A Syntactical Design Element in Coptic Thomas
- Because the list has been relatively quiet for awhile, and because of our
recent discussion of orality, and because some new members may not be aware
of a syntactical design element in Coptic Thomas that I've discussed
previously, I thought it might be in order to revisit that discussion at
The thesis is this: that there is an extraordinary confluence of syntactical
features surrounding lines 280 (saying 42), lines 69-70 (saying 11.1) and
the number 70 such as cannot be satisfactorily explained as other than
intentional. These featurs have not been noticed simply because it hasn't
occurred to anyone that the numbering of lines or the occurrences of 'IS'
might be of any importance. I believe that it was to the originators of
CGTh, and that this proves that it was.
Both lines 70 and lines 280 end with the word 'PARAGE'. That word occurs
three times in CGTh - twice in 11.1:
69: ... IS10 says this: "This heaven will pass
70: away, and she who is above her will pass away."
280: IS42 says this: "Become itinerant."
(or: "Come into being as you pass away.")
("ISn" is the n-th occurrence of 'IS' in the text. There are 102 IS's
altogether, and 3 IHS's. I believe that the total of 105 [=3x5x7] wasn't
Saying 42 is the shortest saying in CGTh, and the only one which could fit
on one line. That it does is already improbable, since randomness would give
it only about a 1/13 chance of doing so (based on its number of syllables.)
But that's only the first of many "coincidences".
PARAGE isn't the only word that occurs at the end of two different lines,
but it is the only one where the line numbers are related, as are 70 and
280. In addition, there's a certain relationship between the IS-number on
line 280 (i.e., 42) and the line number itself, since 42 + 280/10 = 70. That
this relationship isn't accidental seems confirmed by the fact that the
number 10 needed to make it work is the IS-number on line 69. (It may be
noted also that the word I'm not including from line 69 - "until-it-burns" -
is composed of 10 letters.)
Finally, consider the number of letters involved. Line 280 contains 24
letters ('42' reversed), while the relevant portion of lines 69-70 contains
46 letters - a total of 70. Furthermore (yet another "coincidence"), saying
11.1 can be arranged to form two lines of 23 letters each, both ending with
the word PARAGE:
> Says IS10 this: "This heaven will pass awayI won't try to calculate the probability of all these inter-related
> and she who is above her will pass away."
syntactical features happening randomly, but to my mind (and I consider
myself to be, if anything, overly-cautious), this is utterly impossible
unless it was designed that way. PARAGE was evidently a catch-word, though
its occurrences aren't conjoined. In a way, this is a small result, but it's
quite definite, and I think it has major implications. There was evidently
at least _some_ syntactical design to CGTh, and this one element of
intentional design indicates that we should be looking at the numbering of
syntactical elements, as insignificant as that might otherwise seem.
(As an aside, there was a 42-letter name of God which Laura Joffe has
discussed in connection with the syntactical structure of some OT text I
can't recall right now. I'd say that the evidence indicates that saying 42
was to be considered the most important saying in CGTh. As far as structure,
it seems to be the only single-part saying.)
The Coptic Gospel of Thomas, saying-by-saying
The Coptic Gospel of Thomas in Context