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Saying 86 // Matt 8:20 - another pun

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  • Jon Peter
    This is a continuation of my post of last week, concerning puns on ‘cain / cainan’ in GThom 86. A further look has revealed to me still another pun which I
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 7, 2000
      This is a continuation of my post of last week, concerning puns on �cain / cainan� in GThom 86. A further look has revealed to me still another pun which I hadn�t see before: Greek �klino,� meaning, �to lay,� when translated into Hebrew yields the etymological root for Seth. This of course confirms the cainan �son of man� allusions to Gen. 5.1 which I suggested previously. Here is the pertinent Strong�s reference of this pun:

      07896 tyv shiyth sheeth

      a primitive root; TWOT-2380; v

      AV-set 23, made 19, lay 13, put 11, appoint 3, regard 2, misc 14; 85

      1) to put, set

      1a) (Qal)

      1a1) to put, lay (hand upon)

      1a2) to set, station, appoint, fix, set mind to

      1a3) to constitute, make (one something), make like, perform

      1a4) to take one's stand

      1a5) to lay waste

      1b) (Hophal) to be imposed, be set upon

      Matthew 8:20 // GThom 86 reads: And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay (klino) his head.

      As noted in my post of 11/3, the puns are qen & qanan, meaning "nest," "place" punning on the son of man = Cain /Cainan. And so now another �son of Adam,� Seth, is signaled by klino.

      Here is the Strong�s reference on the name SETH or SHETH, which is tied to the root I just gave above

      08352 tv Sheth shayth

      from 07896, Greek 4589 shy; ;pr n m

      AV-Seth 7, Sheth 2; 9


      1) the 3rd son of Adam by Eve

      1a) also'Sheth'


      I checked the online LXX at U Penn and found a few examples in which Hebr. shiyth translates into klino.

      More on the implications of the Gen 5.1 allusion in a moment, but first, another point worth noting about saying 86 and the son of man, is that saying 85 preceding it refers to Adam by name. ("Adam came into being from a great power and great wealth, but he did not become worthy of you. For had he been worthy, [he would] not [have tasted] death.") Saying 85 in Coptic even spells this ADAM. And, incidentally, the word �death� in 85 appears to be spelled MOT, which is also Hebrew.

      The theme of 85 also parallels that of 86, being "the inadequacy of Adam" which results in his (our) demise. Saying 85�s �Adam� is probably serving also as a catchword-segue to the unstated but implied �Adam� in 86�s �son of man.� It is hard to avoid this conclusion, inasmuch as the themes of 85 and 86 both concern the debased status of Cain, son of Adam.

      I think the punning is unambiguously for Hebrew ears rather than Aramaic, and this is very significant (see below).

      The Coptic of 86 does not use ADAM as 85 had, but, from the look of it, I am guessing that it literally translated the Greek, �the son of this man.� (I haven�t studied Coptic grammar.)

      Now a few thoughts about the interpretation, and the function of this �son of man� idiom:

      Initially I considered the idea that Jesus (the saying�s likely source) was ultimately making reference to Seth as the point of the saying. Seth was the "compensation" son of Adam to replace the dead Abel and to supplant or augment the murderous Cain. Seth held tremendous cosmological significance, then, because if Adam had not sired him, the human race would all be descended from a fratricide. (And we ourselves would be even more screwed up than we are now). I still think it somewhat plausible that Jesus was planting the seed of this, so to speak, and may have amplified in private that he regarded himself as recapitulating this "good bloodline recovery" role a la Seth. But this was a spiritual rather than a physical prototokos of the new lineage who are, this time, not going to repeat Adamic failings. (Rom 5.14, ICo 15.22); Jesus as a progeitor: Rom 8:29, Col 1.15.

      That is one reasonable implication, given the "setup" to this, provided by the Adamic failure reference in 85, and the fact that Paul and the Sethians and the Testament of Abraham all picked up the theme of the �new, perfect patriarch,� Jesus.

      However, a quite different implication to the �son of man� has also occurred to me, and now I am strongly leaning towards this one as the earliest �point� of the allusion by Jesus himself. Therefore, the "new-Seth / Second Adam" theology came along as a later development. My reason for thinking so is that, strictly speaking, 86 is not presenting Jesus as a firstborn type at all, but is simply extending the theme of the failure and misery of Adam & sons. The saying�s author (Jesus) doesn�t even hint, let alone compel us to think that Jesus is hereby declaring himself to be the Sethian figure, i.e a compensatory son of Adam. What, then, did Jesus (or the author) mean to say?

      Previously I noted the apparent allusion to Gen 5:1ff, the "Book of the Generations of Adam," and now I see a more precise reason for this reference being evoked, one which also explains the resulting idiomatic overuse of the son of man in the NT, without the justification for it that we would wish to see in the form of some recognizable eschatological figure..

      The most persuasive solution, to me, is that Jesus and his circle regarded Gen. 5:1ff as primarily being �about� something which was utterly at the heart of their existential condition, namely, the conflict and struggle between high-dialect Aramaic brahminate descended from returning Exiles, who continued to ruled, and the indigenous Canaanite-Hebrews populations in places like Galilee, who were under the thumb and had been compelled to undergo a continuing and drastic cultural / ideological reform for centuries. This struggle is hidden within Gen 5.1 quasi-allegorically, and the author of GThom 86 interprets that Book and its patriarchal lineage not as literal history, but for what it actually is: an ingenious �dig� against Aramaeans, which could only be understood by Hebrews.

      The time period for authoring the main or final draft of the Pentateuch by the Hebrew-Aramaic scribes of the Ezra circle probably occurred in the context of the Exilic return, as can be seen in Ezra / Nehemiah /Chronicles. Genesis was written in this period or later, in order to set in place several subtle clues and themes that would be leitmotifs throughout the ensuing history tale. It thus begins with an allegorical and oblique reference to events such as the demise of the native El based cult, and ascent of a new lawgiving deity imitative of Marduk in the East. The OT alludes to this historical watershed over and over again in many dramatic ways, Gen 5:1ff being a major, initial one.

      The purported genealogy of Adam, Cain, Abel, Seth, etc. etc. actually represents the accession of Aramaic rule and culture over Hebrew, which is indicated by linguistically coded patriarchal figures. �Adam� is of course Hebrew, and represents the native population, who sires Cain and Abel (both Hebrew names) In my view �Abel� is allegorically not a real son but a fiction representing the Hebrew-Canaanite community who identified with �Father El,� = Ab El. Abel is both a pun and nomina sacra of sorts.

      "Cain slew Abel," and this symbolically represents the violent suppression of the native Hebrew Canaanite beliefs (which we now call fertility religion). The conflict and eventual complete suppression, and triumph of the Torah, is of course referred to constantly in the OT and is a dominant historical theme.

      Continuing with the allegory, Cain is now �marked� and accursed -- yet also shielded from would-be vengeance seekers and is dispatched �East of Eden� (i.e., to Mesopotamia) where he sires a new lineage. Adam and Eve now conceive Seth, who sires Enos who sires Cainan. The last two names are clearly wordplay, in that �enos� is the Aramaic word for man, and �Cainan� is Aramaic for his eponymous Hebr. 'great uncle.'

      I am certain that this wordplay would have been redolent, to Hebrew ears, of their own ironical displacement or dispossession by the post-Exilic Babylo-Aramaeans. The actual "point" of the allegory is that the Hebrew natives from Adam are superceded by a "compensation," i.e. Seth (root = laid down, imposed; see Strong's cite), who then "takes possession" (literally, "Cainan" = Canaan) of the land.

      Ultimately we are left with an Aramaic �Cainan� as the son of Enosh. But he is linked by the homonym to Cain, and thus HE is a �murder� or usurper. This wordplay cannot be accidental, and I think too that it is written by bilingual scribes primarily for Hebrew hearers who will get it, while the dig against Aramaeans will be over the latter's heads.

      This pattern of writing little allegories and sayings with several meaning-levels to be deciphered is, of course, central to Jesus� parables and to GThom sayings alike. The author of 86 understood Gen 5.1 in this vein and was alluding to the political meaning in it, by imitating the wordplay. The puns in Gen. cannot be coincidental or meaningless, and nor is it plausible that the author of saying 86 could possibly *not* have figured out the implication of the punning in Gen. 5. He is in a sense rewriting it, in the Hebrew manner of rewriting, and in so doing he aims to "RE-dispossess" the Aramaeans, so to speak, of their hegemony of which they, the Aramaeans "returning exiles," had formerly dispossessed them.

      Now, back to bar enosh or ben adam underlying the NT. We know from various linguistic evidence that bar enosh was a particularly *Aramaic* idiom, and, I would venture to add, to Hebrew-Canaanite ears it must have been distinctly NOT native, and was even grating and ominous, because in the H-C culture the operative ideology was not that humans were �bar Enosh� sons-of-man, but they were originally Sons of the Most High God, i.e. bene ha elohim, or children of Ab-El. These native beliefs had been and were in the process of being programmatically suppressed and supplanted with the concept of bar enosh / ben adam (which the literate cognoscenti saw as *a phony genealogy* anyway, as signaled by its puns). Thus the new, demeaning beliefs were inculcated. All of this was epitomized by the idiom �bar enosh� and its theology (rendered into Hebrew only at that time). And all of this is allegorized in Genesis, primarily by the Fall and Fratricide and in the Book of the Generations. These are allegories imparting the story of the supercession of the new mundane anthropological myths to replace the former loftier sense of place the Hebrews believed they held in the cosmos. This new �bar enosh� now demeaned the natives and effectively destroyed their unifying belief system hinging on descent from and ongoing connection to Father El and Family.

      Note that, at about this time, the religion police in Jerusalem were rounding-up and executing the former El clergy (see Nehemiah). The Hebrew-Canaanites were systematically being taken control of by a brahmin class of purported kinsmen from Babylon.

      This post is getting too long, so I can only note in passing the characteristic polemical / revisionistic use of �ben adam� as it is found in three places in the OT: Ezekiel, Psalms, and in the odd phrase �one like a son of man� in Daniel. The latter is actually partly written in Aramaic. Each bar enosh / ben adam in the OT has a specific literary purpose that relates back to the reformation of Hebrew-Canaanite native culture (allegorized in Gen).

      The NT �son of man� cases are basically examples of formal �rewriting� (in the technical sense that is unique to Jewish literature). They are quasi-imitative devices aimed at ritually paralleling Ezekiel, the Psalms and Daniel. Demonstrating this would be beyond the scope of one already-long post.

      �Bar enosh/ ben adam� must have become a code phrase in the Diaspora, summing up, in one expression, the entire cultural transformation by which the people who were once �sons of the Most High� were being ideologically demoted to mere �sons of Enosh� and simultaneously subjugated to social control methods associated with atoning for Adam�s sin through visits to the Aramaean cash cow, the second temple.

      This sardonic wordplay in GThom 86 suggests to me that some vestiges of a rueful connotation remained in the phrase �ben adam� It evoked the resentment which oppressed and second-class citizens always feel towards their superiors, particularly when they are ethnic "come heres." (Hillel, you�ll recall, who was a contemporary of Jesus and standout pharisee, had immigrated to Judea from Babylon!) The NT shows this conflict, with many hints that it is ethnically based. Peter�s accent marks him as a Galileean (a la the shibboleth episode in Judges 12) GJohn sort of refers to the pharisees as murderous and hence he is alluding to the incarnation of Cain or Cainans; Rev. alludes to those �who say they are Jews but are a synagog of satan�� In Acts, the Hellenistic Jewish Christians are expelled from Jerusalem, but the presumably Aramaic ones are allowed to stay. Jesus finds greater kinship with Samaritans and even Romans than with purported Jewish aristocrats in the south; and so on.

      Traditionally, ethnic tensions have been re-cast by exegetes into more �spiritual� terms, probably in order to keep the image of Jesus as a pure-bred Jewish, for polemical reasons and in oder to avoid the huge difficulties that would arise from any other conclusions. However, the conflicts are indeed ethnic, and are deeply encoded into saying 86, as they are in approximately one-third of GThom. Friction with the ruling 'high Aramaic' speaking aristocratic line is thus the indispensable backdrop for interpreting not only this haunting idiom, but virtually everything else about Jewish and Christian origins. -Jon.

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