The lost Gospel of Thomas (YouTube, 9:39)



A Brief History of the Gospel*:

As best as could be determined at the time of the first publishing of this text (1960), these volumes  were discovered buried in an earthenware pot near the site of the ancient town of Chenoboskion, at the base of a mountain named Gebel et-Tarif, near Hamra-Dum, in the vicinity of Naga Hamadi, about sixty miles from Luxor in Egypt. The approximate time of the discovery was the year 1945.The volume is written in the Coptic language upon papyrus sheets, probably bound like books. The area is near the face of a cliff that was used for pharonic, Greek  and Roman epoch burial sites. They have been dated by their calligraphy styles as from the third or fourth century AD. The Gospel is the longest of the volumes in the find, and consists of 118 sayings of Jesus. (Some translations number them at 114.).  More recent scholarly works suggest that both the Coptic sayings here, and the Greek Oxyrhyncus works predate the canonical gospels. They are now thought to be from the first or second century AD.

An additional discovery of some similar strips of papyrus from manuscripts and a shroud found in Upper Egypt, where once stood the Greek city of Oxyrhyncus, contain fragments of a text having very similar sayings to the Thomas Gospel. They are so similar, in fact, that words and phrases can sometimes be used to fill in missing sections of the Thomas Gospel, and vice versa. Some of the phrases are identical. However, these texts are written in Greek. Many New Testament scholars have  regarded these three strips of papyrus as part of a single collection of sayings attributed to Jesus that has been lost. 

Who was this Thomas? The introduction of the collection of the words of Jesus refers to him as "Didymus Jude Thomas" (AKA, "Didymos Judas Thomas"). Although Thomas is referred to in the sayings only in number 14, his role revealed in that text assigns him an importance at least equal to that of St. Peter: a successor. In the Book of Thomas, supposedly written by Mathias, Thomas is given to be the source of the Gospel, and that he was a special confidant of Jesus. In the canonical gospels, he is the Thomas who showed his doubt about the risen Jesus by wishing to touch his body. Also, in that fourth gospel (St. John), he is referred to as "Didymus" (as in our gospel), which in Greek means "twin". In Aramaic, the name "Jude" (or Judas) also carries the sense of "twin". It is the repeated use of the meaning of twin that led to the apocryphal tradition that he was the brother and confidant of Jesus. Ancient church historians mention that Thomas preached to the Parthians in Persia, and it is said that he was buried in Edessa. Fourth century chronicles attribute the evangelization of India (or Central Asia) to Thomas. Crowds of pilgrims still venerate his supposed tomb in Edessa. Up until the Middle Ages, his tomb was called the tomb of "Thomas of the Ever-living Hand", because he touched the body of the Risen Jesus.

About the text:

It is a revision of the Doresse translation and others made by Stuart D. Shoemaker, RPh, MCP +Internet, MCSE. Portions enclosed in brackets represent missing parts of the original text. Words or phrases enclosed in angle brackets are the editor's sense of the meaning as required by the context. Throughout, the editor as kept to the literal translations in preference to any of translators' interpretations of them. By using synonyms in nouns and verbs, changing only active or passive voice, altering some articles, and dropping the translators' redundant and irrelevant words and phrases wherever feasible, the editor has attempted to change as little as possible of the original text and yet be consistent with the brevity of the canonical gospels. The core sayings are largely left intact, even where understanding remains difficult. Words in brackets are words lost in the original, and have been replaced with the corresponding words from other texts. Words in angle brackets are added by the editor to clarify the text, where literal translation doesn't complete the sense of the saying.

Editor's Comment:

Many of the translators and interpreters of these sayings stress that they are not to be interpreted literally, but only symbolically. The editor cannot disagree more strenuously. From the point of view of his own life experience, they are often literally true as written in the original. In fact,  the most that can be said about their interpretation is that they can sometimes be understood in a metaphorical sense, as well as, a literal one. Even from a strictly logical point of view; if everything is one, then the male is like the female, and the leaves of the five trees (metaphorical for senses) in the Kingdom do not fall, and for any literal five trees one chooses at will, they are also in the Kingdom, and their leaves do not fall. The question that each one of us must solve for himself/herself is how this is so. For those who would view these sayings symbolically, they are remanded to saying number 50 - specifically, "A wicked man brings evil things out of his wicked treasury - what is in his mind - and he speaks evil. For out of excess of the mind does he bring out evil things. "

In the editor's opinion, an example of what is meant by "excess of the mind" is found in the otherwise excellent review found on Wikipedia. The reviewer challenges the translation of "cornerstone" found in:

70. Jesus said this: "Show me the stone that those who build have rejected, it is the cornerstone."
The reviewer contends it should be "keystone". He then builds a logical argument to support this view. However, the cornerstone is the original stone in any structure. It is the one upon which all else is oriented, yet it is also the one the builders have rejected. Then, if the cornerstone is a metaphor for the "oneness" in the Gospel, and is yet rejected by the builders, then the 'builder' has, from "excess of the mind", constructed an edifice that is not rooted in the literal "oneness" often referred to in the gospel. Never-the-less, Jesus says, "Show me the stone". Since there is no reference to a particular building in the saying, the stone must be visible everywhere. Therefore, imagine you are in the presence of Jesus, and he challenged you to concretely (literally) show him the cornerstone - without recourse to any excess of the mind..................... See, I just showed you the cornerstone using excess of the mind to tell you what it is not. But, of course, you didn't see it because you were thinking about it out of excess of the mind.


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* The translations edited on this site were made by Jean Doresse, from his work, "The Secret Books of the Egyptian Gnostics", The Viking Press, Inc. NY, NY, 1960, Appendix II, Grondin's Interlinear Coptic/English Translation of the Gospel of Thomas, 2nd Edition, Jan 1998, and others. The Tibetan script serving as a heading was literally found with the volume of the Doresse translation. As I don't speak, read or write Tibetan, I am unable to give it any meaning - since it is not in English, Spanish, German, Russian or Japanese. Perhaps that is as it should be.

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