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Re:GThomas Response to Brian Trafford--I

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  • bjtraff
    ... I am aware that most scholars date Wisdom to the 1st Century BCE, and others to the 1st Century CE, yet I have not examined this question very closely, and
    Message 1 of 36 , May 1 10:57 PM
      --- In crosstalk2@y..., Frank McCoy <silvanus55109@y...> wrote:

      > I thought that Wisdom was understood to be a first
      > century BCE text and was unaware of a controversy
      > regarding its date of composition. If there is
      > evidence that it dates to the late first century CE or
      > to the second century CE, then the probability that
      > GThomas is first century CE is decreased. Do you have
      > any references on this dating controversy I could
      > check out?

      I am aware that most scholars date Wisdom to the 1st Century BCE, and
      others to the 1st Century CE, yet I have not examined this question
      very closely, and have not seen a sound case made for a dating
      earlier than the 2nd Century. If Thomas refers to it I do not find
      such an argument convincing (until GThomas is also dated to the 1st
      Century). Citations in known first Century works would be helpful, of
      course, and if you have such then I would welcome them. As I said
      previously, I am not adverse to an early date for Wisdom of Solomon,
      but would prefer not to use problematic texts to date other
      problematic texts. That said, your proposed parallels to Philo
      remain interesting, and I am very interested in exploring this idea

      > > Based on the actual text, your paraphrase does seem
      > to be a bit strained, in my opinion. Philo makes no reference
      > here to those finding wisdom being troubled by it. It does offer
      > a connection to kingship or rulership, however, and this is
      > noteworthy.
      > Frank:
      > As I point out in my post, it is in *Ecclesiasticus*
      > that those who find
      > Wisdom initially are troubled, stating, "So, it
      > is said in Ecclesiasticus 4:17-18, 'For at first she
      > will walk with him by
      > crooked ways, and bring fear and dread upon him, and
      > torment him with her
      > discipline, until she may trust his soul, and try him
      > by her laws. Then will
      > she return the straight way unto him, and comfort him,
      > and shew him her
      > secrets.'"

      Alright, I seem to have missed this previously. The comparison
      appears to be apt, and helps to support your argument.

      > According to Ecclesiasticus, she is also found by
      > those who seek. See 6:27,
      > "Search, and seek, and she shall be made known unto
      > thee".

      The seeking of wisdom is a common theme throughout Jewish wisdom
      literature dating back to Proverbs and Eccliastes, not to mention
      Jesus' own teachings in the Canonical Gospels, so I accept that this
      concept was very early.

      > Fragments of (the Hebrew version of) Ecclesiasticus
      > have been found at
      > Qumran and at Masada, so there can be no question
      > about it having been in
      > existence in the first century CE.

      Agreed. Unfortunately the same cannot be said of Wisdom, but this is
      a minor point, as I understand your connection to Jewish Wisdom
      literature and to Philo.

      > So, as all of GTh 2 has parallels in either Philo or
      > Ecclesiasticus, it appears to reflect first century CE thought..

      Yes, it could be drawing on these earlier sources, just as it appears
      to draw on Q, the Synoptics and John, which are also 1st Century in
      origin. The other objections to a 1st Century date remain however,
      as many 2nd Century documents (as would be expected) also can be
      shown to draw on earlier texts. I would still argue that GThomas'
      presentation of the concepts found in these earlier sources is later,
      but am more than happy to examine those arguments again.

      > Frank:
      >These passages from Philo are relevant because I offer
      >the intepretation that those, in GTh 3, to whom one gets known are
      >those who reside in Wisdom. This raises the question of the
      >identities of those who reside in Wisdom. What these passages from
      >Philo demonstrate is that, in his teachings, those who reside in
      >Wisdom include God and worthy souls.

      I need to present the verse again for context:

      Thomas 3
      Jesus said, "If your leaders say to you, 'Look, the (Father's)
      kingdom is in the sky,' then the birds of the sky will precede you.
      If they say to you, 'It is in the sea,' then the fish will precede
      you. Rather, the (Father's) kingdom is within you and it is outside
      When you know yourselves, then you will be known, and you will
      understand that you are children of the living Father. But if you do
      not know yourselves, then you live in poverty, and you are the

      I am afraid we are going to have to agree to disagree here Frank. My
      reading of Philo just does not line up with your own understanding,
      nor do I see the connection to Th3 that you see. Perhaps I am just
      not getting your point.

      > Brian:
      >Once again I do not see the connection you are
      >attempting to make between Th3 and these texts. In fact, given
      >Philo's demonstrated desire to appeal to OT figures and stories, the
      >connection is even more tenuous, as GThomas makes no such connections
      >in its texts.
      >This forms a critical component in my argument for
      >2nd Century dating, and one that appeals to Philo do not seem to
      > Frank:
      >GTh 3 ends on the note you will know that you are the
      >sons of the living Father. In the interpretation I give, this
      >regards people whose souls have entered into Wisdom. How have their
      >souls gotten into Wisdom? The proposed answer: In view of what
      >Philo states above, these people have gotten into Wisdom by being
      >called above/reborn by God in the soul alone into Wisdom. Since
      >they know that they have been reborn by God, they, thus, know that
      >they are truly sons of the Father.
      >So, this is necessary for us to understand *how* they have come to
      >know that they are truly sons of the Father.

      Alright, but the problem here is that Th3 is not speaking of rebirth,
      so your thesis holds only if the author of Thomas is also thinking of
      rebirth in this verse.

      > Frank:
      >I think it's more appropriate to John 1:12 than to
      >John 3, although it can be made appropriate to John 3 with the
      >application of another idea also found in the teachings of Philo.

      John 1:12 does not focus on rebirth in the spirit of God, but,
      rather, on the believers' right to become God's children, so I would
      disagree with you here.

      > In terms of dating John, I date 1-20 to c. 62 and 21
      > to c 65.

      Interesting. This is a bit earlier than my own dating range for
      GJohn (and quite a bit earlier than my dating for final redation),
      though if you are right, and John and the Synoptics date to the early
      mid-60's a late 1st Century dating of GThomas becomes more plausible.

      > Frank:
      >If the true wealth is Wisdom and other spiritual
      >things, then anything corporeal (including the body) is of no true
      >value. This is *not*, though, to say that the body (or, for that
      >matter, the whole corporeal Cosmos) is evil. So, we are not truly
      >in agreement here. Rather, by interpreting the "poverty" of the
      >body to be its evilness rather than its worthlessness in comparison
      >to Wisdom, you're putting a Gnostic "spin" on this saying that I am
      >skeptical as to its validity.

      I understand your focus on the wisdom aspect of Thomas, but
      personally, I also see a good deal of the text focusing on the
      spirit, and in a fashion that is not necessarily connected to wisdom
      per se. The over arching themes do appear to include the pursuit of
      secret knowledge and wisdom, together with an underlying evilness of
      the flesh, all perfectly compatible with Gnostic thought.

      > Frank:
      >As Philo puts it in Gig (65-66), "But
      >the sons of earth have turned the steps of the mind
      > out of the path of reason and transmuted it into the lifeless and
      > inert nature of the flesh. For 'the two became one flesh' as says
      > the lawgiver (Gen. ii. 24). Thus they have debased the coin of
      > truest metal."

      >I wanted to focus on this part, as it most directly
      >affects the question of dating GThomas. The difficulty of the
      >"two became one flesh" would appear to suggest a different context
      >and meaning for Philo here, as opposed to what Thomas is saying in
      >verse 3. Also, I would again point to the heavy reliance upon Hebrew
      >Scripture, even as metaphor, a characteristic completely lacking in
      >GThomas, and very significant in my opinion.

      Frank again:
      >In a continuation of my response to your original post, I will go
      >into the details of how, in Philo's teachings, one's soul can
      >merge into one's body/flesh and how this aspect of Philo's teaching
      >possibly impacts on what is said in GTh--including GTh 3C, 7, and 11.

      This does not really address my point however. Like other Jews and
      Christians of the 1st Century, and even Wisdom of Solomon, the Hebrew
      Scriptures play a central role in the over all presentation of the
      author's philosophy and theology. In the case of GThomas this is
      simply not the case, and the author seems to go out of his way to
      exclude references to Jewish Scripture. This is highly
      uncharacteristic of 1st Century authors, making for a powerful
      argument against an early date.

      > Yes, it is *very* significant that, in GTh, ther are
      > no citations of O.T. passages. Further, there appears to be a
      > rejection of the Law of Moses and of the prophets.


      >A Q tradition saying might be helpful in understanding
      >this situation in GTh--see Luke 16:16, "The Law and the prophets
      >[were] until John. Since then, the Kingdom of God is gospelized,
      >and every one forces into it."

      I should warn you that I take a very minimalist view of Q, and even
      if your preference for Luke's version of it were valid (something I
      am not prepared to grant, given Matt's alternative in 11:11-12), it's
      potential connection to Thomas is virtually non-existent. Your
      translation of Luke 16:16 is also suspect in my view, as I would
      render KAI PAS EIV AUTHN BIAZETAI as "and everyone enters it
      violently" as opposed to your own "and everyone forces into it." Your
      translation of EUAGGELIZETAI (to preach, especially of good news,
      indicating a verb), as "gospelized" is also idiosyncratic. You
      translate it as a noun, changing the meaning of the entire passage
      rather significantly. In fact, I cannot find an English translation
      that agrees with your own reading of this verse.

      > Here, I suggest, the Kingdom (as in GTh 3) is Wisdom.
      >If so, then there is a strong contrast between two eras. First is
      >the era of an inferior revelation--the revelation of the Law
      >and the prophets. Next is the era of the perfect revelation--which
      >is Wisdom as the uttered Gospel, i.e., as uttered logoi (words).

      From Matthew 11:11-12/Luke 16:16/Q there is no such contrast. What
      we have, instead, is a passage from the first testament to the
      second, connected to the promise made to Jeremiah in the OT, and a
      recurring theme in Christian texts. In contrast to this early
      Christian reverence for OT Scripture, you have explained Thomas'
      contempt for them, and this does not help to establish a 1st Century
      date for the text. Rather, as I have argued, it points to distinctly
      2nd Century thinking, as even Philo's metaphorical reading of the OT
      does not show that the OT is inferior to true wisdom.

      >This is a rejection of the traditional Jewish notion
      >that Wisdom and the Torah are to be equated. Here, rather, Wisdom is
      >equated with a new revelation called the Gospel and consisting of the
      >logoi (words) of God.

      Agreed, though this argues against a 1st Century date for Thomas.

      > This notion, I suggest, was adapted by the GTh
      > community--leading them to abandon observance of the Law and
      >leading them to think what we now call the
      > O.T. as being an imperfect revelation that belongs to
      > the past and, so, needs not be cited in the present.

      As I see no evidence of 1st Century Christian advocating the
      abandonment of observance of the Law (even by Paul), this serves to
      strengthen the argument for a later dating for GThomas.

      > If so, then, as the Q tradition definitely dates to
      > the first century CE, the lack of citations of the O.T. in GTh is
      > consistent with it dating to the first century CE.

      I do not accept appeals to an hypothetical Q, stripped of its context
      in Matt and Luke, as I see such appeals as theory laden and
      speculative. Q does not exist as an extant source, and therefore we
      cannot know what all it contained. Based on the early extant
      Christian texts we DO have, I would argue that even the hypothetical
      Q would have contained such citations. In any event, I believe it is
      fallacious to use the hypothetical against evidence from the
      concrete. In the case of Paul and the Canonical Gospels, we have
      concrete 1st Century documents. In the case of Q, we have
      speculation and conjecture.

      > Brian:
      >As you do not connect this passage to anything from
      >Philo, I am unclear as to how this might help us place it within
      >his thought or theology. In my opinion I see verse 4 as being a
      >Gnostic version of the Synoptics' triple tradition that the kingdom
      >of God belongs to the little children (Matt 19:14, Mark 10:14-15,
      >Luke 18:16-17).
      > Frank:
      >GTh 4 differs so greatly in wording and content from
      >the saying in Mark 9:14-15 that, ISTM, it is unlikely that they are
      >two versions f the same saying.

      I cited the triple tradition that included Mark 10:14-15, not Mk 9.
      As the theme that children possess the faith/knowledge of what is
      needed to enter God's kingdom, I see these verses as thematically
      connected. I agree that dependence is difficult to prove, of course,
      but the concepts presented in the Synoptics and Thomas appear to be
      the same: children possess the key to God's kingdom, and adults must
      look to them as their ideal example.

      >I suggest that the Kingdom in this saying (as in GTh
      >3) is Wisdom and that it reflects the idea, found in the teachings
      >of Philo, that one must receive Wisdom with the reverential awe of a
      >child to its parents or to a teacher or to an elder.

      I assume now that you mean Th4.

      Thomas 4
      Jesus said, "The person old in days won't hesitate to ask a little
      child seven days old about the place of life, and that person will
      For many of the first will be last, and will become a single one."

      I believe that my argument above better reflects the sense of what
      Thomas is saying here, and that the concept can be traced to
      traditions that underpin the triple tradition found in the Synoptics.

      Frank quoting Philo:
      > … The other is that which the dominant Logos
      > enjoins, and arises from awe and reverence, such as
      > sons feel toward their parents, and pupils toward their teachers,
      >and youths toward their elders."

      Th4 has no such appeal to child like awe. Instead, the child is made
      the example for the elder, and is said to possess the key (in this
      case wisdom, in the case of the Synoptics, faith) to the kingdom of

      > Frank (on Th5):
      >The idea that divinely inspired utterances are mysteries that
      >require divine help for one to understand them is found in first
      >century CE Judaism, so I think that GTh 5 is consistent with a first
      >century CE dating for GTh.

      As the need for divine help for understanding God's word is central
      to Judaic and Christian thought, this is not an argument in support
      of an early or late date. Thomas' shift from the need for faith, to
      the need for wisdom, however, does demonstrate later thought, most
      commonly found amongst 2nd Century Gnostics. The contrast with the
      need for faith in all of the 1st Century Christian texts is striking,
      and argues against an early date for Thomas.

      >See, for example, IQPHab (VII), "And as for that which
      >He said, 'That he who reads may read it speedily': interpreted this
      >concerns the Teacher of Righteousness, to whom God made known all the
      >mysteries of the words of His servants the Prophets."

      The focus of the Essene community was not on Wisdom for its own sake
      so much as it was the Law and righteousness. GThomas is at least as
      far removed theologically and philosophically from the Dead Sea
      Scrolls as it is from 1st Century documents.

      I have appreciated your thoughts and insights Frank. If I sound
      harsh, it is only because I typically require a great deal of
      convincing before I am willing to change my views on a point. The
      potential connection to Philo's thought has proved interesting, and
      has opened up lines of inquiry I had not considered before, but the
      over all arguments against an early date for GThomas do seem quite
      strong. After all, GThomas was clearly familiar with the Synoptics,
      and John, and even Paul, all of whom were from the 1st Century.
      Adding Philo to the mix strengthens the connection to this century,
      but does not remove the elements that point most clearly to a 2nd
      Century date. That said, I do look forward to examining your future
      posts, and seeing where it takes us.

      Thank you again, and be well.

      Brian Trafford
      Calgary, AB, Canada
    • Antonio Jerez
      An interesting message from Ken Olson ... Some years ago me, Mark Goodacre, Mahlon Smith and a few other participants had a very prolonged discussion where
      Message 36 of 36 , Feb 2, 2003
        An interesting message from Ken Olson

        > Luke says that "many" (POLLOI) "orderly accounts" or "narratives arranged in
        > order" (ANATAXASQAI DIHGHSIN) have already been written. While the word
        > "undertaken" (EPECEIRHSAN) may suggest that he considers these accounts less
        > than satisfactory for some reason, the fact that he says that he "too"
        > (KAMOI) has written one would seem to indicate that their works were of the
        > same genre as his own.

        Some years ago me, Mark Goodacre, Mahlon Smith and a few other participants had a
        very prolonged discussion where Mark and me argued along exactly these lines. I still believe'
        that Lukes own words in his prologue together with the indications in his text makes it almost certain
        that he knew both GMark and GMatthew.

        Best wishes

        Antonio Jerez
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