Re: [GTh] A Two Document Hypothesis
----- Original Message -----
From: "Lance Owens" <lowens@...>
Sent: Friday, April 19, 2002 6:10 AM
Subject: Re: [GTh] GTh and Counter Culture
> An excellent summary of the Wisdom connection of GTh from Frank McCoy. I
agree with the thesis.
> The many arguments about strata interest and then logically confound me.
Sacred traditions hold their most precious oral and textual transmissions
as, well, sacred. What would be more sacred than the words of the Living
Jesus? GTh was not a political manifesto, or an argumentative pamphlet. It
was almost certainly a precious and well-guarded possession of a faith
community. Of course there were emendations, translations, and intertextual
restatements. But frank and gross alteration of such a document seems
intuitively unlikely. (Proof? I can only offer intuition here, based on
study of many sacred traditions.)
> GTH was revered by a community of transmission, and to those who guarded
it we might attribute more than a little integrity of intent. Even if they
were Gnostic heretics, so called. (I would make a similar argument for the
Gospel of John within the Johannine tradition.)
I agree that, once GThomas was written, it was probably kept more or less
"as is" by the GThomas community.
How accurately, though, were the traditions concerning the sayings of Jesus
were kept by the GThomas community in the period before the writing of
In the oral stage, there might have been a great deal of fluidity, with many
changes in the traditions concerning the sayings of Jesus. I'm not sure on
this, but I strongly suspect that this was the case.
However, when we come to the written stage, I see definite signs that the
GThomas community was conservative and treated its traditions
concerning the sayings of Jesus as being (to use your phraseology) sacred
For example, I think there is evidence that GThomas is basically a
combination of two written texts, with the saying of Jesus (outside of some
editing) remaining unchanged.
The rest of this post concerns this idea.
GTh begins, "These are the secret sayings (or:words) which the living Jesus
spoke and which Didymos Judas Thomas wrote down."
Taken at face value, this indicates that GTh consists solely of sayings of
However, this clearly is *not* the case with GTh. Rather, besides sections
solely consisting of free-standing sayings of Jesus prefaced with "(And) he
said" and "Jesus said", there are other sections in which dialogue takes
place (Note: These dialogue sections do contain some sayings of Jesus
introduced with the formula "Jesus said", but each such saying of Jesus is,
in its context, a part of a dialogue rather than a free-standing saying).
I propose this hypothesis: There were two written sources for GTh. One of
these solely consisted of free-standing sayings of Jesus: making it of the
same genre as the Nag Hammadi text, The Sentences of Sextus. The
introduction to GTh originally was the introduction to this sayings source.
So, its authorship was attributed to Thomas. In this sayings document, each
free-standing saying was introduced with the formula, "(And) he said" or the
formula, "Jesus said". The other consisted of dialogues between Jesus and
others: making it of the same genre as the Nag Hammadi texts, The
Apocryphon of James and The Dialogue of the Savior. It was *not*
attributed to Thomas, so Thomas appears in it as "Thomas" rather than as
In this case, this is what comes from the sayings document: Introduction,
1-5, 7-11, 15-17. 19, 23, 25-36, 38-42, 44-50, 54-59, 61a, 62-71, 73-78,
80-90, 92-98, 101-103, and 105-112. Further, this is what comes from the
dialogue document: 6, 12-14 (where Thomas is spoken of as "Thomas" rather
than as "I"), 18, 20-22, 24, 37, 43, 51-53, 60, 61b, 72, 79, 91, 99-100,
104, and 113-114.
(Note: What is called 61a above is this, "Jesus said, 'Two will rest on a
bed; the one will die, and the other will live.'" Since this begins with
"Jesus said" it comes from the postulated sayings document. What is called
62b above is what follows this, i.e., a dialogue between Jesus and Salome
that begins with, "Salome said". It comes from the postulated dialogue
As can be seen, in this case, the bulk of GTh comes from the sayings
document. Further, the beginning of GTh (i.e., its introduction and sayings
1-5) comes from this sayings document.
If this hypothesis is correct, then GTh is likely the rewriting of the
sayings document: which rewriting primarily consisted of the incorporation
of some material from the dialogue document. In such, a rewriting, other
editorial work probably also have been done--such as re-arranging the order
of some of the sayings, modifying text for theological or literary reasons,
etc.. However, the main thrust would have been a "scissors and paste" job.
If so, then the sayings of Jesus in the two previous documents were treated
in a conservative fashion, with most either being set down in GTh exactly as
they were in the previous two documents or else only mildly edited.
THE INTRUSIVE NATURE OF GTHOMAS 6
In a recent post, I outlined evidence that GThomas 1-5 is an exhortation to
obtain Wisdom: with it opening and closing with the observation that you
need to obtain Wisdom in order to properly interpret and understand the
sayings to be found in GThomas.
If so, then the following GThomas 6 represents a radical change in subject.
It reads, "His disciples questioned Him and said to Him, 'Do You want us to
fast? How shall we pray? Shall we give alms? What diet shall we observe?'
Jesus said, 'Do not tell lies, and do not do what you hate, for all things
are plain in the sight of heaven. For nothing hidden will not become
manifest, and nothing covered will remain without being uncovered.'"
In terms of the two document hypothesis, this radical change in subject in
GThomas 6 occurs because GThomas 1-5 come from the postulated sayings
document, while GThomas 6 comes from the postulated dialogue document.
AN ASYMMETRY AND ITS POSSIBLE SIGNIFICANCE
In "The Rhetoric of Marginality: Apocalypticism, Gnosticism, and Sayings
Gospels" (Harvard Theological Review, 88:4, 1995), Bill Arnal postulates the
existence of two stratum in GTh. The earlier (see p. 478) is "the
sapiential stratum" and it includes GTh 3. 5. 6. 9. 14. 16. 20. 26. 31, 32.
34-36, 42, 45, 47, 54, 55, 57, 63-65, 71, 74, 76, 89, 95-98, 107, 109, and
110. The later (see p.479) is "the gnostic-leaning stratum" and it includes
Gth 11, 13, 15, 18, 21-22, 27-28, 49-50, 51, 60, 61, 83, 84, 101, 105, 108,
111, and 114. If I count correctly, this is thirty-three logia for the
sapiential stratum and twenty logia for the gnostic-leaning stratum--a ratio
There is a marked difference in the ratios between the postulated sayings
document and the postulated dialogue document.
In the postulated sayings document, there are thirty logia which come from
the postulated sapiential stratum (3, 5, 9, 16, 26, 31-32, 34-36, 42, 45,
47, 54-55, 57, 63-65, 71, 74, 76, 86, 89, 95-98, 107, and 109-110) and
twelve logia which come from the postulated gnostic-leaning stratum (11, 15,
27-28, 49-50, 83-84, 101, 105, 108, and 111). This is a ratio of 3/1.2.
In the postulated dialogue document, there are three logia which come from
the postulated sapiential stratum (6, 14, and 20) and eight logia which come
from the postulated gnostic-leaning stratum (13, 18, 21-22, 51, 60, 61b, and
114). This is a ratio of 3/8.
The two ratios are radically different: with (1) the postulated sayings
document have almost three times as many logia in the postulated sapiential
stratum as in the postulated gnostic-leaning stratum, but with (2) the
postulated dialogue document having almost three times as many logia in the
postulated gnostic-leaning stratum as in the postulated sapiential stratum.
These radically different ratios lend support to the hypothesis that there
are two written sources for GTh: a sayings document and a dialogure.
Also, since the postulated sayings document has a much higher percentage of
material from the postulated earlier sapiential stratum than does the
postulated dialogue document, this evidence is consistent with the
hypothesis that the postulated sayings document was written earlier than was
the postulated dialogue document.
If so, then, the order of writing was: (1) the sayings document, (2) the
dialogue document, and (3) GThomas.
Alternatively, this evidence is also consistent with the hypothesis that
each of the two postulated documents had several stages in development.
In this case, the later stages in development of the sayings document were
minor, so that it was mainly constituted of early strata. Conversely, in the
case of the dialogue document, these later stages were major, so that it was
mainly constituted of later strata.
Examples of possible late additions to the postulated dialogue document are
found in the first two excerpts from it (i.e., 6 and 12-14). As Rick
Hubbard noted in an earlier post, the logical answer to the question in 6 is
not the answer to be found in 6 but, rather, the statement to be found in
14. This suggests that the answer in 6, as well as 12 and 13, are late
expansions to the postulated dialogue document.
(Note: Arnal has 61 as part of the proto-gnostic stratum. When 61 is
considered as a unity, this appears to be correct. However, I make a
distinction between its initial part (61a) and its main part (62b). ISTM
that only 62b has a proto-gnostic "look" to it, so I do not include 61a in
the proto-Gnostic stratum. Perhaps Arnal could comment on this--as I'm
doing some second-guessing here that might not accurately reflect what he
thinks. (Indeed, my track record on second-guessing other people is a
rather sorry one!)
There is some evidence that is consistent with the idea that GTh is the
rewriting of a sayings document: which rewriting primarily consisted of the
incorporation of some material from a dialogue document. In this rewriting,
other editorial work might also have been done--such as re-arranging the
order of some of the sayings, modifying text for theological or literary
reasons, etc.. However, the main thrust would have been a "scissors and
paste" job. If so, then the sayings of Jesus in the two previous documents
were treated in a conservative fashion, with most either being set down in
GTh exactly as they were in the previous two documents or else only mildly
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