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The Apocryphal New Testament Easy to use collection of English translations of the New Testament Apocrypha.

Coptic Thomas

Of all the apocryphal gospels this is the one that has probably received greatest attention in recent years.

This Coptic gospel was found among the codices in the so‐called Gnostic library discovered at Nag Hammadi in 1945–6. The story of the finding and subsequent publication of this library is told by J. M. Robinson in the introduction to the English translation of these texts, The Nag Hammadi Library (Leiden, 1977, 31988). This ‘Gnostic’ Gospel of Thomas received great publicity because of its sometimes close links with the canonical Gospels: modern synopses of the Gospels often include the parallels to Thomas. A list of parallels precedes the translation below. The general public was alerted to the book by R. M. Grant and D. N. Freedman, The Secret Sayings of Jesus (London, 1960). In Britain, the Sunday Times, 15 and 22 November 1959, announced the discovery and published a translation of the sayings. A vast secondary literature has developed and a sample of the most significant is given in the bibliography below.

Ancient testimony about a ‘Gospel of Thomas’ includes Origen, Hom 1 on Luke (Rauer, p. 5) and Cyril of Jerusalem, Catecheses 4. 36 (PG 33. 500) and 6. 31 (PG 33. 593). The Gelasian Decree and the Stichometry of Nicephorus also refer to a Gospel of Thomas, but in none of these cases is it certain whether Coptic Thomas (or even the Infancy Gospel of Thomas (q.v.)) is intended. One indubitable testimonium to Coptic Thomas is Hippolytus, Haer. 5. 7. 20 (Wendland, p. 83). The date of Thomas is likely to be mid‐second‐century, although earlier dates have been proposed, and its provenance possibly Edessa: links with the Syriac Acts of Thomas are suggestive.

The Gospel is made up of 114 sayings (logia) mainly by Jesus. The existence of such a document has invited comparison with the contents of the hypothetical synoptic source Q, which is also a ‘sayings source’, and has helped to disprove the objection sometimes raised against Q that there is no evidence in early Christian literature of a document consisting only of sayings.

The possibility that at least some of the unique sayings of Jesus preserved in Coptic Thomas may ultimately go back to Jesus is generally conceded. The probability that where there are synoptic parallels the version in Thomas may preserve an earlier witness is less widely accepted; an influential group of scholars (e.g. Quispel, Koester, Crossan, Cameron, and others) would wish to argue that the Greek Vorlage of the Coptic version may well be independent of the synoptic Gospels.

The asceticism and Gnosticism of many of the sayings in Thomas are generally recognized as suggesting a Gnostic origin for the collection, but in so far as the sayings are likely to have come from the oral traditions of orthodox Christianity (if such a term is not an anachronism in the second century) it is not surprising that the character of the total is not entirely consistent. Although many of the sayings have a Gnosticizing tendency, the practical spirituality taught is not one that would have been untenable in catholic Christianity. A. J. B. Higgins (Bibliography below, under General) sets out the non‐Gnostic sayings in Thomas.

Gilles Quispel has written extensively on Thomas: Charlesworth's bibliography lists thirty‐five titles by him on this apocryphon (see also Scholer's bibliography). Some of his articles are concerned with links between Thomas and other sources, for example the Western Text, the Pseudo‐Clementine literature, and the Diatessaron (‘L’Évangile selon Thomas et les Clémentines', VC 12 (1958), 181–96; ‘L’Évangile selon Thomas et le Diatessaron’, VC 13 (1959), 87–113; ‘L’Évangile selon Thomas et le “Texte Occidentale” du Nouveau Testament’, VC 14 (1960), 204–15). As van den Broek writes of Quispel in the introduction to the Quispel Festschrift, 1 R. van den Broek and M. J. Vermaseren, Studies in Gnosticism and Hellenistic Religions: Presented to Gilles Quispel on the Occasion of his Sixty‐fifth Birthday (Leiden, 1981) (= Etudes préliminaires aux religions orientales dans l'Empire Romain 91). p. viii, ‘He defended from the beginning a two‐fold thesis: (a) the Gospel of Thomas is essentially not a Gnostic but an encratite writing, and (b) it contains clear elements of an extra‐canonical Jewish‐Christian Gospel tradition.’

It is generally agreed that the original language of Coptic Thomas was Greek. The Oxyrhynchus Papyri 1, 654, and 655 preserve fragments of a Greek text that agrees closely with, but is not identical to, Coptic Thomas. For introductory notes on these papyri see below.

The translation of Coptic Thomas has been based on the edition by Bentley Layton in Nag Hammadi Studies 20.

The literature on Thomas is vast. The fullest bibliographic sources are D. M. Scholer, Nag Hammadi Bibliography 1948–1969 (Leiden, 1971) (= Nag Hammadi Studies 1) and regular supplements in Novum Testamentum. Cf. also E. Haenchen, ‘Literatur zum Thomasevangelium’, ThR 27 (1961), 147–78, 306–38.

Editions

  • P. Labib, Coptic Gnostic Papyri in the Coptic Museum at Old Cairo, i (Cairo, 1956) (plates 80, 10–99, 28). [Photographic edition.]

  • A. Guillaumont, H.‐C. Puech, G. Quispel, W. Till, Yassah ‘Abd al Masih, The Gospel According to Thomas (London and Leiden, 1959) (with English trans.). 2 French, German, and Castilian Spanish translations have also been published. [Editio princeps.]

Modern Translations

English

  • W. R. Schoedel, in R. M. Grant and D. N. Freedman, The Secret Sayings of Jesus (London, 1960), 112–86.

  • H. Koester and T. O. Lambdin, ‘The Gospel of Thomas (II.2)’, in J. M. Robinson (ed.), The Nag Hammadi Library in English (Leiden, 1977), 117–30.

  • B. M. Metzger, in Aland, Synopsis 13, 517–30.

  • D. R. Cartlidge, in D. R. Cartlidge and D. L. Dungan, 25–35.

  • Hennecke3, i. 278–307, 511–22.

  • Hennecke5, i. 110–34.

  • B. Layton, The Gnostic Scriptures (London, 1987), 376–99.

  • —(ed.), Nag Hammadi Codex II, 2–7, together with XIII, 2*, Brit. Lib. Or 4926(1) and P. Oxy 1, 654, 655, i (Leiden, New York, Copenhagen, Cologne, 1989) (= Nag Hammadi Studies 20), 38–128 (Introduction by H. Koester, 38–49; Coptic text ed. B. Layton and English translation by T. O. Lambdin, 52–93). [For Appendix by H. W. Attridge on the Greek fragments, see below.]

French

  • J. Doresse, L’Évangile selon Thomas (Paris, 1959).

  • R. Kasser, L’Évangile selon Thomas (Neuchâtel, 1961) (with Greek retroversion).

  • J.‐É. Ménard, L’Évangile selon Thomas (Leiden, 1975) (= Nag Hammadi Studies 5).

  • Éac, 25–53.

German

  • J. Leipoldt, Das Evangelium nach Thomas, Koptisch und Deutsch (Berlin, 1967) (= TU 101).

  • E. Haenchen, in Aland, Synopsis 13, 517–30. [These pages also contain an Engl. trans. by B. M. Metzger and a Latin trans. by G. Garitte.]

  • Hennecke3, i. 199–223 (H.‐C. Puech).

  • Hennecke5, i. 93–113 (B. Blatz). [Full German trans.]

Italian

  • Bonaccorsi, i. 30 f.

  • Erbetta, i.1, 253–82.

  • Moraldi, i. 475–501.

Spanish

  • de Santos Otero (61988), 678–705.

General

  • W. Michaelis, Das Thomas‐Evangelium (Stuttgart, 1960) (= Calwer Hefte 34).

  • A. J. B. Higgins, ‘The non‐Gnostic Sayings in the Gospel of Thomas’, Nov T 4 (1960), 292–306 (repr. in The Tradition about Jesus: Three Studies (Edinburgh, 1969), 30–47 (= SJT Occasional Papers 15)).

  • R. McL. Wilson, Studies in the Gospel of Thomas (London, 1960), cf. id., ‘The Gospel of Thomas’, in F. L. Cross (ed.), Studia Evangelica iii (Berlin, 1964) 447–59 (= TU 88).

  • —‘Thomas and the Growth of the Gospels’, HTR 53 (1960), 231–50.

  • W. R. Schoedel, ‘Naassene Themes in the Coptic Gospel of Thomas’, VC 14 (1960), 225–34.

  • B. Gärtner, The Theology of the Gospel of Thomas (London, 1961).

  • E. Haenchen, Die Botschaft des Thomasevengeliums (Berlin, 1961) (= Theologische Bibliothek Töpelmann 6) (with German trans.).

  • H. E. W. Turner and H. Montefiore, Thomas and the Evangelists (London, 1962) (= Studies in Biblical Theology 35).

  • G. C. Stead, ‘Some Reflections on the Gospel of Thomas’, in F. L. Cross (ed.), Studia Evangelica iii (Berlin, 1964) 390–402 (= TU 88).

  • M. Marcovich, ‘Textual Criticism on the Gospel of Thomas’, JTS 20 (1969), 53–74.

  • G. Quispel, Gnostic Studies (Istanbul, i, 1974; ii, 1975) (= Uitgaven van het Nederlands historisch‐archaeologisch instituut te Ishtanbul 34).

  • E. Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels (New York, 1979).

  • G. Lüdemann, ‘Zur Gleichnisinterpretation im Thomasevangelium’, ZNW 71 (1980), 214–43.

  • G. Quispel, ‘The Gospel of Thomas Revisited’, in B. Barc (ed.), Colloque international sur les textes de Nag Hammadi (Leuven, 1981), 218–66.

  • B. Dehandschutter, ‘L’Évangile de Thomas comme collection de paroles de Jésus', in J. Delobel (ed.), Logia—The Sayings of Jesus (Leuven, 1982), 507–15 (= BETL 59).

  • M. Lelyveld, Les logia de la vie dans l'Evangile selon Thomas: A la recherche d'une tradition et d'une redaction (Leiden, 1987) (= Nag Hammadi Studies 34).

  • F. T. Fallon and R. Cameron, ‘The Gospel of Thomas: A Forschungsbericht and Analysis’, ANRW 2.25.6, 4195–4251.

  • R. Valantasis, The Gospel of Thomas (London and New York, 1997).

On the relationship of Thomas and the synoptic Gospels:

  • J. B. Bauer, ‘The Synoptic Tradition in the Gospel of Thomas’, in F. L. Cross (ed.), Studia Evangelica iii (Berlin, 1964), 314–17 (= TU 88).

  • W. Schrage, ‘Evangelienzitate in den Oxyrhynchus‐Logien und im koptischen Thomas‐Evangelium’, in Apophoreta: Festschrift Ernst Haenchen (Berlin, 1964), 251–68 (= BZNW 30).

  • Das Verhältnis des Thomasevangeliums zur synoptischen, Tradition und zu den koptischen Evangelienübersetzungen (Berlin, 1964) (= BZNW 29). 3 Review by R. McL. Wilson, VC 20 (1966), 118–23.

  • J. D. Crossan, Four Other Gospels (Minneapolis, Chicago, New York, 1985).

  • B. Chilton, ‘The Gospel According to Thomas as a Source of Jesus' Teaching’, in D. Wenham (ed.), The Jesus Tradition outside the Gospels (Sheffield, 1985), 155–75 (= Gospel Perspectives 5).

  • C. L. Blomberg, ‘Tradition and Redaction in the Parables of the Gospel of Thomas’, in Wenham, op. cit. 177–205.

  • J. M. Robinson, ‘On Bridging the Gulf from Q to the Gospel of Thomas (and vice versa)’, in C. W. Hedrich and R. Hodgson Jr. (eds.), Nag Hammadi Gnosticism and Early Christianity (Peabody, Massachusetts, 1986), 127–75.

  • C. M. Tuckett, ‘Thomas and the Synoptics’, NovT 30 (1988), 132–57.

  • F. Neirynck, ‘The Apocryphal Gospels and the Gospel of Mark’, in J.‐M. Sevrin (ed.), The New Testament in Early Christianity (Leuven, 1989), 123–75, esp. 133–40 (= BETL 86).

On the relationship of Thomas with the Fourth Gospel:

R. E. Brown, ‘The Gospel of Thomas and St. John's Gospel’, NTS 9 (1963), 155–77.

Synopses

For parallels between the Coptic Gospel of Thomas, Oxyrhynchus Papyri 1, 654, and 655, and the canonical Gospels see Aland13, 585–6; Huck‐Greeven13, 286; Boismard, 415; J. S. Kloppenborg, Q Parallels (Sonoma, Calif., 1988); and the list preceding the translation below.

Notes:

1 R. van den Broek and M. J. Vermaseren, Studies in Gnosticism and Hellenistic Religions: Presented to Gilles Quispel on the Occasion of his Sixty‐fifth Birthday (Leiden, 1981) (= Etudes préliminaires aux religions orientales dans l'Empire Romain 91).

2 French, German, and Castilian Spanish translations have also been published.

3 Review by R. McL. Wilson, VC 20 (1966), 118–23.

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