The Gospel of Thomas Historical Context

The Gospel of Thomas Historical Context

History gets written by the victor

So Who Was Thomas?

Thomas is the Apostle referenced in the Gospel of John. He refuses to believe Jesus has been resurrected until he can see and touch the wounds Jesus received on the cross hence the phrase 'Doubting Thomas'. Many pieces of art reference this including the image opposite this text.

Thomas is referenced in 7 other passages in the gospels. What little we know of him suggests he originated from Galilee and was probably a Jew, though we know nothing of his background or family.

It is of note that Thomas is referred to as Didymus Judas Thomas. The name 'Didymus' means twin in Aramaic (Jesus's mother tongue) and 'Thomas' means twin in Greek. So our purported author is twice called a twin. There is no evidence that Thomas was the biological twin of Jesus rather, as we shall see, the reference evidences the close spiritual kinship the two shared.

In Gospel of Thomas, it is Thomas who is postioned as the apostle who best understands Jesus's message.  

Gospel of Thomas Historical Context

Historical Context of The Gospel of Thomas

When was the Gospel written?

Whole books have been devoted to this subject.  The only complete copy of the Gospel of Thomas that we have is written in Coptic and dates back to the 4th Century. It was buried in a pot as a means of safe keeping after the emerging Orthodox Church outlawed its existence in A.D.367.

The majority of academics believe Thomas originated in the first half of the 2nd century though there are some who believe it predates the Gospel of Mark A.D.70 

Of the 114 sayings around 60 of them are 'nuanced' versions of sayings found in the Bible. For example in the parable of the lost sheep it is the 'errant' sheep that is loved above all others, simply for being errant.

Other sayings, those I would term the 'master' sayings', are unique to Thomas. 

Why isn't Thomas in the Bible?

We know from the extensive writings of the proto-Orthodox movement that there were differing views regarding Jesus and his message. In the fourth century it was this faction that had cast aside the Gospel of Thomas in preference to the four biblical gospels.