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• ## The Counts of Greek in Coptic Thomas

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• An offlist communication with a friend reviewing my proposed paper has caused me to think more deeply about the numbers involved in the usage of Greek words
Message 1 of 7 , Apr 25, 2012
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An offlist communication with a friend reviewing my proposed paper has
caused me to think more deeply about the numbers involved in the usage of
Greek words and names in Coptic Thomas. Aside from the single one-letter
word W ('oh'), which was probably considered either a Coptic word or a
Copto-Greek word, there are 500 occurrences of Greek words and names,
comprised of 2400 letters. Compared with other possibilities, what is the
probability of this being random, and what is the significance of 5, 24, and 100?

As to probability, the chances of a random number being evenly divisible by
any given number n is 1/n. (Ex: the chances of a random number being evenly
divisible by 1 is 1/1, by 2 is 1/2, etc.) Since the number of occurrences of Greek
words and names is independent of the number of letters in those occurrences,
(that is to say, one could be divisible by 100, the other not, if they were random)
the probability of both counts being divisible by 100 is 1/100 x 1/100, or one in
10,000. In other words, there is a one in 10,000 chance that these two counts are
random. Needless to say, that's very slim odds. It is, of course, possible that
the counts are random, but barely so. Compared with the chances of, say, a given
interpretation of a scriptural passage being correct, it's far more likely that the
counts were intentional than that that interpretation is correct.

With respect to textual interpretations, we typically apply the words 'possible',
'plausible', 'probable', 'very likely', etc. (or not), and these words are related
to mathematical possibilities. 'Possible' is very weak. 'Plausible' means a
significant probability, say more than 25%. 'Probable' and 'very likely' both
mean more than 50%, and since the application of these words implies also
our attitude toward the interpretation, we are very likely to accept a conclusion
which we rate as 'very likely'. Since there can be no doubt that the statistical
probability of the Greek counts being intentional is very likely, there is to my
mind no reason to deny that conclusion.

Other than the counts, however, there is another indication of intentionality,
viz., the meaningfulness of the common factor 100 and the multipliers 5 and
24. All three numbers are mentioned in the text of Thomas. Of course, one
can imagine other sets of counts whose common factor and multipliers are
mentioned in Thomas. Suppose, for example, that there were 600 occurrences
of Greek words and names, and 2880 letters in those occurrences. It isn't
immediately obvious, but 600=5x120, and 2880=24x120. The number 120
is mentioned in Thomas (the yield of the seed sown on good soil), so that
passes the meaningfulness test, and the probability of these counts being
random is even less (1/120x1/120). So if these were the counts, we should
also say, IMO, that they were intentional. Why the one instead of the other?
Perhaps because they made a first pass and discovered that they were
closer to numbers divisible by 100 than by 120. Perhaps because they
considered the number 100 more pleasing to God than 120 (recall the
Lost Sheep parable.) Maybe both.

As to the multipliers 5 and 24, the one is mentioned in a very positive
context, the other has an implied positive context. As to the former, there
are said to be five trees in Paradise for the disciples. Whether or not these
are analogous to the five eternal aeons of Ap.John, they are surely a good
thing. As to the number 24, while its mention in Thomas (viz., the 24
prophets in Israel) doesn't appear to be positive, it has an implied positive
aspect, given that it is the sum of the digits of 888, the value of IHSOUS.
I would conclude, then, that both the multipliers 5 and 24, and the common
factor 100 of the counts 500 and 2400 would have had a very positive
meaning for the designers of Coptic Thomas, and that this increases the
already overwhelming probability that the counts were intentional.

Mike Grondin
• ... Mike, I do not think that these words all line up on the scale you suggest. In particular, plausible carries the connotation of some external factor in
Message 2 of 7 , Apr 25, 2012
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At 10:32 AM 4/25/2012, Mike Grondin wrote:
...With respect to textual interpretations, we typically apply the words 'possible',
'plausible', 'probable', 'very likely', etc. (or not), and these words are related
to mathematical possibilities. 'Possible' is very weak. 'Plausible' means a
significant probability, say more than 25%. 'Probable' and 'very likely' both
mean more than 50%, and since the application of these words implies also
our attitude toward the interpretation, we are very likely to accept a conclusion
which we rate as 'very likely'. Since there can be no doubt that the statistical
probability of the Greek counts being intentional is very likely, there is to my
mind no reason to deny that conclusion....

Mike,
I do not think that these words all line up on the scale you suggest. In particular, "plausible" carries the connotation of some external factor in its favor. Like, say, the account of a healing will only be plausible if it does not appear to violate our present understanding of the laws of nature, or if we consider supernatural claims plausible.

Also, FWIW, I would consider 'Probable' and 'likely' to be on the same plane, but 'very likely' should be like more than 67% or 75%,

But these distinctions may not matter very much to your argument.

Bob Schacht
Northern Arizona University

• Hi Bob, Yeah, it looks like I was wrong on a couple items, definitely on very likely anyway. As to plausible , the OAD says that it means reasonable or
Message 3 of 7 , Apr 25, 2012
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Hi Bob,

Yeah, it looks like I was wrong on a couple items, definitely on 'very likely' anyway.
As to 'plausible', the OAD says that it means 'reasonable or probable but not proved,'
which I think is questionable, since 'probable' seems stronger than 'reasonable', but in
any case the idea of an "external factor" seems relevant only to certain special situations.
As I'm sure you know, my reason for writing that paragraph was to point out that
words that we use for judging non-numerical matters are roughly aligned with
mathematical probability, so we needn't be afraid when the latter confronts us
directly, rather than lurking in the background.

Mike
• Mike, Will your publication be presenting theories for meaning of the numbers and how that meaning connects to the theology/theologies in Thomas Gospel?
Message 4 of 7 , Apr 27, 2012
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Mike,

Will your publication be presenting theories for meaning of the
numbers and how that meaning connects to the theology/theologies
in Thomas' Gospel?

Also, have you found how the numerology in Thomas compares to
numerology in other traditions such as Gnostic, Hermetic and
Pythagorean?

Tim Staker
Chaplain, Indianapolis
• ... If you re talking about the numbers 5, 24, and 100, nothing other than what I ve said in the previous note. In a little book I have (Westcott, The Occult
Message 5 of 7 , Apr 28, 2012
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[Tim]:
> Will your publication be presenting theories for meaning of the
numbers and
> how that meaning connects to the theology/theologies in Thomas'
Gospel?

If you're talking about the numbers 5, 24, and 100, nothing other than what I've
said in the previous note. In a little book I have (Westcott, The Occult Power
of Numbers), it's claimed that the number 5 was called 'Didymus' "... because
it divided the Decad into two equal parts," but Westcott's book isn't sufficiently
scholarly to be cited. Certainly, the number 5 would have been associated with
the number of fingers and toes (hence, metaphorically, with 'the hand of God'),
but other than that, the only meaning that can be cited with any confidence about
these numbers is how they are used in Coptic Thomas itself, or (in the case of 24),
how they relate to the names of Jesus and Thomas (the latter being five times
the value of the nominum sacrum IS, as you may recall.)

> Also, have you found how the numerology in Thomas compares
to
> numerology in other traditions such as Gnostic, Hermetic and
Pythagorean?
No, because I can't find reputable information (the problem with Pythagoras
being lack of source texts). However, if you or anyone else can point me to
a good source for any of these traditions, I'd be most grateful.

Regards,
Mike G.
• ... From: Mike Grondin To: gthomas@yahoogroups.com Sent: Saturday, April 28, 2012 7:58 PM Subject: Re: [GTh] The Counts of Greek in Coptic Thomas ... If you re
Message 6 of 7 , Apr 29, 2012
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----- Original Message -----
Sent: Saturday, April 28, 2012 7:58 PM
Subject: Re: [GTh] The Counts of Greek in Coptic Thomas

[Tim]:
> Will your publication be presenting theories for meaning of the numbers and
> how that meaning connects to the theology/theologies in Thomas' Gospel?

If you're talking about the numbers 5, 24, and 100, nothing other than what I've
said in the previous note. In a little book I have (Westcott, The Occult Power
of Numbers), it's claimed that the number 5 was called 'Didymus' "... because
it divided the Decad into two equal parts," but Westcott's book isn't sufficiently
scholarly to be cited. Certainly, the number 5 would have been associated with
the number of fingers and toes (hence, metaphorically, with 'the hand of God'),
but other than that, the only meaning that can be cited with any confidence about
these numbers is how they are used in Coptic Thomas itself, or (in the case of 24),
how they relate to the names of Jesus and Thomas (the latter being five times
the value of the nominum sacrum IS, as you may recall.)

Hi Mike

From the Theology of Arithmetic attributed to Iamblichus translated by Robin Waterfield.
page 74

"And it [5] is called 'twin' because it divides in two the decad, which is otherwise indivisible"

Andrew Criddle
• ... Thanks for this, Andrew. Related to this thread also is the efffect that the limits of 500 Greek words and 2400 letters in those words would have had on
Message 7 of 7 , Apr 30, 2012
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> From the Theology of Arithmetic attributed to Iamblichus translated by Robin Waterfield.
"And it [5] is called 'twin' because it divides in two the decad, which is otherwise indivisible"

Thanks for this, Andrew. Related to this thread also is the efffect that the limits of 500 Greek
words and 2400 letters in those words would have had on the manuscript. I've previously
noted that the fact that the introductory formula 'Jesus said' is missing from the Coptic of
L27, but not from the Greek, may be explained by the necessity to restrict the instances
of the holy name to 105. While that's true, an additional instance of 'IS' would also have
thrown off the 500/2400 limits.

Just yesterday, though, a new thought came to mind along those lines. As you may recall,
there's also a missing introductory formula in L61 - the conversation between Salome
and Jesus. At 61.4, after Jesus has said something, there's an interjection - "I am your
disciple." The person who says it is apparently Salome, but there's no indication of that.
Unfortunately, we don't have a Greek version of L61 to compare, but I think it's probable
that the reason why Salome could not have been mentioned again in the Coptic version
is that a second mention of her name would have thrown off the 500/2400 limits.

But, it may be objected, why not just replace the Greek names (IS in L27, Salome in L61.4)
in the introductory formulas with Coptic pronouns ('he said', 'she said')? That's an interesting
question to which, unfortunately, I have no good answer. One possibility is that the number
of total letters in the manuscript was also limited, and that it was felt to be preferable on
the whole to eliminate the entire introductory phrases - perhaps because the letter-limits
were imposed in the last phase of the preparation of the manuscript, and that the desire
at that point was to minimize the number of places where changes had to be made. I do
think that the number of total letters in the ms was basically limited to7x2400 (16800), but
until it can be satisfactorily shown that the extra 50 or so letters in the manuscript were
intended to be tossed aside, this remains just an intriguing possibility.

Mike Grondin
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