Ian Brown's Review of Skinner's Thomas Book
- Chris Skinner has today posted a notice and response to fellow-GThomas-member Ian Brown's RBL review of his WATSA book:Ian is generally favorable to Chris's book, but does raise one point,as Chris quotes on his blog:
date,> ... while it is true that we are far from a consensus on Thomass
mean> relationship with the New Testament, or theology, this does not
(p.4).> that these are still the questions that propel scholarshipChris responds to this in part:
scholarship> These areas of disagreement SHOULD continue to propel
Too often> (at least until we arrive at a consensus), even if they don't.
because they> scholars on different continents speak past one another
Thomas scholarship.> assume a starting point that is not accepted in all areas of
we establish (i.e., argue for)> Call me crazy, but scholarly exchange requires that
points. A lot of scholarship does> rather than assume the validity of our starting
Thomas's date and relationship> the latter with respect to foundational issues like
style="COLOR: #2585b2; TEXT-DECORATION: underline" href="http://forbiddengospels.blogspot.com/" target=_blank>April DeConick's work so outstanding
argument and always> (even when I disagree with her). She always makes a solid
have emerged.> attempts to move discussions beyond the traditional impasses thatIn his forthcoming book, Mark Goodacre is going to make some contributionsto the issue of the relationship of some Thomas sayings to the NT, but even ifone accepts those dependencies, I think that a consensus on dating of theoriginal remains problematical, since the sayings that arguably exhibit a literarydependency may not have been in the original, may have been reworked, ormay have come from a common source no longer extant. Dating the original,then, strikes me as fundamentally undecidable, and if that's so, no consensusis possible. But how does this differ from dating the books of the NT? Is thereenough agreement there that we would say that it constitutes a consensus?Do we not still read about an early version of Mark, or that the version of Johnthat appears in our bibles is a redacted version that by hypothesis must haveappeared after the unredacted version? If so, do we have a consensus on datingof the original (which is what we seem to be seeking with respect to Thomas)?If so, how far are we really from bringing the level of agreement on Thomas'sdating up to that of the NT books? Isn't circa 100-150 C.E., e.g. good enoughfor most scholars as a rough date of origin, even if there's a few outlyers (asthere always are)?Cheers,Mike Grondin
- At 11:36 AM 8/30/2012, Mike Grondin wrote:
>...In his forthcoming book, Mark Goodacre is going to make some contributionsAye, there's the rub.
>to the issue of the relationship of some Thomas sayings to the NT, but even if
>one accepts those dependencies, I think that a consensus on dating of the
>original remains problematical, since the sayings that arguably
>exhibit a literary
>dependency may not have been in the original, may have been reworked, or
>may have come from a common source no longer extant. Dating the original,
>then, strikes me as fundamentally undecidable, and if that's so, no consensus
>is possible. But how does this differ from dating the books of the
>NT? Is there
>enough agreement there that we would say that it constitutes a consensus?
>Do we not still read about an early version of Mark, or that the
>version of John
>that appears in our bibles is a redacted version that by hypothesis must have
>appeared after the unredacted version? If so, do we have a consensus
>of the original (which is what we seem to be seeking with respect to Thomas)?
>If so, how far are we really from bringing the level of agreement on Thomas's
>dating up to that of the NT books? Isn't circa 100-150 C.E., e.g. good enough
>for most scholars as a rough date of origin, even if there's a few
>there always are)?
To me, the assumption that any of these works, when we only have
copies dating several generations later than the original
composition, in a world where copies are only made one at a time, are
in their original form, is problematic at the start.
Usually, the issue of multiple versions rarely rises to the surface.
But even in our "Bibles," the issue of which version of Mark, with
the shorter ending, or the longer ending, comes up. In that case, the
NRSV mentions the various endings as "Other ancient authorities
read/add...", implying equivalence of authority, and thus avoiding
the issue of which version might be earlier, and more original, and
The Gospel of John is often portrayed as containing a number of
editorial layers, but these have no commonly understood names, and no
consensus about what the "original Gospel of John" looked like.
Likewise, the study of different families of Biblical manuscripts
tends to regard the differences as mere variations or copying errors
that may be significant for grouping the texts into families, but not
significant for assessing originality or editorial revision.
Part of this is due to the "Holy scripture" paradigm, wherein the
very idea that any sacred text went through a process of editorial
revision is anathema. This paradigm, however, is
disintegrating--which can be attributed, IMHO, to the success of the
Multiple Source hypothesis of the Pentateuch of E, J, D, & P, even
if agreement about the exact division of these texts remains
undecided, IIRC. The acceptance of this thinking is illustrated by
the popularity of Rosenberg & Bloom's _The Book of J_.
ISTM that the main task of 21st century Biblical Scholarship needs to
focus on understanding these versions and recensions, and developing
a common understanding of them. Of course, the Biblical literalists
and inerrantists will find this paradigm utterly intolerable, but the
need for this kind of attention is clear. And the issue of the
priority of Thomas, and the assumed priority of Q, is central to this effort.
Northern Arizona University
- Thanks for posting the review, Mike. And for posting Chris Skinners' blog response. I agree with Chris' response to the extent that we cannot simply assume our starting positions without being aware of opposing positions, and I agree that North American scholarship has in large part not taken continental scholarship into account (and vice versa). But I do not think this means that we must reach an absolute consensus re: Thomas' date and relationship with the New Testament in order to address other questions with regard to Thomas. Sure, people don't agree on these questions but, not to sound cliche or dismissive, but people studying Christian origins don't agree on a lot. This does not mean, however, that these contended questions get asked over and over and over again until one side capitulates (although that happens as well).
It seems to me both Chris and you, Mike, offer very reasonable solutions to this impasse. We can begin at points of general consensus, or points held by a majority while acknowledging that these points are still debated. Or we can do what Chris praises April DeConick for doing, establish our hypothesis as thoroughly as possible. This way even if the reader disagrees with the thesis, or parts of the thesis (as Chris seems to disagree with DeConick), the reader can still appreciate how that thesis was reached. I would argue that this is exactly what scholars do, establish a defend thesis. With regard to Thomas specifically, we do this as well. I just don't see why those theses should be limited to Thomas' date and relationship with the NT when there are so many more interesting questions to be asked.