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Consistency and Accretion in Thomas

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    To: GThos Cc: GPG Re: Consistency and Accretion From: Bruce I suppose the key question, for Thomas as for any other text, is whether it is unitary or composite
    Message 1 of 4 , Nov 2, 2012
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      To: GThos
      Cc: GPG
      Re: Consistency and Accretion
      From: Bruce

      I suppose the key question, for Thomas as for any other text, is whether it
      is unitary or composite - composed on one occasion or from a consistent
      impulse, on the one hand, or consisting of a core plus accumulations of
      added material over a longer period.

      I have suggested some points in favor of the idea that Thomas had a core,
      and that this core was not the whole text, but rather its present #1-12,
      which end with a strong affirmation of the leadership of James the Brother.
      Among those points are:

      1. James nowhere else appears, or is credibly alluded to, in Thomas.

      2. #1-12 are presently surrounded (and tightly surrounded: by the Prologue
      and by #13) by incompatible material, making Thomas, not James, the guiding
      figure for the text.

      3. Thomas/Synoptic directionality appears to be Thos > Lk in the proposed
      core, whereas it is generally Lk > Thos in the remainder of the text. This
      suggests that the proposed core is earlier than Lk, whereas the rest of the
      text is later than Lk. (To mention only Lk; the case for Mt appears to be
      similar).

      4. Thos/Mk relationships are dim in the text at large, but seem to run in
      the direction Mk > Thos in the proposed core, suggesting that this portion
      of gThos is chronologically earlier than the remainder, given that Mk
      precedes Mt/Lk, and that once Mt/Lk appeared, they replaced Mk as the
      preferred reference point for the life of Jesus. The latter situation can be
      independently shown to obtain generally (see again Massaux) in the late 1c
      and into the 2c.

      5. On the question of accretion generally, I referred to Mike Grondin's
      suggestion, and my own further ones, that there are cadence points, real or
      overridden endings, in the latter part of the text. If so, the case would
      then be like that of John 21, which overrides a perfectly satisfactory and
      doctrinally consistent ending at John 20.

      6. Of course the existence of only the early part of gThos in Greek suggests
      the possibility that the text was first written in Greek, and at that time
      was of lesser extent than the present Coptic Thomas.

      7. On the assumption that accretion, if it exists, is linear, and that the
      original order of sayings has not been disturbed (both being assumptions,
      but worth testing), we might see whether a line can be drawn at any point in
      the linear sequence, such that we may say "to the left of this line idea X
      is absent, but to the right of it, X is present," or, "to the left of this
      line, doctrine X is present, but to the right of it, the quite different and
      incompatible Y is present."

      Simon Gathercole, in his recent book, does not look kindly on suggestions of
      internal incompatibility in gThos, largely because proposals differ. This
      goes back to the theory, often relied on in Homeric studies but perhaps
      questionable logically, that if there is more than one idea of a subject,
      all must be wrong. It is at least conceivable that one may be right, or that
      several may be partly right.

      8. As one example of ideas not universally accepted, or in any case
      refutable by the existence of other ideas, Gathercole cites DeConick's
      remark that gThos 12, which recognizes James's leadership, is incompatible
      with gThos 53, which criticizes physical circumcision. I should think this
      might be worth following up, and DeConick has in effect followed it up as to
      #53, for which she cites the parallel in Romans 2:28-29 and Philippians 3:3,
      plus some postPauline stuff which I here omit. If gThos has substituted for
      its original Jerusalem-related patron figure, a different India-related
      patron figure, surely a momentous change, it is not unreasonable to suspect
      that somewhere in its evolution (if it had an evolution), gThos moved from a
      Jerusalemite stance, still receptive to some elements of Jewish tradition,
      to a more international stance, in which Paul's rejection of circumcision,
      in particular, was not only successful in winning acceptance to the new
      belief, but implied propagation among a non-Jewish population. It may be
      relevant that in the Acts of Thomas (see the recent Attridge edition),
      refraining from sex counts as a prominent virtue, perhaps the most prominent
      virtue; this also seems to be something of a departure from Jewish cultural
      expectations.

      If that proves out, we have again a situation which can be symbolized by
      drawing a line across gThos between #12 and #13, and noting the ideological
      inventory on both sides of that line.

      Anyone have a further suggestion? A line to draw, or not to draw?

      Bruce

      E Bruce Brooks
      Warring States Project
      University of Massachusetts at Amherst
    • Mike Grondin
      Bruce, If what you are suggesting is that L1-12 existed at some point as a separate text in itself, that hardly seems likely. It s only about 80 lines, or
      Message 2 of 4 , Nov 2, 2012
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        Bruce,
         
        If what you are suggesting is that L1-12 existed at some point as
        a separate text in itself, that hardly seems likely. It's only about 80
        lines, or about 2.5 pages - long enough for a letter, to be sure, but
        not for this kind of text. Your arguments, however, serve as well
        to suggest that L1-12 should be regarded as a distinct segment of
        a larger text, and that idea has some plausibility to it.
         
        Mike Grondin
      • E Bruce Brooks
        Mike, Really? How long, for comparison, is the Book of Obadiah? Or Haggai? I don t think we are in a position to tell the ancients how to write, or how long.
        Message 3 of 4 , Nov 2, 2012
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          Mike,


          Really? How long, for comparison, is the Book of Obadiah? Or Haggai?

           

          I don’t think we are in a position to tell the ancients how to write, or how long. We can only stand back and see what they do.

           

          A chapter of course can be any size. But I should think it unlikely that a first chapter of a work written simultaneously would immediately begin its second chapter by switching to a different sponsoring figure (James > Thomas), and then compound the shift by placing another Thomas piece up top, at the head of the whole work. That looks to me not like a continuation, but a reconsideration.

           

          And if despite all gThos 13 does begin a second chapter, where does that chapter end?

           

          Bruce

           

          E Bruce Brooks

          Warring States Project

          University of Massachusetts at Amherst

           

        • Mike Grondin
          [Bruce:] ... It s hard to tell, but Haggai appears to be about twice as long as L1-12. Obadiah also appears to be longer, though by how much is hard to say.
          Message 4 of 4 , Nov 2, 2012
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            [Bruce:]
            > How long, for comparison, is the Book of Obadiah? Or Haggai?
             
            It's hard to tell, but Haggai appears to be about twice as long as L1-12.
            Obadiah also appears to be longer, though by how much is hard to say.
            But Obadiah is a prophetic proclamation which has a compositional unity
            not apparent in L1-12. At the end of Obadiah, I would suggest that one
            doesn't find oneself asking "Is that all there is?" In any case, if that's the
            sole example of a short biblical text, your suggestion remains unlikely.
             
            [Bruce:]
            > I don’t think we are in a position to tell the ancients how to write,
            or how long.
             
            Really, this remark is irrelevant, beneath you, and best forgotten.
             
            [Bruce:]
            > A chapter of course can be any size. But I should think it unlikely
            that a first
            > chapter of a work written simultaneously would immediately begin
            its second
            > chapter by switching to a different sponsoring figure (James >
            Thomas), and
            > then compound the shift by placing another Thomas piece up top, at the
            head
            > of the whole work. That looks to me not like a continuation, but a
            reconsideration.
             
            On the other hand, the Prologue and L13 may be taken as framing for a segment.
            (Thinking in terms of "chapters" doesn't strike me as supported by the content.)
             
            Mike G.
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