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Re: [GTh] The Parable of the Mustard Seed

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  • fmmccoy
    ... From: Tom Saunders To: Sent: Friday, November 28, 2003 1:35 PM Subject: [GTh] 99 Sheep ... (snip) ...
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 30, 2003
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      ----- Original Message -----
      From: "Tom Saunders" <tom@...>
      To: <gthomas@yahoogroups.com>
      Sent: Friday, November 28, 2003 1:35 PM
      Subject: [GTh] 99 Sheep


      > Hi Frank,

      (snip)

      > I know you and I agree that there well could have been a collection of
      parables before any gospels, and this could have been either inclusive of a
      proto-Thomas, or Q, as well as just a list of parables. Seeing that we have
      kernel text status for GThom sayings and parables is exciting. I don't know
      that we can kill Q off yet, but I think we are starting to show the GThom at
      least in part is as old as Q.
      >
      > I guess we need to look at the other parables and see what we can
      find..........

      Hi Tom!

      Yes, I think it quite likely that there had been some early collections of
      parables precisely because the historical Jesus apparently used parables as
      primary aids in getting his message across. Also, they caught the
      imagination.

      The Q hypothesis faces three big hurdles. The first is that we have no copy
      of the postulated Q document. The second is that there is no definitive
      reference to the postulated Q document in early Christian literature. The
      third is that there are other possible solutions to the problem it tries to
      solve (i.e., how does one explain the extensive non-Markan material, mainly
      consisting of sayings attributed to Jesus, common to Matthew and Luke?).

      One of the other possible solutions to this problem is the Farrer-Goulder
      hypothesis. According to this hypothesis, Matthew used Mark and Luke used
      both Mark and Matthew. In this case, the non-Markan material common to
      Matthew and Luke exists because Luke used Matthew as one of his sources.

      In several recent posts, I have proposed an elaborated Farrer-Goulder
      hypothesis in which Matthew used Mark *and Thomas* and in which Luke used,
      Mark, Matthew, *and Thomas*. In this elaborated hypothesis, thus, Thomas
      is earlier than Matthew and Luke. Evidence has been presented in these
      posts that this elaborated Farrer-Goulder hypothesis can explain the
      relationships between Thomas 44 and its Synoptic parallels, the
      relationships between Thomas 99 and its Synoptic parallels, and the
      relationships between Thomas 107 and its Synoptic parallels.

      Your suggestion to look at some of the other parables is a good one. In
      this post, we will look at the parable of the mustard seed. Evidence will
      be presented that the elaborated Farrer-Goulder hypothesis can explain the
      relationship between Thomas 20 and its Synoptic parallels.

      THE PARABLE OF THE MUSTARD SEED

      Here are the four versions of this parable that we have:

      Thomas 20, "The disciples said to Jesus, 'Tell us what the Kingdom of
      heaven is like.' He said to them, 'It is like a mustard seed, the smallest
      of all seeds. But when it falls on tilled soil, it produces a great plant
      and becomes a shelter for birds of the sky.'"

      Mark 4:30-32, "And he said, 'With what can we compare the Kingdom of God, or
      what parable shall we use for it? It is like a grain of mustard seed,
      which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth;
      yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and
      puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nest in tis
      shade.'"

      Matthew 13:31-32. "Another parable he put before them, saying, 'The Kingdom
      of Heaven is like a grain of mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his
      field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown, it is the
      greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, and the birds of the air come and
      make nests in its branches.'"

      Luke 13:18-19, 'He said therefore, 'What is the Kingdom of God like? And to
      what shall I compare it? It is like a grain of mustard seed which a man
      took and sowed in his garden. It grew and became a tree and the birds of
      the air made nests in its branches.'"

      According to the elaborated Farrer-Goulder hypothesis, Matthew knew of both
      Thomas 40 and Mark 4:30-32, while Luke knew of Thomas 40, Mark 4:30-32, and
      Matthew 13:31-32.

      INTRODUCTION

      Let us look at the introduction to Thomas, "The disciples said to Jesus,
      'Tell us what the Kingdom of Heaven is like.' He said to them," and the
      introduction to the Markan version, "And he said, 'With what can we compare
      the Kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it?'", and the
      introduction to the Matthean version, "Another parable he put before them,
      saying," and the introduction to the Lukan version, "He said therefore,
      'What is the Kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it?'"

      In this hypothesis, Matthew compared the Thomas and Markan introductions and
      found them to be so radically different that he rejected both of them. He
      then created his own introduction in which he follows Mark in leaving the
      disciples out of the picture and in having Jesus use the word "parable".

      In this hypothesis, Luke compared the Thomas, Markan, and Thomas
      introductions. He preferred Mark's "the Kingdom of God" over Thomas' "the
      Kingdom of Heaven". He followed Mark and Matthew in leaving the disciples
      out of the picture. He liked the two question format of the Markan
      introduction and, so, used a two question format in his own introduction.
      However, he rejected one of the questions in Mark's version (i.e., What
      parable shall we use for it?) and replaced it with one of his own (i.e.,
      What is the Kingdom of God like?) that is but a putting of the disciple's
      request in the Thomas version (i.e., Tell us what the Kingdom of Heaven is
      like.) into a question format.

      FIRST PART

      Next, let us look at the first part of the parable in Thomas, "It is like a
      mustard seed, the smallest of all seeds. But when it falls on tilled soil,"
      and in Mark, "It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown upon the
      ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown", in
      Matthew, "The Kingdom of Heaven is like a grain of mustard seed which a man
      took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds," and in Luke,
      "It is like a grain of mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his
      garden."

      In this hypothesis Matthew knew both the Thomas and Markan versions of this
      first part.

      In this case, Matthew compared the "it" in the Thomas version (which is the
      Kingdom of Heaven) with the "it" in the Markan version (which is the Kingdom
      of God). Matthew preferred the Thomas version and, so, changed the "it" of
      the Thomas and Markan versions to "the Kingdom of Heaven" in his own
      version.

      Matthew noted that Thomas follows a two step scenario (smallest seed,
      falls on ground) and Mark a three step scenario (sown on ground, smallest
      seed, sown). He preferred Thomas' usage of a two step scenario, but
      preferred Mark's order for the initial two steps (i.e., sown, smallest seed)
      over the order for Thomas' two steps (i.e., smallest seed, fallen). So, in
      his version, he has a two step scenario of sown, smallest seed.

      Matthew also noted that the Markan version, since the seed is said to be
      sown, implies a sower, while the Thomas version, since it refers to tilled
      ground, implies a cultivated area. So, his version of the first part of
      the parable has a sower sowing the mustard seed in his field. In this
      respect, then, he harmonized the Markan and Thomas versions in a creative
      fashion.

      In this hypothesis, Luke knew of the Thomas, Markan, and Matthean versions
      of this first part.

      In this scenario, Luke rejected the Thomas and Markan versions of this first
      part and, so, based his own first part on the Matthean version. However, he
      made two changes to the Matthean version. First, he changed the field to a
      garden. Second, he dropped the Matthean reference to the mustard seed being
      the smallest seed.

      THE SECOND PART

      Next, let us turn to the second part of this parable in Thomas, "It produces
      a great plant (literally: great branch)", in Mark, "It grows up and becomes
      the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches," in Matthew, "But
      when it has grown, it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree," and in
      Luke, "It grew and became a tree".

      According to this hypothesis, Matthew knew both the Markan and Thomas
      versions.

      In this case, Matthew preferred the two stage scenario of Mark (greatest of
      shrubs, puts forth large branches) over the one stage scenario of Thomas
      (produces a great branch). Matthew also thought that, no matter whether it
      be Thomas' version of one great branch or Mark's version of a number of
      large branches that is correct, a tree is implied in either event, so he
      makes the second stage one in which the shrub becomes a tree. So, in his
      version, we find the two stage scenario of greatest of shrubs, becomes a
      tree.

      According to this hypothesis, Luke knew the Markan, Thomas, and Matthean
      versions.

      In this case, Luke preferred the one stage scenario of Thomas over the two
      stage scenario of Mark and Matthew. However, his one stage is not the one
      stage of the Thomas version (i.e., the production of a great plant
      (literally: great branch)) but the second stage of the Markan and Matthean
      versions (i.e., the production of a tree).

      THE FINAL PART

      Next, let us turn to the close of the parable in Thomas, "And becomes a
      shelter for birds of the sky.", in Mark, "So that the birds of the air can
      make nest in its shade.", in Matthew, "And the birds of the air come and
      make nests in its branches.", and in Luke, "And the birds of the air made
      nests in its branches."

      According to this hypothesis, Matthew knew both the Thomas and Markan
      version.

      In this case, Matthew preferred the Markan version over the Thomas version.
      Not only did he pick Mark's "birds of the air" over Thomas' "birds of the
      sky", but, even in amending Mark's "in its shade" to "in its branches" he
      demonstrated that he preferred, in the preceding second part of the parable,
      Mark's "large branches" over Thomas' "great branch".

      According to this hypothesis, Luke knew the Thomas, Markan, and Matthean
      versions.

      In this case, he preferred the Matthean version (in which the birds of the
      air make nest in its branches) over the Thomas version (where the birds of
      the sky find shelter in it) and the Markan version (in which the birds of
      the air make nest in its shade).

      CONCLUDING REMARKS

      The relationships between Thomas 20 and its Synoptic parallels are
      explicable in terms of the elaborated Farrer-Goulder hypothesis, in which
      Matthew knew both Mark and Thomas and in which Luke knew Mark, Thomas, and
      Matthew.

      In this case, Matthew, overall, preferred the Markan version over the Thomas
      version. This is not surprising since his gospel is basically an expanded
      modification of Mark. However, he did make several major changes to the
      Markan version due to his knowledge of the Thomas version.

      In this case, Luke preferred the Markan version of the introduction,
      although he also made use of the Thomas version. As for the parable itself,
      he preferred the Matthean version, although evidencing his knowledge of the
      Markan and Thomas versions as well.



      Frank McCoy
      1809 N. English Apt. 15
      Maplewood, MN USA 55109
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