Re: [GTh] Thomas 74 - "no one" or "nothing?"
> The question is, is there any reason to favor "no thing" here over "noone" [in 74]?
Thanks for asking about this saying, Kevin, as it turns out to provide
support for an assertion I made some days ago. To directly answer the
question, although the word can mean 'no-one', I guess I don't see what
sense it makes for people to be in a well. The sense I make of it is that
"the well" is dry, which is to say that there's no "thing" (i.e., no water -
or maybe no _new_ water?) in it. Nevertheless, it's surrounded by two
statements which talk about people: it's preceded by a statement about
sending laborers to the harvest, and followed by a statement that many are
standing at "the door", but only single ones will go into "the place of
marriage". This series of statements in turn is preceded by the "divider
saying" which begins a 3-page section culminating in line 571 ("If you have
money"), which I've suggested needs to "cross over" the two blank pages
following page 48.
In terms of my theory, one or both of the blank pages may turn out to be
"the empty well" and the two of them together may be "the place of
marriage", if this is a holding-area for opposing sets of sayings and/or
partial-sayings moved from elsewhere. The small pieces of text moved there
would presumably then be regarded as "fish" - or perhaps "fish" on the one
page and "birds" on the other (given the ancient conceptual picture of "the
seas above" and "the seas below"). Any snippets of text that would be so
moved would presumably be "excess" from elsewhere in the text, i.e.,
"money" - either heavenly (wisdom) or earthly (the evil mammon). This is
supported by the line (571) needing to "cross over", which refers to
The Coptic Gospel of Thomas, saying-by-saying
- (Further remarks on Kevin's note):
> In ... 74, the word [MeN-LAAY] is used in contrast to "many" (in the senseof 'many people') which suggests that "no one" is perhaps preferable here to
I think there is a sense of irony here - as indicated by the play on words
between the Coptic homonyms <JOH-teh> ('drinking trough', which I've
translated as 'fountain' to suggest people rather than cattle waiting
around) and <SHOH-teh> ('well' or perhaps preferably here, 'cistern'). The
latter is actually mispelled with an 'n' instead of a 't', resulting in the
Coptic word for 'sickness'. (Editorial comment: it seems very unlikely to me
that a scribe could have made that mistake unintentionally if he was saying
the words in his head, or hearing them.) I can see that the contrast you
wish to draw is a nice logical one, and yet I think that the suggested irony
of thirsting folks (or cattle?) waiting for water to flow from a cistern
that's dry carries the day. What would a person be doing _in_ a cistern
anyway? Trying to determine if it was dry or just clogged up? Why would you
have to _get into_ the cistern to determine that? Couldn't you tell just by
looking over the edge?
> Secondly, the closest parallel to saying 74 is found in Origen (contraCelsius 8:15-16), which has been translated in Enlish as:
>Yes, but ... in spite of the similarity of wording, this seems to be a whole
> "How are there so many about the well, and no one in the well!"
> where we see the sense rendered as "no one" again.
'nother animal. In this passage from Origin (where he seems to be quoting
Celsus), Celsus is apparently invoking a folk-saying that meant roughly:
"You've gone this far in your thinking - why not go on to its logical
conclusion?" or perhaps "You all circle around the subject, but none of you
goes down to the depths of it." Here is the context in Peter Kirby's online
version, so that the reader can judge for him/herself:
"15. That I may give a true representation of their faith, I will use their
own words, as given in what is called A Heavenly Dialogue: 'If the Son is
mightier than God and the Son of man is Lord over Him, who else than the Son
can be Lord over that God who is the ruler over all things? ** How comes it,
that while so many go about the well, no one goes down into it? ** Why art
thou afraid when thou hast gone so far on the way? Answer: Thou art
mistaken, for I lack neither courage nor weapons.' Is it not evident, then,
that their views are precisely such as I have described them to be? They
suppose that another God, who is above the heavens, is the Father of him
whom with one accord they honour, that they may honour this Son of man
alone, whom they exalt under the form and name of the great God, and whom
they assert to be stronger than God, who rules the world, and that he rules
over Him. And hence that maxim of theirs, 'It is impossible to serve two
masters,' is maintained for the purpose of keeping up the party who are on
the side of this Lord."
> Finally, there are other English translations of Thomas (such as, forexample, those translations by Schoedel et al., and by Patterson Brown)
which translate 74 using "no one."
I don't have Schoedel's translation at hand, but I notice that Brown uses
the same English word 'reservoir' for the two different Coptic homonyms,
which is certainly misleading, because it makes the folk-saying that Celsus
used (wherein there's only a _single_ "well" involved, rather than a
"drinking trough" and a "cistern") look more like Th74 than I think it ought
to. The translation of the two Coptic words with the same English word
suggests (to my mind illegitimately) a person rather than a thing (water).
> The question is, is there any reason to favor "no thing" here over "noone?"
I think so, but given that the GThomists were obviously thinking of the
water of heavenly wisdom as issuing from J's mouth, I suppose if he _were_
in the cistern, he could be thought to provide water for the "fountain" or
"drinking trough", so it seems to come down to a matter of comparing
intuitions. This is probably a question too fine-grained and multi-faceted
to be clearly decidable. Just the stuff of endless intellectual debates.
The Coptic Gospel of Thomas, saying-by-saying