Re: [GTh] GTh 97: The Woman With the Jar that Breaks and GTh 98: the Man With a Sword
- There is a passage from Philo that, I suggest, helps us to understand GTh
97. It is found in Fuga 200-201 and reads, "In the next place, they (i.e.,
the impious) dig not as did the wise, Abraham and Isaac, wells (Gen. xxi.
30, xxvi. 18), deep sources of Epistemas (Knowledge) from which draughts of
reason are drawn, but cisterns, having no excellent thing of their own to
afford nourishment, but needing the inflow from without, that must come from
teaching, as the instructors keep on pumping in unbroken stream into the
ears of their pupils the principles and conclusions which constitute
Epistemes (Knowledge), that they may both grasp what is imparted to them
with their intelligence and treasure it in their memory. As it is the
'cisterns' are 'broken' (Jer. ii. 13), that is to say, all the receptacles
of the ill-conditioned soul are crushed and leaking, unable to hold in and
keep the inflow of what might do them good."
As water is stored in a well or cistern, so a person's soul has
receptacles, wells and cisterns so to speak, for storing Knowledge, i.e.,
the Spirit-Sophia--particularly as the words/virtues that are of her very
self and that are utterances whose ultimate origin is God. A soul that can
understand these utterances and treasure them has receptacles that are like
wells in that they hold these utterances indefinitely. A soul that cannot
understand these utterances and/or does not treasure them, has receptacles
that are like broken cisterns in that they soon lose them. In the first
soul, then, the memory of these words/virtues continues indefinitely, but in
the second soul the memory of these words/virtues is soon lost and, so, the
soul relapses back into ignorance.
Next, let us turn to GTh 97, "The Kingdom of the [Father] is like a
certain woman who was carrying a jar full of meal. While she was walking
[on] a road, still some distance from home, the handle of the jar broke and
the meal emptied out behind her on the road. She did not realize it; she
had noticed no accident. When she reached her house, she set the jar down
and found it empty."
Here, I suggest, the "meal" is the Spirit-Sophia--particularly as the
words/virtues that are of her very self. The underlying thought is likely
based on the Philonic idea that the words/virtues can be likened to seeds of
grain--for seeds of grain constitute the meal used in making bread. The
woman is a soul. The jar is one of the receptacles of this soul that is
used for storing the Spirit-Sophia.. The jar breaks and the meal gradually
flows out of it. That is to say, since the soul has failed to understand
these words/virtues and/or has failed to treasure them, this receptacle of
the soul "breaks" and these words/virtues gradually leave it. Eventually,
the jar is empty. That is to say, eventually this receptacle of the soul
loses all the words/virtues that had been stored in it. Thus, without the
soul realizing what is happening, she gradually loses her memory of the
words/virtues that had been taught to her by God or a human teacher until
she totally relapses into her former ignorance.
This occurs while the soul is on "the road". As she loses the
words/virtues that are of the very self of the Spirit-Sophia, this is, I
suggest, the wrong road, i.e., the road of of vice and passion. Compare
L.A. ii, 98, where Philo states, "The road of Virtue (i.e., the
Spirit-sophia) is unworn, for few tread it, while that of vice is well worn.
He calls on him to beset with his ambuscade and to lie in wait upon the
beaten road of passion and vice, on which reasoning powers (i.e., minds)
that flee from Virtue wear out their life."
At the end of her trip on this road, the soul reaches her house. Because
the passions reside in the body, this road of vice and the passions leads
the soul to the body: which body, hence, is this soul's house So, in Mig.
9, Philo states, "Depart, therefore, out of the earthly matter that
encompasses thee; escape, man, from the foul prison *house*, thy body, with
all thy might and
main, and from the pleasures and lusts that act as its jailers; every terror
that can vex and hurt them, leave none of them unused; menace the enemy with
them all united and combined"..
How, though, can the soul escape the body, a house that is its prison,
and, so, find freedom? The answer is found in GTh 98--which immediately
follows 97. GTh 98 reads, "The Kingdom of the Father is like a certain man
who wanted to kill a powerful man. In his own house he drew his sword and
stuck it into the wall in order to find out whether his hand could carry
through. Then he slew the powerful man."
Underlying this passage, I suggest, is the Philonic idea that the mind is
the inner or real man and the body the outer man--with "the man" being the
mind and "the powerful man" being the body. This body, as in the preceding
97, is also the "house"--so it is both "the powerful man" and the "house".
The slaying of the "powerful man", i.e., the body, by "the man", i.e.,
the mind, is the mind severing itself from this body. So, in Ebr 70, Philo
declares, "Therefore we shall kill our 'brother'--not a man, but the soul's
brother the body; that is, we shall dissever the passion-loving and mortal
element (i.e., the body) from the Virtue-loving and divine (i.e., the mind).
As for the sword possessed by the man, i.e., the mind, it is, I suggest,
himself. So, as the body is both the powerful man and the house, so the
mind is both the man and the sword. For example, in Cher 29, Philo
declares, "Of these two potencies, Sovereignty and Goodness the Cherubim are
symbols, as the fiery sword is the symbol of the Logos." Here, we learn,
the Logos is a spiritual fiery sword. Then, in Cher 31, Philo states,
"Remember how Abraham the wise, when he began to make God his standard in
all things and leave nothing to the created, takes a copy of the flaming
sword--'fire and knife' it says (Gen. xxii. 6)--desiring to sever and
consume the mortal element away from himself and thus to fly upward to God
with his understanding stripped of its trammels." Here, we learn, Abraham
took a copy of the flaming sword to use in severing his soul from his body.
As the flaming sword is the Logos, and as one's mind is a copy of the Logos,
the copy of the flaming sword Abraham used to sever his soul from his body
is his mind.
Also, I suggest, the Kingdom in this passage is the Spirit-Sophia and she
is the man's (i.e., the mind's) hand--for the Spirit-Sophia is the Hand of
God. So, it is said in Wisdom of Solomon 10:16 "(Sophia) brought them
through the Red Sea, and led them through much water; but she drowned their
enemies, and cast them up out of the bottom of the deep. Therefore the
righteous spoiled the ungodly, and praised Thy holy Name, O Lord, and
magnified with accord Thine Hand, that fought for them."
So, I suggest, the basic meaning of GTh 98 is this: A mind can gain its
freedom from the body. In order to do so, it must, first of all, gain
possession of the Spirit-Sophia, the Hand of God, and, so, make her his own
Hand. Then he tests the power of the Spirit-Sophia by having her, his Hand,
"push" his sword, i.e., himself, into a "wall" of the house, i.e., the body.
This is to see if, with her help, he can "damage" (i.e., partially sever
himself from) the house (i.e., the body).. When he perceives that this is
the case, he then has her help him to "destroy" (i.e., completely sever
himself from) the powerful man ( i.e., the body).
In this case, then, the underlying thought to GTh 98 is that one's mind
cannot, on its own, sever itself from the body. Rather, it can only do this
with the help of the Spirit-Sophia. Consequently, the mind must first
receive the Spirit-Sophia before it can escape from its imprisonment in the
house of the body and soar upwards to heaven where is God and her as the
heavenly abode of souls.
To summarize, GTh 97 and GTh 98 are, I suggest, a tale of a fall and a
rise. They begin with a fall--a movement of a soul down the road of vice
and passion. In this movement, the soul gradually loses its memory of the
words/virtues that are of the very self of the Spirit-Sophia and that had
been taught to it until it relapses into total ignorance. As a result, it
is imprisoned in its house--the body. Then they continue with a rise--the
freeing of a mind from its imprisonment in its house of the body so that it
can soar upwards to heaven. This is accomplished by the mind only with the
assistance of the Spirit-Sophia. In it, the Kingdom is the Sophia-Spirit:
first as the words/virtues that are of her very self and then, second, as
herself as a unitary whole.
Maplewood, MN USA
- Frank McCoy wrote:
> The woman is a soul.Having thus far delineated two types of soul, you now say that the woman is
"a soul", without qualification. She must be of the type that doesn't hold
epistemes, right? So epistemes(=pneuma=sophia) is like a soul that doesn't
hold epistemes. Very nice.
> This occurs while the soul is on "the road". As she loses theWell, make up your mind. Either this soul loses the epistemes because it's
>words/virtues that are of the very self of the Spirit-Sophia, this is, I
>suggest, the wrong road, i.e., the road of of vice and passion.
the kind of soul that can't hold it, or because it's on the wrong road.
Which is it?
> At the end of her trip on this road, the soul reaches her house. BecauseHow did this soul get out of its body in the first place? And wherein lay
>the passions reside in the body, this road of vice and the passions leads
>the soul to the body: which body, hence, is this soul's house.
her mistake? That she didn't notice the leaky jar, or that she was trying
to bring the flour back to her "house" at all? Also, it's really quite
absurd to say that "this road of vice and passions leads the soul to the
body", since the soul must already be subservient to the body in order to
even venture out on that road. You're tripping up all over the place on
your own equivalences.
> The slaying of the "powerful man", i.e., the body, by "the man", i.e.,I suppose we may now look forward to your equating every occurrence of the
>the mind, is the mind severing itself from this body. So, in Ebr 70, Philo
>declares, "Therefore we shall kill our 'brother'--not a man, but the soul's
>brother the body; that is, we shall dissever the passion-loving and mortal
>element (i.e., the body) from the Virtue-loving and divine (i.e., the mind).
words 'house' and 'brother' to the body. Such has been your invariable
method of reasoning: first find a passage in Philo that compares X with Y,
then every time you see the word 'Y', interpret it as an X. Do you really
not see the fallacy of this approach? Even considering Philo alone, did he
never use the word 'house', for example, OTHER than with respect to the
body? But you've found ONE passage where he did so use it, and now, if
you're true to form, every house (and probably every brother, too) will
become a body. Nothing is as it seems in this McCoy-in-Wonderland world.
Which is not to say that it's all bad, just that it's pretty much all
subjective - and ever-changing. (I wonder if you're aware of the irony of
your applying not only Philonic concepts, but Philonic methodology as
well.) And in spite of your professed willingness to discuss objections to
your analyses, you typically haven't done so. Instead, every three days or
so, we get a Philonic-type interpretation of yet another saying, without
adequate response to specific criticisms of prior ones. Tenacity is
certainly admirable up to a point, but you seem to be largely sweeping
aside, ignoring, and/or minimizing objections to your work, instead of
meeting them head-on.
BTW, when are you going to work 'pistis' (faith) into the picture? One
could equally well argue that the woman is losing her faith. Are you going
to equate that with pneuma and sophia? Or do we have to await your
discovery of some passage in Philo before you commit yourself?
Now in answer to the question you raised some time back: given that we CAN
interpret anything in terms of anything else, SHOULD we? My answer is "No,
not unless we can demonstrate that the arrangers of GTh had this
interpretation in mind." So far, you haven't demonstrated that, and no
amount of further McCoyan midrash will go any farther toward such a
demonstration. Your efforts are only showing two things that we already
know, namely that (1) any externally-oriented idea can be transformed into
an internally-oriented one, and (2) any pluralistic system can be
transformed into a monadic one, given enough equivalences.
Now you've gone and done it!
You've made sense out of two items in GThomas that
I've always wondered about.
Now you've gone and made me think a LOTTTTTtttt more
about the "knowledge" theme.
Your references to the soul "going up" sure sounds
suitably gnostic to me, and Essene-like too, for that
matter. And it fits Jesus' "Lazarus in Heaven" parable,
and meeting his fellow Calvary victims in Paradise
Not a bad hat trick.
It'll take me some additional time to fit all this
in with a scenario of a "symbolic" kingdom.
----- Original Message -----
From: "FMMCCOY" <FMMCCOY@...>
Sent: Tuesday, June 05, 2001 8:55 PM
Subject: Re: [GTh] GTh 97: The Woman With the Jar that Breaks and GTh 98:
the Man With a Sword
GTh 98 reads, "The Kingdom of the Father is like a certain man
> who wanted to kill a powerful man. In his own house he drew his sword and
> stuck it into the wall in order to find out whether his hand could carry
> through. Then he slew the powerful man."
> Underlying this passage, I suggest, is the Philonic idea that the mind is
> the inner or real man and the body the outer man--with "the man" being the
> mind and "the powerful man" being the body.
Couldn't the "powerful man" be the devil? Even if J does not specifically
state the existence of such a being in GoT it certainly was believed in
enough for the NT authors to include a temptation scene.
> In this case, then, the underlying thought to GTh 98 is that one's mind
> cannot, on its own, sever itself from the body.
> To summarize, GTh 97 and GTh 98 are, I suggest, a tale of a fall and a
> rise. They begin with a fall down the road of vice and passion. In this
> movement, the soul gradually relapses into total ignorance. As a result,
> it is imprisoned in its house--the body.
Consider #29: If the flesh came into being because of the spirit it is a
wonder. But if spirit came into existence because of the body it is a
wonder of wonders.
I don't know Greek so I can't say whether or not this conflicts with Philo.
Yet another concept to consider--probably Pauline--is the elaborate
description of the church as being "the body of Christ" in I Corinthians.
Christ being male in this view would negate the spirit=sophia=kingdom
analogy which keeps cropping up in this thread.
- I'd like to preface my remarks on GTh 97 by saying that I think as
scholars, we have a certain tendency to let our specialized knowledge
overwhelm our capacity for openness in other areas. Specifically,
practice or training has conditioned us to often approach an ancient
text with the question, "what does this remind me of?" instead of,
"what does this mean?" I speak as an amateur scholar, someone quite
new to all this, and I don't want to sound critical of anyone in
particular. I've noticed that same tendency in myself, many times.
We read a line somewhere and immediately, our well read minds jump to
the memory of some other text that provides an "interesting" parallel
to that line. And maybe we remember other parallels and interesting
points of context that we've read somewhere. And before we know
what's happening, our focus has left the original text and settled
somewhere else. Certainly comparison and context must play a central
role in biblical scholarship. I only propose that we must look,
really LOOK, at the passage under study first, let it sink in, spend
some time with it. Something really new might reveal itself. Then,
by all means, first compare it to other passages in the same text.
Then, and only then, compare it to parallels elsewhere. William
made a similar point in regard to concentrating on Thomas, a few
months ago, in a post to this list. I'm sure others must agree.
97) Jesus said, "The domain of the [father] is like a woman who
carrying a [jar] full of meal. While she was walking along [a]
distant road, the handle of the jar broke and the meal spilled behind
[along] the road. She didn't know it; she hadn't noticed a problem.
When she reached her house, she put the jar down and discovered it
In past discussions, some members have made the point that the image
of the woman losing the contents of the jar on the road is in fact a
positive one. Her burden became lighter. She arrived at home
The loss of the meal symbolized the loss of something deleterious,
hence the parable's comparison of the fortunate loss to the kingdom
the father. However, my take on this logion is that it's a rather
simple, straightforward story of the loss of worldly value. From the
woman's standpoint, what happened to her was tragic. She put all her
trust in that jar to get her load home. She trusted it so much that
not once did she stop to check and see if everything was all right.
Even as the jar lost its contents and became much lighter, she
continued on, oblivious to what was really happening. If it wasn't
tragic, it would have been ridiculously funny, Laurel and Hardy
But the tragedy is still obvious. Can you imagine how she felt when
she arrived home and found out that despite her great efforts and
stubborn confidence in the jar, she was left nothing. All was for
naught. I think she would have been crushed. The story leads you to
For symbols, I don't think it's necessary to reach too far. The
is us. She travels along the road of life, trusting in the world and
the things of this world (the jar). What she values, her material
wealth, she carries on her back with great effort. However, her
is misplaced. The world is utterly unworthy of trust, a common theme
in Thomas. She discovers this only too late. We know this story
because it is the story of us. We recognize that sense of
and futility that haunts us throughout our lives. That's the power
this parable. It's a warning and it's a rather fearful image, to be
Now, why is the story of this woman like the domain of the father.
There are two possibilities, as I see it. First, having seen how
foolish she had been to trust the jar (the world) and having lost her
treasure (the meal), there is hope for her now to be awakened to the
knowledge that real security can only be found in trusting the
spirit, God. Faith in the world has to be abandoned. Faith in God's
domain can now take its place.
The second possibility is that the phrase, "domain of the father" had
originally read, "domain of the son," a change of one word. Of
course, I realize that this sounds a bit off the wall. My
is that a scribal error may have been responsible for the confusion
produced by this logion, as we now have it. I must admit that I
recall the phrase used anywhere in the NT by anyone. However, notice
that when the word, "son" is substituted for "father," the parable
holds together more tightly. The story is about the woman's absurd
trust in the world, which leads to disaster. That doesn't describe
God's domain, on the face of it. It would seem to describe a domain
In earlier posts, when discussing GTh 86, readers may remember that I
suggested that the phrase, "son of man" in that logion represented
ego side of man's awareness as opposed to his divine or pre-Fall
For example, if someone identifies with his ego mind, he will
experience utter separation from God and trust implicitly in the
world. If he chooses to identify with the divine, he will seek unity
with God and put all his trust in the power of that union. GTh has
many references to this dichotomy and to the value of seeking unity
what is true. I further suggested that HJ may have described this
problem of identity in a manner that was totally misunderstood by the
writers of the gospels. In this view, a "son of God" was one who
realized his connection with God. A "son of man" is one who didn't.
Thus in GTh 86, "the son of man has no place to lay his head and
rest." Now taking that idea a bit further, how would Jesus have
described the domains of these two? One would be the domain of truth
or the domain of the father. The other would be the domain of
ignorance or the domain of the son, the son choosing to be separated
from his father.
So here are these dichotomies: son of God versus son of man, domain
the father versus domain of the son. In this view of GTh 96, I
suggest that the scribe, being confronted by the phrase, "domain of
the son," considered it an obvious error and made the change to the
more familiar, "domain of the father."
So, why is the story of this woman like the domain of the father?
above two possibilities occurred to me. The former is probably more
solid. The latter is certainly more speculative. But it's an
interesting idea, I think, and I toss it out there for what it's
I really, really liked your proposed meaning for GoT 97- Woman With Jar.
Frankly, the saying had me baffled. Can't say I'm satisfied with that
"domain of the son" business, however.
Sometimes I get the sense that "The Kingdom of Heaven is like..." should be
read "Entry to the Kingdom of Heaven is like..." in most cases.
In this case, the saying seems to be that the opportunity to enter may
eventually be lost by inattention, neglect and/or ignorance. This has always
struck me as some sort of "lost opportunity" saying.
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- --- In gthomas@y..., "Ron McCann" <ronmccann1@d...> wrote:
> I really, really liked your proposed meaning for GoT 97- Woman With
> Frankly, the saying had me baffled. Can't say I'm satisfied withthat
> "domain of the son" business, however.Thank you Ron, I'm not particularly satisfied with the "domain of
son" business either. Intuitively, it seems to fit with a broader
theory that I'm working on, but I'll explain that some other time.
I've got more thinking to do on it.
> Sometimes I get the sense that "The Kingdom of Heaven is like..."
> read "Entry to the Kingdom of Heaven is like..." in most cases.may
> In this case, the saying seems to be that the opportunity to enter
> eventually be lost by inattention, neglect and/or ignorance. Thishas always
> struck me as some sort of "lost opportunity" saying.The woman was not only inattentive, she was absurdly inattentive. In
losing the meal, the weight of the jar would have been a fraction of
its previous weight by the time she neared home. Yet, confidently
strode on, never even looking behind her to check anything. She
ignored the obvious evidence of her plight or perhaps rationalized it
away by thinking that the jar was a good one and had never leaked
before. By exagerating the foolishness of this woman, I think that
Jesus was making the point that man's trust in this world is equally
absurd. There are no jars that won't eventually break, no bodies
won't, sooner or later, dry up and die, that there is nothing in this
world that is dependable at all.
Now consider how the parable would have read had he had the woman
to fix the broken handle, before reaching home. She would indeed
learned that she was remiss by not checking it earlier. She would
have fixed it and learned the lesson that a simple patch job, a
dab of this or that, would be her salvation. And on she would go,
still trusting in the world and her own devices to get her valuable
contents home. We would today call this "coping."
However, what I think the Jesus of Thomas is saying in this parable
that the *attention* she lacks is to the awareness that trusting in
anything of this world, where nothing lasts, where death is
guaranteed, is really an absurd misplacement of trust. Coping
cut it, that only offers a temporary respite and a false sense of
security. That's the bleak picture. Sorry if it depresses anyone.:-)
The Gospel of Thomas doesn't teach coping skills, even on a spiritual
level. It seems to aim for ultimate answers. It's radical theology.
But then Jesus says in effect, ah, good news, this isn't the Kingdom
of God, because in the Kingdom, nothing breaks and nothing dies. The
Kingdom is characterized in another logion, GTh 76, "seek his
unfailing and enduring treasure
where no moth comes near to devour and no worm destroys." The
awareness of the lesson of this parable is the entry into this
So I think, Ron, that the "lost opportunity" you mention is only a
possibility for this woman if she fails to realize the futility, or
maybe "meaninglessness" is a better word, of the whole enterprise.
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