Re: [GTh] GTh 101
----- Original Message -----
From: "Ron McCann" <ronmccann1@...>
Sent: Friday, December 28, 2001 3:55 PM
Subject: Re: [GTh] GTh 101
> Thank you, Frank, for your post on GTh101.
Ron, you're welcome!
> I feel it makes great sense. I have read most of your posts this last year
> on the presence of Philonic thought or influence in Thomas, and in many
> cases, I think you make a good case. It sure seems to be there.
> The problem, as ever, has been in determining just how Philonic "thinking"
> could have reached from Alexandria, to Jerusalem or to the Chorazim/
> Bethsaida/Capernaum "enclave" you propose, in the time frame, so as to
> influenced the material found in Thomas.
I agree. While this is not an insurmountable problem, it is a major one.
> So in keeping with my incorrigible practice of "rushing in where angels
> to tread", I would like to make a suggestion.
Why not live life dangerously? Some years ago, I saw, on TV, an interview
of Greg LaMonde: who won the Tour de France several times. On being asked
what he wanted to do on retiring, he said that he wanted to become a race
car driver. When asked why he had this desire to participate in such a
dangerous occupation, his response was that he loved moments of high
danger--such as when biking down a mountain at high speed with a drop-off on
one side and bikers crowding him on the other. He claimed that it was
moments like that when he felt like he was truly living.
> The more I study Thomas, the more sure I am that original Thomas underwent
> major revision circa 90CE and a whole new Edition was produced. In my
> anywhere up to a dozen, if not more, "new" sayings were added at that
> 101 was one of my choices for an addition, as were many of the "grandiose"
> "I am..." type sayings, and some reflecting the Sitz of the Community
> the changes.- eg the erosion of the status of women (114), the theological
> "enemies" of the Thomas Community (13) (105) (114). Still others seem to
> address by way of preemptive strike, the anticipated criticism of a batch
> these hitherto unknown new sayings showing up this late in the game
> Transmission (13),(62),(92)). It is not my intention to present this
> argument now, or argue change and addition by slow accretion vs abrupt
> extensive re-editing. But let us just suppose it were so- that a major
> revision occurred in 90CE or thereabouts.
Ron, do you think that the revision to GTh only involved the addition of
new sayings, or do you think that it also involved the revising of some of
the original sayings?
Also, why do you pick a date of c. 90 CE for the revision? Is this date
based on evidence to be found in the text itself?
> Where did it happen? Where was the community who did this? My best guess,
> since there are strong Philonic elements in Thomas, would be Alexandria
> where the Philonic currents would have been present and strongest. I
> that a Greek new revised edition of Thomas might have been produced there,
> about that time, and that it is the grandfather of our Greek copies.
Certainly, the hypothesis that a major revision was made to GTh c. 90 CE at
Alexandria, *if* this revision included the revising of many of the original
sayings, would explain the apparent Philonic influence on this gospel.
> Evidence for this is scant and thin, as is evidence for a copy of Thomas
> being in Alexandria around the turn of the century or it's first 25 years.
> But "Thin" is often as "Thick" as it gets in these areas.
> I want to submit, for your consideration, a find by Bentley Layton set out
> in his book "The Gnostic Scriptures". It's a story about Valentinus, who
> came to Alexandria about 100CE, if my dating is correct, where he was
> educated and spent much of his productive life.
How do you arrive at c.100 CE for the coming of Valentinus to Alexandria?
> What is crucial to note in the story, is that it appears to contain a
> back-handed, scornful and oblique reference to Valentinus, and him
> literally applying logion 4. This logion, to the best of my knowledge is
> found nowhere else but in Thomas (in both the Greek and Coptic versions).
> This "un-Jesus like" saying stands out like a sore thumb, in my view, and
> has always, for me, been a candidate as a late- addition saying. It seems
> be a carefully crafted riddle. The saying directs the "seeker" to
> a New-born Babe"- surely a unique approach. It reads:
> "The person old in days won't hesitate to ask a little child seven
> old about the place of life,
> and that person will live."
> At page 230-231 of his text, Layton reproduces and comments upon a
> of a lost work about Valentinus. He gives the source of the fragment as
> Hippolytus of Rome. His comments are as follows:- "The first two sentences
> of this fragment may summarize an autobiographical or visionary statement
> Valentinus. . . . It's place of composition is uncertain (possibly
> Alexandria) . . . The third sentence is a later commentator's attempt to
> explain the source of Valentinus's theology ('pompous tale ... his attempt
> at a sect.')".
> The Fragment reads:-
> "For Valentinus says he saw a newborn babe, and questioned it to find
> out who it was.
> And the babe answered him saying it was the Word (Logos). Thereupon,
> he adds to this
> a certain pompous tale, intending to derive from this his attempt at
> This may be SOME evidence that Valentinus had a copy of Thomas containing
> logion 4, and was doing what it said- Questioning a Newborn Babe. One has
> admit that this is pretty bizarre behavior. Why would he even do that
> he had found and was obeying a logion directing him to do so?
I think you are very insightful here. ISTM that it is no coincidence that
GTh 4 mentions a child of seven days who talks and that Valentinus claimed
to have had an encounter with a newborn babe who talked to him.
Rather, I think, Valentinus claimed to have actually met and talked with the
child of seven days mentioned in GTh 4.
However, it can be objected, in GTh 4, the person asks the child about the
place of life while, in his statement, Valentinus relates that he asked the
babe about itself.
The obvious retort is that, Valentinus understood, in GTh 4, the child of
seven days and the place of Life are one and the same thing, so that to ask
the child about itself *is* to ask the child about the place of life.
Indeed, this explains *why*, according to Valentinus, the babe identified
itself as being the Logos: for, in Philonic thought, the Logos is the Place
(Topos) where is life.
So, in Som i (62-63), Philo states, "Now 'place (topos)' has a threefold
meeting, firstly that of a space filled by a material form, secondly that of
the Divine Logos which God Himself has completely filled throughout with
incorporeal potencies;...There is a third signification, in keeping with
which God Himself is called a Place".
Here, Philo declares that the Logos is a Place (Topos), Further, he is
completely filled with angelic powers, make him, more fully, the Place where
So, I suggest, Valentinus was aware of GTh 4 and he interpreted the both the
child of seven days and the place of life to be the Logos.
Why, then, did Valentinus identify the child of "seven days" with the
The reason, I suggest, is that he was aware of how Philo associated the
Logos with the "seventh day". So, in LA i (16), Philo states, "'He rested
therefore on the seventh day from all His works which He had made' (Gen. ii.
2). This is as much as to say that God ceases moulding the masses that are
mortal, whenever He begins to make those that are divine and in keeping with
the nature of seven. *But the intepretation of the statement in accordance
with its bearing on human life and character is this, that, whenever there
comes upon the soul the holy Logos, of which seven is the keynote, six
together with all mortal things that the soul seems to make therewith comes
to a stop*." (My emphasis)
I think, too, that Philo's last sentence here helps us to understand the
nature of Valentinus' encounter with the "newborn child" (i.e., the Logos).
This Logos, this last sentence tells us, meets you by coming into your soul.
So, I think, Valentinus' statement that he saw a newborn child and had a
conversation with it is not to be taken literally. Rather, what he is
saying, in what is probably a deliberately obscure fashion, is that he
spiritually beheld the Logos came into his soul and, at that time, he had a
spiritual conversation with this Logos.
> Also, note that "The Word" and "Logos" element. Johannine/Philonic
> on Valentinus? Alternatively, is it possible he was instrumental in
> the Revision and himself added the logion?
Based on how Valentinus apparently interpreted GTh 4, ISTM that his idea
that the child is the Logos probably is based on Philonic thought rather
on Johannine thought.
Also, ISTM. the hypothesis that Valentinus was instrumental in
the the Revision and added GTh 4 himself is credible only if can be
demonstrated that either the Revision occured later than 100 CE or else that
Valentinus was in Alexandria by 90 CE.
> (I should add that this connection to logion 4 is my own. Layton did not
> mention it.).
Your idea appears to be sound because it fits well with the evidence.
> As I said, "thin".
That's not bad! We have so few clear clues as to the history of the Thomas
tradtion and to the evolution of GTh that any piece of evidence we discover,
no matter how "thin", is a significant find. As you state earlier in your
post, "But 'Thin' is often as 'Thick' as it gets in these areas."
This particular piece of evidence tells us that Valentinus probably was
aware of GTh 4 and that he apparently interpreted it in terms of Philonic
Because he had been educated in Alexandria during a part of the first half
of the second century CE, this clue suggests that a version of GTh was
circulating in that city during at least a part of the first half of the
second century CE and that some of the people in Alexandria did think that
Philonic thought helps one to properly interpret it.
Beyond that, since this clue suggests that a version of GTh was circulating
in Alexandria during at least a part of the first half of the second century
CE, it provides mild support for the idea that GTh might have reached
Alexandria by c. 90 CE and been revised there at that time.
> Still, this theory might explain the presence of Philonic thought in the
> sayings in our present copies of Thomas.
Yes it would: *if* the revision involved not only the addition of new
sayings, but the revision of some of the original sayings as well.
Happy New Year to everybody!
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