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The Gnostic Gospels

QUESTION: The Gnostic gospels - Was St. Thomas one?


Gnosticism is from the Greek word "gnosis" which means "knowledge" or "the act of knowing." It appears that, in the early church, an elite group appointed themselves apart from the greater body of the Church as "special witnesses" or as ones who claimed divine revelatory experiences. There are several characteristics that seem common to Gnosticism:
  • Gnostics claim special knowledge. The Gospel of Thomas opens with a statement claiming that it is secret words of Jesus that apparently Thomas was the only one to hear.

  • The Scriptures or text of the document are unorthodox. It is uncertain the number of lines that constitute the works of Thomas. This collection has no narrative but is a collection of sayings claimed to have been made by Jesus, unlike the canonized Gospels in our Bibles. Some of the writings have been described as vulgar or foolish.

  • Gnostics believe that they are also God or contain an element which is elite and allows one to rise above earthly matters and the power of the planets, that they have a divine capacity within themselves. The Gospel of Thomas says, "He who will drink from my mouth will become as I am."

  • Another belief of Gnostics is that the kingdom of God is already on earth. These thoughts were also found in the saying of the Gospel of St. Thomas.

  • Gnostic writings were generally Coptic which is an Egyptian language. Although there are some Greek versions that have been found, most of the collection is Coptic.
  • The Gospel of Thomas seems to fit most of the criteria for Gnosticism quite well and therefore can be called a Gnostic Gospel. It is uncertain who the author of this writing was. Although it does refer in the first few lines to Didymus Thomas, it seems unlikely that the disciple, Thomas would have written some of the statements. Often "gospels" were written bearing the names of more renowned men claiming special knowledge. This gave credence to the information written so that heretics could promote their own ideas since, Thomas, for example, may have been a very special witness to words of Jesus that no one else had heard.

    The Gnostic Society considers this one of the most important finds in the entire Nag Haammadi Library find of 1945, a collection of Gnostic works.

    Learn More about the Gospel of St. Thomas!

    What do you think?
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