Re: [GTh] 99 Sheep, The Valintinian Explaination
----- Original Message -----
From: "Stephen" <stephen@...>
Sent: Wednesday, November 26, 2003 6:16 PM
Subject: Re: [GTh] 99 Sheep, The Valintinian Explaination
> Thanks for an interesting post.
> Although I am no expert I am not sure that many scholars would now
> to the view that the Gospel of Truth was written by Valentinus. Not that
> this point is important to your argument.
> Irenaeus in 'Against Heresies' Book 1 gives us more information about how
> the Valentinians interpreted the lost sheep -
> "Moreover, that Achamoth wandered beyond the Pleroma, and received form
> Christ, and was sought after by the Saviour, they declare that He
> when He said, that He had come after that sheep which was gone astray.(16)
> For they explain the wandering sheep to mean their mother, by whom they
> represent the Church as having been sown. The wandering itself denotes her
> stay outside of the Pleroma in a state of varied passion, from which they
> maintain that matter derived its origin. The woman, again, who sweeps the
> house and finds the piece of money, they declare to denote the Sophia
> who, having lost her enthymesis, afterwards recovered it, on all things
> being purified by the advent of the Saviour. Wherefore this substance
> according to them, was reinstated in Pleroma."
I would say here that the usage together of the parable of the lost sheep
and the parable of the lost coins makes it likely that Luke 15 is the source
for the account in Irenaeus.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Tom Saunders" <tom@...>
Sent: Monday, November 24, 2003 3:07 PM
Subject: [GTh] 99 Sheep, The Valintinian Explaination
> The "Gospel of Truth" offers an explanation of the parable of the "Lost
Sheep." This Gospel is thought to have been written by Valentinus (100-180
> Th-107. Jesus said, "The (Father's) kingdom is like a shepherd who had a
hundred sheep. One of them, the largest, went astray. He left the
ninety-nine and looked for the one until he found it. After he had toiled,
he said to the sheep, 'I love you more than the ninety-nine."
I think that Valentinus is correct in interpreting this parable in terms of
a Greek hand numbering system. In this numbering system, the only time
there is a complete shift from one hand to the other is in going between 99
Why else, other than in reference to this hand numbering system, would the
parable have 99 sheep needing the one errant sheep to bring their total to
the hand-changing 100?
The 99 sign is made with the left hand, which had negative connotations back
then, while the 100 sign is made with the right hand, which had positive
connotations back then.
In Th 107, the *99* sheep, being on the left hand, represent the Cosmos--a
place with negative connotations. The errant sheep, since it is the *100th*
sheep, is on the right hand and, so, represents the Kingdom--a place with
positive connotations. This errant sheep is larger than the others because
the Kingdom is greater than the Cosmos. The shepherd is a human being. He
toils to find the errant sheep, i.e., the Kingdom. When he finds it, he
declares, "I love you more than the other 99". That is to say, he declares,
"I love you more than the Cosmos."
> Certainly if a parable is a story with a point the Thomas version leaves
the reader to explain the point or resolve the mystery of its meaning.
Versions of the parable are contained in Matthew and Luke, but in both cases
the mystery is at least in part explained. Matthew adds that the Father
will not abandon the 99 and let them perish........
> Mt 18- 12,14. "How think ye? if any man have a hundred sheep, and one of
them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and go unto the
mountains, and seek that which goeth astray?
> 13. And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth
over it more than over the ninety and nine which have not gone astray.
> 14. Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven, that one
of these little ones should perish."
> Line 14 in Matthew may be a later addition to the parable which would have
mirrored Thomas without this addition. The question is when would this
redaction have taken place, pre, or post the Vanlintinean explanation in the
"Gospel of Truth?" Did the addition of line 14 to Matthew come about as the
result of Valentinus' explanation?
I think you are correct in seeing Matt 18:12-14 as being later than Th 107.
As pointed out above, the whole point of the errant sheep being the 100th
sheep depends upon a Greek hand numbering system. Further, once this is
understood, then Thomas 107 becomes a parable of the Kingdom in which the
errant 100th sheep represents the Kingdom. Indeed, it explicitly starts
out, "The (Father's) Kingdom is like".
So, I think that Thomas 107 is the original version of the parable.
What then, is the relationship between Thomas 107 and Matthew 18:12-14?
Well, as I pointed out in a recent post, Thomas 44 and 99 and their Synoptic
gospel parallels suggest that Matthew knew both Mark's gospel and Thomas'
gospel and that Luke knew Mark's gospel, Thomas' gospel, and Matthew's
So, I think, Matthew knew about Thomas 107. Indeed, I think, Matt.18:12-13
(the parable itself) is a Matthean re-writing of Thomas 107 amd Matthew
18:14 is Matthew's invention, designed to let us know how his rewritten
version of the parable is to be interpreted.
In this case, Matthew's most major alteration is the deletion of "The
(Father's) Kingdom is like". The reason for this, as is made clear in
18:14, is that Matthew wants the parable to concern the Father rather than
His second major alteration is that he drops the word "largest/greatest" as
an adjective for the errant sheep. The reason for this, as is made clear in
18:14, is that Matthew wants the parable to concern "these little ones".
The net effect of these two major alterations is that the parable is
transformed from a parable about seeking and finding the Kingdom into a
parable about how God wants to save everyone, even those who go errant.
He does make some other, more minor, changes to Thomas 107 as well. For
example, he makes a shift from declarative sentences to questions, he adds
the phrase "on the hillsides", he deletes the reference to toiling, and he
changes "care for/love you more" to "rejoices over it more".
I think Matt 18:14 definitely was written before Valentinus.
> Luke offers a similar view of the parable as Valentinus with the addition
of Luke 15-8,10 which is the story of the woman who lost the coin, cleaned
her house and rejoiced at finding the lost item. Compare Luke to the
Valintinus' explanation and we see they conclude similar explanations on the
value of saving lost souls.
> Lk 15- 4,7. "What man of you, having a hundred sheep, and having lost one
of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after
that which is lost, until he find it?
> 5. And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.
> 6. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and his
neighbors, saying unto them, Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep
which was lost.
> 7. I say unto you, that even so there shall be joy in heaven over one
sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine righteous persons, who
need no repentance."
If ( as suggested above) Luke used, as sources, GMark, GTh, and GMatt, then
Luke was aware of both Th 107 and Matt. 18:12-13.
In this case, Luke's first sentence (What man of you, having a hundred
sheep, and having lost one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in
the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?) is
primarily based on Matthew's second sentence and the beginning of his third
sentence (If any man have a hundred sheep, and one of them be
gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and go unto the
mountains, and seek that which goeth astray? And if so be that he find
it,...). However, the last phrase in it (until he finds it) is based on Th
107 (until he found it) rather than on Matt. 18:12 (And if he happens to
find it). He also makes a minor editorial change from Matthew's "the
hillsides" to "the wilderness".
Luke's last sentence (And, having come to the house, he calls together
friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice together with me, because I
found my sheep, the one having been lost.') has no parallel in either Th 107
or Matt. 18:12-13. It is Luke's own invention and is a thinly disguised
adaptation of Luke 15:9b (She calls together friends and neighbors, saying,
'Rejoice together with me, because I found the drachma which I
lost.')--which comes a special source known only to Luke. The reason for
Luke doing this is to make the moral of the parable of the lost sheep match
that of the parable of the lost drachma. This is why Luke adds 15:7, which
is his own invention.
Luke's middle sentence (And, having found (it), he puts it on his shoulders,
rejoicing.) is also his invention. Only Luke has the man taking the sheep
to his home, so he alone must have the man putting the sheep on his
shoulders so that he can carry it.
What I propose, then, is considerable editorial freedom exercised first by
Matthew and then by Luke in rewriting the parable, so that the basic meaning
of the parable underwent two radical shifts: (1) from the original meaning
in Th107 to a second meaning in Matt. 18:12-13 and (2) from the meaning in
Matt. 18:12-13 to a third meaning in Luke 15:4-6. Further, each of these
two gospel writers adds an explanatory gloss (Matt 18:14 and Luke 15:7) that
is his own invention and is designed to give the meaning of the parable as
he has rewritten it.
According to the Q hypothesis, Matthew 18:12-13 and Luke 15:4-6 come from a
postulated gospel called Q. In the scenario suggested above, there is no Q.
Perhaps, then, the reason that we have no copy of Q or, even, any definitive
mention of it in early Christian literature, is that there never was a Q.
> Valentinus explains: ("Gospel of Truth")
> "He is the shepherd who left behind the 99 sheep which were not lost. He
went searching for the one which had gone astray. He rejoiced when he found
it, for the ninety nine is a number that is in the left hand which holds it.
But when the one is found the entire number passes to the right (hand). As
that which lacks the one- that is, the entire right (hand) - draws what was
deficient and takes it to the left hand side and brings (it) to the right,
so to the number becomes one hundred. It is the sign of the one that is in
their sound; it is the Father. Even on the Sabbath, he labored for the
sheep which he had found fallen into the pit. He gave life to the sheep
having brought it up from the pit in order that you might know interiorly -
you the sons of interior knowledge - which is the Sabbath, on which it is
not fitting for salvation to be idle, in order that you may speak from the
day from above, which has no night, and from the light which does not sink
because it is perfect."
> Clearly the Valentinian explanation shows us two things. One, Valetinus
draws on several Thomas sayings in his explanation. Th-27 b, ...."if you do
not recognize the Sabbath as the Sabbath....," and Th- 62 "Jesus said, "I
disclose my mysteries to those [who are worthy] of [my] mysteries. Do not
let your left hand know what your right hand is doing."
> Secondly, to have drawn this explanation without the Gospel of Thomas as a
guide the author would have to have derived the explanation from Mark, Luke,
and Matthew, either contradicting or redacting their explanations of the 99
Sheep and related parallels Valentinus makes in his explanation. I find
this unlikely. I think it shows Valentinus had the GThom, and used the
parable of the 99 Sheep from that text, and Matthew and Luke's parables were
later redacted with explanations from the more mysterious Thomas. All
(including Valentinus) would have had reason to add an explanation to the
mystery of the parable as we see it in the GThom.
I don't think that Matthew and Luke thought of Thomas 107 as a mystery. I
think they did understand it. However, I also think that, they felt, on a
deeper level of the parable, the errant sheep is not the Kingdom but a
sinner and its finding is not the finding of the Kingdom but the repentence
of the sinner. So, Matthew radically rewrote Thomas 107 to reflect what he
believed to be its deeper level of meaning and Luke, even though he, in
turn, modified Matthew, did accept Matthew's judgment that, on a deeper
level of the parable, its meaning regards a sinner who repents.
Also, while I agree that Valentinus knew of Thomas 107, I think that he also
knew of the Matthean and Lukan versions of the parable as well.
Let us re-look at the first two sentences in your citation of Truth
31:35-32:30, "He is the shepherd who left behind the 99 sheep which were
not lost. He went searching for the one which had gone astray. He rejoiced
when he found it, for the ninety nine is a number that is in the left hand
which holds it."
Valentinus appears to be aware of Thomas 107, for it is only there that the
man is said to be a shepherd.
He also appears to be aware of Luke 15:4-6: for his "He rejoiced" appears
to be based on Luke's "rejoicing" rather than on Thomas' "I love you more"
or Matthew's "he rejoices over it more"
Valentinus also appears to be aware of Matthew 18:11 ("For the Son of Man
has come to save the lost."): for, in the context of Truth 31:25-32:30, the
"He" who is the subject of this passage and goes out to find the lost sheep
Valentinus' apparent usage of Matthew 18:11 indicates that his Gospel of
Truth is *very* late compared to the others. Most scholars deem Matthew
18:11 to not be original to Matthew's gospel, but to, rather, be a later
addition to it. In support of this idea that 18:11 comes from a later
redacter of Matthew, 18:11 undercuts Matthew's own interpretation, in 18:14,
that the man seeking the lost sheep symbolizes the Father.
So, I suggest, the scenario is this: (1) Thomas writes Thomas 107, (2)
Matthew writes Matthew 18:12-14, (3) Luke writes Luke 15:4-7, (4) a redactor
adds Matthew 18:11 to Matthew's gospel, and (5) Valentinus writes the Gospel
> Can anyone in the group add to my contention (or destroy it) that
Valentinus had the GThom, and the GThom's '99 sheep' parable was the
earliest version of the parable?
As can be seen above, we have some differences, but on these two basic
points we are in agreement: for I, too, think that Valentinus was aware of
Thomas 107 and think that Thomas 107 is the earliest version of the parable.
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