What is the evidence that writers who have a literary document in front of them from which they are copying ever leave out the middle because they are rushed? Just based on logic, I would think that literary copying would be otherwise. That the copyist would be more careful to preserve the material he is using, that he is working slowly, that he can stop and go back and double check, and that he can erase and correct. Such is not the case, however, when an author is relying on human memory, when he cannot double check a written source.Few writers who think that Thomas is familiar with the Synoptics are using a model of scribal copying, whereby the author of Thomas has a literary document in front of him. (Perrin may be an exception here, but see my comments on his work). The way I imagine the process is of familiarity with the Synoptics by means of memory through regular reading aloud (by himself or others).
April goes on to make several interesting observations about studying memory, and it is here that the real interest in the post lies. I will withhold any lengthy discussion until I have had the chance to read April's new article on the topic (I have the book in which it appears on order), but I will make a comment about the classic she mentions, F. C. Bartlett, Remembering: A Study in Social Psychology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995; original ed., 1932). Bartlett's fascinating experiments with memory bear on the topic, not least given that one of his examples (72-3) features a "missing middle" similar to the one I have been illustrating in Thomas. It is worth mentioning that Bartlett was testing his subjects' memory of a written text. He gave his subjects a text called "The War of the Ghosts" and asked them to read the text a couple of times, and then he tested them for recall of the piece after selected periods of time, with interesting results, including a good example of an individual retelling the story without its middle section (in his first retelling, 20 hours after his reading of the text). I might claim that this coheres with my own view on Thomas's knowledge of the Synoptics, but alas, I have to confess that I can't help thinking that it does not recreate anything like the conditions that may be in view in antiquity, with communal texts read aloud by the literate to the community over a period of time, not a single unfamiliar text read by a modern individual and then recalled. Given my curmudgeonly scepticism on the transference of such studies to investigations into memory in antiquity, I am loathe to make anything of Bartlett's studies for our studies of issues like Thomas's familiarity with the Synoptics, even though they would help me, but I will concede one important point. Analysis of the way that moderns attempt to recall texts can at least stimulate our reflections on antiquity, even if that reflection ends up being about contrast more than comparison.