In 1897 and 1903 three ancient papyrus fragments from Greek copies of the Gospel of
Thomas were discovered during archeological excavations on the site of an ancient
town at Oxyrhynchus, Egypt. These excavations eventually recovered over 5000 papyrus fragments of
ancient Greek texts, including both sections from the Gospel of Thomas and fragments from the Gospel of Mary. (In ancient times, Oxyrhynchus was the chief town of its district and the seat of a local governor. In the Roman period it was a flourishing place with about twenty temples, colonnaded streets, and an open air theatre. When Christianity came, it was famous for the numbers of its monks and nuns. Most of the papyrus documents found had been discarded in the ancient town's garbage sites.)
The three fragments of
Thomas found at Oxyrhynchus apparently date to between 130 - 250 CE, and each probably represents a separate
unique copy of the Gospel. The textual source of the sayings contained in the fragments was
initially unclear; based on the logion found in pOxy 654 now identified as
containing the prologue and first saying it was speculated they might
represent remains of the lost Gospel of Thomas. The Nag Hammadi discovery
in 1945 which unearthed a complete and well-preserved version of Thomas in Coptic made it
possible to definitely identify the Oxyrhynchus texts as fragments from a lost Greek
edition of the Gospel.
The three Oxyrhynchus fragments preserve 20 of the 114 sayings (or,
in Greek, logion) found in the complete Coptic version of the Gospel of
Thomas: pOxy 1 (the abbreviation indicates "Oxyrhynchus papyrus fragment
1") contains logion 26 to 30, 77, and 30 to 31; pOxy 654 contains logion 1 to 7; pOxy
655 preserves logion 36 to 40. These texts allow careful comparisons to be made
between the Coptic text found at Nag Hammadi and the original Greek version (the Gospel
was almost certainly written in Greek originally, the Nag Hammadi version is a Coptic
translation of this original Greek text). The reader will note close correlation
between the two versions a fact that helps verify the textual integrity of the
Coptic Gospel of Thomas.
The following English translation of texts from the Oxyrhynchus papyrus fragments of
the Gospel of Thomas is based on the complete digital reconstructions of pOxy. 1,
654, and 655 created by Andrew Bernhard. His proposed reconstructions of various lacunae
are heavily indebted to the critical texts of Grenfell and Hunt, Evelyn-White, Fitzmeyer,
Translations of the Greek fragments are followed by versions of the same sayings as
they appear in the Coptic text of the Gospel of Thomas found at Nag Hammadi (the Lambdin translation is used here).
For further research, these are the standard academic translations and commentaries on
the Oxyrhynchus Papyri:
Bernard P. Grenfell and Arthur S. Hunt, eds.
"1. Logia Iesou." Pages 1-3 in vol. 1 of The Oxyrhynchus Papyri.
London: Egypt Exploration Fund, 1898.
Hugh Evelyn-White, The Sayings of Jesus From
Oxyrhynchus. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1920.
Joseph A. Fitzmeyer, "The Oxyrhynchus Logoi of
Jesus and the Coptic Gospel According to Thomas." Pages 355-433 in Essays on the
Semitic Background of the New Testam ent. London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1971.
Harold W. Attridge, "Appendix: The Greek
Fragments." Nag Hammadi Codex II,2-7 Together With XIII,2*, BRIT. LIB. OR.
4926(1), and pOxy. 1, 654, 655. Edited by Bentley Layton. Vol. 1. New York: Brill,
Prologue and Saying 1 (pOxy 654.1-5)
These are the [hidden] sayings [that] the living Jesus [sp]oke a[nd Judas who] is also
Thomas [recorded.] And he said, "[Whoever finds the interpretat]ion of the[se]
sayings will not taste [death]."
Coptic version of same saying as found in the Nag Hammadi manuscript:
These are the secret sayings which the living Jesus spoke and which Didymos Judas
Thomas wrote down. And he said, "Whoever finds the interpretation of these
sayings will not experience death."
Saying 2 (pOxy. 654.5-9)
[Jesus said,] "Let the one seek[ing] not stop [seeking until] he finds. And when
he find[s he will marvel, and mar]veling he will reign, an[d reigning] he will
Jesus said, "Let him who seeks continue seeking until he finds. When he finds,
he will become troubled. When he becomes troubled, he will be astonished, and he will rule
over the All."
Saying 3 (pOxy. 654.9-21)
J[esus] said, "[If] those pulling you [say to you, 'Look,] the kingdom is in the
sk[y,]' the birds of the sk[y will go before you. Or if they say t]hat it [is] beneath the
ground, the fish of the se[a will go in, preced]ing you. And the king[dom of God] [i]s
within you [and outside you. Whoever] knows [himself will] find this [and when you] know
yourselves [you will know that] you are [children] of the l[iving] father. [But if] you
will [not] know yourselves, [you are] in [poverty] and you are the pov[erty.]"
Jesus said, "If those who lead you say to you, 'See, the kingdom is in the sky,'
then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, 'It is in the sea,' then
the fish will precede you. Rather, the kingdom 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."
Saying 4 (pOxy. 654.21-27)
[Jesus said,] "A per[son old in day]s will not hesitate to ask a ch[ild seven
day]s old about his place in [life and] he will [live.] For many of the f[irst] will be
[last and] many of the last will be first and they [will become one]."
Jesus said, "The man old in days will not hesitate to ask a small child seven
days old about the place of life, and he will live. For many who are first will become
last, and they will become one and the same."
Saying 5 (pOxy. 654.27-31)
Jesus said, "K[now what is in fr]ont of your face and [what has been hidden] from
you [will be] revealed [to you. For there] is [nothing] hidden that [will] not [be made]
cl[ear] and n[othing] buried that [will] n[ot be raised]."
Jesus said, "Recognize what is in your sight, and that which is hidden from you
will become plain to you . For there is nothing hidden which will not become
Saying 6 (pOxy. 654.32-40)
[His disciples qu]estioned him [and s]aid, "How [should we] fast [and how] should
we [pray,] and how [should we do charitable deeds a]nd what [food law should we]
Jesus said, "[Do not lie and that which] you [hate], do not do [because everything is
evident before t]he tru[t]h. [For there is nothing hi]dd[en that will not be made
His disciples questioned him and said to him, "Do you want us to fast? How shall
we pray? Shall we give alms? What diet shall we observe?"
Jesus said, "Do not tell lies, and do not do what you hate, for all things are plain
in the sight of heaven. For nothing hidden will not become manifest, and nothing covered
will remain without being uncovered."
Saying 7? (pOxy. 654.40-42)
[bl]esse[d] is [ . . . ]
Jesus said, "Blessed is the lion which becomes man when consumed by man; and
cursed is the man whom the lion consumes, and the lion becomes man."
Saying 24? (pOxy. 655d.1-5)
[it] is [ . . . l]ight [ . . . w]orld [ . . . i]t is [ . . . ]
His disciples said to him, "Show us the place where you are, since it is
necessary for us to seek it."
He said to them, "Whoever has ears, let him hear. There is light within a man of
light, and he lights up the whole world. If he does not shine, he is darkness."
Saying 26 (pOxy. 1.1-4)
". . . and then you will see clearly to cast out the speck that is in your
Jesus said, "You see the mote in your brother's eye, but you do not see the beam
in your own eye. When you cast the beam out of your own eye, then you will see clearly to
cast the mote from your brother's eye."
Saying 27 (pOxy. 1.4-11)
Jesus said, "If you do not fast from the world, you will not find the kingdom of
God. And if you do not keep the sabbath a sabbath, you will not see the father."
<Jesus said,> "If you do not fast as regards the world, you will not find the
kingdom. If you do not observe the Sabbath as a Sabbath, you will not see the
Saying 28 (pOxy. 1.11-21)
Jesus said, "I s[t]ood in the midst of the world and in the flesh I appeared to
them. I found everyone drunk and none thirsty among them. My soul worries about the
children of humanity because they are blind in thei[r] hearts and [they] do [not]
Jesus said, "I took my place in the midst of the world, and I appeared to them in
flesh. I found all of them intoxicated; I found none of them thirsty. And my soul became
afflicted for the sons of men, because they are blind in their hearts and do not have
sight; for empty they came into the world, and empty too they seek to leave the world. But
for the moment they are intoxicated. When they shake off their wine, then they will
Saying 29 (pOxy. 1.22)
"[. . .he dwells in th]i[s] poverty."
Jesus said, "If the flesh came into being because of spirit, it is a wonder. But if
spirit came into being because of the body, it is a wonder of wonders. Indeed, I am amazed
at how this great wealth has made its home in this poverty."
Saying 30 + 77b (pOxy. 1.23-30)
[Jesus sa]id, ["Wh]ere there are [th]r[ee] t[hey ar]e [without] God. And [w]here
there is only o[ne], I say, I am with hi[m]. Li[f]t the stone and there you will find me.
Split the wood and I am there."
(30) Jesus said, "Where there are three gods, they are gods. Where there are two or
one, I am with him."
(77b) ...Split a piece of wood, and I am there. Lift up the stone, and you will find me
Saying 31 (pOxy. 1.30-35)
Jesus said, "A prophet is not acceptable in h[i]s homeland. Nor does a physican
perform healings for those who know him."
Jesus said, "No prophet is accepted in his own village; no physician heals those who
Saying 32 (pOxy. 1.36-41)
Jesus said, "A city that has been built and established on the summit of a high
[m]ountain can neither fa[l]l nor be hi[d]den."
Jesus said, "A city being built on a high mountain and fortified cannot fall, nor can
it be hidden."
Saying 33 (pOxy. 1.41-42)
Jesus said, What you hear [i]n your one ear . . ."
Jesus said, "Preach from your housetops that which you will hear in your ear. For no
one lights a lamp and puts it under a bushel, nor does he put it in a hidden place, but
rather he sets it on a lampstand so that everyone who enters and leaves will see its
Saying 36 (pOxy. 655i.1-17)
[Jesus said, "Do not worry f]rom early u[ntil late no]r from ev[ening until
m]orning. Worry neither [for y]our [food,] what [you] will eat, [nor] for [your]
c[lothes,] what you will wear. [You are] [mu]ch gr[ea]ter than the [lil]lies wh[ich
n]either ca[r]d nor s[pi]n. When you have n[o c]lo[thing], what do [you wear]? Who can add
to your time of life? H[e it is who w]ill give you your clothing."
Jesus said, "Do not be concerned from morning until evening and from evening until
morning about what you will wear."
Saying 37 (pOxy. 655i.17-23)
His disciples said to him, "When will you be visible to us? And when will we see
He said, "When you undress and are not ashamed."
His disciples said, "When will you become revealed to us and when shall we see
Jesus said, "When you disrobe without being ashamed and take up your garments and
place them under your feet like little children and tread on them, then will you see the
son of the living one, and you will not be afraid"
Saying 39 (pOxy. 655ii.11-23)
[Jesus said, "The Pharisees and the scribes] to[ok the keys] of [knowledge. They]
hi[d them. They did not] go in, [nor did] they [allow those] trying to go [in to do so.
You,] however, b[e wi]se a[s snakes and i]nnocen[t as do]v[es.]"
Jesus said, "The pharisees and the scribes have taken the keys of knowledge (gnosis)
and hidden them. They themselves have not entered, nor have they allowed to enter those
who wish to. You, however, be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves."