Less is More, William G. Duffy on the Gospel of Thomas

William G. Duffy has spent years reading about and studying The Hidden Gospel of
Thomas and now has written a lengthy commentary on the 114 non-dual sayings of Jesus as recorded by Thomas. Duffy takes great care with each saying, examines each thoroughly in a literary manner, and uses other sayings as comparisons of content. That is, for me, the rub.

Duffy has written too much. His examinations are over done and redundant. For instance, in his explication of Saying 107, the parable of the “lost sheep” that is also told in Matthew 18:12-14 and in Luke 15:4-7, he takes two and one-half page to offer his analysis of this well-known parable.

I also question some of Duffy’s interpretations. In his explication of  Saying 82 he states that it was adapted from the Aesop proverb, “Whoever is near Zeus is near the thunderbolt.. The Saying of Thomas is,  “He who is near to me is near the fire. He who is far from me is far from the Kingdom.”  Duffy spends just over two pages to explain how Aesop wrote before Thomas and for him he sees unfounded support for his guess.

Duffy refers to an abundance of scholars; one is Dr. Elaine Pagels and her book Beyond Belief, The Secret Gospel of Thomas. In that book she writes, “When I entered college, I decided to learn Greek in order to read the New Testament in its original language, hoping to discover the source of its power.” Duffy states that “Our copy of the Gospel of Thomas is a translation from either Greek or Syriac into the Sahidic dialect of Coptic”  I suspect that that is one of the issues for Duffy’s work—he reads from translation and that, as Robert Fitzgerald writes is like looking the back side of a tapestry.

I admire Duffy’s efforts and study over the years. I just think his book too long and redundant. Less is more.

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