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[gthomas] Re: the lion which the man eats

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  • Jon Peter
    If we assume the lion has no symbolic significance, then the saying seems to be about the ironies of our human experience within the food chain. In this
    Message 1 of 16 , Aug 25, 1999
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      If we assume the lion has no symbolic significance, then the saying seems to
      be about the ironies of our human experience within the food chain. In this
      reading, an intended cosmic significance is also hinted. That may indeed
      be what L. 7 meant to the author -- but I think there's more to it.

      The lion is far too allusive-sounding for it not to be an intentional symbol
      beyond generic meat-eating. Within gnosticism, Yaldabaoth is the androgynous
      lion-faced serpent. In Judaism, Judah IS a lion in Genesis 49:8-9, and v 10
      is a messianic image associated with lionine Judah. The lion means
      something profound either way. Then too, the lion in the NT is also a
      satanic symbol eg 1Peter says somewhere of Satan that "he roams about like
      a lion, seeking whom he may devour."

      Given these associations then, I consider 'lion' to be meaningful in some
      way which I've not completely sorted out.

      If Jesus actually said this logion, then he may have been merely making an
      ironical point about eating meat, as I've said, or, he could have been
      alluding to Satan the roaming/devouring lion that Peter referenced. The
      latter seems slightly more probable -- *if* Jesus actually said this (which
      I can't decide either, but I don't consider out of the question at all).
      What tends to negates this interpretation, however, is that it is hard to
      imagine Jesus calling a satanic lion "blessed," even ironically. Hence, if
      Jesus said this, then I think he meant something other than either the irony
      of eating meat or the 'blessedness' of satan (see below).

      If Jesus didn't say it, then this logion was surely written by gnostics with
      a gnostic agenda and with a Yaldabaoth mythology in mind.

      Final possibility -- the one I now lean towards: The lion as a symbol
      introduced in Gen. 49:9 and confirmed as a symbol again in 49:10. (This
      *same* symbolism was melded into Yaldabaoth
      myth by gnostics -- there's no real difference!)

      Alas, and unfortunately, the symbolic reference cannot be uttered here-- see
      logion 13 conclusion. But one nice thing about this unspeakable
      interpretation is that it may well have been said by Jesus to a Thomasine
      circle -- in which case the problem of an incongruous 'blessed satanic lion'
      is solved. Or, it could have been added later by gnostics thinking of
      Yaldabaoth, and the meaning or interpretation of it would still be the same
      either way.

      Best regards,

      Jon
    • Robert Tessman
      ... Neither do I understand the whole Lion/Yaldaboath equation. Perhaps I am a simpleton also when I do not naturally equate the large fish , in logion 8 of
      Message 2 of 16 , Aug 25, 1999
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        >What evidence is there within the text of GThomas that the equation
        >lion=Yaldabaoth should be made?
        >
        >The saying is certainly riddling - and seems to involve a reversal of roles
        >(the human eating the lion). But what does that reversal mean?
        >
        >Valantasis 'imagines' 2 contexts in which the saying might find very
        >different interpretations:
        >
        >1. as a jesus saying about table fellowship - so that even 'base people' -
        >when included into the community's table felowship are transformed.
        >
        >2. in the formation of an ascetic or monastic community - eating itself is
        >problematized - and the saying might be interpreted as focusing on meat
        >eating as against vegetarianism

        Neither do I understand the whole Lion/Yaldaboath equation.
        Perhaps I am a simpleton also when I do not naturally equate the 'large
        fish', in logion 8 of the same gospel, with Leviathan.
        That whole process of thinking covers up more than it uncovers.
        I also agree with Jacob, here, in his attempts to define the
        question (ie, in trying to discover first why this saying is so puzzeling).
        Exegeses mean nothing if a question is not even asked first. In fact a
        question is often more revealing than any answer.
        Yes there is a definite reversal of roles here. But I cannot
        completely accept that this saying is applicable (except in one case) to
        the two senarios Jacob has here suggested.
        In the first case, the 'base people' would be eating WITH members
        of that community--they would not be eating eachother. Yet, even if they
        did eat eachother (like the disciples 'ate' Jesus) then the cost of those
        'base people' transforming to 'men' would be that the 'men' whom the 'base
        people' ate would then be 'foul' according to this saying...Unless, (and
        this is the only possibility I see) the 'base people' were to be eaten
        first!
        In the second, who eats lions? Why would a general question of
        eating meat be referenced to a lion of all creatures? Would the ascetic
        choose to eat lions--just to make that lion 'lucky'? Why not make a goat
        human instead--why a lion?
        I realize that these are just possible scenarios wherein the saying
        may have been interpreted--but if they were it would have been absurd (ah
        Hell, history is absurd...I guess I buy it!).
        But I think that the delema is not so much concerning a reversal of
        roles as it is that for two opposite scenarios there is only one possible
        outcome: Lion becomes Man.
        My question: what does it mean for a Lion to 'become' Man?
        Obviously it is lucky for the lion and foul of the human, but why?
        But what makes even this question difficult to answer is that we do
        not know what it means to EAT or be EATEN. I highly doubt that such
        consumption concerns dinner rites. Maybe it does, but why would it become
        a rite in the first place if it did not ring 'TRUE', in the general sense,
        first?


        Robert Tessman.

        In the name of Love, Light, and Truth,
        Robert Tessman
      • Jacob Knee
        Just to clarify - the contexts in which the saying might be interpreted as differently meaninglful were imagined by Richard Valantasis in his commentary on
        Message 3 of 16 , Aug 25, 1999
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          Just to clarify - the contexts in which the saying might be interpreted as
          differently meaninglful were 'imagined' by Richard Valantasis in his
          'commentary' on the Gospel of Thomas (Routledge 1997) - I was simply
          reporting what he thinks.

          He is (was?) on this list - so it might be useful to flag it up that we are
          discussing his work and hope that he might perhaps respond by amplifying a
          little how this saying might be (differently) meaningful in the 2 contexts
          he 'imagined' for it:
          1. Jesus' table fellowship
          2. ascetic/monastic disputes over meat/food.

          Best wishes,
          Jacob Knee
          (Boston, England)

          > -----Original Message-----
          > From: Robert Tessman [mailto:tess0006@...]
          > Sent: 25 August 1999 09:34
          > To: Jacob Knee
          > Cc: The Gospel of Thomas
          > Subject: Re: [gthomas] Re: the lion which the man eats
          >
          >
          > >What evidence is there within the text of GThomas that the equation
          > >lion=Yaldabaoth should be made?
          > >
          > >The saying is certainly riddling - and seems to involve a
          > reversal of roles
          > >(the human eating the lion). But what does that reversal mean?
          > >
          > >Valantasis 'imagines' 2 contexts in which the saying might find very
          > >different interpretations:
          > >
          > >1. as a jesus saying about table fellowship - so that even 'base
          > people' -
          > >when included into the community's table felowship are transformed.
          > >
          > >2. in the formation of an ascetic or monastic community - eating
          > itself is
          > >problematized - and the saying might be interpreted as focusing on meat
          > >eating as against vegetarianism
          >
          > Neither do I understand the whole Lion/Yaldaboath equation.
          > Perhaps I am a simpleton also when I do not naturally equate the 'large
          > fish', in logion 8 of the same gospel, with Leviathan.
          > That whole process of thinking covers up more than it uncovers.
          > I also agree with Jacob, here, in his attempts to define the
          > question (ie, in trying to discover first why this saying is so
          > puzzeling).
          > Exegeses mean nothing if a question is not even asked first. In fact a
          > question is often more revealing than any answer.
          > Yes there is a definite reversal of roles here. But I cannot
          > completely accept that this saying is applicable (except in one case) to
          > the two senarios Jacob has here suggested.
          > In the first case, the 'base people' would be eating WITH members
          > of that community--they would not be eating eachother. Yet, even if they
          > did eat eachother (like the disciples 'ate' Jesus) then the cost of those
          > 'base people' transforming to 'men' would be that the 'men' whom the 'base
          > people' ate would then be 'foul' according to this saying...Unless, (and
          > this is the only possibility I see) the 'base people' were to be eaten
          > first!
          > In the second, who eats lions? Why would a general question of
          > eating meat be referenced to a lion of all creatures? Would the ascetic
          > choose to eat lions--just to make that lion 'lucky'? Why not make a goat
          > human instead--why a lion?
          > I realize that these are just possible scenarios wherein the saying
          > may have been interpreted--but if they were it would have been absurd (ah
          > Hell, history is absurd...I guess I buy it!).
          > But I think that the delema is not so much concerning a reversal of
          > roles as it is that for two opposite scenarios there is only one possible
          > outcome: Lion becomes Man.
          > My question: what does it mean for a Lion to 'become' Man?
          > Obviously it is lucky for the lion and foul of the human, but why?
          > But what makes even this question difficult to answer is that we do
          > not know what it means to EAT or be EATEN. I highly doubt that such
          > consumption concerns dinner rites. Maybe it does, but why would it become
          > a rite in the first place if it did not ring 'TRUE', in the
          > general sense,
          > first?
          >
          >
          > Robert Tessman.
          >
          > In the name of Love, Light, and Truth,
          > Robert Tessman
          >
          >
          >
        • Robert G. Knight
          Exploring 1. further as to the nature of this transformation, a quote from Secret Teachings of Jesus (Marvin Meyer): If the lion, (a symbol of the world of
          Message 4 of 16 , Aug 25, 1999
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            Exploring 1. further as to the nature of this transformation, a quote from
            Secret Teachings of Jesus (Marvin Meyer):

            "If the lion, (a symbol of the world of flesh and death) eats a human, this
            is an accursed matter because then humanity is assimilated to the lion. On
            the other hand, if a human being eats a lion, this is a blessed occurrence
            because then the bestial becomes human."

            Meyer sees in this and other statements inherent in Thomas the concept of
            salvation involving transformation. These include becoming Christ 106:

            whoever drinks from my mouth will become like me, and I shall be that
            person, and what is hidden will be revealed to that one.

            and becoming male 113:

            for every woman who makes herself male will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

            For me, the transformation involves going from being subjected to subjecting
            the subjector (lion, Yaldabaoth) and becoming the subjector over oneself
            (bestial to human). As both males and females must become "single one's," I
            see what is being taught in this Thomas verse is for the disciple to assume
            the role of subjector so that dualistic conceptions are transcended and one
            enters the kingdom (22).

            Robert G. Knight
            London, Ontario






            > -----Original Message-----
            > From: Jacob Knee [mailto:jknee@...]
            > Sent: Tuesday, August 24, 1999 1:32 PM
            > To: GThom List
            > Subject: [gthomas] Re: the lion which the man eats
            >
            >
            > What evidence is there within the text of GThomas that the equation
            > lion=Yaldabaoth should be made?
            >
            > The saying is certainly riddling - and seems to involve a
            > reversal of roles
            > (the human eating the lion). But what does that reversal mean?
            >
            > Valantasis 'imagines' 2 contexts in which the saying might find very
            > different interpretations:
            >
            > 1. as a jesus saying about table fellowship - so that even 'base people' -
            > when included into the community's table felowship are transformed.
            >
            > 2. in the formation of an ascetic or monastic community - eating itself is
            > problematized - and the saying might be interpreted as focusing on meat
            > eating as against vegetarianism
            >
            > Best wishes,
            > Jacob Knee
            > (Boston, England)
            >

            >
            >
          • Jacob Knee
            The lion and the human are in a fixed hierarchy - the human is above the lion. But though the hierarchy is fixed there is movement between them - and it is
            Message 5 of 16 , Aug 25, 1999
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              The lion and the human are in a fixed hierarchy - the human is 'above' the
              lion. But though the hierarchy is fixed there is movement between them - and
              it is 'eating' that offers the possibility of transformation. The riddle
              holds out both the possibility of 'rising' (which is 'blessed') and a
              'warning' against 'falling' (which is 'cursed') - and says that the way to
              both 'rising' and falling' is through 'eating'.

              In terms of the text itself isn't that about as far as it's possible to go -
              a playful 'riddle' about transformative 'eating'.

              We might want the text to be more specific about what the elements of the
              riddle mean - but it isn't. We might imagine contexts in which lion=desire,
              or Judah, or a gnostic myth - but the text doesn't determine these
              meanings - and the only way we can determine them is by imagining contexts
              in which the saying might be interpreted as more 'concrete' - but the
              riddle is open ended enough that it could be interpreted, and surely was, in
              a polyphony of ways.

              Jacob Knee
              (Boston, England)

              > -----Original Message-----
              > From: Robert G. Knight [mailto:rknight@...]
              > Sent: 25 August 1999 17:14
              > To: GThom List
              > Subject: [gthomas] Re: the lion which the man eats
              >
              >
              > Exploring 1. further as to the nature of this transformation, a quote from
              > Secret Teachings of Jesus (Marvin Meyer):
              >
              > "If the lion, (a symbol of the world of flesh and death) eats a
              > human, this
              > is an accursed matter because then humanity is assimilated to the lion. On
              > the other hand, if a human being eats a lion, this is a blessed occurrence
              > because then the bestial becomes human."
              >
              > Meyer sees in this and other statements inherent in Thomas the concept of
              > salvation involving transformation. These include becoming Christ 106:
              >
              > whoever drinks from my mouth will become like me, and I shall be that
              > person, and what is hidden will be revealed to that one.
              >
              > and becoming male 113:
              >
              > for every woman who makes herself male will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
              >
              > For me, the transformation involves going from being subjected to
              > subjecting
              > the subjector (lion, Yaldabaoth) and becoming the subjector over oneself
              > (bestial to human). As both males and females must become "single
              > one's," I
              > see what is being taught in this Thomas verse is for the disciple
              > to assume
              > the role of subjector so that dualistic conceptions are
              > transcended and one
              > enters the kingdom (22).
              >
              > Robert G. Knight
              > London, Ontario
              >
              >
              >
              >
              >
              >
              > > -----Original Message-----
              > > From: Jacob Knee [mailto:jknee@...]
              > > Sent: Tuesday, August 24, 1999 1:32 PM
              > > To: GThom List
              > > Subject: [gthomas] Re: the lion which the man eats
              > >
              > >
              > > What evidence is there within the text of GThomas that the equation
              > > lion=Yaldabaoth should be made?
              > >
              > > The saying is certainly riddling - and seems to involve a
              > > reversal of roles
              > > (the human eating the lion). But what does that reversal mean?
              > >
              > > Valantasis 'imagines' 2 contexts in which the saying might find very
              > > different interpretations:
              > >
              > > 1. as a jesus saying about table fellowship - so that even
              > 'base people' -
              > > when included into the community's table felowship are transformed.
              > >
              > > 2. in the formation of an ascetic or monastic community -
              > eating itself is
              > > problematized - and the saying might be interpreted as focusing on meat
              > > eating as against vegetarianism
              > >
              > > Best wishes,
              > > Jacob Knee
              > > (Boston, England)
              > >
              >
              > >
              > >
              >
              >
              > ------------------------------------------------------------------------
              >
              > eGroups.com home: http://www.egroups.com/group/gthomas
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              >
              >
              >
              >
              >
            • joseph baxter
              ... Keep in mind that we are attempting to make sense of a translation which is not necessarily an accurate translation. There is an inherent difficulty in
              Message 6 of 16 , Aug 26, 1999
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                At 08:29 AM 8/24/99 , you wrote:

                > > >Logion 7 states, "Blessed is the lion which the man eats, and the lion
                > > >will become man, and cursed is the man which the lion eats, and the
                > > >lion will become man."
                > > >
                > > >Is Jesus here referring to Yaltaboaoth, the lion-faced serpent, or to
                > > >the lion of Judah?
                > > >
                > > >He is referring to the lion of the appetite. If a man can't tame his
                > > >appetites, he is eaten by them. If he tames his appetites, he is a lion
                >of
                > > >a man.
                > >
                >
                >Joe, your interpretation makes sense for the 2nd part of the logion, but I
                >don't see how "Blessed is the lion which the man eats, and the lion will
                >become man etc" quite fits.

                Keep in mind that we are attempting to make sense of a translation which is
                not necessarily an accurate translation. There is an inherent difficulty in
                translating from an extinct language and culture. We also lack a sense of
                their idioms, and may not understand what is intended as a kind of Zen
                quip. So a lot depends on intuition and inner sight. We must also try to
                understand the body of thought embraced by a larger set of the teachings.
                As a final criteria, I suggest we be on a lookout for a meaning which both
                raises our level of thinking and reduces matters to simplicity.

                My interpretation is in accord with what I perceive to be a larger body of
                thought in the sayings which are unique to the Gospel of Thomas.

                As for the grammatical structure of the first part, "the lion becoming man"
                implies a positive transformation, similar to a "man becoming God." So we
                have an ennobling process. When a man tames his appetites (I use this word
                broadly), there is an ennobling process. If a lion does the same, how much
                more so!

                A comparison can be made to the Hindu God Hanuman. Hanuman is a monkey. The
                worship of Hanuman strictly requires a practice of non-violence, monogamy,
                and the avoidance of alcohol. Hanuman represents the great leap of the
                taming of these "appetites" by an animal. The leap is so great that Hanuman
                is revered as a God.

                As for "the lion which the man eats," it could be said that if the lion is
                like the "appetites", and one eats the lion, the "appetites" are under
                one's control. As opposed to having the lion eat the man. Those "appetites"
                are out of control.

                >With kind regards,

                Joe Baxter



                joe
              • Jon Peter
                ... is ... in ... I got the impression that L. 7 was preserved in both Greek and Coptic. The gnosis.org search engine gave me 2 versions. But your point about
                Message 7 of 16 , Aug 26, 1999
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                  >
                  > Keep in mind that we are attempting to make sense of a translation which
                  is
                  > not necessarily an accurate translation. There is an inherent difficulty
                  in
                  > translating from an extinct language and culture.


                  I got the impression that L. 7 was preserved in both Greek and Coptic. The
                  gnosis.org search engine gave me 2 versions. But your point about
                  translation loss is well-taken.
                  http://www.gnosis.org/gnosis/naghamm/nhsearch.html



                  We also lack a sense of
                  > their idioms, and may not understand what is intended as a kind of Zen
                  > quip. So a lot depends on intuition and inner sight. We must also try to
                  > understand the body of thought embraced by a larger set of the teachings.

                  I think you hit the nail here. Why are we given riddles anyway? To exercise
                  our minds? Or for some other reason? My sense is that there's some mixture
                  of intention, but the lion's share of the reason for being enigmatic is not
                  to provide a Zen exercise, but for the same reason the gosples have Jesus
                  speaking in parables: he has a message he wants to convey but he cannot say
                  it openly. Hence, the GThom uses numerous riddles, most of which are
                  referring to the same secret. By piecing together numerous clues, the reader
                  eventually discovers the answer, and knows the answer is correct because all
                  of the clues fit.

                  [good stuff snipped]

                  >
                  > A comparison can be made to the Hindu God Hanuman. Hanuman is a monkey.
                  The
                  > worship of Hanuman strictly requires a practice of non-violence, monogamy,
                  > and the avoidance of alcohol. Hanuman represents the great leap of the
                  > taming of these "appetites" by an animal. The leap is so great that
                  Hanuman
                  > is revered as a God.
                  >
                  > As for "the lion which the man eats," it could be said that if the lion is
                  > like the "appetites", and one eats the lion, the "appetites" are under
                  > one's control. As opposed to having the lion eat the man. Those
                  "appetites"
                  > are out of control.
                  >

                  The motif of eating a lion as a positive thing sort of makes me think of the
                  Eucharistic meal. However, Jesus is a lamb, not a lion. Being eaten by a
                  lion negatively makes me think of a Satanic meal (cf the 1Pet ref.).

                  Anyway, surely L. 60 is referring in some way to the idea in L 7 --

                  60. He saw a Samaritan carrying a lamb and going to Judea. He said to his
                  disciples, "that person ... around the lamb." They said to him, "So that he
                  may kill it and eat it." He said to them, "He will not eat it while it is
                  alive, but only after he has killed it and it has become a carcass."

                  They said, "Otherwise he can't do it."

                  He said to them, "So also with you, seek for yourselves a place for rest, or
                  you might become a carcass and be eaten."


                  Sometimes I wonder what the Thomasines were smoking!... or, or eating.

                  Best regards,

                  Jon
                • Andrew Smith
                  I sent a similar post to this yesterday (or thought I did - it s not even in my sent mail folder. My apologies if it went directly to a group member.) In my
                  Message 8 of 16 , Aug 26, 1999
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                    I sent a similar post to this yesterday (or thought I did - it's not even in
                    my sent mail folder. My apologies if it went directly to a group member.)

                    In my original email I gave the references for the following, but I don't
                    have time to look them up again. Here are a couple of comments.

                    1. The lion would be an unclean beast for food according to Leviticus. Even
                    touching its carcase would make a man unclean. If #7 is an early saying then
                    it could be one of those sayings which reverses the expectations of the
                    hearer.

                    2. The lion also appears in the tetramorph and as a winged lion in a vision
                    of Daniel, and in other places.

                    3. In Judges there's an interesting comparison to Logion 7. Samson discovers
                    that bees have nested in the carcase of a lion that he has just killed. He
                    takes the honey from the carcase and eats it and gives some to his mother
                    and father (thus making himself unclean, but this often doesn't worry
                    Samson) and then constructs the riddle "Out of the eater came forth meat and
                    out of the strong came forth sweetness."

                    Andrew Smith
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