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Analysis of lines 3-15

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  • Grondin
    The 13-line segment from line 3 to line 15 in the Coptic Thomas has a confluence of extraordinary syntactical features worthy of note, I think, and so I want
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 19, 2002
      The 13-line segment from line 3 to line 15 in the Coptic Thomas has a
      confluence of extraordinary syntactical features worthy of note, I think,
      and so I want to spend some time discussing these. As pointed out
      previously, the version of Thomas in Codex II is divided into five major
      sections, each of which basically begins at the top of a page, with sizes of
      193+242+35+100+98 lines. In between sections 4 and 5 is a sixth (invisible)
      section composed of two blank pages which would be numbered 49 and 50 if
      they were numbered. Within the second section (242 lines) are at least two
      good two-line (i.e., "female") candidates for movement to the final section,
      so that it seems likely that the second section will come to contain 240
      lines, and the final section 100. These are all nice numbers except the
      193-line size of section 1. If, then, we can locate a 13-line segment
      therein, it may indicate the possibility of section 1 being brought down to
      a size of 180 lines, which is not only a nice number in itself, but
      suggestively echoes the final line of the first of the four blocks of
      section 1 ("it will produce 60 per measure and 120 per measure").

      In the middle of the 13-line segment in question is line 9, the line famous
      for having the extraordinarily-large empty area in the left half of it.
      Above this line are six lines (3-8) composed of 144 letters, including an
      initial two-word, 11-letter element ('Judas Thomas'), and below this line
      are six lines (10-15) composed of 144 letters, including an initial
      two-word, 11-letter element ('king over-the-all'). Line 9 itself contains 12
      letters, so that the entire 13-line segment is 144+12+144 = 300 lines.
      Furthermore, while the two names 'Judas Thomas' are normally connected with
      the name 'Didymus' on line 2, they also have a symbolic meaning regarded in
      themselves - 'Judas' the betrayer vs. 'Thomas' the true disciple (twin) of
      Jesus. The symbolic meaning of the two names can hardly have escaped the
      attention of the GThomists. And so I think that the basic dichotomy captured
      by the two names must have been part of the conceptual apparatus behind
      GThomas. From birth (or "on the day you were one"), the individual seeker is
      composed of two opposing parts - one of which (the flesh/body) seeks to
      become a Judas, the other of which (spirit/soul) seeks to become a Thomas.
      As a Judas, the person tries to keep his mind as empty as it was at birth,
      seeking instead the sensual pleasures and material benefits of the world. As
      a Thomas, he seeks to fill his mind and heart with heavenly wisdom,
      preparing him/herself for the day when, if he doesn't have _that_, he won't
      have anything at all - and hence will not be capable of living an eternal
      life. (This dichotomy of "two ways" is, of course, not itself basically
      unorthodox, though in detail it might have clashed with other views of the
      "two ways".)

      At line 9, the seeker comes to be "amazed", and in that he exactly mirrors
      Jesus, who in saying 29 is made to utter the highly-unusual "I become
      amazed" (that "this great richness was placed in this poverty"). These are
      the only two sayings where the Coptic word $PHRE is used in the text (the
      '$' is the Coptic letter shai, which looks like a 'W' with a tail on it).
      Furthermore, it should be noted that $PHRE can be used as either a noun or a
      verb (and is used both ways in 29), and hence has both a masculine (verbal
      "movement") and a feminine (nominal "rest") side to it. In addition - and
      this is crucial for figuring out how to fill in the blank area - when the
      second of the five letters is moved in front of the first, it spells out
      P-$HRE - 'the-son'. (This movement of a second syntactical element in front
      of a first seems to be typical of the puzzle. Does it echo the second-born
      Jesus having leap-frogged to prominence over his older brother Jacob? Or
      over the Baptist? Whether or not this is so, this same idea is found in
      orthodox Xian writings outside Thomas, which point to Jacob's ascendancy
      over the first-born Esau, or the ascendancy of the second "apostle to the
      Gentiles" [Peter] over the first [Paul], etc.)

      When the seeker comes to the stage of being amazed, he becomes the twin of
      Jesus (who is also said to be amazed), and he thus becomes, like Jesus, "the
      son". But the son of whom? Judas or Thomas? The size of these names decides
      the question, I think. 'Judas' is 6 letters in Greek/Coptic (IOUDAS) and
      Thomas is five (QWMAS). Presuming that the seeker of saying 2 has been
      seeking heavenly wisdom and not earthly goods, he will find it not within
      the four corners of the world (i.e, within the 400 lines from 71 to 470),
      but by looking up at the very top of the heavens - that two-element,
      six-letter extra word at line 668 which means 'of the-heavens'. If we put
      this six-letter word into the blank area in line 9, and remove the name
      'Judas' from the upper left-hand corner of the 13 lines, we maintain the
      size of the 13-line segment at 300 letters. However, it doesn't read quite
      right, for it would then say "he [the seeker] will become of the heavens the
      son ...". What's evidently needed is another leap-frog move of the second
      element ('the-son') over the first ('of the-heavens'), which yields "he will
      become the son of the heavens". Now, 'the son of the heavens' stands just
      above 'king over the All' on the next line (10).

      Now let's see if this suggested syntactical move makes sense in terms of
      ideas expressed in the text. First, we have evidently replaced earthly
      "money" (the 6-letter name 'Judas') with heavenly "money" (i.e., the
      "excess" 6-letter element at the top of the heavens). We have thus become
      somewhat "spiritually circumcized", by having "cut off" the "Judas" within
      us. A masculine element ('the son') has been made to "lead" a feminine
      element ('of the-heavens'), as suggested by 114. We have filled the
      "emptiness" in the center of our being (i.e., line 9 being the center of
      3-15) with heavenly wisdom. Furthermore, this move can also be interpreted
      as shoring up our defenses, as in "Blessed is he who knows where the thief
      will enter ..." Where would a thief enter a house? Perhaps through an
      opening in the wall, such as the blank area of line 9? Or again, in order to
      rob "the house of the strong", the owner's hands must be "bound" - and there
      at the end of lines 8 and 9 is one of the few places in the text where two
      consecutive lines end with precisely the same syntactical element - in this
      case "he-will-become". So on two counts (and two "witnesses" are important),
      the blank area of line 9 represents both a weakness and an emptiness in "the
      house" of the seeker's individual, internal, "kingdom". The suggested move
      fills this emptiness and shores up this weakness against the "thieves" of
      "the world". It leaves us with 667 lines, plus the earthly "money" of the
      name IOUDAS in our hands. Nor do I see it an objection that this move leaves
      the highest heaven with (an even) 97 lines, since a trinity of lines would
      make an appropriate "topper" for it.

      A couple more things to ponder: the number 9 was itself apparently seen as
      being on the cusp between the end of one thing and the beginning of
      another - just before "the dawn" or the end of the beginning, so to speak.
      The ninth month was the end of pregnancy, just before the beginning of life,
      for example. Now, then, the ninth occurrence of the name 'JS' in the Thomas
      text just happens to be in that "watcher" saying that I mentioned
      previously - lines 67-68 where he's said to be watching over the world - a
      seam that divides the first 68 lines from the remaining 600. And here I'm
      suggesting that _line_ 9 also represents a dividing line of sorts between
      beginning (emptiness/silence) and end. (_Saying_ 9 is the sower saying that
      mentions the 60 + 120, and it was the "sowing" of J's words that occurred
      before - and brought about - the Xian movement.)

      Yet another piece of evidence to be considered is saying 4 ("The man old in
      his days won't hesitate to ask a small child of seven days about the place
      of life, and he will live ...") I ask myself, "Where was the 'place of life'
      for the GThomists?". The answer seems to be, "in the heavens". That's the
      element we moved - but we moved it into line 9, not line 7. Look at it this
      way, though: line 9 is the 7th line of the segment 3-15. So we have a
      confluence of two ideas: (1) the "place of life" is in the heavens, and (2)
      the phrase 'in/of the-heavens' (representing heavenly wisdom) has been given
      to a "small child" (12 letters) of "seven days". Who is "the old man"? Not
      sure, but he may represent those who have spent their lives combing the four
      corners of the world for enlightenment, only to discover in their old age
      that it's not to be found within the world (i.e., in some human philosophy
      that's confined to practical matters related to "living" _in_ the world),
      but rather by looking up to the heavens and bringing heavenly wisdom down
      into the inherent emptiness of their minds/hearts. This was the "seed" that
      was planted in the child originally, but which the old man chose to ignore -
      until he finds it again in the "small child of seven days".

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