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10010Thomas and Alpha Christianity

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    Dec 4, 2011
      To: GThomas / GPG
      On: Thomas and Alpha Christianity
      From: Bruce

      One claim that gThos has to be at least doctrinally early is the fact that
      it does not acknowledge or rely on the Resurrection of Jesus. In this it
      agrees with a number of what we call Alpha Christian documents (James, Two
      Ways, Didache, the Philippians hymn, early Mark), but otherwise there is
      divergence (gThos has an esoteric view of things, and relies on knowledge
      rather than works for salvation, ever so slightly like esoteric Buddhism).
      For this reason, we distinguish it as a separate development (under the
      rubric Gamma Christianity), but one nevertheless rooted in very early ideas
      of Jesus. We see Beta (Pauline or Atonement Christianity) as diverging from
      primitive Alpha in one direction, and gThomas and other texts as diverging
      in another. I accept the findings of those who see gThos as secondary to the
      Synoptics in several passages (esp in Luke), and if secondary in some, then
      most likely secondary in all. This would put gThos after the completion date
      for Luke, which would be sometime in the 80's (as I read the evidence; the
      campaign for a 2c Luke-Acts seems to me to have nothing going for it).

      So it looks from here. The question is whether gThos is also secondary to
      gJohn (Rick Hubbard's synopsis did not list any Thos/John links), and if
      not, what is going on.

      One possibility is that the scene with Thomas at the end of gJohn is to make
      fun of Thomas's lack of perception, and specifically, to make him
      acknowledge the physical reality of the Resurrection (this was a big point
      with the Johannine circle, as may be seen in the doctrinal argument in 1
      John). If so, then something of the Gospel of Thomas must have been known to
      whoever wrote that part of the Gospel of John (I agree with von Wahlde that
      there must have been at least 3 stages in the composition and rearrangement
      of John). If all this holds, it would date at least some parts of gThos
      within a usefully narrow range, perhaps a decade or so long, toward the end
      of the 1st century.

      As to John reacting to Thomas, at least two recent monographs (Dunderberg
      2006 and Skinner 2009) take the negative view. I am not convinced that this
      is the end of the matter. Does anyone care to comment, one way or the other?