Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

Re: [GTh] The Three Words: Unwarranted Certainty

Expand Messages
  • Michael Grondin
    ... Of course, one thing to keep in mind is that three things is a very common theme in a wide range of writings. In the gospels, it runs from Matthew s
    Message 1 of 10 , Jul 29, 2009
    View Source
    • 0 Attachment
      > One interesting parallel to the three secret words in the Gospel
      > of Thomas is the passage from the Acts of Thomas
      >
      > http://www.tertullian.org/fathers2/ANF-08/anf08-100.htm
      >
      > And he [Thomas] began to say: O Jesus Christ, the secret mystery
      > which has been revealed to us, Thou art He who disclosest to us all
      > manner of mysteries, who hast set me apart from all my companions,
      > and who hast told me three words with which I am set on fire,
      > and I cannot tell them to others...

      Of course, one thing to keep in mind is that "three things" is a very
      common theme in a wide range of writings. In the gospels, it runs from
      Matthew's three groups of fourteen generations to John's having
      Jesus tell Peter three times "Feed my sheep". The tendency to
      group things into threes is probably inborn to the human species,
      since many of our jokes are tripartite ("a priest, a rabbi, and an
      Iman went into a bar ..." OK, I just made that up.) Sometimes things
      are repeated three times for emphasis, sometimes things are
      grouped into threes to make them seem more important, sometimes
      (as in our jokes) the first two of a threesome is a setup for the
      third, but under whatever guise, some threesome or other is pretty
      much bound to turn up wherever you look.

      Having said that, I'm struck both by the close allusion to L.13 in
      the above passage, and by what I sense as lonely lament in the
      words "he sets me apart from all my companions". Of course,
      we don't know what "companions" are in mind here, but it's hard
      to avoid the conclusion that they were probably other Christians.
      If so, what we have here may be a kind of sad confession that
      the Thomasines found themselves a distinct minority within
      Christianity, didn't see much hope of that changing, and could
      only cling to the consoling thought that they were the "chosen ones"
      who had possession of secrets withheld from other Christians.
      Unfortunately, if they followed the advice against procreation found
      in the Book and Acts of Thomas, all their new "sheep" would have
      had to have been recruited from outside, not born into the flock.
      Which is OK if the end of the world is just around the corner, but
      maybe not such a good strategy for long-term survival. (:-)

      Cheers,
      Mike
    • Ron McCann
      Thanks for a very interesting discussion, but:- If one stays within the four corners of the document- which is one of the cardinal rules for the Legal
      Message 2 of 10 , Jul 30, 2009
      View Source
      • 0 Attachment
        Thanks for a very interesting discussion, but:-

        If one stays within the four corners of the document- which is one of the cardinal rules for the Legal interpretation of documents, anyway- the only three "blasphemous" and shocking things that Jesus may have told Thomas, that I can see, which might provoke the others into stoning Thomas are found in 14, 1,2,3,:-

        "If you fast, you will being sin upon yourselves, If you pray, you will be condemned, and if you give to charity (alms), you will harm your spirits."

        ...all things mandated by the Law of Moses.

        Ron McCann
        Saskatoon, Canada
      • Roger Mott
        ... Hi Mike G. My thoughts are based on the premise that #13 was written after the 4 Gospels were circulated. Therefore, the 3 word theme seems to be lifted
        Message 3 of 10 , Jul 30, 2009
        View Source
        • 0 Attachment
          --- In gthomas@yahoogroups.com, "Michael Grondin" <mwgrondin@...> wrote:
          >
          > > One interesting parallel to the three secret words in the Gospel
          > > of Thomas is the passage from the Acts of Thomas
          > >
          > > http://www.tertullian.org/fathers2/ANF-08/anf08-100.htm
          > >
          > > And he [Thomas] began to say: O Jesus Christ, the secret mystery
          > > which has been revealed to us, Thou art He who disclosest to us all
          > > manner of mysteries, who hast set me apart from all my companions,
          > > and who hast told me three words with which I am set on fire,
          > > and I cannot tell them to others...
          >
          > Of course, one thing to keep in mind is that "three things" is a very
          > common theme in a wide range of writings. In the gospels, it runs from
          > Matthew's three groups of fourteen generations to John's having
          > Jesus tell Peter three times "Feed my sheep". The tendency to
          > group things into threes is probably inborn to the human species,
          > since many of our jokes are tripartite ("a priest, a rabbi, and an
          > Iman went into a bar ..." OK, I just made that up.) Sometimes things
          > are repeated three times for emphasis, sometimes things are
          > grouped into threes to make them seem more important, sometimes
          > (as in our jokes) the first two of a threesome is a setup for the
          > third, but under whatever guise, some threesome or other is pretty
          > much bound to turn up wherever you look.
          >
          > Having said that, I'm struck both by the close allusion to L.13 in
          > the above passage, and by what I sense as lonely lament in the
          > words "he sets me apart from all my companions". Of course,
          > we don't know what "companions" are in mind here, but it's hard
          > to avoid the conclusion that they were probably other Christians.
          > If so, what we have here may be a kind of sad confession that
          > the Thomasines found themselves a distinct minority within
          > Christianity, didn't see much hope of that changing, and could
          > only cling to the consoling thought that they were the "chosen ones"
          > who had possession of secrets withheld from other Christians.
          > Unfortunately, if they followed the advice against procreation found
          > in the Book and Acts of Thomas, all their new "sheep" would have
          > had to have been recruited from outside, not born into the flock.
          > Which is OK if the end of the world is just around the corner, but
          > maybe not such a good strategy for long-term survival. (:-)
          >
          > Cheers,
          > Mike
          >
          Hi Mike G.

          My thoughts are based on the premise that #13 was written after the 4 Gospels were circulated.

          Therefore, the 3 word theme seems to be lifted from (Jn 14:5-6) where Thomas is confused and asks a question. Jesus answers and says the 3 "sacred" words, Way, Truth, Life.

          I understand that the author of #13 was using the Gospels of Mt 16:13-17 and Jn 6:68-69 as both passages would be considered pro-Petrine.

          And finally the last line was about the Apostles [James and John] calling down fire from heaven to burn up the unbelievers. Lk 9:54. #13 reverses the fire stones to suggest that the "doubting" Thomas will burn up the questioning Apostles.

          P.S. IMO, here is a mystery--- fill in the other words from Gospel of Jn 14:6
          Way (hodos) is 8+140+4+200 =352 reduces to 1
          Truth (aletheia) is 1+30+5+9+8+5+10+1 = 64 reduces to 1
          Life (zoe) is 7+800+5 = 812 reduces to 2
          Father (pater) is 80+1+300+5+200 = 586 reduces to 1
          Death (thanatos) is 9+1+50+1+300+70+200 = 631 reduces to 1

          (Hope I calculated the Greek gematria correctly)

          Roger Mott
        • Ariadne Green
          Hello, As the intuitive mother of this group, I consider saying 13 as well 12 to be later addition to Gospel of Thomas and therefore not sayings of Jesus.
          Message 4 of 10 , Jul 30, 2009
          View Source
          • 0 Attachment
            Hello,
            As the intuitive mother of this group, I consider saying 13 as well
            12 to be later addition to
            Gospel of Thomas and therefore not sayings of Jesus. In my mind, the
            three words or three sayings aren't as relevant in the dialogue as is
            the interaction between Jesus and his disciples and Thomas'
            interaction with the others. And I am quite certain saying 14 would
            be provocative enough to be considered blasphemous by many.
            Logion 13 in my mind might have been constructed as a dramatization of
            the provocativeness of Jesus, and to punctuate saying 16.

            16. Jesus said, "Perhaps people think that I have come to cast peace
            upon the world. They do not know that I have come to cast conflicts
            upon the earth: fire, sword, war.
            For there will be five in a house: there'll be three against two and
            two against three, father against son and son against father, and they
            will stand alone."

            Ariadne Green


            On Jul 30, 2009, at 4:19 PM, Ron McCann wrote:

            > Thanks for a very interesting discussion, but:-
            >
            > If one stays within the four corners of the document- which is one
            > of the cardinal rules for the Legal interpretation of documents,
            > anyway- the only three "blasphemous" and shocking things that Jesus
            > may have told Thomas, that I can see, which might provoke the others
            > into stoning Thomas are found in 14, 1,2,3,:-
            >
            > "If you fast, you will being sin upon yourselves, If you pray, you
            > will be condemned, and if you give to charity (alms), you will harm
            > your spirits."
            >
            > ...all things mandated by the Law of Moses.
            >
            > Ron McCann
            > Saskatoon, Canada
            >
            >



            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          • Michael Grondin
            Hi Ron, I believe you re in good company. As I recall, Steve Davies made the same suggestion many years ago when we were discussing this. But let me compare
            Message 5 of 10 , Jul 30, 2009
            View Source
            • 0 Attachment
              Hi Ron,

              I believe you're in good company. As I recall, Steve Davies made
              the same suggestion many years ago when we were discussing
              this. But let me compare and contrast your suggestion with those
              of Riley and DeConick so as to illustrate my point that certainty on
              the identification of the three "words" can't be purchased cheaply
              (i.e., with anything short of a major argument).

              The way I would put it is in terms of criteria or conditions. What criteria
              should a candidate for the three "words" have to satisfy for it to be
              considered a good one? You suggest:

              c1: the "words" should be within the text

              You support this criterion by saying that it is "one of the cardinal rules
              for the Legal interpretation of documents". That, however, seems to
              be irrelevant, in spite of the fact that I tend to agree with you that the
              three "words" may in fact be within the text. More significantly, it's
              clear that Riley and DeConick don't believe that c1 is a necessary
              condition (since their candidates don't meet it). Rather, they might
              suggest the following criterion:

              c2: the "words" should be a natural followup to "I'm not your master"

              Riley's and DeConick's candidates meet c2. Yours doesn't, so you
              would presumably have to argue that c2 isn't a necessary condition.

              Is there any condition on which almost everyone agrees? Well, yes,
              but it's more problematic than it seems:

              c3: the "words" must be such as to have been considered blasphemous
              by Thomas' "companions"

              The difficulty with this condition is that it causes assumptions about
              what kind of folks Thomas' "companions" were. If Christian, what
              kind of Christians were they? Riley thinks of them as high-christology
              Christians, so that "I'm your twin (etc)" would be offensive to them.
              DeConick thinks of them as low-christology Christians (or even Jews),
              so that "I'm God" would be offensive to them. (You actually have the
              advantage on this one, since Jews and Christians of all stripes seem to
              have fasted, prayed, and given alms.)

              I think you can see the difficulties here. But just for the heck of it,
              let's pick another threesome that meets both c1 and c2, and c3 under
              the DeConickesque assumption that Thomas' companions are
              low-christology Christians at most. How about this one (77.1):

              1) "I'm the light above everything else"
              2) "I am everything"
              3) "Everything came out of me and everything opens up to me"

              Or how about L.108, which again meets all three conditions, but
              this time using a Rileyesque high-christology assumption for c3:

              1) "Whoever drinks from my mouth will come to be like me"
              2) "As for me, I will come to be as he is"
              3) "and the hidden things will appear to him"

              Admittedly, your candidate has the advantage of immediately
              following L.13.8, but this latter candidate has the advantage of
              a close thematic connection to an important part of L.13.5,
              viz., "Because you [Thomas] drank, you've gotten drunk from
              the bubbling spring I've measured out." (Which implies, of course,
              that Thomas has drunk from J's mouth and the others haven't.
              Which is why he gets to hear the three secret words.)

              But my purpose here is not to argue for one candidate over
              another. Rather, it's to indicate some of the complexities
              involved when one tries to pick one among many possibilities
              for the three "words". In fact, I see now that even in this
              extended analysis that I thought was relatively complete, I've
              left out what might be an important modification of c3, viz.,
              that even "one of the words" should be such as to have been
              offensive (to someone or other). Having arrived at the point of
              what I had thought would be the conclusion of this note, however,
              I'll have to leave it to the reader to judge how that affects the
              candidates discussed above. I'm satisfied that the general
              point is only enhanced by this additional complication.

              Cheers,
              Mike
            • Ron McCann
              Thanks Mike, Not so sure about 108. None of the three statements is offensive or blasphemous that I can see, and I think it fails on that criteria. Next, as
              Message 6 of 10 , Jul 30, 2009
              View Source
              • 0 Attachment
                Thanks Mike,

                Not so sure about 108. None of the three statements is offensive or blasphemous that I can see, and I think it fails on that criteria.

                Next, as you point out, any one of the "words" or "things" was, of itself , if repeated, supposed to be sufficient to trigger the "Blasphemy" response.

                That would certainly be the case in 14. All three trigger it.

                "I am your twin" ot "I am God" are things that might be found offensive, and pehaps Blasphemous (I am your twin ???) but where is the three things element there?

                Now 77 may be a good candidate. There are three sayings, and anyone claiming any on of them was true about himself could be speaking Blasphemy. But wouldn't Thomas say to his friends:-
                1) He (Jesus) is the light above everything else.
                2) He is everything.
                3) Everything came out of him, etc."

                Would these words then be thought Blasphemous by Jesus's other apostles? That's pretty much the way many view Jesus to-day- John's Logos- and presumably the Johannine community thought this was true about him. And would they consider such statements Blasphemy?
                But maybe.

                As for criteria C2, Frankly, I just don't get it. Why must there be any connection to " I am not your master/teacher".??? That's followed by the bubbling spring saying which explains why he is no longer Thomas's teacher. The cycle is complete. The narrative resumes. I can't see this an an important or connected criteria.

                As for the C1 criteria, isn't it irrelevant only because scholars don't use it? Perhaps it should be used. It's served the legal community well for centuries, and is used in cyptography and deciphering difficult archaeological texts. The rule is, that the first place you look, is to the rest of the document itself, and only after that do you start looking beyond it for your answer.

                It seems to me that only 14 meets the truly important criteria. But perhaps seen from the lofty heights of scholarship, these matters are never quite that simple.

                Ron McCann
                Saskatoon, Canada
                ----- Original Message -----
                From: Michael Grondin
                To: gthomas@yahoogroups.com
                Sent: Thursday, July 30, 2009 9:49 PM
                Subject: Re: [GTh] The Three Words: Unwarranted Certainty


                Hi Ron,

                I believe you're in good company. As I recall, Steve Davies made
                the same suggestion many years ago when we were discussing
                this. But let me compare and contrast your suggestion with those
                of Riley and DeConick so as to illustrate my point that certainty on
                the identification of the three "words" can't be purchased cheaply
                (i.e., with anything short of a major argument).

                The way I would put it is in terms of criteria or conditions. What criteria
                should a candidate for the three "words" have to satisfy for it to be
                considered a good one? You suggest:

                c1: the "words" should be within the text

                You support this criterion by saying that it is "one of the cardinal rules
                for the Legal interpretation of documents". That, however, seems to
                be irrelevant, in spite of the fact that I tend to agree with you that the
                three "words" may in fact be within the text. More significantly, it's
                clear that Riley and DeConick don't believe that c1 is a necessary
                condition (since their candidates don't meet it). Rather, they might
                suggest the following criterion:

                c2: the "words" should be a natural followup to "I'm not your master"

                Riley's and DeConick's candidates meet c2. Yours doesn't, so you
                would presumably have to argue that c2 isn't a necessary condition.

                Is there any condition on which almost everyone agrees? Well, yes,
                but it's more problematic than it seems:

                c3: the "words" must be such as to have been considered blasphemous
                by Thomas' "companions"

                The difficulty with this condition is that it causes assumptions about
                what kind of folks Thomas' "companions" were. If Christian, what
                kind of Christians were they? Riley thinks of them as high-christology
                Christians, so that "I'm your twin (etc)" would be offensive to them.
                DeConick thinks of them as low-christology Christians (or even Jews),
                so that "I'm God" would be offensive to them. (You actually have the
                advantage on this one, since Jews and Christians of all stripes seem to
                have fasted, prayed, and given alms.)

                I think you can see the difficulties here. But just for the heck of it,
                let's pick another threesome that meets both c1 and c2, and c3 under
                the DeConickesque assumption that Thomas' companions are
                low-christology Christians at most. How about this one (77.1):

                1) "I'm the light above everything else"
                2) "I am everything"
                3) "Everything came out of me and everything opens up to me"

                Or how about L.108, which again meets all three conditions, but
                this time using a Rileyesque high-christology assumption for c3:

                1) "Whoever drinks from my mouth will come to be like me"
                2) "As for me, I will come to be as he is"
                3) "and the hidden things will appear to him"

                Admittedly, your candidate has the advantage of immediately
                following L.13.8, but this latter candidate has the advantage of
                a close thematic connection to an important part of L.13.5,
                viz., "Because you [Thomas] drank, you've gotten drunk from
                the bubbling spring I've measured out." (Which implies, of course,
                that Thomas has drunk from J's mouth and the others haven't.
                Which is why he gets to hear the three secret words.)

                But my purpose here is not to argue for one candidate over
                another. Rather, it's to indicate some of the complexities
                involved when one tries to pick one among many possibilities
                for the three "words". In fact, I see now that even in this
                extended analysis that I thought was relatively complete, I've
                left out what might be an important modification of c3, viz.,
                that even "one of the words" should be such as to have been
                offensive (to someone or other). Having arrived at the point of
                what I had thought would be the conclusion of this note, however,
                I'll have to leave it to the reader to judge how that affects the
                candidates discussed above. I'm satisfied that the general
                point is only enhanced by this additional complication.

                Cheers,
                Mike






                ------------------------------------------------------------------------------



                No virus found in this incoming message.
                Checked by AVG - www.avg.com
                Version: 8.5.392 / Virus Database: 270.13.37/2273 - Release Date: 07/30/09 18:09:00


                [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
              • Michael Grondin
                Hi Ron, I first want to note with disapproval that both you and Roger quoted large amounts of material from my notes into yours. It s been awhile since I ve
                Message 7 of 10 , Jul 30, 2009
                View Source
                • 0 Attachment
                  Hi Ron,

                  I first want to note with disapproval that both you and Roger quoted
                  large amounts of material from my notes into yours. It's been awhile
                  since I've had to draw attention to this, but please bear in mind at all
                  times that only such material as is directly relevant should be quoted.
                  I know that emailers typically insert the entirety of a message to which
                  one is replying, but our protocols make it incumbent on our members
                  to remember to delete most or all of that before the message is sent.
                  It's best to do that right off the bat, rather than wait until the end, at
                  which point it's too easy to press "Send" without further thought.

                  The procedure that seems best here is to respond point-by-point
                  to your message. Hopefully, it won't get too confusing.

                  > Not so sure about 108. None of the three statements is offensive
                  > or blasphemous that I can see, and I think it fails on that criteria.

                  What I said about 108 is that it apparently counts as blasphemous
                  on _Rileyesque_ assumptions. Look back at my original note.
                  Riley's candidate is roughly this:

                  1) "I'm your twin"
                  2) "I'm your true companion"
                  3) "I'm your brother"

                  The reason that Riley thinks this is blasphemous is that it seems
                  to put Thomas on an equal footing with Jesus. It would thus be
                  thought to be blasphemous by Christians with a high christology,
                  as I put it in my last note.

                  > Next, as you point out, any one of the "words" or "things" was,
                  > of itself , if repeated, supposed to be sufficient to trigger the
                  > "Blasphemy" response.

                  Can't think why you would say "if repeated" ?? Also not clear
                  that it would be "any one" of the words. That's a plausible
                  interpretation to be sure, but DeConick interprets it to mean
                  the _first_ "word", since her candidate has a second word
                  that isn't blasphemous. (See below.)

                  > "I am your twin" [or] "I am God" are things that might be found
                  > offensive, and pehaps Blasphemous (I am your twin ???) but
                  > where is the three things element there?

                  You have to refer back to my original note. In later notes, I've
                  abbreviated a bit. For Riley's threesome, see above. DeConick's
                  threesome is the three Hebrew words meaning "I-am Who I-am".

                  > Now 77 may be a good candidate. There are three sayings,
                  > and anyone claiming any on of them was true about himself
                  > could be speaking Blasphemy. But wouldn't Thomas say to his friends:-
                  > 1) He (Jesus) is the light above everything else.
                  > 2) He is everything.
                  > 3) Everything came out of him, etc."

                  Sure, but that's confusing and irrelevant, because Thomas would
                  presumably put ANY candidate for the three words into the third
                  person, as above. I really don't know why they would stone Thomas,
                  but it surely wasn't because he would have put J's words in the
                  first person.

                  > Would these words then be thought Blasphemous by Jesus's
                  > other apostles? That's pretty much the way many view Jesus
                  > to-day- John's Logos- and presumably the Johannine community
                  > thought this was true about him. And would they consider such
                  > statements Blasphemy? But maybe.

                  I'm afraid this ignores the distinction I drew between Riley's
                  assumption about Thomas' companions, and DeConick's. Here,
                  you're looking at the matter in a Rileyesque way, thinking that
                  "Jesus' other apostles" (and whoever said anything about
                  _apostles_?) wouldn't be at all offended or think it blasphemous
                  that Jesus made such high claims about himself. But as I wrote
                  earlier, it depends on what you're assuming to be the beliefs of
                  Thomas' "companions". If you assume that the saying-writer
                  took them to be Johannine types, then you'll conclude that
                  they would have considered certain things to be blasphemous.
                  But if you assume that the saying-writer took them to be, say,
                  Ebionite types, then a whole different kind of thing will look
                  blasphemous. Problem is, there's no way to figure out what
                  was in the saying-writer's mind.

                  > As for criteria C2, Frankly, I just don't get it. Why must there
                  > be any connection to " I am not your master/teacher".???
                  > That's followed by the bubbling spring saying which explains
                  > why he is no longer Thomas's teacher. The cycle is complete.
                  > The narrative resumes. I can't see this an an important or
                  > connected criteria.

                  Well, OK, that seems to be a plausible response.

                  > As for the C1 criteria [3 words must be in the text], isn't it irrelevant
                  > only because scholars don't use it?

                  I'd say that they don't use it _in this case_ because it's irrelevant
                  to this case. The Acts of Thomas mentions the three words
                  also, but they apparently aren't there. If C1 were valid, the
                  three words would be in both texts, and hence seemingly
                  pretty easy to find. But there doesn't seem to be any such
                  threesome in both texts. In fact, I don't believe that anything
                  like L14 is in the Acts of Thomas. Shouldn't it be, if C1 is valid?
                  But as I now understand it, you would modify C1 to be
                  something like "look in the text first". Well fine, in general,
                  but remember that Acts Thom. says that the three words
                  are secret. So why should we expect them to be out in
                  the open?

                  > ... perhaps seen from the lofty heights of scholarship,
                  > these matters are never quite that simple.

                  It's been awhile since I've been accused of being a denizen
                  of "the lofty heights of scholarship". Generally, I try to keep
                  things as simple and clear as possible, for what I take to be
                  sound methodological reasons. But I don't believe in over-
                  simplifying either, and in the present case I do believe that
                  Riley and DeConick (who ARE denizens of the lofty heights)
                  have over-simplified the matter of identifying the 3 "words".

                  Regards,
                  Mike
                Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.