This book uncovers an early collection of sayings, called N, that are ascribed to Jesus and are similar to those found in the Gospel of Thomas and in Q, a document believed to be a common source, with Mark, for Matthew and Luke. In the process, the book sheds light on the literary methods of Mark and Thomas. A literary comparison of the texts of the sayings of Jesus that appear in both Mark and Thomas shows that each adapted an earlier collection for his own purpose. Neither Mark nor Thomas consistently gives the original or earliest form of the shared sayings; hence, Horman states, each used and adapted an earlier source. Close verbal parallels between the versions in Mark and Thomas show that the source was written in Greek. Horman’s conclusion is that this common source is N.
This proposal is new, and has implications for life of Jesus research. Previous research on sayings attributed to Jesus has treated Thomas in one of two ways: either as an independent stream of Jesus sayings written without knowledge of the New Testament Gospels and or as a later piece of pseudo-Scripture that uses the New Testament as source. This book rejects both views.
''Without doubt this is an innovative hypothesis, which carefully reconstructs proposed earlier forms of traditions behind shared Markan and Thomasine parallels. Readers will be grateful for the care displayed in handling both Coptic and Greek sayings, and the technical skills used to recreate the form that is suggested to underlie these parallels.''
''Systematically working through the evidence, H. makes a strong case for a shared written source behind parts of Mark and Thomas. If he is correct, we have a sayings source as old as Q but with a different viewpoint. More speculative are H.'s ideas about the secondary nature of narrative (includng passion narrative) in early Christian writing and about the lack of interest in a narrative of Jesus' life until the mid-second century. The question of how and where the Gospel of Thomas continued to expand beyond the common written source is left open. The stream of Thomas research shows little sign of abating or reaching a consensus, but H. adds important data and analysis to the ongoing effort.''
''This is a very learned, thoughtful, meticulous work of scholarship that adds a novel alternative to the various theories on the sources and composition histories of the Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of Thomas, the latter especially. The N hypothesis will be provocative in the best sense; it will provoke debate, surely criticism, scholarly re-thinking of how to account for the composition of the Gospel of Thomas, still a front of hyper-activity in scholarship on early Christianity and its literature.''