RE: [GTh] The Mystery of Th61
- [In response to Mike, Joe wrote:]
Might it also seem reasonable that the "grab bag" characteristic
is because it
was meant to be understood one saying at a time?
It seems to me that this is a difficult question to answer in a
straightforward manner, because the answer depends in large
measure about the presence of certain presuppositions
(legitimately derived or otherwise) about the text.
For example, if one begins with the premise that the text of
Coptic Thomas is a faithful reproduction of some "original"
manuscript, and that the "original" was nothing more than a
random collection of Jesus sayings, then, yes perhaps, one could
say that Thomas was meant to be understood "one saying at a
It can be argued, however, that Coptic Thomas is NOT a faithful
reproduction of some original. Instead, there are demonstrated
traces of editorial tinkering throughout, so that one may
conclude that the form in which it has been preserved reflects
some degree of intentional rearrangement. The question then
broadens to include considerations of "how," "where," and "why."
An attempt to catalogue all the evidence of redactional activity
in Thomas would be useful, I think, but for obvious reasons I'm
not going to try here. The best I can do in this short time is to
call attention to a few examples that come to mind.
[A] It appears that Coptic GTh 2 has been significantly altered
if one compares it with the Greek version of the same saying
preserved in POxy 654 2. The most obvious difference there is the
addition of ruling over "the All" as a consequence of one's
effort "to find." The consequence in POxy is that one who seeks
will attain "rest."
[B] It is often observed that there appears to be some
dislocation of the answer to the question asked to Jesus about
religious practices (fasting, praying, and almsgiving) in GTh 6.1
The answer to the question seems to be present in GTh 14.1-3.
[C] Dittography may be present in GTh 33.1 where the text reads,
"What you hear with your ear with the other ear proclaim from
your roof tops" [Bethge translation. Contrast this with the
reconstruction of POxy 1 33 that reads, "<That which> you hear in
one of your ears, [preach...] [Attridge translation].
[D] Some commentators suggest that GTh 114 is a later addition to
Thomas (e.g., Davies, 1983), where it is observed that only here
does a saying begin with a disciple addressing another disciple,
the image of Jesus as a guide occurs nowhere else in Thomas, the
phrase "Kingdom of Heaven" is distinctive in Thomas, the idea
that a person should become "a living spirit" does not cohere
with anything else in Thomas, and perhaps most significantly,
this saying directly contradicts GTh 22.
[E] On the matter of contradictions in general in Thomas, Bill
Arnal (in the article l posted in GThomas files) calls attention
to a multitude of instances where there seems to be an
intentional series of contradictions in Thomas. This suggests the
presence of some creative activity, it seems to me.
[F] Arnal has also published an article in HTR (which I have
cited ad nauseum in other posts) that argues that almost 1/3 of
the content of Thomas can be assigned to a secondary stratum
characterized by gnostic tendencies.
[G] Stephan Davies (_The Gospel of Thomas and Christian Wisdom_
[New York: Seabury, 1983]) suggested that GTh "originally
consisted of 4 "chapters" that were subsequently re-arranged in
the Coptic version (a view, however, that seems not to have
gained much acceptance).
All of this is just a long-winded and oversimplified way of
saying that there are numerous arguments that the text of Thomas
shows evidence of redaction. If one accepts this as plausible,
then what Mike suggests has as much merit as the other
suggestions about the nature of Thomas' text. His task, of
course, is to demonstrate somewhat more precisely HOW he
"patterned structure of Thomas might have been intentional."
On the other hand, if one dismisses the evidence that Coptic
Thomas is heavily edited and is "whole cloth" then perhaps it was
meant to be read "saying by saying." My personal observation,
however, is that if that is the case, then the one who aspires to
"discover the meaning of these saying" had better pack a big
lunch 'cuz its going to be a tiring task.
Humble Maine Woodsman
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- [E] On the matter of contradictions in general in Thomas, Bill
Arnal (in the article l posted in GThomas files)
NO, I (or l) did not post it!
- --- In gthomas@y..., "Rick Hubbard" <rhubbard@m...> wrote:
> [E] On the matter of contradictions in general in Thomas, BillYour post shows signs of Thomasine redaction, the '1' being an
> Arnal (in the article l posted in GThomas files)
> NO, I (or l) did not post it!
obvious reference to the 2 and 1 symbolism within Thomas.