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  7. Transcript | The Gnostic Gospels, an interview with Dr. James Robinson

the_gnostic_gospels_an_interview_with_dr_james_rob.mp3 – Transcript

Many readers of The DaVinci Code are seeking out the so-called alternative text of early Christianity commonly referred to as the Gnostic Gospels in this extended interview eminent Bible archaeologists and religious scholar Dr. James Robinson editor of a nag hammadi Library shares fascinating insights into the beliefs and writings of the early Christians, which were published in English for the first time in 1979 under the stewardship of doctor Robinson. They were discovered really by accident by Muhammad Ali A Local Peasant who was a tenant Farmer for a Coptic landowner. He himself was a Muslim and was looking for grain to fertilize looking for soil to fertilize the fields at the foot of the cliff. Thats his story The Peasants never dig for Antiquities because thats against the law. But of course they dig were Antiquities maybe with the topsoil that theyre digging for so that thats the official version of the story and after he dug this jar up. He thought that it might have gold in it. But it also might have a gin in it. In any case he took his Matic that he was digging with and crashed the side of the jar and sure enough age in flew up into the sky. That was golden. Im sure this was Papyrus fragments that we have lost from the codices. But in any case he took the books got on his camel went back home dump them in the garden with his widowed mother use some of them to help lights the fire in the patio and bit by bit. They sold them a book for a bag of oranges or something like that what package of cigarettes and then those middleman went to Cairo with them and got for them rich and then the Cairo dealers try to sell them for big money. Who wrote the na commodity code xs and Y. We really dont know. All we have is the jar and the place in the cliff where they were buried and of course the documents themselves the documents look like they were three or four small collections, which has been brought together bought it because their duplicates in them and each collection head. Sometimes the same text but one collection never had a duplicate and so that it was some group of people who were pooling their resources if I can put it that way one theory has been that they were in the library of a baconian monastery because just at the time a chain of monasteries was being built in that part of Egypt founded by st. Bike home use but others have thought that that is not the case because these were not it electricals all Literary people but simple peasants who at the conversion of the Roman Empire flocked into these monasteries thinking now we going to take over others have thought that they must have been an otherwise unattested little Gnostic community that lived in these caves in a couple of the caves. There are Christian crosses. Im in one cave which I number do. I know but all the caves. This was number eight in my numeration. They had painted on the wall in very crude red paint the opening lines of a lot of Psalms. Apparently, they had memorized the songs and could recite them but needed a first-line to get started when they finish one the song they would see the first line of the next song and recite that theyre also coins on the floor that we found of that cave. So that little cave could very well have been A little monastic cell a church or a gnostic congregations headquarters and the place where the manuscripts were buried is a hundred yards away 200 yards away. Why was the church so threatened by these Gnostic writings? I think that the first generations of Christians were buying large rather illiterate maybe in most cases literally illiterate about 10% of the Roman Empire knew how to read and write. and they were peasants all fishermen or other simple folk slaves children that have been Outcast to starve his deformed babies that they would pick up and raised so that the population was Ace subcultural level of society with a few grand exceptions Paul is the best known and then in the second century, they began to engender it electricals. and these intellectuals didnt know where to go in their thinking and so they would produce various kinds of speculations to justify Jesus being Gods revelation and these speculations varied one from another and in a sense to use the word gnosticism is if that were one unified position is a bit misleading. Its a little bit more like the new age or other kind of with it movements today where they may be very different kinds of religiosity Reviving pre-christian religions are putting a Twist on your favorite religion. But in any case new age is not one theology. Its trying to cultural trend is more of a cultural social phenomenon, then it isnt one intellectual system. Well gnosticism was more of that kind of Movement of unrest by the time Christians had gotten far enough along to have a few intellectuals so that the early gnostics were these intellectuals that shocked the average bitching because they were putting on Jesuss tongue stuff that they knew didnt go back. They never heard this stuff before they couldnt understand it it look to them to speculate if maybe to pay gun or too much philosophy or whatever and so its a bit like the resentment in many congregations today of a pastor Who quotes too many books are in other ways offends the simple believer so that the gnostics had a lot going against them. Of course, some people have pointed out that they gave a place to women in a mens religion. Thats not completely true that That word women but this another instance another Harris at the end of the second century of montanus bad to of the prophets were women and were rejected as Heretics so that it may be but women may be only the part of the suppressed Society thats in nowadays. It may have been various kind of suppressed movements within Christianity that found that an expression and that therefore got picked up by the 2nd Century itll actuals and what is wrong with them is that the local officers like the bishop or whatever had grown up very often from these more simple congregations and were trying to run the congregation where this Egghead comes in and says, you dont know what youre talkin about. Are you havent read X? Find Z the way I have and so that it was an instinctive a challenging of the system. And that the system system may be a bit of a modernization but the emerging Orthodox Christianity didnt know quite what to do with this new trend that challenged the leadership. For example, the Gospel of Thomas has been the most popular in the most discussed of all the 50 some tractor and the debate that has been is the Gospel of Thomas so late 2nd Century has to be irrelevant you can forget it or is it so early? First century that it tells you something about Jesus you need to know and in a certain sense Orthodox Church groups have preferred the late date and the irrelevant side of that argument course 1 problem. Is that Scholars by definition and our field have to know the language of the sources to qualify as a scholar. None of us know Coptic we learn Greek and Hebrew and Latin but not Coptic we had to do French German but not Coptic and so here is a thousand pages of Coptic that we cant translate so by definition theyre not our sources. Or we are not qualified in our field if they are all sources. So I had to learn Coptic as a middle-aged person but most of my colleagues didnt so thats assault of a built-in academic Prejudice and another way of putting it all out reference tools that we use our Scholars a concordance giving you the biblical passages for any word a little I dont include these texts so that they are again the system is set up against these documents. There are no chairs of Coptic studies except one in Germany. For the whole world so that for a scholar to specialize in this means hes not going to get a teaching job. And how is it going to support his research so that they are whole number of built-in factors in our culture that make it very difficult take by way of contrast the Dead Sea Scrolls, which are much more popular in much better known. They are written in the language of a Nation. Every Israeli speaks Hebrew reads and writes Hebrew. No topped speaks Coptic. Its like a church Latin the Coptic priest can recite in Coptic the Liturgy but doesnt really know what he is saying in the book where they read this out. There is on one side of the page Arabic and on the other side of the page Coptic and they read the Arabic side side. This is Turn the Page or across yourself or whatever. They dont know what the Coptic side says, but they memorize it because its they have a marrying priesthood in the Coptic church and is handed down from father to son. So then the Coptic language is a language, which is a dead language. Where is the Dead Sea Scrolls are written in a language which for half a century or more has become a living language of the Dead Sea Scrolls are written in the language where they are hundreds thousands millions of people that can read them. The nakamarra texts are written in the language for a few hundred people can read them. What did the nagamani gospel say about the Virgin birth and Resurrection? They dont say much about the Virgin birth that didnt interest them as much as the resurrection did and which point they were more like early Christianity in general Easter is a much more important Christian Festival than Christmas in the early church, and the gnostics needed Easter in a way that they didnt need the Virgin birth. Of course in their mythology, Jesus was of divine genealogy and do they have lovely genealogies from the highest Heaven down through the lower levels to Jesus and that kind of thing, but the resurrection is used because it is our physical corporeality. That is the cause of all evil. And so if we could ever get free of the chains of the flesh, We would then think more Loft early than we are able to think in this body. And so the resurrection of Jesus was not the resurrection of his body. Paul is in debate with some friends moving this direction when it 1st Corinthians 15. Paul says it is a body the resurrected Christ. Its not a fleshly body. Its a spiritual body. Its not an Earthly body. Its a Heavenly Body whatever those words of me having a body maybe looks more like a Stars bright and shiny like a little mascots road, but Paul was interested in emphasizing that the resurrected Christ was in some kind of body. Whereas the gnostics rejected the bodily Resurrection in order to explain how Jesus new things the resurrected Christ new things that he had not known before while he was in Galilee. And so those who followed him and Galilee, Got this Earthbound message. This bodily limited message, but when he was free of the body had been to have them seen what was going on up there and then came back from heaven in a disembodied spiritual form and reveal to us the ultimate truth that Halle out trumps. Whatever that Earthbound peasant in Galilee may have taught so you people who build your ideas on that Earthbound Jesus Dont have the foggiest notion of what the reality of God and the resurrected Christ is and we reveal it to the main literary genre of Christian gnosticism has always been dialogues of the resurrected Christ with his disciples and one of the funniest instances of that among the Nakamura text. Is this one factor, which is a non-Christian philosophical meditation about where evil came from another $64 questions and the immediately following tractate begins with her appearance of the resurrected Christ. His disciples asked these dumb leading questions, and then Jesus answers them with the first paragraph from the philosophical tractate. They asked another dumb question if he answers for the next paragraph of the philosophical track date, and so the christianized version of this non-Christian, Meditation is side by side with a non-Christian with a they would dumb to give us both copies that we could compare so well so that the gnostics really out Trump the Orthodox by having a what we would call a philosophical theology, which they could explain by the revelations of the disembodied resurrected Jesus Straight from Heaven at what point was Jesus deified by emerging Christianity. Very Christian idiom. shoes had one God and only one God and Jesus was of course a Jew. And so then Jesus would have been shocked by anybody saying that he was God or 1/3 of God or however Christians wanted to put it and thats still offencive to the Jewish Community to the Christian Jewish dialogue finds that is one of the sticking points. The word Son of God the idiom Son of God was common in that age for any great person. The emperor the Caesar Hercules various Heroes were called sons of God. And very often virgin birth stories went with him a God and seduce their mother and thats how they had the Superhuman ability, but that was not a Jewish concept. and for Jesus Son of God is anybody like God if I may quote the sayings gospel Q God sends his rain on the good and the bad and shines his son on the good and the bad so you be like that and you will be children of God King James translation dodged sons of God, but thats what it says in Greek smash given. So if you want to be a Son of God be like God kind to the everybody. but then when these ideas of the non-jewish environment of sons of God is assault of a half divine bigwigs headed into the Christian tradition that original idea of a Son of God, which was of course not exclusive all of us ought to be and all of us could be sons of God that was then replaced by this exclusive Son of God. Only the emperor is the Son of God then he dies in the next San Francisco only I am the Son of God and then you end up with the very reverse of what Jesus met when you look at one of the domes of the Byzantine churches in Constantinople or something you see staring down at you and hopefully terrifying you this grimacing Christ who is the meanest person around and youve got the Buckle under and do what he says and what he says is what the emperor in Constantinople tells you he says and so that this pompous ass is what became of Jesus and thats why the title Son of God as usually used in modern Christianity is almost the exact reverse of what Jesus meant by it. Why was it politically advantageous to make Jesus into this God man and a religion? Worships God and in the ancient world, they were across many gods and the successful growing gods of all religions of that. They wear in the sense not the state religion. They didnt like the state religion any more than we do today. But where these so-called mystery religions of dying and Rising Gods Isis in Egypt is the most popular now because it was a woman but it was spread all over the ancient world because everybody with a grain of sense knows in the fall that things die out. And in the spring things Sprout up so that the very reality of Nature and these were peasants by and large preach to them from the ground the dying and Rising God. You can call it dammit or you can call it Isis you can call it mr. Us but that was a widespread belief in various religions of the day and innocence for the Christian religion to compete in the thought realm. They had to have a dying and Rising God to Unfortunately did but that way that it competed in. The realm of ideas is what we have all too much emphasized. I think that What one the masses were the soup kitchens? the helping of widows the helping of all funds the helping of slaves and thats the way that they got a mass following and thats what happened when The last great persecution failed in spite of widespread massacres. And so finally Constantine wised-up. He had an army the majority of whose foot soldiers were Christians. And they didnt want to fight a pagan Empress Wars theyd want to fight to start with it with passages. And so he had this convenient vision of a cross in the sky saying this is the sign and which you will conquer and he announced that good news to his soldiers. Most of them were Christians and so they decided to fight And so Constantine had a fighting Army and won the battle. So that in a certain sense, there are rather cynical realistic ways of understanding this whole process. How were the books chosen which make up the New Testament the early church did not begin with a new testament the early church began with a Bible which is what Christians call the Old Testament the Hebrew scriptures and it had been translated. into Greek a couple of centuries before Jesuss time and the Christian Church decided to use that Greek translation rather than continuing to use the Hebrew original so that the Jews of that they had the Old Testament as Hebrew scriptures and the Christians had the Old Testament as Greek scriptures, but there came a time in the 2nd and 3rd centuries where it became important to decide which Christian writings were normative as well as the Hebrew Bible in Greek being normative and that pot that had to do with these competitions with emerging gnosticism why people would appeal to their views as have Been revealed by the resurrected Christ to somebody and they would pick a name off an apostle or something and say that this is the Revelation to the Apostle X. Well the emerging Orthodox side of that debate would say no thats not by Apostle X. Thats your fabrication is phony we have the real thing by Apostle X so that the books that favored the hierarchy the emerging Orthodox Bishops and the like those books were ascribed to Apostles. One thing people. Dont really know. Is it Matthew Mark Luke and John do not claim to have been written by mr. Matthew. Mr. Mark, mr. Luke and mr. John they are all for anonymous. secondarily ascribed to an apostle just like a nagamati the Gospel of Thomas the Gospel of Philip the gospel of the Egyptians the Gospel of Truth dont claim to be gospel originally, but were secondarily named gospels to compete with those others that would be named the gospels of various authority figures Apostles so that the New Testament was The collection of books that favored the emerging Orthodox Theology and when it was ascribed to Apostles Vindicated their claim to be the right Christianity. And finally I asked dr. Robinson have his own Journey as a spiritual person have been changed by what hed learned throughout his academic career. Of course, it has changed a great deal is my comments have obviously made clear and I began in a traditional Christian background. I think that if I had not gone through the half a century of academic studies, which I have in which weve been talkin about in one form of the other. I would have renounced any interest in religion and relegated it to the dust heap of superstition long ago. In other words. I think that what I grew up on Is completely fiction. And so that I have evolved fortunately not buy a big drastic Revolution. I never repudiated. My fathers theology blah to his face kind of thing. But I have evolved over a series of different stages in my own career. And now I think the Jesus as one of the greatest human beings that Judaism has every right to be very proud of and is a good role model for me in for anybody else so long as he doesnt get messed up without Christian theology.