Dating the Gospel of Thomas - Very Clear Clues to a Late Date

page: 1
12
<<   2  3  4 >>

log in

join

posted on Jul, 9 2013 @ 06:22 PM
link   
For those who are unfamiliar with the text, the Gospel of Thomas is an early Gnostic Christian text, discovered in the Nag Hamaddi Library in the 20th Century. This text, according to its prelude, is purported to be the "secret teachings of Jesus", as written down by his twin brother Judas, though the majority academic view is that it is reflective of Gnostic, not Christian, teachings.

One of the more challenging aspects of working with Thomas is in dealing with its date of creation. Because many of the passages in it that have parallels in the canonical gospels are found in a more primitive form in Thomas, there has been speculation that Thomas predates the gospels that are found in the Christian Bible.

I believe that there is evidence, within Thomas itself, that disproves that.

I will be working from the Lambdin Translation.

 

When we read the canonical gospels, one of the things that is noticeable is the heavy use of personal names. Where names are anonymous, they tend to either be of no consequence, they of people whom the name would be impossible to determine after the fact (such as lepers who were healed) or they are people whom the writer wanted to protect (such as the person who struck the High Priest's servant with a sword -- anonymous in the very early Mark, named as Simon Peter in John, written after Peter's death.)

Thomas, on the other hand, is fairly scant with names. Of the 114 sayings, 22 have someone other than Jesus saying something (usually asking Jesus a question,) and of those 22, only four saying have named individuals. So, we have only three percent of the sayings including a named individual, which leads one to the conclusion that when a person IS named, it's both intentional and important.

Here is the list:

#6, 12, 18, 20, 24, 37, 43, 51, 52, 53, 60, 99, 113 - "Disciples"

#13 - Simon Peter, Matthew, Thomas

#21 - Mary

#61 - Salome

#72 - "A man"

#79 - "A woman"

#91, 100, 104 - "They"

#114 - Simon Peter

(It is generally accepted that saying #114 is not an original saying from Thomas, skewing the percentage even worse.)

The two sayings that include Mary and Salome are not really important here -- Mary was a key character in late Gnostic Christian theology (see the Gospel of Mary) and Salome was seen as a confidant of Jesus.


It appears that women played a more prominent role in the myths and communities that arose among Christian Gnostics than they did in society at large. In the capital of King Mazdai, wherever that may have been, Thomas had an important following among women -- the wives of notables at the court, including the queen herself. And early Christian heresiologists accused Gnostic leaders of seeking out women, ones described by the heresy-hunters as weak and gullible, as easy converts. In Marcion's church women were full participants and could administer baptism. Apocryphal writings of Gnostic origin made certain of the women in Jesus's inner circle recipients of secret learning from him after his resurrection. They as well as men could be inspirited.

Salome (not to be confused with the princess who demanded John the Baptist's head) and Mary Magdalene were confidantes of this sort. In the canonical gospels, Salome appears by name only in Mark , who gives her a role of highest importance : she is a witness of both the crucifixion and the empty tomb. The later gospels --Matthew, Luke , and John -- do not refer to her at all. It has been suggested that she was left out because the later gospel-writers disapproved of various Christian groups who invoked her as authority for what had become, in their eyes, dubious doctrine. The prominent role she plays in Gnostic literature and the conspicuous silence of later orthodoxy writers strongly support such a view. (Source)

So, if we dismiss #114 as being not original to Thomas and #21 and #61 because of their association with women held in esteem by the Gnostics, but not Apostles of Christ, we are left with saying #13. The text of that is:


Jesus said to his disciples, "Compare me to someone and tell me whom I am like."

Simon Peter said to him, "You are like a righteous angel."

Matthew said to him, "You are like a wise philosopher."

Thomas said to him, "Master, my mouth is wholly incapable of saying whom you are like."

Jesus said, "I am not your master. Because you have drunk, you have become intoxicated from the bubbling spring which I have measured out."

And he took him and withdrew and told him three things. When Thomas returned to his companions, they asked him, "What did Jesus say to you?"

Thomas said to them, "If I tell you one of the things which he told me, you will pick up stones and throw them at me; a fire will come out of the stones and burn you up."

And with this text, Thomas gives away its age, or at least the truth as to whether it predates the canonical gospels.

We have three Apostles here, Peter, Matthew and Thomas -- who is the odd man out? Well, as this is the Gospel of Thomas, his inclusion seems obvious, and the text that follows his statement is exactly how the Gnostics saw him. Thomas was the receiver of the secrets of Jesus, which were not only not known by the other Apostles, but which they would violently react to.

Okay, what about Peter? The first and second lines of saying #13 are reminiscent of this passage in Mark:


"But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?" Peter answered, "You are the Messiah." (Mark 8:29 NIV)

Note that Peter's response to the question is different -- in one case, he is the Messiah, in another he is "a righteous angel". This is exactly in keeping with Gnosticism, which had no interest in Messiahs, but believed that Jesus was the neoplatonic equivalent of an angel, an aeon.

One important thing to note here is that, in the time period we are considering, the First and Second Centuries, it was generally held that the Gospel of Mark was named after the scribe who wrote down the words of Peter, so that first gospel is really the Gospel of Peter.

The reason that is important is because of our odd man out, Matthew. The core of Apostles that surrounded Christ were Peter, Andrew, James and John. Matthew was a "second tier" Apostle, who only appears in the Bible in lists of Apostles, and one mention in each of the three gospels of how he was recruited by Jesus, so his inclusion here is odd, to say the least.

Except that he also wrote a gospel. Were it not for that, Matthew is entirely nondescript, so it becomes obvious that he is mentioned in saying #13 because of that text. And what does he say? "You are like a wise philosopher," a statement that is in complete opposition to what his gospel actually says.

It is clear that saying #13 is intended to discredit competing and pre-existing gospels, that of Mark and Matthew, meaning that we can positively date Thomas after those texts. In addition, because the parallel passage between Thomas and Mark, regarding Peter's statement, appears to exhibit the "more primitive" textual style, when we know it cannot possibly be earlier, I believe that calls the authenticity of the entire text into question.




posted on Jul, 9 2013 @ 07:53 PM
link   
Really ?

I wish I was there to slap these apostles in the face. Following an important figure in their lives, and then cause numerous ways of what could be regarded for the truth... Bloody fools should have worked together to spread the words of Jesus, as a single strong story.



posted on Jul, 9 2013 @ 08:33 PM
link   
reply to post by Sinter Klaas
 

And then we would reply with "Look, there's only one story and it was written by a committee. What kind of religion does that? How can it be reliable?"

I'm kind of used to it the way it is, thanks.



posted on Jul, 9 2013 @ 08:42 PM
link   
reply to post by adjensen
 

Dear adjensen,

Your knowledge of these things is so far beyond mine, it's laughable. So, if I ask a question, I am not doubting you, but only confused and ignorant.

Your final paragraph:

It is clear that saying #13 is intended to discredit competing and pre-existing gospels, that of Mark and Matthew, meaning that we can positively date Thomas after those texts. In addition, because the parallel passage between Thomas and Mark, regarding Peter's statement, appears to exhibit the "more primitive" textual style, when we know it cannot possibly be earlier, I believe that calls the authenticity of the entire text into question.

How are we sure that #13 was included to discredit the pre-existing Gospels?

And, are you fairly sure that "because the parallel passage between Thomas and Mark, regarding Peter's statement, appears to exhibit the "more primitive" textual style . . . " is also definite proof? The "appears" makes me a little nervous.

No, I don't accept Thomas, just looking for more understanding.

With respect,
Charles1952



posted on Jul, 9 2013 @ 08:42 PM
link   

Originally posted by Sinter Klaas
Really ?

I wish I was there to slap these apostles in the face. Following an important figure in their lives, and then cause numerous ways of what could be regarded for the truth... Bloody fools should have worked together to spread the words of Jesus, as a single strong story.

Well, the truth is there, it just needs to the cleansed from the dross.

The Gospel of Thomas wasn't written by the Apostle Thomas, all signs indicate that it was written by an unknown Gnostic Christian, about 120 years after the death of Christ.



posted on Jul, 9 2013 @ 08:43 PM
link   
The Gospel of Thomas is more profound than anything I've read in the Christian bible



posted on Jul, 9 2013 @ 08:53 PM
link   

Originally posted by charles1952
reply to post by adjensen
 

How are we sure that #13 was included to discredit the pre-existing Gospels?

For two reasons. The first is that there is no reason to have Matthew respond to that question, because, as I said, he was not notable, apart from having written a gospel. His distinguishing personal characteristic, that of being a tax collector, has no bearing on the passage, so there is no reason for him to be there. From that, we can conclude that Matthew's gospel was in circulation at the time #13 was composed.

Secondly, if we look at the two Apostles cited there, we note that they were both believed to be the eyewitnesses whose witness of Christ's life was the source of Mark and Matthew, and then we compare what is being claimed for them to have said, and we see that Peter's declaration of Christ to be the Messiah (a Jewish belief) has been replaced with him being an aeon (a Gnostic belief) and Matthew's depiction of the divinity of Christ replaced with the mundanity of him thinking Jesus nothing more than a philosopher.


And, are you fairly sure that "because the parallel passage between Thomas and Mark, regarding Peter's statement, appears to exhibit the "more primitive" textual style . . . " is also definite proof? The "appears" makes me a little nervous.

No, for me, the primitive text style is more of a feeling, and it may be a result of the translation, but it is enough to cast a shadow of doubt on the originality of the other 113 sayings.



posted on Jul, 9 2013 @ 09:46 PM
link   

Originally posted by Sinter Klaas
Really ?

I wish I was there to slap these apostles in the face. Following an important figure in their lives, and then cause numerous ways of what could be regarded for the truth... Bloody fools should have worked together to spread the words of Jesus, as a single strong story.


Remember, the Jews and the Romans were both killing Christians at the time. Writing, traveling in small groups, visiting at public forums--nothing else would have been safe, nor lasted long.



posted on Jul, 10 2013 @ 04:43 AM
link   
adj

As always, a provocative and learned presentation.

In general

I see the problem to be more complicated than you do, and so reach somewhat different conclusions. The only nearly complete Thomas we have is a Gnostic version. It is also a Coptic translation of what we agree (in earlier discussions) was originally a Greek composition. Physically, our chief manuscript seems to have been cached in the mid-Fourth Century.

So, I have no problem believing that the Coptic Gnostic Thomas might have been first available in the mid-Second Century, and not earlier than that. I also agree that the last saying, 114 in the conventional numbering, is a later addition.

Thomas is a collection of sayings, not a fluent narrative. By its nature, it can easily gain or lose pieces, levaing little trace of a seam or hole. Item 114 is outed because it is so out-of-step with the other sayings, grotesquely unJewish, and so artlessly "tacked on" to the end. The beginning and the end are places where alterations are easiest in all genres. For example, Thomas' name may be late (Coptic Thomas has an identifying prolog and ends with a title tag... both could easily be later additions to the Ur-text), just as proper names for authors of the canonical Gospels managed to get attached to earlier anonymous narratives.

But, if the middle is just a canon of incidents (traditionally, much like what Mark might have been, had not Mark arranged the incidents in a seamless chronological storyline), then what can happen at the ends can also happen just about as easily anywhere in the middle.

The respectable claim, then, is that the Gnostics took an earlier work, added items and probably lost or amended others, to produce something suitable for reading in their churches. That would leave the serious possibility of an early "core" Thomas, not necessarily linked to him by name in the original text. As you know, that is my preferred view of the situation.

Dating #13

Our mutual friends at the Jesus Seminar rated #13's two lines of Jesus as black (although the first of the two does seem to agree with part of the incident in Mark, as you say). So, maybe we are all agreed, despite being a fractious bunch, that 13 is late, and maybe even that it takes a swipe at other, competing Gospels.

I am less sure of that last part. I don't put much weight on "angel" versus "Messiah" as found in two different languages, both reporting a conversation held in a third language. Simon Peter identifies Jesus as someone sent from God in both sources. It is also unhelpful that we are having this conversation in a fourth language, one that didn't exist at the time in question. Your "angel" is (appropriately enough by root meaning) "messenger" in the Meyer translation.

Women

We have pagan witness, Pliny the Younger, for Christian women of religious rank and authority early in the Second Century. Paul seems to have little or no problem with women in his authentic letters. Mark's Jesus associates with many women (15: 41). Even later misogynists concede persistent roles for women in minstering to women.

It seems that there was a dynamic variety of "official" responses to women throughout the early centuries. It is not clear that Gnostic views didn't overlap some proto-orthodox views. I don't think detecting an attitude towards women which I would be tempted to call "Christian" helps much either with dating or doctrinal classification, but I am open to a case being made.



posted on Jul, 10 2013 @ 03:48 PM
link   
reply to post by eight bits
 

Thank you, as always, for the contribution. It is always good to see you in a thread


After a bit of thought, I think that you and Charles are correct -- it is overreaching for me to dismiss the "primitive text" aspect of the remainder of Thomas on the basis of a late dating of #13. However, I continue to question the authenticity of the text -- you seem to be saying that there was an existent Gospel of Thomas that the Gnostic author inserted sayings that were more in keeping with his theology, but I don't think that to be the case, because I am not aware of any citations of a Thomas which are not in reference to the Gnostic text that we know today.

The most plausible explanation is that the author had access to a now lost "sayings gospel" (whether "Q" or something else,) lifted some authentic quotes of Jesus, modified others and flat out invented others, and the result is this text.

On the chronological order found in Mark, one of the things that Papias praised that author for was not putting things in any sort of order (other than the general "he dies at the end",) because unlike the author of John, whom Papias praised for putting the story in chronological order, Mark was not an eyewitness, so he did not have the authority to do anything other than write down the words of Peter, changing nothing. In other words, the order in his gospel is simply the order in which Peter recalled the stories.



posted on Jul, 10 2013 @ 04:26 PM
link   
I spot another argument in the linked translation; no53
(this is about the date of the material, raher than the date of writing)
That interest is disparaging physical circumcision doesn't fit in with the outlook of the gospel Jesus at all.
It has to come from a time when "what laws do the Gentile Christians obey?" has become an issue, from Paul onwards.
That distinction between physical and spiritual circumcision is virtually a paraphrase of Paul (Romans ch2 vv28-29)



posted on Jul, 10 2013 @ 06:04 PM
link   
I'm just beginning this thread, but have to say have a couple concerns from the offset.

1. a certain passage was competitive with the gospels, ie matthew. hmmm.... that would put it in the same time frame actually.


2. mark, he reminds him of a wise philosophy. Oh my....seneca perhaps and the saga of Paul, a gnostic, in Rome, under Nero with Seneca befriending him, possibly he was Luke!

3. i wouldn't opt out of any of the passages written, tick them down for this arbitrary reason or that, any more than the ones the murder incorporated church endorsed.



posted on Jul, 10 2013 @ 06:18 PM
link   

Originally posted by Unity_99
1. a certain passage was competitive with the gospels, ie matthew. hmmm.... that would put it in the same time frame actually.

That does not follow at all.
The logic is that if it deliberately offers an alternative view to Matthew, it would have to come after Matthew in time, but there's no necessity that it should be soon after.
It could be written a hundred years later.



posted on Jul, 10 2013 @ 06:28 PM
link   
reply to post by adjensen
 


I'll throw you for a loop here. What if the gospels were made to discredit the earlier Gospel of Thomas?

Matthew was a name thrown onto the gospel a hundred years after the fact. The authors were anonymous until Irenaeus named them, so what if Matthew really didn't write that certain gospel?

Honestly, this is a pretty flimsy premise and you're basing your dating off of one line among hundreds of others. Not a very good foundation to set your whole argument on top of.



posted on Jul, 10 2013 @ 06:50 PM
link   

Originally posted by 3NL1GHT3N3D1
reply to post by adjensen
 

Matthew was a name thrown onto the gospel a hundred years after the fact. The authors were anonymous until Irenaeus named them, so what if Matthew really didn't write that certain gospel?

There is no evidence that anyone arbitrarily assigned authorship to the texts. Though the names of the authors are not included in the texts themselves (apart from, maybe, Luke,) the books obviously had titles, of some sort, from the beginning, and the tradition is that they were identified with their writers, a fairly common practice at the time.

Irenaeus obviously didn't name Matthew -- Papias referenced the text, by name, before Irenaeus was even born.


Honestly, this is a pretty flimsy premise and you're basing your dating off of one line among hundreds of others. Not a very good foundation to set your whole argument on top of.

Actually, from an textual criticism perspective, it's a rather solid point -- as I said, a text that has as few proper names as Thomas has is indicative of the fact that on the rare occasion when a proper name exists, it is intentional and important, and Matthew has absolutely nothing compelling about him to merit his inclusion, apart from his having written a gospel, which competed with Thomas.



posted on Jul, 10 2013 @ 07:09 PM
link   
reply to post by adjensen
 


From what I've gathered, Papias only mentioned a compilation of Jesus' sayings written down by Matthew, he doesn't say anything about the gospel or the story contained within it, only "sayings of Jesus". So what Papias was referring to may very well have been very similar to the Gospel of Thomas, in that it has no real story structure, just a mish mash of teachings put together.

The gospel of Matthew wasn't attributed to Matthew until Irenaeus named it so. There is no real evidence that points toward Matthew being the author, unless you accept Irenaeus' word, who lived over a hundred years after the fact.

If Matthew was an apostle of Jesus and walked with him during his ministry, then that's a pretty good reason to name him don't you think? Mary Magdalene didn't write a gospel, but she is named in Thomas as well. What do you think they were saying about her by mentioning her name?



posted on Jul, 10 2013 @ 07:25 PM
link   
reply to post by adjensen
 


Another piece of information that I ran across:



Papias was not referring here to the Gospel of Matthew. We know this because he was referring to a work in Aramaic, and the Gospel of Matthew can be clearly identified as having been composed in Greek. Therefore, while we have no reason to doubt that Matthew wrote logia in Aramaic, we have to rule out the possibility that he also wrote the Greek Gospel of Matthew.


LINK
The work that Papias was referring to was written in Aramaic, meaning he was not referring to the Gospel of Matthew since it was composed in Greek.
edit on 10-7-2013 by 3NL1GHT3N3D1 because: (no reason given)
edit on 10-7-2013 by 3NL1GHT3N3D1 because: (no reason given)



posted on Jul, 10 2013 @ 07:39 PM
link   

Originally posted by 3NL1GHT3N3D1
reply to post by adjensen
 


From what I've gathered, Papias only mentioned a compilation of Jesus' sayings written down by Matthew, he doesn't say anything about the gospel or the story contained within it, only "sayings of Jesus".

Here is what Papias said:


And the presbyter said this. Mark having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately whatsoever he remembered. It was not, however, in exact order that he related the sayings or deeds of Christ. For he neither heard the Lord nor accompanied Him. But afterwards, as I said, he accompanied Peter, who accommodated his instructions to the necessities [of his hearers], but with no intention of giving a regular narrative of the Lord’s sayings. Wherefore Mark made no mistake in thus writing some things as he remembered them. For of one thing he took especial care, not to omit anything he had heard, and not to put anything fictitious into the statements. [This is what is related by Papias regarding Mark; but with regard to Matthew he has made the following statements]: Matthew put together the oracles [of the Lord] in the Hebrew language, and each one interpreted them as best he could. [The same person uses proofs from the First Epistle of John, and from the Epistle of Peter in like manner. And he also gives another story of a woman31 who was accused of many sins before the Lord, which is to be found in the Gospel according to the Hebrews.] (Source)

What is important is not what Matthew wrote down, but that fact that he did.


The gospel of Matthew wasn't attributed to Matthew until Irenaeus named it so.

What is your proof of this claim?


If Matthew was an apostle of Jesus and walked with him during his ministry, then that's a pretty good reason to name him don't you think?

What reason would there be? The only thing that made him notable was his authorship of the gospel, so if you want to take that away from him, there is no reason for anyone to "assign" that text to him -- Peter, Andrew or James would have been far more likely choices.


Mary Magdalene didn't write a gospel, but she is named in Thomas as well. What do you think they were saying about her by mentioning her name?

Already addressed in the OP.



posted on Jul, 10 2013 @ 07:40 PM
link   
reply to post by adjensen
 


IIRC . . . from

Lee Strobel's THE CASE FOR THE REAL JESUS

The Gospel of Thomas has been shown to be a hoax . . . by a high ranking scholar with the ability and means to pull the hoax off . . . and up for tenure.

I could be mixing old texts up but I think it was that one.

I'll have to check it out when I have some time.



posted on Jul, 10 2013 @ 07:41 PM
link   
reply to post by 3NL1GHT3N3D1
 


It is commonly believed that Matthew, the most Jewish of the gospels, existed in both Hebrew (Aramaic) and Greek versions. Whether they were written separately or one was translated from the other is unknown.



top topics
 
12
<<   2  3  4 >>

log in

join