The Gospel of Thomas (estimated date written, 40 – 250 CE) is an early non-canonical Christian document that has left many scholars scratching their heads as to who wrote it and where it came from. Some say it is a Gnostic text. Others maintain that it is not esoteric nor introspective enough to be considered Gnostic.
Another group of scholars believe that Thomas offers important insights into the early Christian oral gospel tradition. A good deal of the content of Thomas overlaps with canonical New Testament accounts, leading some scholars to say this supports the idea of a preexisting but lost common textual source, which has been called “Q.”
Q is a slightly complicated idea for non-specialists.¹ This diagram simplifies how the entirely hypothetical Q might have contributed to Thomas and “some GOSPELS” (referring to some of the canonical gospels of the New Testament).
With regard to Thomas, Wikipedia notes
Bishop Eusebius (AD 260/265 – 339/340) included it among a group of books that he believed to be not only spurious, but “the fictions of heretics”. However, it is not clear whether he was referring to this Gospel of Thomas or one of the other texts attributed to Thomas.²
Myself, when I read The Gospel of Thomas³ it seems slightly hokey and spiritually dissipated. I can’t fully explain why I feel this way. But I do feel this way. My assessment is not made entirely through biblical scholarship (because I am not a biblical scholar, in the standard sense of the term). Instead, I often make a judgement of any religious text on the way it effects me.
Also, some texts forward ideas and truth claims that I’ve long since moved past, not only experientially, but intellectually. In the extended Christian world, for example, I’ve learned enough about how the Bible and non-Canonical texts were put together to not be a fundamentalist—Biblical or Gnostic. But I still like to read the Catholic Bible from time to time.
Some folks obviously love The Gospel of Thomas. But to my mind it lacks an important element, that being the living example of Jesus through his actions. Thomas is all talk, as it were. It’s composed of over 100 sayings attributed to Christ. But for me, the main point of Christianity is not to merely enjoy nice or mysterious sounding language in some literary or pseudo-mystical way. Rather, it’s about putting a good ethical system into direct practice.
We must try our best to practice what we preach. So to say “God Bless” and then indiscriminately do sneaky and underhanded things to the very person we’re ‘God Blessing’ is, to my mind, evidence of a sick soul.
¹ For good diagrams of different theories about Q, see http://www.wikiwand.com/en/Synoptic_Gospels
Related » Gnosticism