Monday, September 28, 2009

Thomas and Q again

I have often talked about the argument for the existence of Q that appeals to the discovery of the Gospel of Thomas, most recently on the blog in a post on The Gospel of Thomas and Q, and most fully in print in the last chapter of The Case Against Q. Since my attention has turned to Thomas, I have returned again to the argument that aligns Q and Thomas. I notice that in studies of the Gospel of Thomas, the alleged similarity with Q acts to anchor Thomas (or early versions of Thomas) to the first century, on the grounds that Thomas shares a genre with Q. This genre is on a general level logoi soph┼Źn ("Sayings of the Wise"), but more specifically "the Sayings Gospel", and it fell into disuse with the triumph of narrative Gospels. Q was absorbed into Matthew and Luke; Thomas was lost. Q must, of course, predate Matthew and Luke, so it it helps us to anchor the genre to the mid first century.

It is difficult for Q sceptics like me to know quite how to react to this kind of argument except to note that without Q, Thomas (or an earlier version of Thomas) looks a little more isolated as a first century text. Q and Thomas together are the major players in the Koester-Robinson inspired model that sees a Passion-free Christianity as a key trajectory in Christian origins. Thomas on its own would have a lot of work to do. It is unsurprising, therefore, that those influenced by the Koester-Robinson model are always adherents of the Two-Source Theory.

I remain puzzled by the argument that aligns Q and Thomas. Earlier today, I came across yet another iteration of the argument and it goes like this:
The discovery of The Gospel of Thomas in 1945 silenced those who claimed that there was no analogy in early Christianity for a collection of Jesus sayings without a narrative framework. (Robert E Van Voorst, Jesus Outside the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000), 157).
Van Voorst does not name these scholars who were “silenced” and I begin to wonder if in fact they existed at all. Who are these scholars, often alluded to but never named, who were sceptical about the existence of Q but who were silenced by the discovery of Thomas? It is possible that the general impression results from a misreading of Austin Farrer's "On Dispensing with Q", in which he attempted to point to the generic peculiarities of Q, but it may be that his point was too sophisticated to be persuasive, and his apparent ignorance of Thomas (in the late 40s and early 50s) too striking to carry the day.


Frank McCoy said...

That Th is a sayings/dialogue gospel, by itself, tells us nothing about when it was written.
Still, there is evidence suggesting that Th was written before Mt and Lk, e.g., let us take the example of Lk 17:34--which is a part of a Lukan-created Lot story theme in Lk 17:28-35.
Upon writing his parallel to Mt 24:37-39 in Lk 17:26-27, Luke begins his Lot story theme in 17:28-30 by speaking of Lot. He continues it in 17:32 by speaking of Lot's wife. Finally, in 17:34-35, he completes it by alluding to the two guests at Lot's house and to Lot's two daughters--and he does so by radically changing the Matthean passage he is gazing upon, i.e., Mt 24:40-41, under the influence of Gen 19:3-8, "And he (i.e., Lot) constrained them (i.e., two angels) and they...entered into his house and he made a feast for them and baked unleavened cakes for them and they did eat. But before they went to sleep, the Sodomites compassed the house. And they called out Lot and said to him, 'Where are the men that went into thee this night?...(Lot said,) 'But I have two daughters who have not known a man.' Therefore, Luke makes 17:34-35 take place at night because Gen 19:3-8 takes place at night. Therefore, Luke has 17:35 refer to two women milling together because the two daughters of Lot presumably had to, in the evening/early night, turn wheat into flour for the baked unleavened bread cakes. Indeed, 17:35 appears to take place at just this time: as Michael D. Goulder (Luke a New Paradigm, p. 654) states, "Luke has them at home 'grinding together': he thinks of them using small hand-mills in the evening, just as he avoids the ass-turned millstone at 17.2" Finally, Luke has 17:34 refer to two on a klines (bed or lounge) because the two angels/men in Gen 19:3-8 partake in a feast and, so, presumably reclined on a lounge. He decides to use Th 61.1 as a source because it speaks of two on a lounge in a context where a feast is presumed. So, regarding 61.1-2, Uwe-Karsten Plisch (The Gospel of Thomas, p.151) states, "Because of the catchword 'lounge,' Salome obviously understood the saying in the first sentence as referring to a situation at a banquet." So, it appears, the first part of 17:34 is based on Th 61.1 rather than on Mt 24:40a.

Matt Page said...

Just interested in what evidence there is that Q is just a sayings gospel. Surely that's an assumption?

We have no copies of Q, just two (potentially) derived works which also shared another common source. Is it not theoretically possible that Q also had a passion narrative, but that it was passed over in favour of the (presumably superior) passion narrative from Mark?

I know that you, as a Q sceptic, are probably not the best person to ask this to, but I figured that you would probably know any other argumments on this point.


Stephen C. Carlson said...

Matt, that chapter in Mark's book, The Case Against Q, shows that Q must have had a strong narrative beginning, quite unlike Thomas. So I wouldn't say that Q is "just a sayings gospel."

Frank McCoy said...

It needs to be added that, although Luke based 17:34b (There will be two in one lounge) on Th 61.1a (Two will rest there on a lounge), he based 17:34c (the one will be taken and the other left) on Mt 24:40b (one is taken and one is left) rather than on Th 61.1b (One will die. One will live.). The reason for basing 17:34c on Mt 24:40b is to heighten the Lot story theme. In particular, it enables Luke to change Matthew's paralambanetai to paralemphthesetai in order to make a stronger link to the symparalemphthes of Gen 19:17. This leads the informed reader to think of Gen 19:16 where Lot (the subject of Lk 17:28-30), his wife (the subject of Lk 17:32), the two angels (the subjects of Lk 17:34) and his two daughters (the subjects of Lk 17:35) are mentioned. This linkage to Gen 19:17 also leads the informed reader to realize *why* Luke, after mentioning Lot in 17:28-30, wrote a version of Mt 24:17-18/Mk 13:15-16 in 17:31 and then mentioned Lot's wife in 17:32. So, regarding Lk 17:31-32, Michael D. Goulder (Luke a New Paradigm, pp. 653-54) states, "The Lot theme had not just been present in Mt. 24.40, as I have said, but latent also in Mark's charge to flee to the mountains....He (i.e., Luke) therefore takes up the Matthaeo-Marcan saying 'he that is on the roof...and he that is in the field..' (Mk 15.15f./Mt. 24.17f.). He is noticeably closer to the Matthaean redaction, with ta (skeue) for Mark's ti, with 'let him not go down to take...' uninterrupted by Mark's 'nor enter', and en agrw for Mark's eis; but he ends with Mark's full eis ta opisw, where Matthew just has the adverb. In a sense it was the eis ta opisw for which the saying was included, for Lot was warned not to look round eis ta opisw in Gen. 19.17, and the line of thought moves on accordingly in v. 32 to 'Remember Lot's wife'."