[gthomas] Re: FIVE evergreen trees/stones/bones - and eternity
- << I don't see Greek myth as a "cause" here except on an archetypal level. Whatever the meaning is, it is probably rooted in number magic. Why are there five elements, earth, wind, air, fire, smoke listed in some gnostic sources? For that matter. was Thomas gnostic at all? >>Five was a very important number to the Greeks, represented by the pentagram and by the five perfect solids in the universe..it was thought for a time-until the discovery of the dodecahedron-that there were only four perfect solids, and the fifth was kept secret by the elite's, assuming that since it could not be connected to one of the four elements, earth wind, fire, water, that it represented God.
- -----Original Message-----
From: Mark Robbins <mrobbins@...>
To: firstname.lastname@example.org <email@example.com>
Date: Monday, December 27, 1999 10:34 AM
Subject: [gthomas] Re: FIVE evergreen trees/stones/bones - and eternity
To post to gthomas send e mail to firstname.lastname@example.org<< I don't see Greek myth as a "cause" here except on an archetypal level. Whatever the meaning is, it is probably rooted in number magic. Why are there five elements, earth, wind, air, fire, smoke listed in some gnostic sources? For that matter. was Thomas gnostic at all? >>Five was a very important number to the Greeks, represented by the pentagram and by the five perfect solids in the universe..it was thought for a time-until the discovery of the dodecahedron-that there were only four perfect solids, and the fifth was kept secret by the elite's, assuming that since it could not be connected to one of the four elements, earth wind, fire, water, that it represented God.Jim replies (in rather large font because of his eye problems),For Jung, the ideal form of consciousness was a quaternity. In _Alchemical Studies_ he makes note of how when Paracelsus replaced the four elements with the three Principles--mercury, salt and sulphur--it was due to inner psychological motives. Even the Trinity he eventually turned into a Quaternity, adding Mary in _Mysterium Coniunctionis_." Jung saw alchemy as "a 2.000 year long Rorschach test on which the contents of the collective unconscious were displayed," though often it is his _own_ unconscious being displayed. Jung's comments on number symbolism are fairly astute so I brought them up in spite of veering off topic. Like Jung, I do believe there is a collective unconscious encoded in the genotype by the same type of selection processes which encode instincts. You can check out my essay on the sociobiology of religion and Stevan Davies response in the archives.Jim Bauer
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The following is a forwarded conversation concerning saying #19.
Ronald David McCann wrote:
>>If you are correct this places this addition to the time that the existing
>>Gospels existed and were accepted and commonplace- about 350 Ad- JUST
>>ABOUT the time Thomas went underground. (literally). Some have suggested (
>>Marvin Meyer I think) that the five trees are the five initial books of
>>the bible, but that makes no sense to me. I think it crucial that we debug
>>thomas of it's late Gnostic gloss, and I am sure you are right. It just
>>fits. Thanks Rob.
>>Best Wishes for the New Year, the
>>New Century and the New Millenium
>Thank you for your comments. I had almost forgoten about the Jewish
>'Five' or the Pentateuch, but as you said, it doesn't make much sense
>since almost the whole of Thomas seems to reject much of the Torah, or at
>least it's outward practice. Also, this saying is very gnostic in flavor
>and many of the gnostic circles had rejected the Old Testament altogether
>as far too materialistic for their ideas of Jesus as a god of light.
>Another person wrote to me reminding me of the other gospels (such as
>Philip) to which I responded:
>>If the trees represent the 'Gospels' in this saying then it would imply
>>that Thomas was vieing for acceptance among the canonical 'four' probably
>>in competition with Philip and many others. If so, then Thomas could be
>>dated to sometime after the 'four' were becoming widely accepted as
>>canonical, during the second century, but not anytime before that unless
>>this saying was included at a later date to the original Thomas. Of
>>course these are alot of assumtions and such 'trees', as they stand,
>>don't hold much water in and of themselves.
>>As a side note. If the gospel of Thomas was claiming itself here to be
>>the 'fifth' gospel it would accord well with gnostic thinking concerning
>>helensitic philosophies about the composition of the universe. If there
>>are four elements, as others on the list have noted, that make up the
>>matterial world then a fifth would be 'non-matterial' (a gnostic
>>assumption of the two realities of light and darkness, the spiritual and
>>matterial), a spiritual 'tree' or 'element' among the four still sacred
>>but mundane ones and would therefore be claiming to be the one tree that
>>transcends the others and brings one finally to 'gnosis'. Thomas would
>>not be oposed to promoting itself in this way and so I think it is
>>entirely feasable that this saying is directly related to saying 1, when
>>self-refrencing itself as a complete gospel to be the key to,
>Yet I think, Ron, you are more correct in assuming saying 19 to be a later
>'gnostic gloss' over the original. (mid second to the early fourth
>centuries--doesn't narrow things down too much does it). Thanks again for
>From: Tord Svenson <raptord@...>(reproduced at the bottom of this post)
> Here is a post from the list archives concerning the Five Trees ---- It was
> from May.
[19/2-4] If you become disciples of mine (and) listen to my words
these stones will serve you.
For you have five trees in Paradise
that do not change during summer, (and) winter, and their leaves
do not fall. Whoever comes to know them will not taste death
The match between #19 b & the extracts from Philo is so exact that it hardly
leaves room for any other possibility. (Steve Davies has also pointed out
additional usage of Genesis 1 in GoT, apart from the tree in Paradise.)
Nevertheless, I feel sure that any reference to "tree" must have been
interpreted by early Christians as a reference to the cross: to be hung on a
tree was a synonym for crucifixion.
In the First Century Odes of Solomon we also find a reference to a tree in
>Ode 11And to the cross, as a tree:
>16. And He took me to His Paradise, wherein is the wealth of the Lord's
>I beheld blooming and fruit-bearing trees,
>And self-grown was their crown.
>Their branches were sprouting and their fruits were shining.
>From an immortal land were their roots.
>And a river of gladness was irrigating them,
>And round about them in the land of eternal life.
>17. Then I worshipped the Lord because of His magnificence.
>18. And I said, Blessed, O Lord, are they who are planted in Your land, and who
>have a place in Your Paradise;
>19. And who grow in the growth of Your trees, and have passed from darkness
>20. Behold, all Your laborers are fair, they who work good works, and turn from
>wickedness to your pleasantness.
>21. For the pungent odor of the trees is changed in Your land,
>22. And everything becomes a remnant of Yourself. Blessed are the workers of
>Your waters, and eternal memorials of Your faithful servants.
>23. Indeed, there is much room in Your Paradise. And there is nothing in it
>which is barren, but everything is filled with fruit.
>24. Glory be to You, O God, the delight of Paradise for ever.
>Ode 27Additionally, in the story of "The Good Thief" in Luke 23,
>1. I extended my hands and hallowed my Lord,
>2. For the expansion of my hands is His sign.
>3. And my extension is the upright tree [cross].
>42: And he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."Here, the cross is surely a tree in Paradise.
>43: And he said to him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in
So, I think that #19 either derives from Philo or, just as possibly, simply
shares what Steve Davies called "The same Hellenistic Judaistic milieu" as
Philo, but that it was read as having reference to the cross. There's no
reason to think that the saying comes from Jesus, but neither do I see a
reason to place it as a very late addition to GoT, as other list members
have recently done.
There's also another strange connection, this time to a story in Joshua:
>Joshua 10Here we have five trees, hanging (a type of death to which crucifixion was
>16: These five kings fled, and hid themselves in the cave at Makke'dah.
>17: And it was told Joshua, "The five kings have been found, hidden in the cave
>18: And Joshua said, "Roll great stones against the mouth of the cave, and set
>men by it to guard them;
>19: but do not stay there yourselves, pursue your enemies, fall upon their
>rear, do not let them enter their cities; for the LORD your God has given them
>into your hand."
>20: When Joshua and the men of Israel had finished slaying them with a very
>great slaughter, until they were wiped out, and when the remnant which remained
>of them had entered into the fortified cities,
>21: all the people returned safe to Joshua in the camp at Makke'dah; not a man
>moved his tongue against any of the people of Israel.
>22: Then Joshua said, "Open the mouth of the cave, and bring those five kings
>out to me from the cave."
>23: And they did so, .....
>26: And afterward Joshua smote them and put them to death, and he hung them on
>five trees. And they hung upon the trees until evening;
>27: but at the time of the going down of the sun, Joshua commanded, and they
>took them down from the trees, and threw them into the cave where they had
>hidden themselves, and they set great stones against the mouth of the cave,
>which remain to this very day.
considered to be equivalent), Joshua/Jesus and then a motif which has
similarities to the resurrection story (one might say that the resurrection
story draws on this passage but modifies the meaning of it.)
Is the Joshua passage really connected to #19? I feel sure that the Philo
references explain the passage adequately, but the tree/cross interpretation
is why it is included in the GoT.
> From: Achilles37@...
> Date: Sat, 29 May 1999 23:42:48 EDT
> To: firstname.lastname@example.org
> Subject: [gthomas] Re: five trees
> On 99-05-28 at 13:52:21 EDT, Tord Svenson wrote:
>> My guess is that there was a story about the Five Trees
>> in Paradise that was a cultural artifact at that time.
>> For whatever reason, the Five Trees got lost in the wash.
>> Now we have the reference in 19 but not the cultural
>> story it refers to --so we are guessing at meanings.
> Perhaps I can help out here.
> A few years ago, Prof. April De Conick published a book
> on the mystical aspects of the Gospel of Thomas titled,
> "Seek To See Him." One of the sayings she discusses
> at length is saying 19 (pp. 80 - 86). She specifically
> draws comparisons between this saying and the writings
> of Philo of Alexandria. The following sections are taken
> from her book, where she writes as follows:
> According to Philo's allegory, the Trees of Paradise are
> virtues that God planted for the nourishment of the soul
> and for the acquisition of immortality. Thus he interprets
> the commandment in Genesis 2:16, "From every tree
> that is in the garden thou shalt eat feedingly thereon",
> to mean that the soul must gain benefit "not form a
> single virtue but from all the virtues" (Leg. All 1.97). The
> purpose of eating these fruits is to nourish the soul
> "by acquisition of things noble, and the practice of
> things rightful" (1.98)...
> Specifically what are these virtues? According to
> De Plantatione 36, the Trees in the Garden are listed
> as follows: Life, Immortality, Knowledge, Apprehension,
> and Understanding of the Conception of good and evil...
> Not surprisingly the number of Trees listed are five. This
> "garden of virtues" brings "the soul to perfect happiness"
> and "immortality"...
> In Quaestiones et Solutiones in Genesis 1.6, Philo
> mentions that Paradise is "full of all kinds of trees". The
> Creator planted "His ideas" "like trees". These trees
> symbolize "Wisdom" and "Knowledge" of the divine and
> human and their causes... Furthermore, when one is
> able "to obtain a clear impression" of the trees and their
> meanings, "he will be fortunate and blessed and truly
> Significant as well to this discussion is the
> description in Philo of the nature of the Trees of Paradise.
> He explains: "But not ineptly is the word 'beautiful' used,
> for it would be natural that plants should be ever
> flourishing and evergreen, as belong to Paradise, without
> suffering the extremity of being leafless" (Quaest. Gen. 1.9).
> So here we have a tradition about the Trees in Paradise,
> of which five are named, which mentions the fact that
> those familiar with the trees are "blessed" and "truly
> immortal" and that these trees do not lose their leaves.
> Without doubt, Prof. De Conick has correctly identified
> Philo as recording some of the same traditions as those
> which lie behind saying 19 of the Gospel of Thomas.
> Hope this helps...
> - Kevin Johnson
- At 08:03 PM 1/2/00 -0800, Andrew Smith wrote:
>Is the Joshua passage really connected to #19? I feel sure that the Philo---------- Reply --------------
>references explain the passage adequately, but the tree/cross interpretation
>is why it is included in the GoT.
The only reference to a cross in the GOT that I am aware of is
55) Jesus said, "Whoever does not hate his father and his mother cannot
become a disciple to Me. And whoever does not hate his brothers and sisters
and take up his cross in My way will not be worthy of Me."
The GOT seems totally disconnected from the Christian story of the
crucifixion. The only reference I see to anything about the GOT Jesus
possibly dying is --
12) The disciples said to Jesus, "We know that You will depart from us.
Who is to be our leader?"
The word "depart" is a long stretch from a crucifixion on a cross. The GOT
is focused entirely on the sayings --not the Christian narrative we are
>From: Tord Svenson <raptord@...>Philo
>To: "Andrew Smith" <asmith@...>, email@example.com
>Subject: [gthomas] Re: Five Immortal Texts
>Date: Mon, Jan 3, 2000, 4:57 AM
> At 08:03 PM 1/2/00 -0800, Andrew Smith wrote:
> ---snip ---------
>>Is the Joshua passage really connected to #19? I feel sure that the
>>references explain the passage adequately, but the tree/crossinterpretation
>>is why it is included in the GoT.cannot
> ---------- Reply --------------
> The only reference to a cross in the GOT that I am aware of is
> 55) Jesus said, "Whoever does not hate his father and his mother
> become a disciple to Me. And whoever does not hate his brothers andsisters
> and take up his cross in My way will not be worthy of Me."us.
> The GOT seems totally disconnected from the Christian story of the
> crucifixion. The only reference I see to anything about the GOT Jesus
> possibly dying is --
> 12) The disciples said to Jesus, "We know that You will depart from
> Who is to be our leader?"The GOT
> The word "depart" is a long stretch from a crucifixion on a cross.
> is focused entirely on the sayings --not the Christian narrative weare
> familiar with.Well, yes, the GoT is a sayings collection, and isn't concerned with
narrative. Even so, it does contain #55, which refers to the cross. I
it's significant that this is included: it's also the only
saying reference to crucifixion in the synoptics, (e.g. Matt 10:38:
who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me."; one
in Mark, two each in Matthew & Luke)
So, again, my suggestion is that the Five Trees part of #19 was included
because of its reference, by exegesis, to the cross, but that it
either with Philo, or with a tradition that was common to Philo.