Stratification & the Historical Gap
- Careful readers may have noticed that, altho recent discussions of the
history of early Xianity may have brought us closer to understanding *some*
Thomas sayings (such as #71), there are still others that remain curiously
distant - even more so now. I have particularly in mind the sayings
involving "the Mother":
"My mother brought me forth, but my true mother gave me life.", and
"He who knows the Father and the Mother will be called 'Son of the Harlot'"
Such sayings as these seem antithetical to patriarchical Judaism - whether
Temple or post-Temple - and so what are we to say about them? It may seem
satisfying at first to just say that they aren't authentic, but that
response doesn't help those of us who take Thomas to be pre-canonical, cuz
we have to explain the existence of such themes in early Xianity, whether
they derived from Jesus or not. One natural way out of this dilemma is to
take Thomas to be "stratified", i.e., composed of a number of layers added
over time to an early core sayings collection. But this response is not
without its problems, either. For one thing, there's no general agreement
on how to identify the strata in Thomas, hence no general agreement that
saying X belongs to an earlier, rather than a later, stratum, for example.
For another thing, if the stratifiers felt free to put new stuff into J's
mouth, why wouldn't they also have felt free to take old stuff out of it?
Why, for example, would they have left in saying 71, which talks about the
Temple, and saying 12, which mentions Jacob the Righteous? My suggested
answer would be this: it (or some variation of it) was still considered
relevant at the time of the latest stratum. Now that may seem
simple-minded, and yet it implies an approach to stratification somewhat
different than might otherwise occur to us. It implies that we should not
think of the redaction of Thomas as having been a simple process of adding
new sayings to what already existed, but rather as a more complex process
involving pruning and revising of earlier levels, in light of what was then
considered relevant and meaningful. So what we should expect to see is not
saying X preserved intact in its pristine form from an earlier stage of
stratification, but rather as revised (or not), based on an assessment of
its relevance at the latest level of stratification. Thus, in an important
sense, ALL the sayings "belong" to the last level of stratification. If
they preserve historical information, that information must still have been
considered important. And realizing that may help us to determine which of
various interpretations was the one most likely to have been intended for
the reader of the "latest version" of Thomas, even though it may tell us
little about earlier versions.
- on 8/11/00 1:48 PM, Michael Grondin at mgrondin@... wrote:
> Careful readers may have noticed that, altho recent discussions of theAren't you ignoring the wisdom tradition?
> history of early Xianity may have brought us closer to understanding *some*
> Thomas sayings (such as #71), there are still others that remain curiously
> distant - even more so now. I have particularly in mind the sayings
> involving "the Mother":
> "My mother brought me forth, but my true mother gave me life.", and
> "He who knows the Father and the Mother will be called 'Son of the Harlot'"
> Such sayings as these seem antithetical to patriarchical Judaism - whether
> Temple or post-Temple - and so what are we to say about them? It may seem
> satisfying at first to just say that they aren't authentic, but that
> response doesn't help those of us who take Thomas to be pre-canonical, cuz
> we have to explain the existence of such themes in early Xianity, whether
> they derived from Jesus or not. One natural way out of this dilemma is to
> take Thomas to be "stratified", i.e., composed of a number of layers added
> over time to an early core sayings collection.
Here's a section from Wisdom of Solomon 7
7: Therefore I prayed, and understanding was given me;
I called upon God, and the spirit of wisdom came to me.
8: I preferred her to scepters and thrones,
and I accounted wealth as nothing in comparison with her.
9: Neither did I liken to her any priceless gem,
because all gold is but a little sand in her sight,
and silver will be accounted as clay before her.
10: I loved her more than health and beauty,
and I chose to have her rather than light,
because her radiance never ceases.
11: All good things came to me along with her,
and in her hands uncounted wealth.
12: I rejoiced in them all, because wisdom leads them;
but I did not know that she was their mother.
Here, spirit of wisdom=mother of good things (and light). But even without
such a clear identification, any female divine figure in a first century
Jewish text could surely be assumed to be Wisdom. So those sayings can go
straight back into the first stratum!
As I mentioned, I think that #105 is connected with the Beelzebub
controversy and the blasphemy against the Spirit. If Mother=Spirit/Wisdom,
then saying that someone who knows the Spirit is the son of a whore,
(instead of a son of spirit/wisdom) is a misidentification akin to saying
that he has a demon, not the Spirit.
But perhaps I can pose this as a question. Can "Mother" in GoT really be
identified with Wisdom/Spirit?