The second post in my series on commentaries on GosThom focuses on:
April DeConick’s The Original Gospel of Thomas in Translation
DECONICK, A. D. 2006. The Original Gospel of Thomas in Translation, With a Commentary and New English Translation of the Complete Gospel, London, T & T Clark (hardcover) and DECONICK, A. D. (2007). The original Gospel of Thomas in translation: with a commentary and new English translation of the complete gospel. London, T&T Clark (paperback). The paperback is considerablely cheaper and has a much nicer cover, with artwork by April herself. I bought the hardcover because I wanted a copy as soon as it was released. It is next because it was next on my pile.
Assessment of Thomas
DeConick argues that the Gospel is not Gnostic. She maintains that the most likely explanation for the Thomasine-Synoptic parallels is that they come from orally transmitted rather than literary sources. She suggests that it came into being over time, with the earliest Kernel of sayings originating in the Jerusalem mission prior to 50 CE and various layers of accretions added between 50 and 120 CE.
- Has a significant amount of detailed comment on each saying, interacting with the various positions stated in the literature.
- Provides the Coptic text and her English translation of each saying, together with the full text of parallels from the literature of the time.
- Each section has a selected bibliography at the end and the bibliography at the end of the book is comprehensive
- Consistent methodology for approaching each saying, together with an informative introduction, makes her line of reasoning easy to follow
- The layout is very easy to follow and the language is clear and relatively simple, without being simplistic
- Provides an appendix of verbal similarities between Thomas and the Synoptics
- The paperback edition is relatively inexpensive (and nicer to look at)
I found it very difficult to find any significant negative aspects, but two minor niggles…
- although the introductory material summarises her hypotheses about the way in which GosThom evolved and the reasoning behind them, in order to follow this completely, one needs access to a copy of the companion volume, DECONICK, A. D. 2005 (hc) and 2006 (pb) Recovering the Original Gospel of Thomas: A History of the Gospel and its Growth, London, T&T Clark. The alternative would have been either one huge volume or skimping on the scholarship, so I think going with two volumes was the right decision.
- the bibliography is perhaps less comprehensive of the German language literature than is Nordsieck’s, but Nordsieck’s is less comprehensive of the English language literature. It is hardly surprising that a scholar puts more emphasis on material in his or her first language.
For those doing intensive work on the text of GosThom this is a “must have”. Even if you don’t agree with her conclusions (which I do), it provides some extremely useful tools for doing your own textual analysis. Those who want a less “in-depth” approach will still find this a very, very useful volume.
A little plug here for T&T Clark/Continuum – very few publishers in the field of academic biblical scholarship are prepared to release a paperback edition only twelve months after they launch the hardcover edition, but they did this both for the commentary and its companion volume. Kudos also to April for making the effort to negotiate for this to happen.