Author: Stephen J. PATTERSON, Professor, Willamette University, USA
This essay is about broadening the perspective from which we view the origins of Christianity. The vehicle is a gospel by now perhaps as familiar to students of the New Testament as the canonical four, the Gospel of Thomas. When one compares the Gospel of Thomas with the much better-known canonical gospels, Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John, one immediately notices some clear differences, long noted as absences in this new and unusual gospel: Thomas is lacking a passion narrative and is almost completely devoid of interest in the death of Jesus. Thomas is also lacking the great apocalyptic speeches from Mark and Q, as well as the apocalyptic cast of much of the material common to both Thomas and the synoptic tradition. Finally, one might further observe the absence of the intense anti-Jewish rhetoric that so characterizes the canonical gospels at certain key points. Why are these features absent from the Gospel of Thomas? By answering this question, this essay will show that the relative absence of reflection on Jesus’ death, apocalypticism, and anti-Jewish polemic in Thomas is not to be seen as a divergence from the more original, natural canonical tradition, but a difference that exposes the canonical tradition as contingent in its own way.
The Gospel of Thomas, Edessa, Difference, Q, canonical tradition
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