My copy of Simon Gathercole’s The Composition of the Gospel of Thomas – Original Language and Influences (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2012) arrived last week and I started on it this weekend. It looks as though it is going to be a very good read!
The book is divided into three parts:
- The original language of thomas
- The synoptic gospels and Thomas
- Thomas and other early Christian literature
In the introduction (the only bit I’ve read so far), as well as indicating the scope of the work with respect to language and influences, Gathercole highlights some incongruities in current Thomas scholarship for which he proposes an alternative approach. The incongruities he flags are:
- the revival of Semitic theories of Thomas’s composition in light of recent scholarship on Semitisms
- continued attachment to form-critical “laws” in the light of exposure of their subjective nature and even falsification
- confident assessments of oral factors in Thomas in light of scepticism elsewhere about their predictability and distinctiveness
- the assumption of detailed knowledge of Q in light of recent “unfreezing of the Synoptic problem”
- persistent polarisation of “independent oral tradition” vs “literary dependence” despite some questioning within Thomas scholarship
(Note that the above are in the exact wordings of the subheadings in the introduction pp 4, 5, 6,8 & 9 respectively – I felt that individually footnoting them might be just a tad tedious.)
Issues 4 & 5 have been of particular interest to me, too, and I have given passing attention to the others as well, so I am looking forward to seeing what he has to say. I am particularly interested in his expansion on his article ‘Luke in the Gospel of Thomas’, New Testament Studies, 57 (01) (2011), pp. 114-144 (he indicates on p 15 that he does this) because I had some questions when I read it and was hoping that he addressed it more fully in this book. I agree with some of the positions he outlines and not with others, but the points he makes on issues where we disagree have in general been thought-provoking. I am wondering if he will cause me to change my mind.