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Re: [GTh] Re: Not Taste Death

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  • Kevin Johnson
    Hi, Paul - ... 85) and also at Jn 8:52. A variant, not see death, occurs once in Thomas (GTh 111) and also at Jn 8:51. Five of these sayings are from the
    Message 1 of 7 , Aug 4 8:09 PM
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      Hi, Paul -

      You wrote:

      > The phrase, "not taste death," occurs four times in Thomas (GTh 1, 18, 19,
      85) and also at Jn 8:52. A variant, "not see death," occurs once in Thomas
      (GTh 111) and also at Jn 8:51. Five of these sayings are from the Gospel of
      Thomas and two are from the Gospel of John.

      This is true, although the phrase, "not taste death," is also found in each
      of the synoptics (Mt. 16:28; Mk. 9:1; Lk. 9:27). In addition, Heb. 2:9
      contains the phrase "taste death." So, while the phrase is not unique to GJn
      and GTh, the application of this phrase to a saying regarding the words of
      Jesus is specific to these two gospels.

      The variant phrase, "not see death," occurs in Psalm 89:48.

      > A closer look at these seven sayings suggests either coincidence or
      two-way communication between the Thomas and John communities.

      I suppose this means that you have ruled out the possibility of a one-way
      influence in either direction, which I don't believe can be excluded without
      evidence to the contrary. Another possibility here that cannot be ruled out
      a priori is that both documents were influenced by a common oral or written
      tradition.

      > There may be at least two cases in which the Thomas and John
      communities exchange doctrinal jabs. In GTh 1, "whoever discovers the
      interpretation of these sayings (Gk: LOGON)" will not "taste death."
      However in Jn 8:52, "whoever keeps my saying (Gk: LOGOS)" will not
      taste death. The distinction between "know" and "keep" appears to be a
      significant and doctrinal.

      We should keep in mind here that GTh 1 does not actually use the verb
      "know." What is rendered here as "discovers the interpretation of" is not
      exactly the same as the "know" that appears in GTh 18 & 19.

      > GTh 18 and GTh 19 also refer to those who
      "know," while later orthodox NT writers refer to those who "keep."
      Examples include keep the word (Gk: LOGOS) (1Jn 2:5, Rev 3:8)

      Good examples, but don't forget Luke 11:28.

      > The original is GTh 1, "Whoever discovers the interpretation of these
      sayings will not taste death." These were amplified in GTh 18 and GTh
      19. Later, one of the authors of John introduced a doctrinal shift
      from "know" to "keep." Here "keep" means "observe," as in "keep the
      sabbath" or "observe the sabbath." In doing so John introduces a vital
      doctrine: it is not the one know knows, but the one who is loyal, who
      lives.

      Hmm... has John introduced this change? The critical example from GTh that
      you have omitted is Logion 79 (the parallel to Luke 11:28) which Mike
      Grondin rendered from the Coptic in a post earlier this year as:

      "More blessed are they who listen to the word of God
      which (or who) keep it."

      Now this is definitely a reference in GTh to keeping the word (logos) as
      opposed to knowing it. In other words, the idea of keeping the word was
      already present in GTh, which could be considered fatal to your argument,
      unless you want to add this saying to your list of later modifications to
      GTh (see below).

      > John also changed "taste death" to "see death." This occurs at
      Jn 8:51-52. Jn 8:51 reads "not see death" and the following Jn 8:52,
      "not taste death".

      Both phrases, "taste death" and "see death," occur in both GJn and GTh, as
      you point out. The odd thing in this case is that in John 8:51, Jesus says
      "not see death" and then, in John 8:52, "the Jews" immediately misquote him
      as saying "not taste death." Why the difference? Is the change intentional
      and, if so, is the discrepancy intended to be meaningful?

      > Later Thomas was modified by the addition of
      examples of doing, rather than simply knowing, in order to escape
      death. "Had he been worthy [he would] not [have tasted] death" (GTh
      85:2); "whoever is living from the living one will not see death" (GTh
      111:2). Note GTh 111 uses "see death" rather than the original "taste
      death." Here two attributes from the Gospel of John - "see" (not
      "taste") and action (not knowledge) - suggest GTh 85 and GTh 111 were
      composed in reaction to the doctrinal shift in John.

      This is where you are going to have to add GTh 79 to the list of sayings in
      GTh that were modified later if you are going to sustain your argument. But
      all this presumes a very complex relationship between the two documents, a
      very fluid stage to the composition of different sections of Thomas, and a
      rather strong influence of GJn on (a re-write of) GTh, which is otherwise
      not very apparent, especially since the aphoristic style of GTh as a whole
      is much more reflective of the sayings sections of the synoptic gospels than
      the type of long soliloquies that GJn seems to be so fond of.

      > There are other ways of reconstructing these, but all appear to
      involve some sort of two-way doctrinal competition between the gospels
      of Thomas and John.

      Raymond Brown examined the relationship between GTh and GJn long ago ("The
      Gospel of Thomas and St John's Gospel," New Testament Studies, 9, 1962/63,
      pp. 155-177) and he held that GTh has been composed predominantly of
      synoptic-like saying to which has been added a Johannine-like gloss in
      certain places (a word here or a phrase there) but to a very different
      purpose (a more gnostic-like purpose) than they serve in John. He concluded
      that "In our study we have found very little evidence of an intricate
      blending of the two traditions... Personally, we are inclined to believe
      that the Johannine elements came into this source not from any contact with
      John itself, but from an intermediary which used John." (In a footnote, he
      suggests, following Gartner and Braun, that one such source could have been
      the Odes of Solomon.) He then adds, "We emphasize that this is only one
      possible interpretation of the evidence we have presented." So, while Brown
      tends to rule out a direct influence of GJn upon GTh, the relationship
      between the two Gospels remains an open question (though Brown does not seem
      to consider the possibility of a direct influence of GTh on GJn). At any
      rate, I recommend this article, if you haven't read it already, for a more
      detailed discussion of the relationship between the two gospels.

      Regards,
      - Kevin Johnson


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    • Paul Lanier
      ... intensive form of the verb to hear ... My suspicion is then that hearing and obeying have the same extended meaning ... Hi Maurice, Thank you for your
      Message 2 of 7 , Aug 6 10:30 AM
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        --- In gthomas@yahoogroups.com, "jmgcormier" <cobby@...> wrote:

        > in the Coptic language, the word for "obeying" is in fact an
        intensive form of the verb "to hear"... My suspicion is then
        that "hearing and obeying" have the same "extended meaning" ...

        Hi Maurice,

        Thank you for your idea on the Coptic "hearing" vs. "obeying." A
        similar theme, "hearing" vs. "doing," is of course also a prominent
        theme in James. I am suggesting that John 8:51-52 may be a
        polemic against the Thomas community. Perhaps John is characterizing
        the Thomas community as one which hears but does not obey (whether or
        not that is actually an accurate representation of the Thomas
        community). Perhaps even the author is saying that those who do not
        do as the John community does are not truly obedient (keeping the
        word/saying).

        In GTh 1 the true disciple is "whoever finds (Grk. EURISKW, G2147:
        finds, sees, perceives) the interpretation (Grk. ERMHNEIAN, G2058:
        interpretation, translation, hermeneutic) of these sayings" (LOGION,
        G3051: oracles of God). But in John 8:52 it is "whoever keeps (Grk.
        THREW, G5083: observes, keeps) my saying" (Grk. LOGOS, G3056: word,
        saying).

        Early usage of G5083 continued, while that of G2058 did not. One
        possibility is that both were technical terms that came to convey
        specific doctrines regarding the value of "knowing" over against the
        value of "doing."

        Usage of G5083 similar to that in Jn 8:52 continues in later
        Christian writings (Heb 7:4, 1Jn 3:17, 1Tim 6:14, 2Tim 4:7, Rev 2:26,
        etc). However G2058 occurs only twice, both in Paul (1Cor 12:10, 1Cor
        14:26). That makes a lot of sense if by the early second century the
        Roman wing of the church had discarded G2058 in favor of G5083.

        I think this sort of doctrinal competition - ascribing words to Jesus
        that discredit a competing Jesus community - is common in John. For
        example, the story of Doubting Thomas (Jn 20:24-25) counters the
        assertion by Thomas that Jesus did not rise from the dead. Likewise
        Jesus corrects Philip: "Do you not believe that I am in the Father
        and the Father is in me?" (Jn 14:10). Both of these read like
        doctrinal corrections to competing Jesus communities that have lesser
        developed doctrines.

        This sort of mechanism, I think, explains the rapid growth of NT
        scripture in the early church as communities failed to resolve
        doctrinal disagreements. These communities engaged in active dialog,
        competing alongside each other for adherents.

        regards, Paul
      • Paul Lanier
        ... one-way influence in either direction, which I don t believe can be excluded without evidence to the contrary. Another possibility here that cannot be
        Message 3 of 7 , Aug 9 8:36 PM
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          --- In gthomas@yahoogroups.com, "Kevin Johnson" <achilles377@...> wrote:

          > I suppose this means that you have ruled out the possibility of a
          one-way influence in either direction, which I don't believe can be
          excluded without evidence to the contrary. Another possibility here
          that cannot be ruled out a priori is that both documents were
          influenced by a common oral or written tradition.

          Hi Kevin. Maybe I have been careless here. I would think that, for
          shared sayings at the earliest stages of composition or redaction,
          what is expected is two-way influence. This would happen naturally as
          divisions between two competing factions give rise to either
          concession or exclusion. One or both sides establish doctrinal
          argument by reinterpreting or inventing new sayings. In John the
          lengthy discourses indicate a highly developed form of this
          phenomenon. I think this is also visible in John's story of Doubting
          Thomas and his correction to Philip. Both strongly suggest the author
          counters teachings of rival Jesus communities. Likewise 2Jn 7-9 refers
          to those who deny Jesus' humanity and have left the John community.
          The warning in vss. 10-11 indicates this alternate teaching is still
          active and is considered a very serious threat.

          Of course the parallel to Luke 11:28 indicates GTh and Jn may have
          been influenced by a common tradition. Thank you for pointing this out.

          > The critical example from GTh that you have omitted is Logion 79
          (the parallel to Luke 11:28) which Mike Grondin rendered from the
          Coptic in a post earlier this year as: "More blessed are they who
          listen to the word of God which (or who) keep it."

          Thank you very much for this crucial observation. I do think the
          complete saying could indeed be late, for several reasons:
          - Like Jn 8:51-52, GTh 79 includes elements of knowing ("listen") and
          keeping;
          - "More" reads like the intent is to surpass the earlier Logia 54, 68, 69.
          - The tersest reconstruction of GTh 79 is (arguably) "Lucky is the
          womb that has not conceived." This is consistent with Macks
          observation that "Q bristles with critical judgements on truths held
          to be self-evident and social conventions that most people would have
          taken for granted" (BL Mack 1993: The Lost Gospel. HarperSanFrancisco,
          p. 105). I would suggest the rest of the saying is preparation (79:1),
          reinterpretationg (79:2) and emphasis ("More blessed," "and the
          breasts who have not given milk."
          - The typical GTh introduction, "Jesus said," has been displaced to
          accomodate 79:1.
          - Mack has Lk 11:27-28 // QS 31 (Q3, c. 75 CE).

          > Raymond Brown examined the relationship between GTh and GJn long ago
          ("The Gospel of Thomas and St John's Gospel," New Testament Studies,
          9, 1962/63, pp. 155-177) and he held that GTh has been composed
          predominantly of synoptic-like saying to which has been added a
          Johannine-like gloss in certain places (a word here or a phrase there)
          but to a very different purpose (a more gnostic-like purpose) than
          they serve in John.

          Thank you, I will read it. I may be placing more importance on John's
          "Doubting Thomas" story than others do. I consider it solid evidence
          that the author has created this account to target a belief of the
          Thomas community, namely that Jesus did not experience physical
          resurrection. I think both communities, John and Thomas, were active
          and responsive in the development of their written teachings.

          I think that is supported indirectly by Funk, et al in The Five
          Gospels (Figs 7 and 9). In these the Sayings Gospels is
          contemporaneous with with the first edition of GTh, c. 50-60 CE. That
          is easily early enough for the Thomas and John (and Paul) communities
          to have begun active dialog (indeed, it could be no earlier!). The
          pointed references to the antichrist in 2Jn occur later - perhaps much
          later - and this suggests the John and Thomas communities remained in
          active doctrinal dialog for perhaps an extended period of time.

          regards,
          Paul Lanier
        • Michael Grondin
          ... Sorry, I should have caught this earlier. There must be some confusion, as I would never have translated L79.2 like that. For one thing, 79.2 contains the
          Message 4 of 7 , Aug 9 8:56 PM
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            Paul quotes Kevin as writing to him:
            > The critical example from GTh that you have omitted is Logion 79
            > (the parallel to Luke 11:28) which Mike Grondin rendered from the
            > Coptic in a post earlier this year as: "More blessed are they who
            > listen to the word of God which (or who) keep it."

            Sorry, I should have caught this earlier. There must be some confusion,
            as I would never have translated L79.2 like that. For one thing, 79.2
            contains the word 'Father', not 'God'. Secondly, there's no 'more' there.

            Mike G.
          • Kevin Johnson
            Hi, Mike - Sorry, my mistake. What happened was that I looked back for your version of this saying from a discussion we had earlier this year. In message #7894
            Message 5 of 7 , Aug 11 5:48 PM
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              Hi, Mike -

              Sorry, my mistake. What happened was that I looked back for your version of
              this saying from a discussion we had earlier this year. In message #7894 (
              http://groups.yahoo.com/group/gthomas/message/7894 ), you listed what I
              quoted as your translation of the Coptic, but it was your translation of the
              Coptic of ***Lk 11:28*** and not GTh 79.2.

              I had sent you an image of the Coptic of Lk. 11:28 and you had written in
              response:

              > The short answer to the question of how Lk 11:28 was translated
              > in ancient Sahidic is that it _does_ contain an equivalent of the
              > conjunction 'and', though not the word 'and' itself. The Coptic
              > reads as follows:

              > "More blessed are they who listen to the word of God
              > which (or who) keep it."

              > The basic relevant difference between the Sahidic translation
              > of Lk 11:28 and GTh 79.2 is this:

              > Lk 11:28 -- ET-ARE2 (which keep)
              > GTh79.2 -- AY-ARE2 (they [have] kept)
              > This confirms the subtle but significant difference between these
              > parallels, which is unfortunately hidden by harmonizing translations.
              > (There are other differences, but this one is mostly ignored.)

              Remembering the quote (but forgetting the discussion), I searched the group
              messages for your translation, found it, saw the line: "The Coptic reads as
              follows:" and took the quote without seeing that you were rendering the
              Coptic of Luke and not Thomas. Duh. That should teach me to be more careful
              next time I'm quoting someone.

              Good catch.

              - Kevin

              On 8/9/08, Michael Grondin <mwgrondin@...> wrote:
              >
              > Paul quotes Kevin as writing to him:
              > > The critical example from GTh that you have omitted is Logion 79
              > > (the parallel to Luke 11:28) which Mike Grondin rendered from the
              > > Coptic in a post earlier this year as: "More blessed are they who
              > > listen to the word of God which (or who) keep it."
              >
              > Sorry, I should have caught this earlier. There must be some confusion,
              > as I would never have translated L79.2 like that. For one thing, 79.2
              > contains the word 'Father', not 'God'. Secondly, there's no 'more' there.
              >
              > Mike G.
              >
              >
              >


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