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8256RE: [GTh] Thomas vs Synoptics

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  • Judy Redman
    Oct 4, 2008
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      Hi Richard,

      You say:
      > Scholars who argue for Thomas' dependence on one or more of
      > the Synoptics for some of the parallels between Thomas and
      > the Synoptics do not necessarily do this because of a
      > canonical bias, they do this because the redactional work of
      > one or more of the evangelists can be found in Thomas.
      > Obviously it is not always that easy to determine what is
      > redactional and therefore it is often possible to come up
      > with alternative solutions. Even Stephen Patterson (who
      > favors an independence view) agrees that Markan, Matthean or
      > Lukan redaction can be found in Thomas in about 10 places (a
      > proponent of the Farrer hypothesis would add many more to
      > this list). This should not be brushed away so easily. The
      > question of course remains what explains these instances?
      > Patterson would favor late scribal harmonization or perhaps
      > secondary orality.

      I realise this. What I wanted to do was raise awareness of the ways in
      which the perspective from which people approach a text, the questions they
      bring to it, if you like, can influence the way they interpret it. So, if
      you approach Thomas asking "what evidence can I find that Thomas is
      dependent on the synoptic material?" you will potentially reach different
      conclusions to the ones you will reach if you ask "are there any passages in
      Thomas that are similar to and/or the same as those in the synoptics and if
      so, what might that mean?" The answer you give, especially to the first
      question will be further influenced by whether or not you have anything
      invested in the outcome. That is, if you want the answer to be "lots of
      evidence" you are more likely to include tenuous evidence. If you want it
      to be "none at all", then you will discard anything that could reasonably be
      considered tenuous.

      > Finding Thomas to be influenced by one or more of the
      > Synoptics also does not mean that one considers every
      > parallel between them as a sign that Thomas is secondary. It
      > can very well be the case that some of the sayings in Thomas
      > are prior to their synoptic parallel. Given the popularity of
      > the Synoptic Gospels in the second century it would not be at
      > all surprising that some of their sayings were then added to
      > the Thomas collection.

      I think it is possible to go back further than this, though, and say that
      the fact that there are parallels between Thomas and the synoptics does not
      mean that Thomas is necessarily influenced by one or more of the synoptics.
      It may be that the influence went in the other direction, or that they
      shared a common source for that particular passage. Of the material that I
      am studying (ie the parables of the kingdom/reign in Thomas that have
      parallels in the synoptics) only one is close to verbatim - the parable of
      the mustard seed - and it is an anomally. It is the only one in Thomas that
      compares the kingdom/reign to an object rather than to a person.

      > Having said all this I must agree that some (evangelical or
      > conservative) scholars are biased against Thomas and will
      > favor Thomas'
      > dependence on the Synoptics. The positive and uncritical
      > manner in which they responded to Nicholas Perrin's work
      > nicely illustrates this.
      > However, this is to be expected, and should not lead to the
      > counter- reaction of assuming independence without good evidence.

      No, indeed. Good evidence is essential, but I think you get good evidence
      by asking the right questions in the first place. That's certainly true
      when you're questioning eyewitnesses.

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