[Synoptic-L] GTh and the synoptics
- The recent postings on GTh have reminded me of a posting which I prepared
some months ago but never got round to sending, so here it is. Point (7) is
similar to Mark Goodacre's argument, though probably less articulate than
In a posting [to XTalk] on 3 Aug 2001 I argued that certain sayings appear
to have been composed by their synoptic author, but have close parallels in
GTh, and that this constitutes evidence for GTh's dependence (direct or
indirect) on the synoptics.
Here I would like to list some more important clues to dependence.
(1) GTh 100 has Jesus showing "gold" for no apparent reason. In Mk 12:15-16,
Jesus points to a coin, asking whose image it showed. "Caesar's" they said.
So Jesus replies "Give to Caesar .....". The Markan version makes perfect
sense. The GTh version looks like a bungled adaptation.
(2) According to Davies & Allison's _Matthew_, II, 439, GTh 76 reads: "The
kingdom of the Father is like a man, a merchant, who possessed merchandise
and found a pearl ....." This juxtaposition of "man" with a noun is a
distinctly Matthean characteristic (Mt 8; Mk 0; Lk 1).
The simplest explanation for its occurrence here in GTh is that GTh was
dependent (directly or indirectly) on Mt 13:45-46, which also includes the
peculiar juxtaposition of "man" with "merchant".
(3) GTh 47 contains the combination of the mention of a new garment in
relation to patching, putting new wine into old wineskins, and not wanting
to drink new wine after old. This combination is also found in Lk 5:36-39.
Assuming Markan priority, the sequence in Lk 5:33f. shows that Luke was here
following Mark. As Luke generally avoids conflating Mark with his sayings
source, it is far more likely that GTh is here dependent directly or
indirectly on Luke than that Luke is secondarily dependent on GTh or some
source of GTh.
(4) With regard to Lk 17:20-21, where the kingdom is said to be already
present, E.P.Sanders asserted, "I believe that Luke wrote these two verses
all by himself, unaided by a transmitted saying of Jesus" (_The Historical
Figure of Jesus_, p.177). If Sanders was right, as I believe (because these
verses fit the general tendency for Luke to minimize the eschatalogical
aspect of Jesus' teaching), then GTh 113 was probably dependent on Luke
(5) GTh 39 about preventing access to the "keys of knowledge" is clearly
related to Lk 11:52. But the concept of entry fits Matthew's "kingdom"
better than Luke's "key of knowledge" and therefore "kingdom" is more
original (Gnilka). Thus Luke was adapting Matthew (Mt 23:13) or their common
source, and therefore GTh 39 was probably dependent on Luke rather than vice
This conclusion of GTh's synoptic dependence here is supported by the GTh
39 addition of: "But you be wise as serpents and sincere as doves". In Mt
10:16b this saying in imperative form follows on naturally from a series of
imperatives starting at Mt 10:5. In GTh the imperative form is relatively
infrequent, and there is certainly no imperative context in GTh 39.
Therefore this GTh saying is probably also dependent (directly or
indirectly) on Matthew.
(6) In Matthew the parable of the Banquet follows the parable of the
Vineyard. As Drury points out (_The Parables of the Gospels_, p.97), the
killing of the servants sent with invitations to the feast is motiveless.
But this is readily explained if the killing of the servants is a hangover
from the previous parable where they were sent to collect the fruit of the
vineyard. Thus the Banquet seems to be a Matthean adaptation of the Vineyard
story. But a version of the Banquet appears also in GTh 64. Therefore GTh 64
was probably dependent on Mt 22:1-10 and/or Lk 14:16-24.
(7) But the most obvious clue to GTh's dependence is in the spread of its
The canonical gospels would not have taken many years to become widely
known in Christian circles. Therefore to be independent, GTh must have been
published by 75-80 CE at the latest. However in that case we would expect it
to reflect some narrow local set of traditions, with its closest connection
to the early sayings source (related predominantly to the double tradition)
and to the earliest gospel, Mark. Yet when we look at the sayings which are
common to the canonical gospels and GTh we find that there is contact with
all strands of the tradition, including M, L and John. This is exactly what
we would expect if GTh was dependent (directly or indirectly) on all the
My overall conclusion from this evidence plus that presented in Aug 2001
is that GTh was assuredly a second century document dependent on the
canonical gospels, and consequently that it can contribute very little to
our understanding of the historical Jesus.
It also means that the selection of sayings which appear to be in both Q
and GTh, what Crossan in _The Birth of Christianity_ calls the "Common
Sayings Tradition", has absolutely no historical significance. Any portrayal
of Jesus based on this hypothetical concept is therefore bound to be a
distortion of history.
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