A few remarks on the way that it seems to me both Steve and Mahlon see things.
After writing persuasively about the question of randomness in Thomas, Mahlon
> Ergo, GThom was composed without reference to any synoptic gospel or
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?
Likewise, Steve talks about "the dependence side" as those who think that
Thomas is "a collection composed through interaction with the Canonical
Scriptures . . ." Other Thomas bigwigs, like Steve, use the same terms of
"Is it a dependent collection of sayings from within those four gospels or
is it an independent witness to the tradition about the sayings of Jesus?
Two separate reasons persuade me that Thomas is completely (sic)
independent of the intracanonical tradition" (_Four Other Gospels_, p.
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
Steve writes (on "the dependence side"):
> Their problem and task is to explain how it is that what appears to
> be a collection of sayings drawn from oral tradition is, in fact, not
> this but rather is a collection composed through interaction with the
> Canonical Scriptures despite the fact that sayings composed
> through interaction with the Canonical Scriptures as found in the
> writings of e.g. Justin, 2 Clement, don't look like this at all,
> while Q (pace Mark G) does look a good deal like this.
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.
I would like to say to the list, though, how much I enjoyed Jeff Peterson's
fascinating contribution on this topic. I look forward to being educated
further -- and I hope to see that material in print.
Dr Mark Goodacre mailto:M.S.Goodacre@...
Dept. of Theology Tel: +44 (0)121 414 7512
University of Birmingham Fax: +44 (0)121 414 6866
Birmingham B15 2TT
World Without Q: http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/q