(Above image of the Gospel of Thomas courtesy of the
Institute for Antiquity and Christianity, Claremont Graduate University)
Visit the Bookstore for
a complete selection of translations and books about The Gospel of Thomas
The Gospel of Thomas Collection
There is a growing consensus among scholars that the Gospel of Thomas
discovered over a half century ago in the Egyptian desert dates to the very
beginnings of the Christian era and may well have taken first form before any of the four
traditional canonical Gospels. During the first few decades after its discovery
several voices representing established orthodox biases argued that the Gospel of
Thomas (abbreviated, GTh) was a late-second or third century Gnostic
forgery. Scholars currently involved in Thomas studies now largely reject that view,
though such arguments will still be heard from orthodox apologists and are encountered in
some of the earlier publications about Thomas.
Today most students would agree that the Thomas Gospel has opened a new
perspective on the first voice of the Christian tradition. Recent studies centered
on GTh have led to a stark reappraisal of the forces and events forming
"orthodoxy" during the second and third centuries. But more importantly, the Gospel
of Thomas is awakening interest in a forgotten spiritual legacy of Christian
culture. The incipit (or "beginning words") of Thomas invite each
of us "who has ears to hear" to join in a unique quest:
These are the hidden words that the living Jesus spoke,
and that Didymos Judas
Thomas wrote down. And He said:
"Whoever finds the meaning of these words will not
The Gospel of Thomas Collection in the Gnostic Society Library
catalogs materials about the Gospel of Thomas available both in our archives and
elsewhere on the internet. Included are audio lectures about GTh, links to a wide variety of internet resources
including several academic articles and essays, and a bibliography of GTh manuscript
sources. Despite the wealth of material available here, the reader should also consult a
few important books on the subject. An annotated selection of the best available
translations of GTh and publications about GTh is provided in the suggested readings section of our Bookstore. We
sincerely hope these resources help you in your studies of this most remarkable document.
English Translations of the Gospel of Thomas
Four excellent and widely used translations of the Gospel of Thomas are
available in our Library collection. We prefer the Lambdin translation or Meyer translation for personal
reading, but each edition adds its own nuance of understanding. This is a text that
reveals itself freshly with each new reading. Take it slowly -- each saying stands
independently full of meaning.
Patterson and Meyer Translation
Patterson and Robinson Translation
For those interested in viewing the original Coptic version of the text, a
Coptic/English interlinear translation has been compiled by Michael Grondin. (His
site also includes several useful references on Coptic language):
Interlinear Coptic/English Translation of the Gospel of Thomas
Greek Fragments from the Gospel of Thomas
At the very beginning of the twentieth century three separate fragments from Greek
versions of the Gospel of Thomas were discovered during archeological excavations
of an ancient library in Oxyrhynchus, Egypt. (Fragments of the Gospel of Mary were also found at Oxyrhynchus.) The three papyrus fragments of Thomas
known as the Oxyrhynchus fragments date to between 130 - 250 CE.
Translations of the sayings found in these Greek fragments of Thomas are presented
here, followed by versions of the same sayings as they appear in the Coptic manuscript
found at Nag Hammadi (we have used the Lambdin translation of GTh).
The Gospel of Thomas Fragments from
Other Texts from the Thomas Tradition
In early Christianity there existed traditions, often geographical localized, that
honored a specific Christian apostolic figure as patron and initiatory source. The
Pauline and Johannine traditions are commonly recognized examples of this early division
in Christianity, and each left its own textual legacy. Though less well understood,
there apparently also existed a Thomas tradition. Geographically, the name of Thomas was
associate with the region of Syria, perhaps because Thomas or disciples claiming him as
apostolic sponsor once located themselves
in the area. Unfortunately, writings associated with the Thomas tradition
prominently including the Gospel of Thomas fell out of favor during
the formation of orthodoxy, and by the end of the fourth century most had been condemned
Three important documents from the Thomas tradition have nonetheless survived: The
Gospel of Thomas, The Book of Thomas the Contender, and the Acts of
Thomas. The latter two were recovered in the Nag Hammadi Library. Several
copies of the third text, the Acts of Thomas, survived over the centuries in
Imbedded within the Acts of Thomas we find a beautiful and complete statement
of a classic Gnostic myth describing the exile and redemption of the soul. The text is
known as the "Hymn of the Pearl". What astounds most is that such a clear
rendition of the Gnostic mythos was allowed to survive within a text which resided for
centuries on the back shelves of orthodox archives.
Hymn of the Pearl (from
the Acts of Thomas) This beautiful text, excerpted from the Acts, is highly
The Acts of Thomas The
complete text the Acts of Thomas, from The Apocryphal New Testament,
translated by M. R. James. (Important Note: Virtually all digital
versions of the Acts of Thomas found on the internet are copies of a single file
that has resided in our Archives since 1994. Unfortunately we have recently found that
this original file had an internal formatting error. As a result, many short
sections of text are lost in pirated copies of the file, making the text unintelligible in
several places. We ask those who have reproduced this file to take note of the problem and
help correct the error.)
The Book of Thomas the Contender (from the Nag
Hammadi Library Collection)
Though not integrally related to the central Thomas tradition surrounding the Gospel of
Thomas, several other ancient noncanonical Christian documents claimed authority in the
name of Thomas. For completeness, these are listed here:
The Apocalypse of Thomas
The Infancy Gospel of
Thomas: Greek Text A
The Infancy Gospel of
Thomas: Greek Text B
The Infancy Gospel of
Thomas: Latin Text
Online Audio Lectures about Thomas
The following lectures by Dr. Stephan A. Hoeller, a noted authority on Gnosticism, are
available here in RealAudio format (RealPlayer required). Many more lectures focused on
the Gospel of Thomas are available in high-quality MP3 format at BCRecordings.net.
(Check our Web Lectures page for a
selection of lectures available online.)
Redemption and Redeemer in the Gospel of
Thomas The Gospel of Thomas is one of the most important Gnostic texts
discovered at Nag Hammadi. In this lecture, Dr. Hoeller explores the
"soteriology" the concept of a redeemer and the process of redemption
as developed in the text of the Thomas Gospel. (MP3 audio format, 79 min.)
The Hymn of the Pearl: A
Gnostic Tale of the Soul's Exile and Redemption Despite efforts of the
evolving orthodoxy to destroy all Gnostic scriptures and documents, a few texts did
survive which contained extensive sections of clearly Gnostic character and provenance.
One primary example is the "Hymn of the Pearl" found within the Acts of
Thomas. Dr. Hoeller explains the function of myth in Gnosticism and then
examines this classic Gnostic tale of the soul's exile and redemption. While
listening to the lecture, you may wish to read along in The Hymn of the Pearl from the Acts
of Thomas. (MP3 audio format, 75 min.)
Gnosticism and its
Legacy Despite intense persecution, the Gnostic tradition has survived
as an important force in Western culture for nearly two thousand years. In this lecture,
Dr. Hoeller gives a brief introduction to the history of Gnosticism in Western culture and
discusses twelve characteristics that have distinguished Gnosticism as a distinct, living
tradition. (MP3 audio format, 77 min.)
Forums for Discussions of The Gospel of Thomas
The Gospel of
Thomas (General Discussion) Located at Yahoo groups, "this is a discussion
list for those interested in exploring the meanings of the 114 sayings attributed to Jesus
in the Gospel of Thomas. An invitation is extended to individuals of all faiths and
traditions who bring a sincere desire for increased understanding, appreciation and
fellowship." This forum welcomes basic questions and comments. There is a
complete collection of previous posts.
The Gospel of Thomas
(Academic Discussion) Also located at Yahoo groups, this forum is much more
scholarly in focus and welcomes only serious students of the GTh. Introductory level
questions or comments are not appropriate for this list. The collection of previous
posts provides a wealth of information dealing with technical aspects of translating and
interpreting the Thomas gospel.
Internet Sites Focused on The Gospel of Thomas
of Thomas Homepage (maintained by Stevan Davies, Professor of Religious Studies,
College Misericordia). One of the first internet pages dedicated to the GTh, for
many years this site has archived related materials. Unfortunately, as new material has
been added, the site layout has become rather chaotic and difficult to navigate. Many of
the most important articles and essays archived by Prof. Davies are organized and linked
in our resources sections, below. We recommend his Thomas FAQ for quick
answers to some common questions about Thomas.
The Metalogos Index (maintained by
Paterson Brown and The Ecumenical Coptic Project). Texts of the Gospel of Thomas,
Gospel of Philip, and other Valentinian writings are provided in English and Spanish,
along with commentaries and notes.
Gospel of Thomas Commentary (compiled by Peter Kirby). This excellent resource provides commentary on each of the
114 sayings in GTh. Included for each saying are: the Coptic text;
three English translations of the saying; links to parallels in canonical texts and
pOxy Greek Thomas fragments; and a few excerpts from academic commentaries on the saying.
Online Books at the Gnosis Archive
The Gnostic Apostle Thomas: Twin of Jesus, a
complete online book by Herbert Christian Merillat which gives a useful overview of the
place of the Apostle Thomas and Thomas literature in Gnosticism. The author has kindly
contributed this file to The Gnosis Archive. It is also now
available in print from at Amazon.com.
Bibliography of Manuscripts and Translations
A complete listing of ancient manuscript sources for
Thomas, along with a bibliography of scholarly editions of the manuscripts and of
published translations of the GTh text.
The Gospel of Thomas and the Hermeneutics of Vision
In its opening words the Gospel of Thomas offers a stunning hermeneutic challenge:
"whoever finds the interpretation of these sayings will not experience death."
Unfortunately, modern readers comes to this incipit devoid of a technique of
interpretive reading -- an hermeneutics -- that grants entry into the mysterious
meaning vouchsafed by such words. This essay, The Gospel of
Thomas and the Hermeneutics of Vision by Dr. Lance Owens, explores answer to a
compelling question: "Was there an original tradition of interpretation
a hermeneutic technique implicit in early transmissions of the Thomas tradition
that gave an organic coherence to readings of the text, and if so, is that hermeneutic
method still accessible? Can modern readers meet the challenge of the Thomas incipit?"
Essays and Academic Articles Online
This is a selection of the some of the articles available online, a few of which are interesting. They give an idea about the breadth of discussion focused on the Thomas Gospel. We find
that links to pages outside our own permanent collection very frequently change or
disappear. A Google search will of course find many things that might be of interest. Recently, all of these external resources seem to be available (many are
archived on Stevan Davies' Gospel of Thomas site):
Introductory Essays on the Gospel of Thomas by Drs. Elaine Pagels and
Helmut Koester, published online as part of the 1998 PBS Television Frontline
series, "From Jesus to Christ".
The Gospel of Thomas and the Hermeneutics of Vision by Dr.
Lance Owens. Was there an original tradition of interpretation a hermeneutic
technique implicit in early transmissions of the Thomas tradition that gave an
organic coherence to readings of the text, and if so, is that hermeneutic method still
Rhetorical Composition and Sources in the Gospel of Thomas (pdf), by Vernon
K. Robbins, Society of Biblical Literature 1997 Seminar Papers, pp. 86-114.
An excellent paper, with a very useful introductory summary of current scholarly
approaches to the GTh.
Texture in the Gospel of Thomas, by Vernon K. Robbins, Society of Biblical
Literature 1998 Seminar Papers, pp. 343-366. Quoting from the introduction:
"...Some enthymemic [= 'reasoning', 'pondering'] logia in Thomas contain explanations
or descriptions.... Many logia that contain explanations or descriptions are part of the
'bedrock of tradition' in the variant forms of Q, synoptic, and Thomas tradition."
of the Discovery of Thomas and Comments on the Text by Matthew Thomas Farrell. A
readable introduction to Thomas, written for the general reader.
and Discussions of the Gospel of Thomas by Dr. Mahlon Smith's (Assoc. Professor
of Religion, Rutgers University). Dr. Smith here collects a number of his very
learned comments about the Gospel of Thomas, submitted over the years to variety
of friendly internet discussions.
Mark's Use of the Gospel of Thomas: (Part One) (Part
Two) by Stevan L. Davies, Neotestamentica 30 (2) 1996 pp.307-334
Technical but interesting. The arguments here suggest that Thomas existed prior to
the earliest canonical Gospel and was used as a source by the author of Mark.
Johannine Sayings in the Gospel of Thomas: The Sayings Traditions in their
Environment of First Century Syria by Alexander Mirkovic, PhD (Graduate Dept. of
Religion, Vanderbilt University). An exploration of the relationship between the Thomas
and Johannine Gospels, suggesting that Thomas was a source document for John. This makes
interesting reading in the context of Elaine Pagels' recent best-selling book, Beyond
Internet Discussion of the Gospel of Thomas and Gnosticism between William Arnal
(Centre for the Study of Religion, University of Toronto) and Stevan Davies (College
Misericordia), from the Ioudaios-L Internet List in mid-December of 1995. An interesting
introduction to the types of arguments common within GTh studies groups.
and Protology of the Gospel of Thomas by Stevan L. Davies, Journal of Biblical
Literature Volume 111, Number 4, Winter 1992. Another succinct title.
// Thomas Parallels in the Thomas version An abbreviated summary of parallels
between Q and GTh. There is no introduction or explanation provided to these brief notes,
but if you already are familiar with Q document research this may be of interest.
of the Way: Reading the Gospel of Thomas as a "Christzen" Text, by Kenneth
Arnold, from Cross Currents, Winter 2002, Vol. 51, No 4. Quoting from
the introduction, "When Jesus opens his mouth in the Gospel of Thomas, there is a
Buddha sitting on his tongue...."