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10876Re: [GTh] Bovon on Names and Numbers (2)

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  • Mike Grondin
    Apr 8, 2014
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      The number 100 (=R in the Greek alpha-numeric system) is relevant to
      Coptic Thomas for several reasons, some obvious, some hidden:
      (1) The Parable of the Lost Sheep (Th 107 // Matt & Luke, but not Mark)
      (2) Th 100 (taxes to Caesar), which has a canonical core of 100 letters
      (3) Greek words/names and the letters in them both multiples of 100
      Since these items include compositional principles not apparent on
      the written page, I think we're here as close as we'll ever get to being
      inside the mind of the composers of Coptic Thomas. We should also
      consider the Parable of the Sower, which contains the number 100 in
      all the Synoptics, but not in Thomas (Th 9):
      Mark: 30, 60, 100
      Matt: 100, 60, 30
      Luke: 100
      Thom: 60, 120
      In my readings, both Bovon (Names and Numbers in Early Christianity,
      reprinted in New Testament and Christian Apocrypha) and Parsons
      (Exegesis "By the Numbers") have sections discussing the number 100.
      Here's what Bovon wrote (NTCA, p. 32):
      > Any scholarly examination of ancient texts and their number
      > should also consider the so-called flexio digitorum. Passing
      from tens to
      > hundreds was particularly important, because counting up to 99
      > executed by the left hand, while counting from 100 on up was done
      > the right hand. Remembering that the left side was considered a
      > one, the passage to 100 was considered with pleasure. ... It is
      > not surprising that the Gospel of Truth established a
      connection between
      > the lost sheep and the fate of the whole flock. The shepherd not only
      > the single animal but preserved or re-established the whole group. "He
      > the shepherd who left behind the ninety-nine sheep which were not
      > He went searching for the one that had gone astray. He rejoiced
      when he
      > found it, for ninety-nine is a number that is in the left hand that
      holds it.
      > But when the one is found, the entire number passes to the right
      > As that which lacks the one -- that is, the entire right [hand] --
      > what was deficient and takes it from the left hand side and brings
      [it] to
      > the right, so too the number becomes one hundred. It is the sign of
      > one who is in their sound; it is the Father." Even if the last
      > remains enigmatic*, the interpretation of the parable manifests a
      > ecclesiological component. It is as much the fate of the whole
      > that is at stake as the destiny of a single soul.
      (* I think that the sound referred to is the 'bah' of ABBA, 'father' -- MG)
      > Should we dismiss this interpretation of the Lukan parallel? I
      > hesitate, because it seems probable that the choice by Jesus or Q
      > 99 was not accidental in the original version and that the joy of
      > shepherd relied on the well-being of his flock as much as the
      > of the lost sheep.
      It should also be noted that 100 was the beginning of the third and highest
      of the three enneads of the Greek and Hebrew alpha-numeric systems,
      thereby likely (IMO) to have enjoyed elevated status over the ones and tens.
      If, for example, 100 was regarded as "the sign of the Father", then the third
      ennead could have been considered the realm of the Father. As to "the Monad"
      (=one), tens multiples of it were probably considered symbolically related to it.
      Mike Grondin