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  • Maurice Cormier
    Mike: Thank you for your highly insightful comments with respect to the above. Let me add yet a few more thoughts to yours ... I don t have a problem with
    Message 1 of 2 , May 29, 2003
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      Mike:

      Thank you for your highly insightful comments with respect to the
      above. Let me add yet a few more thoughts to yours ...



      I don't have a problem with using "leave behind" or
      "set aside", etc, in a footnote to the English translation, on the
      grounds that the Greeks and/or Copts misunderstood the supposed
      underlying Aramaic word 'sanah'. The Coptic word, however, is
      MOSTE/MESTE-, which apparently doesn't carry the secondary meaning
      of "set aside". So not only are we assuming that there WAS an
      underlying Aramaic original for this saying, but we would be
      apparently understanding the saying differently than the Greeks and/or
      Copts did. Should we not translate it as the Copts understood it, even
      if their
      understanding was incorrect? A difficult problem
      perhaps best resolved by showing BOTH how the Copts actually
      understood it, and how they ought to have understood it?

      Hmmmm ! I guess this all depends on what the purpose of a translation
      might be, and how simple and straightforward its intended readership or
      audience might want it to be. Are we trying to strictly decipher a
      Coptic document here ... or are we trying to arrive at the meaning
      (doctrine) and genealogy of a document which may stem (in whole or in
      part, mind you) from a series of possible “building block” sources, of
      which there likely is/are an original Greek or Aramaic (or both), not to
      mention an infinite number of possible other litterary sub
      documents/adjustments/corruptions/ etc, which might also have
      contributed to its being written. It would seem to me as a general
      thrust that if the Coptic version can be “tamed” first, then the
      translation could be later used to tackle the Greek version followed by
      the Aramaic (if indeed there is or ever was one) .... this, of course,
      because the Coptic manuscript appears more complete than the Greek and
      the (yet unfound) Aramaic. Having said all of this, ideally if it were
      possible to solve the entire riddle of the Gospel of Thomas in one
      succinct package, then that would seem to constitute the best of all
      worlds. The difficulty, of course, is that the further away from the
      “original” one is working with, (of which generation is the Nag Hammadi
      version) the more difficult it is to be accurate in deciphering its true
      meaning and follow-up translations of it. Consider someone who might
      believe that the Nag Hammadi version of Thomas is a purposely doctored
      up and flawed version of an earlier original version of some sort (which
      to me, at least, it indeed seems to be), which in turn and of itself
      could be of possible Coptic, Greek or Aramaic provenance (which also
      seems quite possible). Add to this the fact that there are at least a
      dozen source or parallel documents (14 by my count) making up the Nag
      Hammadi version, some of which in turn are most probably Syrian/Aramaic
      and/or Greek, and the whole exercise of making sense of it is going to
      be like trying to nail JELL-O to a wall .... no ?

      At any rate, the main thing I want to say about 101
      is that it *doesn't* strike me as an unresolvable doctrinal
      dichotomy of the kind I was getting at. All we really need to do is
      read on a little further in 101 to see that the author is contrasting
      one's *natural* mother with one's *spiritual* mother. The "etc, etc"
      in the translation above is thus all-important:

      "For my mother [brought me forth], but my true
      [mother] gave me Life."

      The dichotomy between love and hate (or setting
      aside) is thus easily explainable: the disciple should set aside
      his natural parents and love his "true" (spiritual) parents. This
      seems to me quite straight-forward.


      Well, yes and no ... you see, in order to do that, one must first
      demonstrate that the statement “...for my mother (brought me forth) but
      my true (mother) gave me Life”.... is one which naturally and
      conclusively follows the logion’s first statement about leaving behind
      (or hating) one’s father and mother. That is, one must first demonstrate
      that logion 101 is a “seamless” logion. There is currently no such
      proof. In fact there is considerable evidence to the contrary. What
      evidence ? ...well consider:

      1) The fact that in the canonic parallels to “leaving behind one’s
      father and mother” (i.e. Matt 10:37 and Luke 14:26) neither of the
      synoptics link their statements (even remotely) to anything similar to
      or resembling the statement made in 101 B. (Zounds ! ... could 101 “B”
      be a subjective add-on to the Matt and Luke versions of this quote ?)

      2) The fact that it is not uncomon in Thomas to juxtapose a “saying of
      unknown origin” to one or two of known origins (id est, of canonical
      integrity) in what appears to be an attempt to “spin” a new biased and
      subjective doctrinal tenet ! (This, I would submit, could well be
      willful on the part of Coptic Thomas’ author, and designed to give
      credibility to his own dogma or dogmae by placing it “in the company” of
      his audience’s own acceptable (canonical) beliefs .... that is, is the
      construction of some of Thomas’ logions such as to brainwash his
      Christian audiences into thinking that his own (unChristian) dogma is
      part and parcel of what Jesus preached ? Let me give you two of several
      other examples of this phenomenon in Thomas ...


      LOGION 21

      “21) Mary said to Jesus, "Whom 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 back our
      field.' They (will) undress in their presence in order to let them have
      back their field and give it back to them. Therefore I say to you, if
      the owner of a house knows that the thief is coming, he will begin his
      vigil before he comes and will not let him into his house of his domain
      to carry away his goods. You, then, be on your guard against the world.
      Arm yourselves with great strength lest the robbers find a way to come
      to you, for the difficulty which you expect will (surely) materialize.
      Let there be among you a man of understanding. When the grain ripened,
      he came quickly with his sickle in his hand and reaped it. Whoever has
      ears to hear, let him hear."

      There are really three sayings of Jesus in this logion ... not really
      related. (... or at least I dont think so ... ) They are:

      1) “Mary said to Jesus, "Whom 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 back our
      field.' They (will) undress in their presence in order to let them have
      back their field and give it back to them.” (Source: - UNCERTAIN)

      2) “Therefore I say to you, if the owner of a house knows that the thief
      is coming, he will begin his vigil before he comes and will not let him
      into his house of his domain to carry away his goods. You, then, be on
      your guard against the world. Arm yourselves with great strength lest
      the robbers find a way to come to you, for the difficulty which you
      expect will (surely) materialize.” (Parallel source: Matt 24:43, 24:44,
      Luke 12:39, 12:40,)

      3) “Let there be among you a man of understanding. When the grain
      ripened, he came quickly with his sickle in his hand and reaped it.
      Whoever has ears to hear, let him hear."
      (Source: Mark 4:29 ... )

      Sooooo ... this “logion” seems to really consist of 3 logia ... one of
      unknown source, one likely from Matt and/or Luke, and one from Mark
      ..... no ? In fact, it is pretty clear here that the three ideas
      expressed (i.e. 1,2, and 3) are not even closely related to one another,
      let alone that they are seemingly from three different sources ...


      LOGION 14

      “14) Jesus said to them, "If you fast, you will give rise to sin for
      yourselves; and if you pray, you will be condemned; and if you give
      alms, you will do harm to your spirits. When you go into any land and
      walk about in the districts, if they receive you, eat what they will set
      before you, and heal the sick among them. For what goes into your
      mouth will not defile you, but that which issues from your mouth - it is
      that which will defile you."

      This example is a bit more “clever” in “creative composition” than
      logion 21 is, in that it groups 3 separate and distinct sayings “under
      one roof” WHILE USING A COMMON THEME .... that of “food and eating”
      ...all of which gives it a ring of autenticity, and especially one of
      making it appear to be a “seamless” logion. Nothing could be further
      from the truth. Lets break the logion down into its 3 (seemingly
      seamless) components:

      1) “Jesus said to them, "If you fast, you will give rise to sin for
      yourselves; and if you pray, you will be condemned; and if you give
      alms, you will do harm to your spirits.
      (Apparent source: UNCERTAIN)


      2) When you go into any land and walk about in the districts, if they
      receive you, eat what they will set before you, and heal the sick among
      them. (Apparent source: Luke 10:8 )


      3) For what goes into your mouth will not defile you, but that which
      issues from your mouth is that which will defile you" (Apparent source:
      Matthew 15:11 and/or Mark 7:15)

      Is the author of Thomas “inventing” doctrine here by rearranging or
      interweaving text ? ... or, is he/they (as you put it) “merely writing
      down a lot of stuff that they themselves (he) didn't understand.” My
      bias is that he/they are indeed doing it in order to “spin” text so as
      to somehow (lets get Jack Kilmon in on this perhaps) make it “client
      friendly”. ... or to promote it by placing it in the company of
      acceptable text in the eyes of his audience ......no ?

      Therefore, having said all of this, (and getting back to your original
      point), can we truly read Thomas #101 as a “seamless” logion ? Well it
      looks to me that because the first part of T# 101 can be paralleled to
      each of Matt (10:37) and Luke (14:26), and that neither of these two
      mentions anything (even remotely) along the lines of “For my mother
      (gave me falsehood) but (my) true (mother) gave me life”, I suspect its
      a safe bet that this latter sentence is not really connected to the
      first part of the logion, and thus it is not necessarily acceptable or
      true that “ ...The dichotomy between love and hate (or setting aside)
      is thus easily explainable ... (and that) ... the disciple should set
      aside his natural parents and love his "true" (spiritual) parents.” can
      be be taken as two compatible or “friendly” statements. ..... no ?


      Moving forward again ...


      I now want to suggest, however, an interpretation of 101's
      brother saying 55 which isn't so straight-forward and which,
      indeed, has tonight occurred to me for the first time. While 55.1
      is the same as 101.1 (except that 101.1 adds "in my way"), 55.2 is
      entirely different from the remainder of 101. After saying that the
      disciple must hate (or set aside) his parents, 55 goes on to say:

      "And hates his brothers and his sisters, and takes
      up his cross IN MY WAY, he will not become deserving to
      me."

      Note that 55.2 includes the phrase "in my way"
      that logion 101 has in its first sentence. Secondly, note
      that the Coptic has a special word for "cross'; the
      Greek loan-word 'stavros' is abbreviated to 's$os', where
      '$'
      is special symbol combining the 'T' and 'R'. I think
      this must be significant. It's the only special symbol
      used in GTh, and the form of the expression is that of a
      nominum sacrum. So it seems to me that 55.2 should
      seriously be regarded as invoking the suffering and/or
      martyrdom of Jesus,in spite of the fact that that isn't
      mentioned elsewhere in the text, except arguably 71 ("I
      will destroy this house...").


      Now, this is truly brilliant ! (Documentists “ONE”, Doctrinists “no
      score” after one period of play ...) I had never grasped this before as
      you explain it. I had, however, formerly interpreted “IN MY WAY” to mean
      (as Matt. and Luke suggest in their respective parallel gospels ... 10:
      37-38, and 14:26) “IN MY FOOTSTEPS , OR (more likely correct) IN
      “ONENESS” WITH ME” ... that is “act like me if you want to “be one” with
      me” ... I will have to give serious thought to your observation that we
      may have here a nominum sacrum invoking suffering and martyrdom,
      although regardless of your “twist” or mine to the expression, I believe
      it to be the only instance in all of Thomas where Jesus explains WHAT
      ONE HAS TO DO in order to achieve “oneness with him” and/or achieve
      “everlasting life”. The percieved absence of a roadmap or formula to
      become “one with Jesus” and/or to “enter the Kingdom” in Thomas has long
      been a disappointment to students of this gospel, but I think “IN MY
      WAY” may very likely be the basic “operating manual” on how one does
      this. Excellent reflexion and observation on your part ...


      (Snip) ...

      Turning now to the subject matter proper of your note,
      I have to mention first that I made a slip about #107
      - it's the shepherd, not Jesus, who's said to love
      the large sheep best. Furthermore, the implications are
      ambiguous - does the shepherd love the large sheep
      best because he went to such trouble to find him, or did
      he go to such trouble to find him because he loved him
      best?

      Keep in mind that to a doctrinist, “large” means “part of a bigger
      whole’ or “one with”, and thus it would have to mean that the shepherd
      discovered that the sheep had become “one with” (God) by having somehow
      (in my footsteps) realized (rendered real) his potential to do so ....

      At any rate, I'm fairly well satisfied with
      your analysis of the great/small thingy, as far
      as it goes. I think, however, that it might be fruitful
      to bring to bear a couple of logia which mention
      duality:

      62.2: "That which you right will do, let not your
      left realize what it is."
      39.3: "Be as shrewd as serpents and as innocent
      as doves."

      In 22, Jesus is made to say that the suckling infant
      is LIKE those who will enter the kingdom, but
      "like" perhaps only in innocence. For he goes on
      to give a number of requirements evidently BEYOND that
      of simply having childlike innocence. These
      additional requirements may be what makes the
      difference between the "small" and the "large" - or
      rather, what makes the
      "small" grow into the "large". Equating the "right"
      with "innocence" and the "left" with "shrewdness" in
      the above two sub-sayings suggests that "largeness"
      may consist in making these "two into one". This
      fundamental
      dualism may account for many (if not all) of
      the apparent conceptual inconsistencies -
      assuming that the authors had a coherent philosophy,
      that is. If, however, they were merely writing down a
      lot of stuff that they
      themselves didn't understand very well, that's
      a different story.


      Hmmmmm ! ... you may wish to consider digging deeper. Although you may
      well be correct, I like to think that there is another meaning to “being
      like" suckling infants .... You see in a related “building block”
      manuscript (intentionally not identified) Jesus is quoted as saying at
      one point that:

      “But even as a babe DISCOVERS IN THE DARKNESS its mother’s breast, even
      so your people ... have recognized BY INSTINCT (your) father in the
      Father of whom I am the prophet ... “

      Is this possibly the real reason why Jesus suggests in Thomas #22 that
      suckling infants are "LIKE" those who "will enter the Kingdom" ? ...
      that is “they have found the Father amidst the darkness and the lack of
      “knowing” prevalent in this world ... (Hmmm ! Pretty interesting stuff,
      I would say ... no ? )


      We should also recall that the Greek fragments contain
      a relevant addition to #36: "Who might add to
      your stature? He it is who will give you your
      cloak." Assuming that the implication is that one
      "becomes large" by converting others who are
      "better" than oneself to the movement, it seems to
      me probable that a basic difference of philosophy
      between the Coptic and
      Greek authors best explains the difference in texts
      at that point. Perhaps the Greek version was
      less internally-oriented?

      Hmmm ! ... well, again here one can find a narrow link between “stature”
      and “cloak” if one scours other Thomasene “building blocks ... In the
      The Ascension of Isaiah, for example,(Chap. 9 - para 8 and Chap. 11 -
      para 35) the author makes the link between “garments of the flesh” and
      the status (“stature”) of being alive or dead.

      “8. And there I saw Enoch and all who were with him, stript of the
      garments of the flesh.”

      “35. And thou wilt return into thy garment (of the flesh) until thy days
      are completed. Then thou wilt come hither”.

      This, to me, seems pretty consistent with Thomas #21 wherein Jesus tells
      Mary that his disciples “are like children who have settled in a field
      which is not theirs (planet earth). When the owners of the field come,
      they will say, 'Let us have back our field.' They (the children of God)
      (will) undress in their presence in order to let them have back their
      field and give it back to them.”

      In fact, in Thomas # 37, Jesus seems to add to this same symbolism the
      “stature” of “life beyond death” when he says “When you disrobe without
      being ashamed (when you die without regrets of what you are leaving
      behind) and take up your garments and place them under your feet like
      little children and tread on them, then [will you see] the Son of the
      Living One ( i.e. Jesus himself in spirit), and you will not be
      afraid".

      Well, enough said for now ... I have never been accused of being “short
      winded” when it comes to Thomas ...



      Maurice Cormier
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