Dear Jerome,

Thank you for all this wonderful information. I am not qualified to
evaluate what seem to me differing accounts; I wonder what you would
think of King's translation and commentary. I use it for a course in
Women's Studies to show them that there are many ways to address
questions of a religion (all the major ones I suppose) that has been
interpreted as based on a single god who is male (despite alternate
claims that god is spirit and without gender). We also read selections
from Rosemary Radford Reuther's collection, though it is now out of
print and I need to find an alternative. And they see the film Behind
the Veil--also now not available. I bought a used one online. But you
see I am not a Biblical scholar--just fascinated by religion. I read (at
various times depending on what I'm writing) religious literature, and I
think it is not sufficiently addressed in most feminist classes despite
the many feminist theologians. In any case, if you have a chance to look
at King's edition, I'd love to know your response. One theme of this
particular class is, in fact, recovery--of many kinds of texts. So this
one fits in both the topic of religion and the theme that ties it to
other material "recovered" after being neglected. Now I will have to do
some careful review of the topic of this one's publishing history.

This translation, by the way, is also very short--a few fragments but
quite continuous. It is also more than two and a half pages, but King
has photographed the pages, so the facsimile might be longer than your
print edition. In print, hers is almost 6 pages, but it includes
variants from each of the three versions.

the text from 1896 is in coptic and is entitled the Berlin Codex. An
Egyptologist, Carl Schmidt, set about translating right away but was
slowed from the beginning by missing and jumbled pages and then by WWI.
After he died in 1938, several kinds of setbacks continued for
others--including WWII. But according to King, "no new copies of Gospel
of Mary were found at Nag Hammadi," though two of the other texts
originally found with it were. It is all very complex, but she lists
three versions: the Berlin Codex (in Coptic), the Papyrus Rylands 463
(in Greek), and the Papyrus Oxrhynchus 3525 (in Greek). 


>>> Jerome Walsh 01/06/10 4:57 PM >>>

Dear Nancy,

My sources are two (that's all I have in my home library).

1. A reference collection, New Testament Apocrypha, vol. 1: Gospels and
related writings, by Edgar Hennecke, edited by Wilhelm Schneemecher,
English translation edited by R. McL. Wilson (Philadelphia: Westminster,
1963 [published in Great Britain by Lutterworth]). The German original
was published in 1959 by J. C. B. Mohr, Tuebingen. In that volume, the
"translation" of the Gospel of Mary appears to me to be, as you surmise,
not a complete rendering of the whole text, but a summary with
translations of selected passages (though this is not entirely
clear--see my remark below). Notes list a complete German translation,
with full Coptic text, from 1955, and an English translation (apparently
complete) in a book entitled Gnosticism: An Anthology, from 1961.

2. Also a reference collection, but intended for ease of access for
interested non-scholars, The Nag Hammadi Library, edited by James M.
Robinson ("third, completely revised edition"; San Francisco: Harper &
Row, 1988). [First edition was 1977. That's not bad, considering that
the Nag Hammadi library was not discovered until 1945, and the
translation team for this volume met first in 1966. The existence, and
perhaps even some version of the content, of a "Gospel of Mary" may have
been known, as you say, from the end of the nineteenth century, but from
a scholarly point of view one has to ask about the quality and
reliability of the textual witnesses at that time. Before the
discoveries at Nag Hammadi, I suspect that what was available was
relatively modern undated manuscript copies (many of them probably still
in liturgical use), and no one had gotten around to doing the
text-critical work necessary to establish a critical edition. Nag
Hammadi changed all that by providing MSS from the fourth century CE.
The critical editions of the Coptic texts were published in the
mid-1970s, and the first complete English translation appeared in 1977.
That's pretty impressive alacrity, I would say! And the availability of
a German translation in 1955 is even more amazing.] In the 1988 third
edition of The Nag Hammadi Library, the Gospel of Mary is presented as a
complete rendering of the extant material in Coptic and/or Greek (and
it's pretty short--less than two and a half pages--which may imply that
the version in New Testament Apocrypha is more complete that it
appears). It is headed by the following: "Introduced by Karen L. King;
Translated by George W. MacRae and R. McL. Wilson; Edited by Douglas M.
Parrott." In the book's Table of Contents, all four names are listed
with no further description of each's role.
I have no idea whether the Greek fragment King says was discovered in
1983 has been used in the 1988 translation or not. King's introduction
to the translation makes no mention of such a fragment.

Since both of these books are published by mainstream publishers in the
field of biblical studies, and the second, at least, is certainly
affordable (my copy still has a "half-price" sticker on it of $7.98--for
550 pages!), they are certainly not the sort of esoteric resource one
can only find in a research library. I have no doubt that the Robinson
is a standard text for courses on Gnosticism.

Jerry Walsh

From: Nancy Gish 
To: [log in to unmask]
Sent: Wed, January 6, 2010 11:29:19 AM
Subject: Re: Interesting examples--Eliot and internationalism

Dear Jerome,

Thanks for the information. It seems different from the "Introduction"
in my copy of King's 2003 text. She notes a German translation in 1955
as the first printed edition, and a new discovery of a Greek fragment in
1983. This 2003 version is King's translation (a new one) according to
the cover and publication page. MacRae and Wilson are listed in her
bibliography, but they look to me like sections of books of and on
Gnosticism rather than a single Gospel edited and introduced, as is this
one in 2003.

Perhaps what is new is a single book translated with extensive editorial
material, introduction, and commentary. So this would be a different
kind of text I think. The kind of text you note would not, I assume, be
readily available to teach with as this is. I think what I am seeing as
so important is the move from a version likely to be only in a library
or owned by scholars like yourself to an available and accessible book
in paperback that can be in an undergraduate curriculum. So perhaps it
emphasizes Guillory's point. Is that the case?

But I needed to go over it again to see that there is an earlier English
version. Thanks--I always appreciate knowledge; I certainly would never
resent a correction, which opens more value and understanding.

>>> Jerome Walsh 01/06/10 11:51 AM >>>

Dear Nancy,

I hope you will forgive a couple corrections of data. The Gospel of Mary
Magdalene has been available in English at least since the early 1960s,
and Karen King's piece on it was not a translation, but an introduction
to a translation by George W. MacRae and R. McL. Wilson; that
translation, with King's introduction, was published long before 2003.
My edition (called "third, completely revised edition") appeared in

Jerry Walsh, biblical lurker

From: Nancy Gish 
To: [log in to unmask]
Sent: Wed, January 6, 2010 10:06:15 AM
Subject: Re: Interesting examples--Eliot and internationalism

Dear Diana,

I'm not at all sure it is possible in practice. I also have not read The
Library of Babel, but the quotation from John Guillory is from a
discussion of the difference between a library and a school. (In
Cultural Capital) We tend to assume that the "important" literature is
what is taught in schools because that is what we know. So when Virginia
Woolf wrote, in 1929 in A Room of One's Own, that some enterprising
young women from Newnham and Girton should go to libraries and find out
what women were doing all those centuries, it turned out to be what
later feminist scholars did do. That is, there really was a mass of
writing by women; it just had not been distributed--reprinted,
published, reviewed, discussed, taught. A fascinating example is The
Gospel of Mary Magdala . It has been known about since the end of the
19th century, but an English translation was only published by Karen
King in 2003. It was there; it was just now known. Yet it is from the
2nd century, and there are 3 extant copies, one or two in Coptic which
was used by Egyptian Christians. That means it had to have been widely
known and circulated in the small Christian community of the time, given
how few mss. existed at all, let alone were saved, even in fragments.
And it is a fascinating representation of Mary and Jesus.

So Eliot's "mind of Europe" depended on the continued teaching of a
specific canon, not on the existing writings in libraries. So much is
now available that was lost. But how to distribute such a mass of
material is not something I know either--hence my question. It may mean
that at least new books be always available and more and more be made
so. But I personally think paper books were an incredible technology
likely to long outlast electronic material: computers keep being updated
and crashing and older files cannot even be accessed on new equipment.
Unless some uniform and sustained structure develops as a standard, I
fear all these digitized books will just disappear for use even if they
exist eternally in cyberspace. (Any computer savvy answers on the list?)
As someone who loves libraries with books in paper, I am dubious in any
case; I find things that just would never turn up on the internet (like
the letters Eliot wrote to Maurice Lindsay). The problem with working on
databases is that you only find what you look for--I love serendipity,
and much of my most interesting discoveries come from that. Who would
ever find those letters by deciding to put Lindsay and Eliot together
into Google? I doubt that would turn it up anyway. (OK--I just tried it,
and a lot came up linking the names because Lindsay died last April and
obituaries mention the connection. He died while I was in Scotland and
had already read the letters. But what is on Google might send you to
some of the stuff, not all. And who would think to do that anyway unless
they read the Scottish and English obits?)

In other words, I don't know, but it is a fascinating question and

>>> Diana Manister 01/06/10 10:17 AM >>>
Dear Nancy,

What could a "total library" possibly be? I'm surprised at this illusion
that texts could somehow be totalized. I understand the intention to be
more complete, but "total"? 

I haven't read "The Library of Babel" but surely he qualifies the notion
of totalization in it? I'll search it out.


Date: Sun, 3 Jan 2010 22:04:34 -0500
From: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Interesting examples--Eliot and internationalism
To: [log in to unmask]

I agree with this commentary, though I wonder how it can be made to
exist in the current state of publishing. Possibly one could have a
total virtual library--though I love paper but could print out I
assume--but how do you see a reader finding a way through a total
library? This is a real question--I think Borges is right, but the books
that have been recovered have, ironically, been the ones in libraries.
Recovery has to include some distribution.

>>> 01/03/10 7:55 PM >>>
One strength of Borges' conception of the open, inclusive library is
that texts disfavored at the time of their creation or subsequently but
widely read and appreciated by later audiences and then again disfavored
would have a perpetual home in the tradition, available for recovery and
rereading. That approach would avoid the need for scholars like Judith
Fetterley to "recover" and resurrect even relatively recent texts that a
male dominated publishing industry has rendered unavailable. Borges'
library is a helpful precondition for the preservation of work by
incompletely or never enfranchised writers. It avoids the problem of
Gray's unseen blushing rose and renders us the richer while at the same
time permitting the possibility of learning from a wider range of
thought than that allowed by a patriarchal tradition implicitly driven
and limited by contemporary bias and the limits of market capitalism.

-----Original Message-----
From: Nancy Gish 
To: [log in to unmask]
Sent: Sun, Jan 3, 2010 4:37 pm
Subject: Interesting examples--Eliot and internationalism

I think these are just examples of points of departure. [both come from
the conclusions of the articles if you wish to check them.] But both
strike me as ways of thinking that are not present in most of what we
read. I do not have any investment in either claim; I just find them
deeply interesting and unlike most Anglo-American discussions, though I
think Hugh MacDiarmid took a line much like that of Borges in his vision
of worldwide inclusion. I would love to hear reactions:

From "Jorges Luis Borges Rewrites Eliot" by Juan E. De Castro:

More than Eliot's Eurocentric and rather abstract literary order,
Borges's tradition is a 'library, where ideally everything is preserved
and where the system of preservation makes no distinction at all between
good books and bad' (Guillory 1995, 240). The library is one of the
central figures in Borges's writings; indeed, in 'Poem of the Gifts', he
claims "I imagined paradise as a library' (1996m 146). Borges explored
the notion of the 'total library'--a library that includes every
possible book--in his essay of the same name and, in nightmarish terms,
in his story, 'The Library of Babel'.

. . . 

Borges's conceptualization of tradition as a library implies a denial of
qualitative classification based on influence, content, place of origin,
language or putative quality. Moreover, he hints at the possibility of a
non-Eurocentric version of literary tradition that would include, but
not be limited to, the literary monuments of Europe. His denial of
chronology and his privileging of the act of reading in the constitution
of tradition is designed to empower writers from apparently marginal or
supposedly new countries. In this, as in his ability to combine Eutopean
cultural elements with local Argentine and non-Western elements, Borges
is indeed, as Aizenerg maintained, a 'postcolonial precursor', who is
'for postcolonial writers . . . a reference point beyond his general
preeminence in a European-North American repertoire of culture'.
Yet it is necessary to keep in mind that Borges's vision of tradition is
a modification--even radicalization--of ideas found in Eliot's
'Tradition and the Individual Talent'. Like Eliot, Borges is ultimately
concerned with reconciling an awareness of literary tradition with
innovation, in other words, of transforming the European and World
traditions from cultural dead weights into sources of literary
productivity and innovation. By using Eliot as the theoretical starting
point for conclusions that contradict the poet's Eurocentric vision of
tradition, Borges exemplifies the manner in which European texts can be
used against their grain. At the same time, the very fact that Borges's
critical innovations stem from the Anglo-American poet's influential
essay testifies to the richness of Eliot's critical writings.

or from "T. S. Eliot and La Nouvelle Revue Franšaise," by William Marx:

Eliot's assertion of classicism, then, made it difficult for his French
colleagues to understand his position. The writers of the NRF could not
reconcile the conservatism of Eliot's classicism with the radical
modernism of his poetry, which seemed by French standards to embody a
sort of anti-classicism. The idea that Eliot's modern poetry could
change the English tradition while supporting it seemed contradictory to
French critics, for whom rejection was requisite to progress.
Anglo-Saxon modernism issued from a supple, ever-changing tradition,
while French modernism rose up against classicism's limits. Like any
other French movement, it began as anti-classic, and was accepted as
part of the classics only when a new movement rose up to defy it. There
are two different modernisms because there are two different ways of
relating to the past, with rupture or with continuity: this was Eliot's
lesson from La Nouvelle Revue Franšaise.

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