[gthomas] Re: Mysterious syntactical facts
- Thanks for your response, Jon, especially for pointing out the practical
necessity of line-counting in the production of the NH codices. One can get
a feel for the problem by taking a bunch of blank sheets of paper and
folding them in the middle. Immediately you realize that the bottom sheet
constitutes both the first page and the last, etc. So if you start copying
something into this home-made "book" without some planning, you run the
risk of having too many blank pages at the end, or (worse) of overshooting
the mark and having stuff left over with no page to put it on.
The natural assumption is that if the Copts had had their "druthers", they
would have wanted each text to end at or near the bottom of a page, and the
next text to start at the top of the next page. If this assumption is
correct, then the fact that texts often ended in the middle of page, and
that the next text was started on the same page, would seem to indicate an
"overshoot" situation with respect to the first text, with an attempt to
correct the situation by beginning the next text on the same page, rather
than making the matter worse by skipping to the top of the next page. This
gives the appearance that the Copts did some planning, but were unable to
be exact - much depending, evidently, on the writing style of the
individual scribe. I'm not really happy with this scenario, since I would
have thought that the scribes would be more restricted as to the content of
each line, and the number of lines per page, but the evidence seems to
As to your question about the order of the NH codices, Robinson says this
in NHLe (p. 11):
> The Coptic Museum in Caro, where the Nag Hammadi library is kept,In addition to the fact that a numbering based in part on "state of
> has assinged a number to each book. At the time this was done, the
> numeration was thought to be the order in which they would be pub-
> lished, which in turn reflected a value judgment in terms of their
> importance and state of preservation.
preservation" is guaranteed to be arbitrary, I assume that when Robinson
talks about a judgment as to the relative "importance" of each book, he
means "importance to us", not "importance to them" (the originators).
Otherwise, codex II would surely have been codex I, because of its uniquely
ornate cover, as well as its contents. But what came to be called 'codex I'
was the famous "Jung codex", so-called because it found its way for a time
into the hands of C.G. Jung, thereby marking it in the minds of some as
"the most important". It wasn't, of course. (It's probably not even one of
the top three.)
The books weren't numbered or titled originally, of course, and so one of
the few methods we have of distinguishing between them is their covers.
Robinson (in NHLe) distinguishes two groups of covers, plus a third
miscellaneous category, based on quality and style of cover (the "grade A"
and "grade B" are my designations):
Grade A covers: II*, VI, IX, X
Grade B covers: IV*, V, VIII, XII
miscellaneous : I, III*, VII, XI
(*AOJ is the lead text in these three books)
Robinson comments (NHLe, p.15):
> The two groups of covers plus four miscellaneous covers, and theWere the Christian-gnostic Copts who hid the jar (a minority group of)
> one group of scribal hands plus miscellaneous scribes, may indicate
> that the Nag Hammadi library is a secondary merging of what was
> originally a series of smaller libraries or isolated books. This
> would seem to be confirmed by the distribution of duplicates. No
> one codex contains two copies of the same work, nor is there a
> duplicate tractate among the books of one group of covers.
residents of the several Pachomian monasteries around the area of Nag
Hammadi? I personally think all the evidence points that way, including the
likelihood that the attempt to preserve these books was directly related to
a "purge" of Pachomian monasteries undertaken by their new and
overly-zealous archimandrite Shenoute in early fifth century. Up until that
time, the monasteries of the upper Nile had, for both religious and
practical reasons, enjoyed a great deal of independence from the central
church authorities far away in Alexandria.
Oh, BTW, although I did give the number of lines in GOT and GOP in my
earlier message, I failed to point out that GOP is almost exactly twice the
length of GOT (1234 vs 668). Now you take out that line 280 ...
The Coptic GThomas, saying-by-saying
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