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The Father's Kingdom

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  • Michael Grondin
    I d like to explore some factual background for something that Judy R. wrote on her blog recently, viz.: I think the use of Father [in Gos Thom] lines up with
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 22, 2009
      I'd like to explore some factual background for something
      that Judy R. wrote on her blog recently, viz.:

      "I think the use of Father [in Gos Thom] lines up with the notion
      that we are reading the secret sayings of Jesus that only those
      "in the know" get to hear."

      In fact, however, the Greek word 'pater' ('father') is used very, very
      frequently in the NT gospels to refer to a divine being, so there's
      something not right with the above statement. Perhaps Judy was
      thinking of the use of the phrase 'kingdom of the Father', since the
      situation with that wording is strikingly different. Offhand, one would
      think that what with the Lord's prayer prominently invoking the coming
      of the kingdom of the Father, that that phrase would occur frequently
      throughout the gospels. But it doesn't. In fact, I've been able to find
      only _one_ use of that phrase in the entire NT - at Mt 26:29 ("... I will
      not drink of this [wine] from now until ... I drink it new with you in my
      father's kingdom.") In stark contrast, Coptic Thomas refers to the
      Father's kingdom seven times (once as 'k. of my father', six times
      as 'k. of the Father') - even with fewer overall uses of the the word
      'kingdom' (24) than are found in Matt and Luke.

      The reason for this is that Mark and Luke overwhelmingly prefer
      'the kingdom of God', while Matthew overwhelming prefers 'the
      kingdom of the heavens'. (John's few mentions are pretty evenly
      split between 'KofG' and 'my kingdom'.) In Coptic Thomas, however,
      'KofG' is never used, and even 'k. of the heavens' is used less
      frequently (3 times) than 'k. of the/my father'. Here's the frequency
      counts and references that I've compiled:

      MeNTERO - 24 total occurrences
      2 as 'his kingdom' (21,103) << not other-worldly references
      3 as 'k. of the heavens' (20,54,114)
      1 as 'k. of my father' (99)
      6 as 'k. of the father' (57,76,96,97,98,113)
      12 as simply 'the kingdom'

      Of the 6 occurrences of 'k. of the father', five are comparisons
      of the kingdom to a person doing something; of these, three
      compare it to a man, two to a woman (as Ariadne noted).

      As to the Greek fragments, I seem to recall that there are some
      differences with the Coptic, but I think the content of the fragments
      is too meagre to allow us to draw any firm conclusions about how
      'kingdom' was used in the three Greek mss of Thomas. What does
      seem clear is that, of the qualified forms, Coptic Thomas prefers
      'k. of my/the Father', and we are left wondering why that form is so
      infrequent in the NT, given the apparent importance of "the Lord's
      Prayer". Could it be that that's an indication that that prayer wasn't
      one that "the Lord" taught his disciples?

      Mike Grondin
      Mt. Clemens, MI
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