Re: [GTh] McCoy on GTh97 & 98
- Since the end of Frank McCoy's previous note is a controlling factor, I'll
start with that:
>Your whole tone ... is full of sarcasm for my views and sarcasm of me asI'm sorry to hear that. I'm not aware of having expressed any sarcasm
>a person. I cannot carry on a rational discussion of ideas with someone who
>acts this way towards my ideas and towards myself as a person, so this is my
>last post addressed to you.
toward you as a person. If I did, I apologize. That having been said, I
take you at your word, and will address myself to the remainder of your
note with no expectation that you will respond.
> ... epistemes(=pneuma=sophia) is like a soul that doesn't hold epistemes.[Frank]:
> A soul without qualification is the whole soul of mind andsense-perception.
> What I say is that the Kingdom in this passage is the meal not the woman.You're right. The nonsensicality I drew attention to derives from the form
> [The sentence above], thus, is a gross misrepresentation of what I said.
of the saying, not your interpretation of it. But what was the point of
your delineating two types of soul, if you were then going to ignore that
distinction in your interpretation?
>> ... make up your mind. Either this soul loses the epistemes because it's[Frank]:
>> the kind of soul that can't hold it, or because it's on the wrong road.
>> Which is it?
>... a soul that is losing her words/virtues is on the wrong road and aSo there are not, after all, two "types" of soul, as you earlier
>soul on the wrong road is losing her words/virtues. Conversely, a soul that
>is not losing her words/virtues is on the right road and a soul on the right
>road is not losing her words/virtues. Got the picture now?
maintained. There are, rather, two roads that a soul may take. Fine, but
there's nothing in the saying to indicate that this particular soul (the
woman) is on "the wrong road", or even indeed that there IS an alternative
road for her. What would have been different if she had been on "the right
road"? Would she still have been headed back to her "house"? I think the
answer is clearly "yes", but if so, your interpretation simply obscures the
point of the parable, which is to avoid inattentiveness - and this has
nothing to do with the house being the body, or with two different "roads".
Rather, the house seems clearly to be a destination that the woman would
have journeyed toward whether or not she lost the meal, thus it [the house]
cannot represent the body. And the road itself has no particular importance
that I can see, other than representing the long journey home.
> How did this soul get out of its body in the first place? And wherein lay[Frank]:
> 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.
>Who knows how the soul got out of its body? It's not discussed inSuddenly shy? You were able to give a metaphorical explanation of just
>the parable, but is simply presumed to have happened. In any event, the
>parable is not to be taken literally.
about every element of the parable, but you can't say what it means that
the soul is presented as being on a journey outside of the body? Could it
be because the house in Th97 isn't the body, after all?
>[The point of the parable] is that a soul who choosesWhat I've got is your interpretation, but your interpretation isn't
>the road of the vice and passions ends up imprisoned in the house of the
>body and also ends up in total spiritual ignorance because it has forgotten
>all the words/virtues it has been taught. Got it now?
intuitively satisfying. I'll admit that what's lost may arguably be
spiritual wisdom, but there's no indication that the soul ends up
"imprisoned". Why can't it simply go out of its house again and get some
more flour? On the other hand, if the house is a heavenly destination of
some sort, then arriving there without the contents of the jar may be
regarded as an irrecoverable oversight. (But see George Duffy's take on
this, which came in as I was writing.)
>Mike, what links the parables in GTh 97 and 98 is that, in each, the houseI don't agree. The catch-word 'house' may have served to join them, but
>symbolizes the body. That's why they are in GTh together.
your claim that the house in Th97 represents the body seems indefensible to
me, for reasons stated above. (I'll leave Th98 aside for now.)
> The bottom line: you misrepresent my exegetical methodology, for I do notSorry. But then why do you not think that the house in Th97 isn't some sort
>consistently take a house to mean a body.
of heavenly abode, or final destination from which the soul can no longer
journey forth? That would explain your intuition that the soul can't leave
the "house", once there. Your own interpretation, however, doesn't seem to
support that intuition.
> (I wonder if you're aware of the irony of your applying not only Philonic[Frank]:
> concepts, but Philonic methodology as well.)
> Thank you. I read Philo for many years for the express purpose ofThe fly in this particular ointment is that a contemporary of X may not
>learning to think like him. I assumed that one cannot understand the real
>Jesus of history unless one learns how to think like a Jewish contemporary
think at all like X, except perhaps with respect to matters of basic
knowledge. If Jesus was not a Hellenistic Jew like Philo, then Philo's
thinking can only help in the most general of ways.
>I know that, for you, this idea is another stupid layman thing thatI do deplore the lack of rigor of this approach, but not because I'm a
>no biblical scholar like yourself would deem worthy of a second thought,
>for its not "scientific" or "rigorous".
biblical scholar. In fact, I'm just a layman like yourself. But it's one
thing to understand Philonic thought, quite another to adopt his
"allegorical" technique for one's own. That technique is very old and quite
disreputable, IMO. It depends too much on random and subjective conceptual
and textual connections. In Philo's case, he was just simply wrong that the
Pentateuch was intended to be understood in Platonic terms; the fact that
it CAN be so understood (in a very unsystematic way, be it noted) doesn't
show that it was INTENDED to be. Why should we repeat the methodological
errors of 1st-century thinkers? (There's such a thing as getting so much
into the head of someone else that you lose your objectivity about that
>... my opinion, for what its worth, is thatI agree with much of this, although I see history as a hybrid. Seeing it
>history is a humanities subject rather than a science and that being able to
>think like an early first century CE Jew is of greater help in enabling one
>to successfully complete the quest for the real Jesus of history than are
>all of the allegedly "scienific" techniques of modern biblical scholarship
strictly as a "humanity" seems to lead to all sorts of unwarranted
conclusions about how to justify one's results - or even whether such
justification is necessary, or whether there's any such thing as "results"!
But as to putting oneself into the mindset of "an early first century CE
Jew", I would rather suggest trying to put oneself into the mindset of the
arrangers of GTh, and leaving it open whether or not they might have been
early first century CE Jews - or devotees of Philonism. The way I look at
it, the trick is not to force the evidence into a pre-determined box, but
to let it speak for itself insofar as possible. This requires, I think,
that intuitive "naturalness" and intra-textual consistency be regarded as
ultimate tests of any interpretation. When we have to pile on a conceptual
apparatus that doesn't seem to be there, we're probably on the wrong track.
- It occurred to me after writing my last note on this subject, that
it might be possible to save part of Frank's interpretation, namely
the idea of house as body in both 97 and 98. In order to do so, it
seems necessary to put a Gnostic twist on the interpretation, and
I'll try to sketch that out here.
Readers of the Apocryphon of John and other Gnostic works may recall
that a common idea in such systems was that of the soul losing the
memory of its pre-birth existence, upon entering the body. This
pre-birth memory could, however, be reawakened, and "gnosis" was
typically associated with such a "reawakening", often by means of
the words of a savior-figure. Be that as it may, at the moment
I want to concentrate not on the reawakening, but on the loss of
memory idea. And I'm going to suggest that in Th97, the loss of the
contents of the jar may be likened (in a gnostic scenario) to the
necessary, but unforeseeable, loss of the soul's prebirth memory.
OK, here's how the gnostic story might go: the woman travelling on
the road is a soul descending to earth to enter into a body - her
"house". She isn't aware of the fact that her memory is going to
be lost on this journey, but it will. The "spilling" has to happen.
But now when she gets to her house, she no longer has any memory of
her pre-birth existence. That's the existential dilemma that the
gnostics postulated. If that's what the arrangers of GTh thought
that Th97 meant, then perhaps Th98 WAS intended (as Frank claims)
to suggest "a way out". It doesn't seem to be the standard gnostic
way out, but then GTh is not your standard gnostic text, and anyway,
Th98 may represent only the BEGINNING (or a part) of a way out, not
the entire story. One little word may be crucial - the word 'TOTE'.
Normally, it's translated 'then', but it seems to have a temporal
dimension as well - as in 'at that moment' or 'just then'. What a
difference it makes if we read Th98 as saying at the end, "At that
moment [i.e., when he stuck the sword in the wall], he slew the
I'm not necessarily recommending the above as an interpretation of
Th97, but it does seem to avoid the difficulties of Frank's Philonic
interpretation, while at the same time, preserving his intuitions
that the "house" in 97-98 is the body, and that 97-98 may thus be
a dilemma-solution pair.
One more note: the saying about "coming into the world empty"
doesn't imply a gnostic interpretation of Th97, since it doesn't
imply that anything has been lost on the way into the world. But
it does imply something that both the gnostic interpretation and
my own (more traditional) one have in common, namely the necessity
of getting something out of this world in order to prepare oneself
for the other world. This in turn clearly implies that asceticism,
by itself, isn't sufficient to guarantee "eternal Life".