The Nag Hammadi Library
(Annotated Edition including Line Numbers)
This original translation is presented in the Gnostic Society Library by permission of Dr. John D. Turner, who retains all copyright. The headings shown in bold text are added to the text by Dr. Turner. The numbers in parenthesis indicate the original page and line number within Codex 2 (NHC II,7 138,1-145,19 ); line numbers are shown in suprascript.
THE BOOK OF THOMAS
NHC II,7 138,1-145,19 (+ colophon 145,20-23)
John D. Turner
I. Incipit introducing the Savior, Thomas and Mathaias (138,1-4)
138 1 The secret sayings that the savior spoke to 2 Judas Thomas which I, even I, Mathaias, 3 wrote down, while I was walking, listening to them speak with 4 one another.
II. Dialogue between Thomas and the Savior (138,4-142,21)
A. Ignorance versus Self-Knowledge (138,4-138,21)
The savior said, "Brother Thomas 5 while you have time in the world, listen to me, 6 and I will reveal to you the things you have pondered 7 in your mind.
"Now, since it has been said that you are my 8 twin and true companion, examine yourself, and learn 9 who you are, in what way you exist, and 10 how you will come to be. Since you will be called my brother, 11 it is not fitting that you be ignorant 12 of yourself. And I know that you have understood, 13 because you had already understood that I am the knowledge of the truth. 14 So while you accompany me, although you are uncomprehending, 15 you have (in fact) already come to know, and you will be called 'the one who 16 knows himself'. For he who has not known 17 himself has known nothing, but he who has known himself 18 has at the same time already achieved knowledge about the depth of the all. 19 So then, you, my brother Thomas, have beheld what is obscure 20 to men, that is, what they ignorantly stumble against." 21
B. Visible versus Invisible Reality (138,21-139,12)
Now Thomas said to the lord, 22 "Therefore I beg you to tell me 23 what I ask you before your ascension, 24 and when I hear from you about 25 the hidden things, then I can speak about 26 them. And it is obvious to me that the truth is difficult to 27 perform before men."
The savior answered, saying, 28 "If the things that are visible to you are obscure 29 to you, how can you hear 30 about the things that are not visible? If the deeds of the truth 31 that are visible in the world are difficult for you to perform, 32 how indeed, then, shall you perform those that pertain to the 33 exalted height and to the pleroma which are not visible? 34 And how shall you be called 'laborers'? 35 In this respect you are apprentices, and have not yet received 36 the height of perfection."
Now Thomas answered 37 and said to the savior, "Tell us about these things 38 that you say are not visible, [but are] hidden 39 from us."
The savior said, "[Every human] body, [like] the 40 the beasts, is begotten [irational]. 41 Doesn't it appear like [a creature erect] 42 [among other creatures? For] this very reason, those that are above 43 [do not appear among] things that are visible, but they are visible 139 1 in their own root, and it is their fruit 2 that nourishes them. But these visible bodies 3 survive by devouring creatures similar to them 4 with the result that the bodies change. Now that which changes will 5 decay and perish, and has no hope of life from then on, 6 since that body is bestial. So just as the body of the beasts 7 perishes, so also will these formations 8 perish. Do they not derive from intercourse 9 like that of the beasts? If it, too derives from intercourse, 10 how will it beget anything different from 11 beasts? So, therefore, you are babes until 12 you become perfect."
C. The Illumination of the Invisible by the Savior's Light (139,12-31)
And Thomas answered, 13 "Therefore I say to you, lord, that those who speak 14 about things that are invisible and difficult 15 to explain are like those who shoot their arrows at a 16 target at night. To be sure, they shoot their arrows as 17 anyone would - since they shoot at the target - but it is not visible. 18 Yet when the light comes forth and 19 hides the darkness, then the work of each will appear. 20 And you, our light, enlighten, O lord." 21
Jesus said, "It is in light that light exists." 22
Thomas, spoke, saying, "Lord, 23 why does this visible light that shines 24 on behalf of men rise and set?"
The savior 25 said, "O blessed Thomas, of course this visible light 26 shines on your behalf - not in order [that] 27 you remain here, but rather that you might come forth 28 - and whenever all the elect abandon 29 bestiality, then this light will withdraw 30 up to its essence, and its essence will welcome it, 31 since it is a good servant."
D. The Wise Flee while the Ignorant Succumb to Bodily Passions (139.31-141,2)
Then 32 the savior continued and said, "O 33 unsearchable love of the light! O bitterness of 34 the fire that blazes in the bodies of men and in 35 their marrow, kindling in them night and 36 day, and burning the limbs of men and 37 [making] their minds become drunk and their souls become deranged. 38 [And that which is imprisoned] in them (bodies)—within males and females 39 [by day and] night—and that moves them 40 [powerfully, burns] secretly and visibly. 41 For the males [move; they move upon the females] 42 and the females upon [the males. Therefore it is] 140 1 said, "Everyone who seeks the truth from 2 true wisdom will make himself wings so as to 3 fly, fleeing the lust that scorches the spirits 4 of men." And he will make himself wings to flee 5 every visible spirit."
And Thomas answered, 6 saying, "Lord, this is exactly what I am asking 7 you about, since I have understood that you 8 are the one who is beneficial to us, as you say."
Again the savior 9 answered and said, "Therefore it is necessary 10 for us to speak to you, since this is the doctrine of the perfect. 11 If, now, you desire to become perfect, you shall 12 observe these things; if not, your name is 'Ignorant', 13 since it is impossible for an intelligent man to dwell with a 14 fool, for the intelligent man is perfect in all wisdom. 15 To the fool, however, the good and bad are 16 the same—indeed the wise man will be nourished 17 by the truth and (Ps. 1:3) "will be like a tree growing by 18 the meandering stream"—seeing that there are some who, although having wings, 19 rush upon the visible things, things that 20 are far from the truth. For that which guides them, 21 the fire, will give them an illusion of truth, 22 [and] will shine on them with a [perishable] beauty, 23 and it will imprison them in a dark 24 sweetness and captivate them with fragrant pleasure. 25 And it will blind them with insatiable lust 26 and burn their souls and become 27 for them like a stake stuck in their heart 28 which they can never dislodge. And like 29 a bit in the mouth, it leads them according to its 30 own desire. And it has fettered them with its 31 chains and bound all their limbs 32 with the bitterness of the bondage of lust for those 33 visible things that will decay and change 34 and swerve by impulse. They have 35 always been attracted downwards; as they are killed, 36 they are assimilated to all the beasts of 37 the perishable realm."
Thomas answered and said, "It 38 is obvious and has been said, '[Many are those who cry 39 [out] to those who do not know [the repose of] 40 [their] soul.'"
And [the savior] answered, saying, 41 "[Blessed is] the wise man who [sought 42 after the truth, and] when he found it, he rested 141 1 upon it forever and was unafraid of those 2 who wanted to disturb him."
E. The Inevitable Reincarnation of Non-ascetic Christians (141,2-18)
Thomas answered 3 and said, "It is beneficial for us, lord, to rest 4 among our own?"
The savior said, "Yes, it is useful. 5 And it is good for you, since things visible 6 among men will dissolve: for the vessel of 7 their flesh will dissolve, and when it is brought to naught 8 it will come to be among visible things, among things that are seen. 9 And then the fire which they see gives them pain 10 on account of love for the faith they 11 formerly possessed. They will be gathered back to that which is visible. 12 Moreover, those who have sight among things that are not visible, without 13 the first love they will perish in the concern for this 14 life and the scorching of the fire. Only a little while longer, 15 and that which is visible will dissolve; then 16 shapeless shades will emerge, and 17 in the midst of tombs they will forever dwell upon the corpses 18 in pain and corruption of soul." 19
F. Infernal Punishment and Reincarnation for the Merely Well-intentioned (141,19-142,21)
Thomas answered and said, "What have we 20 to say in the face of these things? What shall we say to 21 blind men? What doctrine should we express to these miserable 22 mortals who say, "We came to [do] 23 good and not to curse," and yet [claim], 24 "Had we not been begotten in the flesh, we would not have known 25 [iniquity]"?"
The savior said, "Truly, as for 26 [those], do not esteem them as men, but regard them [as] 27 beasts, for just as beasts devour one another, 28 so also men of this sort 29 devour one another. On the contrary, they are deprived of [the kingdom] 30 since they love the sweetness of the fire and 31 are servants of death and rush to the works of corruption. 32 They fulfill the lust of their fathers. They will 33 be thrown down to the abyss and be afflicted 34 by the torment of the bitterness of their evil nature. 35 For they will be scourged so as to make them 36 rush backwards, whither they do not know, and 37 they [will recede] from their limbs not patiently, but 38 with despair. And they rejoice over [their] 39 [involvement with life in] madness and derangement, since they are [fools]. 40 [They] pursue this derangement without realizing [their 41 madness, thinking] that they [are] wise. [They love] 42 [the beauty] of their body [...] 142 1 Their mind is directed to their own selves, for their thought is occupied 2 with their deeds. But it is the fire that will burn them." 3
And Thomas answered and said, "Lord, what will the one 4 thrown down to them do? For I am most anxious 5 about them; many are those who fight them." 6
The savior answered and said, "What is your own 7 opinion?"
Judas - the one called 8 Thomas - said, "It is you, lord, whom it befits 9 to speak, and me to listen." 10
The savior replied, "Listen to what I am going to tell you 11 and believe in the truth. That which sows and that which is sown 12 will dissolve in the fire - within the fire 13 and the water - and they will hide in tombs of darkness. 14 And after a long time they shall show forth 15 the fruit of the evil trees, being punished, 16 being slain in the mouth of beasts and men 17 at the instigation of the rains and winds and air 18 and the light that shines above."
G. How to Preach these Misunderstood Sayings (142,21-26)
Thomas 19 replied, "You have certainly persuaded us, lord. 20 We realize in our heart, and it is obvious, that this 21 [is so], and that your word is sufficient. But these sayings 22 that you speak to us are ridiculous and contemptible to the world 23 since they are misunderstood. 24 So how can we go 25 preach them, since we are [not] esteemed 26 [in] the world?"
III. Monologue of the Savior [Secret Sayings] (142,26-145,16)
A. The Imprisonment of the Scoffers in Hades (142,26-143,7)
The savior answered and said, 27 "Truly I tell you that he who will listen to 28 [your] word and turn away his face or sneer 29 at it or smirk at these things, truly 30 I tell you that he will be handed over to 31 the ruler above who rules over 32 all the powers as their king, and he will turn 33 that one around and cast him from heaven down to 34 the abyss, and he will be imprisoned in a narrow 35 dark place. Moreover, he can neither turn nor move on account of 36 the great depth of Tartaros and the [heavy bitterness] 37 of Hades that is steadfast. [And] they 38 [are drawn] into it [so that they will not] 39 [escape]. They will not put away [their madness. And] 40 [the people that will] persecute you will be handed 41 over [to the] angel Tartarouchos 42 [who bears whips of] fire, pursuing them 143 1 [as] fiery scourges cast a shower of sparks into 2 the face of the one who is pursued. If he flees westward, he 3 finds the fire. If he turns southward, he finds it there as well. 4 If he turns northward, the threat 5 of seething fire meets him again. Nor does he find the way to the east 6 so as to flee there and be saved, for he did not find it in the day 7 he was in the body, so that he might find it in the day of judgment." 8
B. Twelve Woes against the Scoffers (143,8-145,1)
Then the savior continued, saying, 9
1. "Woe to you, godless ones, who have no hope, 10 who rely on things that will not happen!
2. "Woe to you 11 who hope in the flesh and in the prison that will perish! 12 How long will you be oblivious? And how long will you suppose that the imperishables 13 will perish too? Your hope is set 14 upon the world, and your god is this life! 15 You are corrupting your souls!
3. "Woe to you within 16 the fire that burns in you, for it is insatiable! 17
4. "Woe to you because of the wheel that turns in 18 your minds!
5. "Woe to you within the grip of the burning 19 that is in you, for it will devour your flesh openly 20 and rend your souls secretly, 21 and prepare you for your companions!
6. "Woe to 22 you, captives, for you are bound in caverns! 23 You laugh! In mad laughter you rejoice! 24 You neither realize your perdition, nor 25 do you reflect on your circumstances, nor have [you] 26 understood that you dwell in darkness and [death]! 27 On the contrary, you are drunk with the fire and [full] 28 of bitterness. Your mind is deranged on account of the [burning 29 that is in] you, and sweet to you are the poison and 30 the blows of your enemies! And the darkness rose for 31 you like the light, for you surrendered your freedom 32 for servitude! You darkened your hearts 33 and surrendered your thoughts 34 to folly, and you filled your thoughts 35 with the smoke of the fire that is in you! And 36 your light [has hidden] in the cloud 37 [of darkness] and the garment that is put upon you, you [pursued] 38 [with deceit]. And [you] were seized [by 39 the hope that] does not exist. And whom is it [you 40 have] believed? Do you [not know that you] 41 all dwell among those who [...] 42 [… and you boast] as though [you had hope]. 144 1 You baptized your souls in the water of darkness! 2 You walked by your own whims!
7. "Woe 3 to you who dwell in error, heedless 4 that the light of the sun which judges and 5 looks down upon the all will circle around all things 6 so as to enslave the enemies. You do not even notice 7 the moon, how by night and day it 8 looks down, looking at the bodies of your slaughters!
8. "Woe 9 to you who love intimacy with womankind 10 and polluted intercourse with them!
9. And woe 11 to you in the grip of the powers of your body, 12 for they will afflict you!
10. Woe to you in the grip of 13 the forces of the evil demons! 14
11. Woe to you who beguile your limbs with fire! 15 Who is it that will rain a refreshing dew on you 16 to extinguish the mass of fire from you 17 along with your burning? Who is it that will cause the sun to 18 shine upon you to disperse the darkness in you 19 and hide the darkness and polluted water?
"The sun 20 and the moon will give a fragrance to you together with the air and 21 the wind (spirit) and the earth and the water. For if the sun does not 22 shine upon these bodies, they will wither and perish 23 just like weeds or grass. If 24 the sun shines on them, they prevail and choke 25 the grapevine; but if the grapevine 26 prevails and shades those weeds 27 [and] all the other brush growing alongside, and 28 [spreads] and flourishes, it alone 29 inherits the land in which it grows; 30 and every place it has shaded it dominates. 31 And when it grows up, it dominates all the land 32 and is bountiful for its master, and it pleases him 33 even more, for he would have suffered great pains 34 on account of these plants until he uprooted them. But the 35 grapevine alone removed them and choked 36 them, and they died and became like the soil."
Then 37 Jesus continued and said to them,
12. "Woe to 38 you, for you did not receive the doctrine, and those who are [...] 39 will labor at preaching [...]. 40 And [you] are rushing into … [...] 41 […] will send [them] down … 42 [...] you kill them daily 145 1 in order that they might rise from death.
C. Three Macarisms (145,1-8)
1. "Blessed are you 2 who have prior knowledge of the stumbling blocks and who flee 3 alien things.
2. "Blessed are you who are reviled 4 and not esteemed on account of the love 5 their lord has for them.
3. "Blessed are 6 you who weep and are oppressed by 7 those without hope, for you will be released from 8 every bondage.
D. Pray to Exit the Body and Find Rest with the King (145,8-16)
"Watch and pray that you not come to be 9 in the flesh, but rather that you come forth from the bondage of the bitterness 10 of this life. And as you pray, 11 you will find rest, for you have left behind the suffering and the disgrace. 12 For when you come forth from the sufferings and 13 passions of the body, you will receive rest 14 from the good one, and you will reign with the king, 15 you joined with him and he with you, from now on, 16 for ever and ever, Amen." 17
IV. Subscript Title
The Book of Thomas 18 The Contender Writing 19 To the Perfect 20
Remember me also, my brethren, 21
[in] your prayers: 22
Peace to the saints 23
and those who are spiritual.