Re: Thomasine dating
On Mon, 29 Jun 1998, Stevan Davies wrote:
> > Good question, and here's the answer. He should care because great many
> > Christians care very much about the resurrection.
> This is "canonical bias". The resurrection oriented Christians who
> wrote NT stuff are a dangerous source for the inference that all
> Christians were that way. Even on Crosstalk you have Mahlon's
> notion of Jesus' importance (cynicish sage) and Davies' notions
> of what Xianity mainly got started from (spirit experience) neither
> of which have anything to do with the resurrection... this is not to
> say that the resurrection was thought important by some, but to say
> that the resurrection didn't have to be particularly important to
> others. I'll say again: "people appearing to others after death is
> NOT unusual in the ancient world or anywhere else and so the claim
> that Jesus did so could NOT have been the main deal for his cult."
> > 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.
> Paul would agree, Mark too. Certainly not John. Nor Q or Thomas.
> > 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.
> Q seems to have managed it well enough. But, anyhow, suppose I
> simply theorize that these are the sayings of the living Jesus, i.e.
> not dead yet, and the compiler of Thomas had the simpleminded
> intelligence to think that before he died Jesus didn't spend much
> time chatting about his demise. No big deal. Paul, for example,
> doesn't give us instances of Jesus speaking about his crucifixion
> while he's alive even though he might have done. I'm prone to think
> that the first person who thought Jesus did that sort of thing was
> > 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
> > became non-secret.
I can see that quite a few posters already got involved in this debate
about the resurrection. But clarity about basic assumptions and
terminology has been somewhat lacking, or so it seems. What are we really
debating here? Let me try to clarify the historical background a little in
order to bring some focus to this debate.
It is very clear that already very early on, ca. 50 CE, there were those
Christians who denied the resurrection, and those who believed in it. This
is evident from Paul's writings.
But already here the question must be asked, What kind of a resurrection?
Did the deniers deny the materialistic view of resurrection (i.e. bodily
resurrection), or the spiritual one? We don't know, but probably
materialistic. I would think that the earliest general belief would have
been in the non-materialistic resurrection.
So these are the complexities here, but let's leave this aside for a
Now, to remind, our main question is, Was resurrection the central event
for earliest Christians? Obviously it was the central event for some, but
perhaps not for all? Maybe not, but what about the Jerusalem core of
believers, the earliest Ebionites, including James and Peter? I certainly
think that for them the resurrection, and the associated Second Coming of
the Lord, were central. It is also my belief that Paul was with them
theologically, at least in his early years as a preacher.
So if you'd wish to maintain that there were some Christians who did not
subscribe to this view, probably they were elsewhere. Perhaps in Galilee?
So, in other words, for you to maintain that for some Christians the
resurrection was not central, you'd have to postulate multiple centres for
A while back we discussed various ideas about such multiple centres.
Morton Smith believed that there may have been as many as three discrete
centres from early on. According to Smith, post-Easter, different
followers of Jesus may have started different traditions about Jesus. Some
of his earliest followers were probably (1) Hellenistic Jews, and they may
well have seen Jesus as a sort of a legal teacher or philosopher. Others,
(2) also most likely believing Jews (Aramaic-speaking?), saw him as a
Messiah, and yet others (3) as primarily a miracle worker. Smith suggests
that the latter were probably gentiles or Hellenists.
So the first two groups Smith suggested were believing Jews, and the third
possibly Gentile-centred. The #2 were probably strict legalists, and
sticklers for the Law. It is the #3 that may have been centred in Galilee?
The #1 were probably oriented towards the Greek philosophy, and thus would
have been the closest to the Cynic mode.
Since it is my opinion that Adoptionism was the central feature of the
earliest Jerusalem Christianity (i.e. Jesus was believed to have been
adopted by God as his Son), from the point of view of Christology, the Son
of God would have been the earliest title of Jesus post-Easter. This title
would also have fit well with the group #3. But the title Messiah/Christ
would have been also applied pretty early by group #2, and perhaps by #1.
So these are the various possibilities. Now, how would the GTh fit into
any of these groups. What would be the GTh community? Probably #1, since
#1 probably wouldn't have been so interested in the resurrection? GTh fits
very well with the early Jerusalem Church. It specifically honours James.
Is it possible that #1 and #2 were originally united and then split into
two rival groups? Myself, I would tend to incline to this view. And so in
this case all of the earliest Jerusalem Christians would have been
interested in the resurrection, but later some of them may have lost their
Is it possible that there were some pre-Easter followers of Jesus (let's
call them Group X, or would it have been simply our old group #3) who
never cared about the resurrection post-Easter? I guess so. But then, they
had nothing to do in Jerusalem, a centre of the Jewish Temple cult, the
place that was apparently quite marginal to the Historical Jesus'
But would it have been possible for this Group X to have been merrily
unaware of the circumstances of Jesus' ignoble death? Did they try to
carry on spreading the pre-Easter teachings of the Master as if nothing
happened? Or were they rather trying to keep performing some miracles in
the imitation of the Master, as Morton Smith would have probably guessed,
as if the death on the Cross never happened? All this I doubt. The death
of their Master would have affected them in some way surely.
I don't think GTh would have been the product of such a Group X, anyway
you define it. I don't think this is that kind of a document. But this is
what you are apparently seeking to maintain?
Yuri Kuchinsky || Toronto
The goal proposed by Cynic philosophy is apathy, which is
equivalent to becoming God -=O=- Julian