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[XTalk] Re: Posteriority of Thomas

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  • Mahlon H. Smith
    ... Good article. Thanx for the URL. Shalom! Mahlon -- ********************* Mahlon H. Smith, http://religion.rutgers.edu/mh_smith.html Associate
    Message 1 of 11 , Mar 6, 2000
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      stevan davies wrote:
      >
      > Hi.
      >
      > The juxtaposition of Thomas 65/66 is actually one
      > of the strongest indications that Mark used Thomas,
      > and not the contrary. I've written a fair amount
      > on this matter in an essay on the relationship
      > of Mark and Thomas published in Neotestamentica
      > journal, also on the WWW at
      >
      > http://www.miseri.edu/users/davies/thomas/tomark1.htm
      >
      > (relevant part is toward the top of the essay)
      >


      Good article. Thanx for the URL.

      Shalom!

      Mahlon

      --

      *********************

      Mahlon H. Smith, http://religion.rutgers.edu/mh_smith.html
      Associate Professor
      Department of Religion Virtual Religion Index
      Rutgers University http://religion.rutgers.edu/vri/
      New Brunswick NJ

      Into His Own: Perspective on the World of Jesus
      http://religion.rutgers.edu/iho/

      A Synoptic Gospels Primer
      http://religion.rutgers.edu/nt/primer/

      Jesus Seminar Forum
      http://religion.rutgers.edu/jseminar/
    • Antonio Jerez
      I thought I could remind Mahlon, Ron and the others who have been engaged in discussing the parable of the Vineyard that we had an interesting discussion of
      Message 2 of 11 , Mar 7, 2000
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        I thought I could remind Mahlon, Ron and the others who have been engaged
        in discussing the parable of the Vineyard that we had an interesting discussion
        of the topic on XTalk back in September-October 1999. I don't see any reason
        yet to change my view that the Vineyard parable was concieved right from the
        beginning as an allegory by the early Church. The parable proper and the "stone"
        quotation belonged together from the beginning. To look for a more authentic
        parable behind the allegory going back to HJ is one of those red herrings that
        abound in NT exegetics.

        Best wishes

        Antonio Jerez
        Goteborg, Sweden


        > Ron Price wrote:
        >
        > > It's good to have your support on this.
        > > But isn't the parable of the vineyard *extraordinarily* suitable to
        > > the Markan "son of God" secret? The allegory is clear. The owner (God)
        > > of the vineyard (earth) sends his slaves (prophets) and finally his son
        > > (Jesus) who is then killed (crucified). It is much more likely that
        > > Au_Mark composed the story, based only on Isaiah 5, and that GTh is
        > > dependent on it (directly or indirectly). Otherwise we would have to
        > > suppose the unlikely scenario that these five key elements just
        > > *happened* to be present in an earlier story.
        >
        > The five elements you mentioned are indeed in both synoptic & Thomasine
        > versions of the parable of the wicked tenants. But I do not concede
        > your parenthetical allegorizations are present or necessarily implied
        > in Thom 65. It is only because we are familiar with the synoptic parable
        > that we read these into that saying. Vineyards are plentiful in
        > Palestine but are not treated as a symbols of Israel (much less the
        > "earth") everytime they are mentioned in a Jewish text [cf. the Matthean
        > parable of the vineyard workers]. So it is only the synoptic version of
        > this parable that betrays influence of Isa 5. Likewise, in all versions
        > of the parable the slaves are sent to collect the landlord's share of
        > the crops. That is a realistic detail that landlords did in Palestine
        > every year. To equate it with the role of Hebrew prophets is a forced
        > allegorization at best, which indicates that that interpretation is
        > secondary to the parable's composition. The equation with the owner with
        > God makes no theological sense, since the owner was patently wrong in
        > thinking his son would be respected while God is supposed to know what
        > is in people's hearts beforehand. Only the equation of the son with
        > Jesus is plausible in any Xn document. But Mark was not the first to
        > invent this identification nor is there any hint in the parable of the
        > Markan theory of a "son of God" secret since the tenants explicity
        > recognize the landlord's heir & so contrive to get rid of him. Finally
        > there is not any indication in the parable itself that judtifies
        > equating the son's death with J's crucifixion. It is the tenant farmers
        > of the vineyard who murder the son. On the horizon of a Jewish author of
        > this parable that would require J to be executed by his fellow Jews. But
        > as Mark knows full well that did not happen. So I conclude that I am
        > justified in claiming (1) the allegorization of this parable is forced &
        > secondary, (2) Mark embellished but did not invent the parable itself, &
        > (3) Thom 65 is independent of & earlier than Mark 12.
        >
        > > Other stories which Au_Mark probably composed and which eventually got
        > > into GTh in one form or another are:
        > > (1) the one about Jesus' mother and brothers standing outside (Mark
        > > 3:31-35). This also is unlikely to have been an earlier saying because
        > > it fits so well Au_Mark's denigration of the first followers of Jesus.
        >
        > I beg to differ. I don't have time here to state my reasons for
        > considering Thom 99 independent of & earlier than Mark 3:31-35. But you
        > will find them, along with my reconstruction of the probable tradition
        > history of this pericope in my article "Kinship is Relative: Mark
        > 3:31-35 and parallels" FORUM 6,1 (March 1990) 80-94.
        >
        >
        > As for your other suggestions here I remain unconvinced & have no time
        > to address them now other than to say that IF one begins with an a
        > priori conviction of the priority of canonical sources one can always
        > find reasons to dismiss non-canonical texts as dependent distortions.
        > But that is because all Xns are more familiar with the former. Whether
        > or not this is historically the case, however, can only be demonstrated
        > IF one is willing to bracket out this orthodox Xn prejudice & weigh the
        > probability of redactional activity in *either* direction -- from the
        > synoptics to Thom or from Thom to the synoptics -- for every single
        > before concluding which is more likely. Having followed Crossan's lead
        > in doing this pericope by pericope, I was forced by my own training as
        > an intellectual historian & literary critic to reverse my initial
        > preference for the historical priority of the synoptics. That is not to
        > say that there wasn't some secondary synoptic influence on the scribal
        > transmission of this or that saying in Thomas. But I think anyone who is
        > honestly interested in unbiased historical research will have to admit
        > that it is often easier to explain the synoptic versions of parallel
        > logia as redactional refinements of sayings in Thom than vice versa. For
        > like the parable of the wicked tenants, Thom's version of the saying is
        > often less developed & more difficult than that in the synoptics. To
        > explain this as the result of Thom's unintelligible "gnostic" tendencies
        > is an unacceptable cop out. For the author of this collection admits
        > that these sayings are puzzling & invites readers to try to find an
        > interpretation that makes sense. That is precisely what the synoptic
        > authors seem to have done.
        >
        > Shalom!
        >
        > Mahlon
        >
        > --
        >
        > *********************
        >
        > Mahlon H. Smith, http://religion.rutgers.edu/mh_smith.html
        > Associate Professor
        > Department of Religion Virtual Religion Index
        > Rutgers University http://religion.rutgers.edu/vri/
        > New Brunswick NJ
        >
        > Into His Own: Perspective on the World of Jesus
        > http://religion.rutgers.edu/iho/
        >
        > A Synoptic Gospels Primer
        > http://religion.rutgers.edu/nt/primer/
        >
        > Jesus Seminar Forum
        > http://religion.rutgers.edu/jseminar/
        >
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      • Mark Goodacre
        ... Although I enjoyed this post very much (as I do all your posts, Mahlon), I am troubled by the assertion about what anyone honestly interested in unbiased
        Message 3 of 11 , Mar 7, 2000
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          Mahlon Smith wrote:

          > Whether
          > or not this is historically the case, however, can only be demonstrated
          > IF one is willing to bracket out this orthodox Xn prejudice & weigh the
          > probability of redactional activity in *either* direction -- from the
          > synoptics to Thom or from Thom to the synoptics -- for every single
          > before concluding which is more likely. Having followed Crossan's lead
          > in doing this pericope by pericope, I was forced by my own training as
          > an intellectual historian & literary critic to reverse my initial
          > preference for the historical priority of the synoptics. That is not to
          > say that there wasn't some secondary synoptic influence on the scribal
          > transmission of this or that saying in Thomas. But I think anyone who is
          > honestly interested in unbiased historical research will have to admit
          > that it is often easier to explain the synoptic versions of parallel
          > logia as redactional refinements of sayings in Thom than vice versa. For
          > like the parable of the wicked tenants, Thom's version of the saying is
          > often less developed & more difficult than that in the synoptics.

          Although I enjoyed this post very much (as I do all your posts,
          Mahlon), I am troubled by the assertion about what anyone
          "honestly interested in unbiased historical research" would admit.
          If I say, for example, that I find Thomas to be familiar with the
          Synoptics on given occasions it is because I think that the
          evidence is pointing in that direction and not because of a lack of
          honest interest in unbiased historical research. I suspect that
          others like Tuckett feel the same way. Perhaps we are
          unconscious of a prejudice that leads us to see the evidence in a
          particular way, but if so, it seems to me that the only way to
          counter this is to show how the evidence can be construed
          differently.

          Mark
          ---------------------------
          Dr Mark Goodacre mailto:M.S.Goodacre@...
          Dept of Theology
          University of Birmingham Fax.: +44 (0)121 414 6866
          Birmingham B15 2TT Tel.: +44 (0)121 414 7512

          http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/goodacre
          All-in-One Biblical Resources Search
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        • Mahlon H. Smith
          ... You are reading more into what I wrote than what I intended Mark. I did not say that anyone who was honestly unbiased would conclude that Thomas was not
          Message 4 of 11 , Mar 7, 2000
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            I wrote:

            > > But I think anyone who is
            > > honestly interested in unbiased historical research will have to admit
            > > that it is often easier to explain the synoptic versions of parallel
            > > logia as redactional refinements of sayings in Thom than vice versa. For
            > > like the parable of the wicked tenants, Thom's version of the saying is
            > > often less developed & more difficult than that in the synoptics.

            Mark Goodacre replied:
            >
            > Although I enjoyed this post very much (as I do all your posts,
            > Mahlon), I am troubled by the assertion about what anyone
            > "honestly interested in unbiased historical research" would admit.
            > If I say, for example, that I find Thomas to be familiar with the
            > Synoptics on given occasions it is because I think that the
            > evidence is pointing in that direction and not because of a lack of
            > honest interest in unbiased historical research. I suspect that
            > others like Tuckett feel the same way. Perhaps we are
            > unconscious of a prejudice that leads us to see the evidence in a
            > particular way, but if so, it seems to me that the only way to
            > counter this is to show how the evidence can be construed
            > differently.
            >

            You are reading more into what I wrote than what I intended Mark. I did
            not say that anyone who was honestly unbiased would conclude that Thomas
            was not familiar with the synoptics. That would be too much to expect of
            debate on any scholarly issue. Honest people who strive for unbiased
            results often do come to opposite conclusions in interpreting evidence.
            I never meant to impugn the integrity of Ron Price, yourself or Chris
            Tuckett or anyone else who disagrees with my interpretation of the
            evidence.

            All I meant was that IF one does not start with an *a priori* assumption
            of the priority of the synoptic texts, THEN one should be able to
            recognize (if not wholeheartedly grant) that in cases where we have
            parallel sayings in Thom & the synoptics, the Thomasine form is OFTEN
            (but not always) "less developed" -- i.e., less verbose, less polished,
            less compositionally complex, etc. -- and "more difficult" -- i.e.,
            presents more logical problems, especially for those of us who have been
            raised in relatively orthodox Xnity -- than the synoptic version of the
            same saying. This is precisely the case with the parable of the wicked
            tenants. That is a phenomenological observation not a hermeneutical or a
            value judgment.

            How one explains those phenomena then all depends on one's hermeneutical
            orientation. Some may honestly think it probable that the author of
            GThom has deconstructed, distorted & otherwise altered sayings drawn
            from this or that synoptic gospel. Others may just as honestly think it
            more probable that synoptic authors have refined and/or expanded a
            saying like that in GThom to fit their own theological views.

            I happen to favor the latter option because that is how I see the
            synoptic authors working with synoptic sources. Mark is, as most
            synoptic scholars admit, a rough & problematic gospel. Matthew, on the
            other hand, is more stylistically refined & regularly presents less
            problematic versions of difficult pericopes in Mark. That is a
            phenomenological observation. How one explains it depends on one's
            tradition & source history models. Some scholars still argue that Mark
            has abbreviated (& otherwise clumsily edited) Matt. My experience as a
            literary critic & editor makes me think that the opposite is more
            likely: Matt has improved on Mark. In expanding my horizon to include
            GThom I have simply applied the same logic to a similar range of textual
            phenomena. The synoptics present a more complex, better organized, less
            difficult collection of sayings of J than does GThom. Ergo, in case
            after case I am led to conclude that the Thomasine version is more
            likely to represent the earlier form of a particular saying.

            You may think you have good reason to conclude the opposite. I accept
            that without impugning your motives for doing so. But since you
            introduced the subject of an "unconscious prejudice," let me just ask
            for some circumspect reflection by suggesting that you ask yourself the
            question that I had to ask myself in coming to terms with early
            difficulties with GThom. If GThom was a canonical biblical text, would I
            still be sure it was derived from the synoptic gospels?

            If one's honest answer to that question is "probably" then I would
            suggest asking oneself a 2nd question: what is different about the case
            of Thom vis-a-vis the synoptics from Mark vis-a-vis Matt & Luke that I
            am led to contrary conclusions regarding the priority of rough or
            polished texts in each case. If one's honest answer is "maybe not" then
            I think one has to face the possibility that one's unconscious reasons
            for considering the synoptics historically prior did involve a
            "canonical bias" just as I did. Where one goes after that is one's own
            business.

            Shalom!

            Mahlon

            --

            *********************

            Mahlon H. Smith, http://religion.rutgers.edu/mh_smith.html
            Associate Professor
            Department of Religion Virtual Religion Index
            Rutgers University http://religion.rutgers.edu/vri/
            New Brunswick NJ

            Into His Own: Perspective on the World of Jesus
            http://religion.rutgers.edu/iho/

            A Synoptic Gospels Primer
            http://religion.rutgers.edu/nt/primer/

            Jesus Seminar Forum
            http://religion.rutgers.edu/jseminar/
          • Bob Schacht
            At 11:18 PM 03/07/00 , Mahlon H. Smith wrote to Mark Goodacre (in part): You are reading more into what I wrote than what I intended Mark. I did not say
            Message 5 of 11 , Mar 8, 2000
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              At 11:18 PM 03/07/00 , Mahlon H. Smith wrote to Mark Goodacre (in part):
              >
              >You are reading more into what I wrote than what I intended Mark. I did
              >not say that anyone who was honestly unbiased would conclude that Thomas
              >was not familiar with the synoptics. That would be too much to expect of
              >debate on any scholarly issue. Honest people who strive for unbiased
              >results often do come to opposite conclusions in interpreting evidence.
              >I never meant to impugn the integrity of Ron Price, yourself or Chris
              >Tuckett or anyone else who disagrees with my interpretation of the
              >evidence.
              >
              >All I meant was that IF one does not start with an *a priori* assumption
              >of the priority of the synoptic texts, THEN one should be able to
              >recognize (if not wholeheartedly grant) that in cases where we have
              >parallel sayings in Thom & the synoptics, the Thomasine form is OFTEN
              >(but not always) "less developed" -- i.e., less verbose, less polished,
              >less compositionally complex, etc. -- and "more difficult" -- i.e.,
              >presents more logical problems, especially for those of us who have been
              >raised in relatively orthodox Xnity -- than the synoptic version of the
              >same saying. ... That is a phenomenological observation not a
              hermeneutical or a
              >value judgment. ...

              Mahlon,
              Thanks for explaining what you meant. However, this kind of primitivity
              argument bugs me.
              So let me respond with a parable (? or do I mean allegory? I'm writing this
              early in the morning before breakfast while on the road at a conference, so
              maybe I'm not thinking clearly):

              Professor Smith had a short but illustrious career. From the time of his
              first academic appointment to his untimely death, he taught for only 3
              years. Although he never published anything, his students widely agreed
              that he profoundly influenced their lives. So, naturally, some time after
              his death they held a reunion, and great were the stories they told about
              this wonderful man. They all regretted that he had never published anything.

              This reunion inspired a number of them to look for their class notes. As it
              happened, most had lost their notes. Among those whose notes survived there
              were 4 students, whom we shall call Student A, B, C and D. These names
              correspond approximately to the grades they had received from the great
              professor. They decided to hold a Festschrift in memory of him.

              Student C was a dreamy sort of fellow. His notes contained some of the
              professor's best bon mots, mixed haphazardly together with his own
              insights, without distinguishing one from the other. However, he had a
              reputation among the other students for missing the point, and sometimes
              his paraphrases of the bon mots were, the others felt, a bit off. After
              graduation, he had become a poet and street philosopher. It was clear from
              his presentation that he had "been there," but one came away from his
              presentation somewhat confused about the main points, and about the great
              professor's contributions to the field.

              Students A and B were among the best students. Their notes were more
              carefully constructed and arranged. After the conference, it was widely
              agreed that their summaries of the great professor's thought really
              captured the range and most important contributions of the Master, even if
              they disagreed at times about the details, or about the Master's meaning.

              (End of parable/allegory)

              Looked at in retrospect, Student C's notes would appear more primitive,
              less refined. Does that mean that they are better or more authentic?

              Shalom!

              Bob
              **************
              Bob Schacht
              On the Road again

              __________________________________________________
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            • Brooks, George X
              ... I would be interested in knowing which article or book, from Mahlon Smith s point of view, is the best argument for Thomas being later than the Synoptics.
              Message 6 of 11 , Mar 8, 2000
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                Mahlon Smith wrote:

                > Some may honestly think it probable that the author of
                > GThom has deconstructed, distorted & otherwise altered sayings drawn
                > from this or that synoptic gospel. Others may just as honestly think
                > it more probable that synoptic authors have refined and/or expanded a
                > saying like that in GThom to fit their own theological views.
                > I happen to favor the latter option ...."
                >
                I would be interested in knowing which article or book, from Mahlon Smith's
                point of view, is the best argument for Thomas being later than the
                Synoptics.
                I know this is an unusual thing to have to do - - pointing out the writing
                that
                best contradicts one's own position. But I think it would be very helpful
                to
                know how Smith sees the "landscape" on the priority vs. posteriority of
                Thomas.

                Thanks.

                George Brooks
                Tampa, FL
              • Mahlon H. Smith
                ... That s a fair question, George, but one that presupposes that I am a Thomas specialist who has kept abreast of everything written on GThom. I am not & have
                Message 7 of 11 , Mar 8, 2000
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                  "Brooks, George X" wrote:

                  > I would be interested in knowing which article or book, from Mahlon Smith's
                  > point of view, is the best argument for Thomas being later than the
                  > Synoptics.
                  > I know this is an unusual thing to have to do - - pointing out the writing
                  > that
                  > best contradicts one's own position. But I think it would be very helpful
                  > to
                  > know how Smith sees the "landscape" on the priority vs. posteriority of
                  > Thomas.
                  >

                  That's a fair question, George, but one that presupposes that I am a
                  Thomas specialist who has kept abreast of everything written on GThom. I
                  am not & have not. Thomas is not my primary academic focus (that honor
                  goes to Xn origins, HJ, Q & 4th Gospel in that order). I will defer to
                  Stevan Davies & my JS colleagues Stephen Patterson, Rom Cameron & Marvin
                  Meyer in the task of assessing what is "the best" published argument for
                  GThom's dependence on the synoptics. However, I can give a brief list of
                  some classic & recent studies that I am familiar with:

                  Blomberg, C.L., Tradition and redaction in the parables of the Gospel of
                  Thomas, in: D. Wenham, ed., The Jesus tradition outside the Gospels,
                  1984, 177-205.

                  Grant, R.M., and Freedman, D.N., The secret sayings of Jesus, Garden
                  City/Doubleday Collins, New York/London, 1960.

                  Neirynck, F., The apocryphal gospels and the Gospel of Mark, in: J.
                  Sevrin, ed., The New Testament in early Christianity, 1989, 123-175.

                  Schrage, W., Das Verhältnis des Thomas-Evangeliums zur synoptischen
                  Tradition und zu den koptischen Evangelienübersetzungen: Zugleich ein
                  Beitrag zur gnostischen Synoptikerdeutung, Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für
                  die Neutestamentliche Wissenschaft und die Kunde der Alteren Kirche,
                  Alfred Töpelmann, Berlin, 1964.

                  Tuckett, C.M., Thomas and the Synoptics, Novum Testamentum 30, 1988,
                  132-157.

                  Tuckett, C.M., Q and Thomas: evidence of a primitive wisdom gospel? A
                  response to H Koester [Ancient Christian gospels, 1990], Ephemerides
                  Theologicae Lovaniensis 67, 4, 1991, 346-360.

                  Wilson, R.M., Studies in the Gospel of Thomas, A.R. Mowbray & Co.,
                  London, 1960.

                  Wilson, R.M., Thomas and the Synoptic Gospels, Expository Times 72,
                  1960, 36-39.

                  There may be others on Sytze van der Laan's unannoted on-line Thomas
                  bibliogragraphy -- URL

                  http://huizen.dds.nl/~skirl/authors.htm

                  -- but I have not read them.

                  I think that the arguments for Thomasine dependence in the works listed
                  above are more than off-set by counter-arguments in the writings of
                  other scholars, including leading GThom specialists like H. Koester, S.
                  Patterson, J.D. Crossan, R. Cameron, O. Cullmann, & XTalk's own Steve
                  Davies -- not to mention my own comparison of the data in more than a
                  decade of assessing the historical value of GThom parallels in JS
                  debates.

                  If you know of a more recent or cogent argument for GThom's dependence
                  on the synoptics I would be happy to add it to my lengthy "must read"
                  list -- which quite frankly at this stage in my career has to take 2nd
                  place to my even longer "must write" list.

                  Shalom!

                  Mahlon

                  --

                  *********************

                  Mahlon H. Smith, http://religion.rutgers.edu/mh_smith.html
                  Associate Professor
                  Department of Religion Virtual Religion Index
                  Rutgers University http://religion.rutgers.edu/vri/
                  New Brunswick NJ

                  Into His Own: Perspective on the World of Jesus
                  http://religion.rutgers.edu/iho/

                  A Synoptic Gospels Primer
                  http://religion.rutgers.edu/nt/primer/

                  Jesus Seminar Forum
                  http://religion.rutgers.edu/jseminar/
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