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Re: [GTh] Vegetarianism in L11.3?

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  • sarban
    ... From: Michael Grondin To: gthomas@yahoogroups.com Sent: Wednesday, September 22, 2010 4:50 PM Subject: [GTh] Vegetarianism in L11.3? ... I have no problem
    Message 1 of 5 , Sep 22, 2010
       
      ----- Original Message -----
      Sent: Wednesday, September 22, 2010 4:50 PM
      Subject: [GTh] Vegetarianism in L11.3?
       
       
      What struck me about this was the following sentence:
      > ... the fact that [GTh] contains Syriac themes and principles e.g. asceticism,
      > celibacy, and vegetarianism also argues that it is indeed a Syriac document.
       
      I have no problem with Syriac origin, but vegetarianism? My guess is that
      this comes from L11.3:
       
      > In the days when you(pl) consumed/ate what was dead, you made it alive.
      > [But] When you are in the light, what will you do?
       
      If this is taken literally rather than metaphorically, I can see how it might be
      interpreted as a reference to meat-eating (the "dead" being the flesh of dead
      animals, I suppose). Chan (not alone in this, BTW) apparently takes the second
      sentence to suggest that one who is "in the light" doesn't do that anymore.
       
      Hi Mike
       
      I am not sure if this helps the interpretation of this obscure saying, but Hippolytus "Refutation of all Heresies" book 5 attributes a parallel saying to the Naassenes/Ophites "If you ate dead things and made them living, what will you do if you eat living things ?"
       
      The neatness of this saying suggests that it may have a claim to be earlier than the version in Thomas. 
       
      Andrew Criddle 
    • Michael Grondin
      ... Yep. This agrees with Deconick (p.79, TOGTT), but the Naassene version makes even less sense than the Coptic, if that s possible. Symmetry would seem to
      Message 2 of 5 , Sep 23, 2010
        Andrew Criddle writes:
        > ... Hippolytus "Refutation of all Heresies" book 5 attributes a parallel
        > saying to the Naassenes/Ophites "If you ate dead things and made
        > them living, what will you do if you eat living things ?" The neatness
        > of this saying suggests that it may have a claim to be earlier than the
        > version in Thomas.

        Yep. This agrees with Deconick (p.79, TOGTT), but the Naassene
        version makes even less sense than the Coptic, if that's possible.
        Symmetry would seem to demand that the answer to the question as
        stated above is either that (1) the living things one eats become dead
        (which is unlikely) or that (2) the living things one eats get transformed
        to a higher plane (whatever that is). Another possibility, I suppose, is
        that since there's no clear answer to the consequent, it may be taken as
        a criticism of the antecedent. But that also seems unlikely. Maybe it's
        just one of those murky sayings that pass for wisdom simply because
        no one can understand it. (But see below.)
         
        Interestingly, Steve Davies unwittingly (because he doesn't mention the
        Hippolytus quote) ties the Coptic back into the Naassene. Commenting
        on the Coptic version (GT Annotated, p.12), he writes:
         
        > The implicit answer to the question "what will you do when you arrive
        > into light?" is "eat living things"; in saying 111, we hear that "Anyone
        > living from the living will not die."
         
        So maybe the relationship between the two versions of the saying is this:
        Naassene question: What will happen if you eat living things?
        ... implied answer: You'll become enlightened.
        Coptic question: What will happen if you become enlightened?
        ... implied answer: You'll eat living things.
         
        If that's it, it isn't so murky after all, and it becomes understandable how
        the one could have developed out of the other.
         
        As to the matter of vegetarianism, Davies mentions it, but in an inconsistent
        way. At the end of his brief remarks on 11.3, he writes:
         
        > Such sayings [as 11.3 and 111] support a vegetarian criticism of meat-eating,
        > because eating "dead things" or animal flesh seems to be a practice that is
        > ended when one begins to live from the living.
         
        But at the outset of his remarks, he says that 11.3 "highlights the fact that
        living people depend on eating dead plants and animals." (italics mine)
        Obviously, vegetarians still eat dead plants, so how can 11.3 have been
        understood as a recommendation for vegetarianism? (Unless it was thought
        that plants don't "live" in the same way that animals do?)
         
        But here's another way of looking at 11.3: maybe what's really going on is
        that the apparent theory of food-consumption is being used as the basis
        of a specific metaphor wherein the "dead things" that one "eats" are
        written words. Recall Rev 10:10 ("I took the little book out of the angel's
        hand and ate it ..."). Odd, of course, but that's because it was evidently
        intended to be taken literally. As metaphor, however, compare our
        "I devoured the book".
         
        If "eating" is (sometimes) a metaphor, what about "drinking"? Here, one
        can readily recall L108.1 ("Whoever drinks from my mouth will become
        like me") and L13.5 ("Because you drank, you have become drunk from
        the bubbling spring I've measured out.") "Drinking from X's mouth" was
        evidently a metaphor for listening to oral transmission, which in turn suggests
        that "eating" may have been a metaphor for reading written transmissions.
         
        Based on this nice little distinction (which may not bear up under intense
        scrutiny, I admit), the "dead things" that the living, but as yet unenlightened,
        person may have been understood to have "eaten" (and thus made "living") may
        have included non-Christian writings. (Recall that the Prophets are described
        as "dead" compared to Jesus.) Since Jesus is claimed to BE "the light" in L77,
        to "come into the light" - or better, to become enlightened - was presumably
        to become a follower of Jesus. So the "living things" that one would "eat"
        after becoming enlightened would presumably be Christian writings
        (including of course, Gnostic-Christian ones, as they believed).
         
        An alternative view of "living things" that the enlightened (i.e., Christian)
        person could consume would be the consecrated bread and wine. This
        view is upheld by DeConick and Valantasis, as I recall. It doesn't, however,
        preclude the interpretation above, since the possibility of multiple intended
        interpretations can't ever be ruled out.
         
        Whew. This has taken a lot out of me. Hope I don't have to eat my words.
         
        Mike
      • Bob Schacht
        ... You may be on the right track here, but instead of thinking metaphor, I suggest thinking allegory, given the popularity of allegorical reasoning among
        Message 3 of 5 , Sep 23, 2010
          At 01:30 PM 9/23/2010, Michael Grondin wrote:
           
          ...But here's another way of looking at 11.3: maybe what's really going on is
          that the apparent theory of food-consumption is being used as the basis
          of a specific metaphor wherein the "dead things" that one "eats" are
          written words. Recall Rev 10:10 ("I took the little book out of the angel's
          hand and ate it ..."). Odd, of course, but that's because it was evidently
          intended to be taken literally. As metaphor, however, compare our
          "I devoured the book".

          You may be on the right track here, but instead of thinking "metaphor," I suggest thinking "allegory," given the popularity of allegorical reasoning among early Christians (e.g., Origen et al.)

          Bob Schacht
          Northern Arizona University

           
          If "eating" is (sometimes) a metaphor, what about "drinking"? Here, one
          can readily recall L108.1 ("Whoever drinks from my mouth will become
          like me") and L13.5 ("Because you drank, you have become drunk from
          the bubbling spring I've measured out.") "Drinking from X's mouth" was
          evidently a metaphor for listening to oral transmission, which in turn suggests
          that "eating" may have been a metaphor for reading written transmissions.
           
          Based on this nice little distinction (which may not bear up under intense
          scrutiny, I admit), the "dead things" that the living, but as yet unenlightened,
          person may have been understood to have "eaten" (and thus made "living") may
          have included non-Christian writings. (Recall that the Prophets are described
          as "dead" compared to Jesus.) Since Jesus is claimed to BE "the light" in L77,
          to "come into the light" - or better, to become enlightened - was presumably
          to become a follower of Jesus. So the "living things" that one would "eat"
          after becoming enlightened would presumably be Christian writings
          (including of course, Gnostic-Christian ones, as they believed).
           
          An alternative view of "living things" that the enlightened (i.e., Christian)
          person could consume would be the consecrated bread and wine. This
          view is upheld by DeConick and Valantasis, as I recall. It doesn't, however,
          preclude the interpretation above, since the possibility of multiple intended
          interpretations can't ever be ruled out.
           
          Whew. This has taken a lot out of me. Hope I don't have to eat my words.
           
          Mike
        • Jack Kilmon
          From: Bob Schacht Sent: Thursday, September 23, 2010 10:17 PM To: gthomas@yahoogroups.com Subject: Metaphor or allegory? Re: [GTh] Vegetarianism in L11.3? At
          Message 4 of 5 , Sep 24, 2010
             

            Sent: Thursday, September 23, 2010 10:17 PM
            Subject: Metaphor or allegory? Re: [GTh] Vegetarianism in L11.3?

            At 01:30 PM 9/23/2010, Michael Grondin wrote:

            ...But here's another way of looking at 11.3: maybe what's really going on is
            that the apparent theory of food-consumption is being used as the basis
            of a specific metaphor wherein the "dead things" that one "eats" are
            written words. Recall Rev 10:10 ("I took the little book out of the angel's
            hand and ate it ..."). Odd, of course, but that's because it was evidently
            intended to be taken literally. As metaphor, however, compare our
            "I devoured the book".

            You may be on the right track here, but instead of thinking "metaphor," I suggest thinking "allegory," given the popularity of allegorical reasoning among early Christians (e.g., Origen et al.)

            Bob Schacht
            Northern Arizona University


            If "eating" is (sometimes) a metaphor, what about "drinking"? Here, one
            can readily recall L108.1 ("Whoever drinks from my mouth will become
            like me") and L13.5 ("Because you drank, you have become drunk from
            the bubbling spring I've measured out.") "Drinking from X's mouth" was
            evidently a metaphor for listening to oral transmission, which in turn suggests
            that "eating" may have been a metaphor for reading written transmissions.
             
            Based on this nice little distinction (which may not bear up under intense
            scrutiny, I admit), the "dead things" that the living, but as yet unenlightened,
            person may have been understood to have "eaten" (and thus made "living") may
            have included non-Christian writings. (Recall that the Prophets are described
            as "dead" compared to Jesus.) Since Jesus is claimed to BE "the light" in L77,
            to "come into the light" - or better, to become enlightened - was presumably
            to become a follower of Jesus. So the "living things" that one would "eat"
            after becoming enlightened would presumably be Christian writings
            (including of course, Gnostic-Christian ones, as they believed).
             
            An alternative view of "living things" that the enlightened (i.e., Christian)
            person could consume would be the consecrated bread and wine. This
            view is upheld by DeConick and Valantasis, as I recall. It doesn't, however,
            preclude the interpretation above, since the possibility of multiple intended
            interpretations can't ever be ruled out.
             
            Whew. This has taken a lot out of me. Hope I don't have to eat my words.
             
            Mike

             In 1st century Aramaic "lachma" (bread) and "hamara" (wine) are idioms for teachings, written or oral. Drinking and eating, in Aramaic, are idioms for learning from a teacher whose teachings are "bread and wine."  This imagery abounds in Jesus' sayings with such phrases as:

            Feed my sheep
            I am the bread of life
            What goes in the mouth (what you are taught) does not defile but what comes
            out of the mouth (what you teach) can defile you.
            Give us the bread (instruction) we need day to day (the Lord's Prayer)
            It is not meet to take the children's (Jews) bread (teachings) and cast it to the dogs (gentiles).

            Jesus' body/bread and blood/wine is his teachings. Drinking and eating is learning.  Drinking "poison" is learning bad stuff.
             
            I think that "Eating what is dead" refers to written or oral teachings or law that is supplanted by Jesus "bread" and hence brings "light."  I think that part of L11 goes back in some unedited form to Jesus and was used in this Gnostic logion composed by the Gnostic editor.
             
            Regards,
             
            Jack
             
            Jack Kilmon
            San Antonio, TX

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