Thursday, April 05, 2007

The Doubting Thomas Pericope as Interpolation

I've mentioned previously on here my suspicion that the Doubting Thomas pericope is interpolated. I'm heavily indebted to Gregory J. Riley's Resurrection Reconsidered here. Unfortunately, I lost my copy somewhere or other some time ago, so can't provide specific references. I'll update at some later date with those in mind. Without further ado, Four Reasons to Doubt the Authenticity of the Doubting Thomas Pericope

1. There is no hint in the preceding pericope that Thomas is not present. Not only that, the qualifier that begins the pericope (20.24) that "Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came," betrays an author's awareness that there is no such hint. It makes the most sense to view this as a qualifier to an existing section, not as part of a flowing narrative.

2. 20.23 moves smoothly into 20.31. All of the promises have been fulfilled, the commission has been given. The DT pericope sits oddly in the midst of that.

3. It's redundant. Nothing is said of whether or not Thomas actually touches Jesus (though the tradition that he did is very early indeed), and the conclusion has nothing to do with touching--"You have seen and believed." But why is the DT pericope necessary to that end? Couldn't "You have seen. . .blessed are those who have not. . ." have flown from 20.20? The other disciples needed to see, the same as Thomas did.

4. Following from point 3, the implication that Thomas isn't blessed (like those who have not seen and believed) from 20.29 makes no sense in the light of 20.20. Surely the other disciples are blessed, yet they needed to see to believe as well.

For posterity's sake, a pair of arguments that it's authentic:

1. Thomas has three dialogues, all of which pertain to the resurrection (11.16, 14.5, 20.24-29)

2. 20.28 fulfills 5.23 "all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father"


Stephen C. Carlson said...

What do you mean by "interpolated"?

Added after the 21-chapter edition John was published? or inserted when the 21-chapter edition of John was composed?

Rick Sumner said...

Sorry about the delay in response, Stephen. Had some problems with Blogger, that seem to be resolved now.

I'm not sure where I'd put it--I could probably make a case either way. I don't think its authentic to the original version of John, I don't know if that happened before, with, or after 21 John. It could be that "Blessed isn't Thomas" flowed with "Blessed is Peter" (Jn.21), but either could conceivably provide the impetus for the other, so it's tough to make a case.

DimBulb said...

Hi, DE

I'm afraid I don't find these reasons very convincing. In the absence of manuscript evidence any reason for excluding a text should be taken with a huge grain of salt.

1) This reason is simply a begging of the question. if the DT episode is original to the text then one could logically expect the "qualifier."

2) If you read the gospel the way you would have written it (I call this "the sin of Rudolph Bultmann") Then your argument works, but what if the author had a different literary plan in mind? There is much in John that doesn't appear proceed smoothly to us moderns. John's whole Gospel is written concentrically, and thus, to Bultmann and many other modern scholars, appears disjointed`(The good shepherd theme of 9:39-10:21; the last supper discourse).

3)In 20:17 when our Blessed Lord appears to St Mary Magdalene he tells her not to hold on for "I have not YET ascended to my Father." The "yet" implies that afterwards she will be able to hold onto him, this is done through faith. In my opinion, "touch" can be used as synonomous with faith, just as sight can

Comboxes sometimes reject lengthy comments and I need to pray, I'll continue latter.

DimBulb said...

Continuing 3# from my previous comment.

Here is what I believe to be the concnetric structure of Jn 20:19-21:25. I'm relying on Peter Ellis' THE GENIUS OF JOHN, though I've changed some of his wording.

A) 20:19-23 Our Risen Lord commissions the apostles.

B1) 20:24-29 Our Risen Lord's presence is required for the conversion of Thomas.

C) 20:30-31 The purpose of the signs.

B2) 21:1-14 Our Risen Lord's presence is required for the catch of fish.

A2) 21:15-25 Our Risen Lord commissions Peter

I believe the parallel structure demands that we take the DT episode and all of Ch. 21 as integral to the Gospel.

I would also point out a couple of word plays in the Greek text of the DT episode and its parallel, the fishing event. Thomas says he will not believe unless he can "place" (balo) his "finger" (daktylon) in our Blessed Lord's hands and wounded side (pleura) (20:25)and is invited to do just that by the Risen Lord (20:27). In the parallel fishing episode (21:1-14), the Risen Lord tells his disciples "Cast (balete) the net (diktyon) on the right side (pleura) of the boat and they will find fish.

The idea seems to be that the presence of our Risen Lord is essential for the mission of the Church (A1 and A2; see also Mt 28:20 and 2 Tim 4:1). That mission includes conversion (B1) and the finding and bringing of people (fish) to our Blessed Lord. Recall that in the opening sequence of the body of the Gospel (1:19-51) Andrew finds Simon Peter and brings him to Jesus. Likewise, Jesus finds Philip, and Philip finds Nathanael and brings him to Jesus.

Another reason for accepting the DT episode as integral, along with all of Chapter 21 is the fact that John, like Matthew, has written his Gospel in reverse parallel. What I mean is that the second half of his Gospel parallels the first, but in reverse order. In other words, the first sequence of the Gospel body (1:19-51) parallels the last sequence (20:19-2125); the second sequence (2:1-12) parallels the second to last sequence (20:1-18); the third sequence (2:13-25) parallels the third to last (18:1-19:42), ect.

In sequence 1 (1:19-51) the mission of the Baptist is emphasized and the future mission of the Church (finding disciple) is foreshadowed. In seq. 21 (20:19-21:25) the mission of the Church is conferred. In S1 Peter is singled out, as he is in S2. In S1 the Baptist sees the Holy Spirit descend upon Jesus whom he declares will "take away the sin of the world." In S2 the Blessed Lord gives the Spirit to the apostle and says "Whose sins you forgive are forgiven, whose sins you retain are retained." In both sequences two un-named disciple are mentioned and one is latter identified. Both sequences take place, in part, near a body of water. St Peter is singled out in both sequences. And in both St Nathanael is mentioned for the only times in the Gospel. In S1 St Nathanael's skepticism is overcome when Jesus reveals special knowledge concerning him. In S2 St Thomas' skepticism is overcome when the Risen Lord appears to him. Mister Ellis lists many other impressive parallels.

In S2 (2:1-12) Our Lord, at a wedding, calls Our Lady, Mary, "woman", and implies a sort of separation which will not be lasting: "my hour has not YET come". In S20 another Mary is termed "woman" by our Lord and a seperation which is implied as not a lasting one is expressed in the words "I have not yet ascended to my Father". There is nuptial overtones to Mary Magdalene's search for Jesus with allusions to the brides search for the groom in the Son of Songs.

In S3 (2:13-25) Our Blessed Lord speaks of the destruction of his temple/body, and in S19 (18:1-19:42) that destruction is narrated. You get the idea, I'm sure.

4) The statement about being blessed could be taken as meaning that those who have not seen the Lord bodily are in no way inferior to those who have (see the beginning of John's first letter), because the Risen Lord is still active in and through his Church.