Re: Thomasine dating (fwd)
- ---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 29 Jun 1998 00:16:59 -0400
To: Stevan Davies <miser17@...>
Subject: Re: Thomasine dating
On Sat, 27 Jun 1998, Stevan Davies wrote:
> Yuri wrote:
> > I think the most reasonable supposition would be that GTh was
> originally > composed ca. 40-60 ad, and that at some later point some
> editing took > place. Some stuff was probably added some time in the
> second century.
> People say this all the time. Comes from assuming that "synoptic"
> sayings are first and "non-synoptic" sayings are second century.
Perhaps you're right that this is what is commonly said, and for the
reason you've given. But this is not my reason. My reason is simply that I
refuse to treat GTh any different from the way I treat all early Christian
literature. I.e. I see plenty of editing and interpolation in all the
> And yet, if you take those one at a time and say "is this first or
> second century, and how do you know" you won't get much of an answer.
> Bill Arnal managed both to stratify Thomas into synoptic / non-synoptic
> layers and to affirm that the non-synoptic layers are probably
> themselves first century.
This is not my point. My point is simply that I don't privilege GTh as the
only gospel that escaped later editing. This is simply my general
> Although half of one saying in Thomas shifts from its location in the Gk
> to the Cp Thomas there are ZERO interpolations and additions of sayings
> to be found when Gk is compared to Cp.
This one example of "half of one saying in Thomas" shifting from its
location in the Gk to a different location in the Cp Thomas is a good
example of continuing editorial work. We can be pretty sure that more of
such editorial work was taking place as GTh was transmitted along over
Of course we have to keep in mind that our evidence sample is way too
small for certainty about what changes in the text may have been made over
time. Some sayings may well have been added later. Bits and pieces may
have been added to various sayings. Bill Arnal suggested this already.
What I'm saying is primarily meant to answer criticisms that some bits and
pieces of later canonical stuff may turn up in GTh. I'm not sure how much
exactly has been identified so far, but it's certainly not much.
Nevertheless, if some assorted bits are identified, I don't think this
should detract from GTh being basically precanonical.
> Thus the evidence we have
> indicates that Thomas' tradition did NOT lend itself to bits being added
> in here and there.
> You may say "maybe it happened" but insofar as there
> is any evidence (above) it didn't.
Well, let's take a look at POxy 654, 27-31 (logion 5):
Jesus says, "K[now what is be]fore your face, and [that which is hidden]
from you will be reveal[ed to you. For there i]s nothing hidden which will
not [be made] mani[fest] and (nothing) buried which will not [be raised
And the Coptic GTh says: "There's nothing hidden" instead of "There's
What does this tell us? That a key phrase had its meaning changed
significantly at a later stage. It is as if the editor of GTh wanted to
remove this reference to physical resurrection... And this of course leads
up to what I wrote previously:
> > It is difficult for me to believe that GTh is completely unaware of
> the > crucifixion. The lack of a specific reference to crucifixion seems
> to me > like being a part of the _special editorial agenda of Thomas_,
> rather than > plain not knowing about it. This seems pretty evident to
> me... What do > people think?
So here we see a glimpse of this special editorial agenda of Thomas, don't
> Why should Thomas care?
Good question, and here's the answer. He should care because great many
Christians care very much about the resurrection.
> If I have a collection of the sayings of Mao Tse
> Tung I don't expect discussion of the manner of his demise to be part of
No, but you should certainly expect references to "Class Struggle" or to
the "Evil Bourgeoisie". Because this is the very core of Marxism.
Similarly, the very core of post-Easter movement was resurrection.
It is my opinion that the earliest Christian origins post-Easter were
centred around the idea of the Resurrection of the Lord. Without this,
Christianity would have not even been a blip on the radar screen to us now
-- one more tiny cult, one of hundreds of thousands, vanished without a
trace in the mists of history... I see those first visions of Peter, or
whoever it was who had visions first, as the original Big Bang from which
the post-Easter movement developed onwards.
That Thomas doesn't want to talk about this is highly significant. If
someone in China produced a collection of Mao's sayings without the "Class
Struggle" or the "Evil Bourgeoisie", you will perceive this person's
individual editorial agenda very clearly, won't you?
> Thomas' are, after all, the sayings of the "living" Jesus who,
> before Mark got around to it, probably didn't spend a lot of time
> chatting about his crucifixion.
Well, the question is obviously, Do you really want to claim that GTh
dates from before 30, i.e. pre-Easter? Because this is the only way the
reference to the resurrection could be omitted in a natural way.
But I think most people will say, and I will agree, that all Christian
literature is post-Easter. So in this case the manner in which the Maximum
Leader died cannot be avoided naturally as a subject for concern.
It is my view that GTh is engaged in a dialogue and/or controversy with
the catholic/mainstream versions of how Jesus was. Thus, his playing down
the resurrection is primarily a rhetorical strategy.
The above can help us to date GTh, I suppose. If we managed to establish
that GTh was in dialogue with the catholics, it would then date from
roughly the same time as the canonical literature. But GTh also includes
plenty of earlier material.
Here's what I consider GTh to be. I think it was, along with Q, the public
catechesis/teachings of the young movement. The private teachings would
have been secret, and would have included the liturgical stuff, the
material underlying basic Christian rituals. This is the stuff that was
gradually incorporated into pMk, SecMk, and Mk (in that order) and later