DeConick asks first "Why does the literary dependence appeal NOT work?" and lists several reasons for rejecting appeals to literary dependence. I am partly in agreement here in that I am pretty wary of the term "literary dependence" in relation to Thomas and the Synoptics. The phrase can be taken to suggest that Thomas is a fundamentally derivative Gospel, and that the most important thing about it is its relation to the Synoptic Gospels. Given that only about half of Thomas has parallels with the Synoptics, we need to hold open the possibility that the most important thing about Thomas is not the Synoptic parallel material but the non-Synoptic material. Perhaps it is in that 50% that we will learn most about Thomas. My preference, therefore, is to move the terminology away from "dependence" or "independence" and instead to talk about "familiarity" or otherwise. The term "familiarity" allows us to ask the question whether Thomas knows the Synoptic Gospels without prejudging the extent of their influence on his thinking.
Now, in relation to those parallels, of course the existence of those parallels in themselves demonstrates nothing about familiarity or otherwise (DeConick's first subheading). The key question is whether or not the parallels in question show evidence of Synoptic redaction (DeConick's second subheading). Here, DeConick comments on the proposition "Thomas contains parallels that have Synoptic 'redactional traces'" with the following:
This assumes that our sources (Quelle, Matthew, Luke, Mark) were fixed texts, and that they are the same copies that we have reconstructed as our eclectic Greek manuscript (NTG) from our late physical witnesses, none of which agree. This position does not allow for source variation and a lengthy complicated process of development of our sources, and scribing of our sources. Are we sure that the "redactional trace" is from Matthew or Luke? Or is it from a source(s) relied upon by Matthew or Luke? Or is it from an orator who reperformed the saying in light of his memory of a Synoptic version? Or is it from the hand of a later scribe harmonizing an older version of the saying to his memory of the Synoptic version?Of course all these possibilities need to be taken into consideration for Thomas / Synoptic relationships, but I don't think the situation is substantially different here than it is with the intra-Synoptic relationships, where we always bear such possibilities in mind, but do not appeal to them for every decision. Further, one of the values of a redaction-critical approach to the Synoptics is that it can often help us to see where a given evangelist is himself shaping the entirety of a particular passage, where there are clusters of characteristic themes, imagery, language and style. Where passages are like that, ones that are effectively generated by a given evangelist, and which then appear in Thomas, we have a good case for Thomasine familiarity. I have given one example recently, Luke 11.27-28 // Thomas 79.1-2, where the Lucan language, imagery, style and content is so strongly marked that that Thomas must be familiar with it from Luke. In other words, I am keen that we do not focus solely on so-called "redactional traces" (emphasis added) and move the discussion instead to pervasive presence of clusters of redactional features.
DeConick's third point is that:
The entire compositional process of a Thomasine author sitting down one day with canonical texts and cutting and pasting a word here and a word there into his own gospel of sayings does NOT fit what we know about ancient compositional practices.(and see her further comments). This point is well taken; we can do without weak appeals to cut-and-paste models of the way that Thomas, or, for that matter, any of the evangelists worked. I have criticized Synoptic Problem scholarship, and especially Q scholarship, on this very point. On the other hand, I think we have to be careful about excessive appeals to "orality as social location" (Robbins), or to "an essentially oral state of mind" (Kelber). I am not persuaded that Thomas exhibits "orality as social location" so much as Sayings Gospel as generic preference. A sayings book, as a generic necessity, has "an essentially oral state of mind," both in the ancient world and today. This claim will take a little teasing out and I will develop it in due course.
DeConick's fourth point is:
The literary dependence appeal has never been able to account for the differences in the versions of Thomas' sayings and the Synoptics.This is also important. As with the study of intra-Synoptic relationships, accounting for similarities and differences is the name of the game. In developing the point, DeConick asks,
I mean this seriously. We have spent so much time looking for "same" words, have we really looked at the differences and tried to account for them? Has anyone noticed (other than me) that the exact verbal agreement, lengthy sequences of words, and secondary features shared between the Triple Tradition and the Quelle versions FAR exceeds anything we find paralleled between the Gospel of Thomas and the Synoptics?I would say "Yes" but I may be misunderstanding the point. There is consensus that the Synoptic Problem is a problem of literary inter-relationships among the Synoptics, that there is such substantial verbatim agreement that there has to be some kind of literary relationship there. The reason that there is no consensus on this with respect to Thomas and the Synoptics is that the degree of agreement here is nothing like as strong as it is between the Synoptics.
DeConick goes on to give a shorter section on the difficulties with the "independence" model and I agree with most of this, though I would add more examples of "redactional activity traceable to Synoptic hands", including good Matthean examples as well as Lucan ones. I also dispute the premise of the second point:
2. The Thomas parables are not allegorized like their Synoptic counterparts.This works on the form-critical premise of the secondary nature of allegory, a premise with which I disagree in the light of the work of Michael Goulder and John Drury in particular, and on which I will have more to say in due course.There is at least one parable that is allegorized and several more interpreted. There is plenty of secondary material in the Gospel of Thomas, old sayings rewritten in new interpretative contexts.
In the final section of the post, DeConick asks "Where does this leave us?" and answers:
I hope it dislodges us from continuing to argue for direct literary dependence OR complete independence. If we keep slogging away at these same appeals, we will keep answering them with the same objections, and we will stay in the box.I have some sympathy with this answer, and would for that reason push for the use of the term "familiarity with" rather than "direct literary dependence on" the Synoptics. I think the reference to "secondary orality" here is helpful and I regard it as possible that that is the manner of Thomas's familiarity with the Synoptics.
More fundamentally, though, I think we need to think much more seriously about the half of Thomas that does not have parallels with the Synoptics, and I think it is high time we started paying serious attention to the way that the Gospel of Thomas conceives of itself, viz. as "the secret sayings of the living Jesus, which Didymus Judas Thomas wrote down" (Incipit). The obsessive focus in so much Thomas scholarship with Synoptic parallel material, whether among "dependence" or "independence" people, tends to focus attention on reconstructions of the Gospel's evolution and development, sometimes at the expense of working on the text as we have it, and building from there.