Though Rice may have been taken over by the excitement of Willy Week and Beer-Bike, the academic community was focused on another big event on campus last week. The Codex Judas Congress, which was put together by Religious Studies Professor April DeConick, took place Mar. 13-16 in Farnsworth Pavilion, and various buildings across campus.MORE HERE...
Thirty scholars from around the world came to discuss the recently rediscovered Tchacos Codex, a fourth century collection of Gnostic documents from the Judeo-Christian tradition. In addition to the scholars invited to participate, there were also five papers presented by graduate students, including religious studies graduate students Chad Day, Franklin Trammel and Claire Villarrael. Other graduate students attended as auditors, as did several members of the Houston community.
DeConick said she was pleased with the attendance. The 45 seats set up in Farnsworth for the congress were filled to capacity on Thursday. Likewise, the two evening lectures given to the general public nearly filled McMurtry Hall. DeConick said she estimates the event drew about 200 attendees each night.
The Tchacos Codex, particularly the Gospel of Judas it contains, is very important in the scholarly community at the moment. These texts reveal the self-perception of a "heretical" religious community that had previously been known only through the condemnation of early church fathers like Irenaeus.
One of the few unanimous conclusions of the congress was that the Gospel of Judas condemned the church fathers.
"This text is a polemical text of the mainstream or apostolic church, especially in terms of its sacraments," DeConick said.
Monday, March 31, 2008
A Valentinian Exposition 22.20-36
Comment: Another passage to consider in our discussion of modalism and trinitarianism. How might we describe the Valentinian position in relation to other second century attempts to frame the trinitarian problem?
First trinitarianism did not exist at the time that modalism was popular and condemned - late second and early third centuries. Trinitarianism is a doctrine that was developed by the two Gregories and Basil in the fourth century.
With that in mind, modalism was the belief that the doctrine "God is One" must be preserved at all costs. So the modalists taught that God is one persona and three activities. He is GOD acting out in history as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There is no difference in GOD, only that HE has different names or modes. The problem that Tertullian had with their being no individuation of any kind is that this means that the Father suffered and died too. Although this is a heresy today, this is the way that most Christians in the pews still understand the Christian God. There is GOD and he is a Father (with a white beard sitting on a throne in heaven), a Son (Jesus Christ incarnate on earth), and a Spirit (charismatic activity in the church until Jesus comes again).
The Trinity is a doctrine that took on philosophical terms to try to explain the Christian God. It was framed with the concept of the universal and particulars. The idea is that there can be three different or "particular" horses in the stable - Lightening, Blaze, and Bolt. All of them, however, are horses because they share in a universal "horseness". This concept is applied to God where God is the universal and Father and Son and Holy Spirit are the particulars. They taught that there was no difference in the divine nature or ousia, only in the relations of the particulars to each other. It is the development of the idea of Tertullian that God is one substance and three persona. The Cappadocians said that different characteristics of the three (for instance, "unbegotten," "begotten," "proceeding") were not characteristics designating the divine nature, but only of the particular mode of the divine nature. The "sameness" of nature was an equality or likeness of substance, not a unity of substance.
Of course the Trinity borders on polytheism, which the Cappadocians were accused of - in their case creating a doctrine of three, even four gods. This is still the opinion of critics of this doctrine. The Cappadocians responded by affirming that the nature was indivisible and that the category of number cannot really be applied to GOD. Only material beings can be numbered. The biggest problem with the Trinity framed in this way, however, is that the distinctions, the particulars, make no difference at the transcendent level. In the transcendent realm these differences cannot be maintained, but were only put into place to deal with the doctrine of incarnation to explain the difference between Jesus and God, and yet to allow for worship of Jesus as GOD. The Cappadocians knew this and so in the final moment say that the Trinity cannot be grasped by the intellect, but only by means of mystical participation in the liturgy, in the Eucharist on the altar.
Friday, March 28, 2008
The Tripartite Tractate 51.1-20 (Valentinian, end of second century)
Comment: Note how the language and the topic of discussion is part of a dialogue among the second century church theologians about the nature of the Father and his relationship with the Son. The metaphor used is common among the theologians at this time, and is used by Tertullian in order to argue for three persona and one substantia in an oikonomia when he takes on Modalism.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
and do not be afraid of my power.
For why do you hate my fear
and curse my pride?
But I am she who exists in all fears
and strength in trembling.
I am she who is weak,
and I am well in a pleasant place.
I am senseless and wise.
For I am knowledge and ignorance.
I am shame and boldness.
I am shameless and ashamed.
I am strength and I am fear."
Thunder: Perfect Mind (15.20-30, 14.26-31)
Sunday, March 23, 2008
The Second Treatise of the Great Seth
Saturday, March 22, 2008
The archons searched after that which had come to pass. They did not know that this is the sign of their dissolution, and that it is the change of the aeon. The sun set during the day; that day became dark. The evil spirits were troubled. And after these things he will appear ascending. And the sign of the aeon that is to come will appear. And the aeons will dissolve.
And those who would know these things that were discussed with them, will become blessed. And they will reveal them, and they will become blessed, since they will come to know the truth. For you have found rest in the heavens.Concept of Our Great Power
Friday, March 21, 2008
Apocalypse of Peter 81.3-21, 82.4-14 (trans. by DeConick)
Ferrini's most valuable items, including Dead Sea Scroll fragments, were not in the auction. Ownership is still in dispute and is likely to be settled in court, Haley said.Thanks to Stephen Goranson for sending me this announcement.
Other rarities withheld from the auction include fragments of the Book of Exodus and papyrus fragments of the Gospel of Judas, which purports to record conversations between Jesus and Judas Iscariot in the last week of their lives.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Gospel of Judas 56.17-24 (trans. by DeConick)
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Gospel of Judas 58.9-26 (trans. by DeConick)
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Jim Robinson raised a series of questions in his paper about the state of affairs with the Tchacos Codex. Gregor Wurst provided some of the answers. He said that he continues to work on placing the fragments which are found in the back of The Critical Edition. He encouraged everyone to work on trying to place them. He said that he doesn't know when the Codex will be returned to Egypt. He has heard 2010. At the moment, it is in the possession of the Maecenas Foundation and Mario Roberty. It is housed at the Bodmer Library and access is regulated by a written protocol which scholars must follow.
Gregor Wurst told us that he first saw the papyri in August 2004. He said that his initial interpretation of the Gospel of Judas was influenced by Irenaeus' testimony. When the team wrote their book, The Gospel of Judas, they didn't have any idea what pp. 55-56 said because the big island fragment had not been placed yet. Gregor placed it in Fall 2005-Spring 2006 when the book was already in print. He was able to stop the press and insert the translation, but could not use the information to rewrite the interpretation. This is the page that links Judas' sacrifice with the sacrifices mentioned earlier, and that Judas wouldn't ascend beyond the thirteenth realm. My own memory of my initial reaction to the Gospel of Judas when I read it for the first time was a feeling of dread when I came across this very passage. This is the passage that signaled for me that Judas was serving the demiurge, and that the NGS interpretation was off.
The Concept of Our Great Power (41.14-29) trans. by DeConick
Monday, March 17, 2008
Now we can't be sure that these pages are from the Gospel of Judas, but are likely part of the Tchacos Codex. Which pages? This is most tense and infuriating. Who is he going to give up ownership to?
Bowers declined to put a value on the Gospel of Judas fragments, and said doing so would be irrelevant, as his client has promised to donate the artifact to Egypt, where it can be properly archived, displayed and studied.
Ferrini is expected to give a deposition Monday in a Summit County courtroom regarding the ownership. Bowers said Ferrini has produced two more pages of the Judas text and has indicated he will give up claims of ownership. Ferrini's attorney, Tim McKinzie,did not respond to a request for comment.
Wow, is this the book of Exodus and the letters of Paul that were also found with the Tchacos Codex? Remember, there were three other books in that limestone box found in a tomb near Al Minya. A greek version of Exodus and the Coptic letters of Paul and a mathematical book. Fragments of Exodus and the mathematical book have shown up in various collections around the world, but the letters of Paul seem to have vanished. Is this part of that book? It very well might be given that Ferrini possessed the Tchacos Codex, and now appears to have parts of the Exodus book and a letter of Paul.
Please please if you possess any of these fragments, or know of people who bought from Bruce Ferrini, contact me or Gregor Wurst. These materials need to be preserved and conserved properly for future generations, not to speak of the importance they hold in reconstructing our own past religious histories. They are not just artifacts. They are part of our common story.
I am happy to report that the CJC was immensely successful. Thirty scholars attended and about ten graduate students, as well as many public auditors. The two public lectures filled our auditorium. The atmosphere was one of cooperation and work. There was no chair-throwing which many attendees expected. Instead it turned out to be a model conference for scholarly exchange and understanding. I wish in fact that we could have started out our study of the Gospel of Judas with just such a conference, and then moved to the work on the critical edition and public translation together. There are many things that we learned from each other. Very good questions were raised. And scholars were very open and generous with their knowledge.
What did we accomplish? As for the figure Judas, there were four positions that were maintained by various scholars. The hero Judas is being seriously challenged now by a large number of scholars, in fact most who attended. The room was mainly split between those who think that he is ambiguous in the text and those who think that he is a negative character, a demon. There were a few who were advocates for the agnostic stance - "I don't know."
Gregor Wurst showed us a new fragment that he has put together. It says "servant of Saklas" but he doesn't know where in the text it should be placed yet. Should it be placed on p. 56? We don't know. But this fragment in such a context would support the idea that the apostles (or Judas) are making sacrifices to Saklas as his servants!
The room was evenly split on who enters the cloud, and seriously good arguments were made for both Jesus and Judas. We all agreed that this missing page is the page that we really want to find. If any of you have purchased a fragment of this text on e-bay or anywhere else (or know someone who has) PLEASE I beg you to contact me or Gregor Wurst. We need every fragment of this text that we can find to make the proper reconstructions.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Thirty scholars will be participating in round table presentations and discussions. Each scholar is contributing a paper. The forum is a working conference, with the intention to think tank together about this new material. What does it tell us about early Christianity that we didn't know before? That we knew before? What can we learn about Gnostic-Christian-Jewish relations?
HERE is the link to information about the CJC, including the daily schedule and scholars' abstracts.
There will be two public lectures in the evenings. If you are in the Houston area, you may wish to join us for these.
Professor Marvin Meyer and Professor Gregor Wurst
Reconstructing an Ancient Papyri Book:
How the Gospel of Judas was Restored and the Questions It Raises
Thursday, March 13, 2008, 7:00 p.m.
Rice University, Duncan Hall, 1055, the McMurtry Auditorium
Professor Elaine Pagels and Professor Karen King
What Else Didn’t We Know about the Early Christians?
Friday, March 14, 2008, 7:00 p.m.
Rice University, Duncan Hall, 1055, the McMurtry Auditorium
Apocryphon of James 8.10-15, 25-27 (ca. mid-second century; probably Valentinian text)
Monday, March 10, 2008
Friday, March 7, 2008
Gospel of Thomas 97 (trans. by DeConick).
If you think that the message of the book of Revelation has been resolved - you are certain that it is an early Christian apocalypse about the future yet-to-come, a reality-not-yet-lived - then this book is for you. Afzal reassesses Revelation from the viewpoint of a biblical historian ensconced within literary and social memory theories. Thus he shows a concept of parallel times - how the prophecies of John of Patmos recast the past in terms of John's perceptions of the present experiences of the early Christian communities in Asia Minor. The eschatology in Revelation is not about an unfulfilled and virtual future, but is about the intended audience's present experiences.
Reading John's eschatology in this way raises many important issues for me, not the least of which is the significance of the often-overlooked mystical dimension of apocalyptic literature. Apocalyptic literature is not just about the cataclysmic future. It is about the seer's involvement with heavenly mysteries and worship in the present, and his relaying of that to the faithful in the present, as a reminder that although in this world they are suffering, they are not of this world. Along with the seer, they have been transported into the heavenly world, and worship before God's throne. The seer's visions are reminders, reassurances that all is well. God is in control, and their life with him forever is blessed and secure.
This is a condensation of a short preface I wrote for Ron's book (pp. i-iii).
Thursday, March 6, 2008
Theodotus as recorded by Clement of Alexandria (Excerpts of Theodotus 78.1-2). Theodotus was a Valentinian teacher in the east in the mid- to late second century.
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
Gospel of Thomas 96, trans. by DeConick
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
Epistula Apostolorum 39 (Ethiopic version) ca. late second century
Commentary: This is considered an early "catholic" or "orthodox" text. Yet look at the reference to Adam. His action (taking the apple in his hand) is the right decision. This is usually considered a gnostic reading of the Genesis story. So much for such categories in the second century!
Monday, March 3, 2008
The Apocalypse of Paul 16 (Greek version; NOT NHC) ca. second century.
Commentary: Origen in hom. V in Psalmos 36 describes the fate of souls after death. His description seems to be drawn from chapters 13ff. of this Apocalypse of Paul.
Saturday, March 1, 2008
From the Associated Press:
Gunmen abducted a Chaldean Catholic archbishop soon after he left Mass in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, the latest in what church members called a series of attacks against Iraq's small Christian community.
The gunmen killed three people who were with Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho, said Iraqi Brig. Gen. Khalid Abdul Sattar, a spokesman for the Ninevah province police.
It was not known who was behind the kidnapping, said an aide to Iraq's Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, leader of the church.
"This act of abduction against a Christian clergy member will increase our fears and worries about the situation of Christians in Iraq," said Archbishop Andreos Abouna.
The Chaldean church is an Eastern-rite denomination that recognizes the authority of the pope and is aligned with the Roman Catholic Church. The Vatican said in a statement the fact that the gunmen knew Rahho had been celebrating a religious rite indicated the kidnapping was premeditated.