- The "pearls before swine" saying is one of the most viciously
self-righteous insults ever attributed to Jesus, IMO. If he said
it (and the Jesus Seminar voted that he probably didn't), the
"pigs and dogs" were probably ethnic groups - certainly Romans
and perhaps also Sumarians - who were thought to be "unclean".
Unfortunately, it soon came to be used against *individuals* -
namely, anyone who didn't agree that one's "pearls of wisdom"
were all that valuable.
But enough of the rant. Gospel of Philip has something to say
about "pearls" that may or may not be seen as antithetical to
the pearls-before-swine saying. As the passage is translated
in NHL, it reads:
"When the pearl is cast down into the mud, it becomes greatly
despised, nor if it is anointed with balsam oil will it become
more precious. But it always has value in the eyes of its
owner. Compare the Sons of God, wherever they may be. They
still have value in the eyes of their father." (NHL, p.147)
My own reading of the Coptic is somewhat different, and I think
makes more sense. Whereas the NHL translation says that a pearl
cast into the mud becomes despised, my reading is that it does
NOT become MORE despised. Under my reading, then, there's a
symmetry missing from the NHL translation: a pearl neither
becomes more despised by being covered with mud, nor more
precious by being anointed with balsam oil. The NHL translator
may have been influenced by the pearls-before-swine saying,
so that he thought what GPh MUST be saying is that pearls in
the mud are despised (by the pigs, presumably). But according
to my reading, the focus on the owner of the "pearl" extends
to the first part of the passage as well. And the "owner" (who
is the good god, apparently) doesn't value it any the less if
it happens to be covered in mud. Does this count against
pearls-before-swine? I'm not sure, but it strikes me as a real
possibility - since even if you cast the good god's "pearls"
before swine, they lose no value.
The Coptic Gospel of Thomas, saying-by-saying
The Coptic Gospel of Thomas in Context
- Mike wrote:
> As the passage is translated in NHL, it reads:Mike, how exactly do you translate the passage?
> "When the pearl is cast down into the mud, it
> becomes greatly despised, nor if it is
> anointed with balsam oil will it become
> more precious. But it always has value in the eyes
> of its owner. Compare the Sons of God,
> wherever they may be. They still have value
> in the eyes of their father." (NHL, p.147)
> My own reading of the Coptic is somewhat different,
> and I think makes more sense. Whereas the NHL
> translation says that a pearl
> cast into the mud becomes despised, my reading is
> that it does NOT become MORE despised.
Loren Rosson III
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> Mike, how exactly do you translate the passage? [Loren]"The pearl, should it be cast down into the mud,
does not become more contemptible.
Nor if it should be annointed in balsam oil
would it become [more?] valuable.
Rather, it has value before its lord at all times."
Thinking it over now, I can see how it might be 'greatly contemptible'
instead of 'more contemptible'. But there is definitely a 'not' there.
- One wonders how the saying could be further interpreted when one
considers that a "pearl" could be construed as a testament/treatise
from a female member to those of the "unclean" caste of married
Jews, women, and Gentiles?
> --- "Michael Grondin" <mwgrondin@c...> wrote:
> The "pearls before swine" saying is one of the most viciously
> self-righteous insults ever attributed to Jesus, IMO. ...