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Learning Greek/Coptic for Gnostic study

Learning Greek/Coptic for Gnostic study

Postby Shamash » Fri Sep 05, 2014 3:41 am

I just discovered Gnosticism, and it's extremely interesting to me, and seems to have a lot in common with what I've believed myself for a while now. I'd like to study the original Gnostic texts, and I ordered some translations of the gospels and apocrypha from the library today, though I'm contemplating possibly learning the original languages so I can interpret the texts myself rather than relying on someone else's interpretations. Does anyone have any experience with taking on this path? Is it worth it, or no? If so, could someone point me to some useful resources, since languages like Coptic are somewhat obscure?

On a slightly related note, I looked through a collection of Plato's dialogues at the library to see the basis of Platonism, and I'm confused on what exactly they are about. From what little I read, they didn't seem to discuss much on the nature of existence, which is what attracts me to these philosophies, but rather seem to focus on contemporary social topics. I'd be grateful to anyone who could give me some background on this, because I'm not sure whether he is someone worth reading primary sources from.
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Re: Learning Greek/Coptic for Gnostic study

Postby manonthepath » Wed Sep 10, 2014 9:01 pm

My experience is that you will need formal language instruction if you want to get any decent results. The christians have one use that they run seminaries that offer classes in classical Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, as well as biblical Greek. These courses can be relatively cheap if you audit them. all real progress involves work and expense. Too many never accept that and remain in ignorance.
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Re: Learning Greek/Coptic for Gnostic study

Postby Shamash » Wed Sep 10, 2014 11:45 pm

manonthepath wrote:My experience is that you will need formal language instruction if you want to get any decent results. The christians have one use that they run seminaries that offer classes in classical Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, as well as biblical Greek. These courses can be relatively cheap if you audit them. all real progress involves work and expense. Too many never accept that and remain in ignorance.

It's unfortunate that there are no formal Coptic or Syriac classes that are easily accessible. I've just started reading translations of some of the Nag Hammadi texts, and I'm going to start the Pistis Sophia soon, and I think it may help to learn Coptic in the future more than any other languages. I downloaded a book that David Tibet recommended on his explanation of Coptology, but it's difficult to read and remain interested in. The Coptic alphabet is kind of strange, as well, since I'm more familiar with Greek and the extra letters are difficult to remember, let alone the very different pronunciation of the language. Maybe I'll look into Biblical Greek classes; I don't think Hebrew will be very useful in studying Gnosticism, though.

I'm more curious of whether or not learning any of these languages is worth the time and effort. Is it something I'll have to do at some point if I want to start seriously studying these texts?
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Re: Learning Greek/Coptic for Gnostic study

Postby manonthepath » Fri Sep 12, 2014 1:31 am

There are many Coptic churches all over the place. Talk to one of the priests.
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Re: Learning Greek/Coptic for Gnostic study

Postby manonthepath » Fri Sep 12, 2014 1:33 am

Shamash wrote:I just discovered Gnosticism, and it's extremely interesting to me, and seems to have a lot in common with what I've believed myself for a while now. I'd like to study the original Gnostic texts, and I ordered some translations of the gospels and apocrypha from the library today, though I'm contemplating possibly learning the original languages so I can interpret the texts myself rather than relying on someone else's interpretations. Does anyone have any experience with taking on this path? Is it worth it, or no? If so, could someone point me to some useful resources, since languages like Coptic are somewhat obscure?

On a slightly related note, I looked through a collection of Plato's dialogues at the library to see the basis of Platonism, and I'm confused on what exactly they are about. From what little I read, they didn't seem to discuss much on the nature of existence, which is what attracts me to these philosophies, but rather seem to focus on contemporary social topics. I'd be grateful to anyone who could give me some background on this, because I'm not sure whether he is someone worth reading primary sources from.


Regarding Plato, if you only read a little it's no surprise that you're confused. Try starting out with "Gorgias." It's fun and instructive, but you have to read and consider what is written.
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Re: Learning Greek/Coptic for Gnostic study

Postby Shamash » Fri Sep 12, 2014 4:26 am

manonthepath wrote:There are many Coptic churches all over the place. Talk to one of the priests.

I didn't know that was a thing. Indeed, there are actually several Coptic churches in my area. I didn't know the language was spoken (or at least known) by so many people that there are churches named after it.
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Re: Learning Greek/Coptic for Gnostic study

Postby manonthepath » Fri Sep 12, 2014 1:01 pm

I guess that is a "Thank you?"
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Re: Learning Greek/Coptic for Gnostic study

Postby Shamash » Fri Sep 12, 2014 9:59 pm

it's whatever you want it to be
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Re: Learning Greek/Coptic for Gnostic study

Postby manonthepath » Mon Sep 15, 2014 6:38 pm

Wait and see how many will help you when you're rude. Don't count on anything from me again.
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Re: Learning Greek/Coptic for Gnostic study

Postby Shamash » Mon Sep 15, 2014 9:22 pm

i don't understand why you choose to interpret my posts as rude. it isn't good for either of us.
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Re: Learning Greek/Coptic for Gnostic study

Postby manonthepath » Mon Sep 15, 2014 11:13 pm

What's not to understand? You asked for help. I took time out of my existence to try to help you. The advice I gave seemed to be of use to you. A simple thank you is customary. Even if you feel no genuine gratitude, you should be polite enough to acknowledge the assistance. I hinted as much in my previous post. You may just be young and lacking in social skills, you may be simply not perceptive enough to have picked up on my message, or perhaps you just don't care enough. It makes no difference to me. Your lack of gratitude comes through quite clearly. I'm done with you.
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Re: Learning Greek/Coptic for Gnostic study

Postby moocher » Fri Jan 16, 2015 12:19 pm

If anyone's interested I'm learning Egyptian (Coptic) atm, in large part to read the gnostic writings for myself.. to answer the question 'is there extra meaning to be discovered by reading in the original language compared to scholars translations'. So far the answer is a 'yes' but probably nothing radical.. however there's always the potential for a significant new piece of meaning to be found, and there's other nice things about doing this too
PS No need to learn Greek to study gnostic writings. There aren't any in Greek that survived (well apart from some fragments).. the meaning of some Greek words is all you need to know that the Egyptian's made use of

What I will say is this, if anyone has any burning questions of the meaning of any particular gnostic sentence i can look it up for you and tell you exactly what Coptic words were at this point. If anyone wants to learn Coptic I will not say no to helping, it's about as hard as learning French say.. and the Coptic alphabet is an ancient ancestor of the English alphabet much is the same or similar. (How lucky..). The language is highly based on grammatical pre-fixes combining and joining to standard word forms (the same words can be nouns, verbs, singular, plural, no matter the tense) reducing need to remember shape shifting word forms like English has. If it was that hard I've have given up by now. So yes.. can be done, can be done
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Re: Learning Greek/Coptic for Gnostic study

Postby Shamash » Fri Jan 16, 2015 9:25 pm

moocher wrote:If anyone's interested I'm learning Egyptian (Coptic) atm, in large part to read the gnostic writings for myself.. to answer the question 'is there extra meaning to be discovered by reading in the original language compared to scholars translations'. So far the answer is a 'yes' but probably nothing radical.. however there's always the potential for a significant new piece of meaning to be found, and there's other nice things about doing this too
PS No need to learn Greek to study gnostic writings. There aren't any in Greek that survived (well apart from some fragments).. the meaning of some Greek words is all you need to know that the Egyptian's made use of

What I will say is this, if anyone has any burning questions of the meaning of any particular gnostic sentence i can look it up for you and tell you exactly what Coptic words were at this point. If anyone wants to learn Coptic I will not say no to helping, it's about as hard as learning French say.. and the Coptic alphabet is an ancient ancestor of the English alphabet much is the same or similar. (How lucky..). The language is highly based on grammatical pre-fixes combining and joining to standard word forms (the same words can be nouns, verbs, singular, plural, no matter the tense) reducing need to remember shape shifting word forms like English has. If it was that hard I've have given up by now. So yes.. can be done, can be done

I downloaded a book that David Tibet (who is an accomplished Coptologist) recommended, and it does seem like an easy language to learn as far as languages go. The only difficulty I've been having is a severe lack of resources for Coptic. Unfortunately it is not easy to find thorough references on ancient languages, especially obscure ones like this. So I've been somewhat discouraged and haven't done anything related to Coptic in several months now.

But I've been in the mood to dedicate myself to something productive, so I'd love any good resources you can recommend. I haven't found anywhere online that can tell me what the word "ⲡⲁⲣⲧⲏⲣ" means, for example.
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Re: Learning Greek/Coptic for Gnostic study

Postby moocher » Fri Jan 16, 2015 11:16 pm

Ah i've heard of David Tibet didn't realise he had a book out. I'll take a look. I heard of him through his music.. I read that Coptic is much easier than ancient Greek to learn

OK here goes for resources the free Marcion Coptic software is v.useful google should get you that. It's a bit buggy but for one thing it contains a searchable version of Crum's coptic dictionary i'm sure you'll find your word there. unfortunately i don't have the right font to see it in your post. But that saves buying that expensive, weighty book anyway

Also included in this are some out of print pre-war grammers but they're not really for learning with
There's 2 modern grammers, the one by Lambdin, Introduction to Sahidic Coptic, and one by Bentley Layton. Both are good i would say having both is ideal. What I found hardest of all was their use of English grammatical terms, i'm not educated to a high level so i found these challenging, forcing me to learn the grammar of my own language because they assume you know what a preposition is, or a perfect tense and many others like that. Don't let that put you off, they are good and do spill the beans on how to read Coptic like you are sitting in a classroom
There's also a small handy dictionary by Richard Smith called a concise lexicon. Recommend that

That's all i'm using apart from the most important thing - the gnostic writings in coptic itself! no point if you don't have these. Layton has another inexpensive book out with some of the more popular gnostic writings all in coptic. i'm waiting for the day the original photo's are published on-line for free.. till then you either need to do a lot of searching or pay much money to gather together the ones your interested in. Some are on-line at the Canada Claremont university website, sort of, but hardly easy to download from there.

I'm not that far advanced yet only half way through Lambdin's book so don't let me give the impression I'm father along that I am, at this stage i can, just, read parts of what i'm interested in. already i have found myself looking at the gnostic writings from a new angle which is what i wanted
My theory is, the scholars, great as they are, have to maintain or affect a professional distance or even dis-interest in the subject in order to show they are being objective. As lay people we don't have that restriction. We can be romantic and seek out the meanings we suspect are there and put it into English how we want. Maybe no fundamental differences but enough to make it worthwhile is what i'm thinking
One example, Tri Protennoia. Maybe one of the most spiritual things I've ever read
Official translation has Protennoia Barbelo saying 'i am androgynous'. it doesn't say that, it says 'i am a male female'. it doesn't use a Greek word. they translate that 'androgynous' but that word implies a merging of the sexes so they appear the same or indistinguishable from one another. That isn't the implication in the text because it says 'i am father i am mother'. so i would translate this 'i am a hermaphrodite'. Which is why s/he is creative in the first place and the concept of a hermaphrodite divinity is quite beautiful and somehow not really appreciated. The writing almost leaves no other choice, yet the conservative scholars chose a more standard term because they are professional scholars with impeccable reputations to maintain or risk being shunned a bit like Jung was for getting to close to the subject [wink]
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Re: Learning Greek/Coptic for Gnostic study

Postby Shamash » Sun Jan 18, 2015 8:02 am

moocher wrote:Ah i've heard of David Tibet didn't realise he had a book out. I'll take a look. I heard of him through his music..

The book wasn't written by David Tibet, but it was recommended by him in a short article he wrote on the Coptic language. He apparently is working on his own translation of the Nag Hammadi library, though, so I'm eager to see that published. The book that I was referring to is Introduction to Sahidic Coptic by Thomas Lambdin. I couldn't remember the name or the title at the time.

OK here goes for resources the free Marcion Coptic software is v.useful google should get you that. It's a bit buggy but for one thing it contains a searchable version of Crum's coptic dictionary i'm sure you'll find your word there. unfortunately i don't have the right font to see it in your post. But that saves buying that expensive, weighty book anyway

I already checked that dictionary and didn't find the word I was looking for. In Roman letters, the word is "parter".

There's 2 modern grammers, the one by Lambdin, Introduction to Sahidic Coptic, and one by Bentley Layton. Both are good i would say having both is ideal. What I found hardest of all was their use of English grammatical terms, i'm not educated to a high level so i found these challenging, forcing me to learn the grammar of my own language because they assume you know what a preposition is, or a perfect tense and many others like that. Don't let that put you off, they are good and do spill the beans on how to read Coptic like you are sitting in a classroom
There's also a small handy dictionary by Richard Smith called a concise lexicon. Recommend that

I've spent a lot of time studying different languages and grammatical structures, so those concepts are nothing new to me. I think the part I don't like it how slow the lessons are, and all the vocabulary that I have to memorize out of context. I honestly think it would be easier for me to just learn by reading the texts themselves with a dictionary in my hand, but I obviously don't have either of those things.

That's all i'm using apart from the most important thing - the gnostic writings in coptic itself! no point if you don't have these. Layton has another inexpensive book out with some of the more popular gnostic writings all in coptic.

I can't find the original texts anywhere. If you could link me to that book, I'd be grateful.
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Re: Learning Greek/Coptic for Gnostic study

Postby RoseRed » Sun Jan 18, 2015 4:21 pm

I was also going to suggest finding a Coptic Church. Depending upon the priest - he may know the older dialects in which these things are written.

Or you could put an ad on Craigslist and see if anyone out there is interested in helping.

Does anyone know if 'Rosetta Stone' (the language software) does ancient languages?

Somehow, I have a feeling that the Rosetta Stone would be more helpful than a priest who knows you have no intentions of joining the church.
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Re: Learning Greek/Coptic for Gnostic study

Postby Shamash » Sun Jan 18, 2015 4:52 pm

RoseRed wrote:Does anyone know if 'Rosetta Stone' (the language software) does ancient languages?

Somehow, I have a feeling that the Rosetta Stone would be more helpful than a priest who knows you have no intentions of joining the church.

Rosetta Stone has a very limited amount of languages. So far the only ancient one is Latin, so I think it will take a while for a Coptic one to be made. It will be especially strange since Rosetta Stone focuses mostly on speech and Coptic is a written language.
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Re: Learning Greek/Coptic for Gnostic study

Postby manonthepath » Tue Jan 20, 2015 9:12 am

Shamash wrote:
RoseRed wrote:Does anyone know if 'Rosetta Stone' (the language software) does ancient languages?

Somehow, I have a feeling that the Rosetta Stone would be more helpful than a priest who knows you have no intentions of joining the church.

Rosetta Stone has a very limited amount of languages. So far the only ancient one is Latin, so I think it will take a while for a Coptic one to be made. It will be especially strange since Rosetta Stone focuses mostly on speech and Coptic is a written language.


I'm sure they don't. It costs a lot of money, time and effort to put a language instruction of that scale together. There is no way such a project could pay for itself. The bottom line is most important to these people. Lots of baptist colleges offer classical or at least biblical greek in the classroom. If you audit these classes, they will cost a fraction of what Rosetta Stone will run you and you will likely learn more.... if you can take the shit propaganda and nasty way they are sure to treat a pagan, that is.
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Re: Learning Greek/Coptic for Gnostic study

Postby RoseRed » Tue Jan 20, 2015 10:07 pm

I can feel the welcome sign from here [lol]
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Re: Learning Greek/Coptic for Gnostic study

Postby moocher » Wed Jan 28, 2015 2:55 pm

Shamash the book you want is Coptic Gnostic Chrestomathy: A Selection of Coptic Texts with Grammatical Analysis and Glossary
It contains 10-15 gnostic works most of the great ones. I went the more expensive option and bought the whole thing. It cost me about $1000
No I couldn't find your word either, if you have the text it appears in that might help. it could be a Greek word
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Re: Learning Greek/Coptic for Gnostic study

Postby Shamash » Sun Feb 08, 2015 11:52 pm

moocher wrote:Shamash the book you want is Coptic Gnostic Chrestomathy: A Selection of Coptic Texts with Grammatical Analysis and Glossary
It contains 10-15 gnostic works most of the great ones. I went the more expensive option and bought the whole thing. It cost me about $1000
No I couldn't find your word either, if you have the text it appears in that might help. it could be a Greek word

Why did it cost so much? I can't find any versions of the book that are that expensive.

That word appears in the lyrics to a song by Current 93. I don't know where the word originates, but the lyricist for the music group is a Coptologist and seems to have esoteric knowledge of the language. It might be from some obscure dialect of Coptic.
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Re: Learning Greek/Coptic for Gnostic study

Postby MrChiLambda » Fri Jun 26, 2015 4:18 pm

Wow, unsure, however, my guess is someone by the name of Berry Fell is someone worth remembering.

He translated the inscription at the Money Pit Island off the east coast of Canada. The miqmac heiroglyphs are interesting in that area.

Demonic text is basically coptic, correct?

Berry Fell is basically Indiana Jones the way I see things, he's got his foot into everything.
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