Paul and the Gospel of Thomas (Part I)
What is the relationship, if any, between the writings of Paul and the Thomas sayings tradition? I am currently finishing an article on this topic for a volume that will be coming out later this year. Very little has been written on this topic over the years, though Simon Gathercole has recently provided a helpful article on the subject (see “The Influence of Paul on the Gospel of Thomas [53.3 and 17]’, in J. Frey, E. E. Popkes, and J. Schroter, eds., Das Thomasevangelium: Entstehung – Rezeption – Theologie [BZNW 157; Berlin: de Gruyter, 2008], 72-94).
Apart from the occasional footnote or passing reference to potential parallels between the two, Thomas scholars have had little to say about the possibilities of a genetic relationship between Paul and Thomas, and Pauline scholars have virtually ignored Thomas altogether. Gathercole comments, “I am not aware of a single article or book on the subject” (p. 72). This fact makes it even more difficult to approach the topic and allows for precious few conversation partners. Add to this that there is little consensus on the major issues in Thomasine studies and the prospects for exploring a possible relationship between Paul and the Gospel of Thomas seem even more tenuous. I find myself in substantial agreement with Gathercole’s conclusion that there are a handful of instances where the Gospel of Thomas‘s knowledge of Pauline traditions can be detected, but I believe this thesis can be taken a step further.
Over the next few weeks I plan to investigate this subject further in a series of posts. I also hope to consider how different Pauline traditions have been modified, reworked, or completely rejected in the light of Thomas‘s peculiar theological interests. Stay tuned for more.