The Gospel of Thomas and Dating Its Original Drafting

We’ve already discussed throughout this work GosThom’s inclusion in The Protennoia Johannine Secessionist Canon; additionally, Richard Valantasis states the following:

“Assigning a date to the Gospel of Thomas is very complex because it is difficult to know precisely to what a date is being assigned. Scholars have proposed a date as early as 40 AD or as late as 140 AD, depending upon whether the Gospel of Thomas is identified with the original core of sayings, or with the author’s published text, or with the Greek or Coptic texts, or with parallels in other literature.

Valantasis and other scholars argue that it is difficult to date Thomas because, as a collection of logia without a narrative framework, individual sayings could have been added to it gradually over time. Valantasis dates Thomas to 100 – 110 AD, with some of the material certainly coming from the first stratum which is dated to 30 – 60 AD. J. R. Porter dates The Gospel of Thomas much later, to 250 AD.” Thus there’s no definitive answer to the date of composition — Thomas could have pre-dated Mark, or vice versa. There’s also a third choice — that the two works were relatively contemporaneous.

If you’ll recall from the Johannine Secessionists Section, another possibility, per Misericordia University: “Since there are many of the same sayings in Mark and Thomas, we really have only two explanations to consider. One is that Thomas and Mark are drawing from the same well of tradition, the other is that Mark made use of Thomas.”

The Gospel’s Early Camp:

“Theissen and Merz argue the genre of a collection of sayings was one of the earliest forms in which material about Jesus was handed down. They assert that other collections of sayings, such as the Q document and the collection underlying Mark 4, were absorbed into larger narratives and no longer survive as independent documents, and that no later collections in this form survive. Marvin Meyer also asserted that the genre of a “sayings collection” is indicative of the 1st century, and that in particular the “use of parables without allegorical amplification” seems to antedate the canonical gospels. Maurice Casey has strongly questioned the argument from genre: the ‘logic of the argument requires that Q and The Gospel of Thomas be also dated at the same time as both the book of Proverbs and the Sayings of Amen-em-Opet.’” I believe Mr. Casey’s argument is flawed as he is comparing the drafting of two other treatises with the two Sayings collections associated with Christ’s revelation.

Independence from Synoptic Gospels:

“Stevan L. Davies argues that the apparent independence of the ordering of sayings in Thomas from that of their parallels in the synoptics shows that Thomas was not evidently reliant upon the canonical gospels and probably predated them. Several authors argue that when the logia in Thomas do have parallels in the Synoptics, the version in Thomas often seems closer to the source. Theissen and Merz give sayings 31 and 65 as examples of this. Koester agrees, citing especially the parables contained in Sayings 8, 9, 57, 63, 64 and 65. In the few instances where the version in Thomas seems to be dependent on the Synoptics, Koester suggests, this may be due to the influence of the person who translated the text from Greek into Coptic.

Koester also argues that the absence of narrative materials (such as those found in the canonical Gospels) in Thomas makes it unlikely that the gospel is “an eclectic excerpt from the gospels of the New Testament“. He also cites the absence of the eschatological Sayings considered characteristic of Q to show the independence of Thomas from that source.”

GosThom’s Intertextuality with John’s Gospel:

“Another argument for an early date is what some scholars have suggested is an interplay between The Gospel of John and the logia of Thomas. Parallels between the two have been taken to suggest that Thomas’ logia preceded John’s work.”