Chapter 3-Questionable Texts – Part 1: The Gospel of Thomas
Evans begins by looking at the debate concerning the dates of the extracanonical gospels and whether these gospels are necessary for research into the person of Jesus. He then turns to looking at one of these gospels, the Gospel of Thomas.
The Gospel of Thomas dates to late 2nd century (175-180 CE) and contains 114 “hidden” saying attributed to Jesus. These sayings that Jesus supposedly “spoke in private to Thomas and the other disciples.” (65) The emphasis of these teachings is on knowledge and knowing, and makes the Gospel of Thomas gnostic in nature.
Some scholars argue for a pre-Synoptic writing of the Gospel of Thomas, however, the date that is widely accepted is the late 2nd century base on evidence from the text itself.
(1) Thomas knows many of the New Testament writings. (2) Thomas contains Gospel materials that scholars regard as late. (3) Thomas reflects later editing in the Greek. (4) Thomas shows familiarity with traditions distinctive to Eastern, Syrian Christianity, traditions that did not emerge before the middle of the second century. (67-68)
Chapter 4-Questionable Texts – Part 2: The Gospel of Peter, the Egerton Gospel, the Gospel of Mary and the Secret Gospel of Mark
Evans begins by looking at the Gospel of Peter. The Gospel of Peter was written during the 2nd century CE and is docetic in nature (the physical reality of Jesus is denied). The first fragments of this gospel were found in Akhmîm, Egypt. Evans notes there are problems with the Akhmîm fragments. It appears that the author possessed little accurate knowledge of Jewish customs ans sensitivities. (83) There are embellishments and Christian apologetic. (84) There are issues surrounding the resurrection account. (84)
Evans then turns to the Egerton Gospel. The Egerton Gospel consists of four fragments and was written during the 2nd century CE. Problems with the Egerton Gospel include editorial improvements introduced by Matthew and Luke also appear in the Egerton Gospel (89), it appears that the author composed this gospel by selecting texts (see also Justin Martyr and Tatian) (89), and there is a mixture of John-like and Synoptic elements. (89)
Next, Evans looks at the Gospel of Mary. The Gospel of Mary consists of three overlapping fragments and dates to the mid-2nd century CE and “narrates a story in which Mary Magdalene relates to the other disciples the revelations that Jesus gave her.” (92) This is one of the texts used to infer that Jesus and Mary were lovers, however, there is support from the text for this claim.
Finally, Evans discusses the Secret Gospel of Mark. There are major issues surrounding this text and it is thought that the text itself is a forgery (it is thought to be a 20th century forgery). As such, it has nothing to offer modern scholarship.
Chapter 5-Alien Contexts: The Case Against Jesus as Cynic
Recent scholarship has portrayed Jesus as a “Pharisee, and Essene, a prophet, a great moral teacher, a philosopher, a charismatic holy man or a magician.” (100) One of the modern portrayals of Jesus is that of a Cynic. The evidence to support this claim is fairly weak at best. There is no literary or archaeological evidence to support the claim that there were Cynics in Galilee at the time of Jesus, so the likelihood that Jesus was a Cynic is non-existent.
In the next post, I’ll look at chapters 6-8.