I find myself, accidentally, in possession of two copies of Michael F. Bird’s and Preston Sprinkle’s (eds.) very excellent The Faith of Jesus Christ: Exegetical, Biblical, and Theological Studies (Hendrickson, 2010). I think this is a fantastic book as it covers a very significant topic, namely the pistis christou debate, and they have assembled the best NT scholars to contribute.
So – I would like to share the wealth by giving away one of my copies. However, there is a catch – it is a contest. Whoever wins (sorry, entries limited to the contiguous United States of America) will have this book at their front door within a fortnight. But, if you live overseas and have relatives or someone in the US I can post the book to, that works as well.
Here’s the contest: in the comments, write up to 500 words that explain why you think the pistis Christou debate is so important to Pauline studies (or to another theological discipline if that suits you better). Refrain from quoting other scholars and avoid plagiarism – I want to see your own ideas. Basically, I will judge which comment is the most interesting, cogent, and/or insightful and – voila! – free book in the mail. I will give the contest 5 days to build up a few entires. Then, the lucky winner will have her entry highlighted in a new post – yes, fame and fortune.
I will end the call for comments on Friday morning at 10AM EST (USA)
In the last post on this topic I tried to affirm (using several paragraph’s from DeConick’s Recovering) that an understanding of orality is key to answering questions about Thomas‘s antiquity. Today I want to continue to explore the implications of orality for dating the Gospel of Thomas.
Form critics have recognized for a long time that the material that came to us in written form in the four canonical gospels existed in liturgical, homiletic, and performative forms long before any of it was written down. This is essentially what DeConick is asserting about the Gospel of Thomas. She writes that the “Kernel” (her conception of the earliest Thomas material), “represents the first attempt to capture in writing materials from the free-text oral pool known to the early Jerusalem-based preachers as part of their oral-performance tradition” (p. 58). This is not terribly earth-shattering but has received some serious criticism in some circles (and, to be honest, I’m not sure her actual argument has been engaged in those critiques). The original “Kernel” then became the “storage site” (DeConick’s term) for the community’s instruction for the next several decades. Again, I think that DeConick is essentially correct here. She goes on to argue that the Greek fragments of Thomas (found in P. Oxy. 1, 654, 655) show evidence of oral mentality (ordering, mnemonic organization, etc.). If this is correct (and I think it probably is), then this means that Perrin’s argument for a late date and an early Syriac Gospel of Thomas is incorrect.
So, orality leads to some early conclusions about the Greek fragments, which has implications for our discussions of Thomas‘s date and compositional language. We have not yet gotten to the question of how early these Thomas traditions emerged. DeConick argues that the tradition derives from around the 30s. We’ll talk about that in the next post.