Re: [GTh] GTh 97: The Woman With the Jar that Breaks and GTh 98: the Man With a Sword
----- 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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