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Re: [GTh] #95 & #109

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  • Jim Bauer
    I was just digging around in Strong s exhaustive concordance trying to find a line of scripture which I think relevant to this discussion. It was the line,
    Message 1 of 25 , Mar 8, 2002
      I was just digging around in Strong's exhaustive concordance trying to find
      a line of scripture which I think relevant to this discussion. It was the
      line, spoken to Peter(?), "Go, sell all that you have and come follow me."
      The idea is that encouraging people to give away their money and join a
      group led by a wandering itinerant wisdom teacher may be part of some
      general ascetic slant on the part of the authors of Thomas. I didn't find
      the passage I wanted but instead found the following. Matthew 13:44, which
      parallels Thomas very strikingly:
      "The Kingdom of Heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found
      and covered up; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys
      that field."

      The material here is recognizably similar to the version in Thomas, but
      Thomas seems more complete, more complex, adds more detail. One argument
      often made about Thomas as a possible source of original sayings/historical
      Jesus material for the Bible is that the canonical ones seem to have been
      fleshed out, that Thomas is more primitive. Yet in this case it seems like
      the opposite happened and loss of components has actually made it more
      adaptive to its audience. As in Matthew 13:52, it seems a mixture of "what
      is new and old". Ideas only survive if they are selected-for, so possibly
      the saying had to be pared down to make it acceptable to a Gentile audience,
      which in turn allowed it to survive as a creed (Christianity) and not a cult
      (Gnosticism and related ideas).

      (45) continues with a similar theme:

      "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a man in search of fine pearls, who,
      on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and
      bought it."

      I am particularly impressed between the resemblance's here between this
      scripture and the Gnostic "The Hymn of the Pearl". I am not well acquainted
      enough with this particular scripture to objectively comment on this
      particular bit of speculation.

      #47 repeats a theme from Thomas--a net being cast into the sea by a wise
      fisherman--but at a different location in the text. In Thomas this
      particular parable, #8, is removed from the two sayings, #95 and #109, which
      were originally being discussed here. In this case it does seem to resemble
      the idea that Thomas was put together somewhat randomly, or perhaps that the
      author of Matthew deliberately chose to cluster these sayings purely as a
      literary device.

      Jim Bauer
    • William Arnal
      ... Okay, I ve got it now. What I d say in response is this: at the very least, my comments on the interest mtoif were focused on Thomas as a finished
      Message 2 of 25 , Mar 8, 2002
        David Hindley wrote:

        >I guess I was questioning the literary or theological
        >priority that you put on the shared word "interest" over
        >socio-economic factors that might explain two apparently
        >contradictory statements about lending money. Your heart of
        >your interest in Thomas apparently has more to do with the
        >finished product rather than the origin of its source(s).
        >The latter is where my interest lies.

        Okay, I've got it now. What I'd say in response is this: at the very least,
        my comments on the "interest" mtoif were focused on Thomas as a finished
        product, and were made without prejudice to the earlier significance,
        sources, context, etc. of these two sayings. I am not UNinterested in the
        question of the origin of Thomas' sources; I just wasn't addressing that in
        my comments.

        >My comments about peasant economy were to suggest that quite
        >a few sayings/parables in Thomas have such a setting in
        >mind. The implication, which I did not state but was
        >alluding to, is that the sayings/parables (whatever their
        >origin) drawn upon by the author(s) and/or editors of Thomas
        >may have alluded to a wide range of situations. However, the

        Yes, I have no problem with this.

        >way that the author(s) and/or editors of Thomas chose to
        >associate them (by pairing them in order to emphasize
        >oppositions based upon keywords like "interest") may, then,
        >be secondary to their origins.

        Again, I completely agree. In fact, I might be inclined to state this even
        more emphatically: what the author/editor did with these sayings is PROBABLY
        secondary to their origins, and probably recasts this import considerably.

        >You reasoned that since there are no overt statements in
        >these sayings about the context of the lending activity,
        >then such contexts "cannot be taken for granted." I would
        >disagree. Few statements, especially if they are trying to
        >make a rhetorical point, expressly state all their premises.
        >The author/speaker often intends for context to be assumed
        >by the reader/hearer's imagination, so as to get them
        >personally involved in the conclusion (as in the enthymeme).

        Fair enough, though I'm not sure how well this observation applies in this
        case. Again, I was talking about the import of the sayings IN THOMAS, and
        not their original point. I would think that UNLESS the wording and context
        really make a particular external but supposedly implicit interpretive move
        "natural" (e.g., if there were much talk about Jew-Gentile distinctions in
        Thomas; and if the sayings in question more flatly contradicted each other
        [as in, "Jesus said, do not lend moeny at interest" and "Jesus said, lend
        money at interest"]; etc.), it's most safe to avoid invoking such a thing
        FOR THE TEXT IN QUESTION (I'm not shouting, just underlining). I don't know
        if that's very clear.

        >The use to which such sayings were put by a later author,
        >such as the author of Thomas, may deliberately (and I would
        >think probably did, in this case) ignore or modify those
        >original contexts, if only to make a new, and different,
        >point.

        Yes, again. I think our "disagreement" here is really just a function of my
        having originally misunderstood your point.

        >Since you have apparently invested a large amount of time
        >and resources reading on the subject of peasant economy (and
        >I agree with almost everything you said in _Jesus and the
        >Village Scribes_), I had hoped you would have a greater
        >appreciation for the implied circumstances of some of these
        >sayings.

        Ouch! But the problem here is that I can't for the life of me really figure
        out what the context of Thomas -- as a text! -- might be. I assume that the
        sayings that appear in Thomas (at least the ones the author didn't compose
        himself) do derive from a Galilean, peasant, rural context. But I'm not at
        all confident that Thomas as a document SHARES that context. Maybe so, maybe
        not. Even if it does, the text strikes me as having such a "spiritualizing"
        religiosity as to make the links between its theology and context
        extraordinarily difficult to make out. To put this as sharply as possible: I
        think Thomas can indeed tell us a great deal about peasant ideology and
        context; but I do not think (or at least, have yet to be convinced) that
        peasant ideology and context can tell us a lot about Thomas (in its final
        form)!

        >The message of these two sayings seems to have been an
        >examination of just who was one's brother was supposed to be
        >and how one treated him: Charity voluntarily extended to
        >fellow-Jews vs economic exploitation extended to Gentiles.
        >It clearly suggests a reversal of normal roles between Jews
        >and Gentiles. Perhaps this is not, today, a politically
        >correct position for the original author(s) of these sayings
        >to have had, but it does appear to me to be what he/they was
        >thinking.

        As I say, I have no difficulty with this interpretation as it applies to the
        "original" context of the individual sayings. But for me to be convinced
        that it applies to Thomas, as a literary work, I would want to see some
        evidence that Thomas assumes and cares about the Jew-Gentile distinction.

        Bill
        ___________________________
        William Arnal
        Department of Religion
        University of Manitoba

        "Well, I can see I'm not in Paris"
        -- Ernest Hemingway, on landing in Winnipeg



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      • mwgrondin
        ... But Dave, the person who finds the treasure in Th109, and who then proceeds to lend money at interest, is not the one who originally owned the family plot,
        Message 3 of 25 , Mar 10, 2002
          --- Dave Hindley wrote:
          > I do not think that it is an uncritical assumption to
          > understand ... GoT 109 to be a representation of
          > the joy someone might feel to be unexpectedly released from
          > a subsistence existence (specifically, as a freeholding
          > peasant farming a family plot) to the much more secure
          > position of a wealthy man with money to lend to Gentiles.

          But Dave, the person who finds the treasure in Th109, and who then
          proceeds to lend money at interest, is not the one who originally
          owned the family plot, and evidently is not a peasant. For all we
          know, this buyer might have been a Gentile.

          Regards,
          Mike
        • David C. Hindley
          ... who then proceeds to lend money at interest, is not the one who originally owned the family plot, and evidently is not a peasant. For all we know, this
          Message 4 of 25 , Mar 10, 2002
            Mike Grondin says:

            >>But Dave, the person who finds the treasure in Th109, and
            who then proceeds to lend money at interest, is not the one
            who originally owned the family plot, and evidently is not a
            peasant. For all we know, this buyer might have been a
            Gentile.<<

            You are right that I assumed the ethnicity of the subject of
            the story was a Jew. In a way, you have uncovered a problem
            in my way of interpretation of these sayings. Ironically, it
            is the same problem I complained that others were doing.
            <oops!>

            I am not sure I understand what you mean when you say the
            man who finds the treasure was "not a peasant."

            109) Jesus said, "The Kingdom is like a man who had a
            [hidden] treasure in his field without knowing it. And
            [after] he died, he left it to his son. The son did not know
            (about the treasure). *He inherited the field and sold
            [it].* And the one who bought it went plowing and found the
            treasure. He *began* to lend money at interest to whomever
            he wished."

            First, the son who inherited the field went on to sell it.
            Generally, in this period (1st century CE) peasants had a
            propensity to sell land and elites to buy or otherwise
            acquire control over it. That tells me that the seller (the
            inheriting son) was likely not himself an elite/wealthy
            landowner, although still a freeholder. Where his father's
            treasure came from is a puzzle. It would seem that the son
            was not as affluent as the father was.

            Using what we do know about the economics of that time (and
            I am basing this on what I am currently reading, David A.
            Fiensy, _The Social History of Palestine in the Herodian
            Period_, 1991, and Jack Pastor, _Land and Economy in Ancient
            Palestine_, 1997) I reconstruct the following scenario:

            The father, facing confiscation of his good land, tries to
            hedge his future prospects by hiding money in the poor lands
            he expected to retain (possibly part of ancestral lands),
            but ultimately did not survive the transition, never having
            the chance of telling his son about the treasure. Loss of
            status by an elite family often accompanied changes in
            government. The best land was often confiscated from the
            retainers of the former rulers and turned into royal
            estates.

            Another possibility is that the father acquired the treasure
            by brigandage, and was thus himself a poor peasant who had
            nothing but crappy land to farm. He is caught and executed
            before telling his son what he secreted.

            That the buyer discovers it when the inheriting son did not
            suggests that he discovered it while trying to plough/work
            the land. This would imply that the inheriting son did not
            do so, or he would likely have found his father's treasure
            himself. This in turn suggests that the son was not used to
            working poor land, so I am inclined to think his father was
            a dispossessed elite of an old order. The inheriting son,
            then, unaware of the treasure his father secreted, and
            facing the prospect of farming poor land as a common
            peasant, throws up his hands and gives up farming entirely,
            likely moving to a town or city to become a retainer for the
            elite classes, or worse.

            That the buyer only begins to lend money at interest after
            discovering the treasure suggests that he was also not
            already an elite/wealthy landowner. But why would a peasant
            buy crappy land? According to James C. Scott, peasants in SE
            Asia will invest quite a lot of physical effort and capital
            just to eke a little more productivity out of land and meet
            family subsistence needs. This includes buying or leasing
            additional sub-par land that requires more intense farming
            effort than the other land he already owns or leases. Scott
            notes that the less land a family owns, the more they are
            willing to pay for more. [_The Moral Economy of the
            Peasant_, 1976, pg. 13-14] If there is any correspondence
            between these cultures, the inheriting son saw a good
            opportunity to unload the land, and ran with it.

            But to get back to your other point, yes these could well
            have been Gentiles. I guess that the nationality of the
            subjects of the stories hinges on where these stories
            originated (e.g., from the Jesus movement in rural Galilee,
            as many seem to think, or maybe borrowed for rhetorical
            purposes from oral/written lore of Gentile origin, as I
            think). It also hinges on how the author or editors of
            Thomas intended these stories to be understood by the
            readers and hearers of the book, and here I would think that
            he intended the stories to be understood in a Jewish
            context, which also presumes that the readers & hearers
            would have a minimal awareness of Jewish land tenancy
            practices.

            Respectfully,

            Dave Hindley
            Cleveland, Ohio, USA
          • mwgrondin
            ... Well, I said that he was _evidently_ not a peasant, since he had money to buy the land. The price of the land, however, was evidently not nearly as great
            Message 5 of 25 , Mar 10, 2002
              --- Dave Hindley wrote:
              > I am not sure I understand what you mean when you say the
              > man who finds the treasure was "not a peasant."

              Well, I said that he was _evidently_ not a peasant, since
              he had money to buy the land. The price of the land, however,
              was evidently not nearly as great as the value of the treasure.

              > The father, facing confiscation of his good land, tries to
              > hedge his future prospects by hiding money in the poor lands
              > he expected to retain (possibly part of ancestral lands),
              > but ultimately did not survive the transition, never having
              > the chance of telling his son about the treasure. ...
              > Another possibility is that the father acquired the treasure
              > by brigandage, and was thus himself a poor peasant who had
              > nothing but crappy land to farm. He is caught and executed
              > before telling his son what he secreted.

              But Dave, you're forgetting that the father _didn't know_ about
              the treasure! Looks like you'll have to redo this part of your
              elaborate construction. I'd say you're right, however, about
              the nature of the land, the Coptic word suggesting wilderness or
              undeveloped land, as in Th78 ("Why did you come out into the
              field?") and Th21 ("[My disciples] are like little children
              dwelling in a field that isn't theirs.") The problem with the
              word 'field' is that it's an open question whether it would be
              developed or undeveloped, whereas the Coptic word and the Greek
              underlying it apparently could only have meant undeveloped land
              (hence when the buyer in Th109 "comes plowing", he's doing
              something that the original owners hadn't done to that piece
              of land). In simplistic terms, I think the moral of the story
              isn't "Don't sell your land", but rather "Use the land you got."

              M.
            • tsgnosis
              Hi Dave, This, to me, is the danger of taking too intellectual an approach to the Gospel of Thomas. According to the logion, the father did not know he had a
              Message 6 of 25 , Mar 10, 2002
                Hi Dave,

                This, to me, is the danger of taking too intellectual an approach to
                the Gospel of Thomas. According to the logion, the father did not
                know he had a treasure, so he couldn't have hidden it himself.

                This logion seems to speak more of the treasure hidden within all of
                us. When we go 'plowing' within, we find the treasure to which this
                logion refers. Unfortunately, neither the father nor the son made the
                effort.

                Mike's translation from the Coptic actually says the person who
                bought the land "Did he begin to give money (at interest) to those he
                loves." This seems reasonable enough, that he would share the wealth,
                since we have a fine example of this in Jesus. What I'm curious about
                is the (at interest). Mike, could you shed some light on this?

                Laura
              • David C. Hindley
                ... about the treasure! Looks like you ll have to redo this part of your elaborate construction. I was concentrating on the fact that
                Message 7 of 25 , Mar 11, 2002
                  Mike Grondin notes:

                  >>But Dave, you're forgetting that the father _didn't know_
                  about the treasure! Looks like you'll have to redo this part
                  of your elaborate construction.<<

                  Details, details! <g>

                  I was concentrating on the fact that the text *also* says
                  that the son knew nothing of the treasure. Why did the
                  author repeat that the father and the son both did not know
                  of it? It still seems as if the story is meant to form a
                  neat contrast: wealth to poverty to wealth.

                  The delay in response was due to my feeble attempt to try
                  and look at the Coptic, but I have "two" many distractions
                  competing for my attention (ages 9 & 2).

                  I noticed the word forms in your interlinear sounded funny:

                  The-kingdom * she-is-comparable * to-a-man * who-had-he *
                  [t]here * in *his-field * a-treasure * hid[ing] * [he-bein]g
                  * not-knowing * about him

                  I take it "she" is the field and "he" is the treasure.
                  "Hidden" is partly conjectural (unless it is the only
                  possible word that fits). The word you translate
                  "not-knowing" is in the word index, with the meaning "to
                  know (obj)".

                  I am still curious whether the statement that is usually
                  translated "without knowing it" could be also rendered
                  something like "without disclosing it." Is a meaning like
                  this possible, based upon your knowledge of Coptic?

                  Respectfully,

                  Dave Hindley
                  Cleveland, Ohio, USA

                  PS: John Moon pointed out, off list, that read the way it is
                  usually rendered, GoT 109 could be thought of as a lesson
                  about a heir who is unaware of the riches if his inheritance
                  and sells it, only to see another benefit from it's riches.
                  The "replacement theology" found in the canonical gospels
                  comes to mind, yet it does not seem that this was what the
                  editor of Thomas wanted to emphasize, as I cannot think of
                  any overtly anti-Jewish sayings in the entire book. Bill
                  Arnal, for his part, (seems to have) considered the emphasis
                  of 109 (when compared to 95) to be loan interest!
                • William Arnal
                  ... Not at all. In fact I m not sure why you d say this. The saying *mentions* interest, and I noted that this (apparently) contradicts another saying in
                  Message 8 of 25 , Mar 12, 2002
                    David Hindley wrote:

                    >any overtly anti-Jewish sayings in the entire book. Bill
                    >Arnal, for his part, (seems to have) considered the emphasis
                    >of 109 (when compared to 95) to be loan interest!

                    Not at all. In fact I'm not sure why you'd say this. The saying *mentions*
                    interest, and I noted that this (apparently) contradicts another saying in
                    valuation of interest. That's all. It doesn't mean that I think that
                    interest is the central point of this saying.

                    Bill
                    ___________________________
                    William Arnal
                    Department of Religion
                    University of Manitoba

                    "Well, I can see I'm not in Paris"
                    -- Ernest Hemingway, on landing in Winnipeg



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                  • Grondin
                    ... I assume that the author wanted to make it clear to the reader that the son was ignorant also. But as to why the story requires both father and son, I
                    Message 9 of 25 , Mar 12, 2002
                      Dave Hindley writes:
                      > I was concentrating on the fact that the text *also* says
                      > that the son knew nothing of the treasure. Why did the
                      > author repeat that the father and the son both did not know
                      > of it?

                      I assume that the author wanted to make it clear to the reader that the son
                      was ignorant also. But as to why the story requires both father and son, I
                      don't know. Seems to me that it must be of some importance, but what?

                      > I noticed the word forms in your interlinear sounded funny:

                      > The-kingdom * she-is-comparable * to-a-man * who-had-he *
                      > [t]here * in *his-field * a-treasure * hid[ing] * [he-bein]g
                      > * not-knowing * about him
                      >
                      > I take it "she" is the field and "he" is the treasure.
                      > "Hidden" is partly conjectural (unless it is the only
                      > possible word that fits). The word you translate
                      > "not-knowing" is in the word index, with the meaning "to
                      > know (obj)".

                      The root word in the verbal phrase means 'to know' (or 'to be aware of'),
                      but the prefix 'NAT' is a negation, transforming it into its opposite 'to be
                      ignorant of', lit., 'to not know'.

                      > I am still curious whether the statement that is usually
                      > translated "without knowing it" could be also rendered
                      > something like "without disclosing it." Is a meaning like
                      > this possible, based upon your knowledge of Coptic?

                      Not that I'm aware of.

                      Regards,
                      Mike
                    • dchindley
                      ... *mentions* interest, and I noted that this (apparently) contradicts another saying in valuation of interest. That s all. It doesn t mean that I think that
                      Message 10 of 25 , Mar 13, 2002
                        --- In gthomas@y..., "William Arnal" <warnal@h...> wrote:

                        >>Not at all. In fact I'm not sure why you'd say this. The saying
                        *mentions* interest, and I noted that this (apparently) contradicts
                        another saying in valuation of interest. That's all. It doesn't mean
                        that I think that interest is the central point of this saying.<<

                        Sorry, I did not mean to impute an idea to you.

                        Out of curiosity, could you provide a brief summary of the criteria
                        you used to base your published (1995?) analytical breakout of GoT
                        mentioned in earlier posts? I have not yet had a chance to find a
                        copy of the journal it is in, but am interested in what would have
                        been written there.

                        Thanks!

                        Dave Hindley
                        Cleveland, OH (USA)
                      • Rick Hubbard
                        [Dave asked:] Out of curiosity, could you provide a brief summary of the criteria you used to base your published (1995?) analytical breakout of GoT mentioned
                        Message 11 of 25 , Mar 14, 2002
                          [Dave asked:]

                          Out of curiosity, could you provide a brief summary of the criteria
                          you used to base your published (1995?) analytical breakout of GoT
                          mentioned in earlier posts?

                          I did my best to try to summarize Bill's article last summer. Although there
                          is always the danger that I have missed something altogether, or that I have
                          mis-stated Bill's position, the "breakout" of the strata is close to
                          accurate (at least). Here's the link:
                          http://groups.yahoo.com/group/gthomas/message/3998

                          Rick Hubbard
                          Humble Maine Woodsman
                        • William Arnal
                          ... Thanks for this, Rick. I wasn t able to reply to Dave s original message yet because any copies of the article I have are back at the office, and I m at
                          Message 12 of 25 , Mar 14, 2002
                            Hey all:

                            >[Dave asked:]
                            >
                            >Out of curiosity, could you provide a brief summary of the criteria
                            >you used to base your published (1995?) analytical breakout of GoT
                            >mentioned in earlier posts?
                            >
                            >[and Rick replied]
                            >
                            >I did my best to try to summarize Bill's article last summer. Although
                            > >there
                            >is always the danger that I have missed something altogether, or that >I
                            >have
                            >mis-stated Bill's position, the "breakout" of the strata is close to
                            >accurate (at least). Here's the link:
                            >http://groups.yahoo.com/group/gthomas/message/3998

                            Thanks for this, Rick. I wasn't able to reply to Dave's original message yet
                            because any copies of the article I have are back at the office, and I'm at
                            home today. But this saves me the necessity of a (belated) reply.

                            Bill
                            ___________________________
                            William Arnal
                            Department of Religion
                            University of Manitoba

                            "Well, I can see I'm not in Paris"
                            -- Ernest Hemingway, on landing in Winnipeg



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                          • David C. Hindley
                            ... summer. Although there is always the danger that I have missed something altogether, or that I have mis-stated Bill s position, the breakout of the
                            Message 13 of 25 , Mar 14, 2002
                              Rick Hubbard said:

                              >>I did my best to try to summarize Bill's article last
                              summer. Although there is always the danger that I have
                              missed something altogether, or that I have mis-stated
                              Bill's position, the "breakout" of the strata is close to
                              accurate (at least). Here's the link:
                              http://groups.yahoo.com/group/gthomas/message/3998 <<

                              I must have missed this one! Well, at least I now have
                              something to do over the weekend. Still have to find the
                              article, though.

                              Thanks again!

                              Respectfully,

                              Dave Hindley
                              Cleveland, Ohio, USA
                            • Michael Mozina
                              ... sayings must or should go back to Jesus? No, like you and like Kloppenborg, I can t see Thomas as testimony to the historical Jesus -- it, like the
                              Message 14 of 25 , Jun 19, 2002
                                William Arnal Wrote on 3/08/02:

                                >>We might be talking past each other again. Did I seem to imply that Thomas
                                sayings must or should go back to Jesus? No, like you and like Kloppenborg,
                                I can't see Thomas as testimony to the historical Jesus -- it, like the
                                canonicals, is a theological-literary production, I assume.

                                I'm at work at the moment, and I can't seem to locate your posts about the
                                oral traditions of Thomas. I'll look again at home for these posts since I
                                am very curious about your analysis of this issue.

                                I did however run across this comment of yours about the origins of Thomas,
                                and I'm curious if you wouldn't mind giving me me a short explanation of
                                *WHY* you can't see this as a testimony to the historical Jesus, and instead
                                "assume" it's a theological-literary production. From my vantange point,
                                Thomas seems very randomly slapped together and I don't see much of an
                                underlying "production" to it. The randomness of these sayings, as opposed
                                to grouped "themes", seems to lend credence to the notion that these were
                                recorded at different times as the author happened to pen them down, rather
                                than this list representing a well thought out "production" per se.

                                [Michael Mozina]
                                [sig added by ed. Contributors should sign messages.]
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