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Re: [GTh] Thomas 74 - "no one" or "nothing?"

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  • Grondin
    ... of many people ) which suggests that no one is perhaps preferable here to nothing. I think there is a sense of irony here - as indicated by the play
    Message 1 of 2 , Nov 18, 2002
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      (Further remarks on Kevin's note):
      > In ... 74, the word [MeN-LAAY] is used in contrast to "many" (in the sense
      of '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 (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.

      Yes, but ... in spite of the similarity of wording, this seems to be a whole
      '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, for
      example, 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 "no

      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.

      Mike Grondin
      The Coptic Gospel of Thomas, saying-by-saying
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