Skip to content

A Tribute to John von Neumann

John von Neumann published a book in the early 30s which was a mathematical treatment for calculating the QM wave function.

“He was a pioneer of the application of operator theory to quantum mechanics, in the development of functional analysis, a principal member of the Manhattan Project and the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton (as one of the few originally appointed), and a key figure in the development of game theory and the concepts of cellular automata, the universal constructor, and the digital computer.”

“Von Neumann’s mathematical analysis of the structure of self-replication preceded the discovery of the structure of DNA.”

“he stated “The part of my work I consider most essential is that on quantum mechanics, which developed in Göttingen in 1926, and subsequently in Berlin in 1927–1929.”

“Von Neumann was the first to rigorously establish a mathematical framework for quantum mechanics, known as the Dirac–von Neumann axioms, with his 1932 work Mathematical Foundations of Quantum Mechanics.”

“Von Neumann’s abstract treatment permitted him also to confront the foundational issue of determinism vs. non-determinism, and in the book he presented a proof that the statistical results of quantum mechanics could not possibly be averages of an underlying set of determined “hidden variables,” as in classical statistical mechanics.”

“In a chapter of The Mathematical Foundations of Quantum Mechanics, von Neumann deeply analyzed the so-called measurement problem. He concluded that the entire physical universe could be made subject to the universal wave function. Since something “outside the calculation” was needed to collapse the wave function, von Neumann concluded that the collapse was caused by the consciousness of the experimenter (although this view was accepted by Eugene Wigner, it never gained acceptance amongst the majority of physicists).”

Neumann perceived a logical quandary as to what collapses the wave function. An observation is the point when a system described by a QM wave function can be said to collapse into observed outcomes. The “observer” could not be entrained in the system being observed (i.e., the wave function would inevitably have to encompass all that was involved and all that is said to be constituent of the universe). There had to be a point where the line could be drawn. Neumann concluded, a person of considerable intellect (that really seems like a meager understatement when reviewing his bio), that consciousness is that which is external to the universe and is that which observes and collapse the QM wave function into rendered (perceived) outcomes.

Writing this in 1932 it appears Neumann was 60 to a 100 years ahead of the mentality of his peers.

This is the direction – vindication of this view of Neumann’s – as spirituality and science are converging.

“Von Neumann’s ability to instantaneously perform complex operations in his head stunned other mathematicians. Eugene Wigner wrote that, seeing von Neumann’s mind at work, ‘one had the impression of a perfect instrument whose gears were machined to mesh accurately to a thousandth of an inch.’ Paul Halmos states that ‘von Neumann’s speed was awe-inspiring.’ Israel Halperin said: ‘Keeping up with him was … impossible. The feeling was you were on a tricycle chasing a racing car.'”

I regard John von Neumann as a founding father of what will emerge as true and actual spirituality. He and Carl Jung are two of the most important people that lived in the 20th century in respect to their advancements of human thought and understanding.

John von Neumann

Rediscovery of Yeshua’s Core Teaching of Immanence

Luke 17:20-21, John 10:30-34, Gospel of Thomas Logion 3

Paganism was about life and death, was about appeasing the gods and seeking to understand their whims and desires in order that plagues, floods, famines, invasions and other catastrophes may be averted.
Christopher Knowles – http://secretsun.blogspot.com

The operative phrase here to keep in mind per the arch defining characteristic of ancient Pagan religious systems: “appeasing the gods”. When this is evident as a front and center theological concept of a religious cult, one knows then they are fundamentally dealing with a Paganistic belief system model per the ancient world manner.

What follows are a series of linked articles that can assist in the pursuit of rediscovering Yeshua’s core teaching of Immanence. It is endeavored in these writings to bit by bit strip away some of the varnish of the passage of 1900 years plus of human history, and hence accumulation of various distortion as due the usual human agency.

Why Was Yeshua Jewish? (Why did he preach to the Jewish people primarily? An Essene Schism)
[begin excerpt]
The Galilean region Yeshua grew up in was culturally and religiously heavily influenced by the Essenes (they are referenced in the New Testament wherever the Herodians – a nickname – or the Scribes are being mentioned). They were a religiously extreme sect that for centuries had been seeking to usher in the appearance of a materialistic, political messiah figure that would defeat their enemies, judge those that they deemed had not been true to the correct doctrine, and establish a theological rule on Earth that would accord with their views.
[end excerpt]

Which Jesus? (Gnostic teachings of the New Testament)
[begin excerpt]
Many traditionalist Christians, i.e., those that are ultimately a doctrinal product of Roman Emperor Constantine’s 4th century version of Christianity, imagine that gnostic Christianity is a development that did not come about until the second century. Yet, it is present in first century canonical gospels – inclusive of parallels to verses found in prototypical gnostic writings.
[end excerpt]

Dating the Gospel of Thomas (Evidences pointing to a first century authorship)
[begin excerpt]
There’s a lot of debate about whether Gospel of Thomas is a second century writing, as pretty much all the Gnostic gospels appear to be, or if is possibly a first century writing? My thinking is that there are some evidences or characteristics that lean toward possibility of first century.
[end excerpt]

The Sign of Jonah (and the Shroud of Turin)
[begin excerpt]
The image imprinted on the Shroud of Turin was not produced by pigments but instead is the result of very high energy radiation chemically altering the cloth fibers – and only the surface fibers that were directly exposed to the radiative source; that means it requires a technology to artificially create such an image that only came into existence in the 20th century. The shroud clearly predates any such technology.
[end excerpt]

Heiser vs. Sitchin – Demythologizing the Genesis Creation of Adam story
The Genesis creation of man story as an Atra-Hasis tablets re-write – or better to say – redaction.
[begin excerpt]
It is just astounding that Genesis happens to remark that Eden is located not far from a land that is noteworthy for its gold. The qualitative statement that the gold is good would appear to indicate that the gold which can be found in Havilah is in a high quality form from a mining and refining perspective.

For those that look to Genesis purely for religious significance, the presence of this kind of prosaic information in Genesis is just outrageous. Why would God, a being of spirit, care about this gold?
[end excerpt]

Who (or what) was Yahweh really? (causes contributing to post-Christian Western Civilization)
[begin excerpt]
One of the problems for going forward in the 21st century is being tied to the Yahweh figure of the Old Testament as one and the same as the Source Consciousness Creator of all reality and super realities. For people that never read scripture or merely dabble at it, then it all just remains glossed over. They just accept the things they’re told and assimilate to the culture they are immersed in in respect to long held assumptions about this. Yet if critical scrutiny is brought to bear, then there is a profound cognitive dissonance (Orwellian Double Think – holding contradictory beliefs at the same time) that arises. It’s incongruence is no longer acceptable for the 21st century mindset and this very much contributes to why, per Western Civilization, people speak of the post-modern diminution of Christianity.
[end excerpt]

Traditional Judeo-Christian religious concepts of God and the afterlife are all bogus
[begin update note]
Interestingly, Dr. Sam Parnia’s resuscitation research findings, from what is billed as the largest (2000 data samples) near-death-experience (NDE) study yet conducted, have recently garnered significant mainstream media attention:
Research in ‘near-death’ experiences reveals awareness after brain shuts down | Daily Mail Online
[end update note]

I wish the world was flat like the old days (Cosmological Dualism and Delitzsch’s Dilemma)
[begin excerpt]
Cosmological dualism is a long standing tension in the realm of philosophies and religions. Mankind has been inspired and marveled at the wonder and majesty of existent reality while at the same time being perplexed that, from a subjective human perspective, a lifetime of existence in this reality is frequently unpleasant and at times extremely so (much of human history attest to that estimation). The order and meticulousness of apparent existent reality for many tends to affirm an extraordinary consciousness as its ultimate source. Yet the human mind has been unable to satisfactorily reconcile the grand artifact of apparent existent reality with the actual experience of it. Cosmological dualisms generally in some fashion seek to address, as explanation, this fundamental dichotomy of the pervasive human condition.
[end excerpt]

Biblical Canon – A Problem On Navigation
[begin excerpt]
Biblical scriptures need to be carefully sifted – academia’s historical critical approach is crucial.
The Old Testament tells a threaded story, extrapolated in certain key areas from ancient Sumer/Akkad base stock, that to great extent is of an anthropomorphic being known as Yahweh and his interaction with the Hebrew tribal people.
[end excerpt]

Where Soul Meets Body
The onset of the gnosis (awakening) experience – much in the Carl Jungian model (i.e., the passage through the Dark Night of the Soul experience as entry into the process of gnosis where is coupled with lucid dreaming and extremely heightened synchronicity occurrences).

Consciousness And Quantum Physics – And Where That Leads
[begin excerpt]
The tie in of consciousness and quantum physics is in respect to the role of the observer in the collapse of the wave function that describe some quantum system under study when a measurement is taken.
[end excerpt]

Quantum Enigma: Physics Encounters Consciousness – book recommendation
[begin excerpt]
I’ll take a sheet out of Bell’s playbook (in respect to the clever back handed approach that his theorem took) – the simplest and most painfully obvious way to point out that the Michael Nauenberg advocated interpretation is not a settled matter in physics is to point to the Many Worlds interpretation.
[end excerpt]

Which Jesus? (Gnostic Teachings of the New Testament)

[Many traditionalist Christians, i.e., those that are ultimately a doctrinal product of Roman Emperor Constantine’s 4th century version of Christianity, imagine that gnostic Christianity is a development that did not come about until the second century. Yet, it is present in first century canonical gospels – inclusive of parallels to verses found in prototypical gnostic writings.]

Which Jesus?

The gnostic teacher of hidden mysteries to initiates only?

Mark 4:10-12New King James Version (NKJV)
10 But when He was alone, those around Him with the twelve asked Him about the parable. 11 And He said to them, “To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to those who are outside, all things come in parables, 12 so that

‘Seeing they may see and not perceive,
And hearing they may hear and not understand;
Lest they should turn,
And their sins be forgiven them.’”

Gospel of Thomas logion 1 excerpt:

These are the secret sayings which the living Jesus spoke…

[secret teachings to initiates only is supposedly a tell of the gnostic world view, but is found in Mark and Matthew]

The gnostic sage teaching “the kingdom within you” higher spirituality?
(Paralleled in a richer version as found in Gospel of Thomas logion 3)

Luke 17:20-21
20 Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; 21 nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’[a] For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.”

[the spiritual concept of the indwelling of the divine is referred to as “Immanence” and is the core theological underpinning of the Gospel of Thomas]

Jesus, the dispenser of gnostic egalitarianism and the ultimate unity of teacher and disciple:

Luke 6:40 A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.

[the implication that if we emulate Yeshua as the teacher then we will become as he]

A Jesus speaking from the assumption of the gnostic (and Essene, and Platonic) belief in reincarnation, and thus the preexistence of the soul apart from the origin of the physical body (i.e., the soul of Elijah incarnating as John the Baptist):

Matthew 11:10–15
I tell you solemnly, of all the children born of women, a greater than John the Baptist has never been seen; yet the least in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he is. Since John the Baptist came, up to this present time, the Kingdom of Heaven has been subjected to violence and the violent are taking it by storm. Because it was toward John that all of the prophecies of the prophets and of the Law were leading, and he, if you will believe me, is the Elijah who was to return. If anyone has ears to hear, let him listen!

[“taking it by storm” refers to the various early first century zealots – several well known to the historical record – that attempted to force the fulfillment of messianic prophecy by inciting and engaging in acts of violence]

Or the thoroughly New Age Jesus that is teaching an exegesis of scripture to his traditionalist/orthodox opponents where we are all stemming from divine nature (and hence the basis of his own divine nature – and thus the implication of his claim regarding himself which his opponents were about to stone him for)?

John 10:30-34 (where Jesus quotes verse 6 from Psalm 82)
30 I and My Father are one.”
31 Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him. 32 Jesus answered them, “Many good works I have shown you from My Father. For which of those works do you stone Me?”
33 The Jews answered Him, saying, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God.”
34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, “You are gods”’?

As is seen, core gnostic teachings attributed to Yeshua are found in first century writings – including that which became official New Testament canon centuries later on. Indeed, the teaching of Luke 17:20-21, as a parallel, and an obviously commonly sourced verse to Gospel of Thomas logion 3, is reasonable to say is the linchpin teaching of the Gospel of Thomas. In the Gospel of Thomas, “Kingdom”, “Light”, and “The All” are developed through various teachings as ultimately to be an equivalency. The Gospel of Thomas could fairly be referred to as the Gospel of Immanence. Yet as we have seen, Immanence is found in the New Testament canon as well.

Further like comparisons:

The author of the Gospel of John employs the device of using a teaching attributed directly to Jesus per John 10:30-34, thus providing the key by which to interpret the most famous Christology of chapter 1 of that gospel. Hence the author provided an internal explanation of the most important and highest concept that is being conveyed by that gospel.

Gospel of Thomas logia 77 and 83 are conceptual parallels to Gospel of John chapter 1; and in similar vein, logion 50 and 83 in a sense expound the implications of logion 77.

Related links:

Dating the Gospel of Thomas
(Evidences pointing to a first century authorship.)

The Gospel of Thomas
With Parallels and Commonalties from the New Testament Gospels

“Which Jesus?” arose from a response given in a debate when the assertion was posed by an opponent:

“Gnosticism is untenable if you believe Jesus.”

Quantum Enigma: Physics Encounters Consciousness – book recommendation

Am presenting a book recommendation on Quantum Mechanics that has been very popular, but at the same time highly controversial. So I am following the book description with a link to a refutation paper and then following that with response to the refutation paper. (It turns out that one of the book authors received his PhD under the physicist that has mounted what is an attempt to refute the book – adds an interesting dimension to the debate to be aware of this.)

Quantum Enigma: Physics Encounters Consciousness
Authors: Bruce Rosenblum and Fred Kuttner
http://quantumenigma.com/

This book is derived from material that one of the authors uses to teach a course on Quantum Mechanics to non physicist majors at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Book Description

The Oxford University Press back cover of Quantum Enigma

In trying to understand the atom, physicists built quantum mechanics, the most successful theory in science and the basis of one-third of our economy. They found, to their embarrassment, that with their theory, physics encounters consciousness. Authors Bruce Rosenblum and Fred Kuttner explain all this in non-technical terms with help from some fanciful stories and anecdotes about the theory’s developers. They present the quantum mystery honestly, emphasizing what is and what is not speculation. Quantum Enigma’s description of the experimental quantum facts, and the quantum theory explaining them, is undisputed.

Interpreting what it all means, however, is heatedly controversial. But every interpretation of quantum physics involves consciousness. Rosenblum and Kuttner therefore turn to exploring consciousness itself–and encounter quantum mechanics. Free will and anthropic principles become crucial issues, and the connection of consciousness with the cosmos suggested by some leading quantum cosmologists is mind-blowing. Readers are brought to a boundary where the particular expertise of physicists is no longer the only sure guide. They will find, instead, the facts and hints provided by quantum mechanics and the ability to speculate for themselves.

In the few decades since the Bell’s theorem experiments established the existence of entanglement (Einstein’s “spooky action”), interest in the foundations, and the mysteries, of quantum mechanics has accelerated. In recent years, physicists, philosophers, computer engineers, and even biologists have expanded our realization of the significance of quantum phenomena. This second edition includes such advances. The authors have also drawn on many responses from readers and instructors to improve the clarity of the book’s explanations.

Here is the refutation paper:

Does Quantum Mechanics Require A Conscious Observer?

Michael Nauenberg, Physics Dept. University of Califonia Santa Cruz, CA, USA

Abstract: The view that the implementation of the principles of quantum mechanics requires a conscious observer is based on misconceptions that are described in this article.

http://journalofcosmology.com/Consciousness139.html

Here are responses to the refutation paper:

Co-author Fred Kuttner’s response, also at University of Cal. at Santa Cruz, to Nauenberg (I’ve also add an easy, direct link so folks don’t have to go through the clunky download process to get the paper. Will also note that Kuttner received his PhD under Nauenberg):

Response to Nauenberg’s “Critique of Quantum Enigma: Physics Encounters Consciousness” http://www.researchgate.net/publication/226087467_Response_to_Nauenbergs_Critique_of_Quantum_Enigma_Physics_Encounters_Consciousness

http://www.vossnet.org/Response-to-Nauenberg.pdf

Here’s my (the blog author) first personal response to Nauenberg’s paper:

I’ll take a sheet out of Bell’s playbook (in respect to the clever back handed approach that his theorem took) – the simplest and most painfully obvious way to point out that the Michael Nauenberg advocated interpretation is not a settled matter in physics is to point to the Many Worlds interpretation.

That rational people in the field of physics have gone to such heroic lengths to devise an explanation of (or explain away) the QM “role of observer” enigma is a definitive indicator that the enigma exist in the minds of very serious practicing physicist. The Many Worlds interpretation origin sprung from attempt to get rid of the “conscious observer problem” by the brave approach of just ride the abstraction of math all the way to final conclusions. The abstraction of QM math is seemingly supportive of the Many Worlds concept so the conclusion that was drawn was that “we’ll just say it must be indicative of actual reality”.

Taking the math as literal reality arises as an issue to contend with in General Relativity where the continuous math involved leads to mathematical infinities that gives rise to enigmatic entities such as the black hole singularity. But it’s believed that one has to shift gears, so to speak, from using purely continuous math and switch to Quantum Mechanics in order to realistically model what reality may be like under those conditions (leading to Stephen Hawkin’s work describing quantum evaporation of black holes). The Many Worlds approach doesn’t shift any gears, though, but just rides QM mathematical abstraction to ultimate literal conclusions – assuming this to be a valid approach.

Many scientist and physicist are Materialist and when it comes to how they choose to parse the enigma of the the role of the conscious observer in famous, highly repeatable QM experiments, they opt for the Many Worlds interpretation. Those that prefer to remain agnostic on the issue opt for Copenhagen – in a sense side stepping (or ignoring) the dilemma. But the Many Worlds advocates know full well that the matter is not as cut and dry simple as Michael Nauenberg would attempt to explain (hand wave) it away as, hence the energy they expend in pushing the Many Worlds explanation – to this very day: “Yes, consciousness is not present in QM but we had to toss Occam’s Razor principle in the waste bin to get there – inventing the ultimate free lunch of infinitely forking universes that (sorry for this) magically are not observable to each other.”

My (the blog author) second personal response to Nauenberg’s paper:

Nauenberg says he wrote a paper 45 years ago to address von Neumann’s reasoned conclusion that a conscious observer collapses a QM wave function for a system under observation (as there had to be something external to the physical universe that was not itself encompassed by the wave function). His paper has the look of indeed being stuck that far back in time. Since then very unusual experimental variations of the double slit have been performed such as Wheeler’s Delayed choice with quantum eraser.

Delayed choice experiments have uniformly confirmed the seeming ability of measurements made on photons in the present to alter events occurring in the past. On the other hand, if a photon in flight is interpreted as being in a so-called “superposition of states,” i.e. if it is interpreted as something that has the potentiality to manifest as a particle or wave, but during its time in flight is neither, then there is no time paradox. Recent experiments have supported the latter view.

As per usual there is the element of observer knowledge involved (as in why does the universe behave differently based on the state of knowledge of a conscious observer?):

This result is similar to that of the double-slit experiment since interference is observed when it is not known which slit the photon went through, while no interference is observed when the path is known.

However, unlike run of the mill double slit, it also introduces seeming retro-causality:

However, what makes this experiment possibly astonishing is that, unlike in the classic double-slit experiment, the choice of whether to preserve or erase the which-path information of the idler was not made until 8 ns after the position of the signal photon had already been measured by D0.

Despite the seeming retro-causality exhibited in the experiment:

Some have interpreted this result to mean that the delayed choice to observe or not observe the path of the idler photon changes the outcome of an event in the past. However, the consensus contemporary position is that retro-causality is not necessary to explain the phenomenon of delayed choice.

Effectively the consensus view is to reject that there is actual retro-causality involved and instead accept that the system once observed collapse to a state that exhibits a history consistent with the facts of the observation. In other words, the universe is an information computation engine of sorts rendering an outcome of observation to conscious observer that insures inherent consistency. So called seeming retro-causality only manifest once an observer actually observes. Injecting delays for up to a year, etc., make no difference as in the end the observer collapses the system to a consistent outcome to suit what is observed. A state of a system in the past cannot be meaningfully spoken of as having any actual existence because it has not been subjected to any observation by a conscious observer.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delayed_choice_quantum_eraser#Significance

It’s a trippy experiment for sure but it makes mince meat out of Nauenberg’s rhetorical alchemy as couched in an intellectual position he locked onto permanently 45 years ago.

At this point it’s useful to transition to Vlatko Vedral, Professor of Quantum Information Science at the University of Oxford, and his book:

The Universe as Quantum Information – Vlatko Vedral
http://global.oup.com/academic/product/decoding-reality-9780199695744

Vlatko is much younger than Nauenberg so he’s not stuck in ancient QM (as in 19th century ancient) thought modalities.

There has also been recent attempt to revive the old Pilot Wave approach to a concrete reality underlying QM. That’s been dealt what is perhaps a permanent set back by the latest QM experiments that are separating particle attributes from the particles. Pilot Wave theory can’t account for that at all as it is another experimentally reproducible phenomenon that indicates that reality is rendered by a QM information processing substrate (there is no underlying concrete reality).

Scientists have for the first time separated a particle from one of its physical properties – creating a “quantum Cheshire Cat“.
http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-28543990

MyCoreArticles (and some related links)
[awakening, synchronicity, Gnosticism, AAT, nature of reality/consciousness, etc.]
rogerv-50-percent

RogerV

Objective vs. Subjective Reality

Nice to see Jim frame up this idea of how the subjective reality experience might work. Have had discussions about this with him from time to time.

Another aspect we’ve talked about is the nature of our dream time realities that our consciousness is presumably responsible for (though I’ve had the same dream on the same night as another person I was linked with in a special way, so there’s that group consciousness thing slipping in).

I made the analogy to cartoons, animation, on up to CGI, and then live action film, as different degrees of depicting realism. Our individual consciousness, when dreaming, produces realism down at, say, the cartoon and animation level of resolution. Sometimes we dream more vividly (or profoundly) and kick into CGI level realism. The global reality rendering is produced by super consciousness at obviously live action film realism resolution. All, though, are products of reality simulation projected by consciousness. Our dreams are more crude than the global reality as our individuated consciousness is not bringing the processing power to bear that the consciousness force rendering the global reality does.

I know all these people that get into these metaphysics concepts centered on manifesting their intentions into their reality experience. Here’s a tip – concentrate your consciousness intentions on the well being of others – or keep your personal desires scoped to that which is needful but not indulgent.

Musings on the Nature of Reality

Today’s blog is one part rehash of an ancient dilemma that has puzzled and divided philosophers and scientists for millennia and two parts The Universe – Solved!

First a couple definitions…

Objective Reality – a reality that completely exists independent of any conscious entity to observe it.

Subjective Reality – what we perceive.

As it is well known, subjective reality is “subject” to an elaborate set of filters, any one of which can modify a perception of that reality; sensory apparatus (e.g. the rods and cones in our eyes), sensory processing (e.g. the visual cortex), higher level brain function, and psychological factors (e.g. expectations). As such, what one person experiences is always different than what any other person experiences, but usually in subtle ways.

Fundamentally, one cannot prove the existence of an objective reality. We can only infer its properties through observations, which of course, are subjective. However, it may…

View original post 778 more words

Dating the Gospel of Thomas

There’s a lot of debate about whether Gospel of Thomas is a second century writing, as pretty much all the Gnostic gospels appear to be, or if is possibly a first century writing? My thinking is that there are some evidences or characteristics that lean toward possibility of first century.

First of all is to compare its style – wisdom sayings – to the hypothetical Q gospel, which is also wisdom sayings. Some scholars think that this more primitive format of strictly teaching sayings of Yeshua may be the earliest form of Christian writings (outside of Paul’s letters). The quasi-biographical Synoptic Gospels, in contrast, are definitely more complex writings and also are expressive of greater complexity as to motive and purpose in reflecting the goals of respective authors. In contrast, the wisdom sayings gospels merely convey the wisdom sayings teaching concepts themselves without attempt in elaboration of theology as, say, commentary.

If the hypothetical Q Gospel existed as a manuscript it would have preceded Matthew and Luke as these two of the Synoptic Gospels both have the Q material (and indeed that is what defines Q – that which is in both Matthew and Luke but not in Mark).

The Gospel of Thomas shares verses, or has parallel forms, across all three of the Synoptic Gospels. If Mark is the earliest of these gospels, then the Gospel of Thomas is thereby positioned to perhaps be even earlier.

The Gospel of Mark is considered the earliest written gospel. (The epistles of Paul predate Mark but Paul never knew a flesh and blood Jesus and relates absolutely no biographical information about any flesh and blood historical Jesus, other than that Paul knew Jesus had a teaching on divorce. Paul only had a mystical encounter with some being – comparable to, say, how Mohammad or Joseph Smith report having mystical encounters with angels.) As such, Matthew and Luke were found by German scholars in the 19th century to have drawn heavily on the text of Mark, tweaking it a bit here and there. So Matthew and Luke come later (and then John much later still and is completely unlike the prior three Synoptic Gospels – and has contradictions with them).

It turns out that these 19th century German scholars found Matthew and Luke also draw on some other source for some common textual material. Once they accounted for the redactions of Mark material, and separated out the stuff that was unique in Matthew and Luke respectively, they were left with what they dubbed the Source gospel. And due to the German word that means source, we English speakers took to just referring to it as the Q gospel. The Q gospel doesn’t relate any biographical narrative of Jesus, but amounts to being wisdom sayings attributed to Jesus – just like the Gospel of Thomas. And of course the Q gospel is a source (oral or textual) that at least predates Matthew and Luke. (If one subscribes to the theory that Luke redacted Matthew, then the tradition of these Q sayings at least predates Matthew.)

My thinking is that some of the earliest Christian writings, aside from Paul’s authentic letters (some of the Pauline letters in the New Testament are regarded as second century and written so as to impersonate Paul and thus take on his mantel of authority) and the Gospel of Mark (the earliest biographical narrative), were therefore these wisdom sayings gospels – that is, the Q Gospel and the Gospel of Thomas.

The mentioning of James, the brother of Yeshua

The Gospel of Thomas references James, the brother of Yeshua, as being the preeminent head of the Church when Yeshua is no longer in his followers’ midst (Yeshua instructs his apostles to look to James as their leader and gives very high praise to James). Yet after the sacking of Jerusalem in 70 AD by the Romans, this earliest Christian church ceased having influence (Paul’s churches took over pretty much and Christianity became defined by Paul’s teachings). James, by some accounts, is reported to have been killed in 62 AD.

I think it very peculiar that any writing from the second century would bother to still talk about James as a personage so as to figure so prominently in the Christian movement. Yet the Gospel of Thomas squarely does that – which makes me think it may indeed be first century.

It should not go without notice here on this point that Paul’s undisputed authentic letters are regarded as THE earliest of all Christian writings, that unlike the Synoptic Gospels, are written in first person testimony of what Paul says in his own words he experienced, and that it is from Paul that we get witness of James, brother of The Lord [Yeshua], as the leader of the church in Jerusalem. Further, Paul recognizes that church as authoritative over the Jesus movement. On this the Gospel of Thomas is in complete accord with Paul’s witness.

In Mark 6:3 we see James listed as a brother to Yeshua (agreement with Paul). In Acts 15:19 James is seen delivering the final and important opinion on whether gentile believers need to be circumcised; in Acts it is clear that James leads the Jerusalem church (agreement with Paul). In Acts 21:18 Paul obeys the request from James that he ritually purify himself in the temple, placing himself in subservience to James’ authority (agreement with Paul’s writings where James is portrayed as the authoritative leader that Paul recognized as such).

On the matter of James there is unity of presentation across: Paul’s letters, the Gospel of Mark, and the Book of Acts (written by the author of Luke – essentially a Luke part 2), and the Gospel of Thomas. This knowledge of and witnessing of James can be said to be peculiar to the first century Christian writings – and in the case of Paul’s letters and Mark, the very earliest of these.

Placing the death of James at 62 AD and the sacking of Jerusalem at 70 AD, James ceases to figure in Christian writings occurring thereafter (allowing the Epistle of James being one possibly authentic testimony to James – and hence perchance a glimmer of the earliest church’s theology). When we get to the second century, James is practically a non entity and indeed is a bit of an embarrassment to proto orthodox Christians as they have by then framed the theology of Mary (mother of Yeshua) being a perpetual virgin – hence Yeshua could not have had any biological siblings (the contend he must have been a half brother or even a cousin). For this reason James would have become an awkward personage to make note of or reminder of. Likewise, with the sacking of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple, the church there ceased to be a dominant influencer – the churches founded by Paul in Asia Minor and then churches in remote places such as Rome, emerged to fill this vacuum.

Plausibility of the alternative explanation

If the Gospel of Thomas is taken to be a second century writing, then one must consider the plausibility of what this implies. The author would have had to scour through the synoptic gospels and only gleaned out wisdom sayings verses (also changing them up a bit here and there), and then, of course, added on some additional sayings. The tenor of the teachings found in much of the Gospel of Thomas is gnostic in character and presumably the author would want to advance that perspective. However, the author is then choosing to compete against the vibrancy and drama conveyed by the biographical and heavily theologically oriented gospels that went on to became part of canon. The stories and the passion of these gospels grip readers – no one can be so simple as to overlook this point. To construct and introduce a new gospel in order to advance a different way of viewing Yeshua – that is, strictly in the light of being a profound teacher – purposely omitting all the other aspects of Yeshua that these source materials relate, is truly a bizarre undertaking. And how on Earth could such an author have positioned James to be such an important figure in this brand new gospel – his church’s teachings were not particularly gnostic in character (but neither were they Pauline)? No where else in gnostic writings is James singled out so – if the Gospel of Thomas is second century then the prominence of James stands in contrarian juxtaposition to such a thesis.

The totality of this plausibility factor is really the biggest strike against the second century authorship opinion. And yet it still goes further than that in matters of incongruity: Many scholars recognize that the theological/spiritual content of the Gospel of Thomas sayings has a gnostic tenor, however, there has been retreat from actually classifying this gospel as a so-called gnostic writing. Much of the corpus of writings regarded as gnostic (and of no earlier than second century authorship) are imbued with gnostic cosmology. There is none of that typifying signature of Gnosticism to be found in the Gospel of Thomas; none of its peculiar terminology, divinity or archonic figures appear. Yet another strike against a second century authorship thesis.

Does the Gospel of John slight Thomas (and hence the gospel of his namesake)?

Elaine Pagels elaborates this possibility in her book on the Gospel of Thomas. She notes that the authors of early Christian writings, and different factions or communities, tended to have favored apostles. The proto-orthodox Christians that would eventually emerge as the Catholic Church, for instance, favored Peter as the preeminent apostle. The Gospel of Mary (Magdalene) even portrays Mary M. as an apostle to the male apostles, regarding her, in a sense, as superior.

The Gospel of John is the chronologically latest authored narrative-style gospel appearing in canon. It’s author frequently makes reference to an apostle that Yeshua loved more so than the rest. Thomas means ‘twin’ and applied as a nickname could have metaphorically meant that Thomas was on the same spiritual wavelength of understanding with Yeshua. Hence the apostle that Yeshua loved, repeatedly referenced throughout John, is a kind of one-up-manship over the apostle Thomas being merely a twin spirit of deeper understanding regarding Yeshua’s teachings, that is, love trumps gnosis.

There are two factors in the Gospel of John that give cause to think that such a ploy may have been aimed at Thomas – and hence the community of followers of the Gospel of Thomas. It is the Gospel of John that relates the account of Thomas being the apostle that did not have sufficient faith to believe that Yeshua had indeed risen from the dead; he was only convinced when he could meet the risen Yeshua and examine the scars of his crucifixion wounds. Thomas thereafter becomes forever tagged as Doubting Thomas. Secondly, the Gospel of John, such as in 11:16, Thomas is referred to as “Thomas Dydamus”, literally meaning “twin twin” – as opposed to “Judas called Thomas” as per the Gospel of Thomas [Greek version]. This distortion, playing on the nickname of the Apostle Thomas, could be viewed as a kind of tendentious portrayal of that apostle’s name (especially when viewed in combination with the other presented factors).

One can also look at this from the perspective that the Gospel of a John establishes a higher Christology than the preceding Synoptic Gospels. Those gospels had tried to establish that Yeshua was the fulfillment of the Messiah expectations of Judaism in general (and especially the apocalyptic Essenes in particular). They had to concern themselves with recasting the Messiah into a suffering servant as opposed to the divinely appointed conquer and king that was expected. The Gospel of John goes much further, though, and portrays Yeshua and the Divine Creator as being one and the same, and that this Divinity incarnated into human form as Yeshua. The author of John, therefore, needs to advance a more radical understanding of who Yeshua was/is and that would entail somehow suppressing rival concepts of Yeshua – such as, say, Yeshua being a teacher of divinely wise knowledge. Here we see another possible motivating factor for this gospel to seek to diminish the Gospel of Thomas as the Gospel of Thomas would have been a rival gospel connoting a very different manner of Christological understanding. The Christology of the Synoptic Gospels and Paul’s epistles could be spring boarded from, but the Gospel of Thomas needed to be superseded or trumped.

The argument recapped here, per the Gospel of John, indicates that the Gospel of Thomas must have preceded the Gospel of John, thus making it a first century document too. However, verses of the Gospel of Thomas are found redacted or paralleled in the Synoptic Gospels, which could implicate that the Gospel of Thomas is the earliest of all the gospels, and thus the earliest tradition as to the teachings of Yeshua.

The notion that the author of the Gospel of Thomas redacted the Synoptic Gospels can be flipped to where it was the authors of the Synoptic Gospels redacted the Gospel of Thomas while steering away from those teachings that were not sufficiently congruent to their own biases. The matter of James and the other points of incongruity compel this to be the more plausible scenario.

Did Gnostic Christian Concepts Originate in Second Century or First Century?

This article has been couched around the mainstream deductive estimates of: authentic epistles of Paul in late 50s, Gospel of Mark mid 60s and prior to 70 AD (destruction of Jerusalem temple by the Romans), Gospels of Matthew and Luke in the 70s – possibly 80s, and the Gospel of John in the 90s with the John epistles as early second century.

A centerpiece anchoring concept found in the Gospel of Thomas is the Kingdom of God is Within You teaching found in logion 3:

Greek manuscript version:
3) Jesus said, “If those leading you say, ‘Look! The Realm is in the sky,’ then the birds of the sky will precede you, or if they say to you, ‘It is under the earth,’ then the fish of the sea will precede you. The Realm of God is inside you and outside you. Those who know themselves will find it; and when you know yourselves, you will know that you are children of the living Father. But if you will not know yourselves, you are in poverty and you are the poverty.

Other Gospel of Thomas logia will echo the underlying concept conveyed in this core teaching.

The Kingdom of God is Within You teaching, a teaching of gnostic philosophic tenor, is not unique to the Gospel of Thomas. It is found in one of the Synoptic Gospels, Luke 17:20-21:

20 Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, 21 nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.”

It can be seen that the Gospel of Thomas has a richer version of this verse but it is also clear that there is a referencing to a common core tradition of teaching. Most significant to realize here on this point is that the Gospel of Luke authorship is dated to the first century by mainstream scholarship.

Based on the greater complexity and richness of the Gospel of Thomas version of this teaching, one has good cause to view it as perhaps being the closest to the authentic tradition of this teaching. Given that the Gospel of Mark, the earliest of the Synoptic Gospels, has parallels to logia found in the Gospel of Thomas, and for the reasons that have already been elucidated in this article, such as the prominence of James found in the Gospel of Thomas, there is compelling implication that the Gospel of Thomas may have origins predating any of the Synoptic Gospels. As we see here, we do not need to advance to the second century AD in order to bump into gnostic Yeshua teachings.

Another important aspect of the Luke 17:20-21 verses are that it highlights the differentiating context of gnostic Yeshua teaching vs. the Judaic apocalyptic Messianic views of the Pharisees and especially the Essenes (the latter known as the Herodians or Scribes in the New Testament). These opponents of Yeshua anticipated an ushering in of an Earthly Kingdom where an expected Messiah figure would appear with divine assistance, defeating the enemies of the faithful, leveling judgment against the unfaithful, and establishing a new era of a presumably divinely inspired and sanctioned kingdom on Earth. Thus in the first century AD there appeared a differing perspective of realm of God that squared as a contradiction to the strongly held dogmatic beliefs of the Pharisees and the Essenes.

A Schism with Apocalyptic World View and Awakening

In a future posting I will consider the matter of: Did Yeshua experience a Gnostic Awakening to where he thereafter departed from the apocalyptic Essenes world view that predominated the Galileen region he conducted his ministry in?

Mt 5:43-45: You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemies.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you so that you may be sons of your Father who is in Heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the unjust.

Here it will be contended that Yeshua is preaching directly against the Essenes, their attitudes, and daily ritual practices (to pray curses upon those they viewed as their enemies).

Related link:
Which Jesus? (Gnosticism in the New Testament Gospels)

MyCoreArticles (and some related links)
[awakening, synchronicity, Gnosticism, AAT, nature of reality/consciousness, etc.]
rogerv-50-percent

RogerV

On Being Too Nice and Giving Too Much

In observance of International Women’s Day, a poem by a dear friend:

Karen Kubicko

On being too nice….

This poem I wrote was inspired by reading Doreen Virtues book ‘Assertiveness for Earth Angels’

This poem is dedicated to those women out there who give, give and give. For those who put themselves last. For those who depend upon another person’s happiness for their own happiness. For those who are learning to put themselves first, to do things that make them happy and those learning to be open to receive.

I send my love to you.rising to the challenge.

.

.

.
The Rag Doll by Karen Kubicko

“The rag doll has a permanent smile sewn on her face

Always appearing happy
She lets you touch her, squeeze her and hold her without complaint
Inside, her stuffing is turning moldy and grey
Yet her smile continues
She listens intently to all you say
Hears all the harsh words that you pour out
Keeping her lips sealed
Unable…

View original post 95 more words