The Kernel Thomas is a name that I use to indicate the earliest material in the Gospel of Thomas. I suggest that this early material was an early collection of sayings in a speech format and that it was used by the Thomasine Christians as a storage cite for Jesus' sayings. Preachers and teachers used it as a platform for their orations. However, as I write on page 113 of Recovering the Original Gospel of Thomas:
"My translation and analysis, in this monograph and in the companion volume The Original Gospel of Thomas in Translation, should not be mistaken to suggest that I understand the Kernel sayings I have isolated to be a complete coherent document."Accretions is the name I use to indicate later material in the Gospel of Thomas, material that accrued due to a range of forces that impacted early Christianity generally (as we can see from other early Christian writings) and specifically for this community of Christians living in Edessa.
I resist describing this text in terms of layering and stages and phases. If my work is described or deconstructed as such by others, it is not representative of my position. I am arguing the opposite position, that this text was created in a dynamic and organic environment. For the sake of convenience only, I included in Recovering a chart to show how and when I understand the accretions to have come into the Gospel of Thomas (pp. 97-98). But I label the chart "Gradual Accural of Logia," and I introduce the chart by writing:
"The chart should not be read as representing three stages of 'redaction' (literary or oral) of Thomas. Such a reading would represent a complete misunderstanding of my argument. The accrual occurred mainly within the field of oral performance and was gradual."The goal of my method was simple: to identify the later material, the accretions. I worked conservatively, and I worked backwards, beginning with the identification of the sayings I was 100% convinced were secondary.
Once I did this, I could examine the earlier material to see what it generally looked like, and to analyze how it had been reinterpreted by the accretive material which had their own concerns and hermeneutics.
What I found was quite similar to what had happened to earlier traditions in other late first and early second century literature - the early apocalyptic material had been reinterpreted to handle the fact that the End did not come as had been expected; the Jewish material had been reinterpreted under the pressure of Gentile concerns; the understanding of Jesus shifted from that of a Prophet and the coming Angel of Judgment, to Yahweh incarnate; an encratic lifestyle developed; and so forth.
If you wish for a straightforward summary of my hypothesis, I have written one for Expository Times. I believe is comes out in June or July.
Update 5-10-07: other posts on other blogs (with my comment)