This morning I saw in a Facebook group I am following, a post that made me jump from excitement and persuaded me to break my silence in this blog!
Factoid of the day: there are 105 occurrences of nomina sacra for the name ‘Jesus’ in the Nag Hammadi Gospel of Thomas. The lacunae have been sufficiently resolved that this can be known with a high degree of confidence. But is it significant? I suggest that it is, and that furthermore it was most likely intentional. The number 105 is mathematically significant (and of course known to be so in antiquity) as the product of the only three consecutive odd primes: 3, 5, and 7. As to intentionality, the numeric value of the name ‘Thomas’ in Greek lettering is 1050. It is very likely, then, that Nag Hammadi Thomas was designed to contain exactly 105 places (not sayings) where Jesus is named.
Naturally, I commented today in the post thus:
This is a most interesting observation Michael Grondin!
Please check for some similar ideas in Old Nubian manuscripts, here:
Very excited indeed!!
And to make my point clear, I quote from my paper in Dotawo, vol. 1, pages 58-60, (section 4 of the entire article):
The unpublished manuscripts from Attiri: From the Liber Institutionis Michælis to Nubian literature about Michael
Fourteen manuscript fragments have been unearthed at Attiri. At least three of them seem to belong – on the basis of content, paleography and codicology – to one or more works relating to the archangel Michael. If one looks closer at the illustrated detail of one of the manuscripts from Attiri (fig. 1), we see that in the margin to the left of the first line of text, two letters and traces of a third one have been written. The two letters still visible clearly have a supra-linear stroke and this indicates that they are numbers in the ancient Greek numeral system. They form the number 66 and if the reading of the letter preserved very partially as a Ρ (rhō) is correct then the number is 166. What is the significance of this?
First of all, it should be pointed out that this is not the pagination of the manuscript because this can be seen on the top of both pages of this fragment (pp. 64 and 65). Moreover, it cannot be the numbering of the quires in which the codex was bound, because it is impossible to get 64 or 65 pages in 166 quires (or even 66 if, for the sake of the argument one would like to doubt the reading of Ρ before the other two letters). Luckily, such notes of numbers have been found in the margins of the text in another Nubian manuscript, specifically the manuscript preserving the Old Nubian version of the Liber Institutionis Michælis identified by Browne among the manuscripts from Qasr Ibrim. There, two numbers can be discerned: 136 and 137, on the same page and with 9 lines of distance between each other, in both cases left from a line where the name of the archangel Michael has been written. Browne suggested that the scribe was numbering each instance that the name of the archangel appeared in the text, which would mean that by page 65 the name of Michael had appeared 136 times.
This explanation fits the instance observed in the Attiri manuscript in two ways: First, in the only instance where the left margin is preserved next to a line where the name of Michael is written, 59 the number 166 appears exactly next to this line. The left margin is unfortunately not preserved next to the other lines where the name of the archangel is written. And second, the name of the archangel seems to have been written with a nearly similar, albeit not identical, frequency in the two codices, since in 63 pages of the Attiri codex there would have been 165 occurrences, while in 65 pages of the Ibrim codex no more than 135.
These observations have two additional implications. First, that all the works in the two codices were in one way or another related to Michael; and second, that these works were not the same – or not arranged in the same sequence – in the two codices. An intriguing hypothesis for the reconstruction of both codices appears: if we are to suppose that a complete codex would contain at least 300 pages, then the 64th, 65th, and 66th pages are to be placed be- tween 1⁄4 and 1⁄5 of the entire volume of the hypothetical codex, Then, if we again suppose that the occurrences of the name of Michael are to a certain degree evenly distributed, then by the end of the codex we would expect to have seen 4 to 5 times 151 occurrences (the average of 136 and 166) of the archangel’s name. In total, this means 675 occurrences. This number comes very close to number 689, the value of the cryptogram ΧΠΘ used as the ‘magical’ cipher of the name of Michael (Μ = 40, I = 10, X = 600, A = 1, H = 8, and Λ = 30, so 40+10+600+1+8+3 = 689 = ΧΠΘ).
Thus, we arrive at the following plausible conclusions: based on Browne’s suggestion that the numbers in the margins kept track of the number of occurrences of the name of Michael and on the different numbering appearing in the margins of pages with coinciding page numbers in the two different codices from Ibrim and Attiri, we can suggest that there was a tradition of compiling codices with works related to Michael, but either not necessarily the same works or not necessarily ordered in the same sequence. And based on a hypothetical average volume of a codex and a guess as to the distribution of the occurrences of writing the name of the archangel in such a volume, we can surmise that the total number of occurrences was 689, equalling the cryptogrammatic value of the name of Michael and thus imbuing the entire codex with the powers of the archangel as would be expected to appear when the ‘mystical’ number was formed, the cryptogram was written, and the archangel’s apotropaic powers were invoked.
In other words, Michael Grondin gave me the only other example of a codex or single literary work that is using as a structural element the numerical value of the name(s) of one or more of the main persons involved in its content!!
Shouldn’t we be looking out for more examples??