The Gospel of Thomas
The Gospel of Thomas is an early Christian text that was found in an urn, in a cave, in the desert of Upper Egypt during WWII in 1945. Fragments of the text have been found in other places, but in 1945 the complete text, along with other texts were found in the Nag Hammadi region of Egypt.
The records were written on papyrus and bound in leather. The language is Coptic, an ancient Egyptian language written with the Greek alphabet. The papyrus found in Nag Hammadi date back to the late 4th century. Scholarly analysis dates the content of the Thomas record to the 2nd century or even late 1st century.
Why were these records stored in an urn, in a cave, in a desert in the 4th century? Most likely because they didn’t make the cut for the first editions of the New Testament. The early Christian church was actually Christian churches. During the first four centuries incredible variety, diversity and plurality existed. The church that was established as the Master Story of Christianity came down from Peter and Paul, while the other churches were wiped out, or fled to the deserts.
The Gospel of Thomas consists of 114 logia, which are short, Koan-like are teachings of Jesus to his disciples. They are often in question and answer format. Much of the Gospel of Thomas overlaps with the canonical gospels and will be familiar to readers. However these teachings are more edgy and transformational–more Eastern—more mindful.
There are many reliable books exploring the history of the early church and the records found in Nag Hammadi. I would suggest works by James M. Robinson (Claremont), Elaine Pagels (Princeton), April DeConick (Rice), and Karen Leigh King (Harvard). The following website has the logia listed with several translations of each logia and commentary: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/thomas/
Below are a two logia.
Logion 2 translation by Layton
Jesus said, “Let one who seeks not stop seeking until that person finds; and upon finding, the person will be disturbed; and being disturbed, will be astounded; and will reign over the entirety.”
Logion 3 translation by Blatz
Jesus said: If those who lead you say to you: See, the kingdom is in heaven, then the birds of the heaven will go before you; if they say to you: It is in the sea, then the fish will go before you. But the kingdom is within you, and it is outside of you. When you know yourselves, then you will be known, and you will know that you are the (children) of the living Father. But if you do not know yourselves, then you are in poverty, and you are poverty.
Are you familiar with the Gospel of Thomas? Would you like to see more logia in future posts?
The papyri can be viewed on-line or in-person at museums. What do you think about the physical existence of these records versus the Book of Mormon records?
Does Logion 2 speak to current ‘troubling’ information we find as we are seeking? Does Jesus instructions to not stop seeking encourage you to carry on, knowing that eventually you will have peace?
Logion 3: A bird’s kingdom is the sky. A fish’s kingdom is the sea. A human’s kingdom is within us and around us. What does it mean to truly know yourself? What are your thoughts on poverty of spirit? Can you tie this in to the Sermon on the Mount?