RE: [GTh] Q & Thomas: Teaser Tracts?
- [Peter Kirby Wrote:]
[Phillip] Jenkins proposes a different theory to explain the
silence of Q & Thomas on the death or resurrection of Jesus. I would like
to know what the list members think of his proposal
OK Peter, since you asked.
It is my personal opinion that Jenkins' _Hidden Gospels_ makes no worthwhile
contribution to research on the history of Christian origins. The author is
not a specialist in the discipline and, as near as I can determine, has
never published any peer-reviewed work relating to it. While he is a
prolific writer (15 books since 1979)and a credentialed scholar (PhD
Cambridge 1979) I can see nothing in either of those accomplishments that
commends the credibility of his assertions. Peter's remark that Jenkins
engages in "meta-scholarship" is understated, at best. Why Oxford U press
published _Hidden Gospels_ is a mystery of the Nth degree. My bias against
_Hidden Gospels_ should now be clear, and my following remarks should be
read in the context of this bias.
First of all, it seems to me that this particular proposition suggested by
Jenkins is absurd on its face: "In modern terms, these texts could be seen
as teasers or recruitment brochures. New seekers would gradually be
tuaght[sic] the fuller version of the truth, and ultimately the core
doctrines of Jesus' saving death and resurrection."
This remark seems to presume that Xty was a cohesive and organic movement
that began, if not even before Jesus was executed, immediately after the
crucifixion. It seems to me that it is almost beyond doubt that what we call
"earliest Christianity" was incredibly diverse during the mid-to-late
decades of the first century. The suggestion that either GTh or Q were
"recruitment brochures," allegedly composed to lure "new seekers" close to
"the fuller version of the truth," reflects a practice that is
characteristic of certain flavors of Evangelical Christianity; there is no
evidence of which I am aware that similar practices were followed in the
first century. It is simply anachronistic to make this suggestion.
Second, Jenkins seems to presuppose that the literature of the early
communities was composed as "scripture." While the gospels are now regularly
assigned to this category, it is preposterous to imagine that any early
Christian writings (including Paul's letters) functioned in similar fashion
immediately after their composition. It is widely acknowledged by most
reputable scholars that the only "scripture" that was in use by these early
communities were the religious texts of what we call Judaism. The notion
that that early Christians consciously created scripture is the product of a
prolific imagination, not a conclusion of responsible scholarship.
Third, Jenkins asserts that, "Q and Thomas did not become hidden gospels
because they exemplified an alternate tradition of early Christianity, but
rather vanished because they represented an outmoded literary genre. There
never was a 'Q community' or a group of 'Thomas people' distinct from the
mainstream Jesus Way, that is, the incipient Christian Church." I'll concede
that the popularity of sayings gospels fell out of favor with the advent of
narrative versions. On the other hand, the validity of Jenkins' conclusion
that there was no "Q community" or "group of Thomas people" depends
**entirely** on the two propositions that the "incipient Christian Church"
was homogenous AND that Qdoc and GTh were "recruitment brochures." The
former proposition is, as I've already said, indefensible against the
majority of scholarly opinion and the evidence of the NT text itself.
Similarly, the idea that Qdoc and Gth were first century "teaser tracts" has
no basis for support (as far as I can determine).
Jenkins' book is probably on the required reading list for certain
reactionaries, conservative evangelicals, and other members of the Flat
Earth Society, but my opinion is that it has little value for any one else.
Humble Maine Woodsman
PS: A fairly balanced review of _Hidden Gospels_ can be found at this link.
To assess how this book panders to members of the Flat Earth Society, here's
You'll note here that the book can be purchased at this site for the
entirely appropriate price of $1.00.