Wisdom in the gospels of Thomas and John

Bea Mary Dorsey, Marquette University


An affinity between the Gospel of Thomas (GT) and the Gospel of John (GJ), noticed already when only the Greek fragments of GT were available, has become more apparent since the recovery of the Coptic GT. Explanations for this kinship thus far support the thesis that GT and GJ interpret a tradition of Jesus' sayings in relationship to each other, focusing on which was earlier and adapted by the other. This dissertation presents an alternative: GT and GJ are roughly contemporary texts that independently and distinctively interpret a tradition of Jesus' sayings. I attempt to recover these sayings, investigate how each gospel interprets them, and compare these interpretations for their areas of similarity and divergence. In the introduction I first review current research on the questions of GT and GJ's relationship to the Synoptics, and of GT and GJ's relationship to one another. Secondly, I propose a three-part thesis: (1) GT and GJ independently interpret a collection of sayings attributed to Jesus; (2) this tradition of sayings and these gospels witness to an early Christian wisdom theology; (3) this wisdom tendency is the matrix for both GT and GJ. Thirdly, I present a reading of GT and GJ that compares them to Jewish wisdom literature as a preface to the detailed analysis that follows. Lastly, I describe the method used in this study. In Chapter One I suggest that GT uses a variety of interpretive techniques to develop a wisdom commentary and that GJ creates a mythic story of Jesus as Wisdom. These heuristic macro-structures set the stage for the subsequent investigations. Each of Chapters Two through Six follows three steps: (1) the recovery of a traditional saying shared by GT and GJ through their formulations of it; (2) an examination of the saying's interpretation in GT and in GJ; (3) a comparison of these interpretations to measure the extent of their similarity and divergence. This dissertation has three major results: (1) the recovery of a sayings tradition; (2) its influence on GT's wisdom commentary and on GJ's story of Jesus as Wisdom; (3) a reading of GT and GJ as distinctive but compatible gospels of Christian wisdom.

Recommended Citation

Dorsey, Bea Mary, "Wisdom in the gospels of Thomas and John" (1998). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI9842428.