While involved in internet argumentation in another forum over the weekend, the subject of the so-called "Gospel of Thomas" came up. Usually such canards as this are propagated by skeptics and unbelievers in a vain attempt to discredit Holy Scripture in sort of an "Ah-hah, Gotcha!" moment by suggesting that other written gospels exist that are in some way comparable to the widely accepted Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The story usually goes that such writings were on the same par as the synoptic Gospels along with that of John, however due to some sort of "embarrasing information" contained in them, they were later suppressed in order to maintain the uniformity of the other gospel accounts.
When Wayne Jackson of the Christian Courier was presented with the idea that the Gospel of Thomas was somehow "authentic", he had this to say about it...
What are the facts relative to this ancient text that has caused such a sensation in recent years?"
Compiled in the Second Century
"In 1945, an archaeological excavation at Nag Hammadi in Central Egypt yielded a collection of 13 papyrus codices (books) totaling over 1,100 pages. One of these contained the “Gospel of Thomas” in the Coptic language. In this form it dates from about A.D. 350.
However, the original work apparently is older since three Greek papyri from the Oxyrhynchus collection (c. A.D. 150) contain fragments of the narrative. It is thus believed that the original “Gospel of Thomas” was compiled about A.D. 140, probably in Edessa, Syria. Some scholars push the date a little later (A.D. 150-200).
There is no evidence that this work existed in the first century, even though those associated with the bogus “Jesus Seminar” so allege."
"They're wrong for several reasons," he said.... Thomas has too much New Testament in it. Not only that, Thomas doesn't have any early pre-Synoptic material. Thomas has forms that reflect the later developments in Luke and Matthew... Matthew and Luke sometimes improve upon Mark's grammer and word choice. Mark is not real polished in Greek grammer and style, while Matthew and Luke are much more so. And in the Gospel of Thomas we find these more polished Matthew and Luke forms of the sayings of Jesus. So Thomas isnt referring to earlier Mark, but to the later Matthew and Luke. We also find references to the special material that's found only in Matthew and only in Luke, both of which scholars think is later, not earlier.
And Thomas has material from the Gospel of John. How can Thomas be written in the 50's and 60's but still have Johannine material that doesn't get written down till the 90's?"
And this is just the beginning of the problems for Thomas. Mr. Jackson next brings up...
Beware of “secret sayings”
“Thomas” consists of a collection of 114 “sayings of Jesus,” that are supposed to be a “secret” revelation the Lord gave to the apostle Thomas. That “secret” business itself ought to be a red flag!
Some of these sayings repeat the words of Christ from the canonical Gospel accounts. About 40 of them are entirely new. Most scholars believe that the “Gospel of Thomas” is significantly contaminated with the ancient heretical philosophy known as Gnosticism (Cameron, p. 539)."
Dr. Evans describes the concept of salvation in Thomas thusly...
"Salvation is not perhaps exactly the way it is in the other Gnostic texts, but it's pretty close... It comes from self-knowledge, from understanding oneself authentically, and recognizing where one fits into the cosmos, as well as repudiating and not getting caught up with this world. So it's slightly Christian, slightly Old Testament, slightly Gnostic."
Anybody with even a passing familiarity with the New Testament knows that this is not the process of salvation described there.
Next, Jackson moves on to...
"Occasionally, some very absurd language is put into the Lord’s mouth by means of this document. Here is an example:
Simon Peter said to them: “Let Mary (Magdalene) go out from among us, because women are not worthy of the Life.”
Jesus said: “See I shall lead her, so that I will make her male, that she too may become a living spirit, resembling you males. For every woman who makes herself male will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Saying 114, Funk, p. 532; see also Yamauchi, p. 186).
Does that even remotely resemble the dignified status that women are afforded in the New Testament?"
Could a skeptic cite a reference in any of the four Gospels that resembles this? Of course not! The whole thing is a sham. Jackson goes on to state..
The “Gospel of Thomas” — An Apparent Fraud
R.K. Harrison has well noted that this apocryphal work “cannot in any sense be called a ‘fifth gospel’” (Blaiklock & Harrison, p. 450). It is readily apparent that the so-called Gospel of Thomas has no place in the inspired canon, and history has been correct in rejecting it – some modern “scholars” to the contrary notwithstanding.
There are, however, two important points to be made in this connection.
1. The dependence of the “Thomas” upon the canonical Gospel records clearly indicates that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were recognized as the authoritative sources of information regarding Jesus of Nazareth.
2. The fact that the narratives of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were available to a writer in Syria, in the mid-second century A.D., is dramatic evidence of the widespread distribution of the sacred documents in the early years of Christian history.
"If you read Thomas in Greek or Coptic, it looks like the sayings arent in any particular order. It appears to be just a random collection of of what Jesus supposedly said. But if you translate it into Syriac, something extremely interesting emerges. Suddenly, you discover more than 500 Syrian catchwords that link virtually all the 114 sayings in order to help people memorize the gospel. In other words, Saying 2 is followed by Saying 3 because Saying 2 refers to a certain word that's then contained in Saying 3. And Saying 3 contains a certain word that leads you into Saying 4. It was a memorization aid."
Why is this significant? Dr. Evans explains...
"There was a guy named Tatian, a student of Justin Martyr, who created a written harmony of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in the year 175. It's called the Diatessaron which means, "through the four". What he did was blend all four Gospels together and present it in Syriac. So the first time Syrian-speaking Christians had access to the Gospels was not as seperate Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, but as the blended, harmonized form. In blending together the sayings of the four Gospels, Tatian created created some new forms, because it was part Matthew, part Luke and so forth. Here's the clincher, those distinctive Syrian forms show up in the Gospel of Thomas."
Ding-ding-ding-ding! And on it goes. The next time someone brings up this little hodgepodge of Gnosticism and absudities and tries to present it as anything other than the complete theological disaster that it is, just hit them up with the FACTS. Anyone who would argue from positions advanced by the Jesus Seminar purposefully begins from a starting point that accepts their agenda which is driven by personal biases, not real evidence.
Note: all occurances of emphasis above appear in the text that is cited.
The interview with Dr. Evans is from The Case For The Real Jesus by Lee Strobel, (2007), Zondervan