Metro State Atheists

Promoting Science, Reason, and Secular Values

Why Christians can’t disregard The Gospel of Thomas

In a recent debate with a Christian, he told me that The Gospel of Thomas is “simply a heretical forgery, much the same as the Gospel of Judas, the Gospel of Mary, and the Gospel of Philip.” After an extensive amount of research, I have found that his statement has some profound ramifications. I went through all 114 sayings in The Gospel of Thomas and found that approx. 84%* of the sayings are contained within the Canonical Gospels, either verbatim or slightly changed in wording. Some of these sayings are the “important” ones. (Examples of this are below1) Ones that most Christians themselves point to about how compassionate Jesus was, such as “turn the other cheek” and “love thy neighbor as thyself”, are in the Gospel of Thomas. (Sources and characters are at the bottom)

When was the Gospel of Thomas written?

Experts, through radiometric dating, have dated the Gospel of Thomas found at Nag Hammadi to being written between 50-140CE. This is startling, considering the Gospel of Mark, at its earliest, was written between 65-80CE. At the earliest, that is at least 15 years after the Gospel of Thomas was written. One then should be able to conclude then, that writer of The Gospel of Mark simply took the sayings from The Gospel of Thomas and inserted them into stories. He plagiarized the Gospel of Thomas, to use today’s legalistic terms.

What does this all mean?

This means that one cannot make the statement “[The Gospel of Thomas] is simply a heretical forgery, much the same as the Gospel of Judas, the Gospel of Mary, and the Gospel of Philip.” and yet continuously quote scripture derived directly from it. If the Gospel of Thomas is nothing more than a “heretical forgery” than you (Christians) will have to rid the New Testament of “the great moral precepts and great sayings”, Jesus is said to have taught, such as “turn the other cheek” and “give to those who can’t repay you”. Likewise, you would also get rid of some questionable teachings, such as “hating your father, mother, brother, sister and yourself in order to follow Jesus” and “I have not come to bring peace to the world, but a sword”. Bottom line is, if you write off the Gospel of Thomas as heretical you are getting rid of almost all the sayings, good and bad, that your demi-god Jesus is supposed to have said, and having read the New Testament, you would not be left with much.

Examples

Gospel of Thomas Saying 55– “Jesus said: He who does not hate his father and his mother cannot be a disciple to me. And (he who does not) hate his brothers and sisters and take up his cross like me, will not be worthy of me.”

Luke 14:25-27– “Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said:”If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”

Gospel of Thomas Saying 44– “Jesus said: He who blasphemes against the Father will be forgiven, and he who blasphemes against the Son will be forgiven; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either on earth or in heaven.”

Mark 3:28-30 “Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation. Because they said, He hath an unclean spirit.”

Matt 12:31-32– “Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.”

Gospel of Thomas Saying 34– “Jesus said: If a blind man leads a blind man, they both fall into a pit.”

Luke 6:39– “And he spake a parable unto them, Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch?”

Gospel of Thomas Saying 11– “Jesus said: This heaven will pass away, and the one above it will pass away; and those who are dead are not alive, and those who are living will not die. In the days when you ate of what is dead, you made of it what is living. When you come to be light, what will you do? On the day when you were one, you became two. But when you have become two, what will you do?”

Mark 13:30-31– “Verily I say unto you, that this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done. Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.”

Gospel of Thomas Saying 2– “Jesus said: He who seeks, let him not cease seeking until he finds; and when he finds he will be troubled, and when he is troubled he will be amazed, and he will reign over the All.”

Luke 11:9-13-“And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?”

and

Matt 7:7-11-“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?”

Gospel of Thomas Saying 10– “Jesus said: I have cast a fire upon the world, and see, I watch over it until it is ablaze.”

Luke 12:49-53– “I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled? But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished! Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division: For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.”

and

Matt 10:34-39– “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a mans foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.”

Gospel of Thomas 16– “Jesus said: Perhaps men think that I am come to cast peace upon the world; and they do not know that I am come to cast dissensions upon the earth, fire, sword, war. For there will be five who are in a house; three shall be against two and two against three, the father against the son and the son against the father, and they shall stand as solitaries.”

Matt 10:34-39– “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a mans foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.”

Gospel of Thomas Saying 62– “Jesus said: I speak my mysteries to those [who are worthy of my] mysteries. What your right hand does, let not your left hand know what it does.”

Mark 4:10-12– “And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable. And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.”

Gospel of Thomas Saying 68– “Jesus said: Blessed are you when you are hated and persecuted, and they will find no place where you have been persecuted.”

Luke 6:22-23– “Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of mans sake. Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets.”

Gospel of Thomas Saying 77– “Jesus said: I am the light that is above them all. I am the all; the all came forth from me, and the all attained to me. Cleave a (piece of) wood; I am there. Raise up a stone, and you will find me there.”

John 8:12-20– “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. The Pharisees therefore said unto him, Thou bearest record of thyself; thy record is not true. Jesus answered and said unto them, Though I bear record of myself, yet my record is true: for I know whence I came, and whither I go; but ye cannot tell whence I come, and whither I go. Ye judge after the flesh; I judge no man. And yet if I judge, my judgment is true: for I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me. It is also written in your law, that the testimony of two men is true. I am one that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent me beareth witness of me. Then said they unto him, Where is thy Father? Jesus answered, Ye neither know me, nor my Father: if ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also. These words spake Jesus in the treasury, as he taught in the temple: and no man laid hands on him; for his hour was not yet come.”

Gospel of Thomas Saying 38– “Jesus said: Many times have you desired to hear these words which I speak to you, and you have no other from whom to hear them. Days will come when you will seek me (and) you will not find me.”

Luke 17:22– “And he said unto the disciples, The days will come, when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and ye shall not see it.”

Sources

http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/thomas/

http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/

http://www.biblegateway.com/

*-The exact percentage is 84.2105% for those who thought I approximated by rounded up.

1 – For the full list of findings please email me at metroatheists@hotmail.com

Written by Joel

Advertisements

September 26, 2008 - Posted by | Bible, Christianity, religion | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

8 Comments »

  1. I’m not saying that the gospel of Thomas is necessarily bad, but your argument is flawed. The gospel of Thomas could be ninety-percent true and still have enough falsehood to lead people astray (the most dangerous lies have the most truth worked into them). Even if it were entirely true, it still may not come from an authentic source. I could compose a gospel in my own name, using entirely Biblical passages, but my work would not deserve to be cannon. The Gospel of Thomas may not be heresy, but that doesn’t make it scripture, either. Again, I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with the book. It’s just that your approach to vindicating it isn’t really functional.

    Comment by M. Patterson | September 26, 2008

  2. If it is as late as 140, then it does not follow that Mark plagarized Thomas – but rather, Thomas plagarized Mark.

    Furthermore, we know that the gospel’s came from oral traditions which predated their being written down. This means, though Mark was written in the 50’s or 60’s, his material predates that by a lot.

    In other words, if you’re going to convince Christians that they need to take Thomas more seriously, you need to narrow down your date and demonstrate more clearly the line from Thomas to Mark – who was the redactor, what info was left out and why? It also needs to be considered why the early church rejected Thomas, but accepted Mark – this is not a matter of just preference – when they rejected something, they did so for good reason…particularly in Thomas’s case, it has to do with Gnostic tendency’s – which the early church fought against mightily.

    All that to say – I’m still unconvinced.

    Comment by thefuerstshallbelast | September 26, 2008

  3. To both replies. First, thank you for taking the time to reply to this blog, it is much appreciated. To the first reply: How can you assert that the authors of Mark, Matthew, Luke and John are anymore authoritative, as you said, as you or the author of Thomas? As you said “I could compose a gospel in my own name, using entirely Biblical passages, but my work would not deserve to be cannon. ” Further, it is interesting that this objection is common, usually coming from Christians that do not recognize or purposefully ignore the undeniable fact that the book in in the New Testament were VOTED ON. Yes, the supposed word of the supposed god was voted upon. Thus, making every book an equal candidate for inclusion. My main argument was simply to raise doubts about the “originality” of the authorship of Mark. I was generous in the dates given that the oldest physical copy of mark dates to the late first century around the year 90. Lastly, since there is so much uncertainty about the dates in question, you and other Christians can not assert that Mark was absolutely before Thomas.

    To the second reply. From the end of the first points to my last point above thus i will not discuss any further. There is no evidence for this claim you make “e know that the gospel’s came from oral traditions which predated their being written down. This means, though Mark was written in the 50’s or 60’s, his material predates that by a lot.” However, if you are speaking of the the general dying/rising savior god myth, then you may be correct, but the evidence is severely lacking that anyone like that of the person of “jesus” described in those texts ever existed. The evidence would actually conclude otherwise. To the last paragraph. I never intended to show that at all. Just to raise doubts, as i said above. The very fact that “the early church” fought anyone should give you a clue to the fraud and falsehood of Christianity.

    -Joel
    author

    Comment by Joel | September 27, 2008

  4. Joel,

    First, let me say thank you for this engaging discussion and the graciousness with which you’ve responded. As a person who engages in these discussions quite a bit (having a MA in NT studies means everyone wants to ask you questions and give you their agendas ), most people aren’t really gracious about this topic. So thank you for being different.

    Second, no one doubts the existence of oral traditions prior to the writing down of the gospels as text. No one. The debate between liberal and conservative scholars is not, “were there oral traditions predating the gospels?” but is “what is the proximity of the oral traditions to the actual events of the life of Jesus?” Take Marcus Borg and NT Wright’s debate – neither denies the existence of oral traditions. Borg just suggests that they are not as early, nor as fixed, as NT Wright argues. Borg, the non-Christian scholar, suggests that the gospels, before they became text, were “developing tradition…and a mixture of history remembered and history metaphorized.” (The Meaning of Jesus, 4) So here you have a scholar who does not believe the Bible to be historically accurate, but who does recognize the developmental nature of the Chrsitian texts – specifically from fixed or fluid oral traditions to an extremely fixed written tradition.

    That said, of course there isn’t historical documentation of the person of Jesus prior to the writing down of these texts – if all the documentation was oral, and these early Christians weren’t scholars who were writing books, then that explains the lack of evidence. (Of course, you can’t forget Josephus’ reference to Jesus – that’s pretty early)

    So, though I appreciate your response, I do not think you can dismiss my statement concerning oral traditions so easily – to do so is to go against the mainstream of biblical scholarship – Christian or otherwise.

    There is also no question that Christianity used the symbolism, metaphor, and even rhetoric of surrounding Hellenistic culture. Thus, a dying and rising god myth would have provided the rhetorical and symbolic world necessary to make sense out of what the early apostles saw. So, I don’t think this is a problem for anyone – besides, of course, crazy Christian fundamentalists who detach early Christianity from its surrounding culture.

    Next, when I say “fought” I do not mean with physical violence. Christianity is markedly pacifistic until the 4th century – so any use of ‘fought’ is a metaphor for an internal, and relatively loud debate with the Gnostics. If this is still problematic for you, then that’s fine. But it is a huge leap from an internal Christian debate to rejecting Christianity b/c they didn’t debate in a way approved by our modern sensibilities. There’s much to be ashamed of in Christian history – but all religions, philosophies, and cultures have something they’re ashamed of. Christianity included.

    Finally, let me just point out the major fallacy I saw in your argument – you give a “possible” date range for Thomas that extends over a 90 year period. But then, without justifying your decision, you choose to take the earliest date. All you can say, justifiably, is that Thomas might predate Mark. But you’ve provided no evidence that it actually does. As far as your argument goes, to me, it seems like you took the earliest date b/c it worked the best with your overall beginning assumptions. But If I don’t have those same assumptions – which I don’t – then you’ve given me no reason to think Thomas predates Mark. I see that fallacy all the time – not just on blogs, but in scholarship about these things. It’s really underhanded when it comes from scholars.

    Thanks, again, for the discussion. I hope I have responded in the same graciousness with which your have continued this discussion,
    Tom

    Comment by thefuerstshallbelast | September 27, 2008

  5. Tom-

    I’m busier than normal, busier in fact than I have ever been. I have read your great comment. However, I do not have time to address all your points, all of which deserve a more complete response. Though I can say that this blog was written quite a long time ago and I’ve had to (based on a scientific approach) change some, but not all my opinions and findings on the subject. The one thing I do have time to refute is that the Josephus reference has been shown, conclusively, to be a later interpolation (and NOT an outright forgery as has been suggested by Acharya S.) by a Church father (the name escapes me). For instance, no original Josephus documents contain the reference. Further, even taken as “authentic” the reference doesn’t prove anything other than Josephus hearing about the new cult around the mythic god known as jesus. This is because Josephus wasn’t born till the year 37 AD, 4 years AFTER the supposed death of the supposed jesus. Thus, many decades went by before he ever started writing and couldn’t have first hand knowledge of these supposed events.

    However, I would like to acknowledge what you call a fallacy in my argument and point out two things. First, like i said, this was written some time ago and i agree that without more explanation it does appear to be said fallacy. Second, I don’t think i meant to suppose or assume the earliest date, but merely to use it as the “extreme” case. Kinda like a “what-if” type doubting question. I don’t mean to say that the earliest date IS the date, because it most likely isn’t. Similarly, the earliest date for Mark probably isn’t it either (60ad) since the mention of the destruction of the Jerusalem temple is mentioned (70ad). This fact you leave out of your critique (the use of the early MARK date) and it should be noted that I meant only to take the earliest extreme of both and pose a “what-if” question and use that, what you call an assumption, to pose, not my evidence that it IS IN FACT that way ( I do NOT mean for that), but to posit that if my assumption is the case, this is ONE explanation or outcome. Please give me time to respond to the rest of the great (the best I’ve ever received) comment as I have work and school and this organization to attend to, taking up most of my time. However, I can communicated more directly about your comments via email. If you’d like to do that, please email me at metroatheists@hotmail.com and in the subject, include your Name followed by a dash followed by GOT Blog Comment to look like this:

    Tom-GOT Blog Comment

    Thank you,

    Joel
    Author

    Comment by Joel | September 28, 2008

  6. Thanks for your response, again, Joel. I understand you’re busy, so we can continue this another time.

    Now that I’m cleared up about your ‘what-if’ intentions, your argument seems like less of a fallacy and more of a ‘if-we-take-this-option’ kind of approach.

    Finally, with Josephus – I know that there is a later Father who forged certain parts of that text. However, textual criticism on that text also demonstrates that the autograph made an implicit reference to this religion started by a crucified Jew. At its barest, we recognize this to be Jesus, undoubtedly. The rest, I admit, was a forgery. Nevertheless, it does suggest the possibility of Christ’s existence.

    Anyway, bro, I appreciate the dialogue, and look forward to other interactions in the future.

    Cheers,
    Tom

    Comment by thefuerstshallbelast | September 28, 2008

  7. cool site 🙂

    Comment by BradandPitti | October 14, 2008

  8. All the Josephus line suggests, if it suggests anything at all due to the fact that it was later interpolation (addition to an existing text), if written by him is, that, due to his birth (37ad) in relation to the supposed death of jesus (33ad), it was at least 3 decades old lore or story. Simply writing about down an account of a story about a particular character 3 decades later isn’t enough to establish the existence of said character. Tell me Tom, can you find me a Roman reference to jesus in any of their many historians texts? And by reference I mean, an explicit mention ie “Then Pilate condemned Jesus”. Not “Christ” but “Jesus” . I do not accept Christ as a reference since many have been referred to as such due to the fact that Christ, in Greek, simply means “the anointed one” which there is a lot of in pagan myths.

    Thanks Tom.

    Joel

    Comment by Joel | October 14, 2008


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: