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The Earliest Infancy Gospel: Some of the Critical Problems

In my previous post I gave some of the early chapters from the Infancy Gospel of Thomas.  It seems like a pretty straightforward and entertaining set of early legends about the boy Jesus.  But it turns out the scholarship on the text is complicated.  Here is how I describe some of it in the edition I co-authored with my colleague Zlatko Pleše, The Other Gospels.  I have omitted here some of the more technical discussion (mainly about manuscripts in other ancient languages, that are so different from one another that we are not sure even what the Gospel was originally called); but this should give you a taste of some of the key issues scholars wrestle with.


The so-called Infancy Gospel of Thomas presents some of the most intractable textual and historical problems of the entire corpus of early Christian literature.  On the most basic level, we do not know the scope and contents of the original version of the book, if we can even speak about an “original.”  This Gospel, in its various forms, presents a number of self-contained narratives about the young Jesus, between the ages of five and twelve.  It was probably written originally in Greek.  But the Greek manuscripts that contain the account differ radically from one another, with entire chapters missing from some witnesses and present in others.  Of the fourteen Greek manuscripts that attest the Gospel, fully eight have never been published or made available to scholarly scrutiny.  Moreover, these manuscripts are all very late — most of them from the fourteenth or fifteenth centuries, well over a millennium removed from the earliest attested form of the text.  We do have, on the other hand, earlier manuscripts in other languages (Syriac, Latin, Georgian, Ethiopic, Slavonic, etc.)

When was the first account of these “childhood deeds” written?  Any…

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Our Most Important Gospel from Outside the NT: The Gospel of Thomas
Jesus as a Boy? The Infancy Gospel of Thomas



  1. Avatar
    janmaru  September 6, 2020

    Since the narration doesn’t bear any account of the “historical” Jesus and seems to be produced for literary or propagandistic purposes then it’s proved that religious sources can appear out of the blue. Holy scriptures can be the literary production of a group of people without any connection to real facts.
    The Infancy Gospel of Thomas is pure myth. But the canonical gospels are not much distant.
    Aside from Literary criticism would be delightful if burning old manuscripts that bear any historical ground they gave out some blue light revealing their inner truth trampling to ashes. People then would mourn for their loss, with intention.

  2. Avatar
    AstaKask  September 7, 2020

    Reminds me of the Twilight Zone episode “It’s a Good Life”.

    “Oh yes, I did forget something, didn’t I? I forgot to introduce you to the monster. This is the monster. His name is Jesus ben Joseph. He’s six years old, with a cute little-boy face and blue, guileless eyes. But when those eyes look at you, you’d better start thinking happy thoughts, because the mind behind them is absolutely in charge. This is the Twilight Zone.”

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