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Re: [GTh] McCoy on GTh97 & 98

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  • Michael Grondin
    Since the end of Frank McCoy s previous note is a controlling factor, I ll ... I m sorry to hear that. I m not aware of having expressed any sarcasm toward you
    Message 1 of 3 , Jun 6 11:38 PM
      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 as
      >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.

      I'm sorry to hear that. I'm not aware of having expressed any sarcasm
      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.

      > A soul without qualification is the whole soul of mind and
      > What I say is that the Kingdom in this passage is the meal not the woman.
      > [The sentence above], thus, is a gross misrepresentation of what I said.

      You're right. The nonsensicality I drew attention to derives from the form
      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
      >> 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 a
      >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?

      So there are not, after all, two "types" of soul, as you earlier
      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
      > 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 in
      >the parable, but is simply presumed to have happened. In any event, the
      >parable is not to be taken literally.

      Suddenly shy? You were able to give a metaphorical explanation of just
      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 chooses
      >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?

      What I've got is your interpretation, but your interpretation isn't
      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 house
      >symbolizes the body. That's why they are in GTh together.

      I don't agree. The catch-word 'house' may have served to join them, but
      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 not
      >consistently take a house to mean a body.

      Sorry. But then why do you not think that the house in Th97 isn't some sort
      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
      > concepts, but Philonic methodology as well.)

      > Thank you. I read Philo for many years for the express purpose of
      >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
      >of him.

      The fly in this particular ointment is that a contemporary of X may not
      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 that
      >no biblical scholar like yourself would deem worthy of a second thought,
      >for its not "scientific" or "rigorous".

      I do deplore the lack of rigor of this approach, but not because I'm a
      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 that
      >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

      I agree with much of this, although I see history as a hybrid. Seeing it
      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.

    • mgrondin@tir.com
      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
      Message 2 of 3 , Jun 7 2:03 PM
        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
        powerful man"!

        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".

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