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. It was accidentally discovered in 1945 near Nag Hammadi Egypt as one of the 52 documents contained in a set of twelve books, with part of a thirteenth, now widely known as the Nag Hammadi Library. Most of these documents are Gnostic.
Like all the others, this one is written in Coptic and is a Coptic translation of a Greek original. The book that contains it was produce in the mid-fourth century CE. But the Gospel itself was originally composed in the early second century CE. It is hard to say when after this the Coptic translation was produced. In a later post I may give the reasons we know this various information. For now I thought it would be interesting just to give part of it to you.
The Gospel is almost nothing but sayings of Jesus, one after the other. Scholars since the first publication of the text (in 1959) give them as 114 sayings; the manuscript itself does not number them. As you will see, some of the sayings are very much like what you find in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Others, well, not so much. Or at all.
Suppose you were picking this up to read it for the first time. Here are the first 18 sayings. What do you make of them? (The translation was done by my colleague Zlatko Pleše, for our book The Other Gospels).
The Gospel According to Thomas
These are the hidden sayings that the living Jesus spoke and Didymus Judas Thomas wrote down.
The rest of this post is for members only. Want to see more? Join the blog! Doesn’t cost much, gives a lot, all the small fee goes to charity. No one loses, and everyone wins!