Jesus and The Gospel of Thomas


The Gospel of Thomas is an interesting read for those interested in the historical Jesus. It’s a Gospel that caused quite the excitement when it was found in Nag Hammadi in 1945. Small pieces of the text have been going ’round before 1945. These pieces are called “Oxyrhynchus Papyrus Fragments” and were written in Greek. The Gospel found in Nag Hammadi, however, was written in Coptic and appears to be a Coptic translation of the original Greek text. The reason why Thomas is interesting to scholars is because Thomas shares a lot of things found in the synoptics. A lot of the passages found in Thomas are also found, often in a slightly different form, in the Synoptics. This can give scholars an insight to what Jesus actually might have said. The Gospel of Thomas, like the hypothetical “Q” source, is a sayings Gospel. It contains 114 sayings attributed to by Jesus.

The Dating of Thomas

Scholars can’t seem to agree on what to date the Gospel of Thomas. There is an early camp (first century) and a late camp (mid second century). Despite the trouble dating the text, the consensus is that Thomas is an independent source and not based on Mark, Q, M, L or John. 

The Sources behind the Gospel of Thomas

The Gospel of Thomas is considered a Gnostic Gospel but this isn’t entirely true. It contains also material that’s not dependent on the Gnostic worldview. Dutch theologian and historian Gilles Quispel, who is an expert on Gnosticims and Thomas, writes in his Dutch translation of Thomas that he thinks that there are two sources behind the text of Thomas. An “Alexandrian source” which is indeed Gnostic of nature, and a “Judaean source” which would go back ’round about the time when Q was going ’round. It’s the Judaean source that shares so many passages found in the Synoptics. Some scholars would even claim that Thomas contains an earlier form of a saying by Jesus than found in the Synoptics and therefore it’s more likely Jesus said it the way Thomas puts it down. A reason why scholars think this is because a saying found in the Synoptics and Thomas is shorter in Thomas than in the Synoptics and scholars tend to think that the shorter version is the earlier version because things get more and more embellished over time. Not every scholar agrees, however, that every shorter saying found in Thomas and shared by the Synoptics is more likely to been said by Jesus. Quispel also argues in his book, that because Thomas could contain earlier versions of a saying by Jesus, the mainstream view that Jesus was anapocalyptic prophet” might be wrong. He himself considers Jesus to be a “teacher of Wisdom” and not an apocalyptic prophet.

Sayings Shared by Thomas and the Synoptics

Below are a whole bunch of the sayings shared by Thomas and the Synoptics.


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