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From Saints, Sufis and Yogis

Thomas (Didymos Judas Thomas) was the brother and disciple of the Palestinian teacher known as Jesus Christ.

Thomas is available to us in the twenty-first century in three historical versions:

1. the 'doubting Thomas' found in the New Testament of the Christian Bible, representing mainstream Christian views;

2. the twin brother of Jesus found in the rediscovered texts, the Gospel of Thomas and the Apocalypse of Thomas;

3. the apostle who goes to India, as recorded in the Acts of Thomas, representing the views of Indian Christians, especially those in South India.

It is likely that Jesus and his original disciples spoke Aramaic. It has therefore been suggested by historians that the original version of the text now known as the Gospel of Thomas would have been recorded in Aramaic. The earliest surviving version of this text is in Greek (in three copies, all in fragments), with the earliest complete text being a fourth century version in Coptic (the one found at Nag Hammadi).

With regard to the journey of Thomas recorded in the Acts of Thomas, the situation is complicated by the Syriac text refering to an overland journey via Syria, whereas the Greek text has Thomas travelling via the city of Andrapolis in Egypt.

Modern scholars, notably Professor April D. DeConick, regard the Gospel of Thomas as being a text that developed during the first and early second centuries CE within an environment that was primarily oral rather than written. The earliest version, often refered to as ‘Kernel Thomas’, originated in Jerusalem in the years 30-50CE. This was taken to Edessa where the Syriac Christians used the sayings in oral performance, enhanced by additional sayings and interpretations. The Gospel of Thomas may have reached its present form, c.120CE.

Bibliography: Jon Ma Asgeirsson, April D.DeConick, and Risto Uro, eds., Thomasine traditions in antiquity: the social and cultural world of the Gospel of Thomas (Leiden: Brill, 2006); Stevan Davies, The Gospel of Thomas: annotated and explained (Woodstock, VT: SkyLight Paths Publishing, 2002); April D. DeConick, Recovering the original Gospel of Thomas: a history of the Gospel and its growth (London: T & T Clark, 2005); April D. DeConick, ‘Reading the Gospel of Thomas as a repository of communal memory’ in Memory, Tradition, and Text: Uses of the Past in Early Christianity, edited by A. Kirk and T. Thatcher (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2005):207-220; April D. DeConick, The original Gospel of Thomas in translation, with a commentary and new English translation of the complete Gospel (London: T & T Clark, 2006); April D. DeConick, ‘On the brink of the Apocalypse: a preliminary examination of the earliest speeches in the Gospel of Thomas’, in Thomasine traditions in antiquity: the social and cultural world of the Gospel of Thomas, edited by Jon Ma Asgeirsson, et al (Leiden: Brill, 2006):93-118; April D. DeConick, ‘The Gospel of Thomas’ Expository Times 118 (10), 2007:469-479; April D. DeConick, ‘What is the Gospel of Thomas?’ [2014?] [1] A.F.J.Klijn, The Acts of Thomas: introduction, text, commentary (Leiden: Brill, 1962; 2nd ed., 2003)