RE: [GTh] GTh 82 - Fire & Kingdom
- NOTE: To facilitate this discussion, I have appended to this post an
abbreviated bibliography. Shortened citations in the text may be referenced
You raise an important question. That is, is there a relationship between
GTh 82 (He who near Me is near the fire, and he who is far from Me is far
from the Kingdom) and Mark 12:34 (You are not far from the Kingdom of God)
and, if there is a relationship between them, what is the nature of the
I'm not sure if the question raised here is "important" but it is at least
interesting. A casual reading of the two texts does seem to suggest that
there is at least an echo of GTh 82 in Mk 12:34. H. Koester, in the
introduction to GTh (CGL Vol 1, 1989 46-48) includes a table of "parallels"
between the Synoptics and GTh. There, among 99 "parallels" he identifies a
probable literary (?) relationship between Mark and Thomas. Interestingly
however, a year later Koester (Gospels, 1990) does not mention Mk 12:34 as a
parallel to GTh 82 (in fact, GTh 82 is not even indexed in the work cited
As I considered Koester's apparent reassessment, and as I read the Markan
text a little more closely, I am now inclined to think that there is no
literary relationship at all between the two pericopae. This conclusion
derives partially from R. Bultmann's analysis of the pericopae (History,
1963 39-55) and also from what Frank has written below:
The context of Mark 12:34 is important. Jesus is at the temple. He has
answered a question by the Pharisees and the Herodians regarding the payment
of tribute to Caesar. He has answered a question by the Sadducees
concerning the resurrection of the dead. A scribe, seeing how well Jesus
has handled the Pharisees and the Sadducees, asks him what is the most
important commandment. After Jesus' responds, the scribe exclaims, "Right,
teacher, according to Truth, you have said that God is one, and there is not
another besides Him, and to love Him will all the heart and with all the
understanding and with all the soul and with all the strength, and to love
(one's) neighbor as oneself--(for) this is more than all burnt offerings and
the sacrifices." Then, Jesus tells him, "You are not far from the Kingdom
Your observation is correct. The context of Mk 12:34 *is* important. This
Jesus saying is embedded in the configuration of what Form Critics call a
"Scholastic Dialogue." Scholastic Dialogues, and their close cousins,
Controversy Dialogues, are regularly used throughout the synpotic tradition
as a vehicle to illustrate, through "some concrete occasion, a principle
which the Church ascribed to Jesus" [History, 1963 42]. Just a few
additional examples of these general dialogue forms that may be found in the
Healing the man with a withered hand
[Mk 3:1-6 // Mt 12:9-14 // Lk 6:6-11]
Healing of the paralytic
[Mk 2:1-12 // Mt 9:1-8 // Lk 5:17-26]
Plucking grain on the Sabbath
[Mk 2:23-38 // Mt 12:1-8 // Lk 6:1-5]
On the coming of the kingdom
The dialogue form has a consistent and simple structure. It exhibits two
A. An Event
B. A Response
Events may consist of either an attack on, or challenge to, Jesus based on
some particular action (such as a healing) or an attitude. Events may also
be in the form of a question (for Scholastic Dialogues).
Responses may take the form of:
A metaphor (including a parable): e.g., Mk 2:17, 19, 3:24.
A counter question from Jesus: e.g., Mk 3:4, 11:30; Lk 13:15.
A quotation from scripture: e.g., Mk 2:25-26, 7:6, 10:6-8.
These forms are not exclusive to the gospels. They are also broadly
distributed through Rabbinic literature. In fact an alternate name for
Scholastic Dialogue is "Rabbinic Style" (history, 1963 46).
Having said that, lets examine the pericopae in which Mk 12:34 is embedded
(often called the Great Commandment story). As long as we're at it we can
also compare the parallel accounts of the same story in Mt 22:34-40 and Lk
In Mark's rendering of the story, the Event is framed around a "scribe"
(GRAMATEUS). The Lukan version of the story substitutes a lawyer (NOMIKOS)
for the scribe, while Matthew manages to bring in both the Pharisees and the
Sadducees, one of whom happened to be a lawyer. In the version reported by
Mt and Mk, the question asked to Jesus is, "What is the greatest
commandment?" The questioner in Lk, on the other hand, wants to know what to
do to "inherit eternal life." The topic of the question is unimportant. What
is important, is the purpose of the question in this context. The purpose is
to create an occasion for Jesus to speak (History, 1963 54).
The centerpiece of the Response in all three gospels is not one, but two
quotations from scripture. The first is from Deut 6:4-5, "Hear O Israel: The
Lord our God, the Lord is one and you shall love the Lord your God with all
your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind and with all your
strength."." All three evangelists insert a quotation from Lev 19:18, "You
shall love the Lord your God with all your heart..." (Note that both Mt and
Lk omit the Shema, "Hear O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one...").
The second quotation derives from Lev 19:18, "You shall love your neighbor
Luke's version includes another element of the Response: a counter question.
There, Jesus responds to the question asked by the lawyer by asking the
questioner, "What is written in the Law?" Again, this provides a means by
which a saying of Jesus can be worked into the fabric of the story.
Mark includes a third Response element: a Metaphor couched in the phrase,
"You are not far from the kingdom of God." The origin of this saying of
Jesus is unclear. It does not seem to have derived from GTh 82. The
dissimilarities are too great.
A word or two about the Dialogue form seems appropriate here. Bultmann
argues that the function of these Dialogues is to serve the apologetic and
polemical interests of the Palestinian Church [History, 1963 40f]. The
evangelists regularly adopted sayings attributed to Jesus into these
standardized settings. It is clear that sayings of Jesus did circulate in
non-contextual formats (i.e., the Gospel of Thomas and Q). Form Critical
analysis (by Bultmann and other scholars) demonstrates how those sayings
were worked into the teachings of the Church.
From the context, it is clear that the scribe is not a Pharisee or a
Sadducee. Rather, he appears to be an Essene: for he espouses an Essene
doctrine that love of God and love of other men are more important than
There is no more evidence that the scribe in Mark's story is an Essene than
there is that he is a Pharisee or a Sadducee. It is simply not specified.
All the text says is that he was a scribe. Moreover, it is inconclusive that
he was an Essene based on the content of 12:32-33. Such sentiments as those
expressed there, for one thing, were relatively common among Jews subsequent
to the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, as well as among individuals who
were part of Christian communities. It is virtually certain that this story,
in the form which it exists in Mark, reflects the attitude of the earliest
Palestinian Church, some of whom were Jews as well, not the Essenes.
So, in Prob 84, Philo declares, the Essenes
take "for their defining standards these three, love of God, love of virtue,
love of men". Again, in their work, The Damascus Document (VI), it is
declared that "they shall love each man his brother as himself; they shall
succor the poor, the needy and the stranger." Too, in their work, The
Thanksgiving Hymns (Hymn 22), it is declared, "I have loved Thee freely and
with all my heart and soul." Also, in Prob 75, Philo states, "They have
shown themselves especially devout in the service of God, not by offering
sacrifices of animals, but by resolving to sanctify their minds."
Good Grief, Frank! Is there nowhere we can go without stepping in a Pile 'O
Philo? I do not dispute that you have an astonishing familiarity with the
Philonic corpus, and, as I've mentioned before, you have contributed much to
my own understanding of his thought. BUT, there is a limit, it seems to me,
to the degree in which his observations are relevant to the religio-cultural
environment of the ancient Mediterranean basin. Your assertions here
definitely push the envelope of credibility.
While Mark 12:34 has some verbal similarities to GTh 82, I do not think they
are related. This is because the interpretation I suggest for Mark 12:34 is
far different than the intepretation I suggest for GTh 82 in an earlier
Well, at least we agree that Gth 82 has no literary affinity with Mark
12:34, but, as usual, we disagree as to why.
Does anyone else have any ideas on whether or not Mark 12:34 and GTh 82 are
Hopefully, they do.
Humble Maine Woodsman
CGL Vol 1, 1989
Layton, Bentley. Ed. _Nag Hammadi Codex II,2-7_. The Coptic Gnostic Library.
Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1989.
Koester, Helmut. _Ancient Christian Gospels_. Philadelphia: Trinity Press
Bultmann, Rudolph. _History of the Synoptic Tradition_. Tr John Marsh. New
York: Harper & Row, 1963.
- Rick wrote:
>Mike; Thanks for helping shed a little light on the subtleties that existFor starters: http://www.geocities.com/mwgrondin/x_fonts.htm, which is a
>among the Coptic words for fire. I note, however, that we are each using a
>different transliteration protocol for Coptic words. I'm certain that yours
>is the correct scheme and I am also pretty sure that there is a website (or
>some other document) that defines the protocol. For the benefit of all,
>could you provide the link?
table I developed for my site. The table is probably rather confusing,
since I was trying to do three things with it: (1) compare two different
widely-available freeware Coptic fonts, both as to appearance and as to
keyboard mapping of the characters, (2) display the numeric value of the
Greek letters, which occasionally enters into textual analysis, and (3)
show both a common Greek transliteration scheme (B-Greek) and the translit
scheme that I used for my own work, prior to putting it online (and which
still seems to me a pretty intuitive scheme, though it breaks the
"one-for-one" and "single case" rules of standard schemes).
As to the two words in question, I really had no good reason to change your
'KW2T' to 'Kw2T' or your 'SATE' to 'SATe', other than that that's the way
they're represented in my own scheme. Your representation conforms to the
B-Greek and TLG protocols with respect to all the Greek letters, and I
should have gone along with that, since any disagreements I might have with
other Coptic translit schemes was irrelevant to the issues being discussed
in the note.
Translit protocols for the Greek alphabet are pretty well established, as
you well know. (The English characters in the "TLG" ['Thesaurus Lingae
Graecae'], for example, differ from B-Greek in only a single instance: 'C'
for 'X' and vice versa.) But Coptic is a poor-cousin-come-lately to
biblical scholarship, so the additional Coptic letters are typically
handled as add-ons to the basic Greek scheme - with some pretty horrific
results, if you ask me. Take for example the translit scheme developed for
the electronic journal TC (Textual Criticism), as at
http://rosetta.atla-certr.org/TC/TC-translit-main.html. The additional
seven Coptic letters (six in Sahidic) are all represented by special
characters, so that 'KW2T', which resembles the Coptic, comes out as
'KW^T', which doesn't. It'd be a losing battle to insist on my own scheme,
but I must say that my own transliteration of the Coptic letters looks a
heck of a lot more like them, and conflicts with the standard all-caps
Greek protocols in only one place (I used 'w' for omega, and 'W' for 'shai'
(or 'shay'), the Coptic letter that looks like a 'W' with a long tail on
it), so it's clearly possible to do much better for the Coptic letters than
TC does. Unfortunately, as you know, trying to change a standard, once set,
no matter how carelessly or by whom put together, requires the marshalling
of a rather large army of angry scholars. Where're you gonna find that many
that care enough about Coptic to oppose standards adopted by a
If Mark Goodacre or Jeffrey Gibson are listening in, they may be able to
provide the latest information about Greek/Coptic translit schemes. I'd
like to know whether the SBL Style Manual has something in it, for example.
In fact, you yourself have probably by now developed much more complete
information than I've been able to present here. In any case, I'm
personally pretty happy with any conscientious representation, as long as
it's not too hard to figure out what word is being represented.
p.s. Any thoughts about embedding fonts in these messages? I believe our
current group option is set to "Text only", not "HTML allowed".
The Coptic Gospel of Thomas, saying-by-saying
- In a message dated 6/2/01 1:54:13 AM, mgrondin@... writes:
<< p.s. Any thoughts about embedding fonts in these messages? I believe our
current group option is set to "Text only", not "HTML allowed".
>>I believe you will find that you can only transmit typed messages now. Yahoo
has put a general stop on most sites using anything but typed messages.
Anything that resembles an image such as Greek or Latin does not appear (it
will say image not displayed) However if you have the Greek and or Coptic in
the Type it may well appear.
Such as ß,π,Oø,∆, if so it is only because it is programming language I
believe. Apparentlythe cut down after some images carried virus attacks to
the Groups (Bad trans 2 virus), I have on several sites tried to use the
Greek and It simply does not appear anylonger.
You Can upload files into the Images section of a main site. I believe
you"ll probably have to experiment with what will make it through. regards
- John Moon said:
>>However if you have the Greek and or Coptic in the Type it may wellappear. Such as �,p,O�,?, if so it is only because it is programming
language I believe.<<
It is all just plain ol' ASCII. I think that if you specify a font in
an HTML message sent to the list, the character's numeric value will
be converted to its standard ASCII equivalent. Each computer has
standard font(s), and I think some web browsers and e-mail programs
let you specify different fonts for display within their enviroment.
Perhaps if the font specified in an HTML message uses some sort of
special combination of ASCII characters for each letter, then the
computer does not know what to show on the screen. That's my guess,
anyhow. The "�,�" type characters may work as upper ASCII characters
in some "standard" Western/Latin font sets like Windows standard.
Cleveland, Ohio, USA
- In view of what John and David say, which is essentially correct, and
since Coptic or Greek are not *regularly* used on this list, do you
not think it would be just as well to stick with transliterations?
- Rick Hubbard asks:
>>do you not think it would be just as well to stick withtransliterations?<<
I have to agree. Unless everyone has HTML capable e-mail software
*and* the same fonts loaded on their computers, there will always be
conflicts displaying messages containing sections of a foreign
language font. The internet was designed to send ASCII text messages
only, and I'm afraid that transliterations using ASCII characters is
the only common solution for the time being.
However, I do agree with Mike that some transliteration schemes are
harder to intuitively grasp than others. Too many characters like
@#$%^&*()<>|\/ (especially for some of the Semitic languages) in a
scheme make it hard for me to easily sound out the word in my head.
However, Haven't I seen a scheme much like Mike's Coptic scheme used
in printed books?
Cleveland, Ohio, USA