Thomas and Alpha Christianity
- To: GThomas / GPG
On: Thomas and Alpha Christianity
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?