Saturday, February 11, 2006

The Orthodox Gospel of Thomas

"The scholarly consensus that [the Gospel of Thomas] exemplifies an early Christian non-apocalyptic gospel preserving the message of a philosophical Jesus is highly suspect. In fact, the opposite appears to be the case. The earliest version of the gospel of Thomas was an apocalyptic speech gospel emphasizing the imminent end and its demands. It is only in the face of a communal memory crisis, which also was experienced by other Christian communities in the late first century and early second century, that the text's emphasis was shifted away from the eschatological interpretation of Jesus' sayings to the mystical... This places the complete Gospel of Thomas at a date no later than 120 CE, making the accretions contemporary to the compositions of the Johannine literature and the Pastoral Epistles. It also grounds Thomas' theology inside early orthodoxy rather than outside." (April DeConick, Recovering the Original Gospel of Thomas, p 240)

I have finished reading April DeConick's stimulating new book on Thomas. I can't remember the last time I encountered a theory I wanted so much to be true but knew in my gut to be false. Stay tuned next week for a full review.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Loren,

While I suspect that you'll probably answer this question in a coming post. I feel compelled to ask; why do you have such a desire for her theory to be true?


Blogger Loren Rosson III said...

I'd like her theory to be true because I believe Jesus and the early Christians were apocalyptic to the core. If DeConick is right, then the gospel of Thomas would help prove this with an apocalyptic kernel of sayings dating between 30-50 CE. That would give us a secure piece of pre-70 tradition besides Paul -- and even earlier than Paul.

Blogger Andrew Criddle said...

I am dubious about DeConick's dating of the layers of Thomas, but I find rather plausible her idea that the kernel of Thomas was apocalyptic. (I would date this kernel to the very late 1st century CE)


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