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RE: RE: [GTh] Clement, Tatian and Thomas (was just Tatian and Thomas)

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  • Rick Hubbard
    [Bill Foley wrote]: Putting gThom outside of the realm of chronology seems to me like special pleading. The assumption of an early dating is not proof, and
    Message 1 of 5 , Oct 21, 2002
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      [Bill Foley wrote]:

      Putting gThom outside of the realm of chronology seems to me like special
      pleading. The assumption of an early dating is not proof, and personally, I
      see no reason to accept the arguments for early dating, at least of my
      understanding of those reasons I've read.

      I agree that it is inappropriate to invoke any kind of "special pleading" in
      order to exclude GTh from the sort of critical investigation conventionally
      directed at other religious literature of late antiquity (including
      intracanonical Christian texts). I did not mean to imply that it should be
      excluded. What I am trying to argue, instead, is that the conventional
      categories of analysis that are characteristic of critical scholarship **are
      ineffective** when applied to Thomas (at least inre "date" and
      "provenance"). That this approach is unsatisfactory should be evident from
      the clear disagreements among scholars about where GTh was written, when it
      was written, and who composed it. Patterson _The Fifth Gospel_ (Harrisburg:
      Trinity Press, 1998 [40f]) articulates something that resembles my own
      position:

      "Thomas is difficult to date with any precision... The problem may be stated
      quite simply: a collection of sayings cannot be dated in the same way as a
      novel or treatise, where the creation of the whole composition in all its
      constituent parts might be located within a relatively limited time frame.
      In a sayings collection, such as Thomas, the sayings themselves might stem
      from disparate time periods, and may well have been introduced into the text
      over a long period of time. Therefore, one should probably not try to date
      Thomas in the same way that may date a text like the Gospel of Mark."

      Patterson's cautionary advice is routinely ignored by most Thomas students.
      There continues to be a
      "habitual fascination with 'date and place of the composition of the Gospel
      of Thomas'." It is probably pointless to speculate on the reason(s) for this
      phenomenon. Nevertheless, it may be that the traditional categories of
      investigation perpetuated by mid-20th century "handbuchen" remain so
      pervasive that no other avenues are recognized (myopic scholarship). It may
      also be that the reasons for studying GTh derive from broadly different
      interests. Mike Grondin called attention to an intriguing statement about
      Perrin's recent book (extracted from the publisher's description of the
      work):

      "The book argues for a late second-century C.E. dating of Thomas, rules out
      Thomas as a meaningful source for Historical Jesus research, and suggests
      possible links between Thomas and other mystical literature of the ancient
      near east."

      As Mike observed, the dating of Thomas "rules out Thomas as a meaningful
      source for Historical Jesus research" may or may not represent Perrin's own
      position (but my personal suspicion is that it probably does). Regardless,
      however, this remark does call attention to an important point.

      Reconstructing the history of the development of Christianity during the
      early centuries of the common era is NOT the same as "Historical Jesus
      research." Jesus of Nazareth may have been the catalyst of Christianity, but
      he was not its founder and he was certainly not its nurturer. Christianity
      **evolved** from various interpretations and understandings of the meaning
      and significance of Jesus. The "founders" of Christianity were, in the final
      analysis, the constituents who promoted and preserved written expressions of
      their (plural) own understanding ABOUT Jesus. The literature that originated
      during Christianity's period of evolution (canonical and otherwise) vividly
      illustrates a broad diversity (documented by a multitude of recent studies).
      It is these attempts by early writers to harmonize various understandings of
      Jesus' significance that are the most legitimate sources for reconstructing
      the history of Christianity. Thomas is one of those sources. We can make
      numerous observations about the "31 flavors of Christianity" that is present
      in the NT corpus. The same is true for Thomas, not only by what "Jesus
      sayings" are present in the collection, but also by the absence of certain
      content (most notably the centrality of the passion and resurrection and any
      kind of unequivocal messianism).

      With this in mind, perhaps the "date" of Thomas is almost inconsequential if
      one's objective is only to piece together a picture of what Christianity
      looked like during the opening centuries of the common era. If one's
      interests are exclusively historical, then regardless of whether GTh is
      "late" or "early" (whatever those terms mean) it seems clear that there was
      some kind of soteriological (but non-christological) religious movement that
      commandeered the popularity of Jesus, but that may have been completely
      independent OF Jesus. On the other hand, if GTh is "early" (in the sense
      that it antedates the earliest writings in the NT) it may be witness to a
      tradition to which was unknown the cycle of passion-death-resurrection that
      is so integral to the Christianities described in the NT.

      By contrast, if one's motives are not purely historical-- perhaps, for
      example, if one is in pursuit of some apologetic agenda or is questing for a
      particular understanding of the historical Jesus-- then the exact date of
      Thomas' composition becomes somewhat more crucial. But, as critical as is
      may be to establish such an absolute date, the fact remains that it cannot
      be determined with any reasonable degree of certainty.

      Rick Hubbard
      Humble Maine Woodsman
    • Mark Goodacre
      ... I d agree over the contrast between Thomas and novel or treatise , but I wonder if the same does work for the contrast between Thomas and Mark? Ever
      Message 2 of 5 , Oct 21, 2002
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        On 21 Oct 2002 at 9:51, Rick Hubbard wrote:

        > Patterson _The Fifth Gospel_ (Harrisburg:
        > Trinity Press, 1998 [40f]) articulates something that resembles my own
        > position:
        >
        > "Thomas is difficult to date with any precision... The problem may be stated
        > quite simply: a collection of sayings cannot be dated in the same way as a
        > novel or treatise, where the creation of the whole composition in all its
        > constituent parts might be located within a relatively limited time frame.
        > In a sayings collection, such as Thomas, the sayings themselves might stem
        > from disparate time periods, and may well have been introduced into the text
        > over a long period of time. Therefore, one should probably not try to date
        > Thomas in the same way that may date a text like the Gospel of Mark."

        I'd agree over the contrast between Thomas and "novel or treatise",
        but I wonder if the same does work for the contrast between Thomas
        and Mark? Ever since the work of the form critics, we've taken it
        for granted, haven't we, that pericopae in Mark might well have been
        inserted in different places in his narrative, and that his Gospel
        could be the product of a period of evolution? Indeed the textual
        history of Mark itself helps us out -- there is plenty of
        disagreement in the the texts over the end of the Gospel. And source-
        critics have long questioned different elements in Mark, e.g. the
        section omitted in Luke, Mark 6.45--8.26 (though I don't happen to
        agree with them on that).

        In other words, I wonder whether Patterson's contrast does work when
        comparing Mark and Thomas? Couldn't both similarly be the results of
        evolutionary processes? I am a bit concerned over the potential
        confusion in some of the literature between the tradition-history and
        literary-history, i.e. there is a clear and obvious difference
        between the age of a text and the ages of the traditions contained in
        that text.

        Mark
        -----------------------------
        Dr Mark Goodacre mailto:M.S.Goodacre@...
        Dept of Theology tel: +44 121 414 7512
        University of Birmingham fax: +44 121 414 4381
        Birmingham B15 2TT UK

        http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/goodacre
        http://NTGateway.com
      • Rick Hubbard
        ... stated ... text ... On Monday, October 21, 2002 at 4:30 PM Mark Goodacre wrote: I d agree over the contrast between Thomas and novel or treatise , but I
        Message 3 of 5 , Oct 22, 2002
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          On 21 Oct 2002 at 9:51, Rick Hubbard quoted Stephen J. Patterson:

          > Patterson _The Fifth Gospel_ (Harrisburg:
          > Trinity Press, 1998 [40f]) articulates something that resembles my own
          > position:
          >
          > "Thomas is difficult to date with any precision... The problem may be
          stated
          > quite simply: a collection of sayings cannot be dated in the same way as a
          > novel or treatise, where the creation of the whole composition in all its
          > constituent parts might be located within a relatively limited time frame.
          > In a sayings collection, such as Thomas, the sayings themselves might stem
          > from disparate time periods, and may well have been introduced into the
          text
          > over a long period of time. Therefore, one should probably not try to date
          > Thomas in the same way that may date a text like the Gospel of Mark."

          On Monday, October 21, 2002 at 4:30 PM Mark Goodacre wrote:

          I'd agree over the contrast between Thomas and "novel or treatise",
          but I wonder if the same does work for the contrast between Thomas
          and Mark? Ever since the work of the form critics, we've taken it
          for granted, haven't we, that pericopae in Mark might well have been
          inserted in different places in his narrative, and that his Gospel
          could be the product of a period of evolution? Indeed the textual
          history of Mark itself helps us out -- there is plenty of
          disagreement in the the texts over the end of the Gospel. And source-
          critics have long questioned different elements in Mark, e.g. the
          section omitted in Luke, Mark 6.45--8.26 (though I don't happen to
          agree with them on that).

          In other words, I wonder whether Patterson's contrast does work when
          comparing Mark and Thomas? Couldn't both similarly be the results of
          evolutionary processes? I am a bit concerned over the potential
          confusion in some of the literature between the tradition-history and
          literary-history, i.e. there is a clear and obvious difference
          between the age of a text and the ages of the traditions contained in
          that text.

          I confess that I am uncertain whether you agree that it IS difficult
          (impossible?) to date either Thomas or Mark or whether you are saying that
          it is possible to date both.

          With respect to your question about whether both Mark and Thomas could
          represent the results of an evolutionary process, it seems to me that the
          resounding answer is "Yes." That being the case, then it seems also likely
          that conventional theories about Mark's "date of composition" should be
          accepted with judicious caution.

          Finally, I agree whole-heartedly with your observation about the frequency
          of confusion (not just potential, but actual) between tradition-history and
          literary-history (and not just in the case of Thomas, but other writings
          from late antiquity as well). If one attends exclusively to the respective
          ages of various traditions in Thomas, for example, then it seems to me that
          it could be argued persuasively that SOME PORTIONS of Thomas have
          connections to the most primitive stages of the Jesus tradition(s). If such
          observations are correct, then does one dare say that Thomas is "early"?
          Or, conversely, based on material that clearly originated much later in the
          history of emergent Christianity, does one argue Thomas is "late"?

          Rick Hubbard
          Humble Maine Woodsman
        • Mark Goodacre
          ... I think I am wanting to say simply that the reasons given by Patterson for difficulties in dating Thomas equally well apply to Mark. I don t think the
          Message 4 of 5 , Oct 22, 2002
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            On 22 Oct 2002 at 7:08, Rick Hubbard wrote:

            > I confess that I am uncertain whether you agree that it IS difficult
            > (impossible?) to date either Thomas or Mark or whether you are saying
            > that it is possible to date both.

            I think I am wanting to say simply that the reasons given by
            Patterson for difficulties in dating Thomas equally well apply to
            Mark. I don't think the difference in genre prejudices either. As
            it happens, I think it may be easier to date Mark given our current
            knowledge; there's an emerging consensus that it is dated in or
            around the time of the Jewish War. If Perrin is right, and I reserve
            judgement until I've had a chance to read his book, then Thomas will
            suddenly become much easier to date with such a narrow window
            available between the Diatessaron and the Oxy fragments. But the
            specific questions of when we date Mark and Thomas are different from
            the general issue raised by Patterson, and it's that that I disagree
            with. It seems to me that he is drawing a contrast that is not
            wholly legitimate.

            > Finally, I agree whole-heartedly with your observation about the
            > frequency of confusion (not just potential, but actual) between
            > tradition-history and literary-history (and not just in the case of
            > Thomas, but other writings from late antiquity as well). If one
            > attends exclusively to the respective ages of various traditions in
            > Thomas, for example, then it seems to me that it could be argued
            > persuasively that SOME PORTIONS of Thomas have connections to the most
            > primitive stages of the Jesus tradition(s). If such observations are
            > correct, then does one dare say that Thomas is "early"? Or,
            > conversely, based on material that clearly originated much later in
            > the history of emergent Christianity, does one argue Thomas is "late"?

            Yes, these are exactly the kinds of question I was trying to raise.
            A late date for the final composition of the Gospel of Thomas, were
            that to be established, would not necessarily mean that the
            traditions contained within it are also late.

            Mark
            -----------------------------
            Dr Mark Goodacre mailto:M.S.Goodacre@...
            Dept of Theology tel: +44 121 414 7512
            University of Birmingham fax: +44 121 414 4381
            Birmingham B15 2TT UK

            http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/goodacre
            http://NTGateway.com
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