Gospel of Thomas

1.0 The Gospel of Thomas:1)http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/thomas.html

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The Gospel of Thomas is extant in three Greek fragments and one Coptic manuscript. The Greek fragments are P. Oxy. 654, which corresponds to the prologue and sayings 1-7 of the Gospel of Thomas; P. Oxy. 1, which correponds to the Gospel of Thomas 26-30, 77.2, 31-33; and P. Oxy. 655, which corresponds to the Gospel of Thomas 24 and 36-39. P. Oxy 1 is dated shortly after 200 CE for paleographical reasons, and the other two Greek fragments are estimated to have been written in the mid third century. The Coptic text was written shortly before the year 350 CE.

Ron Cameron comments on the textual integrity of Thomas (The Anchor Bible Dictionary, v. 6, p. 535):

Substantial differences do exist between the Greek fragments and the Coptic text. These are best explained as variants resulting from the circulation of more than one Greek edition of Gos. Thom. in antiquity. The existence of three different copies of the Greek text of Gos. Thom. does give evidence of rather frequent copying of this gospel in the 3d century. According to the critical edition of the Greek text by Attridge (in Layton 1989: 99), however, even though these copies do not come from a single ms, the fragmentary state of the papyri does not permit one to determine whether any of the mss “was copied from one another, whether they derive independently from a single archetype, or whether they represent distinct recensions.” It is clear, nevertheless, that Gos. Thom. was subject to redaction as it was transmitted. The presence of inner-Coptic errors in the sole surviving translation, moreover, suggests that our present Gos. Thom. is not the first Coptic transcription made from the Greek. The ms tradition indicates that this gospel was appropriated again and again in the generations following its composition. Like many other gospels in the first three centuries, the text of Gos. Thom. must be regarded as unstable.

Ron Cameron comments on the attestation to Thomas (op. cit., p. 535):

The one incontrovertible testimonium to Gos. Thom. is found in Hippolytus of Rome (Haer. 5.7.20). Writing between the years 222-235 C.E., Hippolytus quoes a variant of saying 4 expressly stated to be taken from a text entitled Gos. Thom. Possible references to this gospel by its title alone abound in early Christianity (e.g. Eus. Hist. Eccl. 3.25.6). But such indirect attestations must be treated with care, since they might refer to the Infancy Gospel of Thomas. Parallels to certain sayings in Gos. Thom. are also abundant; some are found, according to Clement of Alexandria, in the Gospel of the Hebrews and the Gospel of the Egyptians. However, a direct dependence of Gos. Thom. upon another noncanonical gospel is problematic and extremely unlikely. The relationship of Gos. Thom. to the Diatessaron of Tatian is even more vexed, exacerbated by untold difficulties in reconstructing the textual basis of Tatian’s tradition, and has not yet been resolved.

In Statistical Correlation Analysis of Thomas and the Synoptics, Stevan Davies argues that the Gospel of Thomas is independent of the canonical gospels on account of differences in order of the sayings.

In his book, Stephen J. Patterson compares the wording of each saying in Thomas to its synoptic counterpart with the conclusion that Thomas represents an autonomous stream of tradition (The Gospel of Thomas and Jesus, p. 18):

The Gospel of Thomas and Jesus: Buy at amazon.com!If Thomas were dependent upon the synoptic gospels, it would be possible to detect in the case of every Thomas-synoptic parallel the same tradition-historical development behind both the Thomas version of the saying and one or more of the synoptic versions. That is, Thomas’ author/editor, in taking up the synoptic version, would have inherited all of the accumulated tradition-historical baggage owned by the synoptic text, and then added to it his or her own redactional twist. In the following texts this is not the case. Rather than reflecting the same tradition-historical development that stands behind their synoptic counterparts, these Thomas sayings seem to be the product of a tradition-history which, though exhibiting the same tendencies operative within the synoptic tradition, is in its own specific details quite unique. This means, of course, that these sayings are not dependent upon their synoptic counterparts, but rather derive from a parallel and separate tradition.

Ron Cameron argues for the independence of Thomas (op. cit., p. 537):

Those who argue that Gos. Thom. is dependent on the Synoptics not only must explain the differences in wording and order, but also give a reason for Gos. Thom.‘s choice of genre and the absence of the gospels’ narrative material in the text. To assert, for example, that Gos. Thom. erased the passion narratives because Gnosticism was concerned solely with a redeeming message contained in words of revelation (Haenchen 1961: 11) is simply not convincing, since the Apocryphon of James (NHC I, 2), the Second treatise of the Great Seth (NHC VII, 2), and the Apocalypse of Peter (NHC VII, 3) all indicate that sayings of and stories about the death and resurrection of Jesus were reinterpreted by various gnostic groups. For any theory of dependence of Gos. Thom. on the NT to be made plausible, one must show that the variations in form and content of their individual sayings, together with the differences in genre and structure of their entire texts, are intential modifications of their respective parallels, designed to serve a particular purpose.

On dating, Ron Cameron states (op. cit., p. 536):

Determining a plausible date of composition is speculative and depends on a delicate weighing of critical judgments about the history of the transmission of the sayings-of-Jesus tradition and the process of the formation of the written gospel texts. The earliest possible date would be in the middle of the 1st century, when sayings collections such as the Synoptic Sayings Gospel Q first began to be compiled. The latest possible date would be toward the end of the 2d century, prior to the copying of P. Oxy. 1 and the first reference to the text by Hippolytus. If Gos. Thom. is a sayings collection based on an autonomous tradition, and not a gospel harmony conflated from the NT, then a date of composition in, say, the last decades of the 1st century would be more likely than a mid-to-late-2d-century date.

Ron Cameron states on the provenance of Thomas (op. cit., p. 536):

The fact that Judas “the Twin” was the apostolic figure particularly revered in Syriac-speaking churches is important evidence for the date and place of composition of the text. For as Koester (in Layton 1989: 39) has shown, Gos. Thom.‘s identification of this author as Jesus’ brother Judas does not presuppose a knowledge of the NT, but “rests upon an independent tradition.” In addition, the peculiar, redundant name Didymus Judas Thomas seems to be attested only in the East, where the shadowy disciple named Thomas (Mark 3:18 par.; John 14:5) or Thomas Didymus (John 11:16; 20:24; 21:2) was identified with Judas in the Syriac NT and called Judas Thomas (John 14:22). The occurrence of variants of this distinctive name in the Acts of Thomas is especially striking, not only because the latter evidently shows acquaintance with Gos. Thom. 2, 13, 22, and 52, but also because it is widely held that the Acts of Thomas was composed in Syriac in the early 3d century. Other documents that invoke the authority of Judas Thomas by name are also of Syriac origin, such as the Teaching of Addai, the Abgar legend (Eus. Histl. Eccl.1.13.1-22), and the Book of Thomas the Contender (NHC II, 7).

Accordingly, the naming of Judas Thomas as the ostensible author of Gos. Thom. serves to locate the likely composition of the text in a bilingual environment in E. Syria.

Patterson writes on the dating and provenance of Thomas (op. cit., p. 120):

While the cumulative nature of the sayings collection understandably makes the Gospel of Thomas difficult to date with precision, several factors weigh in favor of a date well before the end of the first century: the way in which Thomas appeals to the authority of particular prominent figures (Thomas, James) against the competing claims of others (Peter, Matthew); in genre, the sayings collection, which seems to have declined in importance after the emergence of the more biographical and dialogical forms near the end of the first century; and its primitive christology, which seems to presuppose a theological climate even more primitive than the later stages of the synoptic sayings gospel, Q. Together these factors suggest a date for Thomas in the vicinity of 70-80 C.E. As for its provenance, while it is possible, even likely, that an early version of this collection associated with James circulated in the environs of Jerusalem, the Gospel of Thomas in more or less its present state comes from eastern Syria, where the popularity of the apostle Thomas (Judas Didymos Thomas) is well attested.

Ron Cameron comments (op. cit., p. 540):

Gos. Thom. took Jesus seriously as a teacher who spoke with authority. It celebrated his memory by preserving sayings in his name that sanctioned the formation of a distinctive community. The gospel locates its group’s position within the Christian tradition as an independent Jesus movement, which persisted over the course of several generations of social history without becoming an apocalyptic or kerygmatic sect. Authorized by interpreting the written legacy of Jesus, Gos. Thom.maintained its autonomy and distinct identity by acts of creative attribution. Jesus was characterized as the embodiment of Wisdom; his words, which could harness the very power of the universe, offered her path of ‘knowing’ as an investment of the imagination. Gos. Thom. defines the role of its community in constructing the fabric of society as a process of sapiental insight and research. The gospel, therefore, charts the course of salvation as a study in interpretation, providing the elixir of life to those for whom the secret of the kingdom is disclosed in the interpretation of Jesus’ words.

For information on the individual sayings in the Gospel of Thomas, please take a look at the Collected Commentary on the Gospel of Thomas. These webpages present every saying of the Gospel of Thomas alongside scholarly commentary, parallel references in other literature, comments from visitors, the original Greek and Coptic, and multiple translations to provide you with deeper insight into the meaning of the Gospel of Thomas.

 

2.0 The Development of the Canon of the New Testament: Gospel of Thomas2)http://www.ntcanon.org/Gospel_of_Thomas.shtml

(eastern Syria, ~150 CE)

Hippolytus of Rome, in his report on the Naassenes (Philos. v. 7, 200-235 CE), mentions a ‘Gospel of Thomas’ and quotes from it (the quotation probably has some connection with logion 4 from the Coptic Gospel of Thomas discussed below). About 233 CE Origen mentions it among the heterodox gospels. His testimony was taken over in a Latin translation or paraphrase by Jerome, Ambrose, and Venerable Bede. Eusebius, probably following Origen, includes a Gospel of Thomas in the heretical category. It is also mentioned by Cyril of Jerusalem, and Philip of Side (about 430), and appears in the Stichometry of Nicephorus. It is certain that the gospel was known and used in Manicheism.

With the discovery of the Nag Hammadi Library in 1945, we know of a collection of 114 logia (sayings), written in Sahidic, which is described in the colophon as ‘Gospel according to Thomas’. The introduction confirms this title.

Codex II from Nag Hammadi can be dated to about 400 CE. It can however be demonstrated that it had a significantly older Coptic Vorlage. As early as 1952 H.-Ch. Puech established that parts of this gospel had already long been known in Greek, the correspondence with the Coptic manuscript is as follows:

Codex II from Nag Hammadi (Coptic) ~400 CE logia 1-114
Oxyrhynchus Papyrus I (Greek) before 200 CE logia 26-30, 77, 31-33
Oxyrhynchus Papyrus 654 (Greek) ? logia 1-7
Oxyrhynchus Papyrus 655 (Greek) ? logia 36–40

For discussion of the relationship between the Greek and Coptic manuscripts,see [Schneemelcher] ref. v. 1 p. 111, and [Robinson] ref. pp. 124-125. It is doubtful whether this gospel was originally composed in Aramaic and then translated into Greek, although many of the sayings, like the oldest sayings of the canonical gospels, were certainly first circulated in Aramaic, the language of Jesus.

Opinion on the date of composition of the The Gospel of Thomas is divided into 2 camps – early and late. The early camp favors the 50s and the late camp about the middle of the 2nd century. For more on the arguments see this wikipedia article .
The place of composition may be eastern Syria.

The 114 sayings preserved in The Gospel of Thomas are of several types: wisdom sayings (proverbs), parables, eschatological sayings (prophecies), and rules for the community. They are ordered in a way that does not reveal any overall plan of composition. On occasion, small groups of sayings are kept together by similarity in form or by catchword association. The collection is similar to the hypothetical source Q. A large number of sayings have parallels in the canonical gospels, especially the Gospel according to John (13, 19, 24, 38, 49, 92). Some are known to occur also in non-canonical gospels, especially the Gospel of the Hebrews and the Gospel of the Egyptians. However, a direct dependence upon another non-canonical gospel is very unlikely. If one considers the form and wording of the individual sayings in comparison with the form in which they are preserved in the New Testament, the Gospel of Thomas almost always appears to have preserved a more original form of the traditional sayings, or presents versions which are independently based on more original forms. More original and shorter forms are especially evident in the parables. One of the parables unique to this gospel, logion 97 (Empty Jar), was judged to probably be an authentic saying of Jesus by the Jesus Seminar, [FSB] p. 61. The English translation of the “Empty Jar”:

(97) Jesus said: “The kingdom of the [Father] is like a certain woman who was carrying a [jar] full of meal. While she was walking [on the] road, still some distance from home, the handle of the jar broke and the meal emptied out behind her [on] the road. She did not realize it; she had noticed no accident. When she reached her house, she set the jar down and found it empty”.

The Gospel of Thomas has captured the popular attention more than any non-canonical writing in this survey by far. Sayings from it have appeared in popular books, and it is a common subject in college Bible classes and Catholic study groups.

Date CE Place Manuscripts English Translation(s)
~150 eastern Syria Codex II Nag Hammadi (Coptic, Sahidic dialect)
Oxyrhynchus Papyrus I (Greek)
Oxyrhynchus Papyrus 654 (Greek)
Oxyrhynchus Papyrus 655 (Greek)
[Robinson] pp. 126-138
[Elliot] pp. 135-147
Alexander Walker Esq. [New Advent] Stephen Patterson and Marvin Meyer
Thomas O. Lambdin
Lambdin and Layton
W. R. Schoedel
Stuart D. Shoemaker
Paterson Brown
K. C. Hanson
Berlin Working Group for Coptic Gnostic Writings
Ecumenical Coptic Project
Interlinear Coptic/English
Interlinear Greek/English

 

3.0 What is the gospel of Thomas?:3)http://www.gotquestions.org/gospel-of-Thomas.html

The gospel of Thomas is a Coptic manuscript discovered in 1945 at Nag Hammadi in Egypt. This manuscript contains 114 sayings attributed to Jesus. Some of these sayings resemble sayings found in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Other sayings were unknown until their discovery or even run counter to what is written in the four Gospels.

One December day in 1945, far up the Nile Valley, two Egyptian peasants were looking for a local variety of crumbly nitrate rock used as fertilizer. They came across a large jar, about a meter tall, hidden by a boulder. Inside they found a collection of ancient leather-bound books or codices. The spot where the books were found is within a few miles of the site of an early monastery, established by the founder of Christian “cenobitic” monasticism in Egypt, Pachomius. Nag Hammadi, a nearby village, has given this remarkable collection its name.

The Nag Hammadi Library consists of fifty-two texts or “tractates” written in Coptic on papyrus and gathered in thirteen volumes, twelve of which have separate leather bindings. Forty of the texts had previously been unknown to modern scholars. Most of the writings are of a Gnostic character. Scraps of paper found in the binding of eight codices bear dates indicating that the books were made in the mid-fourth century, and at least one of these clearly appears to have come from a monastery. Efforts to date the books more precisely continue. In general, it can be said the collection dates from about the middle of the fourth century. The Coptic texts could be many years earlier, and the originals (probably written in Greek or Aramaic) from which the Coptic translations were made could have been still earlier.

To understand how we got the Bible as we know it, please see the following two articles: What is the canon of Scripture? and How was the Canon determined?

Should the gospel of Thomas be in the Canon?

The early church councils followed something similar to the following principles to determine whether a New Testament book was truly inspired by the Holy Spirit: 1) Was the author an apostle or have a close connection with an apostle? 2) Was the book being accepted by the Body of Christ at large? 3) Did the book contain consistency of doctrine and orthodox teaching? 4) Did the book bear evidence of high moral and spiritual values that would reflect a work of the Holy Spirit?

The gospel of Thomas fails all of these tests. The gospel of Thomas was not written by Jesus’ disciple Thomas. The early Christian leaders universally recognized the gospel of Thomas as a forgery. The gospel of Thomas was rejected by the vast majority of early Christians. The gospel of Thomas contains many teachings that are in contradiction to the biblical Gospels and the rest of the New Testament. The gospel of Thomas does not bear the marks of a work of inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Are there any other arguments that preclude the gospel of Thomas from being included in the Bible? If we examine the 114 sayings in this writing, then we find some that are similar to existing sayings, some that are slightly different, but the majority cannot be found anywhere in the entirety of Scripture itself. Scripture must always confirm itself, and the majority of sayings in the gospel of Thomas cannot be confirmed anywhere else in Scripture.

One argument for precluding the gospel of Thomas from the Bible is found in the overt “secretness” attributed to these 114 sayings by the work itself. Nowhere in Scripture is God’s Word given “in secret” but is given for all to read and understand. The gospel of Thomas very clearly tries to maintain an air of secrecy in its words.

The gospel of Thomas is a Gnostic gospel, espousing a Gnostic viewpoint of Christianity. The gospel of Thomas is simply a heretical forgery, much the same as the gospel of Judas, the gospel of Mary, and the gospel of Philip. Perhaps the disciple Thomas’ nickname of “doubting Thomas” is appropriate here. We should all be doubting the gospel of Thomas!

Infancy Gospel of Thomas:4)http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/infancythomas.html

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Information on the Infancy Gospel of Thomas

F. F. Bruce writes (Jesus and Christian Origins Outside the New Testament, p. 87):

Then there is the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, which purports to describe the doings of Jesus in his boyhood. Jesus proves to be an infant prodigy at school, instructing his teachers in the unsuspected mysteries of the alphabet; he astounds his family and playmates by the miracles which he performs. This is the document which tells for the first time the familiar tale of the twelve sparrows which Jesus, at the age of five, fashioned from clay on the sabbath day.

In The Other Gospels, Ron Cameron suggests that the Infancy Gospel of Thomas may have been written in eastern Syria, the location of the Thomas traditions, although Cameron states that attribution to Thomas “seems to be a secondary, late development.” The original language of the document may have been either Syriac or Greek. The Greek manuscripts date from the fourteenth through the sixteenth century, while the earliest manuscript is a sixth century one in Syriac. Cameron thinks that the longer Greek recension more accurately preserves the text.

The Infancy Gospel of Thomas relates the miraculous deeds of Jesus before he turned twelve. According to Cameron, it “carries forward the aretalogical tradition of the gospels, expanding it to include an enumeration of miraculous feats performed even while Jesus was a mere infant.” Cameron identifies the Sitz im Leben of the gospel to be “Christian missionary propaganda” in exalting Jesus over and against other “divine men” and “all other religious and political leaders within the Greco-Roman world.” There is nothing particularly Christian about the stories attributed to Jesus; rather, the stories elaborate on the missing years of Jesus with reference to Hellenistic legend and pious imagination.

In The Complete Gospels, Harold Attridge considers whether the Infancy Gospel of Thomas contains docetic or Gnostic teachings. Attridge states: “While Gnostics may have been able to interpret stories in Infancy Thomas for their own ends, it is unlikely that they originally composed the work with the aim of propagating their theological positions.”

Hippolytus and Origen refer to a Gospel of Thomas, but it is unclear whether they knew the Infancy Gospel of Thomas or the sayings Gospel of Thomas. But there is an earlier reference from Irenaeus, as Cameron notes: “In his citation, Irenaeus first quotes a non-canonical story that circulated about the childhood of Jesus and then goes directly on to quote a passage from the infancy narrative of the Gospel of Luke (Luke 2:49). Since the Infancy Gospel of Thomas records both of these stories, in relative close proximity to one another, it is possible that the apocryphal writing cited by Irenaeus is, in fact, what is now known as the Infancy Gospel of Thomas. Because of the complexities of the manuscript tradition, however, there is no certainty as to when the stories of the Infancy Gospel of Thomas began to be written down.”

Thus, while our present Infancy Gospel of Thomas may have been expanded over time, the original must have been written sometime in the middle of the second century.

Gospel of Thomas Content Column  No. 5:5)

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Gospel of Thomas Content Column  No. 6:5)

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Gospel of Thomas Content Column  No. 7:5)

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Gospel of Thomas Content Column  No. 8:5)

Ut diam ponderum patrioque eam, illum atomorum pro et. Et reque atomorum definitiones quo. Ubique copiosae imperdiet ne nam, in est vocibus vivendum euripidis, labore pertinacia ea nec. Ei pro natum detracto. Habemus offendit has cu. Aeterno insolens nam te, usu nonumy quaestio in. Sea ei illum summo constituto, pri ut lorem sonet altera, nihil corpora epicurei et vis.

Nisl debet veritus duo at. Dicam semper vel et, choro utinam te vim, id pri laudem dissentiunt mediocritatem. Ad modo latine impedit duo, porro virtute mea ne. Tota nihil prompta pro in, mea et putant impetus scripserit. Qui at option feugiat, qui in delicata recteque. Te duo docendi consequuntur, in natum evertitur voluptatibus quo.

Gospel of Thomas Content Column  No. 9:5)

Ut diam ponderum patrioque eam, illum atomorum pro et. Et reque atomorum definitiones quo. Ubique copiosae imperdiet ne nam, in est vocibus vivendum euripidis, labore pertinacia ea nec. Ei pro natum detracto. Habemus offendit has cu. Aeterno insolens nam te, usu nonumy quaestio in. Sea ei illum summo constituto, pri ut lorem sonet altera, nihil corpora epicurei et vis.

Nisl debet veritus duo at. Dicam semper vel et, choro utinam te vim, id pri laudem dissentiunt mediocritatem. Ad modo latine impedit duo, porro virtute mea ne. Tota nihil prompta pro in, mea et putant impetus scripserit. Qui at option feugiat, qui in delicata recteque. Te duo docendi consequuntur, in natum evertitur voluptatibus quo.

Gospel of Thomas Content Column  No. 10:5)

Ut diam ponderum patrioque eam, illum atomorum pro et. Et reque atomorum definitiones quo. Ubique copiosae imperdiet ne nam, in est vocibus vivendum euripidis, labore pertinacia ea nec. Ei pro natum detracto. Habemus offendit has cu. Aeterno insolens nam te, usu nonumy quaestio in. Sea ei illum summo constituto, pri ut lorem sonet altera, nihil corpora epicurei et vis.

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Gospel of Thomas Content Column  No. 11:5)

Ut diam ponderum patrioque eam, illum atomorum pro et. Et reque atomorum definitiones quo. Ubique copiosae imperdiet ne nam, in est vocibus vivendum euripidis, labore pertinacia ea nec. Ei pro natum detracto. Habemus offendit has cu. Aeterno insolens nam te, usu nonumy quaestio in. Sea ei illum summo constituto, pri ut lorem sonet altera, nihil corpora epicurei et vis.

Nisl debet veritus duo at. Dicam semper vel et, choro utinam te vim, id pri laudem dissentiunt mediocritatem. Ad modo latine impedit duo, porro virtute mea ne. Tota nihil prompta pro in, mea et putant impetus scripserit. Qui at option feugiat, qui in delicata recteque. Te duo docendi consequuntur, in natum evertitur voluptatibus quo.

Gospel of Thomas Content Column  No. 12:5)

Ut diam ponderum patrioque eam, illum atomorum pro et. Et reque atomorum definitiones quo. Ubique copiosae imperdiet ne nam, in est vocibus vivendum euripidis, labore pertinacia ea nec. Ei pro natum detracto. Habemus offendit has cu. Aeterno insolens nam te, usu nonumy quaestio in. Sea ei illum summo constituto, pri ut lorem sonet altera, nihil corpora epicurei et vis.

Nisl debet veritus duo at. Dicam semper vel et, choro utinam te vim, id pri laudem dissentiunt mediocritatem. Ad modo latine impedit duo, porro virtute mea ne. Tota nihil prompta pro in, mea et putant impetus scripserit. Qui at option feugiat, qui in delicata recteque. Te duo docendi consequuntur, in natum evertitur voluptatibus quo.

Gospel of Thomas Content Column  No. 13:5)

Ut diam ponderum patrioque eam, illum atomorum pro et. Et reque atomorum definitiones quo. Ubique copiosae imperdiet ne nam, in est vocibus vivendum euripidis, labore pertinacia ea nec. Ei pro natum detracto. Habemus offendit has cu. Aeterno insolens nam te, usu nonumy quaestio in. Sea ei illum summo constituto, pri ut lorem sonet altera, nihil corpora epicurei et vis.

Nisl debet veritus duo at. Dicam semper vel et, choro utinam te vim, id pri laudem dissentiunt mediocritatem. Ad modo latine impedit duo, porro virtute mea ne. Tota nihil prompta pro in, mea et putant impetus scripserit. Qui at option feugiat, qui in delicata recteque. Te duo docendi consequuntur, in natum evertitur voluptatibus quo.


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Related: Non Canonical Text

Apocryphal New Testament Writings List


Related: Early Christian Writings

References   [ + ]

1. http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/thomas.html
2. http://www.ntcanon.org/Gospel_of_Thomas.shtml
3. http://www.gotquestions.org/gospel-of-Thomas.html
4. http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/infancythomas.html

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