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The Gospel of Thomas: The Hidden Sayings of…

The Gospel of Thomas: The Hidden Sayings of Jesus

by Marvin Meyer, Michael Toms

Other authors: Harold Bloom

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I think this is the third translation of the Gospel of Thomas I've read, and possibly the most recently published (1992). Translator Marvin Meyer's introduction conspicuously suspends judgment about the "gnostic" character of the text, and thus side-steps the terminological morass surrounding "Gnosticism." Instead, he emphasizes a shared culture with the Cynic philosophers of antiquity.

This "gospel" is one of the most significant components of the Nag Hammadi Library discovered in Egypt in the mid-20th century. It differs from the canonical gospels by entirely lacking a narrative spine, and consisting solely of purported teachings of Jesus. It thus provides another point of reference for the text-critical approach that postulates a Q (Ger. Quelle, "source") text to serve as a prior reference common to Matthew and Luke, as well as demonstrating that a document of this form did exist among Christians of the first centuries. The text in this edition is printed with a typeset Coptic original on facing pages, and there are endnotes for each logion ("saying"). The notes supply alternate readings of the Coptic, along with parallels in canonical and extra-canonical Christian scriptures, ancient theological writings, and other literature of the period.

Appended to this edition is "A Reading" of the gospel by literary critic and academic Harold Bloom. I found myself fairly sympathetic to most of this "sermon" from Bloom, although it does repeatedly advert to his idiosyncratic identification of American Protestantisms and Mormonism as "gnostic." The one point at which he lost me altogether was when he wrote, "What is surely peculiar is the modern habit of employing 'gnosis' or 'gnosticism' as a conservative or institutionalized Christian term of abuse" (120). Bloom overlooked Irenaeus and Hippolytus somehow, along with the many centuries of theologians who took them as authorities, I guess.

Both Meyer and Bloom drew my attention to logion 13, which had not arrested me in previous readings of this gospel. Jesus rewards Thomas with three secret "sayings" or "words," not themselves reproduced in the text. Meyer's notes about other references to three secret words are intriguing (75); they include "IAO IAO IAO" from Pistis Sophia 136, and other non-canonical gospels intimate identities with divine father, mother, and son. Hippolytus offered what seem to be corrupted forms of the three instructions "precept upon precept," "line upon line,"and "here a little, there a little" from Isaiah 28. Bloom's highly speculative and metaphysical explication did not persuade me, but there are Thelemic doctrines which I think can be curiously enhanced by reference to this logion.
3 vote paradoxosalpha | Sep 1, 2016 |
This is a good translation of the Gospel of Thomas. (It is not the same as Q, the lost list of the sayings spoken by Jesus. It is the same type of ancient book, and that matters a lot to scholars. To read a reconstruction of Q side by side with Thomas, see [The Q/Thomas Reader] which makes a good companion to this book.)

This translation has a helpful introduction, notes, and has the Coptic (in a handsome typeface) on each page facing the translation. (Coptic is Egyptian written in the Greek alphabet rather than hieroglyphs.)

Dr. Meyer, now better known as one of the translators of the [Gospel of Judas] also translated much of the ancient collection of Gnostic texts the [Gospel of Thomas] came from (the Nag Hammadi Library, named for its place of discovery in Egypt). You can read his translations (along with a newer translation of Thomas, in [The Nag Hammadi Scriptures]

There are several good stand-alone translations of the Gospel of Thomas with explanatory notes; this is still one of the better ones by a scholar who has specialized in translation work.


-Kushana ( )
2 vote Kushana | Dec 27, 2010 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Marvin Meyerprimary authorall editionscalculated
Toms, Michaelmain authorall editionsconfirmed
Bloom, Haroldsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed

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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 006065581X, Hardcover)

The gospel according to Thomas is an ancient collection of sayings attributed to Jesus and thought to be recorded by his brother Judas, the Twin (Thomas means "twin" in Aramaic). Some scholars suggest that this gospel was collected from New Testament sayings, while others believe it springs from a completely independent author because many of the quotations are not in the New Testament at all. It slept for two millennia in a stone jar until it was accidentally exhumed by a group of fertilizer gatherers in the northern Egyptian desert in 1945. (The gospel is just one document in the fourth-century papyrus library discovered near the city of Nag Hammadi, from which the entire collection gets its name.) Marvin Meyer's distinguished translation includes Coptic text on each left page and the English translation on the right. It is considered by many to be perhaps the closest we'll ever get to reading what was actually said by the historical Jesus. In The Gospel of Thomas, you'll discover a different kind of Christ--a wandering spiritual teacher from Galilee who performs no miracles, reveals little prophecy, announces no apocalypse, and dies for no one's sins. --P. Randall Cohan

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:28 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"The Gospel of Thomas" lay hidden in the sands of Egypt for over 1600 years until recently discovered. Thus, it was not tampered with by anyone, and what we have are the sayings of a Master, with very little colouring or dilution. "The Gospel" is made up entirely of short and highly concentrated sayings - mini-parables, each with an outer form and deep inner meanings - which are given in symbolic language that reaches directly to the spiritual being at the centre of each of us. They are presented here in pleasing and sympathetic calligraphy. These poetic and profound sayings can point to the answers to many questions of vital importance. In absorbing them, an inner tranquillity, peace and contentment may be found.… (more)

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