Friday, February 02, 2007

Response to DeConick

Yesterday I posted a draft of my paper Luke 11.27-28 // Thom. 79a: A Case of Thomasine Dependence and April DeConick responds on her blog in Is the Gospel of Thomas Dependent on the Synoptics? The response is a general one, reacting more to arguments about dependence in general (Schrage, Schürmann) than to the specific case I make. Since I make observations here that have not been made before, I am not sure that the general appeal to earlier literature on Thomas, which I mention in the article, really addresses the specific argument made here, which focuses on pervasive and distinctive Lucan features that point to the saying's genesis in Luke's mind. In fact I agree with Prof. DeConick's dissatisfaction with some of the traditional arguments for dependence, which tend to focus on a word here and a word there. As she notes, "The arguments [for dependence] in all cases are based on the presence of words that some scholars regard as traditionally redactional, that is words that are thought to be from the Lukan hand." What I am keen to do in this specific example is to point not just to the odd, isolated word but to the presence of markedly Lucan language, theme, setting and imagery. By attempting to the move the argument away from solely focusing on isolated words, I am hoping to show that the case for Thomas's familiarity with Luke is stronger than it is usually perceived to be.

On this particular pericope, let me attempt to put my argument in a nutshell lest it is thought that I am arguing along the same lines as those like Schrage. I am arguing that this saying, as we have it, comes from Luke's mind and that there is nothing un-Lucan about it. Its presence in Thomas, where it is anomalous, is therefore an indication of Thomas's familiarity with Luke's Gospel.

This, of course, raises some fresh questions, for example: (1) Are there other examples like this? (2) If Thomas is familiar with the Synoptics, how does he hear them and appropriate them? My answer to question (1) is Yes, and perhaps I'll blog those too in due course, if there is sufficient interest. My answer to (2) is that the issues raised by Prof. DeConick briefly in her recent post and at length in her recent books are important ones that need addressing. I think that too much time has been spent in the past on discussing whether Thomas knew the Synoptics and not enough time has been spent in discussing how Thomas used them. More anon on that too.


Chris Z said...

So do you posit then, that Thomas was always dependent on the synoptics (like Witherington), or that, perhaps early on, there are some independent traditions found also in the synoptics, which were later incorporated into the surviving form of Thomas (like Kloppenborg)?

Or is it just too soon to call?

Regardless, it seems like commonly made arguments for Thomas' total independence are inadequate, as it is clear that Thomas, in its surviving form, is different from what it was earlier (most obvious in the well-known Thomas 6:1-2/Thomas 14 problem).

I also wanted to thank you for note #7 in there, which is helpful to those of us going with a different compositional hypothesis. Your frequent willingness to engage with those with whom you disagree is always impressive.

Great job, Dr. Goodacre.

Mark Goodacre said...

Thanks for that, Chris. It's not easy to give a quick answer to your first question but I would say that Thomas can't be always dependent on the Synoptics in that so much of Thomas has no parallels in the Synoptics. Unless one assumes that he invented all the non-Synoptic material de novo, I'd be surprised if he didn't have some access to different oral traditions of Synoptic-like material.

Thanks for your encouraging words too.