BOOK REVIEWS, CONTEMPORARY ISSUES, & THEOLOGICAL DISCUSSIONS
The Gospel Of Thomas
There are many who wonder why Christians reject other gospels and accept those in the Bible. Many skeptics would scoff at “God inspired these books and not those!” sort of reasoning. They would think: “that seems very subjective and arbitrary.” So, what about the Gospel of Thomas, for example, are there real, legitimate reasons for the Church to reject it, in favor of the four standard Gospels?
We first must assess the Gospel of Thomas itself, we must read it -- you can read it here. Does the gospel have any internal evidence that it is either false or an authentic account of the life of Jesus? The gospel has many paraphrases or quotations that are no doubt taken from the canonized Gospels. Some quotations are added to or detracted from, and some are worded in such away as to try to make a metaphorical saying of Jesus clearer. But there are many sayings attributed to Jesus in the Gospel of Thomas that are altogether new.
Here are some for our consideration:
So the internal evidence is poor to say the least, but we shouldn’t stop there. Are there any external evidences that we can survey that would help us assess the Gospel of Thomas?
Andreas Kostenberger, Darrell Bock, and Josh Chatraw concerning the Gospel of Thomas write: “This book is not a Gospel in the pattern of the four Gospels of Scripture. It has no story line, no narrative, no account of Jesus’ birth, death, or resurrection. It contains 114 sayings allegedly attributed to Jesus, and though some of them sound like things you might hear in Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John, many of them are strange and bizarre. Broad consensus places its writing in the early to late second century, but it never factored into canonical discussions at any time. In fact, Cyril of Jerusalem specifically warned against reading it in the churches, and Origen characterized it as an apocryphal gospel. The following statement sums it up: “If Thomas does represent authentic, original Christianity, then it has left very little historical evidence of that fact.”
If the dating of the consensus of scholars is accurate, it is very doubtful that Thomas was the author of this gospel. Thomas, being an adult at the time of Jesus (30’s) would have to be near 140 years old at the earliest time this gospel could have been written. Norman Geisler writes: “The Gospel of Thomas was discovered in Nag Hammadi, Egypt, near Cairo in 1945 and was translated into English in 1977. While some have attempted to date parts of it earlier, the Gospel of Thomas is most reliably dated no earlier than a.d. 140–170.” Furthermore, GotQuestions writes: “Various historical records and traditions indicate that Thomas traveled by sea to India in AD 52. He was later martyred and buried there after witnessing to the Indian people. The tomb of St. Thomas is in Mylapore, India. A poet, St. Ephrem, recorded in his hymns and poetry that Thomas worked miracles in the Indian city of Edessa. A Syrian ecclesiastical calendar has an entry which reads, “3 July, St. Thomas who was pierced with a lance in ‘India.’ His body is in Urhai (Edessa) having been brought there by the merchant Khabin.” A tradition observed by the people of Edessa honors Thomas, calling him “the Apostle of India.” Many other accounts and traditions mention Thomas in connection with India.”
One cannot argue that these are merely oral traditions from Thomas, later past down and written by others. The “gospel” says: “These are the secret sayings that the living Jesus spoke and Didymos Judas Thomas recorded.” So the document itself claims to have been scribed by Thomas himself.
In conclusion, the evidence is clear that the Gospel of Thomas is a later forgery and false testimony concerning the life of the Lord Jesus, and thus, ought not to be counted as inspired Scripture.