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Re: [GTh] The Origin and Spread of the Thomas Community

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  • rechabites
    Dave H. ... read Greek]? Well, I guess it is the impression I get that the Jews of Egypt were the least skilled in Hebrew. But I suppose there must have been
    Message 1 of 21 , Dec 15, 2001
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      Dave H.

      You ask me:

      >
      > Why would you say they were "most prone" [to write and
      read Greek]?

      Well, I guess it is the impression I get that the Jews
      of Egypt were the least skilled in Hebrew. But I suppose
      there must have been all sorts of Jewish writers who were
      not skilled in Hebrew as well.

      But to address the question at hand, the "gnostic" tendencies
      of Egypt are quite pronounced. The New Testament refers to
      a "Messianic" fellow nicknamed "The Egyptian".

      And the "New Kingdom" entourage of Jesus seemed to be
      VERY prone to using the Septuagint version of the Bible
      instead of the Hebrew... which seems odd for a group that
      is conventionally seen as a PALESTINE-ONLY group.

      I would certainly want to hear the reasons for why you
      so confidently believe that the Egyptian Jewish community
      has been stricken from the list of possibilities as to the
      source of the Thomas community.

      Perhaps this is just an overly scrupulous view of the world.
      I am inclined to think Egypt is the source of Jesus's
      group.... and maybe the Thomas community is being perceived
      as DISTINCT from Jesus's?

      George
    • David C. Hindley
      George, ... confidently believe that the Egyptian Jewish community has been stricken from the list of possibilities as to the source of the Thomas community.
      Message 2 of 21 , Dec 15, 2001
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        George,

        >>I would certainly want to hear the reasons for why you so
        confidently believe that the Egyptian Jewish community has
        been stricken from the list of possibilities as to the
        source of the Thomas community.<<

        Well, *I* don't discount Egypt, but as far as I know the
        consensus centers around a place of origin somewhere in
        Syria or the Parthian frontier, not Egypt. I guess the
        "know-yourself" motifs have a stronger affinity with the
        east than the west. I agree that the Coptic translation has
        a few phrases that are related to Egyptian Gnosticism, but I
        tend to think that they are editorial additions to the
        original "eastern" text by the Egyptian users of the gospel.

        >>Perhaps this is just an overly scrupulous view of the
        world. I am inclined to think Egypt is the source of Jesus'
        group.... and maybe the Thomas community is being perceived
        as DISTINCT from Jesus'?<<

        You would not be the first to wonder whether there is a
        possible direct connection between Jesus and Egypt, and such
        speculation is not restricted to fringe scholars. This is
        mainly due to the NT's almost complete lack of reference to
        Christian expansion into Egypt (Alexandria). It seems
        unlikely that a movement that progressively moves into
        Syria, Asia Minor and Rome would completely bypass
        Alexandria, where a sizable Greek-speaking Jewish population
        resided.

        That doesn't necessarily mean that Jesus or his early
        following had a strong Egyptian orientation or origin. The
        implication is that the kind of Christianity that flourished
        there was not acceptable to the Christians elsewhere. The
        form that Christianity assumed in Egypt may not have been
        the same as elsewhere (that is, it differed in some
        fundamental way that was out of synch with the form it was
        assuming in the rest of the Roman empire). My favorite
        critic of the development of Egyptian Christianity (Birger
        Pearson) is of the opinion that it was Gnostic in
        orientation.

        Or are you suggesting that Jesus was a Gnostic? Why are you
        "inclined to think Egypt is the source of Jesus' group"?

        Respectfully,

        Dave Hindley
        Cleveland, Ohio, USA
      • Jack Kilmon
        ... From: FMMCCOY To: Sent: Friday, November 23, 2001 1:12 PM Subject: Re: [GTh] The Origin and Spread of the
        Message 3 of 21 , Dec 19, 2001
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          ----- Original Message -----
          From: "FMMCCOY" <FMMCCOY@...>
          To: <gthomas@yahoogroups.com>
          Sent: Friday, November 23, 2001 1:12 PM
          Subject: Re: [GTh] The Origin and Spread of the Thomas Community


          Rick Hubbard says:

          > > As a practical matter, the situation in Galilee must have been
          analogous.
          > > Greek was the predominant language. Aramaic continued to be used for
          > > interpersonal communication, but anyone who wished to function in the
          > > society used Greek out of necessity, not because they were Hellenized.
          > > (Ultimately, this also means that it is very, very likely that Jesus
          spoke
          > > Greek as well as Aramaic.

          We have to look at language usage not as a general population-wide feature
          but instead in cultural and socio-economic "pockets." My 50 years of study
          convinces me that Aramaic was the
          commonly spoken language among the am haAretz or Jewish agrarian and
          rural population, most of whom were illiterate. Hebrew was the language
          of the written word and used by religious or nationalistic zealous groups
          sufficiently to be a lingua franca in certain communities that still
          communicated
          outside of their communities in Aramaic. I would agree that a family that
          earned a living as artisans and builders in a satellite village of Sepphoris
          had better have some competence in Greek. It is difficult, however, to
          decide
          on the historicity of those accounts, like the conversation with Pontius
          Pilatus,
          where Jesus would almost certainly be speaking Greek.


          > >Similarly, efforts to recover purely Aramaic
          > > artifacts from primitive Xtn texts are as Quixotic as the search for
          > > elements of Hellenistic thought in the same literature).

          Here we differ. Aramaic interference in the Greek of Yeshuine sayings
          source material and in some narrative material is far from
          Quixotic...including
          having survived transition to Coptic from Greek in GThom.



          Frank McCoy says:

          > What you say sounds plausible, but it appears that the "hard" evidence
          > suggests otherwise.
          >
          > In Archaeology History and Society in Galilee (pp. 170-71, Richard A.
          > Horsley states, "In the villages of Upper Galilee, as archaeologists have
          > pointed out, only a few Greek inscriptions have surfaced, in contrast with
          > many in Aramaic and/or Hebrew. That strongly suggests that little Greek
          was
          > spoken in that more mountainous area further from the cities. Yet once we
          > remove inappropriate evidence such as the numerous Greek ossuary
          > inscriptions at Beth Shearim from the pool of evidence pertaining to the
          > villages of Lower Galilee, and particularly if we consider separately the
          > sites close to Tiberias, there is much less of an indication that Greek
          was
          > an everyday language in the rest of Lower Galilee. Pidgin Greek may have
          > been common, but a bilingual situation seems unlikely given the evidence
          now
          > available."

          Having read 80 septiquadrillion ossuarial inscriptions (slight hyperbole
          there)
          I am of the opinion they are irrelevent to common usage. As you are aware
          Hebrew does not appear in 2nd temple ossuarial use except..as far as I
          can think..one time..the Ben Hazir tomb.

          When scholars discuss 1st century Palestinian language usage
          and literate vs illiterate ratios among the general population, they
          appear to me to neglect what I believe was an even wider class
          than the literate (estimated about 5% of population). This would
          be the minimally, semi- or quasi-literate which probably constituted
          a larger percentage of that designated "illiterate" portion of the
          population.

          In supporting a position for Aramaic as the common spoken language
          of 1st century Palestine, one cannot appeal numerically to written
          texts which will be in larger percentage in the literary language
          (Hebrew). This is supported by the DSS. My approach has been
          to look for examples where the "lower-literate" render their spoken
          language in an unsophisticated hand where poor grammar, orthography
          and spelling exemplify this class. My position is that these features
          point to the common spoken tongue rather than the literate
          language of the educated, "spell it right" literati.

          I find the names hurriedly scrawled on ossuaries to represent this
          category and that 2nd temple ossuarial and funerary inscriptions and
          graffiti are generally in Aramaic, i.e the funerary inscription of
          Uzziah, Jason's tomb, the tomb of Simon, the temple builder,
          the tombs of Abba and Caiaphas to name a few. I suspect,
          therefore, that there was a class of funerary workmen who
          performed such functions as the "gathering in" of the bones of
          the deceased for the family.

          >
          > Also, (although this regards Judea rather than Galilee) does not the
          > evidence of the Dead Sea scrolls (only a small percentage of which were
          > written in Greek) indicate that few Jews in Palestine spoke or wrote in
          > Greek?

          No. It only shows that the "Yahad" of the DSS community spoke and used
          little Greek.

          >
          > Rick Hubbard also wrote:
          > >
          > > With a certain amount of equivocation, I am not even certain that it is
          > > proper to characterize the residents of the Q community as "Jews." It
          > seems
          > > to me that they had rejected what we conventionally understand as
          Judaism
          > > (as had the folks who seem to have written Thomas).

          The key here is "what we conventionally understand as Judaism" which is not
          applicable to the 2nd temple period when the "Yeshuine" community of Jews
          that originally wrote down these sayings were just a form of a subset of
          Judaism based on the Daniel-Enochian literature and legend base...as were
          also
          the DSS people.

          >
          > This is an interesting idea. Could you expand on it? Do you think that
          the
          > Q and Thomas communities rejected conventional Judaism in a similar
          fashion
          > or do you think that they each rejected it in a unique way? Is a "Jew"
          > someone who observes conventional Judaism or is it someone who belong to a
          > certain Semetic ethnic group or is it someone belonging to a third
          category?

          My take is that Jesus' "sayings" first written down...perhaps even during
          his active
          public life..by an ear-witness (Papias says by the disciple Matthew) in
          Aramaic
          was the translational basis in a trajectory to "Q" and GThomas. It is my
          opinion
          that there was an Aramaic "Q" used by the Aramaic competent Luke and a Greek
          "Q" used by the Greek competent Matthean scribe. "Conventional Judaism" has
          no meaning
          prior to Yabneh (IMHO).

          Jack
        • Rick Hubbard
          Jack- Thanks for the post. You bring up some interesting points. It seems to me that you are probably right when you assert that there was a large segment of
          Message 4 of 21 , Dec 19, 2001
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            Jack-

            Thanks for the post. You bring up some interesting points. It seems to me
            that you are probably right when you assert that there was a large segment
            of the 1-2 CE population in Palestine that was only marginally literate.
            Their ability to read-write **either** Aramaic OR Greek was likely very
            restricted. They almost certainly stood at a considerable distance (socially
            and intellectually) from the literati who demonstrated high competence in
            writing. The question of how that gap was bridged is itself an intriguing
            question, but one that need not be considered quite yet.

            On the other hand, illiteracy does not necessarily imply that these folk
            were not able to **speak** the same languages they were unable to write.
            Indeed, they were effectively able to communicate verbally in either
            language. This phenomenon is present even in our society. There are many
            people who can speak English fluently enough to be understood, but who are
            virtually incapable of either reading or writing that same language (a
            criticism that may be directed at more people than one might initially
            imagine).

            Then there is something of an opposite situation. It is not completely
            impossible for people to be literate (in the sense that they can read a
            language tolerably well), but who are at the same time almost completely
            unable to speak that language (for instance, I can read German reasonably
            well, but it's not a pretty thing when I try to carry on a conversation in
            it).

            Just as a suggestion, I wonder how much of this same kind of situation was
            present in 1 CE Palestine? If the situation was similar, then one might
            conclude that that there were many people who could communicate orally in
            one or more languages (e.g., Greek and Aramaic) but who were not necessarily
            able to read and write those languages. In fact, if the literacy rate in 1
            CE Palestine was indeed only 5%, then this may have been the norm rather
            than the exception.

            Clearly, you are a tireless and articulate advocate for the position that
            there is an Aramaic substrata beneath the written Jesus tradition. I tend to
            agree with you to the extent that I concur that there is evidence of Aramaic
            influence present in the written form of that tradition. I am not, however,
            yet convinced that this evidence supports the conclusion that there was any
            kind of Aramaic "proto-gospel." Instead, it seems equally probable that the
            Aramaic influence that is present may be nothing more than the normal kinds
            of linguistic artifacts that seem to cross over in most multi-lingual, but
            non-literate, social groups. I'll spare you from a recitation of modern, and
            therefore anachronistic, examples.

            [As an aside, since 1 CE Palestine was a predominantly non-literate society,
            it is equally implausible that the 95% of the population that could not read
            or write either Greek or Aramaic, was substantially deeply influenced by
            sophisticated literary compositions (e.g., those by Philo). The distance
            between Galilee and Alexandria was almost too far to travel, in more than
            the spatial sense].

            My own position is that the material which eventually formed the written
            gospel tradition was a collection of reminiscences about Jesus of Nazareth
            that were passed along in the ordinary language of the region. This ordinary
            language was an amalgam of Aramaic and Greek. This material was first
            committed to writing in Greek, not in Aramaic. Aramaic and Greek were both
            widely spoken in the region, but Hellenistic Greek was the dominant literary
            language. Literary Aramaic was an anomaly. None of this excludes the
            likelihood that Jesus spoke Greek. Jesus probably was, like his peers,
            multi-lingual. It may even be that when he spoke he moved freely from one
            language to the other (as happens in many multi-language settings).
            Therefore **some** of the indisputable Aramaisms in the gospels may have
            originated with Jesus himself, not with the transmitters.

            Rick Hubbard
            Humble Maine Woodsman
          • rechabites
            David, You write: My favorite critic of the development of Egyptian Christianity (Birger Pearson) is of the opinion that it was Gnostic in ... And then you
            Message 5 of 21 , Dec 19, 2001
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              David,

              You write:

              " My favorite critic of the development of Egyptian Christianity
              (Birger Pearson) is of the opinion that it was Gnostic in
              > orientation."

              And then you ask:

              "Or are you suggesting that Jesus was a Gnostic? Why are you
              > "inclined to think Egypt is the source of Jesus' group"?"


              Good questions. While this group is discussing GThomas,
              I have always thought that if GJohn is an accurate presentation
              of Jesus and the rhetoric he used, then Jesus was most likely
              a gnostic.

              I am also a supporter of the idea that the role model Jesus
              follows most closely to is as a "magi" of the Egyptian mold.
              There was a belief in the "equality" of the performer of magic
              with the godhead. Now I can't rightly say that this is unique to
              Egyptian magic, I further "inform" my views with the New
              Testament references to the upbringing of Jesus in Egypt (which
              is a "history fragment" that cannot simply be disposed of), and
              the reference to a Messiah called "The Egyptian" (and thus probably
              to a Messianic community in Egypt).

              In terms of gnosticism in general, while I read the "ebb and
              flow" of disputation that gnosticism came from Hebrew vs.
              Christian vs. "East" vs. "West"..... from what I have read of
              Egyptian texts.....long before there was even an Exodus.... the
              Egyptian mind was "gnostic" for a millenium before the first
              Christian gnostic ever emerged.

              Your mention of Birger Pearson's work intrigues me. I think
              the "thumbnail" analysis that the Egyptian form of Christianity
              was probably objected to by the rest of the Christian world fits
              in fairly well with my view of the "Kingdom of God" movement
              being a hunted and hounded organization before it evolved enough
              to go "mainstream".

              George
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