Orality, the “Kernel,” Accretions, and Dating Thomas (Part I)

It may be a little premature, but I believe I am dangerously close to “drinking the Kool-Aid” on this one. While I have expressed some disagreements with April DeConick over the John-Thomas issue both on this blog and in print, I still find her work immensely helpful for my own research on the Gospel of Thomas. In fact, as I re-read her Recovering the Original Gospel of Thomas in preparation for a chapter I am writing, I find her argument for dating the traditions in Thomas compelling. Today as I sat in the Norfolk International Airport en route to Baltimore I was struck once again by her argument that the Thomasine traditions which deal with James reveal a great deal about possible stages in the life of the community (notice: I applied the word “stages” to the community and not the sayings tradition because DeConick objects when some equate her “accretions” with concrete stages; I don’t want to be accused of misrepresenting her view). Whereas one logion suggests that James is still around and in charge, another suggests that he is not. If his death can be dated to 62 CE, then this argues for an early tradition (part of DeConick’s “Kernel”) existing prior to 62. Does it go all the way back to 50? I don’t know if I’m convinced. What about 30? Definitely not convinced. But she does make a compelling case for a handful of pre-70 (and thus pre-Markan) traditions in the final form of Thomas. In the next few posts I want to consider this position in greater detail.