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Re: [GTh] Patterson's critique of an apocalyptic kernel in Thomas

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  • Bob Schacht
    ... I think it is worthwhile to look into the intellectual history of this distinction. Crossan has some definite ideas on the subject, and devoted Chapter 15
    Message 1 of 6 , Mar 8, 2012
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      At 02:11 PM 3/8/2012, Mike Grondin wrote:


      Hi Ian,
      Many thanks for your notice of Patterson's paper, and for the extended quotation
      from it. We've had occasion before on this forum to take notice of disagreement
      (not entirely polite) between Patterson and DeConick, but what struck me at first
      was the distinction that Patterson apparently draws between prophecy and either
      eschatology or apocalyptic. As he writes:
       
      > The sayings that had fooled Koester at first glance, and that would prompt him
      > eventually to backtrack, were all sayings that he would later classify as "prophetic
      > sayings."[ftn. 34] The sayings that Lelyveld took to be apocalyptic were also
      > prophetic sayings, as are many of the "eschatological" sayings in DeConick's kernel
      > Gospel. It is these prophetic sayings that have proven to be so misleading in the
      > discussion so far.
       
      His wording here seems to suggest that a "prophetic saying" cannot be either
      apocalyptic or eschatological, but it's not at all clear why one should think that.
      Maybe he explains this elsewhere in his article, or maybe Koester has a special
      definition of 'prophetic saying' of which I'm unaware (since I can't locate my
      copy of Koester at the moment), but compare the above wording with that of
      editor Robert Miller in 'The Apocalyptic Jesus: A Debate', in which Patterson
      was one of three JSem commentators arrayed against Dale Allison:
       
      > Apocalypticism is one kind of eschatology. Thus, all apocalypticism is
      > eschatological, but not every eschatology is apocalyptic. ... In this book
      > apocalypticism is understood as a kind of eschatology that envisions the
      > end of history coming soon and brought about by an overpowering divine
      > intervention. This occurrence will be evident by all people and will be pre-
      > ceded by cataclysmic events. Thus to describe Jesus as an apocalyptic
      > prophet [emphasis mine] is to claim that he taught that in the very near
      > future, within the lifetime of his contemporaries, God was going to intervene
      > directly and decisively to bring history to its divinely planned fulfillment.
      (AJ, p. 6)
       
      Is there a false dichotomy at play in Patterson's reasoning, or what?
       
      Mike Grondin

      I  think it is worthwhile to look into the intellectual history of this distinction. Crossan has some definite ideas on the subject, and devoted Chapter 15 to the distinction in his _Birth of Christianity_. He begins the chapter with a long quote from Marcus Borg's _Jesus in Contemporary Scholarship_, pp. 8-9. He also discusses apocalyptic in GThomas on pp. 252f, in a discussion of Bill Arnal's work.

      Bob Schacht
      Northern Arizona University
    • Mike Grondin
      Hi Ian, ... Good. That lays to rest my concern about false dichotomy, but still one has to be alert that when a saying is labelled prophetic that doesn t
      Message 2 of 6 , Mar 9, 2012
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        Hi Ian,
        You wrote:
        > Patterson does lay out his theory of "prophecy" as a distinct category which can,
        > but does not necessarily have to be apocalyptic, elsewhere in the article.
         
        Good. That lays to rest my concern about false dichotomy, but still one has to be
        alert that when a saying is labelled 'prophetic' that doesn't mean it isn't apocalyptic
        (or eschatological). Unfortunately, Patterson's wording sometimes suggests just
        that, as below:
         
        > These sayings are not apocalyptic sayings. They are more properly prophetic sayings ...
         
        It'd be helpful if we knew what sayings this is referring to, but in addition, as I now
        understand it, he can't be claiming that they're not apocalyptic because they're prophetic,
        so he must have some independent reason for thinking that they're not apocalyptic.
        Without knowing what sayings are in question, however, one can't judge that.
         
        Now on to Koester. I've found my copy of Ancient Christian Gospels and perused the
        pages Patterson cited (87-89). They're in a section titled Thomas and the Synoptic
        Sayings Source (Q). On page 87, Koester writes that Q sayings about the final
        judgement occur in Q2, but that Thomas' parallels to Q are all in Q1. In sum:
         
        "Of the seventy-nine sayings in Thomas with Synoptic Gospel parallels, forty-six have
        parallels in Q, but the typical apocalyptic perspective of the later redaction of Q does
        not appear in any of these sayings. Rather, they are non-apocalyptic wisdom sayings,
        proverbs, prophetic sayings, parables, and community rules ..."
         
        This is followed by a list of parallels between Thomas and Q, extending onto pp.88-89.
        Clearly, this counts against DeConick's position, insofar as any of the Thomas parallels
        to Q are in her kernel. I haven't checked that, but I'd guess there's many.
         
        Of more concern to me, however, are sayings in Thomas that I think might be taken
        as eschatological, but aren't parallels to Q. To take one example, L79.3:
         
        > There will be days when you will say, "Hail to the womb that has not conceived
        > and to the breasts that have not given milk."
         
        This isn't included in Koester's list of Q parallels because it isn't (altho 79.1-2 is).
        However, it is included in a list of parallels to Mark on p.108 of ACG. There, it's
        described as a 'prophetic saying', and I think that's right. More specifically, it's
        a prophecy about a future cataclysmic event, but not necessarily the end-times.
         
        Although I would not agree with DeConick that all of her kernel sayings have the
        eschaton in mind, there are some that strike me as more so than others, and these
        don't have canonical parallels. The first is L11.1:
         
        > This heaven will pass away and [the heaven] above it will pass away.
         
        DeConick lists this as a kernel saying, with L11.2-3 regarded as later accretion.
        It's certainly a prophecy, and surely about end-times, but whether it would
        count as apocalyptic or not, I'm not sure. It seems to lack immediacy, rather
        like "You know, someday this will all be gone."
         
        Now consider what seems to be a doublet of 11.1 in 111.1:
         
        > The heavens will roll up before you, and the earth.
         
        Again, DeConick includes this subsaying in her kernel, with the rest of L111
        regarded as accretion, but here, there's an immediacy lacking in 11.1. Surely,
        this is a prophecy that the obliteration of the physical world will take place in the
        lifetime of the audience for whom it was intended, and I would put it up against
        any claim that there's no apocalyptic at all in ThomasBut, although this is a
        strong piece of evidence for DeConick's position, and although Patterson admits
        that some sayings in the kernel might be eschatological/apocalyptic, taken by itself,
        or even in conjunction with 11.1, it's not enough to support a broad characterization
        of the kernel as eschatological. To support that, DeConick has had to resort to
        some rather questionable interpretations of other kernel sayings, based on a
        hermeneutic and methodology that Patterson also finds objectionable.
         
        Mike Grondin
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