Presupposing Ground Zero: The Common Sayings Tradition

I’ll presume, for purposes of this thread, that 1) Q does, in fact, exist and 2) That Thomas is relatively independent from the canonical gospels, and from Q.

That said, it seems inescapable to conclude that Thomas and Q have a similar source, either written or oral–there must be a ground zero from which these two sources draw.

That common source, it is presumed, must be Jesus O’ Naz himself. Indeed, the Jesus Seminar has based virtually all of their work on that simple premise–Jesus is ground zero.


Believe it or not, it’s a simple question that has never been answered. No argument, to my knowledge, has been tendered (save Mack’s sad attempt) for Jesus being the common source. The converse is fatal to the Jesus Seminar. Why have they not addressed it?

In advance, I’ll rebut the only defence of it that I can fathom–these sayings never appear in another context, and are never attributed to anyone else.

This argument is moot. Apocryphal sayings are even today ascribed to all sorts of people, with never a hint that anyone else may have said them–Einstein and Mark Twain probably have dozens all by themselves. So does W. C. Fields. George Washington “Cannot tell a lie,” the list goes on.

Traditions–written and oral–will always gravitate toward the best known version. That best known version attributed them to Jesus. That doesn’t mean that Jesus said them.

I’d suggest the following reasons to be suspicious (there are others, and they can be expanded on as the need arises, but this can get us started).

  1. Perhaps the most common criticism of the Jesus Seminar–these sayings aren’t Jewish. They aren’t Jewish sentiments that have been Hellenized, they’re Greek sayings that have been Judaized. Giving it an extra-spiffy name like “Jewish Cynic” is like putting a yarmulke on Diogenes of Sinope. That doesn’t make him Jewish.

  2. If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck. . .Looks like a cynic wisdom collection, probably was a cynic wisdom collection. Drop “Jesus said” off of the common sayings, and you could put whatever name you like in front of them, and they’d serve just fine.

  3. It’s a question of context. Jesus was the only Jew in all of Israel who didn’t believe in a vengeful God? Make that the first Jew in all of Israel? And wait, didn’t John Crossan and Funk say that they’d dislike Jesus if he believed in a vengeful God? Isn’t that serendipitous! It simply doesn’t fit.

  4. More immediate context. No “Sayings tradition” survives from Jesus’ more reknowned (at least then) teacher. Nobody gives any indication that John the Baptist was anything but the most Jewish of Jews. Paul knows nothing of any “Jewish Cynic.” Those immediately preceeding and proceeding Jesus give no indication that we should expect anything like the Common Sayings Tradition to arise.

For these reasons, I suggest the Common Sayings are exactly what they appear to be–a Cynic Wisdom collection. Did Jesus have some Cynic like sayings? Probably. They’re quick, witty, and easy to remember. But the majority of the common sayings are apocryphal. It’s a pre-existent Cynic collection ascribed to Jesus, eventually redacted by Jewish hands, not one that sprang from him.

All commonality can show us is that Q and Thomas had a common source. It cannot show us that this common source was Jesus.


I should probably note that the general gist of this argument belongs to Earl Doherty. Doherty, however, contends that the absence of a secure ground zero renders Jesus ahistorical. I must beg to differ–and Doherty’s argument, ironically enough, is contingent on a stratification of Q that presupposes ground zero. But that’s another story, for another thread. My argument, in contrast, calls for a restratification, as well as an increased emphasis on the acts of Jesus for establishing ground zero of the Jesus traditions.


Some questions for clarification:

-How would you restratify Q? Do you accept Q1 or would you propose something different? (I’m guessing you may invert Q1 and Q2 if you think that they have a Greek cynical origin rather than a Jewish one?)

-How would you stratify Thomas?

-Isn’t it true that no religious culture is completely homogenous and that individuals do arise who formulate unique visions which are out of step with the norm? This is especially true in the psychpathological model of cult formation in which one individual is motivated by very personal “visions” or other mystic experiences which often arise in times of cultural crisis.

In the case of Jesus, I would suggest that it’s plausible that an individual could formulate a reinterpretation of traditional eschatology which was sapiential and utopian rather than apocalyptic.

I’m not offering this as a settled conclusion, I’m only asking if you think it’s plausible. I would also add that this model of cult formation usually springs up around an individual who not only has a unique or gratifying vision but who also has a strong personal charisma.

-What would you say about some of the reasoning offered by the Jesus Seminar about an internally consistent rhetorical and theological style for certain sayings which would indicate a common author?

  • Are there any Hellenistic or Cynical traditions which express sentiments which are rhetorically similar to or reflective of certain sayings like “Love your enemy.” or any of the beatitudes…or the parables for that matter. The Good samaritan, for instance takes off on a saying from Hebrew Scripture (“Love your neighbor”) and offers a culture specific explication of what it means. I’m aware that the Good Samaritan is Lukan and not from Q but it’s an example of a parable which seems Jewish in nature and is stylistically similar to the Q sayings.

  • I’m curious to hear what acts of Jesus you would place at ground zero and how it fits into common sayings. I’m aware that a number of the miracles are echos of other Hellenistic traditions (e.g. water into wine = the vine of Dionysus). Does your reconfiguration theorize a Greek “ground zero?”

BTW, Iscariot, I still se the word “guest” under your name. Do you have any intention of subscribing? I hope you do. I’d hate to lose a Doper who shares such a common interest as early Christian history.

I second DtC’s hope.

Nitpick: henceforth, could this discussion and others like it use the technical term “hyparchetype” instead of “ground zero”? Unless there is a standard use of the term “ground zero” in Biblical and/or textual studies that I’m not aware of, it seems to me like a less informative and possibly misleading idiom; I know that before I opened this thread, I thought it would have something to do with 9/11 or Hiroshima.

I think some of Kloppenborg’s Q1 is genuine Jesus, just not all of it–or even most of it. I’d move a lot of the apocalyptic sayings back–I think they’re authentic and early.

I’d keep it more or less as is. The tradition that Jesus said the Cynic sayings is early, I just don’t think it’s true. Apocalypticism was redacted out of Thomas (what use would a Gnostic community have for it? Particularly given how flagrant such a message would fly to Gnosticism at large–the kingdom is inside you, not an outside event), not redacted into Q.

I’d suggest it isn’t probable though–it doesn’t fit his context on any level–neither the intermediary (JBap and Paul) nor the general (Judaism in the first century).

More importantly, it doesn’t explain why he died, but his followers didn’t. Probably the most secure fact about the life of Jesus is that he died on a Roman cross, but his followers were allowed not only to continue, but to continue in Jerusalem.

Jesus and Jesus alone had to be seen as a potential threat. I’d suggest given the information available, the only truly viable explanation of that is that Jesus promised to be the agent of an eschatological miracle, perhaps the destruction of the temple and it’s rebuilding in three days–a tradition that seemed to have caused all parties who mention it some embarassment.

All Rome needs to do to falsify that is execute Jesus, and so they did. I’d reccommend Paula Fredriksen’s Jesus of Nazareth: King of the Jews. Fredriksen writes with the skill of a novelist–even Crossan pales in comparison–and more importantly, she’s right.

Did the cult spring up around Jesus? Or later, around his followers?

They have a common author–the redactor of Q1.

I’d suggest some of the parables are authentic. The Jesus Seminar is far too generous with them though–sort of a “I like them, therefore Jesus said them” mentality. Loving your enemies is praised all over the place, one doesn’t need to look very far to see that.

I don’t think the Good Samaritan is authentic at all–the JSem voted it either red or pink (I can’t remember which, and don’t have the book handy–the other is the Prodigal Son, one of those is red, the other pink). No real argument is presented for it, and it seems entirely unrealistic to me to presume that such a lengthy passage could be remembered.

I’d suggest you’re looking at a Lukan elaboration on other themes.

I’m not a big fan of the mystery school parallels–I think they’re hugely overdone. The Dutch Radicals and the “School of the Religions” died out for a reason.

I’d suggest the most integral “act” is that Jesus died on a cross, as noted above, but his followers didn’t. His message cannot, therefore, be the cause of that execution, because his followers continued that message unmolested. Thus falls Jesus the teacher, Jesus the Cynic, and Jesus the egalitarian social prophet.

The second most important facet is often overlooked in contemporary scholarship. Jesus as a miracle worker. I wouldn’t go so far as Morton Smith (who had Jesus the Magician, when he wasn’t busy forging Secret Mark), but Twelftree is bang on in observing that the only thing that the movement can really be hinged on is that people believed Jesus worked miracles–it’s the common thread between Jesus and other Messianic figures (not the only thread, but I’d suggest the most integral). It’s something his contemporaries would have looked for in any spiritual leader–a tangible proof that he had the favor of God.

E P Sanders provides a list of Acts of Jesus he thinks are bedrock history, which Peter cites on his site I’d more or less agree with Sanderrs, though if you read his work, I think he’s hinged too much on the Temple Incident–I’m not even positive there was one, it’s certainly not integral to my reconstruction (Fredriksen argues strongly against it having a basis in history. She sent me an unpublished article on the matter some time ago, if you’d like I could forward it to you). I’d give it a pink bead, because it sure “Sounds like Jesus,” but it’s not terribly important to my model one way or the other.


Alas, paying for the privillege of forfeiting copyright seems too much like publishing a book with a vanity press for my tastes.


I almost missed your comment regarding the beattitudes.

The beattitudes are pure Judaism–though moreso in Matthew than in Luke. The Dead Sea Scrolls contain a similar collection.

It’s a tough call whether or not Jesus said them though–the beattitudes in the DSS are unattributed, it’s easy to see how such an unattributed collection could work it’s way into a written sayings source.

Here’s another to mull over–why does the Epistle of James seem to know so many Q sayings, but does not seem to know that they’re attributed to Jesus?

Could we be looking at a smoking gun?


I understand this is your view but I don’t think a non-apocalyptic eschatology is as unlikely as you do. I do think that Jesus was a follower of John the Baptist at some point but I don’t think that means he couldn’t have reformulated his ideology after JBap’s execution…especially if Jesus had experienced the kind of psychotic experience (visons, mystical insights, etc.) which are at the core of psychopathological cult formation and which are often precipitated by cultural or personal crisis. If vision-seeking sojourns in the desert were customary then it’s not out of the question that the seeming destruction of JBap’s movement could have led to the kind of cognitive dissonance and psychological crisis which foments religious psychosis and unique cognitive solutions. I would hypothesize that the arrest and execution of John the Baptist led Jesus to a psychotic break and a reformulation of his own eschatology.

I also think it’s possible that Jesus was influenced by Hellenistic thought within Palestine. It’s not like it was so foreign to the Jews.

I don’t think any of those contexts would necessarily be expected to reflect it. Paul seemed to have no real interest at all in historical Jesus, and in my scenario, JBap and tradition Judaism would predate his unique, mystic/psychotic experiences.

I don’t have an answer for this right now, but I will simply speculate a bit…I think it’s possible that you may be overestimating the significance which with the Romans regarded Jesus. If they simply saw him as a nut causing trouble at the Temple, the arrest and execution could have been fairly casual and perfunctory. They didn’t want trouble during Passover so they hauled him away like he was a drunk at a bar. Whatever followers Jesus had (and I’m not convinced there were twelve) simply scattered into the crowd and the Roman authorities didn’t deem it important enough to try to locate them. If the execution of Jesus meant nothing special to the Romans (he probably was just one of a group) then the revival of a Jesus movement in Jerusalem several years later would have meant nothing either. I see no reason to believe the Romans would even have remembered who Jesus was and they would have had no interest in some later sect which was non-political in nature and seemed to have no designs towards any kind of revolt.

I think he may have made some comment about destroying the Temple (along the lines of Crossan’s “unbrokered kingdom” speculations) but I don’t think I buy the part about rebuilding in three days. That part seems like redaction to me. I suspect that he said something more like GThom 71 (“I will destroy this house and no one will be able to rebuild it”) and that he saw the Temple itself as an obstruction to God.

Perhaps. I haven’t read Fredriksen. I still don’t think it’s necessary for the Romans to have percieved Jesus as particularly important in order to have crucified him, thogh.

Or around Paul?

Good question. I’m guessing that there was a movement around a historical Jesus, whether it rose to the level of a cult rather than just a rabbi with a following is another question.

Isn’t this begging the question? The redactor is not the originator is he?

The Good Samaritan was voted red by the JS, I don’t remember about the Prodigal Son.

Could you elaborate on why you don’t think the Samaritan is authentic?

The mystery cults can’t be ignored completely but I agree that some people have greatly exaggerated their significance.

But his actions at the Temple could have been the cause. His intentions need not have been apocalyptic in order to be seen as threatening or even just obnoxious.

I think he was seen as a healer and an exorcist, but I don’t see a nature miracle tradition in Q or in Thomas. If the healings were spiritual in nature and if they were performed for those who were generally deemed unworthy or “unclean” by his own cultural standards, then that in itself would make him attractive and popular among the peasents, the poor and the fringe dwellers. It would have also been subversive, of course, but I don’t see a subversive ethical movement as being as improbable as you evidently see it.

I see Sanders as being too wedded to an apocalyptic Jesus but I agree that the most likely acts of Jesus were the crucifixion and the baptism by John.

I would be interested in reading Fredriksen’s paper. If you could forward it to my email address I would be grateful.

Actally, I’m don’t know if you can view my profile as a guest so I better post my email here.

What destruction of the baptist’s movement? It clearly carried on until at least the beginning of the second century–John has to deal with his followers.

See this article for why this is a fantasy.

Hellenism, to the degree needed for the Jewish Cynic was alien to Judaism. Even Philo, the most Hellenized of all surviving Jewish literature, falls well short of a “Jewish Cynic.”

Paul had no problems breaking with Jewish tradition, there’s no reason to expect it to influence him here.

If Paul is not interested in an historical Jesus, then odds are good there wasn’t one. It’s curious that he’s interested in an apocalyptic message, but knows nothing of a Jewish Cynic. Still curiouser the number of Q sayings that appear in James (as well as in Clement) with no attribution to Jesus.

We’re left the question of what the point of the entire incident was then though. First of all, the temple services were necessary to the functioning ot the temple–he wasn’t “cleansing it” of anything. Secondly, nobody would see him except those immediately present–even Roman soldiers garrisoned along the temple walls would not have a view of the events.

This is a pattern not matched by any other Messianic figures. You’d make it an exception to the universal rule–Theudas, the Egyptian, the Samaritan Prophet.


You run into the same problem with the temple incident. Because of the layout of the temple, and the number of people there, his actions would scarcely have gone noticed. There’s no need for an execution as a result of that. Certainly no reason to presume the Roman authorities would run the risk of offending the populace during a volatile time–riots were most likely at passover.

Who would redact that? Mark denies that Jesus said it, and John provides a specious apologetic in its stead (the temple of his body).

Nobody wanted any part of it, there’s no reason for them to make it up.

And now you have a non-Jewish Jesus. Even the Essenes, with all their hatred of the priestly establishment, could not fathom destroying the temple.

Diogenes in a yarmulke is still a Greek.

It’s certainly necessary for them to have thought him important to have executed him when they did–around Passover. The effect needed to demoralize more than it inspired. This works if he’s executed for a prophetic message in which he plays the role of agent. It doesn’t if he’s causing disturbances.

Why does the originator have to be Jesus? Couldn’t the originator have been an actual Cynic?

That there is one source for most of it doesn’t mean that one source is Jesus–that’s rather the point I’m trying to make. The common source for the common sayings does not have to be Jesus. In fact, I see no reason to think it is Jesus, and have provided several to think that it isn’t.

Essentially because it’s too long. And because the criteria of embarassment mandates that the sayings of Jesus condemning Gentiles are authentic, sayings where he applauds them aren’t.

The JS provides nothing for it (or the prodigal son, which would be the pink one then), except–essentially–“I like it, Jesus said it.”

Touch blue, make it true.

For the most part they can. The overwhelming consensus of the School of the Religions was that they had wasted their time.

There’s influence, to be sure, but not enough that one should be troubled if their reconstruction or commentary doesn’t reflect them.

See J Z Smith Drudgery Divine.

If they weren’t apocalyptic, then what purpose did they serve? Your suggestion above robs Jesus of his Jewishness. An egalitarian message is moot–what purpose would it serve to condemn an essential service? A service essential to Jews.

That would make him a miracle worker.

I didn’t say there were any.

If the healings were spiritual in nature and if they were performed for those who were generally deemed unworthy or “unclean” by his own cultural standards, then that in itself would make him attractive and popular among the peasents, the poor and the fringe dwellers.


That in itself provides the lynchpin for the success of the movement.

You keep repeating that, I’d like some evidence of it.

Careful, you haven’t read him yet. You probably should–again, he’s requisite reading, really.

I’ll have to dig it up from a CD kicking around here. Will forward ASAP.




I noticed you’re still a guest, Iscariot. I hope you’ve decided to join us by noon tomorrow. While I heartily disagree with some of what you’ve said, I have enjoyed reading your posts.

There are three main ways of publishing in which you forfeit copyright (there are others, but these are the major ones).

  1. Journals. They solicit your participation. Nobody pays anybody.

  2. Magazines/Publishing Houses. They pay you.

  3. Vanity Press. You pay them.

This would certainly be most analogous to the last. I can’t confidently say that I won’t come up with something that I’d like to own–or at least share with a free service (or, better yet, get paid for).

I’m not about to pay for the privillege of giving the SMDB my footnote.


Sorry for the hijack, Iscariot, but I’ll also be sorry to see you go. Much of what you talk about is over my head, but I’ve been fascinated to watch the discussion. I’m a little puzzled over the copyright issue, the agreement at the bottom of the page says:

emphasis added
You aren’t forfeiting copyright, so I don’t quite get your objection. You are potentially giving them them the ability to reuse, but as you noted, that can happen in any number of different ways and you’ve been doing that all along. Obviously, you feel that the interaction with other users (okay, well, DtC, but I swear I’ll jump in if I ever have anything intelligent to contribute :wink: ) is worth the sacrifice of the copyright. Is it not also worth the $5? My email is available if you’d like to talk further offline. I really do wish you’d rethink this.

Yes, I am forfeiting copyright–they can republish it without notification. If you want to be semantic, I’m forfeiting sole copyright, but the fact remains that I am no longer the sole owner of what I write, and I’d be paying for this great privillege.

The difference between tendering my input for free and paying to do so is akin to the difference between publishing in a journal, or publishing a vanity press. It’s one thing to give it up free, it’s quite another to pay to do so.

Forfeiting copyright is the price on pays to partake on forums like this, and indeed more academic forums, like Crosstalk, or the Synoptic-L, and if you want to take it a step further, the price paid for being published in peer-reviewed journals.

I’m not about to pay more than that, however small the amount.


Iscariot, I think you’ve got some good points here, but I can’t go the whole distance with you.

The problem is that it doesn’t look like a cynic wisdom collection. I’m working my way through this book by Richard Horsley, and he makes a convincing case about the characteristically Jewish outlook of Q. (He also devastates Kloppenborg’s stratification of Q.) Q has a typical prophetic outlook: the rulers have turned away from God, the call to repentance, the apocalyptic sanctions. Q makes frequent references to OT themes and persons. He argues that Kloppenborg’s characterization of “Q1” as “sapiential” is basically wrong. The sayings concerned don’t necessarily show sapiential characteristics, and many do show apocalyptic/prophetic characteristics. If the apocalyptic stuff is truly as original as Q1, and you seem to think it is, then it’s hard to argue that Q is “judaized hellenism”.

Here, and in your comments about Clement and James, I think you’re right.

Another point Horsley makes is about oral tradition. 1st century Palestine was basically illiterate. Q and the Gospels were originally read aloud, or rather “performed”. The followers of JtB and Jesus didn’t spend their time passing out leaflets, they stood in the streets (or rivers?) and prophesied. At some point, one of these performances was recorded in writing.

There’s just a few more points I want to address. I know Iscariot can’t respond any more but I need to answer a couple of his questions.

I said seeming destruction. The arrest and execution of John the Baptist would have seemed to have ended his movement at the time and may well have severely shaken the faith of his followers, including Jesus, in the credibility of the movement.

I never said he was “cleansing” the Temple of anything, I just said he was causing trouble. Exactly what he was doing and why cannot be readily discovered so any explanation I would give would be speculative. With that caveat, I think it involved some sort of symbolic condemnation of the temple as an institution. He wasn’t cleaning it up or anything, he was denying its very necessity.

(more on this in a moment)

I don’t believe that Jesus was a Messianic figure when he was alive- at least not a self identified one. I think he saw himself as a prophet, not a king.

BTW, John the Baptist was called the Messiah by some and his followers were not killed.

Now this is a valid objection under normal circumstances. Purging the temple courtyards would be like trying to clear the concourse of a football stadium during the Superbowl and obviously that didn’t happen. Whatever he did would have been a symbolic gesture in a small area not observable to most of the courtyard. However, let’s not forget that Jesus had a following-- perhaps a very large following. If the trumphal entry in Jerusalem is to be taken “at face value” (as Fredriksen says in her paper-- thanks again for sending that) then is it not reasonable to suppose that he might attract a crowd at the temple. Even those who were not his followers would probably be curious. It would be like spying a celebrity at the mall. People look, even if they aren’t fans. In the case of Jesus, I will again take Fredriksen’s own surmise that he was in the habit of speaking at the temple before Passover. If such was the case, and the size of his following was as the entry into Jerusalem would advertise, then his actions would have been much more noticable because he would have a crowd around him. The guards on the walls would be much more alert to a guy with an audience than to just some random, anonymous individual.

I would suggest that Jesus was speaking to an audience at the temple and punctuated some point about the temple by knocking over a table or uttering some phrase about it’s destruction. If he had an audience, then the audience would react with shock, they would make noise , it would attract attention. At Passover, the Romans were paranoid about riots and this kind of disturnance, one which seemed to stir up a crowd, would probably move them to take action against the inciter. His message wouldn’t matter. What would matter is that he was riling up a crowd in the temple. I think that, at the least, I’m right that Jesus would have attracted a crowd, especially if he was speaking. I would at least have to ask why he wouldn’t attract a crowd if he got such a big welcome into Jerusalem.

I think you’re underselling the idiosyncrasies of the mystic experience. I can make a long and comprehensive argument for this but since you can’t respond here anymore I’ll just leave it at that.

If they thought he might cause a riot, that’s all the cause they needed. I don’t think they cared what his message was and I don’t think they cared about chasing a handful of anonomous “disciples” in a crowded city. By the time the Jesus movement was renewed in Jerusalem, I doubt the Romans would have remembered or cared that the movement had anything to do with some insignificant crank who was crucified a couple of years before. I see no reason to believe that the Romans would even have been aware that there was a Jesus movement. The city was full of splinter sects. Why should the authorities take notice of one more?

Why does the originator have to be Jesus? Couldn’t the originator have been an actual Cynic?

I don’t think you’ve shown that it’s necessary for the orginator to have been a Cynic or that it’s impossible for the originator to have been a Jew- especially a mystic Jew. The nature of mystic/psychopathogical experiences is that they will often result in dramatic, idiosyncratic reinterpretations of previously held beliefs. The fact that some of Jesus’ sayings don’t seem Jewish doesn’t prove conclusively that a Jew didn’t say them. You can’t always predict the actions or ideas of an individual by the standards of his cultural context. People are unpredictable. They can be off the wall.

If they weren’t apocalyptic, then what purpose did they serve? Your suggestion above robs Jesus of his Jewishness. An egalitarian message is moot–what purpose would it serve to condemn an essential service? A service essential to Jews.
The message is precisely that it wasn’t essential. That sacrifice wasn’t necessary. That there was no need for an institutional intermediary. That access to God was immediately available to all.

Yes, that would have been radical. Yes it would have been almost incomprehensively shocking to a Jewish audience (and the gospels show an almost complete bafflement at Jesus’ actions in the temple), yes it would seem almost singularly “unJewish” by the standards of the time. But I also think that Jesus was driven by his own personal visions, that he intended to subvert the legalistic mechanics of his religion, and that the radical nature of his ideology is not proof that a mystic Jew could not formulate such an ideology.

Not literally. “Healing” was a ritual, spiritual exercise, not a literal curing of maladies. I think that many would have seen Jesus as generous and compassionate for performing them but I don’t know that they would have seen it as “miraculous” (but, of course, we still have “faith-healers” even now, and many cultures, past and present, contain ritual healers and people who attest to literally being healed, so some psychosomatic aspects to the healings of Jesus may be plausible as well as a reputation).

I’m not asserting it as fact, I’m asserting it as plausible. I haven’t seen evidence that it’s impossible and from what I know of mysticism, unique and subversive ideologies can and do emerge in individuals.

The only distance I’m trying to go right now is to observe that there’s no grounds for presuming Jesus is “Ground Zero.”

You’re agreement regarding Clement and James, and you’re following of Horsley’s argument (who called Mack and Kloppenborg et al. “Unsupported, unhistorical and unrealistic” in The Message and the Kingdom (with Neil Asher Silberman)) is going the distance with me, at least so far as this thread go.

I’m arguing against the common sayings tradition–Q1 as it is accepted by the Jesus Seminar–the gist of my concerns seem to have been lost somewhere along the line–perhaps another thread should be started regarding apocalypticism to avoid confusion.

Presuming, a priori, that if Thomas and Q have a common source (oral or written), that common source must be Jesus–that is the position I’m arguing against. James and Clement also share that source. They don’t seem to have any awareness that Jesus said these wise Cynic sayings.

If Q1 doesn’t look like the Q1 of the Jesus Seminar’s work, then there is no common sayings tradition, and thus no inherently presupposed ground zero–again, you’re already going the distance.

I agree. I’m unpersuaded by Horlsey at large–that Jesus’ message was egalitarian–it doesn’t explain why he died, but his followers didn’t. Horsley, I think, is perhaps in the worst shape of any contemporary scholar on this point–Jesus died for a flagrantly undermining (and thus inherently, to the Romans, seditious) message, but his followers got to carry on unmolested. That makes no sense.

I haven’t read the book you linked, but I have read The Message and the Kingdom, and was less than impressed. A frustrating absence of any discussion of methodology, an even more frustrating absence of footnotes, and an awful lot of superhero Jesus, standing down the mighty imperial authorities like Maximus from the Gladiator.


I think, perhaps, that we’ve all lost sight of my original question–how do we know that the common source for Thomas and Q is Jesus?

I’ll start another thread on apocalypticism later, and respond to this one when I have more time.

For FriendRob:

I should have noted this above, but forgot. You might benefit as well from the Fredriksen article I sent Diogenes–probably moreso than him, actually. Something I wish Fredriksen had spent more time explicitly condemning in her book is Horsley’s position, because her argument implicitly crucifies his entire case–far, far moreso than it does Crossan, Funk et al… You might want to take a look at her book as well, Jesus of Nazareth: King of the Jews (skip From Jesus to Christ, I was less than impressed).


I’ve commented on Clement and James three times now, and missed an even more curious silence, the Didache–a source used more than once by JSem members for points of commonality (so, for that matter, is James).

How can they be points of commonality? The Didache doesn’t attribute any Q sayings to Jesus.

The Didache seems to be familiar with the gospel of Matthew, but even with that Does not attribute Q sayings to Jesus.

Does it not seem reasonable to conclude that this is because the author of the Didache is not convinced that Jesus said them?

Clement often cites rough (and decidedly more Jewish) parallels to Q sayings. With few exceptions, he’s clearly not quoting Jesus when he does this–this is clear, because he’s citing the Old Testament.

Why would Clement, take an Old Testament tradition supposedly uttered a half-millenia before, rather than quote a saying of Jesus, from a scant few decades before?

I’d suggest that this is because Clement remains unconvinced that Jesus said anything of the sort.