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Gospel of Thomas

About Gospel of Thomas and Gnosticism
Reading Help to Gospel of Thomas
Links

Brill's English Translation
Criticism of the Scholars' Translation
Index to the Gospel of Thomas


The Gospel of Thomas

The Gospel of Thomas was found together with a number of gnostic manuscripts in an
urn in the desert sand at Nag Hammadi, Egypt 1945. There they  had been preserved
from around 340 A.D. The Nag Hammadi Library, as it is called, originates from a 
person or a group interested in esoteric texts and consists of 13 papyrus books with 
around 50 manuscripts. They give an unique insight into gnosticism, that has previously
principally been known from Christian texts opposed to gnosticism.

The GoT was also considered as gnostic and is so quite frequently today. But, among
scholars the view of GoT is more complicated. It differs from both the canonical
gospels and the gnostic texts. The question wheter GoT is gnostic or not is part of
the larger question; if it is a genuine gospel or not. The common view is that GoT is
not a true gospel, but can be a source for unknown Jesus words.

Gnosticism was a broad spiritual movement that much resembles New Age of
today. It originates from the pletora of religious cults of the time. Many gnostic texts 
resemble New Age. In my view GoT is not gnostic. it differs clearly from the gnostic 
scriptures in the Nag Hammadi library and elsewhere. The gnostic concepts and 
teachings found in these scriptures are not found in GoT. The simmilarity that exist 
between the logions of the GoT and the gnostic scriptures is that they in a simmilar 
way are found as cryptic and thus hard to understand. Jesus is recognizeable
from the Bible in GoT, but the content has a secretive character that is simmilar to
gnosticism. Some of the sayings in GoT are represented in the canonical gospels. 

It might not be a coincidence that it is the disciple Thomas who has written the Gospel 
of Thomas. The picture one get from Gospel of John is that he is somewhat at odds
with the other disciples. 

Many things contribute to that GoT is difficult to read. The content is secretive.
The author Thomas cites Jesus without giving much of the circumstances in which
Jesus spoke. The logions are unarranged except for certain themes. But, apart from
these, the gospels' exterior character, the message also seems hard to accept for in
particular a christian reader. What most react at is logion 6 and 14, where Jesus
strikes down at fasting, prayer and alms, together with logion 114 where Jesus
says that women shall make themselves into men. 

What is then GoT? Well, in my opinion it is what the disciple Thomas heard and
wrote down as an important message from Jesus. Among scholars the opinion
is that GoT like the Gospel of John is the result of a certain school. Only Gospel
of John is regarded as written by a disciple of Jesus, later revised by others.
The Gospel of Marc is regarded as written by a person close to the events.
The Gospels of Matthew and Luke are regarded as based on the Gospel of
Marc and an oral tradition known in Bible research as Q. 

The Gospel of Thomas gives you a third opinion of Jesus, that complements
the synoptic Gospels and the Gospel of John. 

-Martin Larsson


Reading Help to Gospel of Thomas

1. Read together with the Bible. 

2, Thomas gives very briefly the circumstances in which Jesus spoke. Jesus had a
    teaching and a dialogue with his disciples. Therefore, facts about the situation
    and what was said earlier would have given important clues to what Jesus 
    spoke about.

3. Jesus spoke to his disciples and he evidently had a plan for how his teaching
    would be handed down to posterity. He might have had a special role for
    Thomas.

4. The disciple Thomas probably quotes Jesus correctly.

5. Often you overinterprete what is written, when you do not understand.

6. Jesus speaks in a certain context, but he speaks so that the whole earth shall
    understand.

7. Certain concepts are evidently central in GoT and are recurrent in several
    logions:

    The All    2, 67, 77
    The Kingdom    3, 20, 21, 22, 27, 46, 49, 54, 57, 76, 82, 96, 97, 98, 99, 103, 107, 109, 113, 114
    The Father's Kingdom    57, 76, 96, 97, 98, 99, 113
    The Father    3, 15, 27, 40, 44, 50, 57, 61, 64, 69, 76, 79, 83, 96, 97, 98, 99, 113
    Place    4, 18, 24, 50, 60, 67, 68, 86
    Light    11, 24, 33, 50, 61, 77, 83
    Alone    16, 49, 75
    Heaven    20, 54, 114
    The World    10, 16, 21, 24, 27, 28, 51, 56, 80, 110, 111
    Robbers    21, 103
    Two    16, 47, 48, 61, 87
    Clothes    21, 36, 37, 47, 78
    Living    1, 4, 11, 37, 50, 52, 59, 60, 61, 111, 114
    Picture    22, 50, 83, 84
    Rest    50, 51, 60, 61, 86, 90
   
8. I don't think that one should read the Gospel of Thomas as more difficult than it 
    actually is. One should not get hung-up on certain phrases. Most of the logiions have in 
    themselves a clarity. There are however, many who demand that you have a general 
    understanding of the different contexts which Jesus convey.



Links

Thomas in Gospel of John: Joh. 11:16, 14:5, 20:24ff, 21:2

The Brill Translation of the Gospel of Thomas:
http://www.goodnewsinc.net/othbooks/thomas.html

Gospel of Thomas Homepage:
http://users.misericordia.edu/davies/thomas/Thomas.html
If the link above don't work, there is a copy of the site here.

Gospel of Thomas FAQ:
http://users.misericordia.edu/davies/thomas/faq.htm

Early Christian Writings
http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/thomas.html 

The Five Gospels Parallels
http://www.utoronto.ca/religion/synopsis/

Canonical Comparisons of Thomas Sayings
On the second half of the page.
http://reluctant-messenger.com/gospel-thomas-Paul_Halsall.htm

Peje Iesous - Blog about GoT.
http://pejeiesous.com

NT Gateway - NT research and a few links for GoT..
http://www.ntgateway.com/

Index to the Gospel of Thomas (PDF Document)



Brill's Translation of the Gospel of Thomas

After reading the thoroughly researched Swedish translation of Gospel of Thomas by
Bo Frid from 2002 and having compared it to several English translations I have 
found that Brill's translation is very good. Like in Frid's translation, the intensity of the text 
is preserved. The word choice might be a bit old-fashioned, but I believe that it is better 
than other translations at conveying the meaning of the text.

1 - English translations often have "secret words", but Bo Frid points to that the
meaning of the coptic word is conceal or hide. A better translation should be
"hidden words".

 

2 - Brill: "if he is troubled".
Scholars: "When they are disturbed,".
Lambdin: "When he becomes troubled,".
Frid: "och när han är bestört," - "and when he is dismayed".

 

3 - In coptic: persuade/lead/delude. Brill trans. with "lead".

 

6 - "heaven", In P.Oxy. "truth".

 

11 - In Bo Frid's trans.: "har ni gjort två".- "you have made two".
In Brill:: "you became two"

 

17 - A shorter version in 1 Cor. 2:9.

Brill: "entered". Scholars: "arisen". Lambdin: "occured". Frid: "kommit upp i" -
"arisen in".

 

18 - Brill trans. "there shall the end be." But, Frid trans. "där kommer slutet att 
inträda" - "there will the end enter".
Scholars: "the end will be where the beginning is.". Lambdin: "there 
will the end be".

 

19 - Brill: "Blessed is he who was before he came into being.". Men, Scholars, 
Lambdin and Frid use become 2 times:
Scholars: "Congratulations to the one who came into being being before 
coming into being."
Lambdin & Frid: "Blessed is he who came into being before he came into 
being."

 

21 - Mary or Mariham - probably Mary Magdalene, according to Jesper Svartvik. 

Brill: "They are naked before them,". But, Scholars, Lambdin and Frid: 
"They take off their clothes in front of them".

 

33 - Brill: "proclaim to the other ear".
Scholars & Frid: "in the other ear proclaim".
Lambdin: "Preach from your housetops that which you will hear in your ear."
Frid: "i det andra örat predika"

 

40 - Brill: "and since it is not established".
Scholars: "Since it is not strong".
Lambdin: "but being unsound".
Frid: "och då det inte växte sig starkt" - "and since it did not grow strong".

 

42 - "Become passers-by" or "Become by perishing" or "Become by passing 
by".

 

45 - Brill: "treasure". Scholars: "stored up". Lambdin & Frid: "Storehouse".

 

48 - Brill: "in this or house, they shall say to the mountain:".
Scholars: "in a single house, they will say to the mountain".
Lambdin: "in this one house, they will say to the mountain".
Frid: "i samma hus, kan de säga till berget:" -
"in the same house, they can say to the mountain.".

 

50 - Brill: "Who are you?, say: We are his sons,".
Scholars & Lambdin: "'is it you?' say'We are its children,".
Frid:"'Är ni det?',säg'Vi är hans barn" -
"Are you that?, say'We are his children".

 

58 - "toiled" or "suffered". Brill and Lambdin trans. "suffered". 
Scholars & Frid: "toiled".

 

60 - Brill: "Why does he carry the lamb?".
Scholars: "that person around the lamb."
Lambdin: "That man is round about the lamb."
Frid: "Han med lammet?" - "He with the lamb?".

 

61 - This logion seems to be difficult to transalte.

Bo Frid writes that he makes an intelligent conclusion and tanslates:
"Salome sade: Vem är du, människa, liksom kommen ur hädelse?" 
- Salome said: Who are you, man, as come from blasphemy?"

Brill: "Salome said: Who art thou; O man? And whose son?".
Scholars: Salome said, "Who are you mister? You have climbed onto my 
couch and eaten from my table as if you are from someone."
Lambdin: "Salome said, "Who are you, man, that you ...".

"I am your disciple." - Disciple is here feminine. Thereby "your feminine 
disciple".

Brill:
"Jesus said to her Therefore I say, when it is equal it will be filled with light, 
but when it is divided it will be filled with darkness."


Bo Frid:"Därför säger jag: När den blir övergiven, skall den 
fyllas av ljus, men när den blir delad, skall den fyllas med mörker.", 
- "Therefore I say: When it is abandoned, it shall be filled with light,
but when it is divided, it shall be filled with darkness.". 

Scholars: "if one is whole, one will be filled with light,".
Lambdin: "if he is destroyed, he will be filled with light,".

 

63 - Brill: "possessions". Scholars, Frid & Lambdin: "money".

 

66 - Brill: "Teach me". Scholars, Frid & Lambdin: "Show me".

 

74 - The actual coptic words here are separation and disease. Since these words 
have not been regarded as appropriate in the context "around" and "nothing/
nobody in" they have been changed to the similarly spelled coptic words
drinking trough and well or well and well.

 

88 - Brill & Lambdin: "The angels". Scholars & Frid: "The messengers". 
The arameic word malakha means angel or messenger.


Brill: "and they shall give you".
Scholars: "and give you".
Lambdin: "and give to you".
Frid: "och de ger er" - "and they give you".

 

97 - Brill: "the loss". Scholars: "a problem". Lambdin: "accident". 
Frid: "tråkigheten" - "tediousness"

 

113 - "as one expect." - Is an adverb in coptic: "expectingly"
Brill: "with observation". Scholars: "by watching 
for it". Lambdin: "by waiting for it".

 

Sources: Thomasevangeliet by Bo Frid and Jesper Svartvik. 
English.Translation of  Gospel of Thomas by Messrs. Brill of Leiden, 
Scholars' Translation by Stephen Patterson and Marvin Meyer
English Translation of Gospel of Thomas by Thomas O. Lambdin



A Critique of the The Scholars' Translation of Gospel of Thomas


The Scholars' Translation is the most commonly used English translation of Gospel
of Thomas. At a comparison between Scholars', other English translations as well
as the Swedish translation by Bo Frid I am of the opinion that it quite often does 
not stay close enough to the source text. I can't read the source, so I base this
solely on comparing the different translations. The choice of language in the Scholars'
translation is too free. The meaning of individual logions might get vague if a
translation does not stay close enough to the source.

The following is a comparison between The Scholars' Translation, Brill's and
Bo Frid's translations.

7 - "Lucky" - Brill & Frid: "Blessed"

 

8 - "The person" - Scholars trans. throughout with "person" where Frid and Brill
have "man".

Scholars: "Anyone here with two good ears had better listen!"
Brill & Frid: "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear."

 

13 - Scholars: Teacher, my mouth is utterly unable to say what you are like."
Brill: "Master, my mouth will no wise suffer that I say whom thou art like."
Frid: "Mästare, min mun kan alls inte uthärda, att jag, säger, vem du liknar."
- same.

Scholars: "that I have tended."
Brill: "which I have measured out."
Frid: "som jag mätte ut." - same.

 

16 - Scholars: "conflicts". Brill: "divisions". Frid:"söndringar" - same.
19 - Scholars: "For there are five trees in Paradise for you; they do not change,
summer or winter,".
Brill: "For you have five trees in Paradise which do not move in summer or
in winter,".
Frid: "Ty ni har fem träd i paradiset, som inte rör sig sommar, vinter," -same.

 

20 - Sholars: "a large plant". Brill: "a great branch". Frid: "en stor gren"
-same.

 

21 - Sholars: "What are your disciples like?".
Brill: "Whom are thy disciples like?".
Frid: "Vem liknar dina lärjungar?" - same.

Scholars: "and they return their field to them.".
Brill: "and to give them back their field.".
Frid: "och så ge deras fält åt dem." - "and so give their field to them".

Scholars: "break into their house (their domain) and steal their possessions.".
Brill: "dig into his house of his kingdom to carry off his vessels.".
Frid: "gräva sig in i hans rikes hus för att bära bort hans saker." - same.

Scholars: "for the trouble you expect will come.".
Brill: "since the advantage for which you look they will find."
Frid: "för annars kommer de att finna målet som ni väntar på." -
"for else they will find the goal that you are waiting for.".

 

25 - Scholars: "friends". Brill: "brother". Frid: "broder" - same.

 

30 - Scholars: "divine". Brill: "gods". Frid: "gudar" - same.

 

31 - Scholars: "home turf". Brill: "in his village". Frid: "i sin stad" - "in his town".

 

32 - Scholars: "high hill". Brill: "high mountain". Frid: "högt berg" - same.

 

33 - Scholars: "After all,". Brill: "For". Frid: "Ty" -same.

Scholars: "Rather,". Scholars uses rather instead of but
or for.

 

36 - Scholars has a number of alternatives here.
Brills: "Jesus said: Be not anxious from morning to evening and from evening to morning about what you shall put on.".

 

39 - Scholars: "have taken". Brill: "have received". Frid: "har (mot)tagit" - same.

Scholars: "As for you, be as sly as snakes and as simple as doves.".
Brill: "But you be ye wise as serpents and innocent as doves.".
Frid: "Men ni skall vara kloka som ormar och oskyldiga som duvor." -
same.

 

41- Scholars: ""Whoever has something in hand will be given more,".
Brill: "He who has in his hand, to him shall be given;".
Frid: "Den som har i sin hand, åt honom skall ges," - same.

 

45 - Scholars: "from the wickedness they've stored up in their hearts".
Brill: "from his evil treasure which is in his heart,".
Frid: "bär fram ont ut ur sitt onda förråd, som är i hennes hjärta,"
-same.

 

46 - Scholars: "no one is so much greater than John the Baptist".
Brill: "there is none born of woman who is higher than John the Baptist,".
Frid: "bland dem av kvinnor födda finns ingen högre än Johannes
döparen," - same.

Scholars: "averted.". Brill: "broken". Frid: "brista".

Scholars: "a child". Brill: "a little one". Frid: "liten".

 

49 - Scholars: "Congratulations to those who are alone and chosen,".
Brill: "Blessed are the solitary and the elect,".
Frid: "Saliga är de ensamma och utvalda," - same.

 

50 - Scholars: 'What is the evidence of your Father in you?'.
Brill: "What is the sign of your Father in you?".
Frid: "Vad är er Faders tecken, som är i er?" - same.

 

51 - Scholars: ""What you are looking forward to has come,".
Brill: "That which ye await has come".
Frid: "Denna (vilan), som ni väntar på, har kommit," - same.

 

60 - Scholars: "seek for yourselves a place for rest,".
Brill: "seek for yourselves a place within for rest,".
Frid: "Sök själva en plats åt er in i en vila," -
"Seek for yourselves, a place for you, into a rest.".

 

61 - This logion seems to be difficult to transalte.

Bo Frid writes that he makes an intelligent conclusion and tanslates:
"Salome sade: Vem är du, människa, liksom kommen ur hädelse?" 
- Salome said: Who are you, man, as come from blasphemy?"

Brill: "Salome said: Who art thou; O man? And whose son?".
Scholars: Salome said, "Who are you mister? You have climbed onto my 
couch and eaten from my table as if you are from someone."
Lambdin: "Salome said, "Who are you, man, that you ...".


Scholars: "whole". Brill: "equal". Frid: "lika" - same.

Scholars: " if one is whole, one will be filled with light, but if one is divided, 
one will be filled with darkness.".
Brill: "when it is equal it will be filled with light, but when it is divided it will 
be filled with darkness.".
Frid: "När den blir övergiven, skall den fyllas av ljus, men när den blir delad,
skall den fyllas med mörker.".
- "When it is abandoned, it shall be filled with light, but when it is divided, 
it shall be filled with darkness.". Alluding to the couch.

 

66 - Scholars: "that is the keystone.". Brill: "it is the corner-stone".
Frid: "Det är den som är hörnstenen" - same.

 

69 - Scholars: "Congratulations to those who go hungry, so the stomach of the
one in want may be filled.".
Brill: "Blessed are they that hunger, that they may fill the belly him who desires.".
Frid: "Saliga är de som hungrar, så att de mättar magen på den, som vill." -
same.

 

73 - Scholars: "so beg the harvest boss to dispatch workers to the fields.".
Brill: "but pray the Lord, that he send forth labourers into the harvest.".
Frid: "Be emellertid Herren, att han sänder arbetare ut till skörden." -
same.

 

77 - Scholars: "I am the light that is over all things.".
Brill: "I am the light that is over them all.".
Frid: "Jag är det ljus, som är över dem alla." - same.

 

78 - Scholars: "out to the countryside?". Brill: "into the field?".
Frid: "ut på fältet?" - same.

Scholars: "and they cannot understand truth.".
Brill: "and they [shall] not be able to know the truth."
Frid: "och de skall inte vara mäktiga att känna sanningen." -
same.

 

85 - Scholars: ""Adam came from great power and great wealth,".
Brill: "Adam came into being out of a great power and a great wealth".
Frid: "Adam uppstod ur en stor kraft och en stor rikedom," - same.

 

86 - Scholars. "human beings". Brill: "the Son of Man".
Frid: "Människosonen" - same. The arameic word barnasha can mean
Son of Man, humanity, young man or man (human).

Scholars: "to lay down and rest.". Brill: "to lay his head and rest.".
Frid: "att luta sitt huvud och vila sig." - same.

 

103 - This must be the Star Wars-translation of Gospel of Thomas::
Scholars: ""Congratulations to those who know where the rebels are going
to attack. [They] can get going, collect their imperial resources, and be
prepared before the rebels arrive.".
Brill: "Blessed is the man who knows in what part the robbers are coming,
that he may rise and gather his [domain] and gird up his loins before they
come in.
Frid: "Salig den man, som vet vid vilken exakt tid som rövarna kommer in,
så att han står upp och samlar sitt rike och förbereder sig, innan de kommer
in." -
"Blessed is the man, who knows at which exact time the robbers are coming,
so that he stands up and gathers his realm and prepares, before they are
coming in".

 

106 - Scholars: "children of Adam,". Brill: "sons of man,".
Frid: "människans barn." - same.



Index to the Gospel of Thomas (PDF Document)

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