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Re: [GTh] Block Sizes

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  • Michael Grondin
    ... I assume that you re not serious about looking for the sayings-blocks, since I know that you have the pdf file and they re clearly marked there. I may get
    Message 1 of 13 , Mar 3 11:53 PM
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      [Ron]:
      > Hi Mike. Thanks for the reply. Some comments follow.
      > I'm still flying the landscape of Coptic Thomas, looking for your
      > blocks and other anomalies which might tend to either support or
      > challenge your thesis.

      I assume that you're not serious about looking for the sayings-blocks, since
      I know that you have the pdf file and they're clearly marked there. I may
      get into this in more detail later on, but I assume also that you're aware
      of the broad structure that I believe to be present in the blocks, with
      lines 67-68 ("I have cast fire upon the world, and behold! - I watch over
      it.") actually seeming to "overlook" the remainder of the text - as seems to
      me, a textual "world" of 600 lines, apparently divided between an "earth" of
      400 lines, and an additional 200 lines that may represent two heavens of 100
      lines each. I assume you also know that the association of the number 600
      with the cosmos is sanctioned by the fact that the gematria-value of the
      word KOSMOS is (and was known to be) 600. Of course, I don't present this as
      conclusive evidence of anything in itself, but rather as yet another highly
      suggestive textual feature that seems much too neat for coincidence, and MAY
      constitute a starting-point from which one can get a grip on this thing.

      > My question was too broad. I am wondering specifically about those
      > L5-6 addition/deletion/displacements I mentioned, and whether your
      > line/letter math for those specific lines shows a mathematical
      > rationale for making those changes from the Greek version.

      Dunno. Haven't looked into it yet. It'd be great to find a rationale, but if
      one couldn't be found, that wouldn't necessarily mean anything, since the
      rationale might be something not immediately obvious.

      > I must raise a flag on one point, however. If the displacement
      > [of 111.3] was from the end of logion 80, it makes calling the
      > displacement a "scribal error" ludicrous. This is as much a
      > leapfrogging as the displacement of 77B. If, however, it originally
      > belonged immediately after 110, then we cannot rule out a
      > copiest-slip - an accidental scribal displacement to the end of
      > 111. So it's not as firm as one might like.

      From my point of view, it doesn't matter whether it was displaced or not. It
      fits in its location as an integral part of the triadic structure of 111-112
      as far as letter-counts is concerned, and that - plus the fact that it
      _doesn't_ fit as far as content is concerned - indicates to my satisfaction
      that it was not something that a scribe would have thought to pen in at that
      point on his own accord. That it relates to logion 80, however, is of great
      interest, since I feel that there must have been some reason for the
      inclusion of very similar sayings at a distance from each other.

      > That just about exhausts what can be used from the surviving
      > P.Oxy fragments. Had we the whole Greek version we could have
      > examined and run all such changes and correlations, and maybe got a
      > much,much better idea of the design, and what these Copts were doing
      > with, and to, original Thomas. As it stands, I don't see much hope.

      The hope lies in the Coptic manuscript. We can only catch a glimpse of a few
      things they've done from the POxy fragments, but that's at least enough to
      indicate that the Coptic version wasn't a simple translation from the
      Greek - and that's a pretty important result in itself, since that
      assumption is still widespread.

      > I think others may be asking "What is the prize that
      > justifies this hunt?" They may also be asking "What kind of nut-bars
      > put this scheme together (16,800 letters and three "gospel"???) and
      > why should we bother chasing something so absurd and aparently
      > pointless?" What do we gain?

      The "nut-bars" who put this together may have been a group of Hellenistic
      Jews who were familiar with the apparent mathematical design of portions of
      Psalms. I'll get into that when I start discussing Laura Joffe's paper in
      detail. As to "what's the prize?", I don't quite know how to answer that,
      because of course one can't know what a process of discovery will yield, and
      everybody has different ideas of what's important. For myself, I'm fairly
      well convinced that we don't yet know the true nature of the Gospel of
      Thomas, or the reason why it was arranged the way it was. If I'm right about
      that, I consider that to be a pretty good "prize". I've always been driven
      by Steve Davies' lament in Appendix I of GTCW that he looked forward to the
      day when it could be shown either that GTh was truly a random collection of
      sayings, or that there was some underlying rationale for its order. That may
      not be a question of interest to everyone, but catch-word theorists have
      spent a good deal of time on it.

      > For all we know, this may be utterly idiosyncratic, inconsequential,
      > just an odd concantenation of coincidences or even a deliberate
      > red-herring.

      A definite "no" to the last two. The textual evidence so far adduced - even
      the connection between L42 and L11.1 _alone_ - should have been enough to
      convince the skeptical mind that these features were not "an odd
      concatenation of coincidences". Coincidence simply doesn't rise to that
      level. As for "deliberate red-herring", that's unimaginable. No one would go
      to that trouble simply to produce a "red-herring". I think you must have
      been discouraged when you wrote this. When I get discouraged (which is
      often, since almost nobody seems to understand or appreciate this stuff), I
      focus on the textual evidence and ask myself whether I'm still really
      convinced that it could not have been the result of randomness or
      coincidence. If so, then trudge on - you're on the right track.

      > And it seems very unlikely we have enough information to crack it,
      > let alone confirm it's truly "there".
      > It's not the sort of work most people would be lining up to get into.

      No, but I believe that if the techniques ("micro-textual analysis"?) and
      results we've been talking about were widely known, there would be some
      academic group somewhere that would take it up (with a grant, no doubt). But
      wait til I discuss the Joffe paper (which I assume you haven't read). I
      think some things will start to fall into place. At least CGTh may no longer
      appear to be sui generis (which is what I think you mean by
      "idiosyncratic"). I've always seen that as a big problem for acceptance of
      the theory, and I think Joffe's paper goes a long ways toward diminishing
      that problem.

      Best,
      Mike
    • David Hindley
      Mike,
      Message 2 of 13 , Mar 4 6:32 AM
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        Mike,

        <<The textual evidence so far adduced - even the connection between L42 and L11.1 _alone_ - should have been enough to convince the
        skeptical mind that these features were not "an odd concatenation of coincidences". Coincidence simply doesn't rise to that level.
        As for "deliberate red-herring", that's unimaginable. No one would go to that trouble simply to produce a "red-herring". I think you
        must have been discouraged when you wrote this. When I get discouraged (which is often, since almost nobody seems to understand or
        appreciate this stuff), I focus on the textual evidence and ask myself whether I'm still really convinced that it could not have
        been the result of randomness or coincidence.>>

        Sure it does. The question really is: "What, exactly, makes *those* characteristics significant?" Nothing is self evident. Anyone
        who has spent time with discourse analysis has realized that the "structure" of sentences or thematic blocks has as many variations
        as there are analysts. How do *you* know that the numbers/relationships that you take as significant (the number 42, prime numbers,
        etc) were really significant, or even evident, to the Copts of the first few centuries of the Christian era?

        You state that those who reject the significance of the characteristics you noted (the "facts") are guilty of the "severe fallacy of
        denying facts based on general or a priori reasoning." However, you may have fallen into the fallacy of assuming what needs to be
        proved!

        You may be best served by giving the project a vacation and returning to it in a month or so. It is so easy to get so wrapped up in
        a project that it affects our objectivity. Giving prized projects some space periodically seems to help the brain "reboot," and it
        is amazing what jumps out at me when I use the technique at work (although there I can only put projects on the back burner for a
        couple days or a week) or with my own hypotheses.

        Respectfully,

        Dave Hindley
        Cleveland, Ohio USA
      • David Arbuckle
        Mike, I have an unrelated question to all of this. I wondered if you have ever seen the original coptic text. Not photographs of it, but the actual copy that
        Message 3 of 13 , Mar 4 7:29 AM
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          Mike,

          I have an unrelated question to all of this.

          I wondered if you have ever seen the original coptic
          text. Not photographs of it, but the actual copy that
          was found at Nag Hammadi. I wonder if you could
          comment on its condition and what it is like.

          where it is kept, and who is control of it.

          dave [arbuckle]
        • Michael Grondin
          ... No, I haven t. ... It s in very good condition relative to the other tractates of Codex II, probably due to its good fortune of being the second of the
          Message 4 of 13 , Mar 4 7:47 PM
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            [Dave Arbuckle]:
            > I wondered if you have ever seen the original coptic
            > text. Not photographs of it, but the actual copy that
            > was found at Nag Hammadi.

            No, I haven't.

            > I wonder if you could
            > comment on its condition and what it is like.

            It's in very good condition relative to the other tractates of Codex II,
            probably due to its good fortune of being the second of the seven (the
            surrounding texts - ApocJn and GPh - are in much worse shape). The sizes of
            lacunae (gaps in the text caused by erosion of the papyrus - usually at the
            top and bottom of a page) are small enough so that most of them can be (and
            have been) confidently filled in, though of course I wish they all could be,
            since the two or three remaining unresolved lacunae are enough to introduce
            an element of uncertainty into total letter-counts for the text.

            > where it is kept, and who is control of it.

            In the Coptic Museum in Cairo.

            thanks,
            Mike
          • Michael Grondin
            ... I ve reproduced the material you quoted, Dave, because I m unsure to which portion of it you re responding with this comment. I _think_ you re responding
            Message 5 of 13 , Mar 4 11:08 PM
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              [Mike]:
              > The textual evidence so far adduced - even the connection between L42 and
              > L11.1 _alone_ - should have been enough to convince the
              > skeptical mind that these features were not "an odd concatenation of
              > coincidences". Coincidence simply doesn't rise to that level.
              > As for "deliberate red-herring", that's unimaginable. No one would go to
              > that trouble simply to produce a "red-herring". I think you
              > must have been discouraged when you wrote this. When I get discouraged
              > (which is often, since almost nobody seems to understand or
              > appreciate this stuff), I focus on the textual evidence and ask myself
              > whether I'm still really convinced that it could not have
              > been the result of randomness or coincidence.>>

              [Dave Hindley]:
              > Sure it does.

              I've reproduced the material you quoted, Dave, because I'm unsure to which
              portion of it you're responding with this comment. I _think_ you're
              responding to the claim that "Coincidence simply doesn't rise to that
              level." If so, I'd be happy to discuss that, since as you know almost all
              our historical judgements are based on probability. If you knew, for
              example, that a certain proposition had a 99% chance of being true, and only
              a 1% chance of being false, I suspect that you wouldn't hesitate to assent
              to it. Probably, in fact, quite a few of the propositions that you believe
              about the history of Christianity have something less than a 99%
              probability. Sometimes we even reach judgements on the basis of something
              being more probable than not - and that's only 51% vs 49%. I realize,
              however, that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence (thanks,
              Carl Sagan), and so I'm prepared to defend the claim that the probability
              that the combination of independent but interlocking textual features of
              CGTh to which I've drawn attention was the result of randomness is so low
              that, were it most any other proposition, it would be rejected out of hand.

              As I said, I'd be happy to test the case on just one of the textual features
              in question - namely, the relationship between L42 and L11.1. If it suits
              you, we can discuss that and you can perhaps cite a case of similar
              independent but interlocking elements from another text, which is known
              to be the result of randomness. I won't repeat the salient syntactical
              features connecting L42 (line 280) and L11.1 (line 70 + most of line 69)
              at this point, but if you want to pursue it, I'd certainly be willing to do
              so.

              > The question really is: "What, exactly, makes *those* characteristics
              > significant?" Nothing is self evident.

              I don't think I agree with that. (Surely if what you say is true, then the
              phrase "self-evident" would lack meaning, because it couldn't be applied to
              anything.) I believe that it's self-evident, for example, that a scribe
              _could have_ copied verbatim from an exemplar - line for line and letter for
              letter. I think it's also self-evident that he _could have_ been instructed
              to do so. Because these things are self-evident, any generality about how
              scribes _usually_ operated is irrelevant.

              > Anyone who has spent time with discourse analysis has realized that the
              > "structure" of sentences or thematic blocks has as many variations
              > as there are analysts. How do *you* know that the numbers/relationships
              > that you take as significant (the number 42, prime numbers,
              > etc) were really significant, or even evident, to the Copts of the first
              > few centuries of the Christian era?

              Irrelevant, since the whole of the Copts of that era aren't the folks in
              question. The folks in question are a small group that produced the NH
              codices. But we know almost nothing about them, and we don't even know if
              the proposed numerical design of CGTh was theirs or was adopted from one
              already present in the Greek version - which would have had to have been
              suitably altered for a change in language, of course. Why wasn't there a
              tractate in the NH corpus discussing theoretical mathematics? Dunno - any of
              several reasons, I suppose. For one, they only hid the stuff that was being
              cracked down on. For another, both Pythagorean mathematics and mystical
              Judaism seem to have been mostly secret studies. As to the number 42, I'll
              have more to say about that when I discuss Joffe's paper.

              > You state that those who reject the significance of the characteristics
              > you noted (the "facts") are guilty of the "severe fallacy of denying
              > facts based on general or a priori reasoning." However, you may
              > have fallen into the fallacy of assuming what needs to be proved!

              Well, first, the remark you quote is from an offlist exchange that
              you initiated a couple days ago. Worse than breaching confidentiality,
              however, is that your paraphrase preceding the quotation is inaccurate.
              The full statement was this:

              "As I indicated already in a note to the list, if anyone thinks that some
              general model of how scribes worked overrides the specific evidence
              that in THIS case the scribe didn't work that way, he's guilty of the severe
              fallacy of denying facts based on general or a priori reasoning."

              As to begging the question, I'd know better than most if I'd done
              that, since my training is in logic. As I see it, what I've done is to
              present the textual features as I found them to be (and anyone is more than
              welcome to check them) and concluded that the possibility of these
              independent but interrelated (n.b.) features having resulted from randomness
              is so low as to seriously jeopardize that assumption.

              > You may be best served by giving the project a vacation and returning to
              > it in a month or so. It is so easy to get so wrapped up in
              > a project that it affects our objectivity. Giving prized projects some
              > space periodically seems to help the brain "reboot," and it
              > is amazing what jumps out at me when I use the technique at work (although
              > there I can only put projects on the back burner for a
              > couple days or a week) or with my own hypotheses.

              This is good advice in general. I'm a great fan of giving the subconscious
              mind time to work on a problem on its own, and believe me there've been many
              many times when I just left this stuff alone for awhile and let my
              subconscious mull it over, but I always come back with the same basic
              intuitions, so the subconscious must be agreeing with the conscious. I
              simply can't see what might be wrong with my assessment of the probability
              of intentionality behind CGTh. Of course the proponent of a theory always
              has a hard time being objective about it - I'm no exception. What would most
              help, though, is adequate peer review. Even if it didn't change my basic
              judgements, it would at least help to identify weaknesses in the case,
              eliminate objectionable and/or confusing ways of expressing it, etc.
              Unfortunately, such peer review hasn't yet been forthcoming, in my
              estimation. Generalities are no substitute for specific, detailed criticism.

              Mike Grondin
            • Andrew Bernhard
              ... features ... do ... Alright, I m probably going to regret this, but go ahead and try to convince me from the relationship between L42 and L11.1 that your
              Message 6 of 13 , Mar 5 12:35 PM
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                > As I said, I'd be happy to test the case on just one of the textual
                features
                > in question - namely, the relationship between L42 and L11.1. If it suits
                > you, we can discuss that and you can perhaps cite a case of similar
                > independent but interlocking elements from another text, which is known
                > to be the result of randomness. I won't repeat the salient syntactical
                > features connecting L42 (line 280) and L11.1 (line 70 + most of line 69)
                > at this point, but if you want to pursue it, I'd certainly be willing to
                do
                > so.

                Alright, I'm probably going to regret this, but go ahead and try to convince
                me from the relationship between L42 and L11.1 that your design theory is
                plausible (and clarify what "L" stands for). I don't have time to go digging
                through archives so you'll have to restate your case. Please be succinct and
                clear.

                Andrew
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