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[gthomas] Re: Book Recommendation/105

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  • Mike Grondin
    ... This is a very curious charge, Sytze, especially in this area of study, where it s often the case that meaning turns on a few letters, as you know. I m
    Message 1 of 11 , Feb 5, 1999
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      (me):
      >Although logion 105 does resemble a defense against charges of
      >illegitimacy, there are features that count against that interpretation in
      >its present form:
      >(1) J's opponents would not have said that he was the son of "THE Harlot"
      >(as the Coptic has it); they would have said that he was the son of "A
      >harlot".
      >(2) J is not made to say that he knows HIS father & mother, but that he
      >knows THE Father & THE Mother, quite a different thing. The Mother in
      >question is surely not his natural mother, but rather the "true" Mother who
      >gave him "the Life" (whatever that was).

      (Sytze):
      >I think you may be overinterpreting saying 105, especially the Coptic.

      This is a very curious charge, Sytze, especially in this area of study,
      where it's often the case that meaning turns on a few letters, as you know.
      I'm reminded of my wife complaining that I over-analyze her words. Her
      typical exasperated response is "You know what I mean!" I suppose you and
      Steve would say "You know what #105 means!" Problem is, I really don't
      think it means what you want it to mean. So I guess my counter-charge would
      be that to analyze it strictly as a response to charges of illegitimacy
      amounts to under-interpretation.

      >The text has "P|$HRE M|PORNH", the|son of|harlot. It is true that the
      >Coptic text often drops the definite article ... But here we're dealing
      >with a very common genitive construction.

      The fact that it's a genitive has nothing to do with it. The issue really
      turns on how to handle the Coptic definite article 'the', as your further
      comments make clear:

      >Compare the following example: we translate "P|$HRE M|P|RWME" as "the son
      >of man". The second definite article "P" is disregarded in the translation.

      This example begs the question, which is precisely whether the definite
      article should be disregarded. Your translation "the son of man" would
      actually be my third choice, behind "Son of Man" and "the Son of the Man".

      >For the same reason, we translate "T|S2IME" in GTh 15 as "(him who
      >was not born) of woman".

      Same objection, though this example is better for your case than the one
      above. Problem is, the case can't be made by looking at a few
      counter-examples. What we need to know is the general pattern of using
      definite articles. We know that the Copts used the definite article in
      front of country-names and titles, which would seem to suggest that it was
      sometimes used as a mechanism for capitalization (as in "the god" = "God").
      But above, and elsewhere in your comments, you don't use capitals, so where
      does that leave us? They sometimes stuck it in, sometimes not, based on the
      mood of the moment? That would be a pretty unsatisfactory explanation, I
      would think.

      >You called Lambdin's translation wrong for translating "the son of A
      >harlot", but his translation only attempts to make sense to nowadays'
      >readership. We do not know who THE harlot is in the GThomas, let go who
      >THE woman or THE man...

      I'm sure you'll agree that if, in the course of attempting to make some
      passage understandable to "nowadays' readership", the translator alters the
      meaning of the passage, that still counts as an error, regardless of good
      intentions. Problem is, the translator often goes with what he/she thinks
      the saying means, regardless of the actual wording, which in turn confirms
      other folks' predispositions to think the same way. We WANT GThom to sound
      like the canon, so we tend to do things to make it so. Personally, I think
      we should be aware of, and resist, that tendency.

      >I still like the way Guilleaumont et al. translated GTh 105, "Whoever knows
      >father and mother shall be called the son of a harlot." Although this
      >edition does use a lot of capitals in general, they refrained from doing so
      >in this saying.

      Rather curious, don't you think? I'd say it's another example of
      translators trying to fit the translation to their preconceived notions of
      what it MUST MEAN. They don't go all the way to "HIS father", but they
      don't capitalize "Father", either, cuz that would tend to make it mean what
      they don't want it to mean, namely that the reference is not to one's
      natural father and mother, but rather to some divine Father and Mother. It
      can't mean THAT, of course, cuz that would bring in a female divine entity,
      which wouldn't be canonical. I think you see the problem. All these
      self-fulfilling translations seem to derive from the assumption that the
      Coptic GThom is a straight translation from the earliest GThom. ISTM that
      assumption is false.

      >Translating "THE Father & THE Mother" isn't an emphasis we
      >can find in the text. And it doesn't necessarily point at GTh 101, because
      >there we have only "[......] DE MME" which may or may not utilise the word
      >"mother" from the previous sentence - we just don't know yet.

      No, but we do know that whoever/whatever gave J "(the) Life" is feminine,
      because of the feminine article in the verb (AS|Ti), which rules out, for
      example "my father". And we do know that the lacuna in question will hold
      about six letters, just enough for "my mother" (TA|MAAY). So your defense
      here seems pretty slim, unless you have another candidate for filling in
      the gap.

      >Perhaps it is better to translate everything in capitals from now on ;-)

      Might not be a bad idea. Notably, we have "the god" = "God" and "the
      christ" = "Christ", so it does seem to be the right pattern for translating
      into English. Maybe the trouble stems from our not always following that
      pattern.

      >Steve Davies wrote:
      >>All this may indicate that a saying whereby Jesus defends
      >>the fact that he knows who his father and mother are against
      >>a charge that he is the son of the harlot is either from Jesus
      >>or a defense of Jesus constructed to counteract accusations
      >>that he was illegitimate.

      Aside from objections to Steve's view based on syntax, I've also commented
      at length on what a poor response Steve's reading of #105 would have been
      to charges of illegitimacy. Just doesn't have that good old "last-word"
      punch the Christian apologists were capable of. On Steve's reading, we'd
      have something like this:

      Opponents: "Jesu was the son of a harlot."
      Defenders: "He knew who his father and mother were."

      Are the defenders talking about J's NATURAL father and mother? Then what
      good would it do to say that he knew who they were? In the first place,
      saying that he knew who his MOTHER was would in no way allay the charge
      that his (natural) mother was a harlot. If your mom's a harlot, that
      doesn't mean you don't know who she is. But what about knowing who your
      FATHER is? Again, it's irrelevant to the charge, unless it's an admission
      that, even though your mom was a harlot, nevertheless you know that your
      father was her husband, not some other guy she slept around with. Bottom
      line: this view is just pretty durn unsatisfying, all round.

      But now suppose that the "defenders" above were talking about J's DIVINE
      father and mother. Ah, now we have a defense with real "punch", and one
      consistent with other sayings in GThom. To become disciples, one is advised
      to hate one's (natural) parents and love one's (divine) parents, just like
      Jesu did. If the reference to a divine mother is what's throwing you off,
      ignore it - the gnostics probably added it in, anyway.

      Best regards,
      Mike
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    • S. Patterson
      Dear Steve: Sounds interesting. Yes, I agree that the Barbelognostic explanation seems a reach for me as well. I would recommend Schaberg s book to you then.
      Message 2 of 11 , Feb 5, 1999
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        Dear Steve:

        Sounds interesting. Yes, I agree that the Barbelognostic explanation
        seems a reach for me as well. I would recommend Schaberg's book to you
        then. All of the issues you raise are dealt with in detail, if memory
        serves me right.

        Yours,
        Steve P.

        On Wed, 3 Feb 1999, Stevan Davies wrote:

        >
        > > Re: Schaberg's book:
        > > Thesis: Jesus was the illigitimate child of a Roman soldier. Sounds wild,
        > > but surprisingly well argued based on the texts and social history.
        > > Especially good on the social history of illegitimacy in the ancient
        > > world. In the end, I wasn't convinced, but impressed. Also: her car was
        > > bombed after it was published. Can't say that of many books.
        > > Steve Patterson
        >
        > Hi Steve!
        >
        > I was thinking of getting into this question re: 105
        > "He who will know the father and the mother
        > will be called 'the Son of harlot'."
        >
        > If a variety of things are put together:
        >
        > 1. Considerably later and often obscure Jewish references
        > to Jesus' illegitimacy (Mary's honor defended, though,
        > in Toledoth Jesu) --
        > Against Celsus 1.28,32 "Origin cites the tradition that Jesus was
        > the illegitimate son of Mary who 'bore a child from a certain
        > soldier named Panthera.'"
        > (cf. Meyer pg 106 and a discussion in M. Smith "J the Magician")
        >
        > 2. The striking (to me) absence of references to Jesus by his
        > patronymic in Christian writings (two instances in GJn and
        > that's it that I know of)
        >
        > 3. Mark's "son of Mary" reference strongly implying his father
        > was not known (cf. M. Smith)
        >
        > 4. Matthew and Luke independently conceding that Jesus was
        > not impregnated by a legitimate father
        >
        > 5. Jn 8:41 (followed immediately by the Jews asking if Jesus
        > was a Samaritan or possessed).
        >
        > All this may indicate that a saying whereby Jesus defends
        > the fact that he knows who his father and mother are against
        > a charge that he is the son of the harlot is either from Jesus
        > or a defense of Jesus constructed to counteract accusations
        > that he was illegitimate.
        >
        > I do think this perspective on the saying is more likely to
        > be reasonable than are perspectives derived from speculations
        > deriving from Barbelognosticism.
        >
        > Steve Davies
        >
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      • S. Patterson
        Dear Mike: I would not put too much stock in the use of the definite article in this saying. Generally, the use of the srticle in Coptic does resemble English
        Message 3 of 11 , Feb 5, 1999
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          Dear Mike:

          I would not put too much stock in the use of the definite article in this
          saying. Generally, the use of the srticle in Coptic does resemble English
          useage--coincidentally--but in a translation situation, Greek to Coptic,
          say, one just never knows.

          Whatever it is, 105 is no longer a straightforward retort exhibiting
          Jesus' metis; on that I would agree. There is obviously paradox and
          esotericism here. One might speculate on an original non-esoteric
          version--cf. Thomas' beatitudes, e.g.--helpful, but speculative.
          Yours,
          Steve P.

          On Wed, 3 Feb 1999, Mike Grondin wrote:

          > >All this may indicate that a saying whereby Jesus defends
          > >the fact that he knows who his father and mother are against
          > >a charge that he is the son of the harlot is either from Jesus
          > >or a defense of Jesus constructed to counteract accusations
          > >that he was illegitimate.
          >
          > Although logion 105 does resemble a defense against charges of
          > illegitimacy, there are features that count against that interpretation in
          > its present form:
          >
          > (1) J's opponents would not have said that he was the son of "THE Harlot"
          > (as the Coptic has it); they would have said that he was the son of "A
          > harlot".
          >
          > (2) J is not made to say that he knows HIS father & mother, but that he
          > knows THE Father & THE Mother, quite a different thing. The Mother in
          > question is surely not his natural mother, but rather the "true" Mother who
          > gave him "the Life" (whatever that was).
          >
          > (3) If we try to imagine how #105 might have read, if it had originally
          > been much more personally relevant to Jesu, we come up with curiously
          > unsatisfying results, as in the following:
          >
          > "He who knows his mother will be called the son of a harlot."
          >
          > This just doesn't strike me as the type of "last-word" retort of which
          > Christian apologists were capable. I would have expected some kind of a
          > slam-dunk put-down of J's opponents. Which leads me to believe that there
          > was no such "original" version of #105. Which leads me to believe that
          > #105, although it carries echoes of the charge of illegitimacy, was not
          > included in the collection for the purpose of answering that charge, but
          > rather for a different purpose altogether.
          >
          > Mike
          > ------------------------------------
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          >
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        • Mike Grondin
          At the risk of confusing the issue by talking too much, here s what might be a clearer way of looking at the alternative interpretations of #105: There are two
          Message 4 of 11 , Feb 5, 1999
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            At the risk of confusing the issue by talking too much, here's what might
            be a clearer way of looking at the alternative interpretations of #105:

            There are two ways to respond to a charge - one is to deny the charge, the
            other is to say that the charge, even if true, is unimportant. I think it's
            the latter that's involved in #105. Imagine the following dialogue:

            (pharisees): "You talk like you know the Father, but you
            don't even know who your real father was!"
            (Jesus): "Oh, but I do know my real father. Do you?"

            Isn't it the case that this retort, which turns on ambiguity in the word
            'real', is much more consistent with what we would expect to be attributed
            to Jesu, than the rather pale and petulant alternative, "I DO SO know who
            my real father was!"? If so, then we must have some way of indicating in
            the translation of #105 that it's talking about one's "real" (i.e.,
            heavenly) parents, not one's natural/earthly parents.

            Mike

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          • Sytze van der Laan
            ... I think we both know that there are multiple ways for translating GTh 105 (with or without articles/capitals) and that it s a matter of what perspective
            Message 5 of 11 , Feb 7, 1999
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              Mike Grondin wrote:
              >So I guess my counter-charge would be that to analyze it strictly
              >as a response to charges of illegitimacy amounts to under-interpretation.
              >[snip] Problem is, the translator often goes with what he/she thinks
              >the saying means, regardless of the actual wording, which in turn confirms
              >other folks' predispositions to think the same way. We WANT GThom to sound
              >like the canon, so we tend to do things to make it so. Personally, I think
              >we should be aware of, and resist, that tendency.

              I think we both know that there are multiple ways for translating GTh
              105 (with or without articles/capitals) and that it's a matter of what
              perspective one brings to the study of the GThomas. I think that in the
              field of NT language, literature & theology, we are forced to take a
              more cautious stance; under-interpreting, if you will. I study the
              GThomas as a source that is relevant to the NT writings, so it's
              probably true that my bias possibly would be to understand the language
              of the Greek and Coptic GThomas texts in close relation to Biblical
              writings. The good thing, IMO, may be the consistency of translating
              that way, though. Biblical scholars may use some awkward translations
              for certain terms in the GThomas, but it is very easy to see where
              they're coming from. That's often not the case with translators who have
              a different agenda.

              Re: GTh 101 Mike wrote:
              >No, but we do know that whoever/whatever gave J "(the) Life" is feminine,
              >because of the feminine article in the verb (AS|Ti), which rules out, for
              >example "my father". And we do know that the lacuna in question will hold
              >about six letters, just enough for "my mother" (TA|MAAY). So your defense
              >here seems pretty slim, unless you have another candidate for filling in
              >the gap.

              I know there's a fat chance that I'll be able to put anything else than
              "TA|MAAU" in the lacuna of GTh 101 (NHC II, 50:1), I'll give you that,
              but "my true mother" has an equal chance pointing at an earthly mother
              as at a heavenly one. Thus, I'll feel inclined to chose the former and
              translate without capitals (and yes, showing my bias). Perhaps if others
              are interested as well, we should discuss this (bias, agenda,
              self-fulfilling translations) some more in a thread with a new subject
              line.

              - Sytze

              Gospel of Thomas Bibliography @ http://huizen.dds.nl/~skirl/
              ECTHN EN MECW TOY KOCMOY

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