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Don Stewart :: What Are the New Testament Pseudepigrapha? (The Gospel of Thomas)

Don Stewart

There were books written during the Old Testament period that claimed the author was actually a biblical character. However these works were nothing but forgeries. These forgeries were known as Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. We find the same sort of thing happening during the New Testament era. Writers would claim that there work was actually the work of one of the New Testament characters when, in actuality, it was a forgery. Therefore we also have the New Testament Pseudepigrapha.

There Were Many False Gospels, Acts, Letters, and Apocalypses

There were numerous false gospels, false Acts of the Apostles, false letters and apocalypses that circulated in the early church. One of the most important of the New Testament Pseudepigrapha is, "The Gospel of Thomas."

The Gospel of Thomas

The Gospel of Thomas was probably composed in Edessa in Syria about A.D. 140. Consisting of 114 sayings of Jesus, it is the most extensive collection of non-biblical sayings of Jesus that still exist. The Gospel of Thomas begins as follows.

These are the secret words which the living Jesus spoke and Didymus Judas Thomas wrote. And he said: Whosoever finds the explanation of these words shall not taste death.

We know that the Gospel of Thomas is a forgery for the following reasons.

There Was a Secret Approach to the Message of Jesus

The secret approach found in the Gospel of Thomas is typical of the writings of the Gnostics - although there is some questions as to whether this work is a Gnostic writing. The four Gospels are open about the ways of salvation and the kingdom of God while the Gospel of Thomas views truth from a hidden vantage point.

There Is No Historical Setting for the Sayings

There is no historical setting for the statements. The Gospel of Thomas is a compilation of sayings without the inclusion of important historical events as recorded in the Gospels. We are not told when. or under what circumstances, the statements were made.

The Teaching Often Contradicts the Four Gospels

Many of the sayings are contradictory to those we have in the Gospels. For example, saying 114 says:

Jesus said, 'See, I shall lead her, so that I will make her male, that she too many become a living spirit, resembling you males. For every woman who makes herself male will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.'

It Presents A Different Jesus

The person of Jesus Christ is different than the one revealed in the Gospels. In the Gospels Jesus is God the Son, Second Person of the Trinity. In the Gospel of Thomas He is one who points the way by which an individual can attain the knowledge of God.

These reasons, along with many others, demonstrate that the Gospel of Thomas is a forgery rather than a legitimate work written by one of Jesus' apostles.

Summary

After the New Testament period, there were a number of works that arose that claimed to have been written by someone who was mentioned in the New Testament. However the works are forgeries. These forgeries are known as the New Testament Pseudepigrapha. There are a number of gospels, acts, letters, and apocalypses that use the name of a biblical character as its author. Yet that person did not write the particular work that has his name on it.

One of the most prominent of these forgeries is the Gospel of Thomas. This work is supposedly a number of secret sayings of Jesus that are recorded by the disciple Thomas. Yet there is no evidence whatsoever of their authenticity.

CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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