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Intentional Manuscribal Features

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  • Grondin
    In thinking about the structure of a possible journal article presenting the Thomas mystery-puzzle theory, the material (or argument) seemed to divide itself
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 3, 2002
      In thinking about the structure of a possible journal article presenting the
      Thomas mystery-puzzle theory, the material (or argument) seemed to divide
      itself into two major parts. The first part consists of drawing attention to
      certain seemingly patterned features which only become evident when one
      numbers the lines and the occurrences of the name of Jesus in the text. The
      second part consists of presenting certain non-anachronistic strategies and
      conceptual bases for moving sayings and parts of sayings - not, however, as
      any kind of "proof" in itself, but rather to give _some_ indication of what
      _might_ have constituted the original basis for such movement. Thus, the
      second part is more speculative than the first, and is meant to "flesh out"
      the mere suggested possibility of textual reordering, by indicating the kind
      of "rules" that may have governed it. Without this second part (which
      includes such matters as what "male" and "female" probably meant when
      applied to chunks of text), not only is the first part rather sterile, but
      the impression might be given either that (1) there's no way for us moderns
      to "solve" it, or (2) there is/was no real "solution" as such, hence while
      it's puzzling, it's not a real puzzle. So I think the second part of the
      presentation is necessary, but equally necessary is to understand the
      _logical force_ of the first part, which I may previously have failed to
      make explicit.

      Think what it means that _our_ numbering of lines and occurrences of 'IS'
      reveals certain manuscribal (for want of a better word) patterns _not
      otherwise knowable_. For example, if we hadn't numbered the lines, we
      wouldn't have known that the "watcher saying" ("Behold! I watch over the
      world") was on lines 67-68, and that it _itself_ "watches over" the
      remaining 600 lines of text. Now of course, this could be a coincidence, and
      so if this is the only one, we oughtn't to make anything of it. But if, on
      the other hand, the number and/or type of such "coincidences" significantly
      exceeds the probable results of random distribution, we may have hit upon
      the fact (and of course I believe that we have) that these features were
      _intentional_, and that the originators of the text _themselves_ numbered
      the lines and the occurrences of 'IS', in the process of structuring the
      puzzle - and that it was thus necessary that the reader also perform such
      numbering (a type of "measuring") in order to solve the puzzle.

      My claim is that, while there is as yet no clear "smoking gun", and while
      the number of pattern-like features so far discovered is relatively small,
      the nature of those features is such as to be extremely unlikely to have
      resulted from random distribution. Consider, for example, the "divider
      saying" (#72). This occurs on a natural boundary - the beginning of a new
      block of text at the top of page 46. The 400-line segment of text which
      precedes it begins at line 71, immediately after the two-line statement
      "this heaven will pass away, and she who is above her will pass away", and
      culminates with the two-line saying 71 ("I will destroy this house and no
      one will be able to build him up again". ) For reasons adduced in earlier
      notes, it appears that the "divider saying" _itself_ divides the text
      between a 400-line "world" and two 100-line "heavens". So, just as in the
      case of the "watcher saying", we seem to have a case of self-reference -
      which is only apparent if we "measure" the text. The implication again
      being: _they_ did too.

      Again, consider line 280 ("Come into being as you pass away"). What is the
      probability that this saying would occupy any single line all by itself?
      (And, no, there aren't any other sayings small enough to fit on one line;
      the next smallest saying is 42 letters and the number of letters on the
      longest line is 31.) Given that the saying contains 24 letters, is it a
      1-in-24 chance that all those letters would be written on the same line?
      Probably somewhat smaller, since the number of logical line-breaks (i.e.,
      between words or syllables) would be less than 24. Still, the probability of
      this happening randomly has got to be at least 1-in-10, I would think. Now
      add to that the probability of this saying randomly occurring on a line
      number divisable by 10. Another 1-in-10 shot, so we're up to 1-in-100
      according to my reckoning. Now add to that that the word 'PARAGE' at the end
      of line 280 _also_ occurs at the end of another line (line 70) whose number
      is a factor of 280, and that that word is not at all common in the text (it
      occurs only one other time - split between lines 69 and 70). It seems to me
      that the combination of these factors sans intentionality is unlikely in the
      extreme. But in order to make that one saying come out on a single line all
      by itself, the rest of the text would have had to be strictly controlled as
      well - so that the end of the previous text wouldn't be forced down onto
      line 280. Obviously, this scenario is a far cry from our normal
      presuppositions about a text. But then again, how do our "normal
      presuppositions" fare against the intentional acrostics known to have been
      written into some Christian texts?

      It's not yet at all clear _how much_ textual movement was required to solve
      the puzzle - or whether it had/has to proceed "outside-in" as it were (as in
      "The heavens and the earth will be rolled up in your presence"), with
      respect to the 24 blocks of text. Nor is it yet clear to me how to combine
      the questions in saying 6 with their answers in saying 14 - which surely
      must be done at some point. But with respect to the plausibility of the
      theory, if it weren't for the fact that we have no known exemplar of a
      "puzzle-text" of this magnitude, it seems to me that there wouldn't be any
      question at all about its being taken seriously.

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