This is the ninth in a series of nine posts in which it is argued that
there are three strata in GTh and they provide us with information on the
Thomas church: its locataion, history, sociological make-up, and beliefs.
In this post, some concluding remarks are made.
In this series of posts, it has been argued that there are three strata to
1.Proto-Thomas: a document, consisting of 2-10, 31-48, 61-65, and 89-99.
This was written c. 60 CE at Tyre and reflects the perspective of the
leadership of the church there: which leadership came from the highest
strata of Tyrian society.
2. Pre-Thomas: a document consisting of 1, 25-30, 53-60, 66-79, and 105-111.
This was written c. 75 CE at Tyre and reflects the perspective of the Jewish
Christians there, who ranged from the middle class to the poverty-stricken.
The impact of the Jewish revolt of 66-70 CE on these Jewish Chritians was
substantial and is reflected in what was written in this document.
3. Latest strata: not a document, but material in GThomas that is later than
that found in Proto-Thomas and Pre-Thomas. It dates to c. 85 CE at Tyre and
reflects the perspective of the non-leadership Gentiles there, who ranged
from the middle class to the poverty-stricken.
It is futher argued that GThomas was written c. 85 CE as an expanded version
of Proto-Thomas: with the expansion consisting of the adding, to it, of the
material in Pre-Thomas and the latest strata.
It appears that the founder of the Thomas church, which is the Tyrian
church, was a woman met by Jesus near Tyre. If so, then she was named
Salome. Further, if so, then the Thomas church was founded c. 30 CE, even
before the crucifixion of Jesus.
By the time Paul visited, c. 57 CE, the Tyrian church was well-established
and apparently at peace internally between its members and externally with
Tyrian society in general.
However, things started to go bad c. 65, beginning with the first official
persecution of Christians by Nero. This led the general populace in Tyre to
see Christiany as a new and evil pestilence threatening all established
religions, so that the Christians there had conflicts with family members
and, in general, began to feel isolated.
Next was the beginning of the Jewish revolt against Rome c. 66 CE that led
some of Jewish Christians there to be executed and led the rest of the
Jewish Christians there to be imprisoned for the duration of the revolt.
Finally, in the eighties, they came into conflict with a triumphant
Pharisaism which had consolidated almost all Jews under its banner and
Matthean Christianity--both highly legalistic in their outlook. This led
the Gentile members of the Tyrian church to, in reaction, become more
vehement and strident in their opposition to the Law (see unit 14). This
conflict with the Pharisees and the more numerous Matthean Christian
community, coupled with the continuing view of the general populace that
Christianity is a pernicious belief system threatening all older and
established religions, led the Tyrian Christians, Jew and Gentile alike, to
a sense of extreme isolationism and, in response, they came to view
themselves as a small spiritual elite whose origin is from above and who
will return there after their brief sojourns here.
As respects the search for the real Jesus of history, the units from the
first strata, i.e., Proto-Thomas, have, on the average, the highest
probability of being genuine sayings of Jesus: for this strata appears to be
very early (c. 60 CE). Further, roughly half of its units have links to the
However, the emphasis must be on the phrase *on the average*, for there are
units from this first strata which appear to be the invention of the Thomas
church (e.g., 7 and 37) and there are some units in the latest strata which
likely are genuine (e.g., the parable of the mustard seed in 20 and the
saying on paying tribute to Caesar in 100).
There is much that is constant about the theology of the Tyrian Church:
There is a Jesus who is remarkably similar in some respects to Philo's Word,
a Kingdom that is remarkably similar to the Wisdom in the Jewish Wisdom
tradition, and the treatment of Jesus' words as having unique significance.
In a general sense, it has an Alexandrian Jewish cast to it: which is
perhaps not surprising since there was a major sea-lane between Tyre and
Alexandria, so that it was easier for ideas to flow to Tyre from Alexandria
than from, say, Jerusalem or, even, most of Galilee.
But there are also the later developments: and in some of these we see
pre-cursors to Gnostic Christianity. In particular, there was the
development of the idea that the world is a realm of evil and death and
there was the development of the idea that the saved are few and come from a
place of light and Platonic ideal forms and will return to it. Both ideas
find reflection in Gnostic thought.
Is this theory that the Thomas church was the Tyrian church credible? Is it
worthy of more research? What are its weaknesses? Comments welcomed!
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