Thomasine Dominion Parables with Matthean Parallels - A Memory Studies Approach

Dissertation, University of New England (2018)

Jenna Redman
Seattle Pacific University
This thesis presents a methodology for comparing parables that takes seriously what we know about the way individuals and groups remember events and stories and about their oral transmission. It then uses the methodology to compare the six dominion parables in the Gospel of Thomas which are seen to have parallels in Matthew's gospel with their Matthean counterparts. The methodology looks at the parables as whole narratives within both their socio-historical and literary contexts before considering any metaphorical significance of individual parts of the narrative. I argue that an analysis combining psychological and sociological studies on human memory, eyewitness testimony and oral transmission provides compelling evidence that we do not have available the tools we need to establish either Jesus's actual words or the trajectories through which they passed before entering written records. This is, however, no different to the kind of information we have about any other historical figure of his time. A memory studies approach does, however, indicate that the authors of the Gospels conveyed what they remembered to be the actual words and events rather than producing a version that was intentionally manipulated for theological ends. Concepts from four key works have been particularly influential in the investigation: William Arnal's understanding of why Thomas is structured as it is; Joachim Jeremias's contention that the Greek ὅμοιος + dative construction indicates that the comparandum of a simile is being compared to the whole circumstance being described rather than just the apparent comparatum; Stephen Patterson's perception of the effect of persecution on the canonical presentation of the Jesus events and the likely difference in socio-historical context between the canon and Thomas; and Ruben Zimmermann's methodology of parable analysis. The application of the methodology has resulted in new insights into the parables studied that are more sustainable from the text than those previously offered, especially with respect to Gos. Thom. 20, 96, 107, and 109. Its application also demonstrates that while de-contextualised parables are polyvalent, the contexts within which the texts under consideration are found put significant limits on how the gospel authors might have intended them to be understood.
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