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The Great Thomas Breakthrough

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  • jmgcormier
    Hello all … Sometimes I sense that it is good idea to look over one s shoulder and look at the road one has traveled in order to better gauge the lie of
    Message 1 of 3 , Jun 14, 2005
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      Hello all …

      Sometimes I sense that it is good idea to look over one's
      shoulder and look at the "road one has traveled" in order to better
      gauge the "lie of the land" which is likely to greet us just ahead.

      Over the last several weeks, always in an effort to better
      understand Thomas, this list has courted talk ranging
      from "polyphonic characteristics" and "prosodic structures"
      (Hubbard, Post 6864 et alia), to the issue of "Gnostic redaction in
      Thomas" (Arbuckle, Post 6865), to issues related to the "Q
      tradition" and the "Synoptic problem" (McCoy, Post 6868), to using
      the "Square of Opposition" methodology and the like in one's
      research (Saunders, Posts – several), and yet a number of other
      related subjects. My impression is that there are a number of
      important realities to be gleaned from this interesting salad of
      discussion topics … two of the more important ones being that no
      doubt in people's quest to understand Thomas (whatever that may
      objectively mean) researchers and students of GoT are likely to
      accept or reject future findings about Thomas based largely
      on "where they are coming from" rather than on the actual
      destination they will eventually arrive at … and second, that there
      are seemingly no universally accepted criteria "out there" to tell
      us when we have indeed arrived at our (Thomas, eureka!) destination.
      Regrettably it seems to me that as researchers, we are perhaps very
      ill-equipped and ill-prepared as colleagues in research to even be
      on our journey in quest of the Gospel of Thomas because we will
      possibly never agree on "when we have arrived".

      I recall someone posting an article by April DeConick some time ago
      (Post 5081) on this list, concerning what she thought future
      research on the Gospel of Thomas should contain in order to meet her
      own expectations. Most of it appeared pretty reasonable to me, but I
      would be interested in knowing just what the "minimum expectations"
      of the list members herein might think will constitute "the great
      Thomas breakthrough". . e.g. will it suffice to simply elucidate
      the sayings according to a particular religious confession ? … will
      it suffice to explain the sequence of the sayings or the errors of
      the scrivener ? … will it suffice to expose and explain the
      hermeneutics of the non-canonical logia? … etc. etc.

      Again, on the other hand, at what point will we all sense that we
      have arrived at our "destination" … and what will we accept as
      being "unexplainable", possible "criteria for exceptions to the
      rule" and "canonicity variances" ?.

      Thoughts anyone ? Indeed, what is the minimum (sine qua non)
      acceptance test for what we are all searching for ?


      Maurice Cormier
    • David Renfro
      Is it, or should it be the goal of the Historian to achieve a Eureka Moment ? Rather than search for an all inclusive dogma; the Scholar refines history.
      Message 2 of 3 , Jun 16, 2005
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        Is it, or should it be the goal of the Historian
        to achieve a "Eureka Moment"? Rather than search
        for an all inclusive dogma; the Scholar refines
        history. That's enough. IMO.
        Dave Renfro
      • Michael Grondin
        ... You might better ask what breakthrough members would consider most important, Maurice, since there s a number of important questions that Thomas scholars
        Message 3 of 3 , Jun 16, 2005
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          Maurice Cormier writes:
          > ... I would be interested in knowing just what the "minimum expectations"
          > of the list members herein might think will constitute "the great
          > Thomas breakthrough".

          You might better ask what "breakthrough" members would consider most
          important, Maurice, since there's a number of important questions that
          Thomas scholars are trying to answer, and so I doubt if anyone envisions
          just one "great breakthrough". One primary area of interest for just about
          everyone would surely be the question of origination and development - i.e.,
          where and when and by whom was it originally composed, and how did it
          develop over time in various languages and locales? This is related also to
          the question of who used it, and for what purpose?

          But since you asked for a personal response, I'll add that of special
          interest to me are questions specifically related and confined to the Coptic
          version of the GTh - this being the only one we have in its entirety. It's
          widely assumed that this version was but a straight translation from another
          language - either Greek (as most believe) or Syriac. But there are
          significant differences between the Coptic version and even the sparse
          content of the Greek POxy fragments that seem to belie the "straight
          translation theory" - at least as related to Greek. Nor do I think it likely
          that there was ANOTHER Greek version different from the POxy fragments which
          was translated in a straightforward way into Coptic, for the Coptic bears
          signs of intentional design - which presumably would not be found in a
          straight translation.

          Let me give just one example: my own syntactical analysis (results available
          at http://tinyurl.com/4apg4) demonstrates that the Coptic text contains
          exactly 500 occurrences of Greek words and names. That's rather startling,
          but one could respond that there's at least a 1% chance of the number of
          such words being evenly divisible by 100. OK, except that there's an
          additional syntactical feature which must remove any doubt we might have
          about intentional design - namely, that these 500 word-tokens are composed
          of exactly 2400 Greek and Coptic letters. There's not a chance in hell that
          this extraordinary pair of interlocking syntactical features could be the
          random result of straight translation. One has to conclude, I think, that
          the Copts took an enormous amount of time and trouble to design their
          version; it was evidently not just a straightforward translation from any
          other language (though an other-language text no doubt served as the
          _basis_ for it). So my own main area of interest is the more-limited
          subset of questions: "What did the Copts do to the text and why
          did they do it?"

          Regards,
          Mike Grondin
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