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

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  • 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 1 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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