These words of Jesus are contained in the fragments of a text discovered in 1945 in a ruined tomb in Upper Egypt. The following material is a logical reorganization of the text as it is set out in the book, The Gospel According to Thomas; Coptic text established and translated by A. Guillaumont, H. Ch. Puech, G. Quispel, W. Till and Yassah 'Abd Al Masih; published in 1959 by Harper & Brothers, New York (out of print). No word has been changed or omitted intentionally. The translators inserted words (in parentheses) when they felt they were needed. In Part Two words have been inserted [in brackets], that seemed to be the most logical or conveyed the intended meaning. The Greek Language used no capitals but the translators used capitalization in the text of their translation. To avoid this translation problem, all capital letters have been used so that the text would be more in character with the system of the Greek Language.
This amazing material is taken from the remains of a Coptic library, lost for 1600 years under dry sands covering what was apparently a Gnostic community near Nag-Hamadi in Upper Egypt. These dry desert conditions were ideal for preserving the original text. Egyptian peasants found 13 leather-bound books that had been placed in terra cotta jars. The Gospel According to Thomas is one of the 49 works contained in those volumes and is the Sahidic Coptic adaptation or translation of a primitive Greek text dating from around 140 AD, which was, in itself, based on even more ancient sources. The "synoptic gospels" of the New Testament had, as their source, a document which biblical scholars call simply "Q". The authors of The GospelAccording to Thomas must also have had Q available to them because of the similarity in the content of both works. However, the majority of this material is far different than that which is contained in any of the other "gospels", and because it is believed that document Q was written several years after Jesus taught, the relevance of Q as source material for this book is minimal. The Gospel of Thomas was known in Rome at the time the Roman Catholic Church decided which material would be included in the Church Cannon (about 500 AD). The Thomas material was rejected as being outside the official realm of what they, at that time, deemed essential for inclusion. Since then, Western Civilization has increasingly elevated and sanctified many variations of the Bible without this Gospel.
The original manuscripts were reconstituted through the use of infrared photographs that were reportedly clearer than the original. The Gospel According to Thomas contains both the English translation (as literal as is possible, according to the authors) together with the Sahidic Coptic text on facing pages. It is presumed that the original manuscript is preserved in the Coptic Museum of Old Cairo.
Because the logical order of the original text is quite jumbled, the method for the reorganization was to group them into categories that reflect either the particular type of audience at which they were aimed; or to put them in a common context. These words of Jesus are a very remarkable discovery because they have been untouched by any attempts at interpretation or modification by the Christian Church, Biblical scholars, and the like. The translators assure us of no such tampering on their part.
These sayings are even more remarkable because they disclose an image of a Jesus who was much different than the figure that ages of Western religious cultivation has compelled us to recognize and accept. However, suspicions the reader might have that the author does not think Jesus was skilled and extraordinary are groundless. Quite the contrary, without question, Jesus was the consummate religious genius. Reading John's stand-alone account of Jesus in the New Testament, one discovers how Jesus was completely and utterly connected to, and in unity with, God. Jesus' contribution to religion was singular. The entire direction of Western Civilization has pivoted on his life.
Part One of this book contains the original sayings taken from The Gospel According to Thomas. Part Two expands on each teaching. With this arrangement, the author's comments have been left apart from the original text where they cannot inadvertently influence the reader.
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About the Author
Born in 1932, the Author was in his 30's during the turbulent years of the 1960's. A time when there was and incredible amount of upheaval in our culture as the age of information was dawning.
Concomitant with that upheaval there was a great deal of questioning and soul searchign as the Author and his generation were undergoing rapid and often painful change. During those turbulent times, the Author spent many years in the study of the teaching of Jesus in association with the Sequoia Seminar Foundation. The education he received there, and the subsequent discovery and translation of The Gospel According to Thomas, propelled him into writing of this book.
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