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The Gnostic Gospels of Jesus
The Definitive Collection of Mystical Gospels and Secret Books about Jesus of Nazareth
The Gospel of Thomas with
The Greek Gospel
of Thomas fragments
The gospel of thomas, or the Hidden Sayings of Jesus, is a collection of sayings of Jesus, traditionally numbered by scholars at 114, which are said to communicate salvation and life. While the Gospel of Thomas has some features in common with gnostic gospels, it does not seem to fit the definition of gnosticism given in the Introduction to a significant extent. Thus I prefer to consider the Gospel of Thomas to be a gospel with an incipient gnostic perspective. According to the incipit (or prologue) of the Gospel of Thomas, the sayings are hidden or secret sayings spoken by the living Jesus and recorded by Judas Thomas the Twin. Judas Thomas was thought in some circles, particularly within Syriac Christianity, to be the twin brother of Jesus and as such the ideal person to function as guarantor of the Jesus tradition. The Gospel of John in the New Testament begs to differ with this positive assessment of Judas Thomas, however, and instead chooses to depict him as "doubting Thomas."
The sayings included in the Gospel of Thomas include a variety of aphorisms, parables, stories, and other utterances of Jesus, the interpretation of which, saying 1 announces, can lead to salvation and life. Saying 1 states, "Whoever discovers the interpretation of these sayings will not taste death," and saying 2 describes the epistemological process whereby one comes to knowledge and understanding: "Let one who seeks not stop seeking until one finds. When one finds, one will be troubled. When one is troubled, one will marvel and will reign over all."The Greek Gospel of Thomas adds an additional stage to the interpretive process: "and [having reigned], one will [rest]." In other words, the quest for an understanding of the sayings of Jesus is an enterprise to be undertaken with commitment, and although the way to knowledge may be difficult and even disturbing, those who persevere will discover God's reign and God's rest. And if God's reign, God's kingdom, is outside a person, it is also within (Gospel of Thomas 3:3).
As in Q and the New Testament gospels, especially the synoptic gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke, Jesus in the Gospel of Thomas asks his disciples to seek and find. In the Gospel of Thomas and other early texts, the sayings of Jesus are open to interpretation, so that disciples and readers are encouraged to search for the meaning of the sayings of Jesus and complete his thoughts after him. The Gospel of Thomas is an interactive gospel: wisdom and knowledge come when readers creatively encounter sayings of Jesus and respond to the sayings with insight. Such an interactive approach may go back to the historical Jesus, whose sayings and stories seem to have provided the opportunity for his disciples and others around him to react and respond. To that extent the Gospel of Thomas coheres well with much of the Jesus sayings tradition. A number of the sayings in the Gospel of Thomas, however, are especially cryptic and riddle-like, and the need for creative interpretation is obvious. Much is at stake. Those who find the meaning of Jesus's sayings find life, the Gospel of Thomas proclaims, and they come to realize that they are children of the living father. Or, as Jesus puts it in saying 108, those who drink from his mouth will be like him and he will be one with them, and they will understand what is hidden.
Jesus in the Gospel of Thomas confronts his disciples and readers of the gospel with powerful sayings, but he does not pull rank. In the Gospel of Thomas Jesus assumes very few Christological titles, and, as Stephen Patterson notes, Jesus in this gospel is just Jesus. Jesus in the Gospel of Thomas is not designated the Christ or the messiah, he is not acclaimed master or lord, and when he refers to himself once in the gospel, in saying 86, as child of humankind or son of man, he does so in the generic sense of referring to any person (or to himself ) as a human being. If Jesus in the Gospel of Thomas is a child of humankind, so are other people called children of humankind (sayings 28 and 106). Jesus in the Gospel of Thomas is not presented as the unique or incarnate son of God, and nothing is said of a cross with saving significance or an empty tomb. Jesus is named the living Jesus, but God is also said to be a living one, and followers of Jesus are called living ones as well. Jesus the living one lives through his words and sayings.
The Gospel of Thomas is the second tractate in Codex II of the Nag Hammadi library, where it is preserved in Coptic translation. Three Greek fragments of the Gospel of Thomas also survive (Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 1, 654, and 655), as do testimonia in early Christian literature, especially in the writings of Hippolytus of Rome. Translations of the Nag Hammadi Coptic text, the Greek fragments, and two testimonia from Hippolytus are given below. Most likely the Gospel of Thomas was composed in Greek, probably in Syria, perhaps at Edessa, where Thomas was revered and his bones venerated. A reasonable case can be made for a firstcentury date for a first edition of the Gospel of Thomas, though some scholars prefer a second-century date ...The Gnostic Gospels of Jesus
The Definitive Collection of Mystical Gospels and Secret Books about Jesus of Nazareth. Copyright © by Marvin Meyer. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.