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(Fwd) Re: The Thomas/Q Hypothesis

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  • Stevan Davies
    Forwarded message: From: Self To: crosstalk Subject: Re: The Thomas/Q Hypothesis Reply-to: miser17@epix.net Date: Fri, 26 Jun 1998
    Message 1 of 5 , Jun 30, 1998
      Forwarded message:
      From: Self </S Davies>
      To: crosstalk
      Subject: Re: The Thomas/Q Hypothesis
      Reply-to: miser17@...
      Date: Fri, 26 Jun 1998 11:34:45

      Bob wrote:
      > I think that what Mark is hinting at here, and which you sidestep, comes
      > down to the meaning assigned to "special Luke" and "special Matthew." I
      > think that Mark has in mind that "special Luke" = "distinctively Luke",
      > i.e., not just a residual category, but a category with definable Lukan
      > interests, and "special Matthew" = "distinctively Matthew" in the same
      > sense (but with a very different editorial slant.) If this meaning of SL
      > and SM is correct, then it is not plausible that a non-Lukan non-Matthean
      > Thomas could give rise to both.

      I certainly hope he's not doing this, but if he is he should stop and
      look at the material in question and see if he would like to assign
      it to such "distinctively" categories. I don't think anybody else
      ever has.

      > I believe that you, on the other hand, tend to view SL and SM as
      > collections from different strands of the oral tradition, i.e., that
      > "special Luke" is merely a residual category that does not reflect
      > interests original with Luke, and similarly for Matthew.

      That's right.

      > I don't know how this difference can be resolved. Where one sits on this
      > issue will depend on how "creative" you think Luke and Matthew were, versus
      > how much oral tradition you think they were able to (selectively) draw from.

      If the "distinctively" is correct, then arguments to that effect
      should be made that are convincing.

      The difficulty here, though, is that since Mt and Lk certainly chose
      materials from OrTr that they approved of and that fit their own
      narrative projects, it can always be argued that saying X, since it
      fits Mt's or Lk's particular ways of looking at things could have
      been invented by Mt or Lk for that purpose. Does saying X fit
      the purpose since it was chosen out of OrTr in order to do so, or was
      it invented in order to do so? The simple observation that a SpLk
      saying fits into Luke's agendas won't distinguish between those

      I think the general consensus is that neither Matthew nor Luke was
      prone to just make short sayings up... the jury is out on whether
      they tended to make up long parables like the wheat and tares, the
      prodigal son, the good samaritan (I think they probably did). But the
      sorts of things that are common to Sp Mt and Sp Lk and GTh... I would
      be interested to know if anybody anywhere had ever proposed that any
      of these were invented by Mt or Lk (and if so, how is this known?)

      > I tend to want to side with you on this one, but rather cogent arguments
      > have been advanced on CrossTalk for Luke's special contributions to the
      > Gospel tradition.

      It's rum. I worry about the impact of cleverness on these sorts of
      things. Human minds find order in chaos by instinct. Clever minds are
      particularly good at that. So how, forinstance, can anyone show that
      Mark Goodacre, who finds Luke to be re-ordering carefully Matthew's
      sayings order (where most others find Luke's sayings material to be
      relatively chaotic) is wrong? The propositions "Luke had this
      rationale for doing what he did" and "If Luke had a rationale for
      doing what he did, here is what is probably was" are two different

      It worries me about Valentasis' book on Thomas that he can show the
      tight ideological consistency within Thomas' apparently chaotic
      sayings by interpreting them all in a certain way. But is this
      Valentasis' cleverness, or Thomas'?

      Similarly, if somebody comes along and says, "I can show how this and
      that special Mt or Lk saying could have been invented by Mt or Lk"
      one shouldn't be immediately impressed but think "could have been,
      yes, I suppose so, but was it?"

      So, as mentioned above, we know that there are Lukan factors at work
      in either the selection of material from tradition or in the
      invention of material. In the latter case it may be possible to speak
      in literary terms, how a passage in Mt or Lk is particularly typical
      of the literary style of those authors.... but even this is likely to
      be based on slim evidence (short sayings just don't have many data
      points to work with). If sayings just fit like hand in glove to an
      author's particular ideology (like the suffering son of man sayings
      in Mark, e.g.) then one has pretty good grounds to think Mark wrote
      them. Matthew, I think, is pretty well agreed to have some
      distinctive traits of invention in his writing... "wailing and
      gnashing of teeth" comes to mind... but I think it's pretty well
      known that these traits are conspicuously lacking in Thomas.

      So... until somebody comes along and shows that the GTh sayings
      in SpMt or SpLk are invented by Mt or Lk you don't need to worry.
      Nobody has ever done this. Many have surely tried... it would be strong
      evidence for the prevailing but very weak argument that Th is
      dependent.... but even amongst their thin and often desperate efforts
      one doesn't find that particular line of thought.

      Stevan Davies
      Professor of Religious Studies
      College Misericordia, Dallas, Pennsylvania, USA
      The Gospel of Thomas Homepage
    • Stevan Davies
      Forwarded message: From: Self To: crosstalk Subject: Re: The Thomas/Q Hypothesis Reply-to: miser17@epix.net Date: Fri, 26 Jun 1998
      Message 2 of 5 , Jun 30, 1998
        Forwarded message:
        From: Self </S Davies>
        To: crosstalk
        Subject: Re: The Thomas/Q Hypothesis
        Reply-to: miser17@...
        Date: Fri, 26 Jun 1998 12:44:42

        Mark wrote:
        > So the
        > distinctively Lukan aspect of L and the distinctively Matthean aspect
        > of M does not concern me hugely in this connection.

        First, this means that my recent letter to Bob doesn't particularly
        relate to your letters. Second, one must be a bit more narrow
        here and speak of "the distinctively Lukan aspect of L
        IN THOMAS and the distinctively Matthean aspect of M
        IN THOMAS" for the attributes of M and L outside of Thomas
        are relevant only insofar as they may contain traits that can point
        to Mt or Lk authorship which will in turn allow one to conclude
        that these traits are, or are not, also present in Thomasine
        material. My strong hunch is that one will find for Mt certainly
        that the Matthean traits in M are significantly lacking in Thomas.

        > I will try to articulate what concerns me, for I am afraid I have
        > reached a real sticking point here with the Thomas independence
        > theory. Steve's answer (it seems to me) presupposes a great pool of
        > oral tradition from which Thomas selected, a pool that contained
        > (what we call) Q, M, L, Mk, Mk-Q overlap, MattR of Mk, LukeR of Mk
        > and Johannine material.

        There was a pool that contained some of that material, the particular
        instances of it varying more or less randomly from place to place.

        And technically, I will deny any MattR or LukeR in oral tradition.
        These should not be on your list as they are question-begging.

        There are no
        John sayings in Thomas and possibly none that are, strictly speaking,
        Johannine (77's panentheism isn't exactly John).

        Similarly, by the standards of the Kloppenborg school, Thomas lacks
        what are, strictly speaking, "Q" sayings.

        I must again insist that the laws of chance lead one to suspect that
        there is SpL and SpM material in Q. That is to say, that on at least
        one occasion both Lk and Mt took the same saying, not from Q,
        but from oral tradition... material that can be anywhere among the
        "Q" sayings that are verbally different in Mt and Lk.

        If you say "we cannot know that they did"
        I respond "we cannot know that they didn't." And if so, and if
        Q contains Mk material (the famed overlaps) then the neat
        distinctions are not quite so neat as they might be for Q might
        contain SpM SpLk and Mk as well as other stuff and so approximate
        the mix in Thomas.

        But isn't there a conceptual problem at the root of this? I.e. that
        the categorization of sayings as SpM and Q and so forth is
        artificial in cases where that material is not demonstrably invented
        by Mt or Q? All it means is that these sayings happen to show up
        in these texts. Sayings Mt did not invent are not somehow "Mt
        sayings" in any significant sense.

        > I have always assumed that Christian origins were somewhat more
        > diverse than this pool option, and that each evangelist will have
        > had access to only certain strands of oral tradition, and that this
        > is one of the reasons that there are diversities among the different
        > kinds of material.

        The standard model is that there once was a man named Jesus who said
        a variety of memorable things some few of which were recalled and
        reiterated and that these sayings were fairly limited in style and
        substance and that scholarship can reach agreement on a fair chunk of
        them. It is, for example, a common complaint from JSem defenders
        that when all is said and done and the smoke clears virtually all of
        the JSem sayings said to be authentic are conceded to be so by JSem
        opponents and not very many of the JSem inauthentic sayings are
        said to be so by JSem opponents. So there really is a consensus, of
        a sort.

        It is these kinds of sayings that are at issue in the present
        discussion, not some other kinds. (Recall Mahlon's brief note of
        agreement with me he sent early this morning).

        Given that the standard theory of christian origins postulates a
        common core of sayings material, it should not be at all surprising
        that elements of this core of material should show up diversely in
        many otherwise different texts.

        > Surely the evangelists (including Thomas) were
        > spread widely across the ancient world. Has it not been an axiom of
        > critical study of the New Testament that one of the reasons for
        > differences between the Gospels is different places of origin, with
        > accesses to different materials?

        Actually I don't exactly think so. As I see it "one of the reasons
        for the hypothesis of different places of origin with accesses to
        different materials is that there are differences between the
        Gospels." So far as I know there is no certain reason to deny that
        ALL of the gospels were written in e.g. Athens. Evidence to the
        contrary, like dating-evidence, will tend to evaporate when looked at
        carefully. Paul's letters certainly show a diversity of Xianities
        within the same city, which isn't likely to have become less so
        30 years later.

        > It may be that the standard model is wrong, and that we do need to
        > go for a hypothesis of a homogeneous pool of oral tradition, to which
        > Thomas is our best witness.

        I'm not sure what "best witness" means here. That there was a
        homogeneous pool? If so, then perhaps that's the case. But bear
        in mind that Thomas is loaded with inhomogeneous matter as well.
        In fact its materials are LESS homogeneous than the materials in
        any other Christian document, orthodox or gnostic. Off the top of my
        head I can't think of any less homogeneous Christian document in
        the entire history of the church (pace Valentasis).

        Nobody, of course, argues that the homogeneous pool of oral tradition
        was identical anywhere. The argument is that there was, let's
        say, a corpus of 200 sayings of Jesus that originated before 40 or
        so and that one might reasonably surmise that in most places
        in Christendom 40 years later a random chunk of those would be
        known by interested persons... along with a lot of later-invented

        > But for me at least it represents a huge
        > paradigm shift, and one that will need some major re-thinking,
        > especially when there is a competing option available, viz. that
        > Thomas has some knowledge of the other gospels. The latter option
        > may of course prove unlikely for the kinds of reasons that Mahlon
        > stressed in his post of yesterday, in which case the paradigm shift
        > will be necessary. But let us not underestimate the shift envisaged.
        > I would be interested to know if others see this as a problem.
        > Thomas, let us remind ourselves, has parallels to every strand of
        > synoptic material as well as to John. Do others see this as a
        > potential problem for the theory of Thomasine independence? And if
        > so, is anyone able to articulate it better than I am?

        Well, we can keep going at this until we get it clear, that's the
        usual procedure, and it's a perfectly good one. I still don't see the
        problem. As above:

        1. There is a pool of authentic material shared by all Christian
        groups to some extent or other. This is original oral tradition.

        2. Distinctive sayings reflecting unique points of view began to be
        created as well for ideological purposes. Random bits of this
        stuff came into separate lines of oral tradition (e.g., by the usual
        theory, we have a fragment of Johannine material in Q).

        3. One expects texts to share materials of type 1 frequently and not
        to share materials of type 2 very often. The problem Thomas gives
        dependence theorists arises from the fact that it lacks the very
        materials of type 2 that would allow one to point to particular
        authors as its source. In other words, Thomas has just the kind of
        diversity one should expect from a text originating from oral
        traditions without synoptic influence.

        Assuming a random selection process from tradition for Thomas
        of "authentic" type materials the surprise should be to find that
        there is NO overlap between it and other extensive sets of the same
        sort of material. Assuming a non-random selection process
        from the synoptics for Thomas, how does Thomas know to avoid
        the identifiable type 2 material in those texts? This is a different
        question than the one Mahlon is raising, but of equal importance.

        Stevan Davies
        Professor of Religious Studies
        College Misericordia, Dallas, Pennsylvania, USA
        The Gospel of Thomas Homepage
      • Stevan Davies
        Forwarded message: From: Self To: crosstalk Subject: Re: The Thomas/Q Hypothesis Reply-to: miser17@epix.net Date: Sat, 27 Jun 1998
        Message 3 of 5 , Jun 30, 1998
          Forwarded message:
          From: Self </S Davies>
          To: crosstalk
          Subject: Re: The Thomas/Q Hypothesis
          Reply-to: miser17@...
          Date: Sat, 27 Jun 1998 18:41:23

          Bob wrote:
          > >Oh, I dunno. We have Jesus asking "Who do you say that I am?" and only one of the Twelve (Peter) gets the answer
          > right, and he's "right" for the wrong reasons (or so tradition tells us). If you interviewed today's churchgoers, I wonder
          > what the ratio would be. In John's Gospel, the odds are a little better, because Andrew and Philip, and then Nathaniel, get
          > with the program already in chapter 1, even before the first Sign. But then the next person to really get the message is not
          > one of the disciples, but of all people a Samaritan(!) woman(!) But then I am just reciting your evidence for you. "Isn't this
          > odd?" is directed at *our* way of thinking about things. We are jaded and cynical when reviewing the case of the disciples
          > of just about any modern cultists, but we expect more from the disciples of Jesus. I suppose we should. But we have the
          > advantage of knowing how the story turns out-- they didn't (at the time the things reported were happening.)

          I'd really like an example of cultist followers of a deceased leader
          who go off and manage to construct a whole variety of cults in a few
          decades, in a series of diverse locales, cults that really do vary considerably.
          I don't know of any. And so analogous argumentation doesn't appear
          to be available.

          Evidences you gave above are, of course, evangelical redaction in
          the standard opinion.

          > >Of course if we're into redaction criticism here, I suppose the more
          correct question would be *why* the gospel writers
          > were so down on the disciples as a whole, while writing (selectively)
          good things about specific disciples. The most
          > natural explanation is that the authors of the Gospels were writing at
          a time when conflicting (oral and written) accounts of
          > the True Gospel were being heard, and the authors were playing
          favorites, showing in a better light those whom were
          > considered as possessing better understanding, and in worse light
          those who (at the time) were considered to be distorting
          > the true gospel. It might be interesting sometime to try to rank the
          named disciples according to the number of good and
          > bad things said about them (and by whom).

          I think what you've written above fits into the standard theory of
          things, that different evangelists had their favorites among the
          disciples AND that this indicates something about the evangelists'
          communities' views.

          Off the top of my head (yeah, like I normally research each sentence
          before I type it) I'd say that Matthew took Peter as his hero
          because he needed a hero in his story, didn't have one, and took
          Mark's focal villain as Mark's main character and made him the hero.

          After the (secondary) incipit of the Gospel of Thomas the disciple
          Thomas is mentioned exactly once as the main guy and I really don't
          think anything much can be made of this (pace Riley).

          I don't think Luke's gospel really has a main hero, beyond following
          Mark and reducing criticism (which leaves you with Peter James John).

          John makes a big deal of the beloved disciple at the end of the
          book, but we don't know who that was.

          Gee. I really don't see much that can be made of this. As for the
          sociology of the disciples as a cadre, the only way I know of to get
          at that one is to appeal almost completely to cross-cultural analogy
          and see what the patterns of "discipleship" are and then
          "apostleship" in later instances of cult formation. Not a bad
          project, and quite possibly it's been done. Dunno where.

          Stevan Davies
          Professor of Religious Studies
          College Misericordia, Dallas, Pennsylvania, USA
          The Gospel of Thomas Homepage
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