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A Common Written Greek Source for Mark and Thomas

John Horman

Publication Year: 2011

This book uncovers an early collection of sayings, called N, that are ascribed to Jesus and are similar to those found in the Gospel of Thomas and in Q, a document believed to be a common source, with Mark, for Matthew and Luke. In the process, the book sheds light on the literary methods of Mark and Thomas. A literary comparison of the texts of the sayings of Jesus that appear in both Mark and Thomas shows that each adapted an earlier collection for his own purpose. Neither Mark nor Thomas consistently gives the original or earliest form of the shared sayings; hence, Horman states, each used and adapted an earlier source. Close verbal parallels between the versions in Mark and Thomas show that the source was written in Greek. Horman’s conclusion is that this common source is N.

This proposal is new, and has implications for life of Jesus research. Previous research on sayings attributed to Jesus has treated Thomas in one of two ways: either as an independent stream of Jesus sayings written without knowledge of the New Testament Gospels and or as a later piece of pseudo-Scripture that uses the New Testament as source. This book rejects both views.

Published by: Wilfrid Laurier University Press

Series: Studies in Christianity and Judaism


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pp. c-iv


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

This work could not have been completed without help from a large number of people. First and foremost, I should thank Magdalene Horman, my wife, who has read through the complete manuscript many times to check for spelling and grammatical errors,as well as for redundancy,inconsistency, obscurity, repetition, structural problems, in short, for all of the errors for which I reproach the author of the Gospel of Mark....

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pp. 1-10

In 1979,I proposed that the authors of the Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of Thomas shared a common written Greek source for their respective versions of the illustrative story of the sower,1 a source apparently represented, at least for this story, more accurately in Thomas. Since Matthew and Luke depend on Mark for their versions of that story, all versions of the story go back to that source. Such a source would have contained not only one story, but also ...

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The Scope of N

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pp. 11-22

In the pages that follow, I will argue that the gospels of Mark and Thomas shared a written Greek source for most—perhaps all—of the sayings attributed to Jesus that they have in common. Since it cannot be shown that either Mark or Thomas always give the earliest version of the sayings in this source, the best explanation is that both Mark and Thomas modified and adapted the sayings in this source to their own needs.While the date ...

The Sayings Common to Mark and Thomas

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pp. 23-134

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Other Candidates for N

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pp. 135-142

Since Thomas apparently did not use every saying in his sources, there may be additional sayings in Mark that can be ascribed to N.Mark transmits other sayings that are poorly integrated into the surrounding narrative. In some cases a narrative has been provided for them, while in other cases they are simply concatenated without narrative. In Mk. 9:38–50, for example, as in ...

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The Setting of N in Early Christianity

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pp. 143-150

In some ways, N is in an unsatisfactory condition. A major problem is that it lacks a structure or outline for the document as a whole since there is little evidence of a common order for the sayings shared by Mark and Thomas, except in the case of Mk. 12:1–10/Th. 65–66. It may also be that the order of sayings in Mk. 4:21–32 reflects the source since Mark makes no attempt to integrate these sayings into his narrative. If so, however,Thomas has not ...

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pp. 151-154

In this work I have outlined my reasons for supposing that a common Greek sayings source lies behind certain sayings shared by Mark and Thomas.The opening section gives the scope and a hypothetical and approximate text for such a source, built from cases where the texts of Mark and Thomas either require or support a literary relationship between these two gospels. Since such a relationship could be explained in a number of ways,I have then...


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Excursus 1: Sayings of Jesus and Narrative about Jesus in the Early Church

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pp. 157-172

Since the proposed new common source is a collection of sayings ascribed to Jesus, it is useful to discuss the place of such collections within first and second century Christianity.While sayings collections were eventually replaced by the more interesting narrative gospels and have largely disappeared, they seem to have been used by Christians even well into the third century. Much of the attitude of the early Christian movement to the special ...

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Excursus 2: Esoteric and Exoteric Sayings and Settings in Mark

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pp. 173-178

While for many readers, the Gospel of Thomas stands condemned even from its incipite because it purports to contain “hidden”or “esoteric”or “secret” (єөнп,perhaps from ἀπόκρυϕοι) sayings of Jesus,it is often forgotten in this context that the Gospel of Mark contains its own esoteric teachings along with exoteric teachings. These two kinds of sayings are distinguished by their settings: Esoteric sayings are usually addressed only to Jesus’s closest ...

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Excursus 3: Narrative Frameworks for Sayings in Mark

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pp. 179-192

Narrative in Mark is often used to place sayings of Jesus within exoteric or esoteric settings or to disarm many of the sayings which Mark shares with Thomas. The narratives, in these cases, are not for the most part interesting in their own right,nor would they be told except to provide a setting for a difficult saying.The whole narrative points to the saying, either laying out an initial situation which a pronouncement by Jesus will resolve or giving...

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Excursus 4: Structural Markers Indicating the Use of Sources in Thomas

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pp. 193-204

Like the Gospel of Mark,the Gospel of Thomas contains structural evidence for its use of sources. In Thomas, this structural evidence is part of the basic method of the author, and may be found both in the programmatic introduction to Thomas and in individual units.To date,however,no satisfactory account of the structure of Thomas has been given....

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Excursus 5: Thomas and the “Gnostics”

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pp. 205-214

Since its rediscovery,Thomas has frequently been called a “Gnostic”work.1 While this judgement is logically separate from the question of sources and date, in practice these issues have been tightly bound, since arguments used to prove that Thomas was Gnostic are also used to prove its dependence on the canonical gospels,2 while arguments for the independence of Thomas against the canonical gospels are also often used to prove that Thomas is not...


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pp. 215-240


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pp. 241-248


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pp. 249-257

E-ISBN-13: 9781554582426
E-ISBN-10: 1554583438
Print-ISBN-13: 9781554582242
Print-ISBN-10: 1554582245

Page Count: 270
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: Studies in Christianity and Judaism
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OCLC Number: 663714262
MUSE Marc Record: Download for A Common Written Greek Source for Mark and Thomas

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Subject Headings

  • Gospel of Thomas (Coptic Gospel)--Language, style.
  • Bible.--N.T.--Mark--Language, style.
  • Gospel of Thomas (Coptic Gospel)--Criticism, Textual.
  • Bible.--N.T.--Mark--Criticism, Textual.
  • Jesus Christ--Words.
  • Synoptic problem.
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