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FH and Thomas

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    To: Synoptic/GThomas, cc GPG Mark G recently inquired whether Gospel of Thomas studies have taken account of the Farrar Hypothesis (FH). The evidence seems to
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 1, 2011
      FH and Thomas

      To: Synoptic/GThomas, cc GPG

      Mark G recently inquired whether Gospel of Thomas studies have taken account of the Farrar Hypothesis (FH). The evidence seems to be slim. In my own view, the FH is presently dead, what appeal it previously had for the uncommitted few having been diminished by the failure of M Goulder to prove unidirectionality of common material between Mt and Lk, as the FH (and indeed, the standard statement of the Synoptic Problem) requires. G himself notes of one passage, the Two Sons, at the end of a long discussion in Paradigm, “it seems obvious that it is Lukes own creation” (2/216). Several passages for which he puts up a more valiant defense (notably the Sermon on the Plain) are also, in the intuitive view of at least some otherwise sympathetic listeners, lost battles. In these cases, Mt can only be making his own version of something of Lk possesses an earlier, and characteristically Lukan, version. Then either Lk, or something which at these points very much resembles Lk, must have been Mts source. The crux for the 21st century is to decide which.

      There are essentially two options. Option One: if Lk is a unitary composition, then it cannot be both before and after Mt, as the bidirectional (aka “alternating primitivity”) evidence requires, and an outside source must be posited, which it is then necessary to identify as a source for Lk also. This leads to Q, in one of its many variants. Option Two: if Lk is NOT a unitary composition, but has several compositional stages, then one of them might be pre-Mt and another post-Mt. This too could meet the requirements, especially if Mt and Lk were composed in the same general area, so that it is reasonable to suppose that each knew of the other, but since Antioch keeps coming up in suggestions about the location of both Mt and Lk, this would seem to present no great difficulty, and I will take that requirement as met. What about the idea of a stratified Lk itself? Is it a wacko ad hoc idea, or is there something to it, apart from a wish to solve the Synoptic Problem? Something internal to Luke itself?

      In a word, there is. I have pointed out (on Synoptic, and in more recent years at SBL) that evidence internal to Lk, and not involving the passages shared between Mt and Lk but not in Mk, of itself requires that there have been at least two compositional stages of Lk (this need also arises, and again separately, from an internal consideration of Acts). That is, the condition for Option Two, above, is suggested by evidence internal to Luke, and having nothing to do with Matthew. Here, then, in principle, is a way of complicating the FG Hypothesis in such a way that it can deal with one of the directionalities without having to deny the other. Would it be possible to have the Lukan Formation Model accepted, so to speak, as a friendly amendment to the FG Hypothesis? At SBL in 2006 I had already spoken of the possibility of an FGB Hypothesis, and the Historical G was actually approached along just those lines, but as it happened, without success. There the matter rests, and since June 2010, I have to conclude, rests permanently. Then from this point on, the B hypothesis (no more euphonious name has yet been found, but we are working on it) must make its way under its own flag.

      How is this relevant for Thomas? It is relevant in this sense, that it no longer suffices to show (as Mark G has shown, and as can be convincingly argued for several other Thomas passages also) that Thomas is posterior to Luke. It must be shown that at *every* point of contact between Lk and Th, Th is secondary. That is, in light of BH, Lk may occur at more than one point in the history of Thomas (a history which itself is construed in several layers by more than one Th investigator). Is any shared Lk/Th passage anterior to Lk? If so, it would be important information, since given other conclusions, it would prove that (1) Th did indeed take shape in more than one installment, and that (2) the formation of Lk overlapped that of Th. This would be important new information.

      So to get on with it: Does anyone care to suggest an unambiguously Th>Lk passage?


      E Bruce Brooks / University of Massachusetts at Amherst

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