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Re: [GTh] Hellenist Material in Thomas

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  • Ron McCann
    Thank you for your very kind and detailed response, Frank. I do appreciate the time, consideration and energy that went into it. I hope my post did not give
    Message 1 of 31 , Aug 1, 2007
      Thank you for your very kind and detailed response, Frank. I do appreciate the time, consideration and energy that went into it. I hope my post did not give offence, as none was intended. I do value and respect your work and the fact that you so freely share your conclusions with us. That said, I am going to respond to your points below.
      ----- Original Message -----
      From: Frank McCoy
      To: gthomas@yahoogroups.com
      Sent: Tuesday, July 31, 2007 1:57 PM
      Subject: Re: [GTh] Hellenist Material in Thomas

      Ron McCann asks, "Frank, not to deprecate the detailed work you have
      done here- your posts always get me thinking and they seem meticulously
      researched and reasoned- but are you not trying to explain-away the
      presence in Thomas of Neo-Platonist, Platonic and Philonic thoughts and
      concepts buy giving James a Hellenist pedigree and suggesting that this
      material arrived in Thomas from the James Hellenistic crowd?"

      Ron, whatever my motivations, both conscious and unconscious, for
      maintaining that James had been a Hellenist, the bottom line is that I
      have presented evidence supporting this thesis and the validity of this
      thesis, IMO, can be determined only on the basis of the evidence.

      RM:- I don't suggest that the evidence you presented does not support your thesis, my concern is with evidence that either does not support it or supports it but also points to some other reasonable alternative conclusion or theory. It's probably the Lawyer in me. I had to painfully learn to test and include in an evaluation all the evidence both pro and con, not just amass and set forth that which supports my theory of the case. And in the case of circumstantial evidence- which is what we deal with here- I have to go a further step, and apply Hodges Rule, that states that in order to convict, the evidence need not only be wholey consistent with the theory that the accused committed the crime as alleged but that it is inconsistent with any other rational and reasonable explanation that would fit it. So in these matters I habitually play devil's advocate, which sometimes, regretably, offends others because it demands such a high level of proof and some people take pointing-out holes or suggesting alternative explanations as an impugning of their work and integrity. It seemed quite proper to me, for instance, that David Arbuckle challenged your conclusion that James was a Hellenist, because from all we know and can know of James from the ancient WRITINGS about him, both Christian and Non-Christian, James comes across as a quintiessential Torah-obedient and Torah-Thumping pious practicing Jew if not a Jewish religious Zealot or Priest. That evidence needs to be dealt with and disposed of if we are to conclude to the contrary, that Jame's outlook, beliefs and behaviour were Hellenist. Whereas I personally am prepared to accept your arguments and evidence that James must have been exposed to Hellenist ideas growing up, and have been given some kind of an Education in Greek, I think it's a giant leap to conclude that he became a Hellenist in beliefs and adopted some sort of liberal, more modern or progessive and relaxed attitude towards his own religion and it's requirements. It goes without saying then, that to think of him as fathering, encouraging or being ancestor to some of the liberal Hellenistic ideas found in our Thomas just doesn't mesh, however excellent his Greek. In all frankness, I think if James read Thomas, he would be horrified and roll over or at least furrously rattle his Talpiot Tomb Ossuary. No Fasting, Praying, Almsgiving or Diet? What the Prophets wrote is irrelevant? To change and employ your acorn metaphor if the Thomasines were James' acorn, not only did it fall far from the tree, but it fell in the next county and what grew sure doesn't resemble the original oak and looks more like a cedar or grafted-hybrid. There's just no way I see any continuity with James thought, and I cannot concieve how the Thomas thought could have evolved from Jameses.


      Ron, you continue, "Are you not perhaps giving the James the Righteous
      logion more credibility than it deserves- especially when it is a
      commonplace that such claims and appeals to authority, provenance and
      pedigree were an almost universal tool for trying to add status and
      credibility to ones own writings in those times?"

      IMO, it is unlikely that I am giving this logion more credibility that
      it deserves because the fact that the Thomas group chose James rather
      than, say, Peter or John, to be their authority figure is a strong
      indication that, they believed, the thought of James was the acorn from
      which the tree of their thought arose.

      Ron, you next write, "Would it not be a lot simpler and more economical
      to just to treat the logion in just that way, and simply posit that an
      very early "core" Thomas was redacted and brought into it's final,
      expanded and Greek form in some Hellenized centre such as Alexandria,
      say about 110 CE? And that some of Philo's and Greek Neo-Platonist
      "think", and maybe even some Gnostic notions, got added there and then?
      And further, since Thomas is obviously such an eclectic work, that some
      of the then-extant Gospels were also THEN raided, adding further
      Jesus-sayings to those sayings of Jesus that were originally present and
      found in the more ancient Thomas core?"

      This scenario might be simpler and more economical, but it flies in the
      face of the evidence.

      For example, in this scenario, in the latest stage, there is the raiding
      of the then-extant Gospels for further Jesus-sayings.

      If so, then there should be evidence of a "surge" in additions of
      parallels to other gospels in the latest stage of the development of

      RM:- Well, I'm not so sure any more that the evidence doesn't show there wasn't. Back about 30 years ago, when I first encountered Thomas, the consensus seemed to be that Thomas owed nothing to the Synoptics and Q in terms of borrowing from them. He did not do so. Rather, those sayings in Thomas for which there were Synoptic parallels were thought to be the more "primitive" version, and if anything, the Synoptics and or Q may have borrowed material from an ancient version of Thomas. Ironically, it is some of YOUR recent detailed work and analysis ( along with some others working on the problem) that just this year convinced me that SOME of the sayings in Thomas DID show incontrovertable evidence of having been borrowed from or having been highly influenced by Matthew and Luke in particular. There appeared to be a vector of borrowing FROM Matthew and Luke TO THOMAS, and it therefore seemed that at least SOME of the parallel sayings did NOT belong in the Thomas "core". I found your argument so compelling that I had to revise my belief that no comparatively late borrowing from Matthew and Luke occurred. That evidence is still there, and it seems to point to a time SUBSEQUENT to the creation of Matthew and Luke (obviously), when indeed the Thomas authours/creators went "raiding" to find material to "pad" the new Greek version of Thomas with.


      However, as we shall now see, the opposite appears to be the case.

      On July 26th, I wrote post #7794. See:


      One section of it regards 17 sayings which appear to show accretory
      development. With 14 of these 17 sayings, the accretions (as one would
      expect) have apparently been added at the ends of the sayings. So, with
      a saying that has two units, the first will be the original unit and the
      second will be a later accretion. Again, with a saying that has three
      units, the first will be the original unit, the second will be the later
      first accretion to it and the third will be the even later second
      accretion to it. So, there is a high probability that the later
      accretions have been properly identified for these sayings.

      The other three appear to have an unconventional mode of accretion,
      which greatly increases the likelihood that, with one or more of them,
      the later accretions have not been properly identified.

      The units within these 17 sayings fall into three categories:
      1. the earliest units (which are labelled "Pre-Hellenist")
      2. a later group of units (which are labelled "Hellenist")
      3. a yet later group of units (which are labelled "Post-Hellenist).

      Ron, this is latest group of units--the so-called "Post-Hellenist"
      11:3-4 "(3) In the days when you consumed what is dead, you make it what
      is alive. When you come to dwell in the light, what will you do? (4)
      One the day when you were one you became two. But when you become two,
      what will you do?"
      13:6-8, "And he took him and withdrew and told him three things. When
      Thomas returned to his companions, they asked him, 'What did Jesus say
      to you?' Thomas said to them, 'If I tell you one of these things which
      he told me, you will pick up stones and throw them at me; a fire will
      come out of the stones and burn you up.'"
      14:1-3, "Jesus said to them, 'If you fast, you will give rise to sin for
      yourselves; and if you pray, you will be condemned; and if you give
      alms, you will do harm to your spirits.'"
      21:4-5, "(4) They (will) undress in their presence in order to let them
      have back their field and to give it back to them. (5) Therefore I say,
      if the owner of a house knows that the thief is coming, he will begin
      his vigil before he comes and will not let him dig into his house of his
      domain to carry away his goods."
      22:1,3-6, "(1) Jesus saw little babies nursing.. ..(3) They said to him,
      'Will we enter the Kingdom as little babies?' (4) Jesus said to them,
      'When you make the two one, and when you make the inside like the
      outside, and the outside like the inside, and the above like the below.
      (5) And when you make the male and the female into a single being, with
      the result that the male is not male, nor the female female. (6) When
      you make eyes in place of an eye, and a hand in place of a hand, and a
      foot in place of a foot, and an image in place of an image, (7) then you
      will enter the Kingdom.'"
      27:2, "If you do not observe the Sabbath as a Sabbath, you will not see
      the Father."
      31:2, "No physician heals those who know him.'"
      49b, "For you are from it (i.e., the Kingdom), and to it you will
      61:5. "<...> Therefore I say, if he is destroyed he will be filled with
      light, but if he is divided, he will be filled with darkness."
      99:3, "It is they (i.e., those who do the will of my Father) who will
      enter the kingdom of my father."
      111:3, "Does not Jesus say, 'Whoever finds himself is superior to the

      What is noteworthy here is the rarity of parallels to other gospels.
      21:5 has a parallel in Mt 24:3-4/Lk 12:39-40 and 31:2 has a parallel in
      Lk 4:23.

      Even more startling, 21:5 is a part of 21, which is one of the three
      sayings with an unconventional accretory process, meaning that my
      reconstruction of the accretory process for 21 is likely to be
      incorrect. Indeed, April DeConick, in Recovering the Original Gospel of
      Thomas (p. 101), lists 21:5 as being a part of the Kernel. This
      increases the likelihood that I made a judgment error in deeming 21:5 to
      be among the group of the very latest units. Indeed, it suggests that
      it actually belongs in the group of earliest units.

      The bottom line: In the group of latest units, there are only two
      parallels to other gospels and one of them has, most likely, been
      incorrectly added to the group of latest units by myself due to a
      judgment error on my part. So, there is only one small phrase from this
      entire group of units (i.e., "No physician heals those who know him.")
      that appears to have a parallel in another gospel.

      This is just the opposite of what one would expect if the latest stage
      in the development of Thomas involved a "raid" on then-extant Gospels to
      garner more Jesus-sayings.

      RM:- I want to look at this more closely before I respond to it Frank, because I find this an interesting and quite novel accretion-stratification approach. When I approached Thomas, years ago, I attempted to find a way to break Thomas up into stratifications of later and later sayings-accretions, much like the Q scholars have done with Q. I first isolated a Thomas I which consisted of any and every sayings with a synoptic parallel, and came up with a "core" almost identical to what Denonick and Kilmon produced. What remnained to be worked and sorted into a Thomas II, III, and maybe IV was a witches brew of new sayings unique to Thomas that seemed to contain identifiable Gnostic, Philonic, Platonic and Neoplatonist" think"( "Hellenistic?),- presumably later redaction- accretion product- AND a whole batch of sayings that just MIGHT be original "secret" teachings from Jesus- which Thomas claimed it contained. However, every effort I made to stratify this remaining material failed utterly, no matter what I did. I couldn't find any criteria that would generate convincing "accretion-strata". Well, your divison-criteria just might work, and it's worth another look. However, I have to say that that experience convinced me beyond any doubt that the theory of the slow , glacial, accretion of sayings to the Thomas "core" -like an accumulating overburden in an archaeological dig over a protracted level of time ( say 200 or more years), level by level-, just didn't wash. I concludedwas looking, rather, at an abrupt, extensive, and comprehensive redaction of the old Thomas "core" that might have added as much as 50 percent of the individual sayings contained in Thomas in one swift blow,-although I allow that a few of these may have gotten in there by normal "accretion". And I pegged this as having occurred between 90 and 110 CE- the final product being the Greek version of Thomas. Still, I may be wrong, and I want to have another look at your proposal. But I can see some problems with it already. How, for instance, do you deal with 14 for example, where the last two "tack-ons" to the logion BOTH have Synoptic Parallels, or 21, where the last 3to4 'tack-ons" have Synoptic parallels, the last one being JUST the single line that concludes the parable of the Seed growing and Sprouting by itself, in Mark? And there are more. The simplist explanation is that they are in those locations because they were "tacked-on" to an existing preliminary draft of the new Greek Thomas after a "raid" of the then extant Gospels, no?



      Indeed, quite the opposite is suggested. That is, it would appear, if
      there was any raiding going on, it was that of one or more of the other
      gospel writers raiding Thomas--and this not the Thomas as we know it
      but, rather, an earlier version of Thomas lacking the so called
      "Post-Hellenist" material.

      Thus, this evidence supports a modified version of the Farrer Theory, in
      which Matthew not only uses Mark as a source, but (an early version of)
      Thomas as well, and in which Luke not only uses Mark and Matthew as
      sources, but (an early version of) Thomas as well.

      Ron, you close, "I am at least half-convinced that Jack Kilmon and James
      Tabor have correctly "pegged" the belief-system of the Jesus-Family
      (Prophecy, Messianism, End of Days etc) and since Thomas is so bereft of
      these themes that the material in it could not possibly have originated
      with or be tracked-back to James. I think it's fatal to any Jamesian
      provenance for Thomas and that the James logion must be considered
      spurious- at least in as much as it is intended to persuade us that all
      these sayings are guaranteed by James himself."

      The Hellenists, such as James, as they were a part of a generic Essene
      movement, would not have been immune to the Qumran package of Prophecy,
      Messianism, End of Days etc.. However, since the main influence on them
      was from the Therapeutic wing of the Essene movement, it wouldn't have
      been their primary focus. So, while one can see some influence of this
      Qumran package in the Epistle of James, it is not the main focus of
      this epistle.

      Also, we need to take into account that Thomas is not totally bereft of
      this type of thinking. Indeed, as pointed out in the above mentioned
      post #7794, it appears that the earliest group of units (i.e., the
      so-called "Pre-Thomas" group of units) does display a surprisingly
      strong influence from Qumran. So, it appears, this Qumran package had
      some influence on the first Hellenists and on the initial Thomas group,
      but was later completely dropped by the Thomas group.

      I agree that the James logion is probably an invention rather than an
      actual saying of Jesus.

      Ron, I hope this helps to answer your concerns.

      Frank McCoy
      2036 E. Magnolia Ave
      St Paul, MN USA 55119

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    • Ron McCann
      Thanks, Frank. Clearly, I totally misunderstood you and the point you were making in your post, and further confused the references to James the son of
      Message 31 of 31 , Aug 9, 2007
        Thanks, Frank.

        Clearly, I totally misunderstood you and the point you were making in your post, and further confused the references to James the son of Alphaeus and James the son of Zebedee. Can't keep track of so many durned Jameses! Creeping Alzheimers, no doubt.. (grin). My apologies.

        ----- Original Message -----
        From: FMMCCOY@...
        To: gthomas@yahoogroups.com
        Sent: Thursday, August 09, 2007 2:47 PM
        Subject: Re: [GTh] Hellenist Material in Thomas

        Ron McCann writes, "In closing, Frank. Just one more point on the
        Jerusalem Council, the leadership of James and your suggestions that it
        was James sons of Zebbedee, not James the Just that lead it. I remember
        now reading something you posted about that and recall shaking my head
        at the time. How do you square that with the fact that Acts 12 tells us
        that James Zebedee was killed by Herod at about the same time that Peter
        was arrested by him and made his miraculous escape from Prison-
        something that occurs much much earlier and earlier in the account than
        the Jerusalem Council events?"

        Ron, if you re-read what I said, you will realize that what I maintain
        is that, Luke wants us to believe, the James of the Jerusalem Council is
        James *the son of Alphaeus*. Luke nowhere, in either Luke or Acts, ever
        states that Jesus had a brother named James. He names two James in
        Acts--one the son of Zebedee and the other the son of Alphaeus. Since
        the son of Zebedee was dead by the time of this Council, Luke implies
        that the James of this Council is the son of Alphaeus. It is only by
        illegitimate importation of ideas from outside the conceptual universe
        of Luke-Acts that anyone can conclude that the James of this Council
        meeting is a brother of Jesus. In any event, IMO, Luke's account of the
        Council meeting, including the edict, is bogus. IMO, if such an edict
        had ever been issued, Paul would have said something about it because it
        directly impacted on the Gentiles under his jurisdiction.

        Ron, you have an interesting line of argumentation in the rest of your
        post. I will be responding to it, but only after giving it much

        Frank McCoy
        2036 E. Magnolia Ave.
        St. Paul, MN 55119

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