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Usage of Undirected 2nd Person Singular

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  • Michael Grondin
    Pursuant to my own suggestion in an earlier note, I ve done a survey of the use of the 2nd person (you/r) in GThom. Many of these occur in dialogues, of
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 27, 2003
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      Pursuant to my own suggestion in an earlier note, I've done a survey of the
      use of the 2nd person (you/r) in GThom. Many of these occur in dialogues, of
      course, where the 'you/r' is _directed_ at someone in particular. Our
      interest lies in what I'll call here the 'undirected' 2nd person, for lack
      of a better word.

      As I had thought, the plural forms abound, whereas the singular is rare. I
      counted 31 sayings in which the undirected plural occurred, but only five
      wherein the undirected singular occurred. The singular-containing saying to
      which I originally drew attention was #5, in connection with the 6/14 split.
      The four other sayings containing the undirected singular are the pair 25-26
      ("Guard your brother..."), 62.2("Don't let your left realize what your right
      will do.") and _part_ of 33.1.

      The latter is an interesting anomaly. Saying 33 seems to be paired with 32,
      which talks of the necessity of openness. (A fortified city being built on a
      high mountain can't be hidden, but neither can she fall.) The subsequent
      monologue in 33.1 starts out with the singular, and then unaccountably
      switches to the plural:

      "That which you (sg) hear in both ears, proclaim loudly from your (pl)

      And no, the plurality of the word 'your' here is not necessitated (in proper
      Sahidic Coptic grammar) by the plurality of the noun 'housetops'.
      Theoretically, one person could have more than one of the same type of
      object (e.g., your-singular books). True, the average reader was likely to
      have had only one "housetop", but then the scribe should have either put the
      noun in the singular, to agree with the way he started out the sentence, or
      started out with the plural in the first clause.

      An unexpected plural occurs in saying 21, but there it's much clearer what's
      going on. It begins with a dialogue with Mary ("Whom do your disciples
      resemble?"), and so of course we would expect JS to respond to her in the
      singular. But at 21.6, he breaks into the plural and continues on so. It's
      clear, however, that 21.5-21.11 are not part of J's response to Mary, and
      don't belong with 21.1-21.4. In fact, 21.5-21.11 isn't even internally
      cohesive; it contains a number of disparate elements which evidently belong
      in several different spots. (21.5 itself is a twin of #103, which is
      otherwise unpaired.)

      Speaking of logion 21, it has an interesting connection with the 6/14 split
      discussed earlier. I posited that 6A was intended to be moved over to join
      14 (as opposed to 14 being moved over to 6A). Now then, 21.2-4 says that the
      disciples are residing in a field that isn't theirs, and that when the owner
      of the field comes, they (the disciples) will strip and give over the
      "field" to its rightful owner. I suggest that this has an intra-textual
      meaning as well as an extra-textual meaning. Imagine that at one level, "the
      disciples" in question are in fact not the boys themselves, but the _phrase_
      'the disciples'. Is it possible that this _phrase_ sometimes occurs within a
      "field" (i.e., a saying) that doesn't belong to it, and that the intended
      rearrangement of the text might involve separating this phrase from its
      context in a manner suggestive of disciples taking off their "clothes"? Sure
      enough, 6A begins with a very unusual locution that provides a logical
      separation between the phrase 'the disciples' and the remainder of the

      end line 32: "They asked him, namely his disciples ...
      begin line 33: "they said to him this: ...

      If one had in mind to move 6A over to 14, one could begin with line 33
      instead of the end of 32, and still have a complete thought (though the
      'they' would be unspecified, as sometimes elsewhere). This would leave the
      end of line 32 as representing the disciples themselves who had taken off
      their "clothes" (i.e., lines 33-35+). But there's something wrong with this
      picture that I can't quite resolve. The "owner" who comes to take over the
      "field" takes possession of the disciples' "clothes" as well; that is to
      say, the disciples leave both the "field" and their "clothes" behind for the
      rightful "owner". This would suggest that it's the end of line 32 that's
      intended to be removed and replaced by the real "owner" of lines 33-35+. The
      logical separation shown above would certainly allow for one 'they' ("his
      disciples" in line 32) to be replaced by another, but it's a mystery what
      _other_ "they" might have been intended as the "rightful owner" of this
      particular "field". In addition, of course, the mere replacement of one
      phrase with another at line 32 doesn't seem to aid in the movement of 6A to

      The only possibility I can imagine at the moment that would seem to be
      consistent with both considerations is that the "rightful owner" of the
      questions in 6A isn't J's disciples, but Thomas' companions (from 13). If
      so, the 'him' to whom the questions are posed in 32-33 would be Thomas, not
      JS, and the folks posing the questions presumably wouldn't be 'his
      disciples', but rather 'his companions'. Thus, the suggested movement of 6A
      to 14, together with the suggested change in wording at the end of line 32,
      would amount to a "revelation" of the "three words" by Thomas to his
      companions. Unfortunately, however, this nice little picture is ruined by
      the opening of logion 14, which says that "JS said to them...". It seems
      that, somehow, it has to be "Thomas said to them..." That can perhaps
      be accomplished by essentially replacing the stones thingy at the end
      of 13 with 6A, but exactly how such a replacement can be done eludes me.

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