The Gospel of Thomas is an early Coptic Christian non-canonical gospel. It was discovered near Nag Hammadi, Egypt, in December 1945 among a group of books known as the Nag Hammadi library. The Nag Hammadi Library consists of fifty-two texts on papyrus that are collected in thirteen volumes. Most of the writings are of a Gnostic character.
The Gospel of Thomas is different from the four Canonical Gospels in that it is not a narrative account of the life of Jesus. It consists of 114 logia (sayings) attributed to Jesus but it doesn’t mention his crucifixion, his resurrection, the final judgment, nor give a messianic understanding of Jesus. A lot of the parables appear secretive. The Gospel of Thomas is so named because of its opening line: “These are the secret words which the living Jesus spoke, and which Didymus Judas Thomas wrote down.” Around one-fourth of these sayings are the same as those found in the canonical Gospels. And some of the remainder have been adapted for gnostic purposes.
The word gnostic comes from the Greek word gnosis, meaning “knowledge,” which is often used in Greek philosophy to refer to “enlightenment.” The Gnostic believers are taught that salvation doesn’t come from receiving and worshiping Jesus but is found in the psychic or pneumatic souls learning to free themselves from the marital world through enlightenment and revelation. Therefore, Gnostic Christians hold very different views of the Bible, of Jesus Christ, of salvation, and of virtually every other major Christian doctrine.
The gospel of Thomas was not included in the Bible because there was a specific criterion by which the early church leaders selected the books to be part of the Canon. In this criterion, the author had to be an apostle or a close person to him and the book had to be in full harmony with the rest of books of the canon as far as doctrine, teaching and Moral standing. Based on this criterion, the early church leaders universally recognized the gospel of Thomas as a forgery.
The manuscript of the Coptic text is dated at around 340 AD, though the original composition of the Gospel of Thomas was certainly before that time, sometime around A.D. 140 to 180. And because it comes from this late date when all of the apostles or their main associates would have been dead by roughly the year A.D. 100, this is another reason why the gospel of Thomas was not written by the apostle Thomas.
Unfortunately, Gnosticism is experiencing a revival in our day, and is being promoted through various publications, like the popular novel of The Di Vinci Code, and through the media in special documentary-style programs that publicize the ancient Gnostic writings (including the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Judas).
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