Jesus and His World: An Archaeological and Cultural Dictionary

By John J. Rousseau; Rami Arav | Go to book overview

Gospel Of Thomas

Importance

The Gospel of Thomas, discovered in 1945, reveals a new aspect of Jesus’ teachings as recorded in a Christian Gnostic community of the first four or five centuries C.E.


Scripture References

Matt. 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:15; John 11:16; 20:24–28; 21:2; Acts 1:13.


General Information

As the Church struggled to define its orthodoxy, many early Christian texts were lost; some were systematically destroyed as heretical. For example, the Gospels of the Nazareans and of the Egyptians survive only in some quotations in the writings of the Church Fathers. The collection of sayings called the Gospel of Thomas (not to be confused with the Infancy Gospel of Thomas) was known to have existed because it is mentioned in the works of Jerome, Origen, and Hippolitus. In the fourth century it was considered heretical by Cyril of Jerusalem and subsequently disappeared. Thanks to a chance discovery by a peasant in 1945, near Nag Hammadi in Upper Egypt, a Gnostic library of thirteen codices, came to light (see “Archaeological Data” below). Among them was, in codex 2, the Gospel of Thomas, a collection of 114 sayings attributed to Jesus. Some seventy of them have parallels or near parallels in the canonical Gospels; but several have a simpler form, which leads a number of scholars to argue that they are more primitive and perhaps more authentic.

An international team of five scholars, A. Guillaumont, H.-Ch. Puech, G. Quispel, W. Till and Y. ‘Abd Al Masih, produced the first translation simultaneously in English, French, and German in 1959. The language of Thomas was Sahidic Coptic, an Egyptian language of the first centuries C.E., transcribed by Christian missionaries with the Greek alphabet. Although the codex can be dated to the fourth to fifth centuries C.E., the original was much earlier. It probably was written first in Greek about 140 C.E. from even older sources; a majority of scholars today agree that most of those sources go back to the last two thirds of the first century C.E. Several of the logia * could be traced back to Jesus.

After the publication of the Gospel of Thomas, Puech connected it with papyri fragments found in the late 1890s by British archaeologists in an ancient trash depository about 95 miles downstream from Nag Hammadi. The location was Oxyrhynchus and the fragments were named after the place. The most important is POxy 1, a complete sheet with a Greek text reproducing sayings attributed to Jesus dated to about 300 C.E. Substantial texts were also contained in POxy 654 and 655. Puech noticed that POxy 654 contained the prologue and first seven sayings of the Gospel of Thomas; POxy 1 contained sayings 28 to 33; and POxy 555 contained sayings 37 to 40. He concluded that the three fragments were part of the original Greek text of the gospel of Thomas. That at least some of the sayings originated in Jesus’ time is indicated by

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Jesus and His World: An Archaeological and Cultural Dictionary
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Map of Palestine Key v
  • Title Page ix
  • Contents xi
  • Foreword a Down-to-Earth Jesus xiii
  • Acknowledgments xix
  • List of Abbreviations xx
  • List of Figures xxi
  • List of Tables xxiii
  • Introduction 1
  • Aenon and Salim 7
  • Agriculture, Cereals 8
  • Antonia, Pavement (Gabbatha, Lithostrotos) 12
  • Bethabara/Beth Araba/Bethany 14
  • Bethany 15
  • Bethlehem 16
  • Bethphage 18
  • Bethsaida 19
  • Boats 25
  • Caesarea Maritima 30
  • Caesarea Philippi (Banias) 33
  • Camps, Siege Banks 35
  • Cana 38
  • Capernaum (Capharnaum) [Hebrew, Kfar Nahum] 39
  • Cave of Letters 47
  • Chorazin 52
  • Coins and Money 55
  • Coins as Historical Documents 61
  • Construction, Cities 68
  • Crucifixion 74
  • Dead Sea Scrolls 78
  • Decapolis 85
  • Ephraim 87
  • Exorcism 88
  • Gadara, Kursi 97
  • Galilean Caves 99
  • Gamla, Gamala 100
  • Garden Tomb 104
  • Gennesareth (Hebrew, Ginosar) 109
  • Gethsemane 110
  • Golgotha, Traditional Site 112
  • Gospel of Thomas 118
  • Hebron 123
  • Herodium 124
  • Hippos/Susita 127
  • House 128
  • Jacob’s Well 131
  • Jericho 132
  • Jerusalem, Caiaphas’s House 136
  • Jerusalem, Caiaphas’s Tomb 139
  • Jerusalem, City of David, Ophel 142
  • Jerusalem, Gehenna, Akeldama 145
  • Jerusalem, Herodian 146
  • Jerusalem, Herod’s Palace 151
  • Jerusalem, Kidron 152
  • Jerusalem, Pool of Bethesda 155
  • Jerusalem, Streets and Stairs 161
  • Jerusalem, Tombs 164
  • Jerusalem, Upper City 169
  • Jerusalem, Upper Room 173
  • Jerusalem, Walls and Gates 175
  • Jerusalem, Water System 180
  • Jordan River, Fords 183
  • Judean Caves 185
  • Machaerus (Hebrew, Makhwar) 187
  • Magdala (Hebrew, Migdal; Aramaic, Migdal Nunya; Greek, Taricheae) 189
  • Magic, Miracles 190
  • Masada 195
  • Medicine, Physicians 199
  • Moses’ Seat 203
  • Mount Gerizim 206
  • Mount Hermon 208
  • Mount of Olives 210
  • Mount Tabor 212
  • Nain (Hebrew Naim) 213
  • Nazareth 214
  • Ointments, Perfumes 216
  • Olive Oil Industry 220
  • Pantera’s Tombstone 223
  • Pontius Pilate’s Stone 225
  • Pottery and Glass 227
  • Qumran 233
  • Ritual Baths (Miqvaoth) 236
  • Samaria, Samaritans 240
  • Sea of Galilee (Yam Kinneret) 245
  • Sepphoris (Hebrew, Zippori) 248
  • Shepherding 251
  • Slaves and Servants 253
  • Sodom and Gomorrah 257
  • Son of Man 259
  • Stone, Stoning 263
  • Sychar-Shechem 267
  • Synagogues 268
  • Tannery, Leather 273
  • Tax and Tax Collectors 275
  • Temple, History, Description 279
  • Temple, Royal Stoa 288
  • Temple, Sacrificial System 291
  • Temple, Service and Ritual 296
  • Temple, Solomon’s Portico 303
  • Temple, Stairs and Gates 304
  • Temple, Treasury 309
  • Temple, Trumpeting Place 311
  • Temple, Warning Signs 312
  • Textiles, Dyeing 313
  • Tiberias (Hebrew, Tveria) 316
  • Traditional Healing 318
  • Tunic without Seam, Dice 324
  • Tyre and Sidon 326
  • Viticulture 328
  • Weapons 332
  • Weights and Measures 336
  • Wood, Furniture 339
  • Tables 343
  • Historical Synopsis 357
  • Glossary 361
  • General Bibliography 365
  • Index of Scriptures Cited 369
  • Index of Early Jewish Writings Cited 379
  • Index of Ancient Writers Cited 382
  • Index of Names, Places, and Subjects 385
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