The Gospel of Thomas

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The Gospel of Thomas

By Judas Didymos Thomas

I - Commentary

The Gospel of Thomas is a collection of traditional Sayings
(logoi) of Jesus. It is attributed to Didymos Judas Thomas, the
"Doubting Thomas" of the canonical Gospels, and according to many
early traditions, the twin brother of Jesus ("didymos" means
"twin" in Greek).
We have two versions of the Gospel of Thomas today. The
first was discovered in the late 1800's among the Oxyrhynchus
Papyri, and consists of fragments of a Greek version, which has
been dated to c. 200. The second is a complete version, in
Coptic, from Codex II of the Nag Hammadi finds. Thomas was
probably first written in Greek (or possibly even Syriac or
Aramaic) sometime between the mid 1st and 2nd centuries.
There has been much speculation on the relationship of
Thomas to the canonical Gospels. Many Sayings in Thomas have
parallels with the New Testament Sayings, especially those found
in the synoptic Gospels. This leads many to believe that Thomas
was also based on the so-called "Q" Document, along with Matthew,
Luke, and Mark. Indeed, some have speculated that Thomas may in
fact be "Q". Unlike the synoptic Gospels, and like "Q", the
Gospel of Thomas has no narrative connecting the various Sayings.
In form, it is simply a list of 114 Sayings, in no particular
order. Comparison with New Testament parallels show that Thomas
contains either more primitive versions of the Sayings, or
developments of more primitive versions. Either way, Thomas seems
to preserve earlier traditions about Jesus than the New
Testament.
Although it is not possible to attribute the Gospel of
Thomas to any particular sect, it is clearly Gnostic in nature.
As the preamble indicates, these are "secret sayings", and are
intended to be esoteric in nature. The Sayings are not intended
to be interpreted literally, as their New Testament parallels
often are, but to be interpreted symbolically, as attested by
Saying #1. While a literal interpretation may make sense, only by
understanding the deeper meanings of the Sayings can one truly
understand them. Thus in Saying #114, it is to be understood that
"male" symbolizes the pneumatic (spiritual, or Gnostic)
Christians, and "female" symbolizes the psychic (unenlightened,
or orthodox) Christians, rather than actually referring to males
and females. Keep in mind that true understanding of this text
was meant to come from PERSONAL contact with the Divine,
inspiration from within.
I will now present translations of both the Greek and Coptic
versions of the Gospel of Thomas. Of the 114 Sayings in the
complete work, and all of the fragments of the Greek text.
Also, the Greek version contains one Saying not found in the Coptic
version, which comes between Sayings 32 and 33 of the Coptic
version. I will enter the Coptic version first, as it is more
complete, followed by the Greek version. After both translations,
I've provided a listing of New Testament parallels for all 114
sayings for easier comparison.
Note that for the Coptic version, I use the standard NHL
translation, except for saying 70, where I have substituted the
translation found in Elaine Pagels' "The Gnostic Gospels", as it
seems a better translation.


Peace & Enlightenment be yours!

-Craig Shenk

 

 

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