With regard to the claim that Q and Thomasdo not emphasize the death and resurrection of Jesus, there are several reasons why this does not change either the facticity or the importance of these events. (1) Both of these texts are sayings documents and by far the primary purpose is to list the purported teachings of Jesus, not his actions or events in his life.
(2)Neither of these records is without its own serious problems on other grounds. The growing number of critical scholars who think there are sufficient grounds to doubt the very existence of Q or related hypotheses are listed by William Farmer,^31 who also contends that “the existence of Q, the fount of all these speculations, is not proven and today is more hotly contested in gospel scholarship than at any other time in our century.”^32
On the other hand, Koester’s reasons notwithstanding, it is generally concluded that Thomaswas originally written in the mid second century. One reason for this conclusion is the majority view that Thomasrelies on the gospel tradition in its citations. So, whether it preserves earlier traditions or not, it adds little to our knowledge of the life and teachings of Jesus.^33
30 Even a briefly-discussed list of relevant passages would be quite lengthy. So it will simply be said here that the death and resurrection of Jesus are, without much doubt, the chief interest of these early historical passages on the life of Jesus, although other events are also mentioned frequently. For details, see Clement, Corinthians42; Ignatius, Trallians 9; Smyrnaeans1; 3; Magnesians11; and Barnabas5. For an early text on Jesus’ miracles written by Quadratus about AD 125, see Eusebius, Ecclesiastical HistoryIV:III. For examples of historical interests in Justin Martyr (about AD 150), see First ApologyXXX, XXXII, XLVIII, L and Dialogue With TryphoLXXVII, XCVII, CVIII.
31 For a handy summary of arguments for and against theses such as the priority of Mark and the existence of Q, see David Barrett Peabody, “In Retrospect and Prospect,” The Perkins School of Theology Journal, Vol. XL, No. 2 (April, 1987), pp. 9–16. For a list of critical scholars who either advocate or lean toward other alternatives, see William R. Farmer, “Preface: Order Out of Chaos,” The Perkins School of Theology Journal, Vol. XL, No. 2 (April, 1987), pp. 1–6.
32 William R. Farmer, “The Church’s Stake in the Question of ‘Q’,” The Perkins School of Theology Journal, Vol. XXXIX, No. 3 (July, 1986), pp. 9–19.
33 See F.L. Cross and E.A. Livingstone, The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1974), s.v. “Thomas, Gospel of,” p. 1370. For a detailed summary, see Craig Blomberg, “Tradition and Redaction in the Parables of the Gospel of Thomas,” Gospel Perspectives, vol. 5 (Sheffield: JSOT, 1985), pp. 177–205; Craig Evans,“Jesus and the Gnostic Literature,” Biblica, vol. 62 (1981), pp. 406–412; France, Evidence for Jesus, pp. 75–78; Farmer, “Church’s Stake,” p. 14.
On this last point, Brown judges that “we learn not a single verifiable new fact about Jesus’ ministry and only a few new sayings that might plausibly have been his.”^34 Fitzmyer agrees, but in even stronger terms: “The Coptic texts of Nag Hammadi tell us little that is new . . . . It has been mystifying, indeed, why serious scholars continue to talk about the pertinence of this material to the study of the New Testament.”^35