The Nag Hamadi Gospel of Thomas
What do you think of this "truth" of the last of the 114 teachings of the Gospel of Thomas? Simon Peter said to Him, "Let Mary leave us, for women are not worthy of Life." Jesus said, "I myself shall lead her in order to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every woman who will make herself male will enter the Kingdom of Heaven." (There is no evidence this was added later.) How about the 98th saying? Jesus said, "The Kingdom of the Father is like a certain man who wanted to kill a powerful man. In his own house he drew his sword and stuck it into the wall in order to find out whether his hand could carry through. Then he slew the powerful man." - Didn't think you'd agree with these ugly teachings.
Here is a different view of the Gospel of Thomas on www.y2gateways.com/id81.htm, (5/6/2001) "It is the general consensus of scholars who have worked with these and other texts that this gospel [of Thomas] contains the most authentic record of the teachings of Jesus yet found. Further, it is possible that this gospel predates the Bible! One of the biggest differences between this Gospel and later biblical writings is that it has neither gloom nor doom, no political positioning, not a crucifixion nor resurrection in sight. The gospel recognizes Jesus as a teacher, not God. Hallelujah!" Such is the devotion of some to this Gnostic Gospel. Is this justified? Those who think so should consider four things. 1. It was only one of at least 44 writings of Naaseni Gnostics, whose beliefs are unlike anyone's today. 2. It is intellectually dishonest to state the Gospel of Thomas predates the Bible. There is no support that it was written before c.140 A.D., since the earliest preserved fragment of this "gospel" is 200 A.D.. 3. Almost 100 made-up books of scripture were written in the 2nd through 4th centuries. The church knew of these and rejected these heretical and legendary books. 4. The academic "scholars" in the Jesus Seminar are not representative of Biblical scholarship. Here is an explanation of the points, including quotes.
1. Naaseni Gnostic Writings
The church father Hippolytus, writing 222-225 A.D., in Refutation of all Heresies book 5 chapter 1-3, mentions the Naaseni/Naasenes, who called themselves Gnostics and used the Gospel of Thomas. They must have started about this time, because his teacher, Irenaeus (182-188 A.D.), also wrote in exhaustive detail on the Gnostics, but was silent on the Naaseni and the Gospel of Thomas.
Gnostic heresies were an anti-Old Testament mixture of Greek philosophy, mystery religions, and some New Testament material. The early church preached against this teaching. Polycarp, a disciple of the apostle John, called the proto-Gnostic Marcion "firstborn of Satan", and Christians referred to Gnostics as those who "mutilated the truth". Since the Gospel of Thomas is somewhat in vogue with liberal scholars today, we are going to read a little about how they mutilated the truth. Gnostics believed the Creator of this world, the God of the Old Testament was an evil being. They said they had "gnosis" or secret knowledge of how one of a group of good gods sent the appearance of Jesus to reveal to us the knowledge of how to escape from this evil physical world and return to the higher spiritual realm. There were over 30 different groups of Gnostics, and they fell into two types: ascetic and libertine. The Naasenes were ascetic Gnostics.
2. Gospel of Thomas was Written Later
Most of what we knew about the Gnostic beliefs was from what Christians said about them. However, in 1945, two men plotting a murder found a library of 13 books near Nag Hamadi, between Luxor and Cairo, Egypt. The entire library has 1000 pages, of which 800 are well preserved. The 13 codices contained about 44 distinct writings, plus 4 to 6 duplicates. These manuscripts were copied c.350 A.D., in Sahidic Coptic and Sub-Akhmimic Coptic. There are also three earlier Greek fragments called Papyrii Oxyrhynchus 1, 654, 655. They contain sayings 1-6, 26-28, 30-32, 36-38, 39, and an additional one following 32. P.Oxy 1 is dated c.200 A.D., and the other two are dated 200-300 A.D. In contrast to this, the earliest existing fragments of the New Testament are part of Luke (>100 A.D.) and John (c.125 A.D.) Clement of Rome, writing in 96/98 A.D., refers to the book of Hebrews. We have copies of most of the New Testament from 125 A.D. and 175 A.D., along with the testimony of the early church writers. These agree well with later manuscripts. The kindest way to put it is that the Gospel of Thomas came first is an "outdated" view.
3. The Made-up Nature of the Book
The Gospel of Thomas claims to be written by Didymus Judas Thomas. Didymus is a nickname meaning "twin" and Thomas also means "twin" in Aramaic. The writer apparently forgot that. The Gospel of Thomas contains 114 alleged sayings of Jesus. They are disconnected teachings, sort of like Proverbs. There is nothing in there about any humanity of this thoroughly Gnostic Jesus. Here are some quotes from the Gospel of Thomas, translated by Thomas O. Lambdin.
12) The disciples said to Jesus, "We know that You will depart from us. Who is to be our leader?" Jesus said to them, "Wherever you are, you are to go to James the righteous, for whose sake heaven and earth came into being."
40) Jesus said, "A grapevine has been planted outside of the Father, but being unsound, it will be pulled up by its roots and destroyed." (ibid)
62) Jesus said, "It is to those [who are worthy of My] mysteries that I tell My mysteries. Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing."
77) Jesus said, "It is I who am the light which is above them all. It is I who am the All. 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."
97) Jesus said, "[What] the kingdom of the [father] resembles [is] a woman who was conveying a [jar] full of meal. When she had traveled far [along] the road, the handle of the jar broke and the meal spilled out after her [along] the road. She was not aware of the fact; she had not understood how to toil. When she readed home she put down the jar and found it empty." (translated by Bentley Layton) Thomas O Lambdin's translation is similar, except he has "had noticed no accident" instead of "had not understood how to toil"
There are about 50 made-up gospels, including even another "scripture" called the Gospel of Thomas about the childhood of Jesus. However, it has nothing in common with the Nag Hamadi book except the title.
4. The Jesus Seminar
While N.T. Wright and other more conservative scholars dismiss the findings of the Jesus Seminar, even liberal scholar Howard Clark Kee in a letter to the Los Angeles Times called the seminar "an academic disgrace" (from The Real Jesus, by Timothy Luke Johnson. p.18.) The issue here is not just their subjective skeptical views. The issue here is the arrogance of this group of 200 self-selected liberals in claiming to speak for the entire academic community. For example, they have no relationship to the 6,900-member Society of Biblical Literature.
What if a Few Parts Were True?
Over half of the sayings in the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas are very similar to sayings in the four gospels. However, even if Thomas did write something that made it in the Gospel of Thomas, one could not distinguish the truth from the corruption. If chocolate cake were your favorite desert, and you saw some in the garbage, you would not want to eat it, even though most of it might still be good.
The Gospel of Thomas was a Second Century lie of what the apostles and early church believed. It was only one of 44 or so scriptures that were a part of an alternate religion to early Christianity.
Pfeiffer, Charles F. (ed.) Wycliffe Dictionary of Biblical Archaeology. Hendrickson Pub. 2000. p.402-410.
Douglas, J.D. and Merrill C. Tenney. The New International Dictionary of the Bible. Zondervan Publishing House, 1987. p.1011-1012. Freedman,
David Noel (editor-in-chief) The Anchor Bible Dictionary Doubleday. 1992. vol. 6 p.535-540.
Layton, Bentley. The Gnostic Scriptures Doubleday. 1987 (p.380-399)
For a liberal view and three translations of this fake gospel: www.auburn.edu/~downejm/sp/JKHst.htm
For more info please contact Christian Debater™ P.O. Box 144441 Austin, TX 78714 www.BibleQuery.org
by Steven M. Morrison, PhD.