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Some Miscellaneous Remarks

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  • Grondin
    So many ideas have been running through my head lately that it s virtually impossible to organize them properly for a clear presentation. Some are still yet
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 14, 2002
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      So many ideas have been running through my head lately that it's virtually
      impossible to organize them properly for a clear presentation. Some are
      still yet half-formed, and many are probably dead-ends. I try to articulate
      only those that I'm most sure of, but even then sometimes the ground shifts
      under my feet, and I have to retreat to safer, more certain, ground. I'm
      pretty sure that the overall strategy of organizing Thomas into groups (or
      multiples) of six lines each is sound, not only because my researches so far
      have pointed in that direction, but also because the text advises us that if
      we don't "keep the Sabbath as a Sabbath", we won't "see the Father"
      (whatever syntactical element that turns out to be - perhaps line 280). But
      this means for starters that the 668 lines have to be reduced to at least
      666. Later, perhaps, this will be reduced to 660, then hopefully to 600, so
      that we'll have 6x100. Not only that, however, but the sixes seem to want to
      divide into 1+ 5. Following that train to its logical conclusion, 600=5x120,
      which is nice, because then we would probably have "60 per measure and 120
      per measure" (i.e., two groups of 60).

      As to how Thomas was used, I've had some thoughts. The so-called
      "Barbeloites" (Iraenaeus called them that) were evidently members of a
      Johannine mystery school. The title of their master-work, The Apocryphon of
      John, testifies to that, if nothing else. But if this is so, then their
      basic redaction of Thomas would seem to have been to "Johannize" it. If we
      can strip off that layer (which I strong suspect includes saying 77), we
      would be significantly closer to the original. But how was it used? I'm
      inclined to believe that it was used for the final training of small
      missionary teams - perhaps 5 or 10 at a sitting, with an additional
      individual being the facilitator (not teacher) or "man of understanding" (as
      in "let there be a man of understanding among you"), i.e., someone who knew
      what the group had to do, and could thus steer the team in the right
      direction when they needed it, by citing sayings which confirmed or
      disconfirmed moves they would think to make toward the ultimate goal of
      making that which the five of them (the upper, lower, left, right, and
      middle) started out with, becoming equal to each other in the end (the "five
      trees of Paradise", I think). Since the text would have had to have been cut
      up into pieces as the work proceeded, the team must have worked with 20
      sheets of papyrus written only on one side. So if the "team" was composed of
      5 future missionaries, then each "student" would have received 4 sheets - if
      they were divided evenly at the outset. This is questionable, however, since
      part of the training may have consisted of making the point that the members
      of the team had to unselfishly share with each other, so that they all
      became the same in the end - i.e., that they became a single unit. One
      member might call out, for example, "I need a page!" or "I need two lines!",
      and whoever of the others had it to spare would give it to him. This is
      pretty fanciful, of course, but it echoes the thought of the assassin
      saying - that you have to practice at home (i.e., make yourself a perfect
      "man of light") before you can go out into the world to light it up and try
      to perfect it. Further, it echoes the relationship of the five original
      disciples, four of whom were sets of brothers. Thus, I'm inclined to believe
      that Thomas - in its puzzle form - was used to train teams of five
      missionaries before sending them out into the world to do their work and to
      "live the Life" (of the chosen few who made their living by proselytizing).
      Having completed this final test - this sort of solidifying internalization
      of all they had learned up to that point -they were entitled to enter the
      ranks of "the perfect" - to whom the last tractate of Codex II was
      addressed.

      I've been meaning also to say something more about the importance of the
      number 50. Doubtless the reader will recall that the Egyptian Therapeutae
      had this as a mystical number, and that it was in general important in
      Jewish lore as the end of "a sabbath of sabbaths", i.e., a so-called
      "Jubilee". This was carried over into orthodox Xian lore, where the feast of
      Pentacost commemorates the "coming out" of the disciples 50 days after
      Easter. There's even a mysterious reference in one of the gospels to having
      the folks sit down in groups of 50 and 100 prior to a miraculous feeding.
      Reinforcement that this number was important also to the originators of
      Thomas lies all over the place, including "hidden" meanings, such as the
      saying wherein Jesus is made to say "Split a timber, you will find me there
      ..." As it turns out, the Coptic word for 'timber' is the same as the word
      for '100', and if one "splits" 100, one gets ... you guessed it. So I think
      the importance of the numbers 50 and 100 (and probably also their "baby
      brothers" 5 and 10) in solving the puzzle is quite certain.

      Now then, in the Greek numbering system, the number 50 was represented as
      the letter 'N' with an overstroke (when representing numbers, the Greek
      letters were always overstroked - see the chart under 'Fonts' at my site).
      And of course, in Coptic, the overstroked 'N' is used all over the place
      within the normal grammatical structure of the language. But one thing
      rarely (if ever) communicated to the non-specialist is that the title of
      "The Apocryphon of John", as it occurs just above the text of Thomas on page
      32 of Codex II (and also as it occurs in Codex IV), is unusual in two
      respects: (1) the 'KATA' ('according to') almost always _follows_ the main
      noun of a title - as in "The Gospel - According to Thomas", and (2) the
      plural 'the' ('N' with overstroke) in the title makes 'Apokryphon' plural -
      not singular. Now in the title of the shorter version of AJ (as in Codex
      III), the article is singular ('P', not 'N'), and the 'KATA' phrase is in
      its proper place, so that it really reads 'The Apocryphon of John'. But the
      longer version of AJ (presumably the later one) is no longer "the Apokryphon
      of John", but rather 'According to John, the Apocryphons'. And if we take
      the overstroked N as a number, the title may be suggesting that there are 50
      "secret things". Whatever the case, however, my goal is to be absolutely
      rigorous with this material. If something doesn't seem quite clear and
      certain, nothing should be made to depend on it. In other words, I'm letting
      the data drive the hypothesis, rather than the other way round - and I want
      to be really sure of the interpretation of the data - lest this effort
      devolve into yet another flimsy theory of the type we're all familiar with.

      I continue to believe that "the first day" must involve building a "treasury
      of light", so to speak. If the seeker (or team of seekers) is re-enacting
      the six days of creation, he/they will first be doing something "in the
      dark" that amounts to a symbolic "moving over the waters", and then, shortly
      thereafter, "Let there be light!". The "light" however (which is probably
      saying 77, with or without "companions"), is evidently to be placed on a
      "lampstand" ("so that those coming and going may see by its light"), and
      where that might be, I don't yet have a clue. Perhaps it'll result from some
      of these moves being made in the dark, "before the beginning of the world".

      Mike Grondin
      The Coptic Gospel of Thomas, saying-by-saying
      http://www.geocities.com/mwgrondin/sayings.htm
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