To: Synoptic / GPG
On: The Supposed Logia
My characterization of the Mt/Lk common material as unorganized has drawn a
certain amount of objection (along, perhaps, with a certain amount of tacit
agreement). I must say, I find these passages better organized in Luke (one
of our two sources for them) than in any other arrangement so far proposed.
Better because more functional. Matthew, for example, clearly scrapes things
together to fit his own number-generated groundplan. More amenable to
discussion from present evidence were these other points:
RON: More importantly, historians know nothing about the author/editor of
GTh, except possibly his name.
BRUCE: Loss of evidence is not much evidence for anything, one way or
another. But to take what we have: A text which identifies its source as
Thomas is unlikely to have been *by* Thomas, and the text does not even make
that claim. I note also that in addition to the name of Thomas, gThos at an
earlier point gives the name of James the Brother (Thos 12) as the chief
authority figure for the church after the death of Jesus. This claim is not
compatible with the Thomas mentions, which now frame the text (though Thomas
and the Brother do turn up as associated in other extracanonical texts).
This would seem to imply text growth, with James adopted by its writer as an
early patron figure, and Thomas as a later one. No reason for suspecting an
author exists in any of these facts, but I think there are reasons for
eliminating both James and Thomas from consideration.
RON: On the other hand, the logia was edited by an apostle called Matthew, .
BRUCE: The figure of Apostle Matthew is strangely dim. What region did he
preach in, and how does that relate to the Gospel we have? Commentators on
Matthew tend to duck these questions. Clearly, at some point the name
Matthew was associated with our canonical Gospel, but as the commentators
love to point out, and I think with reason, no real Apostle could have
written a book based on the presumably non-Apostolic Gospel of Mark, and the
Gospel of Matthew is manifestly based on just that non-Apostolic Gospel. If
we momentarily suspend this attribution (I will return to it in a moment),
what is left? Very little from the 1st century, and I have feel doubtful
about Patristic testimony, direct or indirect, from the 2nd century. I do
not think that certainty is warranted here; certainly not certainty founded
on 2nd century evidence. The Gospel of Matthew itself is 1st century
evidence, perhaps a little underexploited in recent discussion.
RON: . . . no doubt with the full authority of James the brother of Jesus.
BRUCE: Perhaps some doubt. There is reason (in Paul and elsewhere) for
thinking that James the Brother was hostile to the original Three (Peter and
the Zebedees). His relations with Matthew might have been more workable. If
my interpretation of the Klausner list of Five (accepting an improvement by
Hirschberg 1942) as the names of the surviving Apostles at Jerusalem after
the death of James Zebedee is correct, Matthew or Matthias was one of that
group. He may have gotten along better with the newly ascendant James than
did the surviving Zebedee (John), or the other holdovers from earlier days
(Andrew, Thaddaeus, and Simeon Zelotes). It's possible, but still
conjectural. My problem is that the socalled logia are still more
RON: Therefore it gives us a unique insight into the beliefs of the early
Jesus movement ca. 45 CE before Paul came along and utterly transformed it.
BRUCE: It seems to me that this chronology is badly off. Paul had come along
(that is, quit killing Christians and begun proselytizing nonChristians) not
many years after the death of Jesus; most Paul chronologists put that date
somewhere in the 30's, and Paul's own testimony, though apparently a little
overwrought and hyperdefensive (Paul is hyperdefensive on any point touching
his Apostolic credentials and his personal independence), largely agrees.
Consistently with this, the Gospel of Mark, probably completed not long
after 45 (its latest terminus a quo), as I think I have mentioned, shows
traces of the gradual growth, and from a Jerusalem point of view, the
gradual acceptance, of the Gentile mission, again mostly well before 45.
Then the "transformation" had already made considerable progress in the late
30's and early 40's. The doctrine of the Atonement, which became
psychologically central for Paul, appears already in the very late layers of
Mark (10:45, 14;24) - but not earlier. On these grounds, I don't think it
valid to put the Gentile transformation, in which Paul surely had a large
part, subsequent to 45. It would seem to have come in, and to have affected
Jewish Christian self-perceptions, well before that. It continued to do so
in later decades, to be sure, as the final version of Acts is there to tell
us, but the tremors of that earthquake seem to have been felt already in the
Someone working after 45, with a Jamesian Jerusalem agenda (which for one
thing would have been strongly pro-Law), might have produced some of the
statements in gMt (like the one about every jot of the law remaining valid).
So I can see a possible connection between the Jerusalem Matthew and the
Gospel of Matthew. That the same Matthew had separately produced what (it is
claimed) would later have become a *source* for both Matthew and Luke does
not seem to make much sense. I think we must choose, and I think the extant
Gospel agrees better with what little we know or can responsibly infer about
Matthew than do the conjectural Logia.
The center of all these Logia theories, I suspect, is the wish to make the
Sermon on the Mount central to the approved image of Jesus. But the Sermon
is not original Matthew, *its* core comes from the Lukan Sermon on the
Plain, whose Beatitudes are obviously earlier in form that the Matthean
ones; the Lukan Lord's Prayer (not part of Luke's sermon, but packed into
Matthew's more capacious one) is also typologically earlier than the
Matthean expansion. And so on through a whole list of Lk > Mt
directionalities, several of which I have earlier mentioned (there is an
independent stylometric test for these Lk > Mt passages: they are the ones
on which Goulder Paradigm is less fun to read than the others). It is in
Luke, not in Matthew (as Q experts have in effect acknowledged, by judging
the Lukan order of the passages in question more primitive than the Matthean
order), that we seem to be getting close to what people like best about the
Lk/Mk common material. That "Matthew" by himself, before either Gospel was
written, wrote or collected all these passages, in a form available both to
himself and to his somewhat contrary contemporary Luke, goes contrary to
this other tendency. Luke is more likely to be closer, at least to the less
draconic part of the material.
So the Historical Matthew might have been on terms of reasonable personal
coziness with the Historical Brother, at least after c45, but as near as I
can discern from what seems the best evidence, neither of them seems likely
to have written, or on the textual record (as far as Matthew is concerned,
since he typically rewrote Luke's material) even to have been entirely
comfortable with, the more primitive Lukan material.
Wherever it was written, gMt stinks of Jerusalem. It is the Gospel for
Bishops; it is the Gospel of Rules. Luke, very likely working further north,
and in a low-rent area at that, took a distinctly different view of wealth,
and of other things as well. These tensions survive in the common material,
to which both of them have made their contribution (Luke by counseling
nonresistance to any enemy, etc; Matthew by thundering damnation against the
Galileans, etc). Those tensions within the material are obvious enough, I
should have thought, to somewhat discourage the idea that all of it comes
from the same hand, or is otherwise mutually consistent.
I continue to counsel that discouragement, and to recommend looking under
other stones for the earliest witnesses to Jesus - and for that matter, the
earliest witnesses to the concerns and solutions of his followers, in the
decade or so directly after his death.
E Bruce Brooks
University of Massachusetts at Amherst