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Re: [GTh] The evil mustard seed

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  • Tom Saunders
    Hi Stephan, As Randall points out in his post...... Deuteronomy is not concerned with Satan or the Devil at all. GTh is not concerned with Satan or the Devil
    Message 1 of 14 , Oct 11, 2003
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      Hi Stephan,

      As Randall points out in his post......"Deuteronomy is not concerned with Satan or the Devil at all.
      GTh is not concerned with Satan or the Devil at all." The GThom proposes another thematic paradigm of the Godhead, other than the God of Abraham, Issahia, and Moses, who smites you down, and gives direct orders, etc.

      "Could it be that the real interpretation is to turn the parable around completely and take it as a warning about losing the kingdom of heaven?"

      I think it could be but this is not a general theme of the sayings. The GThom is not thematically aligned with the idea of punishment contingencies, to preserve the kingdom of heaven, or the light within yourself.
      We see some of this departure in "Thomas the Contender" where the "Woe to's" were added on.

      The mustard plant of the area is a black mustard plant that supplies shade and bounty for the birds as the parable describes. (We know this due to the work of Jack Kilman.) I think that seeing the "evil mustard seed' is not the intention of the parable.

      Saying 98 is a parable that I have used in studying martial technique. The sword and the wall is actually a meditative device well known by some (it was kept a secret for a long time) that enables you to put sights on the movement of the sword. You simply visualize the wall, and draw imaginary lines from the corner of the wall to the tip of the sword. This enables you to use this space as a target matrix for offense and defense.
      (I hope to have an article published soon on this very thing)

      Using the Devil as the target for 98, I think is minimal and idealistic in the sense it might justify assassination. However, I don't think this is the intention of the parable.

      More likely is the possibility that the parables are keys to meditative themes that lead to philosophic understanding and wisdom. Understanding the 'storehouse' concept may be crucial to understanding the primary intent of parables. Of all the parables I think the 'Old Man and his Storehouse" is the most straight forward. Punishment in the GThom is the darkness and not realizing yourself as a person of light.

      Tom Saunders
      Platter Flats, O.K.

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Achilles37@aol.com
      Hi, Stephen - I will try to respond briefly to your message. There were some statements you made that I agreed with and there were some that I did not. For
      Message 2 of 14 , Oct 11, 2003
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        Hi, Stephen -

        I will try to respond briefly to your message. There were some statements you
        made that I agreed with and there were some that I did not. For example, it
        seemed to me that the following statement you made is, in some ways,
        problematic:

        > Positive images such as being great, rich or powerful are used
        > to denote someone in possession of the kingdom of heaven.

        Now the rich man of saying 63 is not, in my opinion, being held up as an
        example of someone in possession of the kingdom of heaven. In saying 63, or so it
        seems to me, the case is quite the opposite.

        Saying 78, where Jesus states that the powerful ones who dress in soft
        clothes do not know the truth, is likewise problematic in this regard. The word used
        in saying 78 for "powerful ones" is "megistanos." This is the same word that
        appears in saying 98 to indicate the "great man" who is slain by the assassin.
        Now, according to your statement, the great or powerful are in possession of
        the kingdom. Yet in saying 78, this is clearly not so. Hence, there is no
        reason to believe that the "megistanos" in saying 98 is in possession of the
        kingdom any more than the "megistanos" of saying 78 is. Instead, if we are to
        assume consistency with saying 78, there is at least some reason to believe that
        the great man of saying 98 is not in possession of the kingdom.

        The behavior of the characters in the parables of Jesus, it seems to me, is
        intended to be realistic and instructive, but not necessarily something the
        listener should model his or her own behavior after. Think of this inconsistency:
        Jesus expressly says in saying 95, "If you have money, do not lend it at
        interest." Yet in saying 109, the person who finds the treasure in the field
        "began to lend money at interest to whomever he wished."

        In saying 98, the behavior of the assassin can be used to illustrate a trait,
        such as preparation, which is admirable, even though the main character, the
        killer, may or may not be admirable. Note that we are not told in this parable
        whether the killer is justified or not or whether the great man is at fault
        or not. The emphasis is on the act of preparation and the killer is being used
        to illustrate it in a neutral way that is no different from the way that
        nature might be used to illustrate a point (just as "Foxes have their dens and
        birds have their nests" in saying 86). Likewise, even the noxious mustard weed can
        become an illustration of God's reign when it becomes a shelter to the birds.
        Jesus is not necessarily holding up these things or characters as examples of
        'good' or 'bad' but, rather, he is using them to make a point.

        Regards,

        - Kevin Johnson


        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • Stephen
        Kevin, Thank you for your response to my message. You make some good points and I shall try to reply to them. ... or so it ... Our reading of 63 is
        Message 3 of 14 , Oct 13, 2003
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          Kevin,

          Thank you for your response to my message. You make some good points and I
          shall try to reply to them.

          >
          > Now the rich man of saying 63 is not, in my opinion, being held up as an
          > example of someone in possession of the kingdom of heaven. In saying 63,
          or so it
          > seems to me, the case is quite the opposite.
          >

          Our reading of 63 is conditioned by the version we have all grown up with in
          Luke.
          The Luke story is a nice little morality tale about the consequences of
          concentrating on plans for wealth rather than God. But is this what the
          story originally meant? To repeat the Thomas 63 -

          Jesus said: There was a rich man who had many possessions. He said: I will
          use my possessions that I may sow and reap and plant, and fill my barns with
          fruit, that I may have need of nothing. These were his thoughts in his
          heart. And in that night he died. He that hath ears, let him hear.

          We can see that this works less well than the Luke version in terms of the
          meaning Luke assigns to it. The rich man does not seem to be a farmer yet
          he uses his possessions to 'sow, reap and plant' which is odd. Moreover if
          the man is a farmer then there does not seem anything wrong with his
          behaviour - after all what else are farmers supposed to do if not 'sow reap
          and plant'?

          Yet we can read this completely differently if we use the 'Thomas code'.
          Riches are the kingdom of heaven. The processes of sowing and reaping is
          bringing about the kingdom in others. This gives us the interpretation of a
          man in possession of the kingdom of heaven who has plans to convert others
          and help them to the kingdom but who has not actually commenced doing this
          before he dies. The moral of the story is that a person with the kingdom of
          heaven must start to 'sow reap and plant' immediately and not put it off
          until tomorrow.

          If this is the correct interpretation then Luke has misunderstood the saying
          by taking the obvious meaning rather than the deeper meaning. He has then
          changed the story to make it fit better with this obvious meaning with the
          result that it no longer fits the deeper meaning. This would mean that in
          this case at least Luke is dependent upon Thomas.

          I believe that we can understand the philosophy behind 63 in context with
          109 which you also quote - the man who finds the treasure in the field.
          This is clearly a man in possession of the kingdom. What is he supposed to
          do with it? "Lend money at interest". What does this mean? I think it
          means 1. give the riches to others and 2. hence become even richer himself.
          The concept is that once a person has the kingdom and is 'rich' the only way
          in which they can further increase their 'wealth' is through inducing the
          kingdom in others rather than spending their time in contemplation.


          > Saying 78, where Jesus states that the powerful ones who dress in soft
          > clothes do not know the truth, is likewise problematic in this regard. The
          word used
          > in saying 78 for "powerful ones" is "megistanos." This is the same word
          that
          > appears in saying 98 to indicate the "great man" who is slain by the
          assassin.
          > Now, according to your statement, the great or powerful are in possession
          of
          > the kingdom. Yet in saying 78, this is clearly not so. Hence, there is no
          > reason to believe that the "megistanos" in saying 98 is in possession of
          the
          > kingdom any more than the "megistanos" of saying 78 is. Instead, if we are
          to
          > assume consistency with saying 78, there is at least some reason to
          believe that
          > the great man of saying 98 is not in possession of the kingdom.
          >

          This is a very good point. However we do not know what the words of the
          original were only what is in our current version which has been mauled
          about in transmission. Also the context is rather different. In 78 the
          'powerful ones' are intended to be taken literally whereas in 98 the meaning
          is clearly metaphoric - that is unless you believe that Jesus was really
          intending his followers to commit murder!

          The close parallel is 95/109 which you also mention. Clearly 95 about not
          lending money at interest is meant to be taken literally whereas I believe
          that 109 with the opposite meaning is intended metaphorically. It may be
          that 78/98 are a similar pair, one literal and one metaphoric with opposite
          meanings.

          The conventional reading about 98 does not explain the very powerful image
          of the man putting the sword through the wall of his own house. If the
          assassin is a demon damaging his own house, the body, in order to prove his
          strength then this powerful image becomes central.


          Stephen Peter

          -----------------------------------------------
          Was Christianity founded by a woman?
          www.bridalchamber.com
        • Michael Grondin
          ... But as you yourself observe elsewhere in this note, the same word can have been used literally in one saying, metaphorically in another. Why, then, should
          Message 4 of 14 , Oct 13, 2003
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            Stephen Peter writes:

            > ... we can read [63] completely differently if we use the 'Thomas code'.
            > Riches are the kingdom of heaven.

            But as you yourself observe elsewhere in this note, the same word can have
            been used literally in one saying, metaphorically in another. Why, then,
            should we think that the concept of "riches/wealth" is such that it cannot
            have a literal meaning in this or any other saying? What gives it the
            privileged status of being part of some supposed "Thomas code" that would
            constrain the authors from ever using the term literally therein? I would
            think that parity of reasoning would suggest that "riches" could be
            sometimes literal, physical riches and sometimes metaphorical, spiritual
            riches.

            Mike Grondin
          • sarban
            ... From: Stephen To: GThomas Sent: Friday, October 10, 2003 3:38 PM Subject: [GTh] The evil mustard
            Message 5 of 14 , Oct 14, 2003
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              ----- Original Message -----
              From: "Stephen" <stephen@...>
              To: "GThomas" <gthomas@yahoogroups.com>
              Sent: Friday, October 10, 2003 3:38 PM
              Subject: [GTh] The evil mustard seed


              > The parable of the mustard seed has long been puzzling. The comparison of
              the kingdom of heaven to the weed like mustard bush seems curiously
              inappropriate. Could it be that the real interpretation is to turn the
              parable around completely and take it as a warning about losing the kingdom
              of heaven?
              >
              <SNIP>
              >
              > 20) The disciples said to Jesus: Tell us what the kingdom of heaven is
              like. He said to them: It is like a grain of mustard-seed, smaller than all
              seeds; but when it falls on the earth which is tilled, it puts forth a great
              branch, and becomes shelter for the birds of heaven.
              >
              > It does not read like a negative saying - but then it has been translated
              more than once by people who doubtless believed that the mustard seed
              represented the kingdom of heaven.
              >
              > However the mustard bush is a fast growing noxious weed on tilled ground.
              In the parable of the sower the weeds stop the seed from growing. Also in
              the parable of the sower birds are negative agents or thieves of the seed.
              This suggests that the negative interpretation is the correct one.
              >
              > In this negative interpretation the mustard seed is a small element of
              evil that enters into the heart. If it is allowed to remain it will grow
              rapidly and eventually cause the person to lose the kingdom. This meaning
              is similar to that of other sayings - be ever vigilant against the forces of
              evil and do not permit them the smallest foothold in the kingdom.
              >
              I found this interesting, (though not IMHO necessarily convincing),
              partly because there is a minority tradition of interpretation of the
              canonical parable of the mustard seed, where the parable represents
              not the victory of the Kingdom but its corruption by the forces of this
              world.

              Andrew Criddle
            • Stephen
              Tom, To reply to some points in your post - ... and bounty for the birds as the parable describes. (We know this due to the work of Jack Kilman.) I think
              Message 6 of 14 , Oct 15, 2003
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                Tom,

                To reply to some points in your post -
                >
                > The mustard plant of the area is a black mustard plant that supplies shade
                and bounty for the birds as the parable describes. (We know this due to the
                work of Jack Kilman.) I think that seeing the "evil mustard seed' is not
                the intention of the parable.
                >
                It seems to me that there are two aspects to a good parable -

                1. It should be a realistic description of something within the direct
                experience of the people it is aimed at, and
                2. It should give a deep similitude to the religious or mystic concept it
                is trying to express.

                The fact that the mustard bush does give benefits to the birds enhances 1
                but tells us nothing about 2.

                On a personal note I have this year been trying to seed some areas of my
                garden and suffered the frustration of watching the pigeons eat up my hard
                work! I can only imagine what those living by primitive farming methods on
                the thin dividing line between survival and starvation must feel when the
                birds descend to eat the seed. I don't think that they would consider a
                plant growing on tilled land that gives cover to birds to be something to be
                admired.


                > Saying 98 is a parable that I have used in studying martial technique.
                The sword and the wall is actually a meditative device well known by some
                (it was kept a secret for a long time) that enables you to put sights on the
                movement of the sword. You simply visualize the wall, and draw imaginary
                lines from the corner of the wall to the tip of the sword. This enables you
                to use this space as a target matrix for offense and defense.
                > (I hope to have an article published soon on this very thing)
                >
                > Using the Devil as the target for 98, I think is minimal and idealistic in
                the sense it might justify assassination. However, I don't think this is the
                intention of the parable.
                >

                Thank you for this very interesting information. However if it turns out
                that swordsmen really did use their house walls for sword practice does it
                not enhance the realism of the parable without necessarily telling us what
                it means? I do not feel the conventional 'trial of strength' interpretation
                exhibits a deep similitude to the parable - which would mean that the
                parable writer was incompetent, one thing I do not think the original author
                of Thomas is.

                Stephen Peter
              • Achilles37@aol.com
                Stephen - ... Your translation uses possessions here, but Lambdin uses money and Mike Grondin translates riches. The idea seems to have been that he
                Message 7 of 14 , Oct 15, 2003
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                  Stephen -

                  You write:

                  > Our reading of 63 is conditioned by the
                  > version we have all grown up with in Luke.
                  > The Luke story is a nice little morality
                  > tale about the consequences of concentrating
                  > on plans for wealth rather than God. But
                  > is this what the story originally meant?
                  > To repeat the Thomas 63 -

                  > Jesus said: There was a rich man who had
                  > many possessions. He said: I will use my
                  > possessions that I may sow and reap and
                  > plant, and fill my barns with fruit, that
                  > I may have need of nothing. These were
                  > his thoughts in his heart. And in that
                  > night he died. He that hath ears, let him
                  > hear.

                  > We can see that this works less well than
                  > the Luke version in terms of the meaning
                  > Luke assigns to it. The rich man does not
                  > seem to be a farmer yet he uses his
                  > possessions to 'sow, reap and plant' which
                  > is odd.

                  Your translation uses "possessions" here, but Lambdin uses "money" and Mike Grondin translates "riches." The idea seems to have been that he would use his wealth to fill his storehouses so that he would "lack nothing."

                  > Moreover if the man is a farmer then there
                  > does not seem anything wrong with his
                  > behaviour - after all what else are farmers
                  > supposed to do if not 'sow reap and plant'?

                  We are not told that he is a farmer but that he is a rich man. The emphasis in the first line is on the fact that he is wealthy both in the description of the man and in the comment about the "riches" he had. Then the emphasis is on his thoughts, which do not involve either God or his fellow man. From there the story shifts to his sudden demise and the counsel to hear what is being said.

                  > Yet we can read this completely differently if we
                  > use the 'Thomas code'. Riches are the kingdom of
                  > heaven. The processes of sowing and reaping is
                  > bringing about the kingdom in others. This gives
                  > us the interpretation of a man in possession of
                  > the kingdom of heaven who has plans to convert
                  > others and help them to the kingdom but who has
                  > not actually commenced doing this before he dies.
                  > The moral of the story is that a person with the
                  > kingdom of heaven must start to 'sow reap and plant'
                  > immediately and not put it off until tomorrow.

                  So he is really an altruistic person who dies before being able to accomplish his benevolent work of sharing the kingdom? That interpretation is difficult to reconcile with the fact that the story explicitly tells us his innermost thoughts revolved around arranging things so that he himself lacked nothing. Neither God nor fellow man are mentioned in his intentions. So I think it is difficult to defend such a reading.

                  It also seems to me that there is another text which tends to confirm the idea here that the man is not someone in possession of the kingdom and thinking about sharing it but, instead, is someone entrenched in the riches of this world without a thought for God. The text I am referring to is James 4:13-15.

                  James 13-15 ~
                  13Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." 14Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that."

                  I think that James' point here is the same as the point being made in Thomas 63. I think that Luke's version is making the same point, but that it has been expanded to include, among other things, an actual appearance by God (in which God calls the man a "fool") and a generalizing conclusion ("So is he that lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God."). Now the tendency to put in a moralizing conclusion may have arisen from a version in which the conclusion was not already drawn for the listener/reader, such as Thomas 63. So I do agree with you that the Lukan version may have ultimately been dependent on such a version as Thomas 63, though our reasons for believing this are different.

                  > In 78 the 'powerful ones' are intended to be
                  > taken literally whereas in 98 the meaning
                  > is clearly metaphoric - that is unless you
                  > believe that Jesus was really intending his
                  > followers to commit murder!

                  No, I don't think Jesus is encouraging assassination here any more than I think he is encouraging robbery in GTh 35.

                  But I am glad that you are willing to admit that the "powerful ones" are not always to be simply equated with those in possession of the Kingdom. Neither, I would argue, are the "rich." When Jesus says in the synoptics that it is harder for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom, clearly this "rich man" is not in possession of the kingdom.

                  While I grant you that entering into the reign of God can be represented as becoming (spiritually) rich, (note that in GTh 3 the opposite of the Kingdom is "poverty"), not every rich man we encounter in Thomas can automatically be assumed to be in possession of the Kingdom and the rich man of GTh 63 is a case in point.

                  > The conventional reading about 98 does not explain
                  > the very powerful image of the man putting the sword
                  > through the wall of his own house. If the
                  > assassin is a demon damaging his own house, the body,
                  > in order to prove his strength then this powerful
                  > image becomes central.

                  I suppose I tend to favor what you are calling the "conventional" interpretations here: that the strong man in saying 35 represents the adversarial force you are trying to overcome as does the powerful man of saying 98. I think that we are supposed to focus on the act of preparation in both cases - binding the stong man's hands in GTh 35 and putting the sword through the wall in 98. To go further, as you do, to say that "If the assassin is a demon damaging his own house, the body, in order to prove his strength then this powerful image becomes central" is not, in my opinion, warranted by the text. The act of preparation is central to either reading of the story and making the assassin out to be the adversary rather than the powerful man does not change the fact that the assassin tests his strength before attacking. When you make the assassin's "house" into the demon's "body" so that his test of strength involves some form of self-mutilation, you begin to wander outside a strict reading of the text and, at that point, all bets are off.

                  Regards,

                  - Kevin Johnson
                • Tom Saunders
                  Hi Stephen, I agree with your contention about parables: 1. It should be a realistic description of something within the direct experience of the people it is
                  Message 8 of 14 , Oct 15, 2003
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                    Hi Stephen,

                    I agree with your contention about parables:

                    1. It should be a realistic description of something within the direct
                    experience of the people it is aimed at, and
                    2. It should give a deep similitude to the religious or mystic concept it
                    is trying to express.

                    One realistic description of experience we can apply to the early Roman Empire is how they trained with swords. You were given a wooden sword and a shield weighing twice the actual weight and after you
                    sunk a poll in the ground you spent six hours a day pounding your sword against that stake, sometimes for months.

                    Orientals trained a little differently but just as grueling. Whether its the poll or the wall, that becomes your field or battle grid. It becomes the vision by which you must work. So in that respect the wall or stake becomes the storehouse of martial technique which would correspond to the mystic concept the act of practicing the sword in the wall, is trying to express.

                    Tom Saunders
                    Platter, OK

                    [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                  • Michael Grondin
                    ... I know that martial arts is your field of expertise, Tom, and so that is what you see in logion 98, but in my view this is barking up the wrong tree.
                    Message 9 of 14 , Oct 15, 2003
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                      Tom Saunders wrote:
                      > ... the wall or stake becomes the storehouse of martial technique
                      > which would correspond to the mystic concept the act of practicing
                      > the sword in the wall, is trying to express.

                      I know that martial arts is your field of expertise, Tom, and so that is
                      what you see in logion 98, but in my view this is barking up the wrong tree.
                      There's no indication that the assassin is interested in martial arts for
                      its own sake - still less that he's a soldier (who would not have had to
                      practice in his own home); rather, the implication is that he takes up the
                      sword simply because he wants to kill somebody. He wants to make sure that
                      he can go through with it, and this implies that up to the moment he decides
                      to kill the 'megistanos', he hasn't used his sword much, if at all. In
                      short, he's an amateur.

                      Who was the parable addressed to? Roman soldiers? Eastern martial arts
                      practicioners? I feel sure that both of these are unlikely, and that we
                      ought to look instead to the few spots in the NT where some of J's disciples
                      are said to possess swords. Most folks are familiar with the mention of a
                      disciple drawing his sword and cutting off the ear of the servant of the
                      high priest during the arrest in the garden. The synoptics don't name this
                      disciple, but according to GJn, it was Peter, of all people! Then again in
                      Luke, there's an odd little passage (22:35-38) indicating (to my
                      sensibilities) that, immediately before going into the garden, Jesus
                      _ordered_ his disciples to carry at least a few swords (when someone says,
                      "Here's two!" he responds "That's enough.") so as to fulfill Isa 53:12 ("And
                      he was numbered with transgressors.") Since neither Mark nor Matt mentions
                      this "prophecy", however, the accounts may have derived from a tradition
                      that some disciples _did_ carry swords, at least on occasion. If this is so,
                      there would have been some in J's entourage to whom the parable would have
                      been meaningful, and we need not suppose that they were either Roman
                      soldiers or Eastern martial arts enthusiasts. They may have been just
                      ordinary men who happened to carry swords for self-protection.

                      Mike Grondin
                      Mt. Clemens, MI
                    • Michael Grondin
                      Stephen- I m confused about deep similitude . It sounds good, but the your use of it is rather perplexing. You say at first that a parable should give deep
                      Message 10 of 14 , Oct 16, 2003
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                        Stephen-

                        I'm confused about "deep similitude". It sounds good, but the your use of it
                        is rather perplexing. You say at first that a parable should "give deep
                        similitude" to the concept it's trying to express, and then later that you
                        don't think that a certain interpretation "exhibits a deep similitude" to
                        the parable in 98. These are two different things, I would think. Bearing in
                        mind that 'similitude' simply means 'similarity', these two statements seem
                        to be substantially equivalent to:

                        1. A parable should be very similar to the concept it's expressing, and
                        2. An interpretation should be very similar to the parable it's
                        interpreting.

                        I suppose what you're trying to say is that the parable-maker in this case
                        could hardly have chosen such an image as an amateur assassin to illustrate
                        what the Kingdom is like. So here and also with the mustard-seed, you think
                        that the image might have been intended to invoke evil. (BTW, the swordsman
                        thrusts his sword _into_ the wall, not _through_ it.) But perhaps the
                        intended lesson of some of these parables is that the initiation of the
                        Kingdom - like childbirth - isn't pretty.

                        BTW, 98 ties in rather nicely with the saying about the kingdom being both
                        internal and external.

                        Mike Grondin
                        Mt. Clemens, MI
                      • Tom Saunders
                        Hi Mike, Thank you for your response. I agree completely that the parable of the sword and the wall is aimed at what you refer to as ordinary people, and
                        Message 11 of 14 , Oct 16, 2003
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                          Hi Mike,

                          Thank you for your response. I agree completely that the parable of the 'sword and the wall' is aimed at what you refer to as ordinary people, and not trained fighters. However the act of practicing with a sword to use it qualifies as an interest in the practice of martial arts, we'll call it technique.

                          When you use the visualization of the wall as a target, you are doing a form of meditation that lets you use the 'vision' to evaluate both offensive and defensive moves. Using this visualization in actual combat or the act of assassination gives you a higher level of understanding how the sword can be used. It also lets you experience the commitment to the meditation, and turning that into a reality. Very mystical.

                          Saying 98, is a key to using the tool of a 'vision' and I think the other parables can be reasoned the same. Think about the 'passage of the soul' against the seven demons of wrath in Mary. To paraphrase the GMary..... "Put the vision between the soul and the spirit in the mind, then fight 'your' demons, by becoming a person of light."

                          Also, "Thank you Mike Mazina.......

                          Tom Saunders
                          Platter, OK


                          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                        • George Duffy
                          Mike, In regard to Th98, I want to go back to something you wrote in reply to Frank McCoy in a message dated 6/7/2001. At the time, I was so intrigued by the
                          Message 12 of 14 , Oct 16, 2003
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                            Mike,

                            In regard to Th98, I want to go back to something you wrote in reply
                            to Frank McCoy in a message dated 6/7/2001. At the time, I was so
                            intrigued by the implications of your remark that I saved it in my
                            documents folder with the idea of asking you about it sometime later.
                            Unfortunately, I neglected to do so, and you, as far as I know, never
                            brought it up again.

                            In the message, you were suggesting a connection between the meaning
                            of Th98 and Th97; that looking at Th98 in a different way might begin
                            to answer the problem of Gth97. Gth98 reads:

                            "Jesus said, 'The kingdom of the father is like a certain man who
                            wanted to kill a powerful man. In his own house he drew his sword and
                            stuck it into the wall in order to find out whether his hand could
                            carry through. Then he slew the powerful man.'"


                            Mike Grondin wrote on 6/7/2001:

                            "One little word may be crucial - the word 'TOTE'.
                            Normally, it's translated 'then', but it seems to have a temporal
                            dimension as well - as in 'at that moment' or 'just then'. What a
                            difference it makes if we read Th98 as saying at the end, "At that
                            moment [i.e., when he stuck the sword in the wall], he slew the
                            powerful man""!


                            Yes indeed, accepting that the word 'TOTE' may be translated as 'at
                            that moment' makes a big difference in how we might understand this
                            saying. Let me try to give you my take on the saying as a whole,
                            while employing your translation suggestion.

                            My feeling is that Jesus here is not describing an external event, but
                            an internal event. I feel the same way about TH9, the saying about
                            the man and the lion, bent on consuming each other. I don't think
                            that that saying is any more about real lions than this one is about
                            real swords. The kingdom of the father, the realm of truth and
                            enlightenment, is revealed to the one who can overcome *internally*
                            his baser or worldly nature and allow his divine nature to shine
                            through. Gth98 is a symbolic depiction of this epic struggle that
                            endlessly goes on in the minds of human beings.

                            In Gth98 the assassin is the seeker who has had his fill of the world
                            and wants to be free, psychologically and spiritually free. He knows
                            that half measures won't work. The realm of the world is both a
                            prison and a force that is so powerful that both the realm of God and
                            the worldly realm can't coexist together in peace. So in Th47 we
                            read, "it is impossible for a servent to serve two masters; otherwise,
                            he will honor the one and treat the other contemptuously." In Th35
                            the strong man must be bound before his house can be ransacked, again
                            I think, representing the internal bind or be bound struggle between
                            man's worldly nature and his divine.

                            So knowing that half measures won't work, the man decides to eliminate
                            the powerful man, a symbol representing the part of himself he must be
                            free of. I don't believe that the powerful man here represents the
                            body, as an external thing to be eliminated. That wouldn't do the man
                            much good. But the *idea* of the body, as his identity, as something
                            separate from God and separate from everything else, that's the part
                            of his thinking that he want's to eliminate from his mind altogether.

                            Now since this struggle is internal, the man can only destroy his
                            allegence to and identity with the world by cutting his connection
                            with it internally. He has to stop believing it has any real power
                            over him, stop trusting it, stop feeding it with whatever ego
                            enhancers he has at hand. In short, he must totally align himself
                            with its opposite, which Thomas identifies as the kingdom of the
                            father, one or union.

                            But our boy is scared. Who wouldn't be, facing such a formidable foe.
                            So he cautiously cuts into the wall of his house to test his nerve.
                            This "house" is also a symbol. It's not a real house. It represents
                            the *structure* of his world-dominated belief system. It's this house
                            that I think Jesus refers to in Th71, when he says, "I shall [destroy
                            this]house, and no one will be able to build it [...]" Destroying
                            this structure of thinking is basic, I think, to the purpose of these
                            sayings.

                            Now this is where I return to what you said, Mike, about "TOTE". The
                            saying deliberately employs a word that can be used in two ways.
                            That's what makes this saying so damn clever. It rewards those
                            willing to probe deeper into this little maze. It seems to be saying,
                            "after that, he slew the powerful man." But what I think it's really
                            saying is that when the man assaults the wall of the house, the very
                            structure of his world-dominated belief system, *at that very moment*
                            the powerful ego-driven nature is slain. An internal problem is fixed
                            with an internal solution. This understanding of Th98 seems to me to
                            be totally consistent with the gospel as a whole. It repeats the
                            theme of learning to know who we really are.

                            Thanks,

                            George Duffy
                          • Michael Grondin
                            ... That may be so, but I doubt whether the prospective audience would have understood the surface details of the parable in this way, thus I doubt that this
                            Message 13 of 14 , Oct 16, 2003
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                              Tom Saunders wrote:
                              > When you use the visualization of the wall as a target, you are doing
                              > a form of meditation that lets you use the 'vision' to evaluate both
                              > offensive and defensive moves. Using this visualization in actual
                              > combat or the act of assassination gives you a higher level of
                              > understanding how the sword can be used. It also lets you
                              > experience the commitment to the meditation, and turning that into
                              > a reality. Very mystical.

                              That may be so, but I doubt whether the prospective audience would have
                              understood the surface details of the parable in this way, thus I doubt that
                              this was the intended interpretation.

                              Mike Grondin
                            • Stephen
                              Mike, A parable is a way of expressing some theological or mystical concept A in terms of a story B . By deep similitude I meant that there should be some
                              Message 14 of 14 , Oct 17, 2003
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                                Mike,

                                A parable is a way of expressing some theological or mystical concept 'A' in
                                terms of a story 'B'. By deep similitude I meant that there should be some
                                mapping of A onto B so that the important features of the story B correspond
                                to important features in the explanation A.

                                To apply this to 98 - the most striking (no pun intended!) feature of the
                                story is the image of the man putting the sword into the wall of his own
                                house. If we were to interpret the story as just a trail of strength before
                                slaying the devil then there is no explanation of why this trail of strength
                                takes this form. So I would reject this simple 'trial of strength'
                                explanation as being inadequate. If however the explanation was that the
                                trial of strength was some mortification of the flesh before going on to
                                slay the devil then this would give an explanation of the sword being struck
                                into the persons own house. You could say that the interpretation has
                                passed this test - although it may still not be the correct one!

                                The second problem with the 'trial of strength interpretation is indeed that
                                the assassin is evil and I believe is more likely to represent an evil force
                                rather than a person seeking the kingdom.

                                Personally I still favour the explanation that the house is a person's body,
                                the powerful man is a person's spirit. I take the state of being possessed
                                with the spirit as being the same as the kingdom of heaven, the imperial
                                rule of god. A demon attempting to destroy the spirit will first strike at
                                the body, his own house. I do not think the Gnostics would have had many
                                problems with seeing the physical body as belonging to the devil. If the
                                demon wins this trial of strength at the bodily level he will go on to slay
                                the spirit.

                                Stephen Peter


                                ----- Original Message -----
                                From: Michael Grondin <mwgrondin@...>
                                To: <gthomas@yahoogroups.com>
                                Sent: Thursday, October 16, 2003 1:17 PM
                                Subject: Re: [GTh] The evil mustard seed


                                > Stephen-
                                >
                                > I'm confused about "deep similitude". It sounds good, but the your use of
                                it
                                > is rather perplexing. You say at first that a parable should "give deep
                                > similitude" to the concept it's trying to express, and then later that you
                                > don't think that a certain interpretation "exhibits a deep similitude" to
                                > the parable in 98. These are two different things, I would think. Bearing
                                in
                                > mind that 'similitude' simply means 'similarity', these two statements
                                seem
                                > to be substantially equivalent to:
                                >
                                > 1. A parable should be very similar to the concept it's expressing, and
                                > 2. An interpretation should be very similar to the parable it's
                                > interpreting.
                                >
                                > I suppose what you're trying to say is that the parable-maker in this case
                                > could hardly have chosen such an image as an amateur assassin to
                                illustrate
                                > what the Kingdom is like. So here and also with the mustard-seed, you
                                think
                                > that the image might have been intended to invoke evil. (BTW, the
                                swordsman
                                > thrusts his sword _into_ the wall, not _through_ it.) But perhaps the
                                > intended lesson of some of these parables is that the initiation of the
                                > Kingdom - like childbirth - isn't pretty.
                                >
                                > BTW, 98 ties in rather nicely with the saying about the kingdom being both
                                > internal and external.
                                >
                                > Mike Grondin
                                > Mt. Clemens, MI
                                >
                                >
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