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Correspondence with Stephen Patterson

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  • Michael Grondin
    My correspondence with Marvin Meyer having come to an unsatisfactory close, I wrote to Stephen Patterson last Monday to see if he would be willing to discuss
    Message 1 of 4 , May 12, 2008
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      My correspondence with Marvin Meyer having come to an
      unsatisfactory close, I wrote to Stephen Patterson last Monday
      to see if he would be willing to discuss his translations with me.
      At first, the indications were good. He was much more forth-
      coming than Meyer, who had written less than half a dozen
      sentences each time. Interestingly, although Patterson seemed
      to agree with the (unsound) "Anthropos Principles" as I stated
      them to him, he offered a different justification for his translation
      of 'rwme' - namely that "... in today's English 'man' [has] become
      very gender-specific and particular ...". Be that as it may (and I
      pointed out to him that folks are still able to understand the non-
      gender-specific sense of 'man', even if they don't use it in their
      own writings or speakings), this is still not a good reason to
      eliminate 'man' entirely from Thomas translations, since there
      are certainly some contexts within Thomas where the gender-
      specific sense of 'man' is what was intended.

      Unfortunately, Patterson hasn't answered my second note. I gave
      it a few days, thinking that he might be mulling over his response,
      but it appears now that he doesn't intend to respond. I find this very
      disappointing. In fact, both he and Meyer have been diminished in
      my eyes. I believe that scholars worthy of the name ought to be willing
      to discuss the reasons for their decisions. Heck, I've been challenged
      before, and I've never taken personal affront or refused to dialogue.
      But I'll let the reader be the judge as to whether I said anything in the
      note quoted in its entirety below that would have caused Patterson
      to decide not to respond to it:

      ---------------------------------------------------------

      Hi Steve,

      I was delighted with your note. It gave me what I was looking for,
      which was insight into the reasoning behind the absence of the
      word 'man' from some translations of Thomas. I may not agree
      with that reasoning, but I think it needs to be clearly stated and it
      needs to be defensible, if translation decisions based on it are
      to be considered sound.

      One matter that needs to be cleared away is the notion that the
      Coptic word RWME corresponds to, is synonymous with, or is
      equivalent to, the Greek word ANTHRWPOS. Actually, it isn't.
      My investigation of early Sahidic translations of the Greek NT
      revealed that RWME was used to translate not only ANTHRWPOS,
      but ANHR as well. The implications of this, as I see it, are two:

      1. One can't assume that any and every instance of RWME in
      a Coptic text has ANTHRWPOS behind it, and
      2. The concept of RWME in the Coptic mind must have been
      ambiguous, but in some cases definitely male (as in ANHR).

      The second point I wish to make about Coptic, before turning
      to consideration of 'anthrwpos' is one that Marv Meyer mentioned
      to me in a brief correspondence we had last week. He said that
      Coptic had words for 'male' and 'female', so the elimination of
      the word 'man' wasn't as bleak as I described (no occurrences
      of the word 'man', but every occurrence of 'woman' retained).
      This is true as far as it goes, but the words 2OOYT and C2IME
      aren't treated on a par with each other in your translation. The
      latter is sometimes translated 'female', sometimes 'woman',
      but the former is never translated 'man', even in L114.2, where:

      "... she too may become a living spirit resembling you men"

      ... would have been much more natural than the awkward:

      "... she too may become a living spirit resembling you males".

      BTW, while we're on this subject, have you noticed that the TCG
      version of your translation actually has one 'man' in it? L63.1 has
      'rich man' in the 2nd edition of TCG (don't know about the 1st),
      and it apparently wasn't corrected in the 3rd edition (I don't have
      the 3rd edition either, but it's been put online by PBS). The number
      of "scribal variations" to be found in the various versions of the SV
      is somewhat amusing, I must say, in this electronic age.

      OK, on to 'anthrwpos'. One thing I think is definitely needed here
      is consistency between the JSem translations of Thomas and the
      NT. If that can't be achieved, then I think it should be stated how
      and why the two differ in translational principles.

      The great issue of how to translate 'anthrwpos' seems to me to
      be a very contentious one. Aside from your reasoning (which I'll
      get to below), I've read stuff from both sides, including this online:

      http://www.bible-researcher.com:80/anthropos.html

      As to your reasoning, I'm not sure how to understand it, or how
      to assess the strength of it (if I'm talking like a logician, that's
      because I am one, by inclination and training). You write:

      "... in today's English 'man' [has] become very gender-specific
      and particular."

      What seems to be true about it is that most every _new usage_
      of 'man' in modern-day English is like this. But it can't be the case,
      I think, that even the younger generation fails to _understand_
      the generic (?) use of the word 'man', for if that were so, they
      would be mightily confused when they heard such sayings as
      "Man doesn't live by bread alone" or "What does it profit a man...?"
      If they didn't understand this sense of the word 'man', they would
      be thinking of males, and wondering why these sayings were talking
      about men and excluding women.

      I could go on with this, but it isn't my purpose here to present a
      complete contrary case. I just wanted to indicate some of the
      serious objections that've come to mind. You've probably heard
      most of it before, but I think that these issues should be addressed
      in a clear statement of justification if the JSem decides to go in
      that direction. Whatever they decide with respect to 'anthrwpos',
      however, the situation with 'rwme' is different, since it may sometimes
      mean 'anhr'. Seems to me that that calls for a case-by-case analysis,
      rather than a blanket treatment. Although it's possible, it's hard to
      believe that such a case-by-case analysis would yield the same
      result - namely, the total absence of 'man' from Thomas.

      Cheers,
      Mike Grondin
      ------------------------ (end of note to Patterson) ---------------------
    • Michael Grondin
      I m pleased to report that Steve Patterson has answered the note I copied to the list a couple days ago. I wrote back, mentioning a few new issues, but mainly
      Message 2 of 4 , May 14, 2008
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        I'm pleased to report that Steve Patterson has answered the
        note I copied to the list a couple days ago. I wrote back,
        mentioning a few new issues, but mainly responding to his
        statement that he doubted whether he and Meyer had made
        a blanket translational decision about 'rwme'. Below is my
        response in its entirety:
        ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

        Hi Steve,

        Thanks so much for your note. I've been down in the dumps this
        past week, wondering what I might have said that would have
        caused you to decide not to respond. I figured, though, that any
        really good scholar wouldn't mind being challenged. I'm relieved
        that you lived up to your rep and didn't disappoint!

        BTW, I've found a second 'man' in TCG. L35 starts out "One
        can't enter a strong man's house ...". Not 'rwme' this time (which
        is why I missed it at first), but again, it's 'person', not 'man', in T5G.
        Reporting this to our email list yesterday, I jokingly referred to TCG
        as the "black sheep" of the "Manless Family" of Thomas translations.
        (That's my sense of humor for you.)

        I'm very surprised to hear that there was no blanket treatment
        of 'rwme' in SV Thomas, since I feel very strongly that there are
        contexts where singular, gendered 'man' is what was intended.
        Particularly pertinent in this regard are five sayings that compare
        the kingdom to a human being doing something-or-other. Of those
        five, two (L96 and 97) compare the kingdom to a C2IME, which
        comes out 'woman' in those sayings. The other three (57, 98, 109)
        compare the kingdom to a RWME, and in every case SV has 'person'.
        What I ask myself is this: isn't it clear that the original intention was to
        compare the kingdom sometimes to a woman and sometimes to a man?
        - rather than sometimes to a woman and all other times to a person of
        unspecified gender? I think so, and it's for that reason that I find it
        almost impossible to believe that a case-by-case analysis wouldn't
        yield even one place in Thomas where the intention was to designate
        'man' in a gendered way.

        Well, that's where I'm coming from anyway. I'd still like to get in touch
        with Prof. Bethge or someone from the Berlin Working Group to find
        out what their thinking was in regard to the English translation of
        Thomas in SQE 15. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to locate a URL
        or email address yet. If you can be any help in this regard, I'd be very
        grateful. And thanks again for your comments thus far.

        Best,
        Mike G.
        ------------------------ (end of note to SP) -----------------------------
      • Andrew Bernhard
        Mike- Glad to hear Steven Patterson responded to your inquiry, but I think you should cut out the super-humble tone you re taking with them. It makes you sound
        Message 3 of 4 , May 16, 2008
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          Mike-



          Glad to hear Steven Patterson responded to your inquiry, but I think you
          should cut out the super-humble tone you're taking with them. It makes you
          sound like you're in awe of them when you don't need to be at all. They're
          just people.



          I don't care what letters they have after their name: YOU are doing THEM a
          favor by helping them refine their translations. You probably know the
          Coptic text of the Gospel of Thomas better than any other person on the
          planet. If they blow you off, it's their loss - don't get down in the dumps
          about it.



          Andrew





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        • Michael Grondin
          Thanks, Andrew. I needed that - for more than one reason. Among other things, I was beginning to feel that I was talking to myself on the list, since no one
          Message 4 of 4 , May 16, 2008
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            Thanks, Andrew. I needed that - for more than one reason.
            Among other things, I was beginning to feel that I was talking
            to myself on the list, since no one was responding. Re the
            Patterson correspondence, I am in awe of people who have
            reputable published works, but you're right about the obsequious
            tone in spots. I cringed when I re-read it. In other spots, though,
            my criticism seems very intense. Needs balance, I think.

            As to refining their translations, I don't think that's likely to happen.
            Their last translations are now over 10 years old, and I doubt
            if either one of them is going to revisit Thomas. That's part of the
            problem of writing to them - that it's old news to them now. I think
            the most likely impact my letters might have is that the two instances
            of 'man' that I found in TCG might be replaced by 'person' in the
            projected new edition that Patterson referred to. It'd be ironic if that's
            what happens. (Patterson said that he had forwarded my notes on to
            Bob Miller, the editor of TCG.) I didn't get the impression that Miller's
            revision is a wholly new SV, but if it is, or if I hear of any such thing,
            I'll do everything I can to make my views known.

            Mike G.
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