Thursday, September 14, 2006

Reviews of Nicholas Perrin on Thomas and Tatian

Nicholas Perrin (Wheaton, IL, USA) has argued in several works that the Gospel of Thomas was dependent on Tatian's Diatessaron, see: Nicholas Perrin, Thomas and Tatian: The Relationship Between the Gospel of Thomas and the Diatessaron (AB 4; Leiden, Brill, 2002); idem, ‘NHC II,2 and the Oxyrhynchus Fragments (P.Oxy 1, 654, 6550): Overlooked Evidence for a Syriac Gospel of Thomas,’ VC 58 (2004): 138-51; idem, ‘Thomas: The Fifth Gospel?’ JETS 49 (2006): 67-80.

I find Perrin's proposal very attractive, but confess that I remain agnostic about the overall thesis. I think the strength of Perrin's arugment is that a Syrian provenance for Thomas seems quite probable, the Diatessaron may have been the first or only Gospel-like piece of literature available in Syriac at the end of the first century, the reconstruction of common catchwords in Syriac is suggestive of a Syriac original for Thomas, and perhaps the order of the sayings in the Diatessaron in comparison with Thomas is a possible indication of dependency. On the other hand, an original Greek text for Thomas is not impossible esp. since we do have Greek fragments. What is more there are simply too many unknowns in the equations to be decisive, esp. when we are talking about Syriac texts which we do not have access too. Like many others, I am simply not qualified to be able make an informed decision about matters pertaining to Syriac or the Diastessaron in order to either affirm or disagree with Perrin's proposal. That being said, if Perrin is correct then there's a lot of North American scholarship that can be taken to the trash can for good.

Mark Goodacre coveniently lists the reviews of Perrin by David Parker, Paul-Hubert Poirier, Robert Shedinger, and Peter Williams.

1 comment:

Danny Zacharias said...

I know Craig Evans finds Perrin's argument convincing and relies heavily on it in his critique of Thomas. But what do you make of Mark Goodacre's comments about the (sometimes) verbatim parallels of the Greek? That certainly weakens the proposal of a syriac origin, no?