Gospel of Thomas

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The Gospel of Thomas is a unique apocryphal gospel that contains sayings attributed to Jesus, many (but far from all) with parallels in the three "synoptic" Gospels. Unlike them, it does not give any narrative of the life of Jesus, but is instead a "sayings gospel", a collection of the statements of Jesus, and a possible witness of the hypothetical text known as the Q Document, a source for the gospels of Matthew and Luke.

History

The Gospel of Thomas was never considered as part of the Biblical canon. Cyril of Jerusalem, an early theologian and Doctor of the Church, was one of those who spoke against Thomas.

In general, ancient authorities had very little to say about this work. Origen mentioned that a Gospel of Thomas exists in his Homily 1 on Luke, but appears not to have read it, as in on Jeremiah homily 3. 3, he quotes logion 82 of Thomas but is not aware of the source of the saying. The Stichometry of Nicephorus listed its length as being 1,300 lines, about half of the 2,500 lines of the Gospel of Matthew. Most other mentions in ancient works are simply condemnations of the work as being false or harmful.

For many centuries, no surviving text was known. Hippolytus, the only ancient author to attribute a quotation to the Gospel of Thomas, quotes a saying that is not in the manuscript of the Gospel of Thomas discovered at Nag Hammadi, but appears to be related to the subject matter of the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, which had led some to believe that the Gospel of Thomas was an unexpurgated version of the Infancy Gospel of Thomas. In the nineteenth century, three fragments of what we now know to be the Gospel of Thomas were discovered at Oxyrhynchus, but were not at the time connected with the Gospel of Thomas. Because the second logion had been quoted by Clement of Alexandria and attributed to the Gospel of the Hebrews, some scholars believed the logia found at Oxyrhynchus were part of the Gospel of the Hebrews.

A complete Coptic text of The Gospel of Thomas was among those discovered in 1945 as part of the Nag Hammadi Library in Egypt.

While not recognized as an authoritative text by any major Christian denomination, many Biblical scholars, and many Christians today, have been fascinated by the picture it paints of early Christian beliefs.