RE: [GTh] A Syntactical Design Element in Coptic Thomas
Soon we're going to have to start calling you "Michael the Pythagorean."
[mailto:sentto-1127921-4596-1139859719-dhindley=compuserve.com@...] On Behalf Of Michael Grondin
Sent: Monday, February 13, 2006 2:21 PM
Subject: [GTh] 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 this time.
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
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
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
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 away and she who is above herI won't try to calculate the probability of all these inter-related syntactical features happening randomly, but to my mind (and I
> will pass away."
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 http://www.geocities.com/mwgrondin/sayings.htm
The Coptic Gospel of Thomas in Context
Gospel of Thomas Homepage: http://home.epix.net/~miser17/Thomas.html
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- Hi Dave-
I've located the Laura Joffe material I was referring to. The article in
question is "The Answer to the Meaning of Life, the Universe and the
Elohistic Psalter", JSOT 27.2 (2002) 223-235. It was online at one point,
and fortunately I printed it out, because now it can't be gotten without a
subscription to online JSOT ( http://jot.sagepub.com ). This is the abstract
for the paper:
"This article asks why the Elohistic Psalter (Pss. 42-83) was commissioned.
It is suggested that the Elohistic Psalter was constructed in order to
invoke a 'magic triangle' (comprising God's name, the number 42, and a
blessing) for some apotropaic purpose. It is argued that this theory gains
credence from two areas: first, the importance of numerical organization of
large groups of Psalms; and second, the history of the number 42, which in
biblical times was a number of disaster, and in later Jewish tradition
became associated with a protective name of God."
Joffe also published an earlier paper in SJOT (Scandanavian Journal of the
OT) 15 (2001) called 'The Elohistic Psalter: What, How and Why?' which I
I should say also that all of my claims about the syntax of CGTh can be
publicly checked. I have a pdf file at
http://www.geocities.com/Athens/9068/gtbypage_112702.pdf which reproduces
the Coptic ms line-by-line and page-by-page, with English translation under
each Coptic word, and each line and 'IS' numbered. I based this on a close
examination of the photostats in the facsimile edition of the NH codices and
checked it against Bentley Layton's critical edition. I believe that the
accuracy of my rendering compares favorably with his or anyone else's (the
critical edition leaves out the word 'AUW' in 50:09, for example).
I suspect that my talk about numbers and syntax both swims before the eyes
and introduces some degree of cognitive dissonance in the reader. We have a
model in mind wherein the scribe was free to write pretty much what he could
fit on each line. Whether that model is true in general or not, it's
evidently not applicable to the Coptic ms. Imagine the scribe coming to the
end of saying 41 on the standard model. It could have been anywhere within a
line. The chances of it being at the end of a line are unlikely, but
possible - since some sayings (23 of them, to be exact) do end at the end of
a line. OK, so the unlikely happens, let's say. Then it also happens that
the 'IS' on line 280 is the 42nd in the text, and by happy coincidence 42 +
280/10 = 70, which is the number of the line on which the scribe has
coincidentally written the word PARAGE in the same position as on line 280.
Mind you, PARAGE isn't a common word in the text; it occurs only three
times: at the end of lines 280 and 70, and split between lines 69 and 70. If
you're calculating the probability of coincidences as we go, you're probably
close to zero already. But then the number of letters in saying 42 plus 11.1
= 70, and you add in a few more things about the divisibility of sayings 42
and 11.1, and it boggles the mind. Either the Holy Spirit was guiding the
scribe's hand, or our standard model of scribal activity simply doesn't
apply to the Coptic ms. We have to entertain the distinct possibility that
the Coptic scribe was closely following a prototype which had been designed
with certain syntactical features in mind.
BTW, this isn't the only piece of evidence of intentional design, but it'll
do for starters.
- This is fascinating Mike.
thanks for the info.
I appreciate your input on the list.
Ed note: Just to be clear, the "Dave" in the greeting of my note was Dave Hindley. I'm sure that Dave A. knows that, but since I didn't quote from Dave H's one-line note, others may not. - Mike G.