The Numbers in the Parable of the Sower
- As is well-known, the numbers given in Coptic Thomas for the yield of thegood seed in the Parable of the Sower (60 and 120) differ from the Synoptics,wherein Mark and Matt have 30, 60, and 100, and Luke has simply 100-fold.It's particularly unfortunate that we don't have a Greek version of Th9, butwe don't. Nor do we have a Greek version of Th8, so as to determine whetherit, too, had the ears injunction ("Let anyone with ears to hear listen!) at the endof Th8, rather than at the end of the Parable of the Sower, as the Synopticshave it. In any case, the purpose of this note is to suggest a possible reason forthe choice of the numbers 60 and 120 in Coptic Thomas. (Whether this mighthave arisen from redaction or from a variant oral tradition, I leave to others.)Hippolytus described a kind of reductive numerology practised by certain GreekGentile sooth-sayers wherein any number divisible by a power of ten was reducedto its "root" (essentially, ignoring trailing zeros), and that practice has been foundto be fruitful also in explicating several numerically-based structures in CopticThomas. Furthermore, the numbers involved often center on the values of thenames of Jesus. Both of these factors are present in the numbers used for thegood yield in L9. Reducing 60 and 120 to their tens-roots 6 and 12, and regardingthe numbers as additive, the sum is 18, i.e., IH. In other words, the yield of thegood seed is Jesus. This suggests that one of the reasons for the choice of thesenumbers may have been their connection with the holy name.Mike Grondin
In Response To: Mike G
On: Numbers in the Parable of the Sower
I always had the impression that these numbers were peculiar. Why just those, and is there something secret hidden in there? Mike has noticed the gematria possibilties. Are there others?
MIKE: As is well-known, the numbers given in Coptic Thomas for the yield of the good seed in the Parable of the Sower (60 and 120) differ from the Synoptics, wherein Mark and Matt have 30, 60, and 100, and Luke has simply 100-fold.
BRUCE: Taking Mark as first, and thinking of the speaker trying to make an effect, we have
30 > 60 > 100
The second is gotten by doubling the first. Doing that again would give 120, but Mark evidently thinks that this would be an unresonant number, and likes 100 better. So he cadences on 100.
Eliminating the smaller ones would give an unconflicted 100, whence Luke.
Another choice would have been to cadence on 120 after all, and why? Because as a multiple of 12 (months of the year), it is calendrological and therefore magic. If we go back and redo Mark in that vein, we get
30 > 60 > 120
But now it is the 30 that is out of line (not a multiple of 12), so it is omitted, whence Thomas
There is of course a third line of thought, which is to see in the number 30 a magic representation of the number of days in a month (or close enough for magical purposes). I seem to recall that the Mandaeans considered that John had 30 disciples (the days of the month), whereas Jesus had 12 (the months of the year). There seems to be a certain disapproval of “day” observances in the late 1c texts, perhaps connected with preferences among the days of the month.
So of the three numbers in Mark, 30, 60, and 100, one can perhaps see three possible divergences, depending on which aspect one follows out (the days of the month, the Babylonian calendrological 60 with its 12-ness, the more decimally based 100). Is it helpful to identify the Thomas people or their hinterland as opting for the second of these possibilities?