There are many who wonder why Christians reject some gospels but accept the ones we find in the Bible. We believe that God inspired the accounts given by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John but not the Gospel of Thomas and many others like it. The problem is that many skeptics won't be convinced by that type of reasoning. So let's dive in and see if there are any real, legitimate reasons for the Church to reject Thomas’ account in favor of the four standard Gospel accounts. First, let’s check out the Gospel of Thomas itself. You can read it here: http://gnosis.org/naghamm/gosthom.html.
Internally, does the Gospel of Thomas have any evidence that it is fake or authentic?It has many paraphrases and quotations that are no doubt taken from the canonized Gospels. Some quotations are added to or detracted from and some are worded in such a way 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:
“Jesus said, "Congratulations to the one who came into being before coming into being.” (verse 19) “Jesus said to them, "If you fast, you will bring sin upon yourselves, and if you pray, you will be condemned, and if you give to charity, you will harm your spirits.” (verse14) “Jesus said, "Where there are three deities, they are divine. Where there are two or one, I am with that one.” (verse 30) “Jesus said, "I am the light that is over all things. I am all: from me all came forth, and to me all attained. Split a piece of wood; I am there. Lift up the stone, and you will find me there.” (verse 77) “[Saying probably added to the original collection at a later date:] Simon Peter said to them, "Make Mary leave us, for females don't deserve life. "Jesus said, "Look, I will guide her to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every female who makes herself male will enter the kingdom of Heaven.” (Verse 114)You may notice that some of these sayings attributed to Jesus are somewhat out of character compared to how He is portrayed in the canonized gospels; Such as uttering self-contradictory statements of being (vs. 19) or tacitly approving of polytheism (vs. 30). This would be a heretical belief for Jesus to have, being Jewish, and claiming to be the Father’s Son. Also, Jesus condemns fasting, praying, and giving without explanation in the Gospel of Thomas and there is no inclination that these are condemned because they are done with a prideful heart or anything - they are just outright condemned. Lastly, the verse concerning Mary becoming a male is questionable because it is obviously contradicts where we see Jesus as a radical voice for women in the earlier written canonized Gospels. 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 write (concerning the Gospel of Thomas):
“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.
*Quotations taken from: http://gnosis.org/naghamm/gosthom.html *KÃstenberger, Andreas J., Darrell L. Bock, and Josh Chatraw. "The Gospel of Thomas." Truth Matters: Confident Faith in a Confusing World. Nashville, TN: B & H Group, 2014. 52-53. Print. (emphasis original) *Geisler, N. L. (1999). In Baker encyclopedia of Christian apologetics. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books. *https://gotquestions.org/Thomas-India.html