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[Excavating-Q] Keven Johnson on Thomas

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  • John Kloppenborg
    Kevin Johnson asks about the the similarities and differences between Q and the Gospel of Thomas? This is a very big question, and I m not sure where to begin
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 7, 2000
      Kevin Johnson asks about the the similarities and differences between Q and
      the Gospel of Thomas?

      This is a very big question, and I'm not sure where to begin or where to
      end. When I began FORMATION I had thought that GThom would play a much
      bigger role in the discussion of Q's literary history and genre than in the
      end it did. This is because (a) I rejected Koester's procedure of treating
      GThom as exemplary of Q's basic genre and theological tendency and his
      procedure of using GThom as a tool to get at the early history of Q. Koester
      might have been right in his basic instinct about what was formative and
      what was secondary in Q, but I do not think that one can employ one document
      to analyse the history history of another, unless there are good reasons to
      suppose that a relation of literary dependence exists (as it does, e.g., in
      the Didache and the Doctrina apostolorum). In my view, while there are
      overlaps in the contents of Q and GThom, the grounds for positing a literary
      relationship are very weak.

      (b) Second, in the end I concluded that Q and GThom, though sharing a
      substantial bit of material, are moving is quite different generic
      directions. Technically, GThom is a chreiae-collection: its sayings are
      framed, normally as questions and answers or circumstantial comments. Its
      hermeneutic--of finding what is hidden in these hidden sayings--is redolent
      of the Pythagorean Golden Words. By contrast, Q1 was framed as an
      instruction (again, I use the term technically), and in the final redaction,
      with the affixing of Q 3:2-3, 7-9, 16-17; 4:1-13, etc., Q had begun to take
      on the characteristics of a bios. (By this I do not mean that it is a fully
      developed bios; but other chreiae collections -- Demonax, for example --
      also seem to function as simple bioi). This feature is, as I see it, lacking
      entirely in GThom.

      Thus I suggested that Q and GThom, despite their interesting overlaps, are
      significantly different in their generic tendencies, Q already "heading" in
      the direction of narrative lives, like the later gospels.

      There are, of course, similarities, not only at the leve of individual
      saying, but some of the interpretive strategies. For example, both Q and
      GThom legitimate their sayings by connecting them to a transcendent source
      of wisdom. GThom in the incipit, sayings 28, 52; Q in 10:16, 21-22. But
      GThom frames its sayings a puzzles to be solved (incipit); Q either as
      imperatives, or anecdotes elaborating the ethos of Jesus, John, or their

      Much more might be said, and I'm not sure that this really get as what you


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