One of many gnostic gospels is the Gospel of Thomas, consisting of 114 sayings attributed to Jesus, though only 37 are included in the canonical New Testament. Many of the sayings in Thomas are unique to this gospel and do not appear in other gospels. The Gospel of Thomas does not contain any miracles or special human powers like in the Infancy Gospel of Thomas (where Jesus kills people and possibly influenced the Koran, too), which is a completely different work. Thomas’s gospel includes parables about the kingdom of God, like in the Hebrew Bible. The is very interesting that this Gospel is not mentioning the miracles of Jesus the son of Joseph (Aramaic. Yeshua ben Yoseph).
Gospel of Thomas PDF
The Numerations in the sayings of Thomas are enumerated by the modern editors to give it some structure and easier navigation. In the manuscript itself, there are no enumerations.
Download or open the file in a new browser window and you can read the sentences separately.
Where was the gospel of Thomas found?
It was detected in Nag Hammadi, Egypt in 1945 by a Beduin called Mohammed Ali and his brother. It supposedly dates to the year 360 AD. It was part of the Nag Hammadi collection which contains more Christian writings from this area.
When was the gospel of Thomas originally composed?
Scholars who think the Gospel can be as old as the first century AD
Some scholars think it was created in the early ’70s – 150 AD. By 150 we know that people wrote about it. We don’t have many manuscripts of Thomas but scholars like Elaine Pagels think it could come from oral traditions and have been written down later in time and went through different stages of redaction. Her colleague John Dominic Crossan also believes it was written down early in Christian history. Both scholars have good points to date the Gospel of Thomas early as the text of Thomas is simple sayings like The Gospel of Mark which is the shortest written gospel of the four canonical ones. Scholars think because people are more likely to add text instead of taking phrases away (it is just how the human brain works) that Mark is the earliest written Gospel. Which could mean Thomas could have its roots very early, too. Critics argue just because the Gospel is short doesn’t mean necessarily it was written early.
SCENARIO 1 : Thomas was written before the New Testament
Most experts date the creation of Thomas later
It appears that the writer(s) of Thomas has/have known several quotes or paraphrases from the New Testament:
- 1 and 2 Corinthians
- 1 Timothy
- 1 John
- 1 Thessalonians
There are many similarities between the writings of Thomas and the New Testament, which suggests that either the writer of Thomas knew about the New Testament writings, or that they were written at around the same time. This would place them around 40 AD and shortly after Jesus supposed death.
To understand the impact of dating Thomas early, it’s important to consider how different scenarios could play out. Let’s explore and let’s look at this from a different angle… shall we?
Scenario 2: Most Likely what Happened
Thomas must have been popular very early on for different writers to build on it.
Most probable Timeframe for the Creation of the Gospel of Thomas
That seems unlikely that Thomas was written before Mark, it was more likely that the author of Thomas made use of multiple works by the second century. Many of the New Testament books are alluded to by later writers and they haven’t mention Thomas, which makes it more probable that the new testament documents came before Thomas.
Daniel B. Wallace says: that the silence of all second-century authors regarding Thomas would be extremely peculiar if this gospel had existed for fifty or sixty years before AD 100 and all the more so if Thomas was used extensively by many New Testament authors.
According to Thomas 13 (2), the writer is mentioning Peter who wrote his own gospel and Matthew 3, which shows that these Gospels had been circulating for some time before Thomas was written.
In which language was the Gospel of Thomas written?
This is not really clear in which language it was composed, scholars still debate this question. We have only 1 complete script written in Coptic, an old Egyptian language and this is a rare finding. We were lucky to find it otherwise we would not know what the Gospel of Thomas says in its entirety. Many scholars are convinced that Syrian Christians wrote the Gospel of Thomas, an early sect of Christianity and the script made its way down to Egypt and was later translated into Coptic. It could have also been written first in Greek as we have two fragments found in other places.
The Secret Teaching of Thomas changed over time
The Gospel of Thomas has changed greatly over time. The two Greek fragments of Thomas which dates back to 200 AD from contain around 20% of it. This other findings were very different from the complete Coptic version which we found in Egypt. They have 100 – 150 years between them.
The sayings of Thomas must have been part of a longer story, which could have been many stories patched together over time. The evidence leads us to the conclusion that the sayings of Thomas must predate the two Greek manuscripts and all the mentions of external writers who mention Thomas in their writings. Like Clement of Alexandria – Second Century AD mentions a Gospel called “the Saying(s) of Jesus” or “the sayings”. The first writer who mentioned Thomas was Hippolytus of Rome (c. 170 – c. 235 AD) who speaks harshly of it. He mentioned a group called “the Naassene” and he is even quoting a line from Thomas. Later authors like Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 313 – 386 AD) speak also very harshly of Thomas and pointed out there are only four Gospels. These scripts tell us that the four gospels in the bible were at this point mainly accepted as authoritarian by the mainstream Christians at the time.
John P. Meier says: that The Gospel of Thomas must have existed in various iterations and must have been modified throughout the centuries.
Later in time when the doctrine of the Roman/Orthodox church was formed the one “true” Christian belief and made the official state religion by Emperor Constantin and the church decided finally in the Sixteenth century which books should be included in the bible to form today’s canon, Thomas was fallen out of favour with Christian communities long before that. The Gospel was lost and only rediscovered in the last century but we knew about its existence from other authors (like mentioned early) who spoke harshly about it in their texts and called it even heresy.
Gospel of Thomas in Relationship to the New Testament
The Gospel of Thomas does not seem to fit the theology of the New Testament canon. For example, in the New Testament, Jesus is said to be the way, the truth, and the life and he is given his existence for people’s sins to fulfil the prophecy of the Messiah and the original sin which humans inherited from Adam and Eva’s apple bite. But then in the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus is portrayed as a divine being or teacher who acts more like a Greek philosopher than a Jewish rabbi. The evolution of Christian beliefs over time is fascinating. The differences are huge but also they have much in common.
Bart Ehrman is comparing the Gospel of Thomas with the synoptic Gospels and he is illustrating how much common ground between them exists:
Craig Evens instead thinks that Thomas is copying Matthew. He makes that clear by translating it into the Syriac Matthew and is showing that is more likely Thomas copied from Matthew.
The Sayings of Jesus are different to the synoptic Gospels
for example, Saying 2 of Thomas. You will not find this text in the bible.
Who wrote the gospel of Thomas?
According to Bart Ehrman the Author is claiming to be the brother of Jesus
According to Dr Bart Ehrman, Didymos Judas Thomas is claiming to be the author of the Gospel. Ehrman is placing his assessment on the meaning of the names. Both names Didymos and Thomas are both words that mean twin in Greek and Aramaic. The possible twin brother of Jesus. It is important to know that Ehrman tries to interpret the authorship from scriptures we posses from the new testament and other text.
In Mark (which scholars believe is the oldest Gospel) chapter 6 verse 3, International Version
At this point, it’s hard to say for sure who wrote the gospel of Thomas, but given its anonymous nature and the fact that 90% of people at the time couldn’t read or write, we must be critical in our assessment. This is especially true for those from lower-class backgrounds like Jesus’ family. All of their evidence was written in Greek, not Aramaic—a language which would have been foreign to them—many decades or even hundreds of years later.
Although some scholars – like Ehrman – have suggested that Thomas was the brother of Jesus, this assumption is largely speculative. Dr. Richard Carrier would argue that the brother of Jesus could mean a brother in the spirit, not in the flesh.
Who is the most Likely Author of Thomas?
Most Scholars believe that the Gospel of Thomas was probably composed by multiple authors over several decades. It seems that the secret teachings of Jesus were composed in Syria as it contains many catchphrases which make more sense in Syriac. Scholar Nicolas Perrin studied the Gospel of Thomas and translated it from Coptic into Syriac and Greek. Perrin found 502 catchwords which are more plausible in Syriac than in Coptic or Greek. Scholar Craig A. Evens is saying: Thomas has great extensive coherence with late 2nd. century Syrian traditions and a lack of pre-70 Jewish Palestine. It is also recognised by almost all scholars that the Gospel of Thomas has a lot of Syrian elements in it for example how it is referring to Didymos Judas Thomas. This was a common name in Syrian traditions.
Craig Evens makes it clear that Thomas is copying Matthew.
Nicolas Perrin has noted something else of Thomas it seems that it follows the order of a mid-Second-century work called the Diatessaron. The Diatessaron was written by a man called Tatian who wanted to harmonious the four gospels of Luke, Matthew, Marc and John. Thomas seems to use the content from the Diatessaron as it uses the Syriac writing style. The Diatessaron was completed between 160-175 AD. That would bring the completion of Thomas to around 200 AD.
Why is the Gospel of Thomas so important?
The Gospel of Thomas is important because it shines a light on gnostic beliefs. Gnostics believed that there was more to the world than what was seen in the material world. They believed that a spiritual realm could be accessed through special knowledge and practices. The Gospel of Thomas provides a unique perspective on Jesus and his teachings.
What does the Teaching of Thomas say?
It is the sayings of Jesus and the secret meaning of wisdom of the text which can lead to eternal life.
What matters to the author of the Gospel of Thomas is not that Jesus died on the cross and was resurrected. For a gnostic author, the important thing was that enlightenment and salvation came from Jesus’s secret teachings.
The author is standing against what the church thought about the importance of the death and resurrection of Jesus. it undermines the teaching of the church.
- In Thomas, Jesus is not the truth and the Light, Jesus is just a teacher who instructs humans on how to find enlightenment within them (Thomas 24:3). In the new testament, Jesus is the Light (John 14:6)!
- Also in Thomas fasting and prayers are bad (14:1-3) in comparison to the canon fasting and prayers are essential (Luke 11:1-28).
- In Thomas, the author appears more like a Greek thinker instead of an early Jewish Rabbi
- The author of the Gospel of Thomas is more Sexist against women, which was quite common at the time (Thomas 114:2 and 3). The canon was quite liberal towards women this was maybe one of the factors why it gained popularity. Jesus granted women high status of divine revelation similar to men!
Another example is in the New Testament, Jesus says that if you have faith in Him, you can do anything. But in Thomas’ gospel, it says that if you have eyes, let him use them. This makes it seem like Thomas’ gospel contradicts other parts of the New Testament. However, it has been discovered in Oxyrhynchus papyrus fragments.
Oxyrhynchus papyrus is a type of papyrus that was used in ancient times. Oxyrhynchus papyrus fragments are pieces of this type of papyrus that have been preserved. This means that the gospel of Thomas has been discovered in Oxyrhynchus papyrus fragments.
Scholars have long debated the authenticity of the Gospel of Thomas. While there is no unanimous agreement, most scholars believe that it is a genuine early Christian text. The text contains unique and interesting teachings that are not found in other canonical gospels. Some believe that these teachings may be evidence of early Gnostic beliefs, while others believe that they represent an earlier form of Christianity that was suppressed by the mainstream church. Whatever its origins, the Gospel of Thomas is an intriguing and valuable piece of Christian literature.
The Kingdom of God is inside you
The Gospel of Thomas is a mystical saying which has a secret says, Dr Elaine Pagels. The one who knows the secret doesn’t need a priest, a church or Jesus! The Christian group who believed in the teaching of Thomas or other non-canonical gospels are called Gnostics. Gnosis means inside! Professor Pagels is further describing the beliefs of the followers of the Gospel of Thomas with the following words:
– If you know who you are you can find your way back to God. It means who you are.
– Whoever reveals this teaching will be punished by God.
– Whoever keeps this teaching will be rewarded by God.
These “Gnostic” scripts were before the New Testament or the catholic/orthodox church. These could be one of the reasons why the Gospel of Thomas didn’t make it into the canon as it eliminates the need for an institution. The secret of the Gospel of Thomas is the secret of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is not a place in heaven, it is on Earth. The Kingdom of God is not coming at the end of time. It is not spatial and temporal. It is a metaphor. It’s a metaphor for insight. Within there is a connection to God. The secret of the Gospel of Thomas is the hidden energy inside you, divine energy. This energy is in everything. This energy brought the world into being – created the Universe. It connects you to the divine source from where we all came from.
She further underlines this statement with the following example:
Jesus said: I am the light that is before everything, everything comes from me and everything returns to me. Split a piece of wood and I am there. Lift up a rock and you will find me. This energy is in everything, rock animals, stars… That’s what you need to know who you are. You are part of this spiritual energy and if you find this energy you don’t need a god or a church.
The Gospel of Thomas could go all the way back to the original Jesus. And Jesus is preaching like every Rabbi at this time with secret teaching. In the new testament which is written in Greek, it refers to Jesus as a Rabbi.
The sayings of Jesus according to dr. Bart Ehrman
“Revealing the truth that allows the divine sparks within you to escape the material trappings of this world”.
Gospel of Thomas books you should read
You can read about the gospel of Thomas in the following books:
The Gospel of Thomas: A Hidden Treasure of Early Christian Writings by Bart D. Ehrman
The Gospel Of Thomas And The Hidden Jesus by Karen L. King
Gospel of Thomas Summary
Scholars still debate if the Thomas Gospel is a Gnostic Gospel as some elements doesn’t fit the narrative. The classification as such is hard and not always clear and streamlined. The Believers in these sayings of Jesus understood Christ as a divine being who came into existence to teach the truth, leading to salvation. Salvation came to those who understood the secret meanings of the teachings. That’s what typical Gnostic teaching is all about.
The Gospel of Thomas is a collection of sayings attributed to Jesus. It is not considered canonical by the majority of Christian sects, but it offers a unique perspective on early Christian beliefs and offers us a unique glimpse into the teachings and the zeitgeist of this time.
It is important to remember that not all of what is found in the gospel of Thomas can be trusted and the evidence we have is rare and written from biased sources but it nevertheless provides us with an interesting perspective on early Christian views of the world. Scholars disagree on many different aspects such as the date of writing and the author. We know that many hands must have had an influence on the Gospel of Thomas over hundreds of years. Some sayings could go back to the original Jesus and/or his brothers in belief or they could have been “invented” and attributed the sayings to a special person to give them more weight. Whatever it was, we very likely will never find out but we can try…
Frequently Asked Questions:
The Gospel of Thomas is not in the Bible because it appears that it took most of the text from canonical Gospels which most experts consider the oldest Christian scripts. The theology differs from the Gospels in the New Testament, for example, the synoptic gospels were “more” open to the idea of women being included in the religious practises and he allows them to gain salvation while Thomas in contrast expresses the need for women to become a male spirit (114:2 and 3).
It is even the most famous gospel which is not in the bible. However, it is still a valuable source of information about early Christian beliefs. The gospel of Thomas is a collection of sayings that the living Jesus supposedly said.
The Gospel of Thomas was rejected because it is a collection of sayings and it didn’t match the agreed doctrine of the Pauline line.
That is something nobody can say for sure what and who the true Jesus (if he ever existed) was. We are facing many issues regarding early Christianity. We have good and strong proof of many Christianities, not just one. Which one was closer to the original teaching? Nobody knows the answer but it is highly likely the answer is NO!
The Gospel of Thomas is not in the bible because it is a collection of sayings and it didn’t fit the teaching of the roman / orthodox church.
There is no clear answer, but it shares many Gnostic features but is different in the same time. Most scholars would “classify” the Gospel of Thomas as Gnostic
The Gospel of Thomas was not included in the bible as it was only finalised in the 16th century.
There is no clear answer, but most scholars believe that the gospel of Thomas is a copy of much early script which seems had many authors.
The Gospel of Thomas is similar to other early Christian writings, such as the gospel of John and the apocryphal gospels.
Gospel of Thomas 77, 114, 70, 113, 48, 106