Monday, October 26, 2009

Book review part 2

Continuing my review of Nicholas Perrin's Thomas, The Other Gospel:

Chapter 4 (The Syriac Gospel of Thomas)
In this chapter, Perrin argues that instead of the "long oral-traditioning process" for GThom espoused by the three aforementioned scholars, he believes GThom, coming from a Syriac provenance was originally written in Syriac. He compares GThom to the Diatessaron, seeing surprising similarities in their accounts. Furthermore, he does a study of "catchwords" of the hypothetical Syriac GThom and found that its huge number of catchwords solves the problem of so-called isolated sayings (instead the sayings are strung together with these catchwords).

Chapter 5 (Challenging the apostolic line)
Here he does a specific study of logion 13:

Jesus said to his disciples, 'Compare me to someone else and tell me whom I am like.' Simon Peter said to him, 'You are like a righteous angel.' Matthew said to him, 'You are like a wise philosopher.' Thomas said to him, 'Teacher, my mouth is entirely incapable of saying whom you are like.' Jesus said, 'I am not your teacher. Since you have imbibed, you have become drunk on the bubbling spring which I have dug.' And he took him, withdrew and told him three words. When Thomas came back to his friends, they asked him, 'What did Jesus say to you?' Thomas said to them, 'Were I to tell you even one of the things which he told me, you would pick up stones and throw them at me. Then a fire would come out of the stones and consume you.'

Here, Perrin finds a "deeply symbolic scene in which Matthew and Simon Pete, as representative of a particular community or communities, are made to play a second fiddle to Thomas." This is an allusion to the Gospel of Mark/Matthew, showing their "deep epistemological and therefore hermeneutical differences." Perrin believes that the christologies represented by the Synoptics and GThom are very different, and in response, this is Thomas' own assertion to the apostolic line.

Chapter 6 (An extreme makeover)
In this chapter, Perrin gets into Hermeticism that has penetrated into Syriac Christianity, stating that Tatian, impressed with the use of Hermetic language by Justin for his apologetic, then took such similar lines in Syria which provided the framework for the Thomasine community there. He concludes, "As such the Gospel of Thomas may be as much a foundational document as an apologetic tract, specially crafted to convey the community's beliefs in an idiom that would resonate with its intended audience."
In his final subsection 'Conclusion', he lists seven important points regarding the Coptic Thomas that help to tie together his point of Syriac origins (in provenance and language) along with Thomas' dependence on Tatian thought.

For a short book under 200 pages, I think Perrin did an excellent job of helping me to wet my feet on the discussions on Thomas, and while I don't think I agree with all of his thoughts throughout the book, it definitely got me thinking hard on the subject.


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