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Thomas and the Gospels: The Case for Thomas's Familiarity with the Synoptics [Paperback]

Mark Goodacre
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

24 Sep 2012 0802867480 978-0802867483
The Gospel of Thomas -- found in 1945 -- has been described as "without question the most significant Christian book discovered in modern times." Often Thomas is seen as a special independent witness to the earliest phase of Christianity and as evidence for the now-popular view that this earliest phase was a dynamic time of great variety and diversity. In contrast, Mark Goodacre makes the case that, instead of being an early, independent source, Thomas actually draws on the Synoptic Gospels as source material -- not to provide a clear narrative, but to assemble an enigmatic collection of mysterious, pithy sayings to unnerve and affect the reader. Goodacre supports his argument with illuminating analyses and careful comparisons of Thomas with Matthew and Luke.Watch the trailer:

Product details

  • Paperback: 226 pages
  • Publisher: William B Eerdmans Publishing Co (24 Sep 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802867480
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802867483
  • Product Dimensions: 22.6 x 15.2 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,673,987 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Larry W. Hurtado-- University of Edinburgh"With firm and vigorous (but never shrill) argumentation, incisive critique of other views, and full and clearheaded handling of the data, Mark Goodacre mounts a cogent, persuasive case that the Gospel of Thomas reflects acquaintance with the Synoptic Gospels. This is not a rehash of earlier arguments but a creative treatment that introduces new analysis of this important early Christian text."Dale C. Allison Jr.-- Pittsburgh Theological Seminary"Meticulous, adroit, and closely reasoned, this work will immediately become the definitive presentation of the case that Thomas draws on the Synoptics. Those who take the contrary position truly have their work cut out for them."Simon Gathercole-- Cambridge University"Written with both verve and calm intelligence, this book is head and shoulders above most of the rest of scholarship on Thomas and the Synoptics. It grapples skilfully with both the nitty-gritty of the Greek and Coptic texts and the various scholarly minefields. Read it!"Klyne Snodgrass-- North Park Theological Seminary"Goodacre engages the secondary literature carefully, challenges exaggerated claims and unjust assumptions, and offers valuable insight. . . . Anyone who cares at all about the Gospel of Thomas cannot afford to neglect this book."Andrew Gregory-- University College, Oxford"Mark Goodacre offers a bold and distinctive approach to the ongoing debate about the relationship between the Gospel of Thomas and the Synoptic Gospels. Rightly rejecting the tendency to label and thereby dismiss opposing views as either 'liberal' or 'conservative, ' he focuses instead on the textual evidence on which any responsible historical conclusion must be reached."Nicola Denzey Lewis-- Brown University"This book is quietly revolutionary, turning on its head sixty years of scholarship. . . . Those on both sides of the divide have much to learn from Goodacre's meticulous scholarship."John S. Kloppenborg-- University of Toronto"Am

About the Author

Mark Goodacre is Associate Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins, Department of Religion, Duke University, North Carolina, and general editor of T & T Clark's Library of New Testament Studies. His most recent books include The Synoptic Problem: A Way through the Maze (T & T Clark, 2001) and The Case Against Q (Continuum, 2002). --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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5.0 out of 5 stars declaring an interest 5 Jan 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I bought it principally because it is written by my son - the book is of course brilliant, and brilliantly researched
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5.0 out of 5 stars The dependency of Thomas on the Synoptics 10 Nov 2012
The 'orthodox' position taken by many scholars, for example Stephen Patterson, is that the Gospel of Thomas represents early oral traditions predating the Synoptic gospels and separate from their sources. But do the arguments denying any dependency of Thomas on the Synoptics, and therefore a later date, really hold water? Mark Goodacre skilfully demolishes many of these claims, often with a dry wit. So the case that, as per Patterson, Thomas cannot be dependent on Matthew because otherwise he would use characteristic Matthean phrases more often is shot down by Goodacre, noting that if someone copied a section from Patterson using his characteristic phrase "gnosticising proclivities", but a judge threw out a plagiarism charge by Patterson on the basis that the rest of the plagiarist's work does *not* include that phrase, "it is doubtful that Patterson would be convinced".

Demonstrating that arguments against dependency on the Synoptics are invalid is one thing, but showing actual dependency is another. Fortunately Goodacre has arguments up his sleeve on this too, for example the "missing middle". Many of the parables as related in Thomas have the beginning and end, but not the middle part. We from our position of complete familiarity with the Synoptic parables simply do not notice this and supply the rest of the story ourselves so they are immediately understood, but taken in complete isolation the parables of Thomas are frequently incomprehensible. Goodacre argues therefore for dependency.

Goodacre argues that the author of Thomas, writing in the 2nd century, incorporated Synoptic material to lend authority to his own material.
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fifth Gospel, not so much 14 Oct 2012
By kpp016 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Mark Goodacre has written a thorough, precise, low-key mongraph on the relationship of The Gospel of Thomas to the Synoptics. As he did with his "Case Against Q ...", the reasoning is direct and on point. No sensationalism, no 'off the wall' speculation, simply an investigation of the texts in question. Anyone seriously interested in "Thomas" and its relationship to early Christian history and 'the historical Jesus' will find this a very good read.

I especially appreciated the treatment of the text as we have it, the one Coptic long version and the few Greek fragments. There is no purported 'Kernel Gospel' or an imagined Syriac original to distract us from the matter at hand, "Thomas", its use of the Synoptics and its usefulness as a witness to the earliest layers of Christian witness.

Goodacre's conclusion, that "Thomas" is the deliberate re-working of prior Christian material for the writer's specific community and purposes won't make headlines in the 'New York Times'. No outlandish interpolations, speculations or eisegesis from either the 'left' or the 'right', just solid scholarship examining his thesis. The writing style is very accessible for any interested reader. He translates or transliterates all the key citations while providing the original text. There are numerous references to both Thomas and the Synoptics which are not provided in full, have a copy of the original texts at hand. Very highly recommended.
5.0 out of 5 stars Slap in the face for liberal scholarship 26 May 2014
By Jeri Nevermind - Published on Amazon.com
Thomas has "the best claim to antiquity" (p 1) of all the Gnostic Gospels. At least it did in the eyes of liberal scholars. Alas for Funk, Crossan, Pagels, DeConick, et al, Thomas, as Goodacre proves. was based on the Gospels. And therefore could hardly predate them.

Brief background: when the Coptic Thomas was published in 1959 "the majority view was that Thomas knew the Synoptic Gospels" (p 5). There are, indeed, striking similarities between the Synoptics and Thomas, only slightly obscured when reading Thomas in Coptic instead of Greek.

Goodacre marches through the standard liberal arguments like Sherman marching through Georgia, smashing down everything in front of him and taking no prisoners.

One good example is how he explains "that the absence of agreement in parts in parts of Synoptic-Thomas parallels indicates Thomas's ignorance of the Synoptic sayings as a whole...The difficulty with this line of argument can be illustrated ...from plagiarism in student work...When the students in question are accused of plagiarism, it is no excuse for them to point to the amount of material that they have not taken over" (p 54 -5).

Goodacre finds in Thomas 68 a strong clue pointing to the Bar Kochba revolt, and therefore indicating a date after 135 AD.

Another good clue: All the earliest Christian texts "refer to 'the apostles' and 'the twelve' as authoritative groups" (p 156). In contrast, Thomas addresses a secret collection of sayings to a small, elite group.
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the best book on the Gospel of Thomas to buy! 20 Feb 2013
By D. Peter Humphrys - Published on Amazon.com
In my opinion this is the best book on the Gospel of Thomas that I own and worth every penny which I paid for it. Although this book is aimed at a scholarly audience, it is accessible to a general reading public which is willing to do some intellectual work since this is not light reading. In keeping this book accessible to non-specialists - and the great majority of university students in theology/religious studies, I might add – , when Goodacre gives quotations of original texts in Greek and/or Coptic, he always provides a following English translation. Goodacre also provides very extensive footnotes, rather than awkwardly placed endnotes. The indices and bibliography are easy to use and I have no substantial complaints against them.

Goodacre is a proponent of Markan priority without Q, hence some people will not be too surprised by the position which he takes. Namely, that Thomas is not independent of the Synoptic Gospels and that it should be dated well into the second century C.E., after the Jews had been permanently expelled from Jerusalem - now Aelia Capitolina - by Hadrian. His essential argument is that the author of Thomas is aware of all three synoptic gospels and has made allusions to all streams of the synoptic material in order to give his alternative, non eschatological Jesus, a credible voice since the Synoptics were simply too well established for Thomas to argue against their perspective without interacting with the existing tradition which they preserved. In essence, Thomas shares an affinity with the Marcionite program of reshaping the received tradition and both are negative on the Jewish scriptures which the actual historical Jesus and his earliest followers were not.

I particularly enjoyed chapter 8, Orality, Literacy, and Thomas, for the insights which he gives for thinking about literacy and orality in the early Jesus communities. Overall, his tone is irenic and respectful of other scholarly positions and he does engage a very broad range of scholarly opinion. This was not a book written in a hurry and is well written.

One comment which I found rather funny, though I do not think that he intended to be so, is his comment about verbatim agreements of Thomas with the Synoptics on pages 44-45, where he notes that evidence of familiarity of one author’s work with another’s is not a matter of overall percentages. The humour here is that he is critiquing scholars who argue that there is a low overall percentage of agreement between Thomas and the Synoptics, and points out that they share the same fallacy found in Eta Linnemann’s Is There a Synoptic Problem, a book which most of them would strongly disparage for poor methodology. Perhaps one needs to read some of the negative scholarly reviews of Linnemann’s book to get the humour here, but I sure found his discussion at this point really funny.
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