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Is AD's Accretion-Dating Useful?

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  • Michael Grondin
    Background: In April DeConick s compositional model, GTh is divided into 148 parts. Some of these are whole sayings, others subsayings. The kernel, dated 30-50
    Message 1 of 4 , Mar 30, 2008
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      Background: In April DeConick's compositional model, GTh is
      divided into 148 parts. Some of these are whole sayings, others
      subsayings. The kernel, dated 30-50 CE, is composed of 82
      items. There is a small group of two early accretions, dated
      50-60 CE, then two larger groups, containing a total of 65 items.
      The first group of 23 is dated 60-100 CE, the second group (41)
      dated 80-120 CE.

      The question posed here is whether the dating of the two groups
      of accretions is useful. Validity is a separate question, and here
      I have to admit that I've been unable to find a satisfactory explanation
      of it in AD's two books. Perhaps I've missed it, and if so I would
      welcome someone pointing it out to me. I do recall that in the
      verbiage accompanying one logion, AD states that 80-120 CE
      was the time of the development of the Johannine corpus, but
      I can't find anything to explain the other date range (60-100 CE).
      Not that AD would be the first or only person to put forward a
      date-range without hard evidence to back it up. Our own Ron
      McCann, for example, posits approximate dates of 90-110 (or
      120?) CE for a "major redaction/revision" of GTh, in a note posted
      recently. In that case as well, I look at the dates and think that it's
      nice to be specific, but I wonder what concrete evidence indicates
      that those dates are much more than speculation?

      But back to the main question. The problem of usefulness that
      I see is that the dating of the two groups of accretions overlaps.
      A sixty year period (60-120) is divided into three parts. In the
      first twenty years (60-80) supposedly only first-group accretions
      occurred; in the second twenty years (80-100) items from both
      groups occurred; in the third twenty years (100-120) only items
      from the second group occurred.

      If one imagines that the accretions were spread roughly evenly
      over the appropriate date-range, roughly half of the items in each
      group would have accrued in the middle twenty years (80-100)
      when accretions from both groups were accruing. I suppose the
      dating of the accretions is roughly equivalent to saying "group 1
      accretions tended to accrue earlier than group 2 accretions", but
      the result of the overlapping dates is that one cannot tell, for any
      given item in one group of accretions, whether (on AD's model)
      it accrued earlier or later than any other given item in the other group.
      This means, on the theoretical level, that as far as dating is concerned,
      the two groups of accretions tend to collapse into one, basically
      resulting in a two-tier model. On my own practical level, what it means
      is that I think that it's probably misleading (as well as non-informative)
      to indicate in my sayings presentations which date-range is assigned
      to a given accretion in AD's model. As to the accretion-groups
      themselves, I'm unclear as to what extent, if any, they depend on dating.
      If there's no strong dependency (as I suspect), I think it _would_ be
      useful to indicate which group an accretion belongs to.

      Comments?

      Mike Grondin
    • andrewcriddle
      ... wrote: ... ... I suppose the ... any ... group. ... concerned, ... means ... informative) ... assigned ... dating. ... be ... Hi Mike IMO
      Message 2 of 4 , Apr 1, 2008
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        --- In gthomas@yahoogroups.com, "Michael Grondin" <mwgrondin@...>
        wrote:


        <SNIP>

        > The problem of usefulness that
        > I see is that the dating of the two groups of accretions overlaps.
        > A sixty year period (60-120) is divided into three parts. In the
        > first twenty years (60-80) supposedly only first-group accretions
        > occurred; in the second twenty years (80-100) items from both
        > groups occurred; in the third twenty years (100-120) only items
        > from the second group occurred.

        <SNIP>
        >
        I suppose the
        > dating of the accretions is roughly equivalent to saying "group 1
        > accretions tended to accrue earlier than group 2 accretions", but
        > the result of the overlapping dates is that one cannot tell, for
        any
        > given item in one group of accretions, whether (on AD's model)
        > it accrued earlier or later than any other given item in the other
        group.
        > This means, on the theoretical level, that as far as dating is
        concerned,
        > the two groups of accretions tend to collapse into one, basically
        > resulting in a two-tier model. On my own practical level, what it
        means
        > is that I think that it's probably misleading (as well as non-
        informative)
        > to indicate in my sayings presentations which date-range is
        assigned
        > to a given accretion in AD's model. As to the accretion-groups
        > themselves, I'm unclear as to what extent, if any, they depend on
        dating.
        > If there's no strong dependency (as I suspect), I think it _would_
        be
        > useful to indicate which group an accretion belongs to.
        >
        > Comments?
        >
        > Mike Grondin


        Hi Mike

        IMO AD's absolute dates are much more dubious than her
        generally convincing divisions of the material into
        different groups. (IMVHO the absolute dates should be
        substantially later.)

        Hence I agree that it is valuable to indicate to which group
        AD assigns a particular saying but much less important to
        give her actual date ranges.

        Andrew Criddle
      • Judy Redman
        HI Mike, Like others, I think your new version is a signficant improvement on the old, which is not to say that the old is bad, just that this is even better.
        Message 3 of 4 , Apr 1, 2008
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          HI Mike,

          Like others, I think your new version is a signficant improvement on the
          old, which is not to say that the old is bad, just that this is even better.

          Like Andrew, I think that April's characterisation of sayings as kernel or
          accretion and which accretion is more useful than the dates. As you
          observed, there is significant overlap. However, I don't think you can
          collapse them together and have a two-tier structure because I don't think
          the dates are the critical part of her argument. I don't think her intention
          is to suggest that accretion A is *necessarily* older than accretion B so
          much as to suggest that accretion A is likely to have been added in response
          to events X while accretion B is likely to have been added in response to
          events Y and given that events X happened in 60-100 and events Y happened in
          80-120, accretion A *may well be* earlier than accretion B.

          My copy of "Recovering" is not with me, but my memory of April's argument is
          that GTh is an extended example of how people's memories change in response
          to subesequent events that call into question their understandings of
          original events. That is, what happened was that an original set of sayings
          was in circulation which contained references to things that caused
          cognitive dissonance in the light of subsequent events and the accretions
          helped to get rid of the congnitive dissonance. April traces the various
          accretions to particular historical events that can be dated with some level
          of precision.

          Incidentally, this does not necessarily mean that the accretions are "made
          up". I am currently doing a lot of reading in the psychology literature on
          memory and eyewitness testimony which suggests

          1. That people's memories of events in which they were involved or which
          they witnessed are very subjective and help them to answer questions about
          themselves and their place in the world, so they don't necessarily remember
          aspects of the event that don't help them answer these questions without
          being provided with particular cues.

          2. That people don't actually forget what they experienced, but need
          prompting to be able to access their memories, so providing people with
          different cues will help them to remember other aspects of an event.

          Thus, it is possible that eyewitnesses to particular events won't remember
          something about it until they're presented with extra information or asked
          extra questions. So, while it's possible that the accretions are attempts
          by the Thomas community to explain away the cognitive dissonance presented
          by subsequent events, it's also possible that the subsequent events prompted
          memories of things that Jesus said that they had forgotten because they
          didn't seem relevant earlier.

          Getting back to your query, Mike, I would find it useful if you put the
          accretion material on each saying or part saying and then indicated at the
          beginning or end what her datings are, rather than putting datings on each
          saying.

          Judy

          --
          Rev Judy Redman
          PhD candidate, Postgraduate member of Council & Uniting Church Chaplain
          University of New England Armidale 2351
          ph: +61 2 6773 3739
          fax: +61 2 6773 3749
          web: http://www-personal.une.edu.au/~jredman2 and
          http://judyredman.wordpress.com/
          email: jredman2@...


          > -----Original Message-----
          > From: gthomas@yahoogroups.com
          > [mailto:gthomas@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of andrewcriddle
          > Sent: Wednesday, 2 April 2008 3:28 AM
          > To: gthomas@yahoogroups.com
          > Subject: [GTh] Re: Is AD's Accretion-Dating Useful?
          >
          > --- In gthomas@yahoogroups.com, "Michael Grondin" <mwgrondin@...>
          > wrote:
          >
          >
          > <SNIP>
          >
          > > The problem of usefulness that
          > > I see is that the dating of the two groups of accretions overlaps.
          > > A sixty year period (60-120) is divided into three parts. In the
          > > first twenty years (60-80) supposedly only first-group accretions
          > > occurred; in the second twenty years (80-100) items from both
          > > groups occurred; in the third twenty years (100-120) only items
          > > from the second group occurred.
          >
          > <SNIP>
          > >
          > I suppose the
          > > dating of the accretions is roughly equivalent to saying "group 1
          > > accretions tended to accrue earlier than group 2 accretions", but
          > > the result of the overlapping dates is that one cannot tell, for
          > any
          > > given item in one group of accretions, whether (on AD's model)
          > > it accrued earlier or later than any other given item in the other
          > group.
          > > This means, on the theoretical level, that as far as dating is
          > concerned,
          > > the two groups of accretions tend to collapse into one, basically
          > > resulting in a two-tier model. On my own practical level, what it
          > means
          > > is that I think that it's probably misleading (as well as non-
          > informative)
          > > to indicate in my sayings presentations which date-range is
          > assigned
          > > to a given accretion in AD's model. As to the accretion-groups
          > > themselves, I'm unclear as to what extent, if any, they depend on
          > dating.
          > > If there's no strong dependency (as I suspect), I think it _would_
          > be
          > > useful to indicate which group an accretion belongs to.
          > >
          > > Comments?
          > >
          > > Mike Grondin
          >
          >
          > Hi Mike
          >
          > IMO AD's absolute dates are much more dubious than her
          > generally convincing divisions of the material into
          > different groups. (IMVHO the absolute dates should be
          > substantially later.)
          >
          > Hence I agree that it is valuable to indicate to which group
          > AD assigns a particular saying but much less important to
          > give her actual date ranges.
          >
          > Andrew Criddle
          >
          >
          >
          > ------------------------------------
          >
          > --------------------------------------------------------------
          > ----------
          > Gospel of Thomas Homepage: http://home.epix.net/~miser17/Thomas.html
          > Interlinear translation:
          > http://www.geocities.com/mwgrondin/x_transl.htm
          > Yahoo! Groups Links
          >
          >
          >
        • Michael Grondin
          Hi Judy, ... What I d like to see is some support for this claim. Most of the historical developments in question seem to have no datable events associated
          Message 4 of 4 , Apr 1, 2008
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            Hi Judy,

            On the dating issue, you wrote:
            > I don't think her [DeConick's] intention is to suggest that accretion A
            > is *necessarily* older than accretion B so much as to suggest that
            > accretion A is likely to have been added in response to events X
            > while accretion B is likely to have been added in response to events
            > Y and given that events X happened in 60-100 and events Y happened
            > in 80-120, accretion A *may well be* earlier than accretion B.

            ... and:
            > April traces the various accretions to particular historical events that
            > can be dated with some level of precision.

            What I'd like to see is some support for this claim. Most of the historical
            developments in question seem to have no datable events associated
            with them. The historical developments in question are summarized by
            AD as follows: for accretions-group 1 (60-100):

            "Accomodation to Gentiles and Early Eschatological Crisis
            (with shift to mystical dimension of apocalyptic thought)"

            For accretions-group 2 (80-120):

            "Death of Eyewitnesses, Christological Developments and Continued
            Eschatological Crisis (with incorporation of encratic and hermetic
            traditions)"

            (capitalization, or lack thereof, is AD's)

            Of the historical developments listed above, the only one that I'm aware
            of having any datable historical events associated with it is the death
            of eyewitnesses. Almost all of those would have been dead by 80 CE,
            and some very big names much earlier than that. Yet it was only on or
            after that date, according to AD, that this became a developmental
            factor. Maybe so, but I'd like to have seen some discussion.

            With respect to the other historical developments, AD may be right
            that group-1 developments would have tended to occur earlier than
            group-2 developments, but I have to confess that I'm unaware of
            any datable historical events associated with those developments, so
            I think it may be a developmental view, i.e., that some kinds of develop-
            ments would naturally (or causally) have occurred before others. That,
            at least, is the only justification I can imagine, but if that's what it is,
            I'm troubled that there's no extended explanation for assigning dates to
            these historical developments. (Barring the possibility that I've missed
            something, of course.)

            Regards,
            Mike G.
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