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Re: [GTh] Thomas and Healing

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  • Michael Grondin
    Hi Steven, Smoke-free regards ? Does that mean that you recently quit smoking? That would explain a lot (just joking :-). ... How s this from the
    Message 1 of 34 , Oct 8, 2008
      Hi Steven,

      "Smoke-free regards"? Does that mean that you recently
      quit smoking? That would explain a lot (just joking :-).

      OK, you wrote:
      > SRR: I have vaguely heard of the dualistic theological ideas around
      > light and dark from other 2nd century gnostic sources, but I am not so
      > sure whether Mani's more specific idea (that all matter is made partly
      > of light and partly of darkness) is known anywhere other than in his
      > religion, but I would be interested to be corrected on this issue.

      How's this from the (Valentinian?) Gospel of Philip:
      "Light and darkness, life and death, right and left, are brothers of
      one another. They are inseparable. Because of this, neither are
      the good good, nor the evil evil, nor is life life, nor death death.
      For this reason, each one will dissolve into its earliest origin.
      But those who are exalted above the world are indissoluble, eternal."
      (Isenberg translation from _The Nag Hammadi Library_, p.142)

      > SRR: I treat all evidence as neutral and all proof as subjective,
      > because a proof hinges upon one particular interpretation of the
      > evidence. Therefore, if it is possible to construe an alternative rational
      > explanation for the available evidence, then the original proof may be
      > invalid. If there is more than one possible explanation for the evidence,
      > then the matter is wide open and a consensus is meaningless.

      Where I would differ from you is with respect to "possible explanations",
      which are endless, and the acceptance of which would make any issue
      "wide open". Later in your note, however, you refer to plausibility, which
      is quite a different matter, so I'll assume that what you were getting at
      above (hinted at by the word 'rational') is plausibility rather than mere

      > SRR: Archeaological dating evidence usually has error bars, i.e. some
      > date, plus or minus so many years. How precise is the archaeological
      > dating for the object in question?

      Quoting Layton:
      P.Oxy.1: "Close parallels to this script may be found in the late second
      and early third centuries A.D. Thus the date of _shortly after A.D. 200_
      suggested by the original editors remains very plausible." (pp.96-97)
      P.Oxy.654: "It is probably to be dated somewhat later than P.Oxy.1,
      viz., in the _middle of the third century_." (p.97)
      P.Oxy.655: "Close parallels [to its script] firmly dated to the early third
      century can be readily found, and a date _between A.D. 200 and 250_
      is most likely." (p.98; underscores indicate his italicization)

      > SRR: ... is it not also possible that there are other plausable explanations,
      > for example:
      > 1. That GTh we now have in Coptic is a Manichaean version of an earlier,
      > non-Manichaean GTh without the Manichaean allusions mentioned in recent
      > posts?

      Whether this convoluted explanation is plausible or not would depend on
      whether there's persuasive evidence that the Coptic GTh has Manichaean
      elements. Even then, the supposed presence of Manichaean elements
      wouldn't show that Coptic GTh was a "Manichaean version", in the sense
      of having been made wholly consistent with Manichaeanism. It may well
      have absorbed ideas syncretistically from several sources.

      > Hence, an alternative explanation for the evidence [cited by Layton]
      > might be that it shows that a GTh existed before Mani fiddled with it.

      Well, that's not really a "hence", since this "alternative explanation" is
      exactly what Layton suggests, and is entirely independent of your #1.
      Indeed, it's like your #2:

      > 2. That Mani did not innovate his core religious ideas, but instead he
      > adopted earlier religious ideas he found in the GTh.

      You refer to this as "[an]other plausible explanation", but it's consistent
      with the explanation suggested by Layton - except that it goes rather
      too far, I think. My own guess is that Mani synthesized ideas that he
      found in several sources, making that synthesis his own, though it
      borrowed elements from several schools of thought.

      > [MG]: Earlier (p. 104) Layton wrote:
      > ... it remains possible that the Manichaean _Gospel_ was
      > equivalent to, or based on, our GTh."

      > SRR: Then Layton has suggested the first alternative explanation
      > above.

      If by "the first explanation above", you mean not your "hence"
      statement, but rather the idea that the Coptic GTh was a Manichaean
      version of a pre-Mani GTh, then no. When he says "equivalent to",
      I'm pretty sure he's not implying that Coptic GTh has Manichaean


      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Steven Ring
      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
      Message 34 of 34 , Oct 11, 2008
        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
        to you?

        Todi washlama,

        Jack Kilmon wrote:
        > ----- Original Message -----
        > From: "Roger Mott" <mottrogere3@...
        > <mailto:mottrogere3%40yahoo.com>>
        > To: <gthomas@yahoogroups.com <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
        > the
        > 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
        > placed
        > in the Ark of the Covenant. This symbolism probably arose among our
        > paleolithic ancestors who observed snakes shedding their skins and,
        > hence,
        > 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
        > cunning
        > (dangerous) matters or people (like the "Pharisees," the perennial
        > Christian
        > 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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