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Re: [GTh] Concerning Logion 98 and 57

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  • Jim Bauer
    #98: Jesus said: The kingdom of the father is like a certain man who wanted to kill a powerful man. In his own house he drew his sword and stuck it in the
    Message 1 of 6 , Aug 10, 2002
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      #98: Jesus said: "The kingdom of the father is like a certain man who
      wanted to kill a powerful man. In his own house he drew his sword and stuck
      it in the wall to find out if he could follow through. Then he killed the
      powerful man."
      ----- Original Message -----
      From: "Michael Mozina" <michael@...>
      To: <gthomas@yahoogroups.com>
      Sent: Friday, August 09, 2002 5:27 PM
      Subject: RE: [GTh] Concerning Logion 98


      > 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 don't know about this. One of the problems of doing symbolic
      analyses--this post strikes me as assuming that Thomas is much closer to
      systems of Eastern meditation than it actually is--is that no two people
      ever read the same thing into the same set of symbols. Since this logion is
      about the "Kingdom of the Father" ISTM that the "powerful man" is probably
      Satan and the man who wants to kill him the Father incarnate as Jesus or
      perhaps the Father himself. But then, maybe I'm also reading what I want to
      see into this set of symbols.

      Yet although one problem with parables is that they're deliberately obscure
      it can be demonstrated by reading the NT in general that Jesus considered
      himself an enemy of Satan and an emissary--in fact, THE emissary--of the
      Kingdom of the Father as it exists/will exist on earth. As for "his own
      house" he's probably talking about the Kingdom in its nascent form as the
      community of believers. The church (in a generic sense) must be prepared to
      deal with Satan before actually going out and destroying him.

      To me, this parable is of the same genre as #57: Jesus said: "The Kingdom
      of the Father is like a man who had good seed. His enemy came by night and
      sowed weeds among the good seed. The man did not allow them ot pull up the
      weeds; he said to them, 'I am afraid that you will go intending to pull up
      the weeds and pull up the wheat along with them.' For on the day of the
      harvest the weeds will be plainly visible, and they will be pulled up and
      burned.'"

      Matthew 13: 24-30 is remarkably similar although the account has clearly
      been embellished from the primitive parabolic sayings source. In this
      passage we also see the man sowing good seeds--Jesus as the representative
      of the Kingdom of the Father--as preparing for the apocalyptic end of the
      world, and hence the ending of the evil principle along with it, as a task
      of preparing for the last day. I believe the difference here is that in #98
      the powerful man is actually slain at the end of the parable and in the
      others--#57 and the version found in Matthew--the task of destroying the
      weeds (= powerful man) is left for the end of the world. Perhaps this is
      why the orthodox church rejected #98, as if Satan is already destroyed there
      is no need of a church to keep fighting him until the end of the world.
      >
      > 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'm also not certain if "dry gulching" is applicable here, but that's
      because I think, as I said above, that this is a metaphor about Satan and
      not at all a statement about martial arts. Although I have no doubt that
      the author may have been familiar with the martial arts of his time, ISTM
      that the meaning here is metaphorical.

      Consider if someone today made a parable about guns, let's say,
      specifically, Uzis. Now the author may be familiar enough with weapons to
      give them that specific name and maybe know a little about the weapons, but
      that is not the point of the story. It's metaphorical and as a metaphor the
      secondary meaning of the story is of prime importance, not the particular
      gun involved and all the elaborate mechanism of how to use it.

      Jim Bauer
      Havre, Montana
    • Michael Mozina
      ... Actually, I completely agree with you that our personal intepretations are bound to be influenced by our life experiences. We all wear a particular shade
      Message 2 of 6 , Aug 10, 2002
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        Jim Bauer writes:
        > I don't know about this. One of the problems of doing symbolic
        > analyses--this post strikes me as assuming that Thomas is much closer to
        > systems of Eastern meditation than it actually is--is that no two people
        > ever read the same thing into the same set of symbols. Since this logion is
        > about the "Kingdom of the Father" ISTM that the "powerful man" is probably
        > Satan and the man who wants to kill him the Father incarnate as Jesus or
        > perhaps the Father himself. But then, maybe I'm also reading what I want
        > to see into this set of symbols.

        Actually, I completely agree with you that our personal intepretations are
        bound to be influenced by our life experiences. We all wear a particular
        shade of rose colored glasses that influence our understanding of the world.

        If you look at two interpetations with that understanding in mind, we
        ultimately both agree the "powerful one" refers to "satan", it's just that I
        don't externalize the notion of adversary here as you do.

        > Yet although one problem with parables is that they're deliberately
        obscure
        > it can be demonstrated by reading the NT in general that Jesus considered
        > himself an enemy of Satan and an emissary--in fact, THE emissary--of the
        > Kingdom of the Father as it exists/will exist on earth. As for "his own
        > house" he's probably talking about the Kingdom in its nascent form as the
        > community of believers. The church (in a generic sense) must be prepared
        > to deal with Satan before actually going out and destroying him.

        And I would suggest that one must be prepared to deal with ego, and
        selfishness and pride, before actually setting out to destroy it. Perhaps a
        "dry gulching" approach isn't such a bad idea either. :)

        Michael Mozina
        Mt. Shasta, CA
      • Grondin
        From: Jim Bauer ... is ... to ... There is that problem, of course, but the number of plausible alternatives can be decreased by
        Message 3 of 6 , Aug 10, 2002
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          From: "Jim Bauer" <jbauer@...>
          > One of the problems of doing symbolic analyses ... is that no two people
          > ever read the same thing into the same set of symbols. Since this logion
          is
          > about the "Kingdom of the Father" ISTM that the "powerful man" is probably
          > Satan and the man who wants to kill him the Father incarnate as Jesus or
          > perhaps the Father himself. But then, maybe I'm also reading what I want
          to
          > see into this set of symbols.

          There is that problem, of course, but the number of plausible alternatives
          can be decreased by concentrating on the actual logic of the parable itself,
          and not getting carried away with incidental ideas that it might invoke in
          our minds. In the logic of this parable, I see nothing that would rule out
          Satan being considered the symbolic external adversary, but I do see
          something which would rule out the assassin being identified as either Jesus
          or "the Father". That something is the fact that the man sticks the sword
          into the wall to assure himself that his arm (or his will/intention) will be
          strong enough to carry out his plan. This implies that there is some
          question as to whether the man _will be_ strong enough. I'm quite sure that
          the originator of this parable would not have doubted that the will of
          either Jesus or "the Father" would be strong enough. Therefore, it's not
          plausible that "the man" in this parable symbolizes either of them. Most
          likely, it's the ordinary believer.

          Mike Grondin
          The Coptic Gospel of Thomas, saying-by-saying
          http://www.geocities.com/mwgrondin/sayings.htm
        • Jim Bauer
          ... From: Grondin To: Sent: Saturday, August 10, 2002 2:01 PM Subject: Re: [GTh] Concerning Logion 98 and
          Message 4 of 6 , Aug 11, 2002
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            ----- Original Message -----
            From: "Grondin" <mwgrondin@...>
            To: <gthomas@yahoogroups.com>
            Sent: Saturday, August 10, 2002 2:01 PM
            Subject: Re: [GTh] Concerning Logion 98 and 57


            > From: "Jim Bauer" <jbauer@...>
            > > One of the problems of doing symbolic analyses ... is that no two people
            > > ever read the same thing into the same set of symbols. Since this
            logion
            > is
            > > about the "Kingdom of the Father" ISTM that the "powerful man" is
            probably
            > > Satan and the man who wants to kill him the Father incarnate as Jesus or
            > > perhaps the Father himself.
            >
            > the number of plausible alternatives
            > can be decreased by concentrating on the actual logic of the parable
            itself,
            > In the logic of this parable, I see nothing that would rule out
            > Satan being considered the symbolic external adversary, but I do see
            > something which would rule out the assassin being identified as either
            Jesus
            > or "the Father". That something is the fact that the man sticks the sword
            > into the wall to assure himself that his arm will be
            > strong enough to carry out his plan. This implies that there is some
            > question as to whether the man _will be_ strong enough. I'm quite sure
            that
            > the originator of this parable would not have doubted that the will of
            > either Jesus or "the Father" would be strong enough. Therefore, it's not
            > plausible that "the man" in this parable symbolizes either of them. Most
            > likely, it's the ordinary believer.

            Well, for one thing, I don't think assassinating Satan is in the ability of
            the "ordinary believer", but reserved for God at the Apocalyptic End of
            Time. You do, however, make a major assumption here in assuming that the
            originator of this parable is not Jesus himself or perhaps is an "ordinary
            Christian" who would see Jesus as Divine and hence not needing to test his
            strength as, being God he is supposedly all-powerful. Of course, for an
            early Christian this would have to be true, but for a Gnostic...? The
            Gnostic Jesus was a "Saved Saviour", not God but a man imbued with the
            Spirit of God which departed him on the cross, in which case your argument
            is fallacious; the Gnostic Aeon Christos would probably have many doubts.
            Though this would possibly indicate a late-dated Gnostic origin for this
            parable, it is also possible that Jesus himself said it, in which case,
            maybe Jesus was a man and not God, and only developed the idea that he was
            Philo's Logos AFTER he uttered this, or something like it and it got written
            down.

            Jim Bauer
            Havre, Montana
          • Grondin
            ... of ... Yes, one could argue that since the assassin in the parable can t be God (since no one would imagine God doubting the strength of his own will), it
            Message 5 of 6 , Aug 11, 2002
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              [Jim Bauer]:
              > Well, for one thing, I don't think assassinating Satan is in the ability
              of
              > the "ordinary believer", but reserved for God at the Apocalyptic End of
              > Time.

              Yes, one could argue that since the assassin in the parable can't be God
              (since no one would imagine God doubting the strength of his own will), it
              follows that the "powerful man" whom the assassin eventually slays can't be
              Satan, since no mere man can hope to slay Satan. So I was perhaps too hasty
              to admit that the "powerful man" might be symbolic of Satan, as far as the
              internal evidence of the parable goes. If so, we're back at where we should
              have been in the first place - that the parable of the assassin is a
              metaphor for the believer: if you want to fight evil in the world, make sure
              that you have eradicated it within yourself first. But maybe the man is
              Jesus? We'll see about that below.

              > You do, however, make a major assumption here in assuming that the
              > originator of this parable is not Jesus himself or perhaps is an "ordinary
              > Christian" who would see Jesus as Divine and hence not needing to test
              > his strength as, being God he is supposedly all-powerful. Of course, for
              > an early Christian this would have to be true, but for a Gnostic...? The
              > Gnostic Jesus was a "Saved Saviour", not God but a man imbued with the
              > Spirit of God which departed him on the cross, in which case your argument
              > is fallacious; the Gnostic Aeon Christos would probably have many doubts.

              Oh, my, how can I explain how wrong-headed this approach is? Do you see any
              evidence of a "saved savior" concept in Thomas? Are there any sayings in
              which Jesus is made to express doubts about himself? No? Then what is the
              nature of your argument? That Thomas is Gnostic and so it _must_ (contrary
              to all internal evidence) harbor a secret conformity to someone's definition
              of Gnosticism? This is too absurd for words. A saying must be interpreted
              within its own context, not within some extrra-textual framework which is
              clearly inapplicable to the text.

              > Though this would possibly indicate a late-dated Gnostic origin for this
              > parable,

              If the parable has a Gnostic meaning, then the parable has a Gnostic origin?
              OK, but you haven't given any reason at all to suppose that the parable has
              a Gnostic meaning. The Gnostic concepts you mention are simply not present
              in Thomas.

              > ... it is also possible that Jesus himself said it, in which case, maybe
              Jesus
              > was a man and not God, and only developed the idea that he was Philo's
              > Logos AFTER he uttered this, or something like it and it got written down.

              Sheer speculation. I see no reason to suppose that Jesus uttered any
              parables (a genre intended for the public, mind you) which would have
              expressed doubts about what he saw as his mission. This is precisely the
              sort of thing that would _not_ be uttered - still less in public - by a
              person wishing to build a following. Ockham's Razor demands that we prefer
              the simplest explanation, all things considered, and the simplest
              explanation in this case is that the parable refers to the necessity of the
              believer making sure that he/she is internally prepared to fight evil in the
              world before setting out to do so. If Jesus said this, then presumably he
              had prepared himself in like manner, but there's no indication that the
              message was intended to be applied, let alone restricted, to himself.

              Mike Grondin
              Mt. Clemens, MI
            • Ron McCann
              I think we have to determine who the powerful man is and why it is necessary for our bloke to drive a dagger or sword into a wall to test his own capacity to
              Message 6 of 6 , Aug 13, 2002
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                I think we have to determine who the powerful man is and why it is necessary
                for our bloke to drive a dagger or sword into a wall to test his own
                capacity to accomplish the assassination. This is probably the missing
                element to an understanding of the OVERT meaning of the parable.

                To use a close contemporary scenario, it seems to me that the entire Roman
                Senate did not have to test their strength by driving their daggers or
                swords into a wall in order to dispatch Julius Caesar. Nor did they have to
                practice. They just stabbed him. I have heard stories about how hard it is
                to get a bayonette out of a speared soldier, but little on how hard it is to
                "do" him.

                Whatever, our assassin here is either the original feeble 97 pound weakling
                of Weeder Lore, or for some reason it is going to require a feat of
                considerable strength, FOR SOME REASON, to drive the blade home, and kill
                the man he is after. There seems to be no logical reason for our bloke to
                drive a sword or dagger into a wall to see if he can penetrate it, apart
                from the fact he is anticipating a problem in his blade effecting a killing.

                The parable makes no sense unless his target is ARMOURED. Caesar wasn't
                armored-he allegedly had only a Toga- but the soldiers of the day, in
                Palestine, were. Were they Temple Police or Roman Soldiers, our historical
                information was they wore breastplates and back of either thin bronze or
                boiled leather. The Roman Occupiers, if Hollywood can be believed, wore this
                armour on State Occasions-bronze or silvered on State occasions ,and formed
                pressed leather for day to day. The boiled leather was then the day to day
                armour of choice. It was hard to kill an armored person because the armour
                could not easily be penetrated. It took considerable force to pierce it. A
                weak person might not. One who tested their strength might. One who
                practiced could.

                I have always wondered then whether our "strong" or "powerful" man, of the
                Thomas log, was perhaps the best the Cop or Greek translators could do with
                perhaps an original Aramaic term that was unfamiliar- such as "Leathered"
                man- ie Armored Man. Mike G in private correspondence has assured me that
                the Greek and Coptic don't lend themselves to this, but I wonder about the
                Aramaic? Jack?

                It seems to me that this parable has a confused OVERT meaning, and before
                speculating on it's proper covert meaning we might try to restore that.

                Best,

                Ron McCann
                Saskatoon, Canada
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