Thomas 1-12 (2)
- To: GPG
On: Thomas 1-12 (2)
Considering the suggested Thomas core, to which sayings 1-12 have so far
been assigned, and however mindful of Luke's penchant for doublets, and
Matthew's fondness for doublets, it seems to me nevertheless a useful first
expectation that the writer of at least a small text will not tend to repeat
himself or contradict himself. A later contributor to the same text might
more readily do so.
Then the line separating Th 30 from its repeat in Th 77 will probably
separate the end of one compositional Thomas segment from the beginning of
another. De Connick has identified several doublets in Thomas. Rather than
pursue them all down the line at this moment, I ask instead, how much
further than Thomas 12 can we read before we encounter either a doublet or a
The answer seems to be: Not far. There is a contradiction at Saying 13
(Thomas becomes the preferred disciple and thus authority figure, whereas
special honor and the place of leadership was given to Jacob the Righteous
in Saying 12. Again, the issue of fasting and prayer and alms in Saying 6
occurs again in Saying 14, where a much more direct and negative answer is
given by Jesus (and there combined with Mark's instruction to the Twelve,
and Mark's comment on what defiles you - a different Markan saying was
combined with the fasting issue in Saying 6). All this looks like the
presence of a different hand or eye, and the boundary between the zones of
difference seems to fall between Sayings 12 and 13.
If we confirm that boundary as a working hypothesis, then we note that the
introductory mention of Thomas as the source of the sayings has no meaning
in terms of the following sayings, which are simply Jesus sayings, and most
of which would have been vaguely familiar to Thomas's readers as Jesus
sayings. The special claim of Thomas, however, is made in Saying 13, and
why? We can never answer such a question with entire assurance, but on the
assumption that the interest in Jacob (Saying 13) had some meaning in terms
of a still authoritative figure in early Christianity, then it might follow
that after Jacob's death (say, 62), some new source of authority might be
felt to be needed by the author or proprietor of this text, and at that
point the previously absent figure of Thomas could have been introduced,
with his violently new claim of exclusive knowledge, and the equally violent
claim that the content of that knowledge (of which no hint is given) would
have caused the other disciples to stone him to death. This statement tells
us nothing substantive, but it does promise to introduce us to some much
more radically surprising sayings than anything in the rather mild core,
which I will now take officially to be Sayings 1-12.
The scenario is then, in chronological order from the top:
Sayings 1-12, adhering to Jacob (c60)
Death of Jacob (62)
Addition of Thomas as source (Saying 13)
Framing addition of Thomas Prologue (Saying 0)
[Note the new motif of secrecy in both]
And the new text proceeds to revisit old themes (that of 6 in 14, that of 10
in 16), and to produce some indeed remarkably surprising statements, such as
15. When you see one who was not born of woman, prostrate yourselves on your
faces and worship him. That one is your father.
And the comprehensively mystical if still unspecific
17. Jesus said, I shall give you what no eye has seen and what no ear has
heard and what no hand has touched and what has never occurred to the human
There follow an "end" prediction (18), which ends in a promise not to
experience death, and a companion saying (19, with its image of Five Trees
in Paradise), about "he who came into being before he came into being,"
which also ends in a promise not to experience death. The motif of the
mustard seed is borrowed (20) as an image of the small thing becoming great,
which does no violence to its use in Mark, though it is here readily
interpretable in a sense not meant by Jesus in Mark. Mary [Magdalene]
appears as a questioner in 21, in which the disciples are described as
temporary tenants of a field not their own; this is followed by a seemingly
incongruous mixture of themes from Mark.
Is there a good stopping place along here somewhere? I don't at this moment
see any, short of the one I suggested earlier, but to that suggestion I
might now add Saying 37:
37. When Jesus will be revealed
38. Many have desired to hear these things from Jesus
39. Valediction: The seeker should be both wise and innocent
I thus come out with a second layer which, together with the first, might be
thought to make up what we now know as Greek Thomas.
Is there a clear directionality anywhere in Sayings 13-39, that would help
to date the extended Greek Thomas relative to any of the Gospels?
Mark still seems to be a major provider of acquaintance background which is
assumed by what we may now more precisely call the Thomas author. But there
seem to be new factors also. Among the points likely to be of immediate
Th 14 ~ Lk 10:8-9 "eat what is provided." Thomas goes on to add a group of
not very congruous Gospel quotes, including Mk 7:15 on nondefilement by any
foods, which is associated by the "foods" theme but not by any expressed or
implied narrative continuity. Then we seem to have the reverse of the
situation in Saying 10, where it was rather Luke that seemed to be an omelet
of material including a line of Thomas. The conclusions here should thus
also be the reverse: that Thomas 14 is drawing on Luke. It should follow
that this second layer of Thomas is not before, but after, Luke, which would
put it late in the 1st century.
Th 15 "one not born of woman" has no Gospel parallel; it might be said to go
a step beyond the direction already marked out by the special origin
attributed to Jesus in the birth stories of Mt/Lk.
Th 26: the sliver in your friend's eye, is close to the "sliver in your
brother's eye" in Mt 7:3-5 / Lk 6:41-42. There is no Markan parallel. Th 26
lacks the Mt/Lk introit about not judging, in the absence of which we have a
more gnostic saying in Th 26: the problem is not one of judging, but one of
knowledge: seeing clearly. It is easier to see this as derived by
abridgement of context from Mt/Lk, than the reverse.
Th 31: No prophet is welcome in his home country; no doctor cures those he
knows. This has parallels in all three Synoptics, but the link with a doctor
saying occurs only in Lk (where Jesus is made to quote, with a quite
different narrative force, the seeming proverb "physician, heal thyself").
Thomas seems to have taken the Luke cluster and further wrought its doctor
component into a knowledge saying rather than a self-cure precept. The two
in Luke are narratively reasonable (for the narrative inconcinnities
resulting from Luke's having moved this Nazareth episode from its original
Markan position in his Gospel, which do not affect the argument here, see an
earlier note). The two in Thomas can be thought to have been adjusted in an
ideological direction ubiquitous in Thomas. Then Lk > Th.
Th 32. The city on the hill is exclusively in Mt 5:1314b. It is elaborated
in Thomas, with the military detail that a sufficiently fortified city in a
high location cannot be taken by assault. This assault theme occurs also at
Th 21 (admittedly combined with passages that don't match very well), and so
is recurrent in Thomas. Then Thomas has adapted the Matthean image in a way
characteristic of itself, and we have Mt > Th, together with the certainty
that Th at this stage know both Mt and Lk.
Th 33. The first part ["what you hear in your ear, in the other ear proclaim
from the rooftops"] resembles Lk 12:3 "What you have said in the dark will
be heard in the light," but as a command may be closer to Mt 10:27, "What I
tell you in the dark, utter in the light." The second part ["no one lights a
lamp and puts it under a basket"] parallels Mt 5:15 and Lk 11:33; there is
also a Markan parallel. Thomas brings into conjunction two separate sayings
which in his version do not match very well; the common theme is revelation
of the originally hidden, which occurs frequently in other Thomas sayings so
far. There is thus a motive of sorts for the Thomas conjunction, though the
result is not very convincing. The corresponding sayings in Mt and Lk have
no particular narrative continuity to brag about either, so we should
strictly rule that this directionality situation is indeterminate so far as
respective continuity is concerned, though there is at minimum no strong
evidence against the tenor of the previous conclusions, namely Mt/Lk > Th.
The bottom line is that where a clear preference exists between the
Th/Gospel parallels or sequences, that is, where we have continuity on one
side and chop suey on the other, we consistently get Mt/Lk > Th in this
second layer of Thomas.
On an essentially similar if more fully developed argument, MarkG gets a
similar reading for Th 79a. Then we have a consistency of directionality in
Thomas (vis-a-vis the Second Tier Synoptics) from Th 14 right through to at
least 79a. On the other hand, in the preceding material, we seem to have the
opposite, with Th > Mt/Lk. The implied scenario would then look something
like this (read up, as in archaeology):
Layer 3 or so Th 40-79a- ??
Layer 2 Th 0 . . .. . . . . . Th 13-39
Layer 1 Th 1-12
That much for now.
E Bruce Brooks
Warring States Project
University of Massachusetts at Amherst