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Re: [GTh] Thom 21

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  • Michael Grondin
    Tom, I would certainly agree with you that The Contender shows evidence of a familiarity with GTh. But I would like to focus on your citation of Thom 21 and
    Message 1 of 2 , Dec 18, 2002

      I would certainly agree with you that "The Contender" shows evidence of a
      familiarity with GTh. But I would like to focus on your citation of Thom 21
      and take it in a different direction.

      > (21) (a) Mary said to Jesus : "To who are Your disciples like ?" He said :
      "They are like children who have settled in a field which is not theirs.
      When the owners of the field come, they will say : 'Let us have our field
      back.' When they will let them have the field back they will stand naked in
      their presence.
      > (b)Therefore I say to You, if the owner of a house knows that the thief is
      coming, he will stay awake till he comes and will not let him break in the
      house of his domain to carry away his goods. You, then, be on Your guard
      against the world. Gird Your loins with great strength so that the robbers
      find no way to come to You, for they will find the advantage which You
      > (c)Let there be among You a smart man. When the fruit is ripe, he quickly
      came with his sickle in his hand and harvests it. He who has ears to hear,
      let him hear."
      > I have divided it into three parts because they seem to have a naturally
      divided strata at these places in the body of the saying.

      There are certainly odd divisions or seams within 21, as you point out. But
      before we conclude that these are strata (i.e., historically "horizontal"
      divisions, rather than "vertical" ones), we need to look at Thom 35 and 103.

      35: "It isn't possible for someone to enter the house of a strong (person)
      (and) take it by force unless he binds his hands. Then he will loot his

      103: "Blessed is the man who knows where/when the robbers are going to
      enter, so that he may arise to gather together his kingdom and gird his
      loins before they enter." (Patterson tr, with some emendation)

      Thom 103 in particular shares a number of points of contact with 21B: the
      robbers, "arising" or staying awake, girding one's loins. If 21b, then, had
      been appended to 103, there would be no question but that the intro to 21b
      ("Therefore I say to you...") made sense. As it stands, however, it doesn't.
      Barring some extraordinary stretch of the imagination, 21b simply doesn't
      belong with 21a. Nor does 21c have any obvious relationship to either A or B
      (to say nothing of the fact that even the parts of 21c seem disparate).

      How to explain the existence of these seams in Thom 21? General sloppiness?
      Some obscure connections between its parts which we can only imagine? Or is
      it possible that the fact that Thom 21 is at the end of a 29-line block of
      text (comprised of sayings 20 and 21) is of some significance? Could the
      reference to "the owner of the field" in 21a have been intended to suggest
      that the disciples of 21a were "residing in" a "field" composed of 21b-c,
      and that when the owner(s) of _that_ "field" came, then the "disciples"
      would "strip off their clothing" in the sense of either 21b-c being removed,
      or 21a being replaced? Specifically, should Thom 103 be regarded as "the
      owner" of 21b, with the latter perhaps being also represented by a different
      metaphor in GPhil as an "orphan" whom "Christ came to ransom"? Furthermore,
      if "the heavens and the earth will be rolled up in your presence" is a
      reference to textual relocation, should we perhaps understand this as a clue
      that such relocations would begin at the _end_ of a block of text (where 21
      is located)?

      As to 21c: "Let there be a man of understanding among you" (lest the readers
      not apprehend that the text they're reading is a mystery puzzle, and that
      they thus have to physically interact with it?) "When the fruit ripened, he
      came quickly with his sickle in his hand" - implying perhaps that when some
      textual segment has been made perfect, it's to be immediately "harvested"
      (as Jesus was)? Food for thought, I hope.

      Mike Grondin
      The Coptic Gospel of Thomas, saying-by-saying
    • Tom Saunders
      Mike says, ( Therefore I say to you... ) made sense. As it stands, however, it doesn t. Barring some extraordinary stretch of the imagination, 21b simply
      Message 2 of 2 , Dec 19, 2002
        Mike says,

        ("Therefore I say to you...") made sense. As it stands, however, it doesn't.
        Barring some extraordinary stretch of the imagination, 21b simply doesn't
        belong with 21a. Nor does 21c have any obvious relationship to either A or B
        (to say nothing of the fact that even the parts of 21c seem disparate).

        How to explain the existence of these seams in Thom 21? General sloppiness?

        No. I think it was on purpose. And, the connections may actually permeate Thomas, we do not know the exact original intent for the redaction. But I think clues that may have an underlying innuendo can be used to figure it out, if we look at the time Thomas was written. Consider that the 'Woe to the Pharisees' sayings were written at the Apostle's Village, about the village.

        If they are in fact about the dissent in the early community, then the three parts of 21 would at least be meant as a secondary reference to those issues at question in the Village. The Pharisees and scribes are thieves. This could be a clear message, relevant to 21. At the same time there is an underlying requirement to hide that innuendo.

        There is no doubt one saying would by nature of the text itself also appear in relationship to the other sayings. This literary feature makes distinctions even harder. This feature also seems to be a staple of its literary style, and epistemological and structural design. (It might make most analogies to the sayings valid as the sayings all relate in some form to all the other sayings.)

        To enforce the integrity of the design as to the body of Thomas, 21 stands out as contrary to the 'flow' of the rest of the text, as to say, "look here." Saying 21 relates issues in the early church that split followers up during the first five years of Christianity. This is probably when many of the parts of what was to become Q and Thomas were written. Thomas became Thomas from here.

        The events that made Thomas decide to go out of the Village on his own would have been relevant to his epistemology. He was thought of as a person who thought differently from the rest of the Apostles and the conflicts of the Village may have offended his sensibilities. His idea of individualism simply seems to clash with anything the Didache and Peter demands upon community.

        Thomas' doctrine is one of self discovery, and the idea of how a community might work in this picture differs greatly from Peter and Paul, and their sense of community. Thomas is pro-house owner, pro women, and not inclined to believe in Jewish law and dependence on living under that kind of authoritarian rule. Peter has demanded strict authoritarian control, which clashes with individuality and self discovery.

        Paul comes along in 36 C.E. (Crossan's date) and later reveals in his letters the rifts concerning Jewish law, women, and the dark forces of evil. Q has already turned apocalyptic and Luke is recording Acts which may actually soften the reality of social problems of Jerusalem Christians. Christian communities exist in Antioch, Damascus, Jerusalem, and points in-between. At this point the new religion is too big to stop, or control.

        A house system is in place where Peter wants to franchise a common property doctrine. Mary owned a house. The "Holy Spirit" in Peter's realm has killed people over the issue of personal ownership. Very disturbing. The residents are highly disturbed. Peter has used punishment contingency for social control, and this is more than some can take. It is a socio-cultural disaster. Phillip left on his own first, which set the course for others to up and leave to gather their own flocks.

        The Mary Gospel reflects self discovery, and refutes Peter's take on women, like Thomas 114. Another common thread is how the Holy Spirit and the dark forces of evil are treated in these texts. Remember that the first part of 'Contender' is about Thomas. This in reference to obtaining the 'light' referred to here as the exalted heights of the pleroma.

        "If the deeds of the truth, that are visible in the world are difficult for you (all) to perform, how indeed, then shall you perform those that pertain to the exalted height and the pleroma which are not visible. In this respect you are apprentices, and have not yet received the height of perfection."

        Perfection is wearing the Holy Spirit like Cebes wears the soul. Acts reflects abundant problems concerning Peter and this phenomena. Paul lists individual differences in the effect of whatever this phenomena was, and the whole subject of docetics (spirit power) got out of hand. Thomas reflects a real understanding of the idea of knowing yourself, and preparing to meet the light, by knowing yourself. Thomas became heresy almost the minute it walked away from 'other Christians."

        Thomas saw "robbers coming into the house." He was gone by 36 because only James the Just was there upon Paul's first visit.(Crossan) Thomas was probably there for the Apostle's Council, and that is also where the last redactions of the GThom could have been made. From there Thomas built followings way East, and they thrived far enough away from the West to develop followings for four hundred years.

        'Contender' shows an extension or lineage of an original ministry. It stresses individualism and I think Tatain's ministry the Encrotites (Masters of Ourselves) reflects further information relevant to Thomas, especially his "Letter to the Greeks." In other words it fills in some of the blanks like 'Contender.'

        Thomas and Tatian's work by that time was heretical, and any communion with the holy spirit, other than through the organized church was a serious threat of authority, to the authorities. Tatian, Marcion, and others, had to become their own authority. I think that is exactly what Thomas does.

        The primary issues in conflict are individualism, vs. community control. Doctrines of individualism, like Thomas' necessitate a different community value system. Thomas made individuals, and would probably laugh at the epistemology of the Didache as hard as he would at Tammy Faye Bakker.

        These 'individualists' (Thomas Community?) were people who had to have been realizing an entirely different Christian experience than what Peter had presented. Peter's was a program of obedience to community, not individualism, and it had failed before 36. It had produced the Jesus Robbers and the False Prophets. Peter's reign produced Thomas in that sense and if the sayings are read with that in mind I think there will be a lot of possible connections.

        Tom Saunders
        Platter Flats, OK

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