May 15, 2007


Caption: This man is digging for lost gospels.

In 1945, a library of early and mostly unknown Christian writings was discovered near Nag Hammadi in Egypt by a peasant named Mohammed Ali. One of the texts discovered was a Coptic version of the Gospel of Thomas, a fairly early collection of sayings attributed to Jesus.

Many of the Nag Hammadi texts were Gnostic in viewpoint. Gnosticism is kind of a catch all term for diverse teachings that combined Judeo-Christian elements with Hellenistic forms of mystical beliefs that were eventually considered heretical by the the orthodox or catholic church.

The writings were buried in a sealed jar, which probably meant that monks from a nearby monastery intended to hide them after church father Athanasius and others condemned their use in the 4th century. Their discovery, and others that followed, have driven home the point that early Christianity was by no means monolithic.

The Gospel of Thomas, which was probably originally written in Greek, seems to contain elements from different periods. It is a collection of 114 sayings of Jesus that claim to have been compiled by Didymus Judas Thomas. There is no birth, passion, or resurrection story, nor are there accounts of miracles. Jesus is depicted primarily as a wise teacher.

Scholars debate the date of its writing but it may largely have been written around the same time as the other gospels. Parts of it may have even been assembled earlier than the others. Debates also rage on whether it is an independent source of Jesus' sayings or whether it relied on the other gospels and/or their sources (I think it's the former, for what it's worth).

Most of the sayings in Thomas are similar to and often simpler than those found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. It may even contain a few authentic sayings of Jesus that are found only there. Other sayings seem to be of later, semi-gnostic origin. Here's a good discussion from the Virtual Religion Network. And here's the gospel itself.

In any case, an encounter with the sayings of Thomas is challenging and thought provoking. Buy as Scarlett O'Hara so aptly said, "I'll think about that tomorrow."

Now back to some contemporary items.

BAD DAY FOR MASSEY. Massey Energy stock took a dive as news of its legal troubles spread. Here's Bloomberg:

Shares of Massey Energy Co., the fourth-largest U.S. coal producer, had their biggest drop since July after an analyst said a federal water-pollution lawsuit may lead to $2 billion in fines.

The shares slid $2.73, or 9 percent, to $27.60 in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The decline was the biggest for Richmond, Virginia-based Massey since July 28. Before today, the stock had jumped 31 percent this year.

The U.S. filed a civil lawsuit against Massey accusing the company of 4,633 violations of the Clean Water Act over the past six years, Credit Suisse analyst David Gagliano said today in a note to clients. Based on 69,000 days of non-compliance, Massey could face $2 billion in fines, he said.

There's more to that story if you click the link. And here's AP's take on it. El Cabrero is overcome with grief. Not.

BUSINESS WEEK ON PRIVATIZATION. El Cabrero has gotten behind in his magazines. Here's a good item from the May 7 Business Week about the next round of privatization. Investors are looking with longing at our roads, bridges, and other infrastructure and the public stands to lose big.

MR. PEABODY'S COAL TRAIN. The same issue has this on Peabody Coal CEO Gregory Boyce. Peabody also happens to be the target of a campaign aimed at winning workers the right to organize unions without intimidation. The same company is said to be considering selling its WV operations.


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