Significance of the Gospel of Thomas if the Canonical Gospels are late?

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MrMacSon
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Significance of the Gospel of Thomas if the Canonical Gospels are late?

Post by MrMacSon » Tue Oct 16, 2018 3:03 pm

If the canonical (or even just the synoptic gospels) were finalised late, in conjunction with 'Marcion's Gospel' as proposed by Jason BeDuhn, Markus Vinzent, and Matthias Klinghardt (and perhaps other scholars w.r.t. Luke), might that mean extra-canonical texts such as the Gospel of Thomas could have preceded their final extant versions? Might that mean the sayings in the Gospel of Thomas could have come from a historical Jesus?

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Re: Significance of the Gospel of Thomas if the Canonical Gospels are late?

Post by Secret Alias » Tue Oct 16, 2018 4:47 pm

You know Goodacre has argued extensively that Judas Thomas (my emphasis viz. the full name) shows signs of being written after the canonical gospels, right?
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Re: Significance of the Gospel of Thomas if the Canonical Gospels are late?

Post by MrMacSon » Tue Oct 16, 2018 9:55 pm

Yes, Goodacre has argued that the Gospel of Judas Thomas was written after the canonical gospels.

Others disagree, including some who disagree with Goodacre's arguments in his 2012 book Thomas and the Gospels: The Case for Thomas's Familiarity with the Synoptics eg. -

... Goodacre ignores the non-Synoptic portions of Thomas and in fact a good deal of the Synoptic-like materials where the case for Thomas’s knowledge of the Synoptics is not strong, or where the contrary case could be made.

https://muse.jhu.edu/article/547002/summary

While the Thomasine author must have hoped his Jesus struck his readers as "plausible enough to sound authentic," he (if I may) either conceived of his audience in rather narrow terms (not Christianity more generally), or he failed to be persuasive. As far as I am aware, we lack any direct evidence that Gos. Thom. enjoyed any broad-based popular reception. If I am right, then Goodacre needs to take more seriously that Thomas's view of Jesus was sufficiently idiosyncratic (= odd) that we cannot assume he would have perceived the synoptic Jesus as an appropriate source of authority ...

http://thinkinginpublic.blogspot.com/20 ... homas.html

. . . he argues it is only necessary to demonstrate that a small amount of the material in Thomas is copied from the canonical gospels to demonstrate a literary relationship – it does not have to have been done consistently. While this is true, I think that it is not as easy to demonstrate that even a small amount of Thomasine material has been copied directly from the Synoptics as Mark [Goodacre] suggests.
. . . . . .
Ultimately, however, I am not convinced that the relationship between the parallel passages in Thomas and the Synoptics is based on the author of Thomas having had access to the text of one or more of the Synoptics.  This is not to say that I am convinced that it is impossible for this to be the case. I simply do not think that on the strength of  three Greek fragments and one Coptic text we have sufficient information to be able to make a definitive judgement. Like Tony [Burke], I still find April DeConick’s rolling corpus model the most useful model for the evidence we have.

https://judyredman.wordpress.com/2013/0 ... -response/

... if Thomas shows no knowledge of, or dependence upon, the Synoptic Gospels, it provides another ‘‘window’’ on the Jesus tradition. On this view, scholars such as John Dominic Crossan, Robert Funk, and many others have used Thomas in their constructions of the historical Jesus. And in the conception of the development of the thinking and practice of the earliest Christ-cults, an independent Thomas has played an important role in the model of ‘‘trajectories,’’ articulated forty years ago by James M. Robinson and Helmut Koester, but also taken up by theologians like Edward Schillebeeckx.

https://muse.jhu.edu/article/547002/summary

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Re: Significance of the Gospel of Thomas if the Canonical Gospels are late?

Post by MrMacSon » Tue Oct 16, 2018 11:07 pm


... Professor Helmut Koester of Harvard University has suggested that the collection of sayings in the Gospel of Thomas, although compiled c. 140, may include some traditions even older than the gospels of the New Testament, ‘possibly as early as the second half of the first century’ (50–100) – as early as, or earlier, than [the traditional dates for] Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John.

Pagels, Elaine (2013). The Gnostic Gospels (Kindle Locations 162-166). Orion.

[Pagels has dated G.Thomas to 90-100: Conner, Miguel. Voices of Gnosticism: Interviews with Elaine Pagels, Marvin Meyer, Bart Ehrman, Bruce Chilton and Other Leading Scholars (p.140). Bardic Press]

Stevan Davies is the author of The Secret Book of John: Annotated and Explained; The Gospel of Thomas and Christian Wisdom; and The Gospel of Thomas: Annotated & Explained [he is or was Professor of Religious Studies, Misericordia College, Pennsylvania when the following interview was conducted -
Stevan Davies, 2016:
Non-affiliated Christians like myself, who are people not affiliated with any Christian church particularly, tend to date it a bit earlier, somewhere between 70, even 60, which is where I would put it, and 90 c.e. Late-middle or end of the first century. The people who are more evangelical, more biblically-oriented, more church-based tend to be trying to date it towards, say, 130, 140 c.e. So the dating becomes a bit of an ideological struggle. Evangelical Christian scholars seem to be very threatened by the idea that any Jesus traditions could be in existence that are not in the Bible. The Bible should be everything we have. An effort is made to say that the only information about Jesus in Thomas worth anything, is what Thomas took out of the Bible, and therefore Thomas is irrelevant for new knowledge of Jesus. Others, including myself, think Thomas has a pretty decent claim to be about as authoritative for Jesus’ historical teachings as the biblical books are. Some of what is in Thomas’ gospel is independent, true and authentic Jesus material, some of it isn’t, and it needs to be sorted out. I would say it is wrong to say that Thomas is dependent on the New Testament, and therefore without significant value.


MC: So if the Gospel of Thomas isn’t Gnostic in the same way that the Secret Book of John is, what is it really about? Is it another kingdom of God sect? Or where did they get their ideas from exactly?

SD: From the first couple of chapters of Genesis. The first chapter is the seven days chapter and God says everything is good, and everything’s just wonderful, and then God rests. No problems. Chapter two begins a different creation story, from a different tradition, one that contains the fall. Adam’s been driven out of the garden and Eve’s been driven out of the garden. So you have two creation stories. That can raise the question: whatever happened to the first creation? This is a good legitimate Jewish mythological question. If you have man made in the image of God, and then in chapter two man is made of the earth and then falls into sin, what happened to the image of God? It didn’t just cease to exist. Well, I think that the Thomas people, the Thomas Christians, were saying that the first creation, the perfect creation, continues to exist forever, and that’s the kingdom of God, and people don’t know it’s here. So the goal of secret knowledge in Thomas, so to speak, is to uncover the presence of the kingdom of God in the world, which has been hidden there in the beginning. And it’s still there.

MC: So, it’s possible that the first chapter of Genesis might have been handed down orally or brought down from another kingdom other than Judaea?

SD: We are taught from birth practically, and in Sunday school—well Christians are anyway—that Jesus is Jewish and that Jesus is Galilean. But Jewish comes from the word for Judaea, and Judaea is a different country to Galilee. So the simple idea of Jesus as Judean: no, he’s not Judean, he’s from Galilee. And Galilee borders on Syria to the north, which is a rather different culture. So I suspect that Jesus is influenced by a Syrian culture in the north as well as Judean culture, and that the Thomas traditions may be coming in more on the Syrian wavelength than the Judean wavelength.
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SD: If you want to go read the Gospel of Thomas as a scholar or as a historian, or just as an interested person, the Catholic Church doesn’t care. If you ask, “Does the Catholic Church approve of the ideas in Gnostic literature?”, then no, it doesn’t. But does it disapprove of people reading this stuff? No, they don’t mind. The idea of the Catholic Church persecuting these lost gospels is fiction. It’s very popular fiction, but fiction. The Stigmata movie had that fiction, the Celestine Prophecies book had that fiction, and of course the Da Vinci Code. The people who really hate the idea of Gnostic gospels are the evangelical Protestants. If they could burn the Gospel of Thomas they would. But the Catholic Church is saying, “No, if you want to study it as a historical document, that’s not a problem.”

Conner, Miguel. Voices of Gnosticism: Interviews with Elaine Pagels, Marvin Meyer, Bart Ehrman, Bruce Chilton and Other Leading Scholars (pp 14-16, 22). Bardic Press.

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Re: Significance of the Gospel of Thomas if the Canonical Gospels are late?

Post by gmx » Wed Oct 17, 2018 3:40 am

The following is only going to be tangentially relevant to the OP, but the OP got my mind thinking in this direction. Feel free to reprimand me for this failure of etiquette.

Papias refers to two writings, one by Mark, and one by Matthew, but does not call them gospels. Does not use that word "gospel" as far as I know. Papias is writing anywhere from 95-130 AD, depending on your worldview. He doesn't mention any writings of Thomas.

Some random thoughts:
  • Papias apparently wrote Exposition of the Sayings of the Lord in 5 Volumes
  • Papias imagined that what was to be got from books was not so profitable [..] as what came from the living and abiding voice
  • Papias says that when anyone who had attended on the elders came, I asked minutely after their sayings,--what Andrew or Peter said, or what was said by Philip, or by Thomas, or by James, or by John, or by Matthew, or by any other of the Lord's disciples: which things Aristion and the presbyter John, the disciples of the Lord, say
The things that strike me about the statements of Papias here are that:
  • he was interested in the living voice but talks apologetically about the writings of Mark and Matthew
  • he has presumably learnt the Sayings of the Lord from the living voice, but seems to have asked minutely after the sayings of the disciples, rather than the sayings of the lord himself
  • he talks about the bowels of Judas and relates stories about the daughters of Philip, resurrection of the dead in his own time, miraculous survival from poisoning, events which do not appear to be immediately relevant to the Sayings of the Lord
And with that, please continue with the on-topic discussion.
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Re: Significance of the Gospel of Thomas if the Canonical Gospels are late?

Post by perseusomega9 » Wed Oct 17, 2018 7:11 am

vridar has reviewed MacDonald's Two Shipwrecked Gospels where he reconstructs what he thinks the format of Papias' Exposition was like, IOW it's not just a sayings collection as you're implying

https://vridar.org/2018/04/18/reconstru ... c-problem/

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Re: Significance of the Gospel of Thomas if the Canonical Gospels are late?

Post by Ben C. Smith » Wed Oct 17, 2018 7:19 am

perseusomega9 wrote:
Wed Oct 17, 2018 7:11 am
vridar has reviewed MacDonald's Two Shipwrecked Gospels where he reconstructs what he thinks the format of Papias' Exposition was like, IOW it's not just a sayings collection as you're implying
MacDonald makes some good points (I have read this book of his). Also, I think the term logia trips people up, leading them to assume that only sayings are in view: viewtopic.php?f=3&t=3197&p=70871#p70871.
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Re: Significance of the Gospel of Thomas if the Canonical Gospels are late?

Post by perseusomega9 » Wed Oct 17, 2018 7:27 am

It is a good book, I got a little bogged down in the second half when he analyzes the Q sayings as I'm not well read in the Q-two source hypothesis arguments, but the first half is fascinating and really drives home the point that at least Luke is later and reviewed 'many' sources in composing his gospel.

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Re: Significance of the Gospel of Thomas if the Canonical Gospels are late?

Post by Ben C. Smith » Wed Oct 17, 2018 7:46 am

perseusomega9 wrote:
Wed Oct 17, 2018 7:27 am
It is a good book, I got a little bogged down in the second half when he analyzes the Q sayings as I'm not well read in the Q-two source hypothesis arguments, but the first half is fascinating and really drives home the point that at least Luke is later and reviewed 'many' sources in composing his gospel.
Thinking about that book together with his more recent one, The Dionysian Gospel: The Fourth Gospel and Euripides, I like how simple MacDonald's thesis is when it comes to where Papias stands amidst the gospels. Basically, Papias mentions the Logia, translations of the Logia (probably including Matthew), Mark, 1 Peter, and 1 John, so Papias postdates all of these. Papias fails to mention Luke or John, so he probably predates the two of them. MacDonald gives independent reasons to think that the gospel of John used 1 John, so that works out. And Luke expressly says that he is following "many," so that works out, as well.

Putting this overall picture alongside one that Goodacre sketches out is illuminating, as well. Goodacre suggests that, overall, the more apostolic and obvious the authorial voice is in a gospel text, the later that text is. Matthew, Mark, and the Evangelion are anonymous, so they are relatively early. John and Luke, while anonymous, do interject some authorial voice into the mix. After them, Thomas is consciously attributed to Judas Thomas and the gospel of Peter is consciously written in the first person, as if by Peter himself. (I am actually not sure that Goodacre discusses the Evangelion in this context, but I have placed it in sequence using his criteria.) The three layers that emerge (Matthew/Mark/Evangelion, then John/Luke, then Thomas/Peter) line up pretty nicely with MacDonald's arguments.
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Re: Significance of the Gospel of Thomas if the Canonical Gospels are late?

Post by Irish1975 » Wed Oct 17, 2018 8:21 am

Hope this is relevant. Here are some of my questions about the "gospel" title and genre--

1) What explains the use of the same word for two very different types of writing: bioi (narratives) on the one hand, and wisdom/parenetic discourses on the other (such as gThomas, gPhilip, gTruth)

2) Can a broad historical argument be made that all these texts were jockeying with each other to inherit and develop the original Pauline gospel, which itself is a riff on themes in both the prophets and in Roman imperial ideology?

3) Is there any significance in the textual critical evidence about differences in how the term gospel was deployed in the 2nd c? For example, "euangellion kata __" is the NT formula, whereas the coptic gThomas apparently just has "the gospel of Thomas" written at the end of the scroll.
"Jesus tricked everyone" ~the gospel of Philip

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