Our Most Important Gospel from Outside the NT: The Gospel of Thomas

This week in my graduate seminar we will be discussing the Coptic Gospel of Thomas, not to be confused with the Infancy Gospel of Thomas that I mentioned in a post last week, with which this one has no relation, apart from the fact that both claim to be written by Thomas, a.k.a. Didymus Judas Thomas, i.e., Jesus’ brother Jude.

By far this Gospel of Thomas is the best known, most read, and most significant Gospel from outside the New Testament.  ...

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My Early Christian Apocrypha Seminar

I am teaching a PhD seminar this semester on the early Christian apocrypha; it’s a little hard to define what those are, though hundreds of people have tried!.  The way I define them are as non-canonical books that are similar in genre and contents to those that did make it into the canon.  Or something like that.  They comprise Gospels, Acts, Epistles, and Apocalypses, they can be “orthodox” or “non-orthodox” (= ” heretical”); most of them claim to be written ...

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The Opening Section of the Gospel of Judas

Here is the first bit of the Gospel of Judas from the translation of my colleague Zlatko Pleše in our book The Other Gospels.  After this bit here, the Gospel gets very strange, at least to most modern readers.   But as you can see, it is really interesting.

The first paragraph is the explanation of where we got the text from; then the translation of the opening scends, and after that I give the bibliography for further reading that we cite ...

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Sethian Gnostics and the Gospel of Judas

Soon after scholars had a chance to examine the Gospel of Judas it became clear that it embodied a form of early Christian Gnosticism known as “Sethian.”   Most descriptions that you find of Gnosticism are simplistic and do not actually reflect the mind-boggling complexities of the texts that embody it, to the extent that even if you master the basic descriptions you find, it is very hard to make sense of any of the texts.

That is certainly true of the ...

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When I Learned the Gospel of Judas Had Been Discovered

As I said in my last post, after receiving an out-of-the-blue query about the Gospel of Judas I looked it up to refresh my memory: it was allegedly a book used by a group of Gnostics named the Cainites, a book that told the story of Jesus from the perspective of Judas Iscariot, his betrayer – not in order to malign Judas but, evidently, to celebrate his deed, since it was (somehow) to Jesus’ advantage.

Soon after reading up on the ...

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How I First Learned About the Gospel of Judas Iscariot

Over the past few weeks I’ve had a thread dealing with Judas Iscariot and another thread dealing with claims from the second century that Christians were highly immoral (sexual reprobates, murderers, and cannibals).  Or at least that some Christian heretics were.  As it turns out, these two threads are closely related in a way one would not expect – at least in a way I never expected until I got involved with the “Gospel of Judas” that was discovered in ...

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Did Early Christian Heretics Promote Outrageous Sex Rituals?

In my post a few days ago I mentioned the widespread rumor in the ancient Roman world of the first couple of centuries CE that Christians were flagrantly immoral, engaging in wild sex and infanticide and homicide in their weekly meetings.  A couple of readers have asked if that might have been true for *some* of the Christian groups of “heretics,” and that Roman outsiders who knew of their activities assumed all Christians engaged in them.

Great question!  I’ve thought about ...

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The Outrageous Immorality of Early Christians (!) (?)

The question I addressed yesterday: could the obvious benefits of the Christian community – a community of love, fellowship, and mutual support – have drawn converts into it, who very much wanted that kind of thing?  The surprising answer, I think, is no, at least in the early centuries when Christianity was trying to establish a foothold in the world.  There’s another reason for thinking what I do, and it’s not one you would expect.

There were reports about ...

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How Could Torture Not Hurt?? Guest Post by Stephanie Cobb

Here now is the second of three posts by Stephanie Cobb on her recent book about early Christian accounts of the martyrs.  As you’ll see, she makes some rather astonishing and counter-intuitive claims.  But I think she’s completely right.   This is fascinating material….

Stephanie Cobb’s most popular books are Dying to Be Men and Divine Deliverance.

 

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In the previous post, I detailed the reasons martyr texts ought to focus on the suffering ...

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What Kind of Book Was Papias Writing? Guest Post by Stephen Carlson

This is the second part of Stephen Carlson’s guest post on the important but now-lost work of the early-second century Christian author Papias.  In the previous post he talked about the mind-boggling abundance of wine and wheat there would be in the kingdom, based on Papias’s reporting of a “word of the Lord.”    Now he explains that saying, and in doing so develops a bold way of understanding what kind of book Papias actually was trying to write.   Most of ...

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