Mark Goodacre wrote:
> What I still do not follow is why the apparent absence of the possibility of a
> good case for wholesale dependence is held to lead us to the conclusion that
> Thomas was composed without any reference to the synoptics. In other words,
> this is to polarise the debate again, isn't it?
Yes. That is the point.
> Or take Patterson:
> "At issue has been the question of whether the Gospel of Thomas represents
> an independent codification of the Jesus' sayings tradition, or whether it
> is dependent on written versions of the canonical gospels. On the latter
> view, it would be easy to regard Thomas as a relatively late collection of
> materials excerpted from the canonical sources, and then modified to
> reflect the particular theological views of the later collector . . .
> However, on the view that Thomas represents an independent stream of the
> Jesus tradition, it would have to be taken seriously as another important
> witness to the origin and development of the early Christian sayings
> tradition, and perhaps relevant to the problem of Christian origins after
> all." (_Q-Thomas Reader_, p. 85).
> Having perused Andrew's most helpful Thomas Crosstalk archive, I find someone
> writing, in my opinion persuasively, that:
> "The assumption appears to be that Thomas is either wholly independent of
> the synoptics or wholly dependent. Since the wholly dependent line is
> held (rightly) to be unconvincing, it seems to be argued (in my opinion
> wrongly) that the wholly independent line is correct. Of course this
> exaggerates a little, and of course there is a great deal more
> sophistication and nuance in the argument than that summary suggests, but
> I am summarising what I see to be an underlying and unnecessary
Surely this is Mark Goodacre. Sounds just like you.
> How similar is Q to Thomas? An old chestnut, I know, but I think that reports
> of their similarity have been greatly exaggerated. Further, my own position,
> lest I be confused with one on a wholesale "dependence side", is that Thomas
> is not primarily dependent on "the Canonical Scriptures", even if he (a)
> sometimes shows familiarity with the canonical Gospels and (b) is also familiar
> with oral traditions that have interacted with the Gospels. To talk about his
> familiarity with "Scriptures" or to talk about "literary dependence" is
> something I feel nervous about, and have done since I saw Vernon Robbins's
> point some time ago on Crosstalk (also in Andrew's archive) about the oral
> nature of Thomas over against the Synoptics.
If we go along with your view there is, I would say, absolutely no
way to determine when if ever a //saying in Thomas is free from
synoptic interaction. Thus, for all practical purposes, all //sayings
must be considered to derive from the synoptics. This means that
Thomas as an independent control over synoptic theorizing and
historical Jesus theorizing is completely nullified. In every case
it will be argued "this //saying in Thomas derives from interaction
with a synoptic version." Thomas would then be nothing more than
evidence for an unusual use of the scriptures in later Christianity
and so be trivial, actually just irrelevant, to any sort of first
century NT studies. Nobody on crosstalk, and damn few in the world,
care about what was what in the second or third centuries.
That is why Mahlon and I and Crossan and Patterson are not willing to
say irenically that sometimes the synoptic //sayings interacted to
produce Thomas and sometimes not. There will be no grounds left
for "not" and so agreeing to your point of view, without I would say
substantial grounds yet given for us so doing, would be to concede the
entire field to "dependence." There is no middle ground. There is
no way to compile a list of //Thomas sayings devoid of synoptic
interaction if it is conceded that many... most... almost all... come
from those texts directly or indirectly.
I agree with Patterson, quoted above. I'll try to lay out "what is at
stake here" (one of Jack Neusner's favorite demands).
1. What is at stake for conservative (not to use "fundamentalist")
Christians is whether the scriptures are the sole guide to the
teachings of the incarnate Lord or whether another source is
equally good and oftimes preferable. They cannot accept this.
2. What is at stake for Farrer supporters is whether Thomas'
frequent agreements with Luke over Matthew demonstrate the
failure of the Farrer hypothesis. Nor can this be accepted.
3. What is at stake for Christian origin scholars is whether or not
they must grapple with a Christian asceticism/gnosticism trend
in the earliest church or stick with the trends well known to all.
Anything smacking of "gnosticism" however defined is generally
conceded to be "bad" and best left aside, and the trends known
to all are much easier to work with.
4. What is at stake for Historical Jesus scholarship is whether or
not Thomas contains in small or great part the teachings of Jesus
which then would have been distorted by the apocalypticism and
increasing Judeanism of the synoptic gospels. Most HJ scholars
find themselves perplexed enough by the canonical material.
5. What is at stake for synoptic theorists generally is that Thomas
independent makes their work around five times more complicated.
Doublets in Matthew and Luke against Mark is complicated enough
without adding also against Thomas and so forth. Imagine the
complications of anybody but me (and Kevin) actually thinking that
Thomas was a source for Mark. And if Luke was influenced by Thomasine
material. And so forth. An independent Thomas would have to enter
into virtually every single synoptic-problem discussion because you'd
have then four, not three, synoptics one of which would have a
maddening tendency not to be as tendentious as the others.
These "what are at stake" statements prove nothing. But they do need
to be kept in mind. The "dependence/independence" debate, if legitimate,
(and it is not legitimate if the question is obviously answerable:
"dependent" as is the general consensus) is the single major question for
New Testament scholarship... whether or not NT scholars want to think so
As to whether Q and Thomas are the same sort of thing, this surely is
a judgement call. But in any event, by your reasoning, Q is a more
developed form of the sort of thing Thomas is... Q is a somewhat
organized, vaguely narrativized, list. Thomas is an unorganized
almost unnarrativized list. All other considerations aside, which