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archaeologThe Coptic Gospelof Thomaswas one of the most sensational ical discoveriesof the twentieth century.r The document was unknown digging for fertilizer near the exceptby name before 1945,when peasants village of Nag Hammadi, Egypt accidentallyuncovereda jar containing buried sometimein the late fourth cenmanuscripts thirteenleather-bound came to the attentionof scholarsof antiquity' tury. When the manuscripts they containedfiftytheir significancewas almostimmediatelyrecognized: two tractates,principally of "heretical" writings of Gnostic Christians.2 in Although originally composed Greek,the writings werein coptic (ancient Egyptian) translation.Many of them had been previously known by title only. Todaythesewritings are known as the "Nag HammadiLibrary'": None of the fifty-two tractates has attracted more attention than the Gospel of Thomas.For this is a collection of Jesus'sayingsthat claims to have been written by Didymus JudasThomas. According to some early Thomaswas Jesus'twin brother. Christianlegends, It The book records 114 "secretteachings"of Jesus. includesno other no material: no miracles, no passionnarrativen stories of any kind. what ultimately mattered for the author of Thomas was not Jesus'death and resurrection,which he does not narrate or discuss,but the mysterious Indeed,the Gospelbeginsby statingthat anyone that he delivered. teachings who learns the interpretationof these words will have eternal life (saying l). Many of the sayingswill soundfamiliar to readersalreadyconversant with the Gospelsof Matthew,Mark, and Luke. For example,hereone finds, in slightly different wording, the warning against the "blind leading the
believed, rFora full discussion, Ehman, fusl Cftristianities,44-66. 2Onwhatsuch"Gnostics" see 3Ftll tanslationsof all the writings, with incisive introse Ehrmm, Iosr Christianities, 122-25. Robinson,TheNag Hamdi Library in English, 4th rev' ed' ductions,can be found in James (triden: E. J. Brill, 1996). Translation by Thomas o. Lambdin in JamesRobinson, The Nag Hammadi Library in English,3rd ed. (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1988) 126-38; used with permission'
blind" and the parablesof the sower and of the mustard seed(sayings9, 20,34). Other sayings, however, quite differentandappear prouplor. are to a Gnostic point of view, in which people are understood be spirits who to have fallen from the divine realm and becomeentrapped matter (i.e., in in the prisonsof their materialbodies).Salvation, accordingto this perspective, comes to those who leam the truth of their ptight.and so are enabledto escapethis impoverishedmaterial existenceby acquiring the knowledge necessary salvation for (e.g.,sayingsll, 22, 29, 37, and g0). Jesus the is one who conveys this knowledge. Some scholars have maintained that the sayingsof Thomasmay be closerto what Jesus actuallytaughtthanwhat we find in the New Testament; others, however,have pointed out that the theology implicit in the more Gnostic teachingscannot be dated with confidenceprior to the beginning of thesecond century. Thus,while someof these sayings may be quiteoldmay, in fact, go back to Jesushimself'-the documentas a whole probably came to be written sometimeafter the New Testament Gospels(although perhapsindependently them), possiblyin the early secondcentury. of
Theseare the secretsayingswhich the living Jesusspokeand which Didymos JudasThomaswrote down. 1 And he said, "Whoever finds the interpretationof thesesayingswill not experiencedeath." 2 Jesus said, "Let him who seekscontinue seeking until he finds. When he finds, he will becometroubled.When he becomestroubled,he will be astonished, and he will rule over the all." 3 Jesussaid, "If those who lead you say to you, 'See, the kingdom is in the sky,'thenthebirds of the sky will precede' you. If they say to you, 'It is in the sea,' thenthe fish will precede you. Rather,the kingdom is insideofyou, andit is outside of you. When you come to know yourselves, then you will becomeknown, and you will realizethat it is you who arethe sonsof the living father.But if you will not know yourselves dwell in poverty you and it is you who are that poverty." 4 Jesus "Themanold in dayswill said, not hcsitatc ask a small child seven to
days old about the place of life, and he will live. For many who are first will become last, and they will becomeone and the same." 5 Jesussaid, "Recognizewhat is in your (sg.)sight,andthat which is hidden from you (sg.)will becomeplain to you (sg.).For thereis nothinghiddenwhich will not become manifest." 6 His disciples questionedhim and said to him, "Do you want us to fast? How shall we pray? Shall we give alms? What diet shall we observe?" Jesus said,"Do not tell lies. and do not do what you hate,for all things areplain in the sightof heaven. nothinghidden For will not become manifest, and nothing covered will remain without being uncovered." 7 Jesus said,"Blessedis the lion which becomesman when consumedby man; and cursed is the man whom the lion consumes, and the lion becomesman.,, 8 And he said,"The manis like a wise fisherman who cast his net into the sca