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Synoptics and Thomas (MkG): Lk 12:49-50

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    To: Synoptic Cc: WSW On: Synoptics and Thomas (MkG) From: Bruce It is nice to have MkG s Thomas thoughts in consecutive paper form; I found some of them
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 12, 2012
      To: Synoptic
      Cc: WSW
      On: Synoptics and Thomas (MkG)
      From: Bruce

      It is nice to have MkG's Thomas thoughts in consecutive paper form; I found
      some of them convincing when first aired on this list some years ago, and to
      my eye they have lost nothing in their new company. I think that this,
      coming on top of a few other recent and cogent publications (eg Gathercole),
      more or less settles the idea that in Thomas we have a viable substitute
      Earliest Christianity. Nothing of the sort. Thomas (not, by the way, a
      Gospel) is a derivative Christianity of a particular sort.

      Moving on, then, to passages not treated by MkG, I turn to one I have always
      felt was spooky in Luke, namely Lk 12:49, "I came to cast fire upon the
      earth, and would that it were already kindled!" This is stunningly unlike
      anything previous in Luke, and for that matter, anything that follows. The
      next thing in Lk is a parallel wish, 12:50, "I have a baptism to be baptized
      with, and how I am constrained until it is accomplished!" Neither of these
      has a counterpart in Matthew.

      My angle on this (and on everything else in Luke/Matthew) is the one I have
      expounded several times on this list: Luke A was composed in the 60's, as a
      Syrian remake and update of Mark; it was followed by the more Jerusalemizing
      Matthew, and this in turn by Luke B, who adopted some of Matthew's more
      successful devices, moved to other positions some passages previously in
      Markan order, and added a new layer of miracle over the whole thing (the
      fish miracle to the previous Calling of Peter; the miraculous escape from
      the murderous crowd to the much extended and also relocated Preaching at
      Nazareth). Lk B also included a new venture, Acts I, where, as in Luke B,
      divine intervention figures constantly. A feature of this model which (if I
      recall correctly) interested Chuck Jones is that the Spirit, a
      characteristically Pauline idea of how the Christian communities worked, is
      characteristic only of Luke B, not Luke A. And of course it is Acts I = Luke
      B which takes up at least the beginning of the life of Paul.

      I now take up my synopsis to see what help this model may be in reading Lk

      -------Lk 12:49-50-----------

      We may not properly ignore Lk 12:51-53, "I have not come to bring peace, but
      division," which DOES have a Matthean parallel, Mt 10:34-35. It is this
      following passage which gets involved with Thomas 16, the Lukan half of
      which is treated on MkG p183. But the closer parallel to Thos 16 is surely
      Mt 10:34 (the sword, changed by gentle Lk 12:51 to "division"). But then
      comes the description of the division within families, and the "five against
      three" of Thos 16 has no counterpart in Mt, but only in Lk 12:52.
      Considering only the Mt and Lk versions of these two verses, we can easily
      enough say that they have the direction Mt > Lk, for consider:

      Mt sword > Lk division (less graphically violent)
      Mt [nothing] Lk three against two and vice versa (see next)
      Mt son vs father, daughter vs mother > Lk fills in the opposite: father vs
      son etc

      These can be consistently shown to agree with the preferences of Lk
      generally, and that, essentially, is how they are treated in McG 2/552f. So
      far so good, and I think we must accept the solution Mt > Lk for the
      passages which are present in both texts. It is the other ones that cause
      problems. In Thomas terms, we have greater closeness to Thos 16 in Mt 10:34
      than in the parallel (and derivative) Lk 12:51, but then immediately Lk
      12:52, which also has a Thos 16 parallel, but no Matthean one, so this is
      something Lk did not get from Matthew. As for Lk 12:49, it has no parallel
      in Matthew, but a close one in Thos 10.

      In other words, these four verses in Lk, together with their Matthean
      counterparts when present, give us a picture of alternating Thomasinity: Mt
      superior in Mt 10:34, but Lk closer elsewhere. What to make of this? One
      thing to make of it is that Thos knew both Mt and Lk, and preferred Mt when
      available, and Lk where not. That preserves the single-directionality of all
      texts, but it leaves some other stuff unexplained. I now take up that other

      ----------------Luke B----------

      Another of the passages which Luke B moves out of its Luke A order (which
      seems to have been at all points identical to Markan order) is Mk 10:35-40,
      the prediction of the martyrdom of James and/or John Zebedee. It is
      described in Mk not only as a cup to be drunk, but a baptism to be
      undergone. This whole section is simply a blank in the synopsis at Lk
      22:23/24, where this incident would go if it were present. It is recognized
      however by the synopsis makers that the counterpart is in the single verse
      Lk 12:50. That verse, remarkably, says nothing about any Zebedee; it speaks
      instead of Jesus himself: he is constrained until his baptism is
      accomplished. I think we may safely take it that the "Jesus" in this passage
      is speaking of his own martyrdom, a matter presumably of much more interest
      to Luke's readers than any stories about the Zebedees. OK, but what has
      inspired the move? Narrative concinnity? Not evident. Personal motivation?
      Also not. I think that what inspired the move was the wish to provide a
      counterpart, indeed a close parallel, for Lk 12:49, and Lk 12:49 is either
      original Luke or somehow relates to Thomas. Since the meaning of 12:49 is
      unclear in strictly Lukan context (the commentators spend some time in
      offering explanations; always a sign of concinnity problems), the more
      locally attractive solution is that Lk in 12:49 is appropriating an outside
      saying for his own purposes, and then making a drastic rearrangement of his
      previous (Lk A) material in order to round it out.

      McG says of Lk 12:49 (p2/552), "The text continues without any break . . .
      and it cannot be wise to ignore this and presume a break in the sense." On
      the contrary, there is a violent break in the sense, as Fitzmyer and others
      have more clearly seen. Up to that point, "Jesus" has been talking about
      what will happen to people who are unprepared for the Last Judgement, and
      then suddenly, out of nowhere, in 12:49, "Jesus" starts talking about
      himself. We shift from pastoral precepting to Christology. It's all
      wonderful, doubtless, but it is not the same kind of wonderful.

      If this is an interpolation, as the discontinuity of subject and address
      invite us to think, where does the interpolation end? I should suppose, at
      the point where Lk resumes giving advice to persons, and not describing
      "Jesus's" concern that things including his own death be speedily
      accomplished, and the Mk 13 type of horrors that will follow, on some
      schedule or other.

      That point, I think it will be readily agreed, occurs at Lk 12:57, where
      with equal suddenness the text turns to addressing the ordinary Christian:
      "And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? This follows the
      (exclusively Lukan) 12:47-48, where the guilt of various types of
      transgressing servants is subtly weighed, those with greater knowledge
      having to meet a higher standard of behavior (just as James, the Alpha
      writer, had said of teachers: we know they will be judged more severely).
      The element of personal judgement is present in both, but absent in the
      intervening prediction material. Without the prediction material, we have
      thematic continuity.

      Now consider the Mt/Lk directionality in those two sequences. There are Mt
      parallels for much of the prediction material, and also for this "judge what
      is right" material, with its advice to settle outside the law with an
      opponent (again the James note: only bad people drag Christians before the
      civil = unbeliever courts). BUT, the implied Mt/Lk directionality is
      opposite; unproblematically Mt > Lk in the prediction material, but Lk > Mt
      in the Judge What is Right material. And why? Because one of the key facts
      about Mt's Sermon on the Mount, including its annotated Lord's Prayer and
      its richified Beatitudes, is that behind them lies Luke's simpler and
      formally earlier Lord's Prayer, and his poverty-oriented Beatitudes. And in
      Lk 12:578f, we have something that has been taken into the Matthean Sermon,
      at Mt 5:25f. Graphically:

      Mt 10:34-36, 16:2-3 > Lk 12:51-56 (Luke has gathered together Mt verses)
      Lk 12:57-59 > Mt 5:25-26 (Matthew has scraped his Sermon together out of Lk)

      It is this alternating directionality which is among the strongest arguments
      for two stages of at least one of Mt and Lk, and from other evidence, it is

      ------Again Thomas------------

      Let's suppose that for the parallel parts of the Lk 12:49-56 sequence, we
      have indeed the direction Mt > Lk, and that Thos 16 has drawn on both; that
      is, Thos is posterior to Mt and Lk B. This is probably the simplest way of
      dealing with the Thos 16 parallels. It accounts, respectably, for Thos 16.
      But Lk 12:49 cannot have been drawn from Mt, and it is typologically unusual
      in Lk, and it interrupts and for a time dislocates a preaching sequence in
      Lk, and it seems to inspire the relocation, in Lk, of the Markan story of
      the Zebedees. That is a lot of work for one passage. Hence the possibility
      suggests itself: Lk 12: 49 is drawn from a contemporary source, which we are
      in the habit of calling Thomas. and specifically from Thos 10 or its
      antecedent in the Thos pipeline.

      We then have an instant and grievous dilemma: bidirectionality between Lk
      and Thos, such that Thos 10 > Lk, and also such that Lk 12:52-53 > Thos 16.

      The only obvious way to unravel this is to posit a two-stage Thomas. If Thos
      10 were in Greek Thos (or the range defined for Greek Thos by the Oxy
      fragments), and Thos 16 were known only in Coptic Thos, we could without
      great strain suppose that Greek Thos was original modest in scope, and was
      extended greatly in Egypt, whence the longer Coptic Thos. This, however,
      will not serve, since Both Thos passages are included in the ambitus of
      Greek Thos. What to do? We need, if possible, some indication that between
      Thos 10 (early) and Thos 16 (later), there intervened a compositional stage
      change in Thos.

      It would be asking a lot to find evidence of this in Thos, but, I venture to
      suggest, that evidence is exactly what we do find. In Thos 12, we read, and
      I quote (Valentasis):

      12. The disciples said to Jesus, We know that you are going to leave us. Who
      will be our leader? Jesus said to them, No matter where you are, you are to
      go to James the Just, for whose said Heaven and Earth came into being.

      Bingo. No Thomas here, but a cosmically validated James the Just, Jesus's
      own brother. Further, this saying looks a lot like one meant to conclude
      something, and not just to be part of a string. It teaches no doctrine, it
      simply adjudicates a question of spiritual authority. Does this make Gnostic
      sense? Yes, immensely so. Whereas James the Just plays a small or ignoble
      role in the Gospels, he is big among the Gnostic texts, and as late as the
      PseudoClementines on the more orthodox side of things, James is the figure
      of authority to whom Peter and Clement, inter alia, must refer their
      material for correction and preservation.

      ---------Thomas Reconsidered---------

      I thus suggest that not only is the term "Gospel" incorrect for the text
      here discussed, but so is "Thomas." It seems that, instead, the early text
      was very brief, and its acknowledged authority figure was not Thomas or any
      other disciple, but rather the kinsman James, who certainly gained that
      position at Jerusalem not long after the death of James Zebedee, and
      proceeded to abrogate Paul's previous agreement with the latitudinarian
      James Zebedee (who like all the Galileans was not all that hung up over food
      purity), and impose his more conservative food strictness rules.

      This might continue, but I am content to have reached this point, of a rainy
      Friday, and submit it herewith for consideration by the wise. It consists of
      the following time sequence:

      Luke A
      Sayings of Jesus According to James (and who better?)
      Luke B, draws on Sayings of Jesus according to James (#10)
      Sayings of Jesus According to Thomas (including #16)

      Where each text in the stack draws on any or all of those higher up.


      E Bruce Brooks
      Warring States Project
      University of Massachusetts at Amherst
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