Category:Gospel of Thomas (text)

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The beginning of the Coptic text
The end of the Coptic text
Greek fragment (P. Oxy. 1)
Greek fragment (P. Oxy. 655)

The Gospel of Thomas (see Online Text) is a Christian gospel whose authority (and authorship) was attributed to the apostle Thomas.


The Gospel of Thomas was well-known in antiquity but its text was believed to be lost until it was rediscovered (in a Coptic version) near Nag Hammadi, Egypt, in December 1945. It was first published in a photographic edition in 1956, followed three years later (1959) by the first English-language translation, with Coptic transcription. After the rediscovery of the Coptic version some fragmentary texts were identified as evidence of the (original?) Greek version of the Gospel of Thomas.

Unlike Mark, Luke, Matthew and John, the Gospel of Thomas is not a narrative account of the Life of Jesus, but similarly to the structure of Q Gospel, is a collection of 114 sayings attributed to Jesus.

The work was attributed to Thomas:

"These are the hidden words that the living Jesus spoke and Didymos Judas Thomas wrote them down."

Its place of composition may have been Syria.

Apart from a possible allusion to the death of Jesus in logion 65 (in the Parable of the Wicked Husbandmen, paralleled in the Synoptic Gospels), the work does not mention his crucifixion, his resurrection, or the final judgment; nor does it mention a messianic understanding of Jesus.

The work was not included in the New Testament as its authority was disputed among the Church Fathers.

Main Themes

An early witness of the teaching of Jesus

Almost half of the sayings in the Gospel of Thomas resemble those found in the Canonical Gospels,

In many cases the Gospel of Thomas seems to have preserved a better (simpler and shorter) version of the sayings of Jesus earlier than the Synoptics: (notably, 31, 57, 63, 64 and 65)

Thomas 9 (Parable of the Sower) -- [9] Jesus said, "Look, the sower went out, took a handful (of seeds), and scattered (them). Some fell on the road, and the birds came and gathered them. Others fell on rock, and they didn't take root in the soil and didn't produce heads of grain. Others fell on thorns, and they choked the seeds and worms ate them. And others fell on good soil, and it produced a good crop: it yielded sixty per measure and one hundred twenty per measure."
Thomas 31 (Hometown Rejection) -- Jesus says: "A prophet is not accepted in his <own> city, and a doctor does not heal those who know him.
Thomas 57 (Parable of the Tares) -- Jesus says: "The Kingdom of the Father is like a man who has [good] seed <in his field.> By night his enemy came and sowed tares over the seed which is good. <But> this man did not allow them <his servants> to pluck up the tares, 'for fear', he told them, 'that in going to take away the tares, you carry off the wheat with it. But on the harvest day the tares will be recognizable; they will be taken away and burnt."
Thomas 65-66 (Parable of the Wicked Husbandmen) -- He said: "An [important] man had a vineyard which he gave to cultivators so that they should work it and he should receive the fruit from them. He sent his servant so that the cultivators should give him the fruit of the vineyard: <but> they seized his servant, beat him and almost killed him. The servant came back and told this to his master. His master said <to himself> 'Perhaps he did not recognize them?' He sent another servant: the cultivators beat this one also. Then the master sent his son: he said to himself: 'No doubt they will respect my child?' But when they realized that this was the heir to the vineyard, these cultivators seized him and killed him. He who has ears let him hear!" -- see Gospel of Mark (12:1-12), Gospel of Matthew (21:33-46), Gospel of Luke (20:9-19)

Sometimes, however, the sayings are given an odd "proto-Gnostic" turn:

Thomas 8 (Parable of the Net)-- Then he says: "A man is like a skilled fisherman who cast his net into the sea. He brought it up out of the sea full of little fishes, and among them the skilled fisherman found one that was big and excellent. He threw all the little fishes back into the sea; without hesitating he chose the big fish. He who was ears to hear, let him hear!"
Thomas 107 (Parable of the Lost Sheep) -- Jesus said, "The kingdom is like a shepherd who had a hundred sheep. One of them, the largest, went astray. He left the ninety-nine and looked for the one until he found it. After he had toiled, he said to the sheep, I love you more than the ninety-nine."
Thomas as recipient of secret knowledge

Thomas is presented and singled out as the recipient of secret knowledge from Jesus. This is the most distinctive "proto-Gnostic" trait in the Gospel of Thomas.

Compare me to someone and tell me whom I am like:
Simon Peter [=Gospel of Mark] said to him: You are like a righteous angel.
Matthew [=Gospel of Matthew] said to him: You are like a wise philosopher.
Thomas said to him: "My mouth is wholly incapable of saying whom you are like." And Jesus took him and told him three things. When Thomas returned to his companions, they asked him. "What did Jesus say to you?" "If I tell you one of the things which he told me, you will pick up stones and throw them at me; a fire will come out of the stones and burn you up” (13)

See Secret Knowledge in Christianity.

From the Jewish Messiah to a pagan God

The first Christians saw in Jesus the Messiah Son of Man who came as a forgiver and would return as the final judge. In the Gospel of Thomas Jesus is fully divine. His divinity however is expressed in Hellenistic terms. The Jewish concept of creation is set aside; Jesus is a bodily manifestation of the divine essence of the universe.

“I am he who exists from the undivided. I was given some of the things of my father” (61).
“It is I who am the light which is above them all. It is I who am the call, From me did the All come forth, and unto me did the All extend, Split a piece of wood, and I am there. Lift up the stone, and you will find me there” (77).
“The images are manifest to man, but the light in them remains concealed in the image of the light of the Father. He will become manifest, but his image will remain concealed by his light” (83).
“I took my place in the midst of the world and I appeared to them in flesh…” (28)
The kingdom of God as a mystical experience; salvation as a matter of knowledge

In the previous Christian tradition, the Kingdom of God was understood as an (imminent) future event, which was prefigured (at least, partially) by the Church. Access to the kingdom was reserved to the righteous and the repentant sinners,

In the Gospel of Thomas, the Kingdom lost its temporal and collective features; it was a mystical and individual experience. Access to the kingdom was now a matter of knowledge.

“His disciples said to him, ‘When will the kingdom come?’ [Jesus said:] “It will not come by waiting for it. It will not be a matter of saying ‘here it is’ or ‘there it is’. Rather, the kingdom of the father is spread out upon the earth, and men do not see it” (113).
“Jesus said, If those who lead you say to you, See the kingdom is in the sky, then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, ‘It is in the sea,’ then the fish will precede you. Rather, the kingdom is inside of you and is outside of you. When you come to know yourselves then you will become known, and you will realize that it is you who are the sons of the living Father” (3)

See Kingdom of God.

No male nor female

Thomas overcomes the separation between males and females by claiming that "mystically" a woman can "make herself a male" restoring the original unity of "Adam", the first human being who was neither male nor female until Eve was taken from him and the two genders were separated. Based on this principle the Gnostics gave great authority to charismatic women and prophetesses as leaders of the community.

“When you make the two one and when you make the inside like the outside and the outside like the inside and the above like the below, and when you make the male and the female one and the same… then will you enter the kingdom” (22). “Every woman who will make herself male (= Adam) will enter the kingdom of God” (114)

Text, editions, translations

History of research

Related categories

External links

Pages in category "Gospel of Thomas (text)"

The following 48 pages are in this category, out of 48 total.