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Concerning Logion 98

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  • Tom Saunders
    Said Jesus, the kingdom of the father, she is like a man wanting to kill a man powerful. He drew the sword in his (own) house; he stuck her into the wall so
    Message 1 of 7 , Aug 9, 2002
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      Said Jesus, "the kingdom of the father, she is like a man wanting to kill a man powerful. He drew the sword in his (own) house; he stuck her into the wall so that his hand will be strong inwardly(?) then he slew the powerful one."

      This particular saying has been a mystery to me for years. It is of great interest to me because I have dedicated my adult life to the study martial arts. Certainly, there are major considerations as to training, and how to use the sword, within saying 98. There are other chilling aspects.

      Known in the first century of the Jesus' venue are two contrasting systems of martial training on the eastern outskirts of the Roman Empire. The first is the standard training of the Roman army. The other is Persian ( Oriental), and they are very different in some of their philosophies, aspects, and actual training.

      Training of Roman soldiers was standard throughout the Roman Empire, and would have been known to almost anyone who lived near Roman soldiers. Trainees were started by digging a hole and inserting a pole, or stake, then securing it for combat. Then, they were issued a wooden shield and sword, weighing twice as much as the real articles.

      Trainees were required to do sword drills by pounding the stake with their weapons, for up to six hours a day. This training could last months. It would be supplemented by learning some degree of unit attack and defenses. Trainees were edged toward learning to act on orders and within a unit. No real emphasis seems to have been directed toward the kind of individual development common to Eastern methods and possibly Greek methods.

      Eastern martial training in the Persian Empire developed from the time of Emperor Ashoka of India (3rd Century B.C.). About two hundred years before Jesus, specialized schools had been developed in India which have survived to this day.

      Commonly referred to as 'Gatka,' this training resembles many other types of martial arts known throughout the Orient. It is just as physically demanding as the Roman methods, but there is much more emphasis on the development of the individual, especially internal development. Persian army training tended to be influenced by particular Gatka masters. Unit training would have had similar aspects to the Roman methods, but cultural differences influenced what actually happened in units.

      By the time of Jesus, Damascus was becoming famous for the quality of their sword makers. Eastern swordsman came to Damascus from all over the Persian Empire. It is likely that the author of Logion 98 was familiar with both methodologies for the training of sword combat from the various cultures at the time.

      The major aspect of saying 98 is development of self inward confidence to perform the task of killing the important or powerful man. This chilling aspect of the saying, safely rules out the logion's possible affiliation with the Ten Commandments and the law of the Old Testament. I think it adds to the support of the GThom
      as being Gentile or Christian rather than Mosaic in nature.

      The general idea of a powerful or important man in the 'First Century' probably included martial training in the profile of the person. This would include most cultures of the time. This brings up a serious question in Logion 98 about self training. Is it possible for a self trained person to kill a trained powerful man? The answer is yes, but there are very distinct circumstances.

      First, the possibility of a self trained individual successfully taking on a Roman or Persian trained swordsman, one on one, is very unlikely. (One experiment would be to divide this group up and let one try self training, the other Roman, and the other Persian training. It might take the Romans and the Persians a while to decide the winners. I give the self trained group 30 seconds tops. I don't expect too many 'takers' in the group.)

      The self trained swordsman has one shot at killing the powerful man, assassination by 'dry gulching.' In other words it has to be so the powerful man gets hit before he knows it. This fact adds a grim aspect to logion 98. In most circles dry gulching is considered cowardly, but not all. In the American West, for a time Deacon Jim Miller, was a famous 'Dry Gulcher,' reputed to have killed Pat Garrett, and 40 + others. (See "Shotgun For Hire," Glenn Shirley, University of Oklahoma Press, 1970)

      Miller was respected for a time, until he became a thief, then they (the whole community), hung him in Ada Oklahoma, 1909. The point is in violent societies like the Roman Empire of the first century, as in Outlaw Territory Oklahoma, dry gulching is considered more of a necessity in order to put people out of your misery, so to speak. Moral aspects of the act become secondary, but as to logion 98, the question of "though shalt not kill" becomes paramount.

      Taken singularly logion 98 might be an affirmation of the Christian right to kill. However, I do not think that is a primary issue meant for the interpretation of the saying. The right to kill did exist in the cultures Jesus knew. Many of you would know more about these than I. But we must consider aspects of applying "Thomas" to society given it is a Gospel.

      If we can reject the cowardly aspects of the act of dry gulching, we can picture societies of the first century who had to, out of necessity, live by the sword. Rather than saying 98 being a license to kill, I think what it really means is in reference to personal development. The Kingdom is like..... the preparation it would take to self train, and more in reference to the actual act of self training, in regard to the kingdom. I am sure during the time Thomas was written killing was so common it had to be accepted as a fact of life, far more than we would be willing to today. One can hope for the best.

      I hope this examination of logion 98, helps to draw a picture of the social circumstances in the time of the GThom., and the cultural picture the author must have had in those times. I am sure it reflects a certain cultural frame of reference which can help elucidate meaning to the other sayings.

      Tom Saunders
      Platter Flats, OK











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    • Michael Mozina
      I would equate the powerful one here with self/ego or self indentity . By killing one s own ego , and killing one s religious belief systems, one finds
      Message 2 of 7 , Aug 9, 2002
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        I would equate the "powerful one" here with "self/ego" or "self indentity".
        By killing one's own "ego", and killing one's religious belief systems, one
        finds humility. We become as children again and can more readily find the
        kingdom. The notion of one striking the death blow in their "(own) house",
        does seem consistent with this intepretation.

        I'm not sure the notion of "dry gulching" really applies here, though you
        might think of it as sneaking up on one's own ego and using the sword to
        poke at one's own belief systems.

        [Michael Mozina]
        [copy of Tom's note deleted by editor]
      • Tom Saunders
        Mike Mazina writes: I m not sure the notion of dry gulching really applies here, though you might think of it as sneaking up on one s own ego and using the
        Message 3 of 7 , Aug 10, 2002
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          Mike Mazina writes:


          I'm not sure the notion of "dry gulching" really applies here, though you
          might think of it as sneaking up on one's own ego and using the sword to
          poke at one's own belief systems.

          I would not discount this idea. Although there is a point where Thomas' sayings depart from the literal meanings, the literal is still there and must be considered. Either way I think the logion is pointing to the aspect of inner development as opposed to just murder.

          Tom Saunders
          Platter Flats, OK


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        • fmmccoy
          ... From: Tom Saunders To: Sent: Friday, August 09, 2002 4:30 PM Subject: [GTh] Concerning Logion 98 ... a
          Message 4 of 7 , Aug 13, 2002
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            ----- Original Message -----
            From: "Tom Saunders" <tom@...>
            To: <gthomas@yahoogroups.com>
            Sent: Friday, August 09, 2002 4:30 PM
            Subject: [GTh] Concerning Logion 98


            > Said Jesus, "the kingdom of the father, she is like a man wanting to kill
            a man powerful. He drew the sword in his (own) house; he stuck her into the
            wall so that his hand will be strong inwardly(?) then he slew the powerful
            one."
            >
            > This particular saying has been a mystery to me for years. It is of great
            interest to me because I have dedicated my adult life to the study martial
            arts. Certainly, there are major considerations as to training, and how to
            use the sword, within saying 98. There are other chilling aspects.

            (snip)

            > If we can reject the cowardly aspects of the act of dry gulching, we can
            picture societies of the first century who had to, out of necessity, live by
            the sword. Rather than saying 98 being a license to kill, I think what it
            really means is in reference to personal development. The Kingdom is
            like..... the preparation it would take to self train, and more in reference
            to the actual act of self training, in regard to the kingdom. I am sure
            during the time Thomas was written killing was so common it had to be
            accepted as a fact of life, far more than we would be willing to today. One
            can hope for the best.
            >
            > I hope this examination of logion 98, helps to draw a picture of the
            social circumstances in the time of the GThom., and the cultural picture the
            author must have had in those times. I am sure it reflects a certain
            cultural frame of reference which can help elucidate meaning to the other
            sayings.


            Dear Tom:

            I enjoyed reading your post.

            There were areas in Palestine and adjacent regions where law and order was
            either absent or present only sporadically. Various bandit groups lived in
            them, surviving by pillaging and looting. Some were patriotic groups trying
            to oust the Romans, but others were criminals by choice or by economic
            necessity.

            The parable seems to have such a lawless area in mind, with the man in the
            house trying to strengthen his hand so he can drive his sword through the
            local warlord leading one of these groups.

            On a "deeper" level, though, I suspect, the parable might allude to
            Caananite religion.

            Particularly important is "The Caananite Poem of Baal" as given in Thespis
            by Theodor H. Gaster.

            One thing to note is that Mot (Death) is portrayed as a powerful man So
            (XLVIII), he proclaims, "How shall he (i.e., Baal) go on insulting me?
            Why, the Thunderer (Hadd) is scared out of his wits! Those that fight with
            me are [always la]id low; [as with] a butcher's [kni]fe [I smite them that]
            would smite me."

            Another thing to note is that it is the virgin Anat who finally slays him,
            and she does so with a sword (LXII), "She seizes the godling Mot; with a
            sword she rips him up."

            A third thing to note is that, in 98, the Kingdom is said to be a "she".
            "She" is like a man who strengthens his hand before slaying the powerful one
            with a sword.

            Viewed this way, the parable can be seen as likening the Kingdom to the
            virgin Anat--who, like a man with a hand hardened and strengthened through
            training, was able to slay the powerful man (i.e., Mot (Death)) with a
            sword.

            From this perspective, the key point is that, if the poweful man is a
            Mot-figure, then he probably symbolizes death--for Mot is Death.

            In this case, then, the point of the parable is that the Kingdom is the
            slayer of Death, so that (s)he who receives her and enters into her will
            have eternal life.

            In this case, the sitz im leben for this parable is an area where there was
            still knowledge of the old Caananite religion.

            Certainly, rural Galilee is a possibility. The old ways died out gradually
            among the people of the land and worshipping of some of the old
            Caananite deities as an "insurance policy" for good crops might still have
            been going on in some areas. (Note: Too, in fifth century BCE papyri
            from Elephantine, written by Jewish mercenaries in Egypt, there are
            references to an Anath-yahu: who might have been worshipped by them as a
            consort of Yahweh. I suspect, but am not sure, since I am working with
            English translations rather than the actual texts, that the name of
            Anath-yahu might be a Jewish version of the Caananite name of Anat. If so,
            then these Jewish mercenaries did worship Anat under the name of
            Anath-yahu).

            Another possibility is Phoenicia, which was the part of the old Canaan never
            absorbed into Jewish territory. Here, the old ways certainly did live on.

            In this case, then, the parable supports the hypothesis that the Thomas
            church was located in the Phoenician city of Tyre.

            Frank McCoy
            1809 N. English Apt. 17
            Maplewood, MN USA 55109
          • Grondin
            ... That s an accident of the language. All Coptic nouns were gendered. Further, the relationship to the Anat story seems merely coincidental. Pretty much
            Message 5 of 7 , Aug 13, 2002
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              [Frank McCoy]:
              > A third thing to note is that, in 98, the Kingdom is said to be a "she".

              That's an accident of the language. All Coptic nouns were gendered.
              Further, the relationship to the Anat story seems merely coincidental.
              Pretty much everybody who personalized death made it a strong male
              figure. So what? If Anat was in mind, why isn't the assassin female?

              Mike Grondin
              The Coptic Gospel of Thomas, saying-by-saying
              http://www.geocities.com/mwgrondin/sayings.htm
            • fmmccoy
              ... From: Grondin To: Sent: Tuesday, August 13, 2002 2:48 PM Subject: Re: [GTh] Concerning Logion 98 ...
              Message 6 of 7 , Aug 13, 2002
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                ----- Original Message -----
                From: "Grondin" <mwgrondin@...>
                To: <gthomas@yahoogroups.com>
                Sent: Tuesday, August 13, 2002 2:48 PM
                Subject: Re: [GTh] Concerning Logion 98


                > [Frank McCoy]:
                > > A third thing to note is that, in 98, the Kingdom is said to be a
                "she".
                >
                > That's an accident of the language. All Coptic nouns were gendered.
                > Further, the relationship to the Anat story seems merely coincidental.
                > Pretty much everybody who personalized death made it a strong male
                > figure. So what? If Anat was in mind, why isn't the assassin female?

                Mike:

                The whole argument is based on "she" having significance. As the "she" is
                purely accidental, due to Coptic gendering all sorts of things and objects
                that are sex-less, the whole argument becomes sense-less. Oh well, win
                some, and lose some.

                Frank McCoy
                1809 N. English Apt. 17
                Maplewood, MN USA 55109
              • Tom Saunders
                Mike writes: That s an accident of the language. All Coptic nouns were gendered. Further, the relationship to the Anat story seems merely coincidental. Pretty
                Message 7 of 7 , Aug 13, 2002
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                  Mike writes:
                  That's an accident of the language. All Coptic nouns were gendered.
                  Further, the relationship to the Anat story seems merely coincidental.
                  Pretty much everybody who personalized death made it a strong male
                  figure. So what? If Anat was in mind, why isn't the assassin female?

                  I noticed the sword was gendered as 'her' also. I have to agree with Mike on the Anat parallel. If there are intentional parallels in Thomas I think they are in line with the other Gospels.

                  As there was a Christian following in Damascus at the time of Paul, I see one in Tyre just as likely based upon the fact it is so close to Jerusalem. However, the influence of the Apostle's village during this era might rule out the community being strictly Thomist. Communities further east where there would not have been this kind of influence would make more sense as a exclusive Thomas community.

                  Tom Saunders
                  Platter Flats, OK




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