More with the non-Gnostic Thomas and Watson @eerdmansbooks

The more I read, the less I believe anyone in the near future will have enough newness to add to the discussion. Watson is slowly taking all ground in the discussion of Gospel writing.

Anyway, while continuing to read Watson’s chapter on Thomas, I was pleasantly surprised to see him speak to the “gnosticism” of Thomas. Beginning on 221 with a discussion of what gnostic really means in regards to early belief systems and later literary developments, Watson cautiously demonstrates the uniqueness of Thomas among other Gnostic literature, arriving at the conclusion whereby we doubt Thomas‘ usually stated (by some) reason of its place at Nag Hammadi. This is very interesting because while Thomas does include secret sayings and a few liberating tendencies, we should no longer really ascribe to the book the belief system of later gnostics if we actually compare it to other gnostic literature. I mean, rightly so, the Fourth Gospel is sometimes alluded to as a gnostic type of literature. Further, we know from reading Clement of Alexandria the word and connotation of ‘gnostic’ was often a positive appellate for early Christians.

This can go further, of course, but we won’t.

Anyway, I found Watson’s allowance for a non-Q sayings collection (SC) as typified by Thomas 271) very interesting. By creating so an allowance, scholars can allow for Papias’ Logia and the unattributed sayings scattered in early Christian writings as still a non-Q document. I believe, if I have read him correctly, his thesis still allows room for ]]’s proposal for a Thomasine redaction of the Synoptics. He does, after all, allow for the independence of the SC and the narrative of the Gospels (272).

To show how a SC may provide a link between orality and textuality, Watson delves into Mark 4. Here, I am not so sure about his hypothesis, with Watson almost insisting on a shared source between Mark and Thomas. This is where Watson seems to diverge from Goodacre’s excellent thesis.

Further, Watson attempts to demonstrate Thomas as a SC, but not the SC that gave rise to Mark and Matthew. (Luke is still dependent upon Mark and Matthew.) He allows for Thomas to be only a descendent of an SC. Here, I find it interesting Watson has not referred to ]]’s book on a common Greek source shared by the authors of Mark and Thomas. 

As I said in my own recent work, I do not believe Mark created everything without an oral tradition. Again, there are some markers of a previous oral tradition for Mark, but I do not think a sayings collection is needed any more than a complete oral tradition.

I am hesitant to admit this, but a SC would help to answer some of the unknowns in the search for Mark’s literary sources, especially, as Watson points out, in the parables. Even without a narrative, several of the statements in Mark 9.14–29 (specially v19, 23, and the exorcism formula in v25) could be part of the SC collection. Watson is right to recommend that any such SC remain hypothetical rather than scholars spend time producing a critical edition, as they have done with Q.


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