Interview with Stephen J. Patterson on the Gospel of Thomas (Part III)

patterson_250Here’s the final installment of my interview with Professor Patterson. It’s good to hear that he is back working seriously in the Gospel of Thomas after some time away.

(CWS) 6. What scholars pursuing research on the Gospel of Thomas (and/or Christian Origins) have you found most helpful for your own work on the Gospel of Thomas?

 (SJP) I began with Robinson and Koester, whom I still find to be very insightful.  I like Plisch’s new commentary.  I still use Schrage all of the time, even though I disagree with his central thesis.  His work is full of valuable detail.  I use the Finns a lot – Uro [see here and here], Marjanen, DunderbergZöckler’s book is helpful.  I rely on Pagels and Davies essays on Genesis exegesis in early Judaism as the basic framework for understanding the theology.  And, of course, we could not have a better tool that Layton’s edition of Codex II.

(CWS) 7. You have written quite widely on the Gospel of Thomas. Are you currently planning to undertake more research on the Gospel of Thomas? If so, what other projects do you currently have planned (or in the works)?

(SJP) I am currently preparing the Hermeneia volume on Thomas.  This has brought me back into the study of this text after several years hiatus.

(CWS) 8. To your mind, what area(s) of Thomas research is/are in need of further investigation? If you were going to supervise Ph.D. students in this area, what avenues of study would you suggest? (If you are currently supervising doctoral students in Thomasine studies, can you share a little about what these students are pursuing?)

(SJP) The most pressing issue now is understanding the theology of Thomas.  The older designation “Gnostic” clearly won’t do.  I have recently argued for Middle Platonism as the basic framework (“Jesus Meets Plato: The Theology of the Gospel of Thomas,” pp. 181-205 in J. Frey, et al., ed., Das Thomasevangelium, Entstehung – Rezeption – Theologie.  BZNW 157 [Berlin: de Gruyter, 2008]).  I think this is right, but there is much to explore here.  Also, there are many sayings still for which little or no research has been done.  Students just need to wade into the bibliography to find the thin places (there are plenty) and get to work.  Sayings 15, 26, 29, 56, 59, 70 etc.—all sayings for which there is no major study.  In connection with the commentary I have developed a fairly comprehensive bibliography, and would gladly direct students to the most neglected sayings needing further study.

Once again I would like to thank Professor Patterson for taking the time to interact with my questions in this forum. I have other interviews planned as the academic year progresses. With these interviews my primary goal continues to be fostering discussion and generating interest in the major issues involved in intelligently discussing the Gospel of Thomas. If anyone has a suggestion about what other questions they would like to see posed or what other scholars they would like to see interviewed, please feel free to comment.

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