 CE on this evidence! Hurrah!


Touche! But there is further evidence such as Codex_Sinaiticus#Date_of_the_codex - often dated between 325 and 360 CE. So I couldn't.

In the case of the gnostic literature we do not have the luxury of further evidence as substantial as that for the canonical books.

The canonical books were preserved in well appointed scriptoria of the Emperor or Pope.

The non canonical books were largely buried in the earth.

Two antithetical trajectories.




LC
A "cobbler of fables" [Augustine]; "Leucius is the disciple of the devil" [Decretum Gelasianum]; and his books "should be utterly swept away and burned" [Pope Leo I]; they are the "source and mother of all heresy" [Photius]
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