Re: [GTh] Re: Not Taste Death
- Hi, Paul -
> 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 ortwo-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
> There may be at least two cases in which the Thomas and Johncommunities 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 thesesayings 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
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 atJn 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 ofexamples 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 toinvolve 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.
- Kevin Johnson
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- --- In email@example.com, "jmgcormier" <cobby@...> wrote:
> in the Coptic language, the word for "obeying" is in fact anintensive form of the verb "to hear"... My suspicion is then
that "hearing and obeying" have the same "extended meaning" ...
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
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,
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
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.
- --- In firstname.lastname@example.org, "Kevin Johnson" <achilles377@...> wrote:
> I suppose this means that you have ruled out the possibility of aone-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
- "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
- 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.
- Paul quotes Kevin as writing to him:
> The critical example from GTh that you have omitted is Logion 79Sorry, I should have caught this earlier. There must be some confusion,
> (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."
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.
- 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
> The short answer to the question of how Lk 11:28 was translatedRemembering the quote (but forgetting the discussion), I searched the group
> 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.)
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.
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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