2425[gthomas] Re: Jewishness of GOT
- Mar 9, 2000Yuri-
Our discussion (like too many others) has no doubt suffered from a failure
to clearly define the central terms involved. What does it mean, for
example, to say that a text is "Jewish-Christian" or "Gentile-Christian"?
But there are other problems as well. One is that you are trying to draw a
conclusion based on general historical circumstances, rather than on the
internal evidence of the text itself. As I understand it, your argument
amounts to saying that (1) Christianity was "almost entirely"
Jewish-oriented prior to at least 100, and (2) GOT was written before 100,
therefore (3) GOT is almost certainly "Jewish" (whatever that means). I
agree with (2) and disagree with (1), but more than that, I'd point out
that this is a probabilistic argument - which means that both its premises
and its conclusion are only probable. However strong you make the
probability of the premises, GOT might still be one of the exceptions to
the probabilistic conclusion - written, say, in some little out-of-the-way
pocket of Gentile Xianity in Syria. In any case, whether GOT is or is not
an exception to the argument can be so easily determined by internal
textual evidence (or so it seems), that one wonders why you even bother to
approach the question from this indirect angle?
I've deliberately avoided responding to every point of this discussion,
because some of them would soon lead very far away from the central
question. I'll have to leave it up to the reader to judge the relative
persuasiveness of most of the point-counterpoints. But I would like to put
a couple of your statements - which relate to premise (1) above -
side-by-side and see how you would resolve their apparent inconsistency:
(A) "Paul's influence came to be dominant very gradually in the years 70-150."
(B) "NT is mostly a Pauline document (in its final redaction)."
The combination of the above statements implies, of course, that all of the
books of the NT received their final redaction much closer to 150 than 100
(before which they were supposedly written). I assume you're taking
advantage of the fact that no manuscripts or clear references have been
found predating 150, but I think you should at least admit in all honesty
that your view is not widely shared, and doesn't have much positive
evidence going for it. This doesn't mean that you're wrong, of course, but
it does mean that your arguments have to be stronger than otherwise might
be called for. In fact, a strong positive case has to be made - not just an
assertion and associated fending-off of objections. That's the burden that
those of us who find ourselves occasionally in the minority have to be
willing to bear, if we're interested in making our point, and not just
tilting at windmills.
I could be wrong, but I believe that most scholars would say that whatever
"Gentile" aspects are to be found in the NT were already basically there
prior to 100. That surely implies that Pauline/Gentile influence must have
been great prior to 100, and such an implication is consistent with what
seems to be a commonsensical view that Jewish influence would have
necessarily declined rapidly after the first Jewish war. Indeed, it would
have been at this time (66-75) that it would have been most politic for Xn
writers to stress the differences between their movement and Judaism
proper, and to invent stories of favorable attitudes and actions by
individual Romans during the time of Jesus. The only alternative that I can
see is to maintain that the "Pauline" stuff wasn't added until around 60-80
years later (and non-Pauline stuff removed?), but I can't imagine where one
would find the evidence necessary to present any kind of a strong case for
THAT position (quoting Loisy doesn't count <g>). One could make a WEAK
case, of course, but why bother?
In any case, much of this is beside the point. If you have some criteria by
which one could judge whether a text is "Jewish-Christian" or
"Gentile-Christian", I think the best course of action would be to lay them
out, so we can discuss their validity, and then apply them to the text
itself. The indirect probability approach you've adopted is just doubly
unconvincing to me: first, because one of its premises is highly debatable,
and second, because even if the argument is sound, it doesn't prove what
you want it to prove, namely that the GOT is "Jewish" (whatever that means).
The Coptic Gospel of Thomas, saying-by-saying
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