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The Christian Scriptures (New Testament)

The Gospel of Thomas

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The Gospel of Thomas:

Whereas John and the synoptic gospels include both the sayings of Jesus and a description of his birth, baptism, activities, followers,  crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, etc., the Gospel of Thomas is basically a collection of 114 sayings of Jesus, including "wisdom sayings, parables, proverbs and prophecies." 1

Some theologians believe that it was first written about 60 CE and later expanded.  It was written in Greek. Three Greek fragments from the Gospel were found about 1900 CE. But a full Coptic (Egyptian language)  translation was unearthed in 1945 as part of the Nag Hammadi Library discovery.

Robert J. Miller wrote:

"The Gospel of Thomas has core elements as old as the synoptic gospels....in its later layer, Thomas is the record of a Christian community creatively accommodating influences from Gnosticism." 2

It was probably because of this Gnostic content that the main Christian movement suppressed it and did not accept it into the Christian Scriptures (New Testament). It represents an independent tradition from the gospel of John and the synoptic gospels.

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Helpful books about the Gospel of Thomas:

Steven L. Davies, "The Gospel of Thomas: Annotated & Explained," Skylight Paths Publishing, (2002). Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store. Amazon customer rating: 4 out of 5.

The Amazon.com review reads, in part:

"Written at the same time as the canonical Gospels, the Gospel of Thomas portrays Jesus as a wisdom-loving sage. The aphoristic sayings emphasize the value of the present, teaching that the Kingdom of God is here and now, rather than a future promise or future threat. It presents a new way of looking at the challenging and intriguing figure of Jesus, and reminds us that the Divine can be found right here on earth."

"Now you can experience the Gospel of Thomas with understanding even if you have no previous knowledge of early Christian history or thought. This SkyLight Illuminations edition offers insightful yet unobtrusive commentary that explains references and philosophical terms, shares the inspiring interpretations of famous spiritual teachers, and gives you deeper understanding of Thomas's innovative message: that self-knowledge and contemplation of the nature of this world are the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven."

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Elaine Pagels, "Beyond Belief: The secret gospel of Thomas," Vintage, (2004). Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store Amazon customer rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The Amazon.com review reads, in part:

"At the center of Beyond Belief is what Pagels identifies as a textual battle between The Gospel of Thomas (rediscovered in Egypt in 1945) and The Gospel of John. While these gospels have many superficial similarities, Pagels demonstrates that John, unlike Thomas, declares that Jesus is equivalent to 'God the Father' (Yahweh) as identified in the Old Testament. Thomas, in contrast, shares with other supposed secret teachings a belief that Jesus is not God but, rather, is a teacher who seeks to uncover the divine light in all human beings. Pagels then shows how the Gospel of John was used by Bishop Irenaeus of Lyon and others to define orthodoxy during the second and third centuries. The secret teachings were literally driven underground, disappearing until the Twentieth Century. As Pagels argues this process 'not only impoverished the churches that remained but also impoverished those [who Irenaeus] expelled'."

David F. Capps, "The Gospel of Thomas: A blueprint for spiritual growth," The Gnostic Wisdom Foundation, (2005). Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store Amazon customer rating: 4 our of 5.

The Amazon.com review reads:

"The historical Jesus taught a system of spiritual transformation which is preserved in the Gospel of Thomas. The understanding of the sayings is embedded in the mystical nature of the mystery school system in place during the time of Jesus. The author of this book renders these sayings into simple, understandable explanations, providing profound insights into the transformative process that leads to spiritual mastery. The simplicity of the exercises at the end of the book belies the true transformational power contained within them. Ultimately, as this book demonstrates, the journey back into the full presence of God and the Kingdom of Heaven must be simple if it is to be available to all."

References:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. R.W. Funk, et al., "The Parables of Jesus," Polebridge Press (1988) Page xvii.
  2. R.J. Miller, Ed., "The Complete Gospels", Polebridge Press, Sonoma CA, (1992),P. 4.

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Latest update: 2009-SEP-22
Author: B.A. Robinson

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