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Thomas 74 - "no one" or "nothing?"

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  • Achilles37@aol.com
    Question for Mike G. - In the Lambdin translation of Thomas, saying 74 reads: He said, O Lord, there are many around the drinking trough, but there is nothing
    Message 1 of 2 , Nov 18, 2002
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      Question for Mike G. -

      In the Lambdin translation of Thomas, saying 74 reads:

      He said, "O Lord, there are many around the drinking trough, but there is nothing in the cistern."

      Note the term "nothing."

      Similarly, in the Grondin interlinear version of saying 74, we find "no thing" (expanded here with full words for clarity and with apologies to Mike):

      "Said he this: ()Lord, there are many (around) the fountain; no thing, however, in the well."

      Yet a case can be made for "no one" here. First of all, the same Coptic phrase can apparently mean either "no thing" or "no one." See, for example, Thomas 5 where the words mean "no thing" and Thomas 71 where the same words means "no one."

      Likewise the probable Greek word behind the Coptic here is "oudeis," which can mean both "nothing" and "no one" (or "no man").

      Consequently, the word selection must be rendered based on the sense. In the case of 74, the word is used in contrast to "many" (in the sense of 'many people') which suggests that "no one" is perhaps preferable here to "nothing."

      Secondly, the closest parallel to saying 74 is found in Origen (contra Celsius 8:15-16), which has been translated in Enlish as:

      "How are there so many about the well, and no one in the well!"

      where we see the sense rendered as "no one" again.

      Finally, there are other English translations of Thomas (such as, for example, those translations by Schoedel et al., and by Patterson Brown) which translate 74 using "no one."

      The question is, is there any reason to favor "no thing" here over "no one?"

      - Kevin Johnson
    • David C. Hindley
      ... (expanded here with full words for clarity and with apologies to Mike): Said he this: ()Lord, there are many (around) the fountain; no thing, however, in
      Message 2 of 2 , Nov 18, 2002
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        Kevin Johnson asks:

        >>in the Grondin interlinear version of saying 74, we find "no thing"
        (expanded here with full words for clarity and with apologies to Mike):

        "Said he this: ()Lord, there are many (around) the fountain; no thing,
        however, in the well."<<

        >>Secondly, the closest parallel to saying 74 is found in Origen (contra
        Celsius 8:15-16), which has been translated in Enlish as:

        "How are there so many about the well, and no one in the well!"<<

        >>The question is, is there any reason to favor "no thing" here over "no
        one?"<<

        Interesting.

        I am struck by the fact that many are around a "fountain" but
        no-one/no-thing in the "well." At first, I thought it was an allusion to the
        fountains that were central (and almost essential) features of the Greek
        polis (I believe Egypt had three Greek cities), versus a common village
        well. However, fountains usually require water be piped in from an elevated
        position so that gravity gives it enough kinetic energy to flow from the
        fountain much like a spring. A well, on the other hand, must be dug
        laboriously, presumably by "some-one."

        Could there be some relation to the Jewish idiom in which "digging a well"
        relates to seeking deep wisdom? I think my attention was first drawn to this
        idiom when I read it in the DSS (Theodore Gaster made a big deal of it). The
        contrast would then have to do with listening to Jesus' words, which are a
        "bubbling spring" versus (Jewish/conventional) wisdom, which must be dug for
        laboriously by means of a well. I think Origen may have been thinking of
        such an idiom (i.e., "many seek wisdom but no-one wants to dig for it").

        Respectfully,

        Dave Hindley
        Cleveland, Ohio, USA
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