John Meier on Thomas and the Synoptics

I’m not sure if anyone’s been paying attention, but John Meier (he of A Marginal Jew notoriety) has recently been turning his attention to the relationship between the Synoptic Gospels and the Gospel of Thomas. Over the past year or so Meier has published three articles on logia common to Thomas and the Synoptics. I had a chance to discuss this research with John last summer at the annual meeting of the Catholic Biblical Association and he indicated that the parables of Jesus figure prominently in his fifth and final volume of A Marginal Jew. Since Thomas and the Synoptics share numerous parables of Jesus, this means that Thomas will also figure more prominently than in his previous four volumes. (As a huge nerd, I was excited to hear all of this because it merges several of my strongest interests in one volume: NT Gospels, historical Jesus research, and the Gospel of Thomas.)

The first essay appeared in the Festschrift for Frank Matera which I edited along with my good friend, Kelly Iverson. That essay was entitled, “The Parable of the Wicked Tenants in the Vineyard: Is the Gospel of Thomas Independent of the Synoptics?” There Meier concludes,

[F]ar from being an independent and primitive form of the parable of the Wicked Tenants, Thomas represents the logical conclusion of tendencies already visible in Matthew and Luke’s redaction of Mark. On the large scale, the parable’s core narrative is increasingly abbreviated (from Matthew to Luke to Thomas), and yet each abbreviator adds a few redactional touches of his own along the way.

The second article, entitled, “Is Luke’s Version of the Parable of the Rich Fool Reflected in the Coptic Gospel of Thomas?,” appeared in the July 2012 fascicle of the Catholic Biblical Quarterly. In this essay, Meier compares Luke 12:13-21 and Gos. Thom. 72 and 63 and concludes:

Looking back on these various probes….I readily grant that no one observation, taken by itself, would establish the dependence of CGT 72 on Luke 12:13-15 or CGT 63 on 12:16-21. However I think that the detailed comparisons we have run through, when viewed together, do provide converging lines of probability that argue in favor of some sort of dependence.

The third article, “The Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds (Matthew 13:24-30): Is Thomas‘s Version (Logion 57) Independent?” appeared in the final fascicle of the Journal of Biblical Literature published in 2012. Meier closes out this article as follows:

In sum, then, the palpable influence of Matthew’s Gospel on Thomas‘s version of the Parable of the Wheat and Weeds is hardly an isolated phenomenon. Alongside Lukan influence, Matthean influence on Thomas needs to be more widely acknowledged.

Along with the fine work being done by Simon Gathercole and Mark Goodacre, Meier’s discussions have sought to establish Thomas‘s knowledge of the Synoptics, specifically locating numerous elements of Matthean and Lukan redaction in individual Thomas sayings. Perhaps this holy Trinity of scholars will help to resurrect the disputed notion that Thomas had an awareness of the Synoptic gospels. This is the direction in which I lean and I’m glad to see it getting some serious attention from serious scholars.

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Two Books Everybody Should Be Talking About (Part One: Goodacre on Thomas & the Synoptics)

My semester is now complete and I have been able to get to some much-needed reading that I began prior to the SBL meeting in Chicago. I have spent the past few weeks reading and digesting two books that I am convinced need to be discussed in much greater detail both in the blogosphere and in the classroom. The first of these is Mark Goodacre’s Thomas and the Gospels: The Case for Thomas’s Familiarity with the Synoptics. Those of us who read Mark’s blog and listen to his podcasts know that he relishes the role of “spoil sport,” especially on issues that are taken for granted within certain segments of academia. Well, he is at his spoil-sport-best in this current book, taking on the canons (accepted in many quarters of North American scholarship) that Thomas is early and independent of the canonical tradition. What makes this book so good is the combination of Mark’s erudition and creativity, along with his knowledge of the Synoptic problem, utility in the Greek synopsis, and skill in evaulating source-critical arguments. While I haven’t read everything that’s ever been written on the Gospel of Thomas, I have recently written a book on Thomas scholarship in which I attempted to explore the range of scholarly opinion within contemporary research. That book required me to read….a lot. Against the backdrop of that (at times, painful) reality, I can tell you that this is one of the most insightful and well-written books on the Gospel of Thomas that I have read. I will soon be posting an interview with Mark as I have with other Thomas scholars and I hope to find the time to do an in-depth review of his book. For now, let me provide my endorsement and strongly suggest that, if you have any interest in the gospel traditions, you get this book.

Mark Goodacre on Thomas and the Synoptics

Over at the NT Blog, Mark Goodacre has begun posting excerpts from his forthcoming book, Thomas and the Gospels: The Case for Thomas’s Familiarity with the Synoptic Gospels(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2012). He has indicated that he will do this a few more times. This a nice “tease” for those of us who are anxious to get our hands on the book. I think it’s working too! I am looking forward to reading and interacting with the book here on my blog. Also, just as I did with Simon Gathercole a few months back, I will soon be posting an interview with Mark about his views on Thomas in anticipation of his book’s release. Stay tuned.

Judy Redman on Charles Hedrick’s Thomas Commentary

Judy Redman is at it again. This time she provides a review of Charles Hedrick’s 2010 commentary on the Gospel of Thomas (Cascade). As with her review of Petr Pokorny’s commentary, Judy again applies the three questions from my recent book (date of composition, relationship to the NT, theological outlook) to outline the contributions of Hedrick’s book. [I should say that I’m appreciative of this attention for my argument. While I think my book makes a contribution to the field of Thomas studies, it’s nice to have colleagues feel that way as well. So thanks, Judy!]

I have not used Hedrick’s commentary very much but I do own it. One of the peculiar things about Hedrick’s reasoning in the area of the Thomas-Synoptic debate is his assertion that the onus of proof lies squarely on the shoulders of those who claim that Thomas is dependent on the Synoptic tradition–something many of Hedrick’s Westar Institute cronies have also asserted. For my part, I have always been convinced that the onus of proof lies with anyone who makes an assertion, especially in an area of debate with so few certainties as Thomas‘s relationship to the Synoptics. In his article, “An Anecdotal Argument for the Independence of the Gospel of Thomas from the Synoptics,” (in For the Children, Perfect Instruction: Studies in Honor of Hans-Martin Schenke [Leiden: Brill, 2002] 113-26) Hedrick does have an interesting argument for the independence of one logion that he presumably hopes will be used to establish the independence of other (the rest?) of Thomas‘s 114 sayings.

As always, Judy’s insights are helpful and will serve those interested in exploring the world of Thomas scholarship in greater detail. Check out her post when you have a chance.

Review: Simon Gathercole on the Gospel of Thomas (Part One)

I have been slowly wading through Simon Gathercole’s recent offering on the Gospel of Thomas and, as always, I’m impressed by the breadth of his abilities. In particular, Simon demonstrates such a command of the languages that his research is impossible to ignore. (For what it’s worth, I feel the same way about the work of April DeConick. Though I often disagree with her conclusions, her command of the languages and her exploration of numerous “outside” discussions also makes her work impossible to ignore.)

The book begins with an introductory chapter (pp. 1-16) in which Simon covers the contemporary discussion of Thomas’s composition. He makes a number of observations, but to my mind, two of the most important observations he makes are: (1) too many conclusions about Thomas-Synoptic relations are based upon scholarly reconstructions of Q, many of which are passed off as authoritative (rather than speculative); and (2) there is significant disagreement about Thomas’s relationship to the Synoptic tradition, though in North American scholarship there is a tendency for scholars to suggest that the debate is over. I think these observations need to be made in a book like this one. Since Simon is concerned to discuss the original  language and sources behind Thomas, it is necessary for him to situate his study in the context of current discussions. As I have tried to show in my recent book on Thomas, there is something of a “continental divide” in the debate over Thomas‘s relationship to the Synoptic gospels. North American scholars (many of whom favor Thomas’s independence) have a tendency to assume (and often assert) that the debate is over. European scholars are still very interested in the discussion (and often favor Thomas‘s dependence).

This first chapter is a helpful entree into the first substantive section of the book, which deals with the original language of Thomas. In my next post I will look at Simon’s argument in chapters 2-4.