Inquisitive Minds Podcast Critical Thinking on History, Religion, Politics and Culture

This is the last episode of a three part series on the Gospel of Thomas. This week, André Gagné discusses how recent research on the Nag Hammadi codices can shed light on the possible context of the Thomasine gospel. In this episode, Gagné notes important questions have been raised by Hugo Lundhaug and Lance Jenott in their book, The Monastic Origins of the Nag Hammadi Codices (Mohr Siebeck, 2015), which can also be helpful in gaining a better understanding on the prodiction milieu of Thomas. In paying attention to the codicological features of the tractates, for example, one might gain insight into who owned the codices and what purpose they might have served.

*Please note that this is our 100th episode! We wish to thank all of our listerners throughtout the years. This episode is the last one of the season. We will resume our podcast around mid-September. Have a great summer and we hope you can take this time to re-listen or catch up on past episodes!

 

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Dr. André Gagné of Concordia University has extensively studied the Gospel of Thomas. He shares his views on "Talk Gnosis" concerning this enigmatic document’s origins and how it might have been used by early Christians. You can listen to the interview at:

http://gnosticwisdom.net/reflections-on-the-gospel-of-thomas/

This last episode on Whitmarsh's Battling the Gods: Atheism in the Ancient World focuses on atheism in the Roman Empire. The rise of Rome brought with it the belief that the Empire's existence was the result of a divine mandate. Some opposing voices were raised against this idea of divine providence. Atheistic arguments circulated through various doxographies written mostly by people opposing non-believers. These texts give us insight into how disbelievers argued somewhat successfully against theistic perspectives. As Rome embraced Christianity, rulers such as Theodosius I (379-395 CE) established that it was now insufficient to simply adopt the right religion; one also needed to adhere to the right theological position on the right religion. Codex Theodosianus goes as far as treating "heresy" (which was now clearly understood as an incorrect theological position) as crime against the state. According to this law, "any crime committed against divine religion is treated as an aggression against everyone".

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In our series on atheism, we examine the question of non-belief in Antiquity. In the first part of this episode, we review Jan N. Bremmer's article in the Cambridge Companion to Atheism on the various ways certain philosophers spoke and defined atheism and/or agnosticism. We then discuss whether or not human beings can be moral without belief in god/gods. Are atheists immoral because of their unbelief? Is good behavior only possible for those who embrace religion? Can non-believers also live meaningful lives or is meaning only to be found through religion? Do people really need to rely on some kind of transcendent reality or supernatural entity(ies) to find true purpose? Ancient and modern critiques argue that morality and meaning do not require one to adopt a religious outlook on life.

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This week on the Inquisitive Minds Podcast (episode 12), we are concluding our discussion on Gnosticism. In this podcast, we will see how scholars have been defining Gnosticism, to the point where some would argue for dismantling the entire category. Should scholars still use the term and category of "Gnosticism"? If not, is there another way to conceptualize such an idea? Is it time to revisit and refine how scholars have defined Gnosis in the past? Can Gnosis be understood as a mood or worldview espoused by different religious and / or philosophical groups in Antiquity? 

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In the past few years, scholars of early Christian history have sharply disagreed on whether or not Gnosticism is a valid category to describe the diversity of early Christian beliefs and practices. As we now know, early Christianity was not a monolithic religion. This is why many scholars prefer to use the expression "Early Christianities". Believers had many divergent perspectives on the person of Jesus, the creation of the world, the identity of the "true" god, the means of salvation, and the value of the Jewish tradition - just to name a few. These differences caused many tensions and rivalries between the various Christian groups in Late Antiquity, and this is where Gnosticism comes into play. This week on the Inquisitive Minds Podcast, we will examine how scholars explain "Gnosticism" and the related idea of "Gnosis" (knowledge or insight). If Gnosticism is not a viable category as some scholars argue, should we not simply drop the expression? Is there any evidence of Gnosticism at the the turn of the first century CE or prior to that time period? Which ancient religious texts can be considered as Gnostic? How was Gnosis understood by philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle? These are some of the questions we will explore on this Monday's episode.

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