Dating of the gnostic gospels
This article is no longer being updated. It was published alongside the film "From Jesus to Christ: The First Christians," which originally aired on April 6, The Gnostic Gospels: Scholar Elaine Pagels explores these documents and their implications. In December an Arab peasant made an astonishing archeological discovery in Upper Egypt.
The Gnostic Gospels
The gospel of Thomas is a collection of alleged Jesus' sayings logions. We have two versions of the uncanonical gospel today. The first was discovered in the late 's among the Oxyrhynchus Papyri, and consists of fragments of a Greek version GrGTh , one of those Oxy 1 dated C. Scholars generally agree that Thomas' gospel was first written in Greek, likely in Syria.
The fragmentary Greek version includes a short prologue and logions 1 to 6, 27, 28, 30 to 32, 36, 37 and one not appearing in CoGTh. Furthermore logion 30 incorporates also an element from CoGTh logion The complete Coptic version has the prologue and logions 1 to The last logion is undoubtedly Gnostic and considered by many scholars to be a late addition I will be gracious on that one. Important remark: As a matter of fact, through my studies, not only of GThomas, but also of the making of GJohn published around , I am inclined to think this particular sect existed as early as the 70's.
However the gospel of Thomas is representative of the sectarians' beliefs in only, while some of those beliefs such as the realized eschatology were not existing earlier on see explanation later on this page. Writing between the years C. But even earlier, '2Clement' written provides a quote as "the Lord himself Many GThomas logions have parallels in the canonical gospels, as shown below: Thomas saying 68 69b: More than half of the Thomassan logions have undeniable similarities with verses from the canonical gospels.
Many of these logions are particularly obscure and do not make any human sense. Here are two examples see partial parallel in bold: GrGTh 4 "Jesus said: For many that are first will be last, and last, first , and they will become a single one. Many arguments have been put forward in favor or against GThomas early pre-gospels or late post-gospels writing. Doing so, I ask my readers to heed to my accompanying comments about the composition of the GTh logions. It is because their simple so-called "primitive" wording is one main argument for early writing.
I will come back to that later, in the next chapter. P "These are the secret sayings which the living Jesus spoke and which Didymos Judas Thomas wrote down. A Thomas: Thomas is also the name of one of the twelve apostles, according to all the gospels and 'Acts': The later importance of Thomas is also reflected in Eusebius, 'The History of the Church', 3, 39, "the writings of Papias": Papias was a late 1st century to early 2nd prominent Christian of Asia Minor "And whenever anyone came who had been [let's notice the past tense: As an example: Because you have drunk, you have become intoxicated by the bubbling spring which I have measured out.
When Thomas returned to his companions, they asked him, "What did Jesus say to you? But that is most unlikely, because: Let's also note that in Lk6: He also named  apostles: In conclusion , the " Judas , who is called Thomas " suggests that GThomas was composed either during according to the importance given to Thomas or after according to Thomas being also called Judas the writing of GJohn from 80 to ; see here for justifications. The only followers named here are Matthew named 17 times , Judas 20 and Mary 14 but no Peter!
That is why He loved her more than us. But in 2nd century Christian writings, Salome has become a close disciple of Jesus, as evidenced in the 'Gospel of the Egyptians' ? This is mirrored in Logion 61 of GThomas where she becomes a close disciple. B More about Mary: However, in Jn But the 'Mary' without 'Magdalene' in Jn But in GJohn, Mary Magdalene is singled out, and honored as the first one to see the resurrected Jesus, and promoted as 'the daughter of God' Jn More, she calls Jesus "rabboni" Jn That would certainly open the way for the treatment of Mary in Logion 21 as a close confidante of Jesus and in the 'Gospel of Mary' where she is the disciple that Jesus loves best!
C About James: But according to 'Acts', James not a follower of Jesus according to the gospels became a leader of the church of Jerusalem rather progressively, after some years. Also to be considered: In conclusion, these two later aforementioned writings would certainly clear the way for James to be for the disciples the pre-assigned Jesus' successor in GThomas! No 1st century texts we know of call him that way. However in the 2nd century, the 2nd Apocalypse of James and Hegesippus' description of James' death qualify James as 'the just'.
And all the disciples that would includes Thomas are also writing their own book, "remembering what the Savior had said to each one of them, whether secretly or openly"! That would open the way for "secret sayings" written by Thomas! And why would Thomas himself write the sayings without the intention to publish them right away and making sure of it? But if known then during , they could not be qualified as secret hidden!
However these same sayings could be easily said 'hidden' if published way later, with the understanding they were allegedly! These Christian writings and many others from the same century refute the following main argument for a 1st cent. As Patterson noted, "the collection must come from a period in which particular communities were still appealing to the authoritative position of particular apostles as a way of guaranteeing the reliability of its traditions. The insipid and the title certainly function in this way.
But one might also point to Thom 12, which appeals to James, and to Thom 13, which appeals to the authority of Thomas, to illustrate the feature. All of these texts derive from the last decades of the first century C. Other 2nd century books: Did He really speak privately with a woman and not openly to us? Are we to turn about and all listen to her? Did He prefer her to us? Let's examine the following, starting by GJohn, the suspected origin of the saying.
And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish ; If then you cannot do even a very little thing , why do you worry about other matters? It is known that he arrived in Antioch and deluded many by magical trickery. He even persuaded his followers that they would not die: Likely so, but he changed his mind later see here about the progressive making of the gospel.
But more so the writer s of GThomas: Here, 'death' means real death as in the secular meaning: CoGTh 85 "Jesus said, "Adam came into being from a great power and a great wealth, but he did not become worthy of you. For had he been worthy, [he would] not [have experienced] death. For where the beginning is, there will the end be. Blessed is he who will take his place in the beginning; he will know the end and will not experience death.
And one who lives from the Living One will not see death. In conclusion , the GThomas writer s offered hope for immortality on earth belief started by Menander as soon as the 70's and still existing among some Christians in the mid 2nd cent. CoGTh 19 "Jesus said, " Blessed is he who came into being before he came into being. If you become My disciples and listen to My words , these stones will minister to you.
For there are five trees for you in Paradise which remain undisturbed summer and winter and whose leaves do not fall. Whoever becomes acquainted with them will not experience death. And the second coming had happened already, sort of: Raise the stone, and there you will find me; cleave the wood, and there I am.
His enemy came by night and sowed weeds among the good seed. The man did not allow them to pull up the weeds; he said to them, 'I am afraid that you will go intending to pull up the weeds and pull up the wheat along with them. But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the weeds also appeared. So the servants of the owner came and said to him, 'Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field?
How then does it have weeds? As long as you spend a lot more money to pay the harvesters and you are happy with a drastically reduced crop. The author of this parable could not have been familiar with farm work, or cared more about theological implications than facts] " We notice the GThomas version is more streamlined, with less superfluous details and better written. In "Parables and gospels" , I took great pain to explain that the parable of the weeds is assuredly a "Matthew" creation.
I reproduce my arguments below:. The field is the [known] world , the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom , ["kingdom": The Son of Man will send out His angels , ["son of man": Compare this phraseology with the explanation of the sower and the soils parable in Mk4: It is very different!
Radiocarbon Dating the Gnostics Gospels after Nicaea What do the C14 results say about Gnostic Codex manufacture in antiquity? Sources. Sometimes people mention gospels outside of the biblical books of Matthew, Mark, Here is a partial list of the Gnostic Gospels, along with an approximate date.
What are the Gnostic Gospels? The agenda of these former bishops, they claim, is simple: Along the way, these scholars will probably appeal to lost Christianities and secret Gospels.
In scholarship, there are some things that are known to be true, some things that are known to be false, some things that are simply unknown whether true or false , and some matters of opinion and speculation that are keenly debated.
The full text of this article in PDF format can be obtained by clicking here. But our next line of inquiry is to be historical. Do we have a clue as to what Jesus, the Man from Nazareth, actually did and said as a player in space-time history?
Gnosticism, broadly construed, recognizes two deities: Salvation, under Gnosticism, does not require forgiveness of sins or necessarily entail any type of physical sacrament; it instead consists primarily of acquiring secret knowledge, or gnosis. Despite the fervor that characterizes these anti-gnostic polemics, it appears, based on recent discoveries, that these church fathers were charitable in their treatments. The most heralded of these recent discoveries contains the Nag Hammadi collection of Coptic documents, "discovered by a happy accident" in Upper Egypt toward the end of Despite recent popular and scholarly infatuation with the "gospels" of the Nag Hammadi collection, their textual inferiority demonstrates that they are not to be accorded the status reserved for the canonical gospels of the Bible.
Nag Hammadi library
Thirteen leather-bound papyrus codices buried in a sealed jar were found by a local farmer named Muhammed al-Samman. In his introduction to The Nag Hammadi Library in English , James Robinson suggests that these codices may have belonged to a nearby Pachomian monastery and were buried after Saint Athanasius condemned the use of non-canonical books in his Festal Letter of A. The discovery of these texts significantly influenced modern scholarship's pursuit and knowledge of early Christianity and Gnosticism. The contents of the codices were written in the Coptic language. The best-known of these works is probably the Gospel of Thomas , of which the Nag Hammadi codices contain the only complete text. After the discovery, scholars recognized that fragments of these sayings attributed to Jesus appeared in manuscripts discovered at Oxyrhynchus in P. The written text of the Gospel of Thomas is dated to the second century by most interpreters, but based on much earlier sources. The story of the discovery of the Nag Hammadi library in has been described as 'as exciting as the contents of the find itself'. Neither originally reported the find, as they sought to make money from the manuscripts by selling them individually at intervals. The brothers' mother burned several of the manuscripts, worried, apparently, that the papers might have 'dangerous effects' Markschies, Gnosis ,
The gospel of Thomas is a collection of alleged Jesus' sayings logions.
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