You've presented a lot of material to digest!
> THE THREE BASIC ASPECTS OF A HUMAN BEING
> Let us look at T112, "Jesus said, 'Woe to the flesh that
> depends on the soul; woe to the soul that depends on the flesh.'"
> Each human being has a body of flesh and a soul (psyche).
> Both are mortal.
> Next, let us look at T29. "Jesus said, 'If the flesh came
> into being because of spirit (pneuma), it is a wonder. But if
> spirit came into being because of the body, it is a wonder of
> wonders. Indeed, I am amazed at how this great wealth has
> made its home in this poverty.'"
> A human being also has, besides the soul and body of flesh, a
> spirit. It is potentially immortal, which makes it a great
> wealth in comparison to the mortal body of flesh.
> So, I suggest,, there are three basic aspects to a human
> being in Thomas
> thought: (1) a spirit (pneuma), a soul (psyche), and a body
> of flesh. The spirit is potentially immortal, while the soul
> and the body are mortal.
Yes, this seems about right. Strong's Greek Lexicon takes the King James
Version of the NT and numbers all the significant words according to which
Greek word they are translating (it does the same for Hebrew words in the
OT). [You can find the Index to the Greek Lexicon at
Strong defines the words we are talking about as follows:
4983 soma so'-mah from G4982; the body (as a sound whole), used in a very
wide application, literally or figuratively:--bodily, body, slave.
[so, mortal - we transliterated it SWMA because the 'o' is a long one - the
4561 sarx sarx probably from the base of G4563; flesh (as stripped of the
skin), i.e. (strictly) the meat of an animal (as food), or (by extension)
the body (as opposed to the soul (or spirit), or as the symbol of what is
external, or as the means of kindred), or (by implication) human nature
(with its frailties (physically or morally) and passions), or (specially), a
human being (as such):--carnal(-ly, + -ly minded), flesh(-ly).
5590 psuche psoo-khay' from G5594; breath, i.e. (by implication) spirit,
abstractly or concretely (the animal sentient principle only; thus
distinguished on the one hand from G4151, which is the rational and immortal
soul; and on the other from G2222, which is mere vitality, even of plants:
these terms thus exactly correspond respectively to the Hebrew H5315, H7307
and H2416):--heart (+ -ily), life, mind, soul, + us, + you.
[2222 zoe dzo-ay' from G2198; life (literally or
figuratively):--life(-time). Compare G5590].
4151 pneuma pnyoo'-mah from G4154; a current of air, i.e. breath (blast)
or a breeze; by analogy or figuratively, a spirit, i.e. (human) the rational
soul, (by implication) vital principle, mental disposition, etc., or
(superhuman) an angel, demon, or (divine) God, Christ's spirit, the Holy
Spirit:--ghost, life, spirit(-ual, -ually), mind. Compare G5590
Soma (body) is (I am fairly sure) sarx (flesh) plus psuche
(spirit/breath/animation). The dualism that Paul used was soma vs pneuma -
the soma is perishable and the pneuma is the soul, that which unites with
Christ to become the one spirit (see 1 Cor 6, for example).
> THE TWO BASIC CLASSES OF HUMAN BEINGS
> In Thomas thought, while a human being apparently has three
> basic aspects, there apparently are two basic classes of human beings.
> Let us look at T7, "Blessed is the lion which becomes man
> when consumed by man; and cursed is the man whom the lion
> comsumes, and the lion becomes man."
> Here, the man who consumes the lion in the beginning of this
> passage and the man who consumes the lion in the ending of
> this passage are two different men. The first is the inner
> man and it is the spirit. The second is the outer man and it
> is the body of flesh.
I am not sure that I quite follow your reasoning here, but if it is based on
the first sentence of the above para, there is a problem, since the first
man *eats* the lion, whereas the second man *is eaten by* the lion. Your
first sentence suggests that the man is doing the eating in both cases.
> In this case, in T7, the lion represents the third major
> aspect of a human being, i.e., the soul.
> So, I suggest, T7 can be roughly paraphrased, "Blessed is the
> inner man (i.e., the spirit) which absorbs the soul, and the
> soul becomes a part of the inner man (i.e., spirit). Cursed
> is the inner man (i.e., spirit) which is absorbed by the
> soul, with the soul, in turn, being absorbed by the outer man
> (i.e., the body of flesh)."
ISTM that the lion might represent something bad. The lion is blessed when
it becomes man by being consumed by the man ie the man-nature overcomes the
lion-nature and the man is cursed when he is eaten by the lion and the lion
becomes man ie the lion-nature overcomes the man-nature. Lion may well
represent soma and man psuche here, or simply animal and human
characteristics of human beings.
> In this case, what it tells us is that the potential
> immortality of the spirit can be actualized by it maintaining
> its identity--which occurs when it absorbs the soul.
> Conversely, it loses its potential immortality if it loses
> its identity by being absorbed by the soul, which, in turn,
> is absorbed by the body of flesh.
> In this case, further, there are two basic kinds of human
> beings. First, there are the saved: whose spirits have
> absorbed their souls. At the death of the mortal body of
> flesh, the spirit continues to live and, indeed, has eternal
> life. Second, there are the cursed: whose spirits have been
> absorbed by their souls, with the souls, in turn, being
> absorbed by their bodies of flesh. At the death of a body of
> flesh, since the spirit has become a part of this body of
> flesh, the spirit dies as well.
I don't have any problem with a dualism that has two types of people - I
just think that it is probably more likely that the dualism is about those
who have allowed their baser, animal natures to overcome their higher, human
natures, that part of them that is able to unite with the Divine. I think,
without being able to back it up with references, that this is more in line
with the kind of thinking in existence at the time.
> THE TWO TYPES OF BODIES
> In Thomas thought, one not only has the body of flesh, but
> another body as well--this apparently being the body of the spirit.
> Particularly important is T22. "Jesus saw infants being
> suckled. He said to his disciples, 'These infants being
> suckled are like those who enter the Kingdom.'
> This refers to a type of rebirth in which the human being
> becomes, for a second time, a child. This rebirth involves a
> new body different from the old body. So, there are eyes in
> place of an eye and a hand in place of a hand and a foot in
> place of a foot. Finally, such a rebirth with a new body is
> necessary before this human being can enter the Kingdom.
I am not sure that this logion is about rebirth, but rather about being
nourished by Jesus. The infants are being suckled and what strikes me about
suckling infants is that they recognise their mother as the source of
nourishment and then take it in unquestioningly because it is from the
source they trust, and the milk turns into their bodies, which allows them
to grown eventually into mature adults. Another way of understanding it
might well be to say that Jesus is telling his disciples that in order to
enter into the Kingdom, they need to take in his teachings and allow the
teachings to transform them so that there is no discernable difference
between their internal and external personas. If this were the case, then
the new body parts would be those that followed Jesus teachings rather than
the disciples own unregenerated inclinations.
> This rebirth, it is noteworthy to mention, involves one's
> transformation from the cursed type of humanity (i.e., the
> humans whose spirits have merged into their souls, with their
> souls, in turn, merging into their bodies, thereby becoming
> nothing but bodies of flesh) to the blessed type of humanity
> (i.e., the humans whose souls have merged into their spirits,
> making their entire non-fleshly selves pure spirit). Thus,
> it is a transformation from one who faces death to one whose
> spirit will eternally live. When this transformation is
> complete, then one can, with one's (body
> of) eternally living spirit, enter the Kingdom.
I agree that there is a transformation from cursed type of humanity to
blessed type. (But then, religious systems seem to be largely about
delineating who is in the in crowd and who is in the out crowd - the main
differences seems to be what your in and out *of*, and how you get to be
> THOMAS 87
> We are now ready to look at T87, "Wretched is the body that
> is dependent upon a body, and wretched is the soul that is
> dependent upon these two."
> Wretched is the body of spirit that is dependent upon a body
> of flesh, for it then becomes a part of that body of flesh
> and, so, shares in its death. Wretched is the soul that is
> dependent upon these two because it shares in the death of
> both of them.
> Judy, does sound like a reasonable intepretation to you? I'd
> appreciate your feed-back.
I think you might be trying to push the text a little too far, but you also
need to remember that I am only recently come to the Gospel of Thomas - my
expertise and experience until recently has been in the canonical Christian
scriptures. If I were trying to get this kind of thing across with the
Coptic vocabularly available, I think I would have been using sarx to
indicate the body of the flesh, but I am not a native Coptic speaker !!! :-)
One of the things I get uneasy about is that it is very easy to forget that
the text we are working with here is based on only one copy in Coptic and a
few fragments in Greek (which differ somewhat from the Coptic text but are
close enough to make it pretty certain that they are the same document).
The chances that the Nag Hammadi document is the original document are very
slim, so there is a definite possibility of copyists' errors having been
introduced. The text we have is not perfect. There are lacunae, traces of
unidentified letters, ambiguous letter traces, blank spaces where we
wouldn't expect them, corrupt words, crossings out by 'an ancient copyist" -
not necessarily the same person as the one who made the copy, and at least
in the edition in NHCodex II, there are examples of text added or deleted by
the editor as a result of conjecture. It is a *good* ancient manuscript,
but there is a lot of room for error, not the least because the writers of
the time just wrote letter after letter with no spaces between words and
thought nothing of putting a couple of letters from a word at the end of one
line and the rest of them on the next line (or even the next page).
As I said in response to Maurice, when we talk about the text of the
canonical Christian scriptures, we have quite a few copies of very old MSS,
which allows us to compare various versions of difficult passages and have a
much better idea of whether the difficulties are intentional or the result
of human error. (This, of course, has its own set of problems) With Thomas,
we don't have this, so we really need to take into consideration the
possibility that there is a mistake in the manuscript. I therefore think
that when we get to passages that almost defy interpretation, we really need
to take into consideration that either the copyist has made a mistake and/or
the editor might have made an error in deciding where the word breaks should
And that translating Coptic into English is interesting. In my last Coptic
exam, the lecturer wrote a sentence for the class to translate. My
translation was significantly different to the sentence she had written, so
she asked me to justify it. I had divided one particular word differently
to the way that she had intended, so I had read a different noun with
different inflections to those she had intended, but they were legitimate
and made sense in the context. I therefore got full marks for my
translation, even though I had not understood what she had intended to
convey! I don't have any suggestions about this particular passage, mind
I like simple, rather than complex, which is why I am interested in your
posts about sources without Q, although I haven't had a chance to read them
" Let us forever remember that the sense for the sacred is as vital to us as
the light of the sun." - Abraham Joshua Heschel, 1944
Rev Judy Redman
Uniting Church Chaplain
University of New England
ph: +61 2 6773 3739
fax: +61 2 6773 3749