Re: [GTh] Patterson's critique of an apocalyptic kernel in Thomas
- At 02:11 PM 3/8/2012, Mike Grondin wrote:
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?
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.
Northern Arizona University
- 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 bealert that when a saying is labelled 'prophetic' that doesn't mean it isn't apocalyptic(or eschatological). Unfortunately, Patterson's wording sometimes suggests justthat, 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 nowunderstand 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 thepages Patterson cited (87-89). They're in a section titled Thomas and the SynopticSayings Source (Q). On page 87, Koester writes that Q sayings about the finaljudgement 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 haveparallels in Q, but the typical apocalyptic perspective of the later redaction of Q doesnot 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 parallelsto 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 takenas 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'sdescribed as a 'prophetic saying', and I think that's right. More specifically, it'sa 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 theeschaton in mind, there are some that strike me as more so than others, and thesedon'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 wouldcount as apocalyptic or not, I'm not sure. It seems to lack immediacy, ratherlike "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 L111regarded 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 thelifetime of the audience for whom it was intended, and I would put it up againstany claim that there's no apocalyptic at all in Thomas. But, although this is astrong piece of evidence for DeConick's position, and although Patterson admitsthat 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 characterizationof the kernel as eschatological. To support that, DeConick has had to resort tosome rather questionable interpretations of other kernel sayings, based on ahermeneutic and methodology that Patterson also finds objectionable.Mike Grondin