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Christianity / Apocryphal gospels /
Gospel of Thomas
Also called: Gospel according to Thomas


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In Christianity, apocryphal gospel, found with the Nag Hammadi excavations in 1947-49.
The actual finds were written in Coptic, dating back to the 4th century. These were translations from the Greek. But even the Greek version is not the original; the version is believed to have contained wisdom sayings and eschatological sayings.
The actual age of the gospel is hard to establish, either back to the end of the 1st century CE, making it near-parallel to the canonical gospels, or as late as around 200 CE.
The historicity of this gospel was since long known. It had been mentioned by theologians in the 3rd and 4th centuries, like Hippolyt in Rome and Cyril in Jerusalem. One phrase, Thomas 4, had been preserved, as a quotation by Hippolyt.
Thomas is often suggested as belonging to the Gnostic tradition. Its first verses, promising secret knowledge is an indication of that. It is argued that the text that follows, is too plain and too much lacking a mystic content, and even lacking typical Gnostic myths that normally should have been included or at least referred to. This strict argument would, however, rule out many texts that are considered Gnostic by scholars already.
This gospel had for a long period great influence on the development of Christianity, and represented also a challenge to the groups that would eventually form mainstream Christianity.

Authorship
This gospel is attributed to Thomas much based on one of its passages, when Jesus asked his disciples what he could be compared to, and Thomas was the only one among them answering that there was nothing. This being the correct answer, Jesus shared with Thomas divine truths that he did not share with the other disciples.

Content
The content of this gospel are largely sayings of Jesus; there practically no stories. About half of the content of Thomas is new compared to the canonical gospels, there are even several parallels to John. As the literary structure is considered, the main parallel is the reconstructed Q.
The secret message of this gospel is one which is not supposed to be taught to the layman. But anyone achieving obtaining the secret message is promised never to taste death.
Human beings shall search for heaven, but heaven is not somewhere else or a promise in the future. Heaven is understood as both inside and outside every human being. Salvation in this gospel is on an individual basis, there is little to suggest social reform. Rather the believer who is "...alone and chosen..." (49) that will achieve salvation. The earthly world, and life on it, is understood as empty (56). Linked to this concept is the idea that man is more than body, rather soul and spirit (29 and 112).
Thomas has a heavy male focus, suggesting that women will have to become male to enter Heaven (114).




By Tore Kjeilen