Re: [GTh] Thomas and Healing
An observation on your interesting post.
The two GT logia you quote also resonate strongly with the Manichaean
system, where the highest caste in that religion, the Kphalpale (Syr.
ܩܦ̈ܠܦܠܐ = 'Many heads' masc) and the Zaddikatha (Syr. ܙܕ̈ܝܩܬܐ = 'Righteous
women') would not engage in any way with the secular world but kept
themselves aloof (L.31), allowing only others to feed them (L.14) and
claiming to be the only ones who could 'refine the light' in others, a
concept which might be related to the healing concept in both of these
GT logia. It was apparently, all the Manichaean leaders were allowed to
do with their time.
See the very interesting essay on the Manichaean system written by
Frances Crawford Burkitt in Mitchell, C. W. 1912. 'S. Ephraim's prose
refutations of Mani, Marcion and Bardaisan' volume II, beginning on page
cxxxi. Burkitt draws on many sources, including Ephrem of Nisibis, Titus
of Bostra, Augustin of Hippo, Theodore Bar Koni, Moshe bar Kepho and
stoic pagan philosophy.
So perhaps the 'healing' Thomas refers to, could be a reference to
Manichaean leaders 'refining the light'? I wonder how well such an
explanation might account for other references to healing found in the
GTh? Has anyone ever studied a possible link between the GTh and Manichaism?
Paul Lanier wrote:
> 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?
> Paul Lanier
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- 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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