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The Strange Case of the Nancy Johnson Translation

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  • Michael Grondin
    Some of you may have run across a translation of Thomas attributed to one Nancy Johnson. (If not, you can view it at
    Message 1 of 9 , Nov 28, 2006
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      Some of you may have run across a "translation" of Thomas
      attributed to one Nancy Johnson. (If not, you can view it at
      http://reluctant-messenger.com/gospel-thomas-Nancy_Johnson.htm)
      I put the word 'translation' in scare-quotes because it's more in
      the nature of an adaptation than a translation. It takes certain
      liberties not found in standard translations, such as the elimination
      of all 'Jesus said's except where that phrase occurs in response
      to a question. But aside from its shortcomings, the question is:
      who wrote it? The text says it was "Translated by Nancy Johnson",
      yet two folks (including a generally-reliable fellow by the name of
      Christian Jensen) reported some half-dozen years ago that it is
      identical with a text that appears in "The Gospel According to Thomas
      with Complementary Texts", a 1983 book edited by Raghavan Iyer,
      and that in that book the translation is attributed to Pico Iyer
      (son/relative
      of Raghavan?). Now Pico Iyer is a well-known travel writer, but if he's
      also an expert in Coptic, I see no evidence of it among his writings.
      So there's that mystery. The other mystery is how the name of 'Nancy
      Johnson' entered the picture - assuming that the reports are correct
      that the "translation" was not attributed to her in the Iyer book.

      At the time that Mr. Jensen's report surfaced, Steve Davies had a
      file on his site containing the so-called "Nancy Johnson Translation".
      I don't know where he got it from, but when the question of authorship
      was raised, he removed any reference to it, so apparently he was
      satisfied that there was at least a definite possibility of plagiarism.
      I myself haven't seen the Iyer book, but since folks continue to ask
      me about this "translation" from time to time, I intend to get the book
      to check it out for myself. In the meantime, if anyone has any relevant
      information, please do tell.

      Mike Grondin

      Ref: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/GospelofThomas/message/21743,
      a message from Christian Jensen (to Joe Mendoza?) dated Jun 27, 2001.
    • Christian Jensen
      Nothing like seeing my name in print to bring me out of hibernation. Mike, you are absolutely correct. Here are details on the book. Concord Grove Press PO Box
      Message 2 of 9 , Nov 28, 2006
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        Nothing like seeing my name in print to bring me out of hibernation.

        Mike, you are absolutely correct. Here are details on the book.

        Concord Grove Press
        PO Box 959
        Santa Barbara, CA 93102

        First Edition: December 25, 1983
        ISBN 0-88695-005-8
        Fourth Printing: October 2, 1988
        Copyright 1983 The Pythagorean Society

        Contents
        Part 1
        The Gnostic Transmission
        The Gospel According to Thomas
        The Mystery of Christos by H.P. Blavatsky
        The Message of Jesus by Raghavan Iyer

        Part 2
        Gnostic Theogony by Elton Hall
        Treatise on the Ressurection
        Aprocryphon of John
        Evangelium Veritatis
        Song of the Pearl
        The Voice Divine by Louis Claude de Saint-Martin
        Glossary

        In the front of the book, there is this statement: "The Gospel
        According to Thomas was discovered in 1947 amongst the Nag Hammadi
        manuscripts in Egypt. Whilst the entire library of long lost codices
        sheds new light on the origins of Christian tradition, this brief
        gospel might well be the earliest record of the utterances of Jesus.
        Accessible to the agnostic as well as the mystic, these one hundred
        and fourteen stanzas are compellingly rendered by Pico Iyer in the
        spirit of the original Coptic. The aphoristic text is illuminated by
        additional selections from Gnostic Christian sources. Two instructive
        essays, 'the Mystery of the Christos' by H.P. Blavatsky and 'The
        Message of Jesus' by Raghavan Iyer, are accompanied by two
        introductory articles, 'The Gnostic Transmission' and Gnostic
        Theogony' by Elton Hall. The poem 'The Voice Divine' by Louis Claude
        de Saint-Martin concludes the selections. A glossary of terms is
        included."

        There is a biography of Raghavan Iyer available on Amazon. Or, you
        may visit this: http://www.theosophytrust.org/tlodocs/RNI_biography.php

        CJ
      • Michael Grondin
        Hi Christian- Glad to see you re still around. I ve dug up a few more facts relevant to this issue, though I still have no idea who Nancy Johnson is or how her
        Message 3 of 9 , Nov 29, 2006
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          Hi Christian-

          Glad to see you're still around. I've dug up a few more
          facts relevant to this issue, though I still have no idea
          who Nancy Johnson is or how her name came to be
          associated with the translation in question.

          1. From the archives: I see that we had a discussion
          back in July of 2001 on this same subject:

          http://groups.yahoo.com/group/gthomas/message/3963
          http://groups.yahoo.com/group/gthomas/message/3987

          (I see from this that you were the one who told Davies
          about this, resulting in his removing it from his site.)

          2. Raghavan Iyer (1930-1995) was in fact Pico's father.
          No evidence, however, that Pico shares his father's
          Theosophical views, and nothing I can find about Pico
          having had any training in Coptic. He's well-educated,
          though, so he might have. (It'd be nice to contact Pico
          directly, but I can't find any email address for him.)

          3. "Sacred Texts" is apparently an alternate title for
          the book mentioned earlier.

          4. I've written to the Reluctant-Messenger website
          to ask them to change the author's name on their text,
          but I don't expect a positive result, and anyway this isn't
          the only place the text appears. Since stamping out web
          misinformation is rather like fighting the hydra, a more
          fruitful approach might be to create a counter-text, i.e.,
          to put the text up somewhere, properly attributed to Iyer,
          and with an explanatory note that it's elsewhere erroneously
          attributed. Web-searchers would presumably find this
          among their results, and would take heed.

          Regards,
          Mike G.
        • Christian Jensen
          Hi MIke, Great idea about putting up a site with the proper info. Unfortunately, I don t have the means to do so. I would be able to help in any way if someone
          Message 4 of 9 , Nov 29, 2006
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            Hi MIke,

            Great idea about putting up a site with the proper info.
            Unfortunately, I don't have the means to do so. I would be able to
            help in any way if someone else was to post the info. Maybe S. Davies
            would be interested. Let me know if I can help.

            You might be able to contact Pico through one of the magazines he
            writes for. Just an idea. :)

            ~Christian
          • Michael Grondin
            Hi Christian- I ve been hard at work the last hour or so copying the source-code from one of the Nancy Johnson translation pages on the web, suitably altering
            Message 5 of 9 , Nov 29, 2006
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              Hi Christian-

              I've been hard at work the last hour or so copying
              the source-code from one of the Nancy Johnson
              translation pages on the web, suitably altering it,
              and uploading it to my site. See
              http://www.geocities.com/mwgrondin/IYERTRAN.HTM

              Hopefully, Google and other web-search spiders
              will soon pick it up. It's not yet linked to any of my
              pages, but I may post an essay to my main page
              and link to it from that. (I don't want to put it in my list of
              Thomas translations, cuz I don't think it's a good one.)

              Regards,
              Mike
            • Judy Redman
              Maybe it would be better to refer to it as a paraphrase. It reminds me rather of the Living Bible or The Message. Such things probably have their places, but
              Message 6 of 9 , Nov 30, 2006
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                Maybe it would be better to refer to it as a paraphrase. It reminds me
                rather of the Living Bible or The Message. Such things probably have their
                places, but IMHO they're probably even less useful for text like Thomas that
                hasn't been well worked over for centuries.

                Judy

                -----Original Message-----
                From: gthomas@yahoogroups.com [mailto:gthomas@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of
                Michael Grondin
                Sent: Thursday, 30 November 2006 4:15 PM
                To: gthomas@yahoogroups.com
                Subject: Re: [GTh] The Strange Case of the Nancy Johnson Translation

                Hi Christian-

                I've been hard at work the last hour or so copying the source-code from one
                of the Nancy Johnson translation pages on the web, suitably altering it, and
                uploading it to my site. See http://www.geocities.com/mwgrondin/IYERTRAN.HTM

                Hopefully, Google and other web-search spiders will soon pick it up. It's
                not yet linked to any of my pages, but I may post an essay to my main page
                and link to it from that. (I don't want to put it in my list of Thomas
                translations, cuz I don't think it's a good one.)

                Regards,
                Mike




                ------------------------------------------------------------------------
                Gospel of Thomas Homepage: http://home.epix.net/~miser17/Thomas.html
                Interlinear translation: http://www.geocities.com/mwgrondin/x_transl.htm

                Yahoo! Groups Links
              • Christian Jensen
                Hi Mike, Yeah, it isn t a translation. It is a rendering . I hope this helps sort things out. ~Christian ... [Non-text portions of this message have been
                Message 7 of 9 , Nov 30, 2006
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                  Hi Mike,

                  Yeah, it isn't a translation. It is a "rendering". I hope this helps
                  sort things out.

                  ~Christian

                  On Nov 29, 2006, at 9:14 PM, Michael Grondin wrote:

                  > Hi Christian-
                  >
                  > I've been hard at work the last hour or so copying
                  > the source-code from one of the Nancy Johnson
                  > translation pages on the web, suitably altering it,
                  > and uploading it to my site. See
                  > http://www.geocities.com/mwgrondin/IYERTRAN.HTM
                  >
                  > Hopefully, Google and other web-search spiders
                  > will soon pick it up. It's not yet linked to any of my
                  > pages, but I may post an essay to my main page
                  > and link to it from that. (I don't want to put it in my list of
                  > Thomas translations, cuz I don't think it's a good one.)
                  >
                  > Regards,
                  > Mike
                  >
                  >
                  >



                  [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                • Michael Grondin
                  Just to give notice that I ve added two Short Notes to my main page. One of them is basically the note I wrote to the list some time back on the number of
                  Message 8 of 9 , Nov 30, 2006
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                    Just to give notice that I've added two "Short Notes"
                    to my main page. One of them is basically the note I
                    wrote to the list some time back on the number of
                    books in the jar. The other is called "The Strange
                    Case of Nancy Johnson", and links to the Iyer page
                    I uploaded yesterday. What these short notes have
                    in common is that they're both intended to counter
                    continuing misinformation.

                    Mike Grondin
                  • Judy Redman
                    Hmmm. Just slowed down for the week and re-read this. I didn t *mean* to sound arrogant and dismissive, but I suspect that s how this probably comes across.
                    Message 9 of 9 , Dec 1, 2006
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                      Hmmm. Just slowed down for the week and re-read this. I didn't *mean* to
                      sound arrogant and dismissive, but I suspect that's how this probably comes
                      across. From my perspective, paraphrases or 'renderings' are useful for
                      texts that have been around for a very long time, so that people are so
                      familiar with them that they take them for granted and don't really *read*
                      them. A paraphrase can highlight a different way of understanding the text
                      to the traditional reading of it. What it usually does for me is to send me
                      back to the original to see if you can *really* get that from it.

                      My personal experience makes me very wary of people who twist text so that
                      they can use it as the basis of some unhelpful theology or another. Mostly
                      I have worked with text that I (and they) regard as Scripture, and therefore
                      authoratitive, so there is much more at stake than there is when you're more
                      interested in what the people who wrote it and used it understood it to
                      mean, which is how I work with Thomas.

                      So I think the point I was *trying* to make was that paraphrases/renderings
                      have their place, but I don't think it's in "scholarly" examination of texts
                      and I am not sure that Thomas has had the time to get so stale that there's
                      a big need for a paraphrase/rendering.

                      Judy

                      -----Original Message-----
                      From: gthomas@yahoogroups.com [mailto:gthomas@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of
                      Judy Redman
                      Sent: Thursday, 30 November 2006 8:27 PM
                      To: gthomas@yahoogroups.com
                      Subject: RE: [GTh] The Strange Case of the Nancy Johnson Translation

                      Maybe it would be better to refer to it as a paraphrase. It reminds me
                      rather of the Living Bible or The Message. Such things probably have their
                      places, but IMHO they're probably even less useful for text like Thomas that
                      hasn't been well worked over for centuries.

                      Judy

                      -----Original Message-----
                      From: gthomas@yahoogroups.com [mailto:gthomas@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of
                      Michael Grondin
                      Sent: Thursday, 30 November 2006 4:15 PM
                      To: gthomas@yahoogroups.com
                      Subject: Re: [GTh] The Strange Case of the Nancy Johnson Translation

                      Hi Christian-

                      I've been hard at work the last hour or so copying the source-code from one
                      of the Nancy Johnson translation pages on the web, suitably altering it, and
                      uploading it to my site. See http://www.geocities.com/mwgrondin/IYERTRAN.HTM

                      Hopefully, Google and other web-search spiders will soon pick it up. It's
                      not yet linked to any of my pages, but I may post an essay to my main page
                      and link to it from that. (I don't want to put it in my list of Thomas
                      translations, cuz I don't think it's a good one.)

                      Regards,
                      Mike




                      ------------------------------------------------------------------------
                      Gospel of Thomas Homepage: http://home.epix.net/~miser17/Thomas.html
                      Interlinear translation: http://www.geocities.com/mwgrondin/x_transl.htm

                      Yahoo! Groups Links






                      ------------------------------------------------------------------------
                      Gospel of Thomas Homepage: http://home.epix.net/~miser17/Thomas.html
                      Interlinear translation: http://www.geocities.com/mwgrondin/x_transl.htm

                      Yahoo! Groups Links
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