Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Gospel of Thomas and the Synoptic Gospels
Dennis Ingolfsland


Many scholars have argued that the Gospel of Thomas is literarily dependent on the Synoptic Gospels,[1] in which case Thomas’ value for historical Jesus research is limited because of its late date and secondary nature. More recently, however, other scholars have argued that Thomas[2] was written entirely independent of the Synoptic Gospels and should, therefore, be viewed as a primary source for understanding Jesus.[3] This view is stated well by Patterson:

…if the Gospel of Thomas is not dependent upon the synoptic gospels, but rather
has its own roots, which reach deeply into the fertile soil of early Christian
tradition, tapping these sources no less ‘authentically’ than did the authors
responsible for shaping the canonical texts, then Thomas presents those who wish
to think critically about the problem of Christian origins with something much
more important: another point of view from which to peer down into the murk of
earliest Christianity.[4]

The issue at stake is whether the Gospel of Thomas should be used as a primary source for the historical study of Jesus.

The case for independence

John Dominic Crossan and Stephen Patterson are among the most influential advocates of the independence theory of Thomas. This paper will focus primarily on Patterson since his treatment of the issue is by far more extensive than Crossan’s.

Common oral tradition

Patterson argues that numerous cases of apparent dependence are due to the borrowing of common oral tradition by both Thomas and the Synoptic Gospels. For example, not only are Thomas 14[5] and Luke 10:8-9 worded similarly, Thomas 14 includes a phrase from Luke 10:8-9[6] which fits the context of Luke well, but which even Peterson admits, appears out of place in Thomas. While this would normally be seen as evidence for dependence, Patterson counters that if Thomas had really borrowed from Luke 10:8-9,

…it would be difficult to imagine why he or she would have whittled Luke’s
Sending of the Seventy-two down to this single verse, and yet stopped short of
completing the editorial task, leaving the offending spur to clash with [Thomas]
14:1-3 and 14:5.[7]

Patterson argues, therefore, that it is more plausible that Thomas 14 circulated as an independent saying. Similarly, for Thomas 26,[8] a passage about the speck in the brother’s eye and the beam in one’s own eye, Patterson argues that it is “unlikely that the author/editor of Thomas would have deliberately dismembered the Sermon tradition…,” therefore the saying must come from an independent tradition.[9] Patterson uses a similar argument for Thomas 21 which contains one sentence similar to Luke 12:39 // Matthew 24:43 and another sentence similar to Mark 4:29. Patterson argues that “Thomas has either “surgically” removed these two sayings from their synoptic contexts, or he or she has acquired them from an entirely different tradition-historical stream.”[10]

Patterson seems to ignore the fact that it is simply the nature of quotations, both ancient and modern, that they have often been pulled from original contexts. For example, virtually no scholar assumes that New Testament quotations of Old Testament passages came from independent oral tradition just because they have been “surgically” removed from other contexts.[11]

Thomas 20,[12] 35[13] and 41[14] are also used by Patterson as examples of passages that can be explained by common oral tradition. Patterson argues that since the parable quoted in Thomas 20 is also attested in Mark and Q (assuming a Q/Mark overlap), “one may be quite certain that the parable is older than any of these sources….”[15]

Patterson will not allow for the possibility that Thomas borrowed from Mark unless someone could show “unequivocally that elements in the Thomas version mirror unique editorial hands of the canonical writers.”[16] Patterson essentially repeats this reasoning in Thomas 35, “without the telltale signs of the redactional hand of one or another of the canonical evangelists, Thomas’ reliance upon the canonical tradition for this saying remains a remote possibility at best.”[17]

This reasoning is clearly faulty. For example, someone who looked carefully enough might notice that the citations in footnotes 1 and 3 of this paper closely parallel those cited by Nicolas Perrin in his book, Thomas and Tatian. In fact, the similarities are close enough that someone might conclude that I had borrowed from Perrin. If I were dishonest, however, I could argue that since there is no evidence of Perrin’s editorial hands in my citations (i.e. I did not copy the formatting style of his footnotes), you must assume that the citations are independent. This is nonsense, of course, since the similarity between my citations and Perrin’s would be enough to lead to suspicion of borrowing. If I had also copied Perrin’s formatting style the evidence for borrowing would be almost indisputable, but absence of redactional evidence does not negate other evidence for dependence as Patterson repeatedly, and illogically, seems to assume.

Common Redactional features

Although the passages in Thomas discussed above were very similar to those in the Synoptic Gospels, Patterson argued that passages must be viewed as independent unless redactional features were also borrowed. There are, however, several passages in Thomas which appear to borrow redactional elements from the Synoptic Gospels and yet Patterson still resists the evidence for dependence. For example:

In Matthew 23:13[18] the phrase “scribes and Pharisees” is generally considered by critical scholars to be a Matthean redaction,[19] therefore, the appearance of that phrase in Thomas 39[20] would normally be considered strong evidence for dependence. Patterson argues, however, that if Thomas were borrowing from Matthew we would expect to see the phrase more frequently in Thomas. Patterson concludes, therefore, that the phrase is a result of a “relatively late harmonization.”[21]

Patterson’s argument is clearly faulty. If Thomas had used the phrase “Pharisees and scribes” several times, especially if the phrase regularly occurred in verses with no Matthean parallels, it would be possible that Thomas was just repeating a widely used phrase. When, however, the phrase occurs only once in Thomas and then only in a Thomas passage that is paralleled by Matthew, the evidence argues for some kind of dependence. This is especially true in this case where Thomas 39 is paralleled both by Matthew 23:13 and Luke 11:52, but the phrase in question only occurs in Thomas and Matthew, but not in Luke.[22]

According to Thomas 54, “Jesus said: Blessed are the poor, for yours is the kingdom of heaven,” (cf. Matthew 5:3 and Luke 6:20). Since “kingdom of heaven” is usually attributed to Matthean redaction, the appearance of this phrase in Thomas 54 is considered by some to be strong evidence of dependence.[23] Patterson, however, postulates that Thomas did not copy Matthew’s redaction but rather both Thomas and Matthew “shared the Jewish aversion to using the divine name.”[24]

This imagined aversion to using the name of God is unlikely on at least two counts. First, some of the anti-Jewish elements in Thomas make it unlikely that Thomas was concerned with offending Jewish scruples (see, for example, Thomas 11, 14, 43, 52, 53)[25]. Second, Thomas uses the word “God” twice[26] when, if he was concerned about using the divine name, he could easily have used “Father,”[27] “the Living One,”[28] or “Lord,”[29] as he does elsewhere in his gospel.
Thomas 89 (Luke 11:39-41//Mt 23:25-26; Q) appears to follow Luke in adding the phrase, “Do you not understand that he who made the inside is also he who made the outside,” a phrase that is not included in Matthew’s version of the story. Patterson argues that the phrase was not a redactional addition by Luke at all, but was, rather, borrowed by Luke from Q (and omitted by Matthew).[30] Patterson argues that this passage occurs in an anti-Jewish context in Q, but since no such polemic is seen in Thomas, the passage is probably independent.

As seen above, however, the idea that Thomas contains no anti-Jewish polemic is open to serious challenge. Second, in any Q passage, a phrase like the one under discussion which occurs in Matthew alone or in Luke alone would often be seen as a redaction by that Gospel writer. To assume that, in this case, the phrase must have come from Q, even though it only appears in Luke, seems like special pleading. Even if Patterson is correct about Luke getting the phrase from Q, however, he has not demonstrated the independence of Thomas 89, but only that Thomas 89 may have been dependent on Q instead of Luke.

Common Sequence

While common phases are, by themselves, significant evidence of borrowing, when combined with a common sequence of sayings, the evidence becomes particularly strong. There are at least three places in which Thomas appears to have followed the same sequence as the Synoptic Gospels. For example, Thomas 32/33 contains two sayings[31] that occur together in the same order as they do in Matthew 5:14-15. Patterson, however, argues that Thomas 33 was once an independent saying since this saying was used separately by Mark[32] and Q (assuming a Mark/Q overlap).[33]

Even assuming, for argument’s sake, that the two sayings were originally independent, the fact that they are placed together in the same order only by Matthew and Thomas (and not by Mark, Luke or Q)[34] is evidence for dependence.

Thomas 45 contains two sayings that occur in the same order as two parallel sayings in Luke 6:44-45. Patterson argues, however, that both Luke 6:44-45 and Q[35] have preserved the original order of the Sermon, and that it was Matthew that reversed that order (Matthew places the two sayings in separate locations; Matthew 7:16 and 12:34-35). This could lead to the conclusion that both Thomas and Luke were dependent on Q, but Patterson asks, if Thomas is dependent here on the Q tradition, why would he break it up? Patterson argues, therefore, that the sayings in Thomas are independent of Luke or Q and that dependence can only be shown if the common order “could be ascribed to Lukan redaction.”[36]

As noted above, however, it is the nature of quotations that they are often pulled from original contexts so it is not necessary, therefore, to determine a writer’s motives for “breaking up” a passage before dependence can be suspected. This point is particularly relevant to this passage because according to Patterson, Matthew separated the verses he found in Q. We could use Patterson’s own argument, therefore, to insist that if Patterson can’t explain, to our satisfaction, what Matthew’s motives were for pulling Q 6:44-45 out of context and splitting the verses up (i.e. by placing them in separate locations, Matthew 7:16 and 12:34-35), that Matthew 7:16 and 12:34-35 must be regarded as independent of Q. But if Matthew 7:16 and 12:34-35 were written independently of Q, there is no longer any basis for assigning Luke 6:44-45 to Q in the first place, [37] and the only option left is that Thomas borrowed from Luke.

The Case for Dependence

There are several reasons to suspect that Thomas is dependent in some way on the Synoptic Gospels. First, about 70 of the 114 verses in Thomas have parallels in the Synoptic Gospels. The idea that the writer of Thomas, relying on oral tradition alone, produced a Gospel in which over 60% of the verses just happened, by sheer coincidence, to parallel the canonical Gospels seems improbable at best.[38]

Second, while Thomas as a whole does not share a common sequence with any of the Gospels, there are at least three places where verses in Thomas were not only placed next to each other, but also in the same order as they appear in the Gospels.[39] Not even Patterson thinks this is coincidence, but his arguments against dependence in these cases look suspiciously like special pleading.

Third, there are six passages in which even Patterson admits that Thomas appears to have borrowed redactional elements from the Gospels.[40] This would normally be regarded as clear evidence that Thomas is dependent on the Gospels. Patterson’s attempts to explain away this evidence was shown to be unconvincing.

Finally, Nicholas Perrin, in Thomas and Tatian,[41] and in his 2005 address to the Evangelical Theological Society in Valley Forge, PA, argued very persuasively that the Gospel of Thomas was originally written in Syriac and was dependent on Tatian’s Diatessaron (ca. AD 175). Perrin demonstrated that when the Gospel of Thomas is translated back into Syriac, it contains 502 catchwords, almost as many catchwords as it does in Greek (263) and Coptic (269) put together.[42] In fact, when translated back into Syriac, Perrin finds only three places in the entire Gospel in which he could find no catchword connection.[43] Perrin argued that “The catchwords in GT are so frequent, so compactly arranged, and their interrelationship is so intricate, that it is virtually inconceivable that a compiler, drawing upon diverse oral traditions, conjured these connections on the basis of memory.”[44]

Assuming that the Diatessaron was written in Syriac, Perrin compares passages in Thomas with what can be known about the Diatessaron and finds that there are at least eight places in which “Thomas follows the order of both the canonical gospels and Tatian’s harmony, and in one place the author follows the order of the Diatessaron alone.[45] In fact, he finds that Thomas 45 “harmonizes Matthew and Luke in precisely the same manner as Tatian (Tatian’s composition was, after all, a gospel harmony)….”[46] For these and other reasons, Perrin concludes that Thomas was literarily dependent on the Diatessaron, “

Therefore, when over 60% of the verses in Thomas parallel the Gospels, and some of those verses occur together in the same order, six verses appear to have borrowed redactional elements from the Gospels, and the Gospel of Thomas shows clear indication of connection with the Diatessaron, the case for dependence is remarkably strong except for one significant fact: Patterson and Crossan are right about the overall lack of common sequence between Thomas and any of the Synoptics.[47] Crossan points to an article which:

“…drew up in columns the sequential units in the Gospel of Thomas and their
parallels in the four intracanonical gospels. The lines drawn from one column to
another presented a veritable spider’s web and showed absolutely no traces of
common order between Thomas and any of the others.”[48]

Crossan argues that since Thomas has no apparent compositional order or sequence, the writer would have no reason to change the order of the Gospels if Thomas had borrowed from them.[49] For Thomas to have copied from the Gospels, we would have to imagine the writer laboriously jumping back and forth within and between Gospel scrolls which had no chapters, verses or even spaces between the letters.[50] Nothing in Perrin’s book on Tatian or in his plenary address to the Evangelical Theological Society addressed this issue.

Granted, it is easier to understand how the author of Thomas may have jumped back and forth in one document, the Diatessaron, than randomly selecting passages from four Gospels, as Patterson and Crossan envision, but this does not entirely remove the force of Patterson’s and Crossan’s argument.

So on the one hand, the evidence seems very strong that Thomas is in some way dependent on the Synoptic Gospels and yet, as Crossan points out, the gymnastics involved in literary dependence are unlikely at best. Are we then at an impasse or is there another option?

Oral tradition and the Synoptic Gospels

The solution to this problem is remarkably simple. The writer of Thomas was not merely drawing from independent, oral tradition as Crossan and Patterson believe. Neither was Thomas manually copying, jumping back and forth within and between Gospel scrolls, as other have envisioned. The writer of Thomas was, instead, relying on his own memory of Gospel sayings which he may have known from extensive exposure to early Christian teachers who taught directly either from the four Gospels, or, more likely, from Tatian’s harmony of the gospels, the Diatessaron.

Studies by Gerhardsson and numerous others[51] have demonstrated the importance and extent of memory in ancient societies. If Thomas, however, was simply repeating sayings he had memorized directly from the Gospels or Diatessaron, it would be likely that more verses in Thomas would occur in the same order as the do in the Gospels. It is not necessary, however, to imagine that the writer of Thomas memorized Gospel scrolls word-for-word. Bailey[52] and Dunn,[53] in particular, have argued for what they call “informal, controlled, oral tradition” by which people in Middle Eastern peasant villages regularly meet to tell the stories of their history and heritage. Although the story tellers are allowed some freedom to tell the stories in their own words and even to change the order, their listeners eventually come to know the village stories exceptionally well.

It is entirely possible, therefore, that the writer of Thomas was someone who, while not necessarily memorizing Gospel scrolls word-for-word, had come to be so intimately acquainted with the Gospels (or Diatessaron) that he could quote sayings from memory and connected the long string of sayings in Thomas on the basis of catchwords.

Regardless of precisely how the writer of Thomas came to know the sayings of Jesus, if Thomas could know, by heart, enough oral tradition to write his gospel, there can be no objection to the possibility that the writer knew by heart, material from the Gospels themselves.

The value of any hypothesis lies in its explanatory power and this hypothesis has considerable explanatory power. First, the fact that Thomas does not quote the Gospels in any discernable order is explained quite well by the theory that the writer is not copying from Gospel scrolls, but is drawing randomly from remembered Gospel tradition.[54]

Second, the few times in which Thomas places two verses together in the same order as they appear in the Gospels, is better explained by remembered Gospel tradition than by independent oral tradition. The chances that a writer would just happen to place two independent sayings next to each other in the same order (and do it three or more times!) is very slim in comparison to the probability that the writer was quoting (or mis-quoting) teachings as he remembered them from the Gospels.

Third, Patterson’s repeated objections that the writer of Thomas would not have pulled passages out of context is explained by the fact that those who rely on remembered sayings often quote them without regard to sequence or context.

Fourth, the several places in which Thomas appears to have borrowed redactional elements from Gospel writers, are better explained by remembered Gospel tradition than by independent oral tradition.

Fifth, assuming that the simpler solution is often the best, the remembered Gospel tradition hypothesis eliminates the need to postulate so many other hypothetical options (e.g. hypothetical common sources or later redaction) to explain away evidence for dependence.

Sixth, the fact that there were people who had been closely acquainted with Christian communities but who left for ideological reasons is supported as early as the first century. The writer of First John speaks of those who “went out from us but were not of us, for if they had been of us they would no doubt have continued with us.”[55] Many of those who separated could have easily been intimately familiar with teachings from the Gospels.[56]

Finally, Perrin argued that it was “virtually inconceivable that a compiler, drawing on upon diverse oral traditions, conjured these connections on the basis of memory. [57] My proposal is not that the writer of Thomas was drawing on “diverse oral traditions” but that he was drawing on traditions he had learned from the Gospels. If Thomas knew the Diatessaron so well he could jump back and fourth in the text to find passages to connect with catchwords, he could easily have known it well enough to recall these passages by memory. So in other words, rather than searching the Diatessaron for verses to connect with catchwords, it is more likely that Thomas knew the Gospels (or Diatessaron) so well, that the catchwords served as the mnemonic device he used to recall the verses in the first place. This proposal, therefore, not only explains the data supplied by Perrin, but also answers the objections proposed by Patterson and Crossan.

Although thirty-two verses in Thomas are worded very similarly to verses in the Synoptic Gospels, it could be argued that the remaining parallels are not close enough to be attributed to memory or paraphrase. Many of these cases are best explained by the thesis that while Thomas found it beneficial to borrow from Gospel material—probably to lend weight to his message—the writer of Thomas was not entirely sympathetic with, and was often antagonistic to, the theology expressed by those Gospels. It is likely, therefore, that he not only deliberately distorted what he remembered, but created additional sayings to support his own ideology. There are several lines of evidence that support this thesis.

First, Patterson, himself, argues that Thomas 13 “may well represent a direct attack upon the gospels that stand in the Petrine (Mark) and Matthean (Matthew) traditions.”[58] This would certainly provide motivation for the writer of Thomas to have altered that tradition.[59]

Second, the writer’s Gnostic leanings would certainly provide motives for altering, adding to, or being creative with remembered Gospel traditions. The Gnostic origin of Thomas is supported in ancient times by Hippolytus, who attributes Thomas to a second century Gnostic Group known as the Naseenes,[60] but also in modern times by Funk and Hoover who have acknowledged numerous places in which the Gospel of Thomas appears to have Gnostic leanings.[61]

Finally, Irenaeus supports the fact that there were writers in the second century who relied on New Testament documents, but who pulled sayings out of context and distorted them. Irenaeus complains of those who:

…disregard the order and the connection of the Scriptures, and so far as
in them lies, dismember and destroy the truth. By transferring passages, and
dressing them up anew, and making one thing out of another, they succeed in
deluding many through their wicked art in adapting the oracles of the Lord to
their opinion.[62]

While it is impossible to know whether Irenaeus was thinking specifically of the Gospel of Thomas, the description certainly fits.


The case for independence seems to rest to a large extent on efforts to explain away all the evidence for apparent dependence. These efforts have failed except in one regard: the fact remains that when analyzed closely, it appears unlikely that Thomas was rolling and unrolling Gospel scrolls, and jumping back and forth between Gospel scrolls, simply in order to select random verses. This problem is easily resolved, however, by the hypothesis that the writer of Thomas was someone who had been intimately acquainted with Christian teachings and maybe even with the Gospels themselves, and who was using these remembered Gospel teachings as he creatively modified and added to his sources to reflect his own ideology. This hypothesis is supported both by historical and textual data.

So while Thomas may not have manually copied directly from Gospel scrolls, the evidence is particularly strong that Thomas was using and often distorting remembered tradition coming either from the Synoptic Gospels separately, or as combined in the Diatessaron. This being the case, it is best to regard the Gospel of Thomas as secondary in nature, and of much less value for the historical study of Jesus than the Synoptic Gospels.

[1] E.g. Harvey K. McArthur. “The Dependence of the Gospel of Thomas on the Synoptics.” Expository Times 71 (1959-1960). Robert Grant and David Noel Freedman. The Secret Sayings of Jesus (Garden City, NY : Doubleday, 1960); Bertil Gartner. The Theology of the Gospel of Thomas (London : Collins, 1961); William R. Schoedel. “Parables in the Gospel of Thomas: Oral Tradition or Gnostic Exegesis?” CTM 43 (1972).
[2] In this paper I sometimes use “Thomas” to refer to the Gospel of Thomas and other to refer to the author/editor of Thomas. Context makes it easy to determine which meaning is intended. No one thinks that the writer/editor of Thomas was the disciple of Jesus.
[3] E.g. Giles Quispel. “The Gospel of Thomas and the New Testament.” VC (1957) 11; R. McL. Wilson. “Thomas and the Growth of the Gospels.” HTR (1960) 53; Hugh W. Montefiore. “A Comparison of the Parables of the Gospel According to Thomas and of the Synoptic Gospels.” New Testament Studies (1960); Helmut Koester. “GNOMAI DIAPHPOROI.” New Testament Studies (1960-61); Stevan L. Davies. The Gospel of Thomas and Christian Wisdom (New York : Seabury, 1983); John Dominic Crossan. In Fragments: The Aphorisms of Jesus (San Francisco : Harper, 1983); Marvin W. Meyer. The Gospel of Thomas: The Hidden Sayings of Jesus (Sonoma, CA : Polebridge, 1993); Gregory J. Riley. Resurrection Reconsidered: Thomas and John in Controversy (Minneapolis : Fortress, 1995); Richard Valantasis. “The Gospel of Thomas.” New Testament Readings (New York : Routledge, 1997).
[4] Stephen J. Patterson. The Gospel of Thomas and Jesus. (Sonoma, CA : Polebridge, 1993) 9.
[5] “Jesus said to them: If you fast, you will put a sin to your charge; and if you pray, you will be condemned; and if you give alms, you will do harm to your spirits. And if you go into any land and walk about in the regions, if they receive you, eat what is set before you; heal the sick among them. For what goes into your mouth will not defile you; but what comes out of your mouth, that is what will defile you” (Gospel of Thomas 14).
[6] “and care for the sick among them.”
[7] Patterson, Gospel 24.
[8] Thomas 26. “Jesus said: You see the mote which is in your brother’s eye; but you do not see the beam which is in your own eye. When you cast out the beam from your own eye, then you will see (clearly) to cast out the moat from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:3-5; Luke 6:41-42; Q).
[9] Patterson, Gospel 30.
[10] Ibid. 29. Patterson also repeats this line of reasoning for Thomas 34 (Patterson, Gospel 34).
[11] There are numerous places in which New Testament authors not only removed Old Testament passages out of their original contexts, but then, similar to Thomas 21 above, placed originally separate Old Testament quotations next to each other, e.g. Romans 3:10-18; 9:25-29.
[12] “The disciples said to Jesus: Tell us what the kingdom of heaven is like. He said to them: It is like a grain of mustard seed, the smallest of all seeds; but when it falls on tilled ground, it puts forth a great branch and seeds; but when it falls on tilled ground, it puts forth a great branch and becomes shelter for the birds of heaven” (Gospel of Thomas 20).
[13] “Jesus said: It is not possible for anyone to go into the strong man’s house (and) take it by force, unless he binds his hands; then will he plunder his house” (Gospel of Thomas 35).
[14] “Jesus said: He who has in his hand, to him shall be given; and he who has not, from him shall be taken even the little that he has” (Gospel of Thomas 41).
[15] Patterson, Gospel 27.
[16] Ibid. 27.
[17] Patterson, Gospel 35. Patterson repeats this reasoning again in his arguments for Thomas 41 (Patterson, Gospel 37).
[18] Matthew 23:13 // Luke 11:52.
[19] Patterson, Gospel 36.
[20] Though in reverse order: “Jesus said: The Pharisees and the scribes have taken the keys of knowledge (and) have hidden them. They did not go in, and those who wished to go in did not allow. But you, be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Thomas 39, cf. Mt 10:16; Lk 11:52)
[21] Patterson, Gospel 36. It should also be noted that Thomas 39 is also one of the passages which is textually supported by the 4th century Coptic text as well as the earlier Greek text. Thomas 39 shows no evidence of significant editorial revision of the Greek text by the Coptic translator, as might be expected if Patterson was right about “relatively late harmonization.” While we could postulate that the editing occurred before the copying of the extant 4th century Greek text of Thomas, there is no basis for such postulation other than the desire to maintain Thomas’ independence.
[22] Imagine that a writer copied, with slight alterations, a paragraph from Patterson’s book and that Patterson charges that writer with plagiarism. As evidence, Patterson cites the fact that not only does the accused plagiarizer’s work agree substantially with Patterson’s book, but the writer included the phrase “gnosticizing proclivities” which is a characteristic phrase of Patterson’s, occurring not less than seven times in one short chapter (chapter eight) of Patterson’s book. The judge rules in the plagiarizer’s favor, however, saying that if the writer had really been copying from Patterson, “we would expect to see the phrase more frequently” in the plagiarizers’ work. It is doubtful that Patterson would be convinced.
[23] Patterson cites Schrage, Das Verhaltnis des Thomas-Evangeliums zur synoptischen Tradition und zu den koptischen Evangelienubersetzungen. Zugleich ein Beitrag zur gnostischen Synoptikerdeutung. BZNW 29. Berlin : Topelmann, (1964), 118-119, and Bruce Chilton, “The Gospel According to Thomas as a Source of Jesus’ Teaching.” In D. Wenham, ed. Gospel Perspectives 5: The Jesus Tradition Outside the Gospels (Sheffield : JSOT Press, 1984), 157-158. In addition, Gartner argues the “reading may also be explained as reflecting the texts of Tatian and Marcion.” Bertil Gartner. The Theology of the Gospel of Thomas (London : Collins, 1961), 45. See also Thomas 20 and 114. Thomas 20 is a Matthean parallel.
[24] Patterson, Gospel 42-43.
[25] “Jesus said: This heaven will pass away, and the one above it will pass way.” (Thomas 11, emphasis mine). “Jesus said to them: If you fast, you will put a sin to your charge; and if you pray, you will be condemned; and if you give alms, you will do harm to your spirits…” (Thomas 14). “…you have become like the Jews; for they love the tree (and) hate its fruit, and they love the fruit (and) hate the tree” (Thomas 43). “His disciples said to him: Twenty-four prophets spoke in Israel, and they all spoke of you. He said to them: You have abandoned the living one before your eyes, and spoken about the dead” (Thomas 52). “His disciples said to him: Is circumcision useful or not? He said to them: if it were useful, their father would beget them from their mother (already) circumcised…” (Thomas 53).
[26] Both times in Thomas 100.
[27] Thomas 3, 27, 44.
[28] Thomas 37, 59.
[29] Thomas 73.
[30] Patterson, Gospel 62.
[31] The two sayings are: “A city that is built on a high mountain and fortified cannot fall, nor can it be hidden” and “For no one lights a lamp to set it under a bushel, or to put it in a hidden place; but he sets it on the lamp stand, that all who go in and come out may see its light.”
[32] Mark 4:21.
[33] Matthew 5:15 // Luke 8:16, 11:33.
[34] The first saying is not contained in Luke, but the second saying is in Luke 11:33.
[35] Matthew 7:16 // Luke 6:44 and Matthew 12:34-35 // Luke 6:45.
[36] Patterson, 38.
[37] Generally speaking, material common to Matthew and Luke, that is not in Mark, is assumed to have come from Q. But if Matthew did not get Matthew 7:16 and 12:34-35 from Q (as Patterson says) than there is no longer any basis for assigning Luke 6:44-45 to Q either.
[38] This is especially true since it could be inferred from John 20:30 and 21:25 that a significant amount of oral tradition about Jesus was still available near the end of the first century, some of which continued to be available as late a the time of Papias.
[39] Thomas 32/33; 45; 65/66.
[40] Thomas 39, 45, 47, 54, 57, 96
[41] Nicholas Perrin. Thomas and Tatian; The relationship between the Gospel of Thomas and the Diatessaron. Atlanta : Society of Biblical Literature, 2002.
[42] Ibid. Thomas 169, 192. Since only fragments of Thomas in Greek are extant, most of the Coptic version of Thomas had to be translated back in to Greek for this experiment as well. Coptic Thomas contained 269 catchwords, Greek Thomas contained 263 catchwords and the Syriac Thomas contained 502 catchwords.
[43] Ibid. Thomas 171.
[44] Ibid. Thomas 181.
[45] Ibid. Thomas 188.
[46] Ibid. Thomas 188.
[47] The second primary argument that convinces Crossan that Thomas was independent has to do with content. Crossan argues that scholars must distinguish between that which is traditional in the Gospels and that which is redactional, i.e. peculiar to a particular Gospel editor. According to Crossan, if redactional elements were found in Thomas, it would be strong evidence for Thomas’ dependence on the Gospels, but since only traditional material is found in Thomas, we must conclude that Thomas and the Gospels share a common tradition. Crossan’s argument is faulty in two regards. First, while the presence of redactional material is strong evidence for dependence, the absence of redactional material is not necessarily strong evidence against dependence. Second, although Patterson agrees with Crossan about the independence of Thomas, Patterson has shown that there are no less than six passages in Thomas in which Thomas appears to have borrowed redactional features from a Synoptic writer. This is strong evidence of dependence, which, as seen below, requires Patterson to postulate a later redactor or common tradition to explain away the data.
[48] John Dominic Crossan. Four Other Gospels (Minneapolis : Winston Press, 1985) 35.
[49] Ibid. 35.
[50] Crossan’s argument is not air tight—it is possible that the writer of Thomas was just randomly selecting passages in the Gospels, but in that case we might have expected to find more passages in Thomas that occur in the same sequence as they do in the Gospels, even if the verses were not placed adjacent to each other.
[51] For studies on ancient oral tradition see, Jesus and the Oral Gospel Tradition edited by Henry Wansbrough (Sheffield, England, Sheffield Academic Press, 1991); Kenneth Bailey, “Middle Eastern Oral Tradition and the Synoptic Gospels.” Expository Times 106 S. (1995); Bailey, Poet & Peasant (Grand Rapids : Eerdmans, 1976) 1983.; Bailey, “Informal Controlled Oral Tradition and the Synoptic Gospels”, Asia Journal of Theology, April (1991); Bo Reicke. The Roots of the Synoptic Problem (Philadelphia : Fortress Press, 1986).
[52] Kenneth Bailey, “Middle Eastern Oral Tradition and the Synoptic Gospels.” Expository Times 106 S. (1995); Bailey, Poet & Peasant (Grand Rapids : Eerdmans, 1976, 1983); Bailey, “Informal Controlled Oral Tradition and the Synoptic Gospels”, Asia Journal of Theology, April (1991)
[53] James Dunn. Jesus Remembered (Grand Rapids : Eerdmans, 2003).
[54] In fact, Wood argued convincingly that Thomas’ “inconsistent and fluid use of gospel material is exactly what demonstrates its dependence upon the NT gospels, since that is characteristic of other second-century authors who are known to have used these four gospels.” John Halsey Wood, Jr. “The New Testament Gospels and the Gospel of Thomas: A New Direction.” New Testament Studies. 51:4 (2005), 593-594.
[55] First John 2:19 cf 2:26; 4:1 and Second John 7.
[56] Some have argued that the writer of Thomas also alluded to John, Acts, Romans, 1-2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, Hebrews, 1 John and Revelation (unpublished handout by Craig Evans referring to Nag Hammadi Texts and the Bible: A Synopsis and Index (NTTS 18; Leiden : Brill (1993) 88-144.
[57] Ibid. Thomas 181.
[58] Patterson 206-207.
[59] Of course, Patterson argues that this passage was added later. There are, however, several passages in Thomas that seem to reflect a worldview that would have been incompatible with the Jewish background of the New Testament (e.g. Thomas 11, 14, 43, 52, 53). This suggests that Thomas as a whole was a reaction to the Jewish background of the Gospels, which would argue against Patterson’s proposal that Thomas 13 was added later.
[60] Hippolytus. “The Refutation of all Heresies,” 5.2 in Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 5. 48-50. Writing around AD 222-235, Hippolytus was the earliest known writer to refer to the Gospel of Thomas by name.
[61] Thomas 2 (cf. Robert W. Funk and Roy W. Hoover. The Five Gospels. (San Francisco : HarperSanFrancisco, 1993) 472. Thomas 3 (cf. Funk and Hoover 472-473), Thomas 4 (cf. Funk and Hoover, 473), Thomas 5 (cf. Funk and Hoover, 473), Thomas 11 (cf. Funk and Hoover, 479), Thomas 15 (cf. Funk and Hoover, 482), Thomas 18 (cf. Funk and Hoover, 483), Thomas 19 (Funk and Hoover, 484), Thomas 21 (cf. Funk and Hoover, 485-486), Thomas 22 (Funk and Hoover, 487), Thomas 23 (cf. Funk and Hoover, 487), Thomas 24 (cf. Funk and Hoover, 487), Thomas 28 (Funk and Hoover, 489), Thomas 36 (cf. Funk and Hoover, 493), Thomas 38 (cf. Funk and Hoover, 494), Thomas 49 (cf. Funk and Hoover, 502), Thomas 50 (Funk and Hoover, 502), Thomas 51 (cf. Funk and Hoover, 502), Thomas 56 (cf. (Funk and Hoover, 505), Thomas 60 (cf. Funk and Hoover, 506), Thomas 67 (cf. Funk and Hoover, 512), Thomas 70 (cf. Funk and Hoover, 513), Thomas 75 (cf. Funk and Hoover, 514), Thomas 77 (cf. Funk and Hoover, 515), Thomas 84 (cf. Funk and Hoover, 518), Thomas 104 (cf. Funk and Hoover, 528).
[62] The full quote is, “Such, then, is their system, which neither the prophets announced, nor the Lord taught, nor the apostles delivered, but of which they boast that beyond all others they have a perfect knowledge. They gather their views from other sources than the Scriptures; and to use a common proverb, they strive to weave ropes of sand, which they endeavour to adapt with an air of probability to their own peculiar assertions the parables of the Lord, the sayings of the prophet, and the words of the apostles, in order that their scheme may not seem altogether without support. In doing so, however, they disregard the order and the connection of the Scriptures, and so far as in them lies, dismember and destroy the truth. By transferring passages, and dressing them up anew, and making one thing out of another, they succeed in deluding many through their wicked art in adapting the oracles of the Lord to their opinion. Their manner of acting is just as if one, when a beautiful image of a king has been constructed by some skillful artists out of precious jewels, should then take this likeness of the man all to pieces, should re-arrange the gems, and so fit them together as to make them into the form of a dog or of a fox, and even that but poorly executed…In like manner do these persons patch together old wives’ fables, and then endeavour, by violently drawing away from their proper connection, words, expressions, and parables whenever found, to adapt the oracles of God to their baseless fictions” (Irenaeus. “Against Heresies” I. 8. 1).