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The Gospel of Thomas or The Gospel According to Thomas (Coptic: ⲡⲉ̅ⲩ̅ⲁ̅ⲅⲅ̅ⲉⲗ̅ⲓⲟⲛ̅ ⲡⲕ̅ⲁ̅ⲧⲁ ⲑ̅ⲱ̅ⲙⲁⲥ), is a New Testament apocryphon, nearly completely preserved in a Coptic papyrus manuscript discovered in December 1945. With over fifty other documents, together known as the Nag Hammadi library, it was found by a farmer in an earthenware jar buried near Nag Hammadimarker, Egyptmarker.

At the beginning of the document, the writer calls himself Didymus Judas Thomas and this is the source of its name, but no modern scholars consider Apostle Thomas its author and the author remains unknown. The document was most probably for a school of either early Christians or Gnostics who claimed Thomas as their founder. Didymus (Greek) and Thomas (Hebrew) both mean twin.

The document is very different in tone and structure from the four Canonical Gospels, or even other non-canonical gospels. Unlike the Canonical Gospels, it is not a narrative account of the life of Jesus; rather, it consists of logia, or wisdom sayings, with short dialogues, attributed to Jesus. The document has no reference to the divinity of Jesus, his crucifixion and resurrection or to the final judgement.

The work comprises 114 of these sayings, some of them composites of multiple sayings. Almost half of these sayings resemble those found in the four canonical Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, while other sayings were not known until its discovery. The text is in the form of a codex, bound in a method now called Coptic binding.

Discovery and publication

When this Coptic version of the complete text was discovered in 1945 at Nag Hammadimarker, Egyptmarker, scholars realized that three separate portions of a Greek version of it had already been discovered in Oxyrhynchusmarker, Egypt, in 1897. In 1903 two more different fragments were discovered in Oxyrhynchus, seemingly originating from the same collection of sayings bearing the Greek fragments of the Gospel of Thomas (P. Oxy. I 1; IV 654; IV 655) dating from between AD 200 to AD 250, with another Greek fragment discovered in 1905 predating AD 200; the manuscript of the Coptic version dates to about 340. The wording of the Coptic version is not always a very exact representation of the Greek original, and the sayings are ordered differently in one fragment. This fact, along with the quite different wording Hippolytus uses when apparently quoting it (see below), suggests that its text was less stable than those of the canonical gospels; it has been argued that it "may have circulated in more than one form and passed through several stages of redaction."

The complete Coptic text was first published in a photographic edition in 1956 followed three years later by the first critical edition (with English translation). In 1977 the James M. Robinson translation was first published, as part of The Nag Hammadi Library in English, (E.J. Brill and Harper & Row). The Gospel of Thomas has been translated and annotated in several languages. The original manuscript is the property of Egypt's Department of Antiquities.


The earliest surviving written references to the Gospel of Thomas are found in the writings of Hippolytus of Rome (c. 222-235) and Origen of Alexandria (c. 233). Hippolytus wrote in his Refutation of All Heresies 5.7.20:
"[The Naassenes] speak...of a nature which is both hidden and revealed at the same time and which they call the thought-for kingdom of heaven which is in a human being.
They transmit a tradition concerning this in the Gospel entitled "According to Thomas," which states expressly, "The one who seeks me will find me in children of seven years and older, for there, hidden in the fourteenth aeon, I am revealed."
This appears to be a reference to saying 4 of Thomas, although the wording differs significantly from saying 4, perhaps indicating that the Gospel of Thomas had a very unstable text and circulated in more that one form. It has also been suggested that Hippolytus actually refers to the Infancy Gospel of Thomas.

Origen listed the "Gospel according to Thomas" as being among the heterodox apocryphal gospels known to him (Hom. in Luc. 1). In the 4th and 5th centuries, various Church Fathers wrote that the Gospel of Thomas was highly valued by Mani. In the 4th century, Cyril of Jerusalem mentioned a "Gospel of Thomas" twice in his Catechesis: "The Manichæans also wrote a Gospel according to Thomas, which being tinctured with the fragrance of the evangelic title corrupts the souls of the simple sort." and "Let none read the Gospel according to Thomas: for it is the work not of one of the twelve Apostles, but of one of the three wicked disciples of Manes." The 5th century Decretum Gelasianum includes "A Gospel attributed to Thomas which the Manichaean use" in its list of heretical books.

Corresponding Oxyrhynchus papyri

Prior to the Nag Hammadi library discovery, the sayings of Jesus found in Oxyrhynchus were known simply as Logia Iesu. The corresponding Koine Greek fragments of the Gospel of Thomas, all dated to c. 200, found in Oxyrhynchusmarker are:

  • P.Oxy. 1: fragments of logia 26 through 33, and logia 77 (ordered: 26-30, 77, 31-33).
  • P.Oxy. 654: fragments of the beginning through logion 7, logion 24 and logion 36 on the flip side of a papyrus containing surveying data.
  • P.Oxy. 655: fragments of logia 36 through 39. 8 fragments named a through h, whereof f and h have since been lost.

Date of Composition

Richard Valantasis writes:
Assigning a date to the Gospel of Thomas is very complex because it is difficult to know precisely to what a date is being assigned.
Scholars have proposed a date as early as 60 AD or as late as 140 AD, depending upon whether the Gospel of Thomas is identified with the original core of sayings, or with the author's published text, or with the Greek or Coptic texts, or with parallels in other literature.
Valantasis and other scholars argue that it is difficult to date Thomas because, as a collection of logia without a narrative framework, individual sayings could have been added to it gradually over time.

Nevertheless, scholars generally fall into one of two main camps: an "early camp" favoring a date for the "core" of between the years 50 and 100, before or approximately contemporary with the composition of the canonical gospels and a "late camp" favoring a date in the 2nd century, after composition of the canonical gospels.

The early camp

Those who argue that Thomas dates from the first century use a variety of arguments:

Form of the gospel

Theissen and Merz argue the genre of a collection of sayings was one of the earliest forms in which material about Jesus was handed down. They assert that other collections of sayings, such as the Q document and the collection underlying Mark 4, were absorbed into larger narratives and no longer survive as independent documents, and that no later collections in this form survive. Meyer also asserts that the genre of a "sayings collection" is indicative of the first century, and that in particular the "use of parables without allegorical amplification" seems to antedate the canonical gospels.

Independence from Synoptic Gospels

Stevan L. Davies argues that the apparent independence of the ordering of sayings in Thomas from that of their parallels in the synoptics shows that Thomas was most likely not reliant upon the canonical Gospels and probably predated them. A number of authors argue that when the logia in Thomas do have parallels in the synoptics the version in Thomas often seems closer to the source. Theissen and Merz give sayings 31 and 65 as examples of this. Similarly Earl Doherty argues that when the Gospel of Thomas does parallel Q or the New Testament, it shows a less developed, more "primitive" or "original" form than the latter. Koester agrees, citing especially the parables contained in sayings 8, 9, 57, 63, 64 and 65. In the few instances where the version in Thomas seems to be dependent on the Synoptics, Koester suggests, this may be due to the influence of the person who translated the text from Greek into Coptic.

Koester also argues that the absence of narrative materials (such as those found in the canonical gospels) in Thomas makes it unlikely that the gospel is "an eclectic excerpt from the gospels of the New Testament". He also cites the absence of the eschatological sayings characteristic of Q to show the independence of Thomas from that source. On the other hand, many other scholars have argued for a direct or indirect dependence on the Synoptics, or on a harmony of Luke and Matthew. (See also below under "Late camp").

Independence from John's gospel

Another argument for the early date (originally brought forward as the central argument of Elaine Pagels' book Beyond Belief The Secret Gospel of Thomas) is that there seems to be conflict between the Gospel of John and the Gospel of Thomas. Certain passages in the Gospel of John can only be understood in light of a community whose beliefs were based on the theological teachings of the Gospel of Thomas. For example, Pagels mentions John’s repeated references to the inability of the world to recognize the divine light (Jn 1:5, 1:10), John’s insistence on the uniqueness of Jesus as the "only begotten" son, and the "I am" sayings (especially, "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the father except through me," addressed pointedly to Thomas in Jn 14:6). These passages contrast with Thomas’ idea that the divine light dwells within all beings and is accessible to all who seek it (e.g., G. Thomas, logion 24, 77), and that salvation was gained through the experience of discovery of the meaning of Jesus’ teaching (G. Thomas, logion 1). John is the only one of the Canonical Gospels that gives Thomas a speaking part, indicating respect for the Thomas community. This respect is because the Gospel of John and the Gospel of Thomas are theologically similar in so many other respects. In the story of Doubting Thomas (Jn. 20:26-29), however, the Johannine Community is theologically rebutting the Thomas community. The Johannine Community believes in a bodily resurrection; Thomas community believes in a spiritual resurrection and completely rejects a bodily resurrection. So when John has Thomas physically touch the risen Jesus and acknowledge his bodily nature, "he shows Thomas giving up his search for experiential truth – his 'unbelief' – to confess what John sees as the truth...". Pagel's interpretation of John thus requires that a Thomas community existed when John's Gospel was written.

Role of James

Albert Hogeterp argues that the Gospel's saying 12, which attributes leadership of the community to James the Just rather than to Peter, agrees with the description of the early Jerusalem church by Paul in Galatians|2:1-14, and may reflect a tradition predating CE 70. Meyer also lists "uncertainty about James the righteous, the brother of Jesus" as characteristic of a first century origin.

Depiction of Peter and Matthew

In saying 13, Peter and Matthew are depicted as unable to understand the true significance or identity of Jesus. Patterson argues that this can be interpreted as a criticism against the school of Christianity associated with the Gospel of Matthew, and that "[t]his sort of rivalry seems more at home in the first century than later", when all the apostles had become revered figures.

Parallel with Paul

According to Meyer, Thomas's saying 17: "I shall give you what no eye has seen, what no ear has heard and no hand has touched, and what has not come into the human heart", is strikingly similar to what Paul told the Corinthians he criticizes in .

Other arguments

Joseph B. Lumpkin makes reference to Thomas' journey into India. In the books The Tao of Thomas and The Gospel of Thomas Lumpkin states that the flavor of The Gospel of Thomas may not be Gnostic at all but may instead be a list of sayings penned after Thomas was exposed to the Eastern wisdom found in Asia Minor. If exposure to Eastern mysticism influenced Thomas' understanding of Jesus' words the result could be interpreted as Gnosticism. Lumpkin goes on to state that in his opinion the Gospel of Thomas could have been written prior to the Gospel of Mark. Mark's writings are seen as the seed document to the other gospels found in the New Testament, but the fact that Thomas does not follow Mark's pattern may suggest it was written prior to or in isolation from Mark.

The Ecumenical Coptic Project points out in its annotated translation that the grammatic construction of the Coptic and Greek texts suggest they are from translations of an earlier text and not directly from an oral tradition. This hypothesis is derived from the presence in the text of several instances of an asyndeton, or omission of conjunctions, characterizing the Semitic and Hamitic languages, but not Indo-European – thus signaling an original Hebrew or Aramaic written text underlying the Greek, from which Coptic Thomas was in turn translated; see P338 and Matthew Black, An Aramaic Approach to the Gospels and Acts: "Asyndeton is, on the whole, contrary to the spirit of the Greek language ... but is highly characteristic of Aramaic".

The late camp

The late camp dates Thomas some time after 100, generally in the mid-2nd century.

Syriac origin

Nicholas Perrin argues that Thomas is dependent on the Diatessaron, which was composed shortly after 172 by Tatian in Syria.

Also, Perrin has provided an explanation for the order of the sayings by translating the extant coptic translation into what he believes to be the original language, Syriac, where catchwords connect almost every saying together. In Coptic or Greek, catchwords only connect a few of the sayings.

Craig Evans argues that Thomas is dependent on Syriac writings, including unique versions of the canonical gospels. Many sayings of the Gospel of Thomas are more similar to Syriac versions of Jesus' sayings than Greek canonical gospels' versions. As an example, saying 54, which speaks of the poor and the kingdom of heaven, is more similar to the Syriac version of Matthew 5:3 than the Greek version of that passage or the version in Luke 6:20.

Lack of apocalyptic themes

Bart Ehrman, (in Jesus Apocalyptic Prophet of the Millennium) argues that the Jesus of history was a failed apocalyptic preacher, and that his fervent apocalyptic beliefs are recorded in the earliest Christian documents: Mark and the authentic Pauline epistles. The earliest Christians believed Jesus would soon return, and their beliefs are echoed in the earliest Christian writings. The Gospel of Thomas proclaims that the Kingdom of God is already present for those who understand the secret message of Jesus, and lacks apocalyptic themes. Because of this, Ehrman argues, The Gospel of Thomas was likely composed by a Gnostic some time in the early second century.

Dependency on Luke's gospel

Another argument for the late dating of Thomas is that Saying 5 in the original Greek (Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 654) follows Luke's redactional vocabulary (Luke 8:17) rather than Mark's vocabulary (Mark 4:22). Since according to the Two Document Hypothesis, widely held by modern New Testament scholars, Luke used the gospel of Mark and a lost Q document to compose his gospel, Thomas, in following Luke's rather than Mark's vocabulary, must be subsequent to both Mark and Luke. Belief in the priority of Thomas over the Synoptic Gospels is incompatible with the consensus of New Testament scholarship concerning the priority of Mark's gospel and its redactional modification by Luke. Another saying that employs Luke's redactional vocabulary rather than following Mark's vocabulary is Saying 31 in the original Greek (Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 1), where Luke 4:23's term dektos (acceptable) is employed rather than Mark 6:4's atimos (without honor). The word dektos (in all its cases and genders) is clearly typical of Luke since it is only employed by him (Luke 4:19; Luke 4:24; Acts 10:35), and never by Mark or the other canonical gospel writers. Thus the Greek Thomas has clearly been at least influenced by Luke's characteristic vocabulary.

The Gospel of Thomas and the Canon of the New Testament

The harsh and widespread reaction to Marcion's canon, the first New Testament canon known to have been created, may demonstrate that, by 140, it had become widely accepted that other texts formed parts of the records of the life and ministry of Jesus. Although arguments about some potential New Testament books, such as the Shepherd of Hermas and Book of Revelation, continued well into the 4th century, four canonical gospels, attributed to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, were accepted among orthodox Christians at least as early as the mid-2nd century. Tatian's widely used Diatessaron, compiled between 160 and 175, utilized the four gospels without any consideration of others. Irenaeus of Lyons wrote in the late 2nd century that since there are four quarters of the earth ... it is fitting that the church should have four pillars ... the four Gospels (Against Heresies, 3.11.8), and then shortly thereafter made the first known quotation from a fourth gospel—the canonical version of the Gospel of John. The late 2nd-century Muratorian fragment also recognizes only the three synoptic gospels and John. Bible scholar Bruce Metzger wrote regarding the formation of the New Testament canon, "Although the fringes of the emerging canon remained unsettled for generations, a high degree of unanimity concerning the greater part of the New Testament was attained among the very diverse and scattered congregations of believers not only throughout the Mediterranean world, but also over an area extending from Britain to Mesopotamia."

It should be noted that information about the historical Jesus itself was not a singular criterion for inclusion into the New Testament Canon. Not all of the books that ended up in the New Testament contain information about the historical Jesus nor teachings from the historical Jesus, as evidenced by the Epistles and the book of Revelation.

The Gospel of Thomas may have been excluded from the canon of the New Testament because it was believed:

  • not to have been written close to the time of Jesus
  • not to have been written by apostolic authority or was forged in Thomas' name
  • not to have been used by multiple churches over a wide geographic range
  • to be heretical or unorthodox
  • not to have been useful or comprehensible
  • to be secret - or for adepts - as the first sentence of the gospel declares

The Philosophy of the Gospel of Thomas

In the Thomas gospel, Jesus is a spiritual teacher, and he is offering everyone the opportunity to live (Saying 4) a life that goes beyond death (Saying 1), to become the ruler of their own lives (Saying 2) and thus to know themselves (Saying 3) and their legacy of being the children of "the living Father" (Saying 3). These goals are presented in the image of "entering the Kingdom" by the methodology of insight that goes beyond duality. (Saying 22). The Gospel of Thomas shows no concern for doctrines such as "God", "original sin", "Christ", "divinity," etc.

The Gospel of Thomas is mystical and emphasizes a direct and unmediated experience of the truth of life. In Thomas v.108, Jesus said, "Whoever drinks from my mouth will become as I am; I myself shall become that person, and the hidden things will be revealed to him." Furthermore, salvation is personal and found through spiritual (psychological) introspection. In Thomas v.70, Jesus says, "If you bring forth what is within you, what you have will save you. If you do not bring it forth, what you do not have within you will kill you." As such, this form of salvation is idiosyncratic and without literal explanation unless read from a psychological perspective related to Self vs. ego. In Thomas v.3, Jesus says,
...the Kingdom of God is inside of you, and it 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. But if you will not know yourselves, you dwell in poverty, and it is you who are that poverty.

In the other four gospels, Jesus is frequently called upon to explain the meanings of parables or the correct procedure for prayer. In Thomas v.6, his disciples asked him, "Do you want us to fast? How should we pray? Should we give to charity? What diet should we observe?" For reasons unknown, Jesus' answer is found in v. 14 and he emphasizes that what is encountered in the world will not defile a person but what comes out from the mouth will. This is just one example in Thomas in which the hearer's attention is directed away from objectified judgements of the world to knowing oneself in direct and straighforward manner, which is sometimes called being "as a child" or "a little one" through the unification of our dualistic thinking and modes of objectification. (For example, Sayings 22 and 37) To portray the breaking down of the dualistic perspective Jesus uses the image of fire which consumes all. (See, Sayings 10 and 82).

The teaching of salvation (i.e., entering the Kingdom of Heaven) that is found in The Gospel of Thomas is neither that of "works" nor of "grace" as the dichotomy is found in the canonical gospels, but what might be called a third way, that of insight. The overriding concern of The Gospel of Thomas is to find the light within in order to be a light unto the world. (See for example, Sayings 24, 26)

In contrast to the Gospel of John, where Jesus is likened to a (divine and beloved) Lord as in ruler, the Thomas gospel portrays Jesus as more the ubiquitous vehicle of mystical inspiration and enlightenment. In Thomas v. 77 where Jesus said,
I am the light that shines over all things. I am everywhere. From me all came forth, and to me all return.
Split a piece of wood, and I am there. Lift a stone, and you will find me there,

In many other respects, the Thomas gospel offers terse yet familiar if not identical accounts of the sayings of Jesus as seen in the synoptic gospels.

Elaine Pagels, in her book Beyond Belief, argues that the Thomas gospel at first fell victim to the needs of the early Christian community for solidarity in the face of persecution, then to the will of the Emperor Constantine, who at the First Council of Nicaea in 325, wanted an end to the sectarian squabbling and a universal Christian creed. She goes on to point out that in spite of it being left out of the Catholic canon, being banned and sentenced to burn, many of the mystical elements have proven to reappear perennially in the works of mystics like Jacob Boehme, Teresa of Avila and Saint John of the Cross. She concludes that the Thomas gospel gives us a rare glimpse into the diversity of beliefs in the early Christian community, an alternative perspective to the Johannine gospel.

The Gospel of Thomas's importance and author

The Gospel of Thomas is regarded by some scholars as one of the most important texts in understanding early Christianity outside the New Testament. It is one of the earliest accounts of the teaching of Jesus outside of the canonical gospels, according to a few scholars, and so is considered a valuable text. It is further unique in that the gospel is no more than a collection of Jesus' sayings and parables, and contains no narrative account of his life, which is something that all four canonical gospels include.

No major Christian group accepts this gospel as canonical or authoritative. Nonetheless, it is an important work for scholars working on the Q document, which itself is thought to be a collection of sayings or teachings upon which Matthew and Luke are partly based. Although no copy of Q has ever been discovered, the fact that Thomas is similarly a 'sayings' Gospel is taken by some as indication that the early Christians did write collections of the sayings of Jesus, and thus they feel it renders the Q theory more credible.

Most scholars consider the Gospel of Thomas to be a gnostic text, since it was found in a library among others, it contains Gnostic themes, and perhaps presupposes a Gnostic worldview. Others reject this interpretation, because Thomas lacks the full-blown mythology of Gnosticism as described by Irenaeus of Lyons (ca. 185), and because Gnostics frequently appropriated and used a large "range of scripture from Genesis to the Psalms to Homer, from the Synoptics to John to the letters of Paul."

The Gospel of Thomas and the historical Jesus

Certain modern scholars believe that the Gospel of Thomas was written independently of the New Testament, and therefore, is a useful guide to historical Jesus research. Scholars may utilize one of a number of critical tools in biblical scholarship, the criterion of multiple attestation, to help build cases for historical reliability of the sayings of Jesus. By finding those sayings in the Gospel of Thomas that overlap with Q, Mark, Matthew, Luke, John, and Paul, scholars feel such sayings represent "multiple attestations" and therefore are more likely to come from a historical Jesus than sayings that are only singly attested.

The Gospel of Thomas has been used by Christ myth theory proponents, such as Earl Doherty and Timothy Freke, as evidence that Christianity did not originate with a historical Jesus, but as a Jewish adaptation of the Greek mystery religion. The collection of teachings attributed to Jesus represent part of the initiation to the mysteries of their religion.

Comparison of The Gospel of Thomas to the New Testament

The Gospel of Thomas does not refer to Jesus as "Christ", "Lord", or "Son of Man" as the New Testament does, but simply as "Jesus." The Gospel of Thomas also lacks any mention of Jesus' birth, baptism, miracles, travels, death, and resurrection. However, over half of the sayings in Thomas are similar to sayings and parables found in the canonical gospels.

The Gospel of Thomas does not list the canonical twelve apostles and it does not use either this expression or the terms "the twelve" or "the twelve disciples." It does mention James the Just, who is singled out ("No matter where you are you are to go to James the Just, for whose sake heaven and earth came into being"); Simon Peter; Matthew; Thomas, who is taken aside and receives three points of revelation; Mary; and Salome. Although here Mary (presumably Mary Magdalene) and Salome are mentioned among the disciples, the canonical gospels and Acts make a distinction between an inner group of twelve male disciples, with varying lists of names, and a larger group of disciples, among which there may well have been women. Despite the favorable mention of James the Just, generally considered a "pro-circumcision" Christian, the Gospel of Thomas also dismisses circumcision:

His disciples said to him, "Is circumcision useful or not?" He said to them, "If it were useful, their father would produce children already circumcised from their mother. Rather, the true circumcision in spirit has become profitable in every respect."

Compare Thomas 8 SV

8. And Jesus said, "The person is like a wise fisherman who cast his net into the sea and drew it up from the sea full of little fish. Among them the wise fisherman discovered a fine large fish. He threw all the little fish back into the sea, and easily chose the large fish. Anyone here with two good ears had better listen!"

with NIV:

47"Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. 48When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. 49This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous 50and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

Note that Thomas makes a distinction between large and small fish, whereas Matthew makes a distinction between good and bad fish. Furthermore, Thomas' version has only one fish remaining, whereas Matthew's version implies many good fish remaining. The manner in which each Gospel concludes the parable is instructive. Thomas' version invites the reader to draw their own conclusions as to the interpretation of the saying, whereas Matthew provides an explanation connecting the text to an apocalyptic end of the age.

Another example is the parable of the lost sheep, which is paralleled by Matthew, Luke, John, and Thomas.

This is the parable of the lost sheep in NIV

12"What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? 13And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. 14In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost."

This is the parable of the lost sheep in Luke 15: 3-7 NIV

3Then Jesus told them this parable: 4"Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.' 7I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent."

This is the parable of the lost sheep in Thomas 107 SV

107. 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."

This is the lost sheep discourse in John 10: 1-18 NIV

1"I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber.
2The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep.
3The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice.
He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.
4When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.
5But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger's voice."
6Jesus used this figure of speech, but they did not understand what he was telling them.
7Therefore Jesus said again, "I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. 8All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.[1] He will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.11"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.14"I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me — 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father — and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life — only to take it up again. 18No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father."

Other parallels include
  • parallels Thomas 39.
  • parallels Thomas 55 and 101
  • b parallels Thomas 33a.
  • parallels Thomas 16.
  • parallels Thomas 5b.

Gospel of Thomas scholars

This is a list of scholars or intellectuals who either have committed significant scholarly work in Gospel of Thomas studies, or have commented on the Gospel.

Jesus Seminar

The Gospel of Thomas is one of the Five Gospels used by the Jesus Seminar in its attempt to determine the authentic sayings of the "historical Jesus."

See also


  1. Stevan L. Davies, 2004 The Gospel of Thomas ISBN 1590301862 pp xxxix-xlv
  2. Catholic encyclopedia "Gospel and Gospels"
  3. Alister E. McGrath, 2006 Christian theology ISBN 1405153601 page 12
  4. James Dunn, John Rogerson 2003 Eerdmans commentary on the Bible ISBN 0802837115 page 1573
  5. Tarcisio Beal, 2009 Foundations of Christianity ISBN 1438926715 pp 61-62
  6. Stevan L. Davies, 2004 The Gospel of Thomas and Christian Wisdom ISBN 0974566748 page ii
  7. Bernard P. Grenfell and Arthur S. Hunt, Sayings of Our Lord from an early Greek Papyrus (Egypt Exploration Fund; 1897)
  8. Robert M. Grant and David Noel Freedman, The Secret Sayings of Jesus according to the Gospel of Thomas (Fontana Books, 1960).
  9. John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew (New York, 1990) p. 125.
  10. Meier, Marginal Jew p. 125.
  11. Coptic Gnostic Papyri in the Coptic Museum at Old Cairo, vol. I (Cairo, 1956) plates 80, line 10 – 99, line 28.
  12. A. Guillaumont, Henri-Charles Puech, Gilles Quispel, Walter Till and Yassah `Abd Al Masih, The Gospel According to Thomas (E. J. Brill and Harper & Brothers, 1959).
  13. Robinson was elected secretary of the International Committee for the Nag Hammadi Codices, formed in 1970 by UNESCO and the Egyptian Ministry of Culture; Robinson's group of editors and translators were tasked with publishing a bilingual edition of the Nag Hammadi codices in English.
  14. The Nag Hammadi Library
  15. Koester 1990, pp.77ff
  16. Cyril Catechesis 4.36
  17. Cyril Catechesis 6.31
  18. Koester 1990 p. 78
  19. Koester 1990 p.76
  20. Valantasis, p. 12
  21. Patterson, Robinson, and Bethge (1998), p. 40
  22. John P. Meier,A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus, v. 1, p. 128.
  23. Correlation Analysis
  24. [1]
  25. See summary in John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew (New York, 1991) p. 135-138, especially the footnotes.
  26. Pagels, Elaine. Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas. New York: Vintage, 2004. pp. 66-73
  27. Patterson et al. (1998), p. 42
  28. The Ecumenical Coptic Project's Metalogos Home Page
  29. The Ecumenical Coptic Project's Thomas translation, Saying 8.
  30. Nicholas Perrin, "Thomas: The Fifth Gospel?," Journal of The Evangelical Theological Society 49 (March 2006): 66-/80
  31. Perrin, Nicholas. Thomas and Tatian: The Relationship Between the Gospel of Thomas and the Diatessaron (Academia Biblica, 5). Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill Academic Publishers, 2003.
  32. Evans, Craig A. Fabricating Jesus: How Modern Scholars Distort the Gospels. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2008.
  33. For general discussion, see John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew, (New York, 1991) pp. 137; p.163-64 n. 133. See also Christopher Tuckett, "Thomas and the Synoptics," Novum Testamentum 30 (1988) 132-57, esp. p. 146.
  34. Ehrman 2003 pp. 242-3
  35. Coptic Gospel of Thomas, Saying 3 of 114, webpage, retrieved January 5, 2008
  36. Michael Grondin's note to Saying 14
  37. Grondin's Coptic Gospel of Thomas saying 22
  38. Grondin's Coptic Gospel of Thomas saying 37
  39. Grondin's Coptic Gospel of Thomas saying 10
  40. Grondin's Coptic Gospel of Thomas saying 82
  41. Grondin's Coptic Gospel of Thomas saying 24
  42. Grondin's Coptic Gospel of Thomas saying 26
  43. Ehrman 2003 p. 55
  44. Funk 1993 p. 15
  45. Ehrman 2003 pp.57-8
  46. Ehrman 2003 pp.59ff
  47. Davies, Stevan. "Thomas: The Fourth Synoptic Gospel", The Biblical Archaeologist 1983 The American Schools of Oriental Research. p. 6-8
  48. Koester 1990 p. 84-6
  49. Funk 1993 p. 16ff
  50. Koester 1990 pp. 86-7
  51. Ehrman 2003 pp. 55
  52. Ehrman 2003 pp. 55ff


  • Funk, Robert Walter and Roy W. Hoover, The Five Gospels: What Did Jesus Really Say? the Search for the Authentic Words of Jesus, Polebridge Press, 1993
  • Guillaumont, Antoine Jean Baptiste, Henri-Charles Puech, G. Quispel, Walter Curt Till, and Yassah ˁAbd al-Masīh, eds. 1959. Evangelium nach Thomas. Leiden: E. J. Brill Standard edition of the Coptic text
  • Johnson, Luke Timothy. The Writings of the New Testament: An Interpretation. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1986. (pp. 530–548.)
  • Lumpkin, Joseph B. The Gospel of Thomas. Fifth Estate Books, 2005
  • Lumpkin, Joseph B. The Tao of Thomas. Fifth Estate Books, 2005
  • Pagels, Elaine, 2003. Beyond Belief : The Secret Gospel of Thomas (New York: Random House)
  • Robinson, James McConkey et al., The Nag Hammadi Library in English (4th rev. ed.; Leiden; New York: E.J. Brill, 1996)

  • Riley, Gregory J (1995). Resurrection Reconsidered. Augsburg Fortress Publishers. ISBN 0800628462.

  • Riley, Gregory J (1997). One Jesus, Many Christs : How Jesus Inspired Not One True Christianity, but Many. Harper San Francisco. ISBN 006066790.

  • Riley, Gregory J (2003). River of God: A New History of Christian Origins. Harper San Francisco. ISBN 0060669802.

  • Layton, Bentley (1987). The Gnostic Scriptures. Doubleday. ISBN 0385478437.

  • Meyer, Marvin (2004). The Gospel of Thomas: The Hidden Sayings of Jesus. HarperCollins. ISBN 9780060655815.

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