The project justifies itself on the one hand by the lack of consensus among the interpretations suggested for the Gospel of Thomas in the last decades and on the other hand by the continuous necessity to refocus and adjust the research of the so-called “Thomasine tradition” relying on intertextual rather than on textual issues. In this respect, the project consists of two major parts.
In the first part I would like to undertake a critical review and comparative analysis of the studies devoted to the Gospel of Thomas, including its discovery, its character and its relation to other literary corpora of Late Antiquity: neo-testamentary, patristic, monastic, hermetic and, of course, manichean literature.
The second part of my project, and the most important one, is exclusively dedicated to the relation between the Gospel of Thomas and the Thomasine tradition. Starting point in this approach is the ancient evidence we have at our disposal in Syriac. This part encompasses five sections. First, I believe necessary to analyze the significance the city of Edessa for the birth and development of the Eastern Christianity. Within this purpose it is necessary to pinpoint and to scrutinize the traits of early Syriac Christianity as an extremely sophisticated entity where the Gospel of Thomas could have possibly been created.
The second section includes and updated overview of Syriac asceticism. I intend to examine in detail the distinguishing features of the Syriac asceticism and raise the question why scholars explain it by recurrently resorting to its double origin, nl. Palestinian and Alexandrinian. This context of ideas is the suitable environment for the analysis of fundamental concepts such as “itinerary preachers,” “monachos,” in addition to those of “celibacy” and the origin of the Christian asceticism within the proposed research project.
The third section puts together the details needed for a comparative analysis of the twin model such as one encounters it in the literature of Late Antiquity – I must add that I will have to underline the “twin model” especially such as it is represented as a divine being and an itinerant missionary – a study approach that also applies to the studies on Manichaeism.
Sections four and five deal extensively with the Thomasine tradition and the central character that the apostle Thomas embodied. The research focuses on the “Thomasine tradition” as expression of a regional type needed for the expansion of Christianity in its first centuries. The emphasis will lay here on the connections between the Gospel of Thomas, the Book of Thomas and the Acts of Thomas and the possible scenarios we can conclude from them, evaluating the different trajectories that emerge from these texts: on the one hand from the Gospel of Thomas towards the Acts of Thomas, on the other hand from the Gospel of Thomas passing through the Acts of Thomas towards the Book of Thomas (hypothesis of Prof. Paul-Hubert Poirier). “The Thomas character” studied from the viewpoint of the Edessian tradition will be linked to the interpretative model of “the perfect disciple” and I am going to undertake the analysis from this viewpoint.
Last but not least I will study the hypotheses regarding the textual transmission of the so-called Thomasine tradition: how did the transfer of knowledge/ ideas from a cultural circle to another, namely from the Syriac/ Greek one to the Coptic one, actually take place? In other words, this research project aims at investigating the ways in which the transfer of ideas from Syria to Egypt was possible.
Supervisor: Lautaro Roig Lanzillotta
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