A number of blog members over the years have asked about Thomas’s relation to the Synoptic Gospels and the famous Q source —  that is, the lost source that both Matthew and Luke used for many of their sayings of Jesus not found in Mark (called Q from the German word Quelle, which means “source”).  Here is what I say about those issues in my textbook:  The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings (Oxford University Press).


Thomas and the Q Source.  The Gospel of Thomas, with its list of the sayings of Jesus (but no narratives) reminds many scholars of the Q source. Some have maintained that Q was also composed entirely of the sayings of Jesus and that the community for whom it was written was not concerned about Jesus’ activities and experiences, including his death on the cross. If they are right, then something like Thomas’s community was already in existence prior to the writing of the New Testament Gospels.

Many other scholars, on the other hand, have their doubts. For one thing, it is not true that Q contained no narratives. As we have seen, two of them survive: the temptation of Jesus and the healing of the centurion’s son. How many others did Q narrate? Unfortunately, despite the extravagant claims of some scholars, we simply cannot know. Even more unfortunately, we cannot know whether the Q source contained a Passion narrative, even though scholars commonly claim that it did not. The reality is that our only access to Q is through the agreements of Matthew and Luke in stories not found in Mark. True, Matthew and Luke do not agree in their Passion narratives when they differ from Mark. Does this mean that Q did not have a Passion narrative? Not necessarily. It could mean that when either Matthew or Luke differs from Mark in the Passion narrative, one account was taken from Q and the other was drawn from Mark. Or it could mean that Matthew or Luke, or both, occasionally utilized their other traditions (M and L, respectively) for their account of Jesus’ Passion, rather than Q.

There is at least one stark difference between Q and Thomas,

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