Thomas and Healing
- To what sort of healing does Thomas refer?
* L.14 If you fast, you will bring sin upon yourselves, and if you
pray, you will be condemned, and if you give to charity, you will harm
your spirits. When you go into any region and walk about in the
countryside, when people take you in, eat what they serve you and heal
[Cop. QERAPEUE] the sick [Cop. $WNE] among them. After all, what goes
into your mouth won't defile you; what comes out of your mouth will (SV).
* L.31 No prophet is welcome on his home turf; doctors don't cure
[Cop. QERAPEUE] those who know them (SV).
Here Thomas contrasts healing with prayer, fasting and charitable
giving. LL 6, 27, 104 supplement LL 14, 31:
* fast [Cop. NHSTEUE, LL 6,14,27,104] not from food but from the world
* those who fast create sin
* those who pray [Cop. $LHL, LL 6, 14, 104] will be condemned
* those give alms [Cop. ELEHMOSUNE, LL 6,14] create evil [Cop.
KAKON/KAKOS, LL 14, 45] spirits [Cop. PNA, LL 14, 29, 44, 53, 114].
Clearly Thomas values healing and condemns prayer, fasting and
almsgiving. This replaces traditional religious practices with a new
spiritual practice, healing. Likewise Thomas redefines the authority
of a prophet (Cop. PROFHTHS, LL 31, 52, 88). While the mission of a
prophet is popularly misunderstood (LL 52, 88), Thomas links the
prophet with the healer (L.31). This, along with L.14, suggests the
itinerant prophet brings healing.
There are at least three curious parallels between Thomas and Philo's
description of the Therapeutae (On the Contemplative Life, c. 10 CE).
Both value healing. Both the same technical term for it (Grk.
theraputae, Cop. therapeue). Both advocate solitude.
Philo, in attempting to determine the eponymous origin of the
"therapeutae and therapeutrides" (male and female healers), says
healing is not physical, but spiritual:
* They process an art of medicine more excellent than that in general
use in cities (for that only heals bodies, but the other heals souls
which are under the mastery of terrible and almost incurable diseases,
which pleasures and appetites, fears and griefs, and covetousness, and
follies, and injustice, and all the rest of the innumerable multitude
of other passions and vices, have inflicted upon them (1.2).
Thus spiritual healing resolves psychological disease, including those
associated with sin. Especially intriguing is the virtue of solitude
among Philo's healers:
* They take up their abode outside of walls, or gardens, or solitary
lands, seeking for a desert place, not because of any ill-natured
misanthropy to which they have learnt to devote themselves, but
because of the associations with people of wholly dissimilar
dispositions to which they would otherwise be compelled, and which
they know to be unprofitable and mischievous (2.20).
This resonates with fasting from the world in Thomas. Moreover
solitude is the spiritual discipline of a community of monks:
* the houses of these men thus congregated together are very plain,
just giving shelter in respect of the two things most important to be
provided against, the heat of the sun, and the cold from the open air;
and they did not live near to one another as men do in cities, for
immediate neighborhood to others would be a troublesome and
unpleasant thing to men who have conceived an admiration for, and have
determined to devote themselves to, solitude; and, on the other hand,
they did not live very far from one another on account of the
fellowship which they desire to cultivate, and because of the
desirableness of being able to assist one another if they should be
attacked by robbers. (25) And in every house there is a sacred shrine
which is called the holy place, and the monastery in which they retire
by themselves and perform all the mysteries of a holy life, bringing
in nothing, neither meat, nor drink, nor anything else which is
indispensable towards supplying the necessities of the body, but
studying in that place the laws and the sacred oracles of God
enunciated by the holy prophets, and hymns, and psalms, and all kinds
of other things by reason of which knowledge and piety are increased
and brought to perfection (3.24-25).
This recalls the theme in Thomas of reaching the Father's kingdom
alone (LL. 49, 75). Is healing in Thomas related to solitary
meditation on spiritual truths? If so, could these Thomas themes have
been transmitted by Philo, who cautioned against Caligula erecting a
statue of himself in the Jerusalem Temple (Embassy to Gaius 29-31),
possibly during a visit to Judea on his way to Rome in 39/40 CE?
- Shlama washayna Jack,
Your observation about a possible Aramaic idiom around 'they will take
up serpents' interests me, because it would make sense of this passage.
Is this an idea based on this passage alone, or are there some other
Aramaic or Syriac texts somewhere else, which suggested this conclusion
Jack Kilmon wrote:
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Roger Mott" <mottrogere3@...
> To: <firstname.lastname@example.org <mailto:gthomas%40yahoogroups.com>>
> Sent: Thursday, October 09, 2008 3:08 PM
> Subject: [GTh] Re: Thomas and Healing
> > --- "Michael Grondin" <mwgrondin@...> wrote:
> >> [Steven to Roger]:
> >>> ... whilst GTh L.77 would not give a Manichee any problems,
> >>> snake-worship is a much better explanation of GTh L.77 than
> >>> Manichaean dualism.
> >> How so? Remember that L.77 starts out by saying that "I am the
> >> light..." Does the "I" suddenly become a snake when it says
> >> "Split open a timber, I'm there"? Not for my money. One has to
> >> keep the entire context of a saying in mind, not just a part
> >> of it. Of course, there is one mention of snakes in GTh, in
> >> L.39.3, where it's recommended that the disciples become as
> >> innocent as doves and as cunning (phronimos) as snakes.
> >> That reference to snakes, however, doesn't seem particularly
> >> approving, let alone worshipful.
> >> Cheers,
> >> Mike
> > Hi Mike,
> > I just browsed Hippolytus Book 5 where he describes the Naassene
> > system as well as other systems. He seems to indicate the brazen
> > serpent that Moses placed on a pole for the Israelite healing in the
> > wilderness actually sparkled/glistened in the sunlight and therefore
> > was the apparent source of the light. Of course, Jesus later
> > identified with the "raised" serpent on a pole in the Gospel of John
> > (Jn 3:14). I understand there is a big difference in the raised
> > serpent (the wise one) and the one who has to "eat dust" and be
> > the lowest beast of the earth.
> > Regarding L 39.3; the parallel is Mt 10:16 and "phronimos" is
> > translated "wise". Traditionally there is "foolish wisdom" also.
> > IMO, the "snake in the grass' or the "snake in the woodpile" is
> > the "foolish" version.
> > Roger Mott
> > Loveland, Co.
> The snake has always been a symbol of healing, wisdom and immortality
> probably well into paleolithic times with the development of abstract
> thought and symbolic concepts. One of our oldest written examples of this
> symbology is the snake in the Epic of Gilgamesh who snatches the magic
> buckthorn plant, hence the secret of immortality, from Gilgamesh while he
> rested. Almost certainly, Gilgamesh is at least neolithic. The healing
> power of snakes is a concept that has survived for many millennia. The
> earliest example in Semitic text is found in a subterranean Semitic
> inscription in heiroglyphics in the pyramid of Unas and dating between
> 25th and 30th centuries BCE. It is in proto-Canaanite and are serpent
> spells to protect the mummy. Snakes and healing are represented in the
> Bible by the Nahash Nehosheth, The Brazen Serpent of Moses and later
> in the Ark of the Covenant. This symbolism probably arose among our
> paleolithic ancestors who observed snakes shedding their skins and,
> renewing and regenerating themselves. The snake continued to represent
> wisdom (knowledge of the secret of life) and healing even though venomous
> snakes represented danger. Aramaic idiom lies buried beneath the Coptic
> translated from Greek translated from AramaicGoT and the idiom HoOTHa
> nashquLON "handling serpents" for engaging in a difficult or dangerous
> enterprise has caused not-too-bright people to pass rattlesnakes
> around in
> Sunday school.
> I think the Thomas Login 39 N^os! is related, via its Aramaic
> substratum, to
> the idiom HoOTHa nashquLON and represents the handling of shrewd and
> (dangerous) matters or people (like the "Pharisees," the perennial
> bogeymen), something like our "can of worms." The snake as holding the
> secret knowledge of immortality would certainly appeal to Thomasine
> Gnostics...right up their alley.
> Jack Kilmon
> San Antonio, TX
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