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Re: [gthomas] Re: Circumcision, #53

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  • joe lieb
    ... Andrew, Thank you for clarifying the situation. You have confirmed what I suspected. I may seem to be overly outspoken, but I feel compelled at this point
    Message 1 of 32 , Aug 4, 2000
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      > Andrew Smith on Thu, 27 Jul 2000 18:31:57 quoted
      > Stevan Davies from Mon, 11 Oct 1999 22:26:53 :
      >
      >> 5. The Gospel of Thomas quotes Jesus as having spoken against
      >> fundamentals of Judean Law. Circumcision. Fasting. Praying.
      >> Almsgiving. Kosher. It seems to me that these sayings (6/14 also
      >> to be found in the Sermon on the Mount (albeit radically different
      >> there)) fit the evidence for "Jesus said them." Jesus the Jew
      >> is, I think, just the Matthean mythos adopted today for political-
      >> historical reasons.
      >>
      >> Steve Davies

      me:
      > That the Matthean mythos of Jesus is adopted today for
      > political-historical-social reasons is not a matter of "I think". It is
      > undeniable. As I have said before on this list, the fact that Christianity has
      > survived so long and is still today so powerful is due to the gospel of
      > 'Mathew'. This masterfully addresses the political, historical and social
      > needs of a religion.

      Andrew Smith:
      > I think you're misinterpreting Steve's post, Joe. I forwarded it as an
      > example of a possible model for an Historical Jesus that could include
      > GoT#53 as an authentic saying. Steve is referring to modern scholarship, not
      > to a general view of Jesus. I understand him to be saying that the tendency
      > in modern HJ research to emphasize the Jewishness of Jesus is due to an
      > element of political correctness, which is understandable in the
      > post-Holocaust world, but which isn't really confirmed by the sources. It's
      > arguable, but I find this model quite useful.



      Andrew,
      Thank you for clarifying the situation. You have confirmed what I suspected. I may seem to be overly outspoken, but I feel compelled at this point to say that it is abundantly obvious to anyone who has read the gospels that Jesus was a Jew. That's not a matter of political correctness. When Davies refers to the 'Matthean mythos' as a modern twist, his case falls flat before it is off the ground because 'Matthew' was not a modern person.

      I believe that what we have stumbled on is one of the paradoxes of Christianity, namely that Jesus' life can only be understood in the context of Judaism while Jesus' message is universal. This paradox is present in all of the canonical gospels as well as in GOT. After two thousand years this same paradox has not been resolved. IMO the umbilical cord that ties Christianity to Judaism has still not been completely broken.

      If one looks not just at the Holocaust but at two thousand years of Jewish relations with the outside world one observes cycles of extreme antipathy alternating with splendid cooperation. The viewpoint that you, Andrew, have quoted is that interpretation of HJ research follows the cycles of Jewish status. I was putting forward the inverse opinion, that Matthew is such a powerful propaganda text that it is the one driving these cycles in the first place.

      GoT#53 is very relevant, as you say. Let us suppose that Jesus really did say #53. What he meant, then, was that circumcision is not nearly as important as believing in him. It still doesn't resolve the status of circumcision. NB Jesus made a similar remark about baptism, namely that baptism is not nearly as important as believing in him. But Christians still practise baptism. No matter how you interpret #53, circumcision remains as a very significant custom.

      >> 5. The Gospel of Thomas quotes Jesus as having spoken against
      >> fundamentals of Judean Law. Circumcision. Fasting. Praying.
      >> Almsgiving. Kosher.

      How seriously are we to take the interdiction against almsgiving?...
      GoT, like Matthew, elevates the Jewish religion by its very denunciation.

      I think that, rather than determining how Jewish HJ was, a far more relevant and fruitful line of enquiry is determining how Jewish Christianity is TODAY. eg Sunday sabbath. Is this the sabbath of the gospels? Historically did Saturday sabbath disappear and then get reinvented as Sunday sabbath?


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    • Isidoros
      Apologies for the lateness to respond, to several posts and this, Mike G s of Aug. 12, but for being away from my e-desk, as, too, for some rather large chunks
      Message 32 of 32 , Aug 22, 2000
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        Apologies for the lateness to respond, to several posts and this, Mike G's of
        Aug. 12, but for being away from my e-desk, as, too, for some rather large
        chunks of M's message I am about to unload on you, for the lapsed time and
        (my) memory.


        >For the immediately following 53.3, Isidoros proposes:
        >"... it is through (my own) true (kind of) "spiritual"
        > circumcision (that one) realizes life thoroughly".
        >
        >in lieu of something like Lambdin's (NHLe):
        >
        >"... the true circumcision in spirit has become completely profitable."
        >
        >In defense of his reading, Isidoros says:
        >>... thinking conditioned by patterns already established by previous
        >> translations may not so readily agree with a novel reading, and so
        >> not be so willing to support it.
        >
        >But it was not to such "conditioning" that I made appeal when I called
        >Isidoros' reading "insupportable", to the point of not being translation at
        >all. It was by appeal to the (Coptic) words themselves, as defined by many
        >translators over many years of translating many different kinds of Coptic
        >texts. It's true, for example, that the translator has become "conditioned"
        >to reading the Coptic word 'sebbe' as 'circumcision', but that's because
        >that's the meaning that has been found to best fit its usage in at least
        >hundreds of different contexts in hundreds of different texts.

        Granted, most all lexicographers compile word lists to subsequently form
        dictionaries on the bases of the perceived semantic "correspondences".
        A necessary but insufficient method for rendering texts of many layered
        semasiae, such as GThomas, or of the gospels, intended to be generally
        inaccessible but, maybe, eventually to the catechumens. The often intended
        obscurity or double play involved is precisely designed to withstand a
        surface level "decoding", though even ordinarily subtle nuances are very
        often lost, and not only on fast tracking assistants and graduate students.
        Not to forget the textual rarity of certain words, which hardly allow for
        correspondences.

        Let us, indeed, take the word that you use as an example, Mike, 'sebbe',
        'circumcision', you say, associating it with the verb ?sebi', to circumcise.
        And you give this straight out, as if it is the only meaning, as if this is an
        exact, one-to-one, objective semantic correspondence always. You
        evidently are not aware that in several lexicons 'sebe', or more precisely,
        as is the #53 reference, 'sbbe' has an 'unknown' meaning -- and it is
        on this "basis" that I, in fact, had alluded to Joe L. of a
        "difference", as, too,
        I spoke later of a "play in words, the double meaning played upon the
        two CBBE".

        I had written about this very point to Joe:

        < "circumcision", very unfortunately, is one of the many
        and terribly misunderstood, and (won't exaggerate by adding)
        tragically mis-taken, terms in the whole of the misbegotten
        biblical tradition as has come down to most all of us >

        >In addition,
        >in those many cases where we have in view the same text in another language
        >(typically Greek), the Coptic word 'sebbe' has been found in precisely
        >those places where the Greek text contains a Greek word that has been
        >independently translated as 'circumcision'.

        "... a Greek word that has been independently translated as 'circumcision'"
        you say, from what language, Mike? Would you please be specific about it?


        >And this same is true also of
        >the verbal phrase in question, namely 'find beneficial', which Isidoros
        >renders as 'realize life'.

        No. It is not the said 'find beneficial' that I translate as you say
        'realize life'.
        It is the 'find beneficial', Lambdin's (NHLe)"profitable", or the said literal
        'has found profit' that I render as "realize", in the (intended)
        double sense of
        "gain" and of "realization" (as in what we sometimes say to "realize profit".)
        "Life" was meant there to be within a parenthesis or brackets, to explicate
        the meaning intended; it is not on the logion text. I was eager to let Joe see
        some of what lays there below the surface of the text, so I used it,
        non-qualified.
        This is one benefit "realized" out of this exchange. So, #53c should read:

        "... it is through (my own) true (kind of) "spiritual"
        circumcision (that one) realizes (life) thoroughly".


        [A couple of paragraphs about the sentence's sense and clarity of translation
        snipped. Think enough has been said on the matter].


        >A literal rendering of 53.3 would be something like the following [...]
        >
        >(a) "true circumcision in(the)spirit, he(it) has found profit, all of it"
        >[....]
        >The 'he' in (a) evidently refers back to the (masculine) noun
        >'circumcision', rather than to "their father" mentioned in 53.2. What is
        >evidently going on, then, is that 'circumcision' is being personified in
        >53.3, i.e., treated as a person instead of a thing (compare the
        >personification of 'sophia' ['wisdom'] elsewhere). The result is an
        >immediate lack of sensibility, since we expect that only persons can "find
        >profit". We can get around this awkwardness only by avoiding the
        >personification of 'sebbe', and rendering it more freely as:

        In noting the gender "discrepancy", you hit the, so to speak, "nail" on the
        "head", Mike. Even if you (it is evident to me) have no idea what is meant
        there. It again has to do with your previous "objective" taking of 'sbbe'.
        And, no, your "more freely" rendering this as

        >(b) "true circumcision in(the)spirit has become completely profitable"

        won't do the trick. Not only the "awkwardness" remains, but you ought,
        in any case, not make away with the "personification of 'sebbe'". After all,
        it?s in the text isn't it?

        >Mike

        Isidoros
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