You are on page 1of 220

AN INQUIRY INTO THE ORIGIN AND TRANSMISSION OF THE

GOSPEL OF THOMAS

by

Milan Vukomanovic
University of Pittsburgh, 1993

Copyright ©1993 by Vukomanovic, Milan. All rights reserved.

U•M•I
300 N. Zeeb Rd.

Ann Arbor, MI 48106

(Order Number 9421514)


TABLE OF CONTENTS

Page

ABBREVIATIONS vi

INTRODUCTION 1
PART ONE 12
I. THE HERMENEUTICAL CHALLENGE OF THE
GOSPEL OF THOMAS. 13
A. AN INVITATION FOR INTERPRETATION 13
B. SOME ASPECTS OF THE CURRENT DEBATE 19
1. The Problem of Dependence 19
2. The Jewish-Christian Features of the Gospel 27
3. The Modes of Ascesis in the Gospel of Thomas 40

II. THE QUESTION OF THE PROVENANCE 46


A. THE PROBLEMS CONCERNING THE SYRIAN HYPOTHESIS 46
1. Who is 'Judas Thomas'? 53
2. The Question of Parallels 72
3. The Linguistic Problem 88
B. THE PROBLEM OF TRANSMISSION:
EGYPTIAN HYPOTHESIS 92
1. The Strengths and Weaknesses of the Hypothesis 92
2. The Gospel of Thomas and the Beginnings of
Christian Asceticism in Egypt 96

PART TWO 116


III. THE ORIGIN OF THE NAASSENES 117
A. THE IMPORTANCE OF HIPPOLYTUS' ATTESTATION 117
1. The Character of Hippolytus' Account 117
2. The Analysis of the Naassene Thomas-Fragment 120
B. THOMAS AND HIPPOLYTUS' NAASSENE SOURCE 128
C. WHO WERE THE NAASSENES? 142
1. The Name and Origin 142
2. Myth, Doctrine, Ritual 152

2
Page

IV. PHRYGIAN RELIGIOUS SYNCRETISM AND


THE SYMBOLISM OF THOMAS 171
A. THE EVIDENCE FOR THE EARLIEST CHRISTIAN
MISSIONS IN THE LYCUS VALLEY 171
B. SOME EARLY FORMS OF RELIGIOUS SYNCRETISM
IN PHRYGIA 180
1. The Mysteries of the Great Mother 181
2. Some Aspects of the Cult of Sabazius 192
C. THE SYMBOLICAL WORLD OF THE
NAASSENE-THOMASINE COMMUNITY 197
1. The Symbol of the Kingdom 199
2. Ascesis, Baptism and the Primeval Androgyny 207

V. THE NEW HYPOTHESIS 218

SUMMARY 227

BIBLIOGRAPHY 233

3
ABBREVIATIONS

Anth Pal Anthologia Palatina


BR Bible Review
CCCA Corpus Cultus Cybelae Attidisque
CCIS Corpus Cultus Iovis Sabazii
Cont Book of Thomas the Contender
DR Downside Review
ExpTim Expository Times
GPh Gospel of Philip
GTh Gospel of Thomas
HibJ Hibbert Journal
HR History of Religions
JA Journal Asiatique
JAC Jahrbuch für Antike und Christentum
JBL Journal of Biblical Literature
JR Journal of Religion
JTS Journal of Theological Studies
MPER Mitteilungen aus der Sammlung der Papyrus
ErzherzogRainer
NovT Novum Testamentum
NTS New Testament Studies
Pan Panarion
P.Oxy Papyrus Oxyrhynchus
PS Pistis Sophia
PSB Princeton Seminary Bulletin
Ref Refutatio omnium haeresium
SC Second Century
ST Studia theologica
TJT Toronto Journal of Theology
VC Vigiliae christianae

4
INTRODUCTION

The main thesis of this book is based upon the plausible assumption that an

inquiry into the background of a religious sect which delivered, edited and probably

composed the Gospel According to Thomas may provide the decisive clue as to the origin

and transmission of this early Christian document. However simple and reasonable this

assumption may seem, it has not, as far as I know, been proposed in the domain of

Thomas' scholarship.

Indeed, soon after the publication of the first translations of the most complete,

Coptic, version of the Gospel of Thomas 1 (which was found in 1945/46 along with the

rest of the "Nag Hammadi Library"), several scholars found it appropriate to renew our

interest in Hyppolytus' pan-heresiological treatise Refutation of All Heresies.2 More

specifically, they referred again, this time in the light of the new discovery, to the most

valuable attestation regarding the Gospel of Thomas.3 For, according to Hippolytus'

account, the Naassenes "expressly delivered" their discourse about the kingdom of heaven

"in the gospel entitled according to Thomas" (Refutatio 5.7.20). It is certainly no accident

that some of these scholars (primarily Grant and Schoedel), prompted by Hippolytus'

striking testimony,4 proposed very reasonable hypotheses that the Naassenes were the

1 In my analysis of this document I rely upon the editio princeps of the Gospel of Thomas, edited and
translated by an international group of scholars: Antoine Guillaumont, et al. The Gospel According to
Thomas, New York: Harper and Row, 1959. Copyright © E. J. Brill 1959. All excerpts from this translation
are used by permission of E. J. Brill.
2 Hippolytus of Rome, Refutatio omnium haeresium, ed. by M. Marcovich, Berlin: Walter de Gruyter,
1986.
3 Cf. Jean Doresse, The Secret Books of the Egyptian Gnostics, New York: The Viking Press, 1960; Robert
Grant, "Notes on the Gospel of Thomas," VC 13 (1959): 170-80; Robert Grant and D. N. Freedman, The
Secret Sayings of Jesus, New York: Doubleday, 1960; W. R. Schoedel, "Naassene Themes in the Coptic
Gospel of Thomas," VC 14 (1960): 225-34; E. M. J. M. Cornelis, "Quelques éléments pour une
comparaison entre l'Evangile de Thomas et la notice de Hippolyte sur les Naasènes," VC 15 (1961): 83-104.
4 See pp. 120ff. It is important to notice that Hippolytus' direct testimony is further supported by an offhand
quotation from the Gospel of Thomas which roughly corresponds to its logion 4. Since Hippolytus'
reference to the kingdom of heaven "which is to be sought for within man" corresponds to log. 3 of the
Gospel of Thomas, the relationship between the so-called "Naassene source" of Hippolytus' and our gospel

5
authors, or, at least, redactors, of the Thomasine collection of Jesus' sayings. Furthermore,

Grant and Schoedel embarked upon the more detailed analyses of the textual as well as

phraseological parallels between the Gospel of Thomas and Hippolytus' Naassene source.

However, in spite of the impressive preliminary results of such an investigation,5

no further study has been proposed with respect to the social-historical background of the

Naassene sect as well as the relevance of this question for the problem of provenance and

transmission of the Gospel of Thomas. Moreover, Grant and Freedman aligned

themselves with Puech and Doresse in maintaining that this apocryphal work "originated

in, or near, Syria."6 Such an assumption, as we will have the occasion to observe later in

this study, has been based predominantly upon the traditional association of the apostle

(Didymus) Judas Thomas with the eastern Syrian, Edessan, environment.

In his own "Notes on the Gospel of Thomas," Robert Grant goes so far as to

suggest that, since "many of the sources of the Gospel of Thomas have passed through

Naassene hands...we cannot expect to find any authentic sayings of Jesus accurately

reproduced in it."7 In other words, since the Gospel of Thomas, edited by the Naassenes,

most likely represents a "secondary" gospel (in redaction-critical terms), one infers that it

may not contain any authentic sayings of Jesus. Eventually, this line of inquiry prompted

Grant and Freedman to conclude that the Gospel of Thomas is a gnostic document which

does not reflect any independent tradition of Jesus' words.

The problem is, however, that this same procedure could easily be applied to the

canonical gospels as well. All these gospels are "secondary" in the sense that their authors

make use of older, more or less independent material and, as the redactors of this

material, they combine, rearrange and accommodate it to their own specific theological or

is even more strengthened: namely, here we have a case of parallelism in which the cluster of sayings in
Thomas (log. 3 and 4) are evoked, in the same order, in the Naassene fragment (5.7.20)!
5 For example, Schoedel concludes in his article that "the evidence [furnished by these textual parallels]
seems sufficient to lend some support to the hypothesis that the Gospel of Thomas is a Naassene document,
i.e., that it was either composed or thoroughly redacted by members of this sect" (Schoedel, 233).
6 Grant and Freedman, 67.
7 Grant 1959: 179.

6
polemical purposes. Are we ready to admit that, such being the case, their final literary

products do not contain any authentic or independent traditions of Jesus' sayings? Not at

all. We only know that some criteria should be applied to each saying (or groups of

sayings) in order to determine their authenticity. But these same criteria could be applied

to the Gospel of Thomas as well. The fact that it represents, in redaction-critical terms, a

"secondary" gospel, does not necessarily go against an independent origin of its earlier

strata and the posibility that one of these strata may indeed include some authentic

sayings of Jesus.8

Now we may ask ourselves why none of these scholars, who are strongly inclined

to ascribe to the Naassenes the authorship of the Gospel of Thomas, have investigated the

ideological and geographical milieu of this sect. I believe that one of the reasons for such

a hesitation is to be sought in the lack of any direct reference in Hippolytus' Naassene

source as to the provenance of this sect . And Hippolytus is the only source of our

knowledge about the sect under this name.

However, as I will argue in the second part of this work, a closer scrutiny of

Hippolytus' account points to Phrygia, and it is quite possible that the Phrygian-Egyptian

trajectory may suggest the most probable clue as to the transmission of the Gospel of

Thomas from Asia Minor to Egypt.

Several reasons prompted me to consider the course of transmission that, thus far,

has not been investigated in the growing literature on the Gospel of Thomas.

A number of historians who wrote before the discovery of the Coptic manuscript

of Thomas were inclined to locate the Naassenes/Ophites9 in the Phrygian region.10

8 I will return to this problem on pp. 19-27.


9 The name of the sect ("Naassenes") is derived from the Hebrew word nâhâsh, Greek transliteration
naas=ophis. Hippolytus himself provides a brief etymological explanation of their name (cf. Refutatio
5.6.3-4). Hence the reasonable assumption that the Naassenes were related to, or were identical with the
major gnostic group of the Ophites. Cf., for example, Grant and Freedman, 84.
10 Cf., for example, H. L. Mansel, The Gnostic Heresies of the First and Second Centuries. London: John
Murray, 1875: 105; F. Legge, Forerunners and Rivals of Christianity, Vol. 2, Cambridge: University Press,
1915: 26ff. For the more recent association of Ophitism with Phrygia, cf. J. B. Lightfoot, Saint Paul's
Epistles to the Colossians and the Philemon, Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1956: 95-6.

7
Unfortunately, since they were not familiar with the full content of the document which

Hippolytus had known as euangelion kata Thôman, these authors did not pay any

particular attention to the Naassene relationship with Thomas. On the other hand, I

believe that scholars such as Grant, Doresse and Schoedel, who otherwise emphasize the

Naassene affiliation with our gospel, did not find any particular reasons to inquire into the

Phrygian connection. In fact, soon after the discovery of this document, they had available

two other relevant hypotheses as to the background of the Gospel of Thomas (i.e., eastern

Syria and Egypt). However, as I will soon be able to reckon, both these hypotheses

present us with difficult problems.

In order to support my main thesis that the study of the Phrygian religious

landscape as well as the emergence of Christian Gnosticism11 in this area (as early as the

first century C.E.) provides the most significant clue as to the question of origin and

transmission of the Gospel of Thomas, I will have to pursue two successive stages of

inquiry. First, by making use of a combination of social-historical, hermeneutical and

redaction-critical methods, I will confirm that the Naassenes played the major role in the

redaction and composition of the Gospel of Thomas in Greek.

Second, on the basis of the historical as well as textual evidence, I will not only

seek to demonstrate that this sect originated in Hierapolis, Phrygia, but also that this

locale may be considered the most relevant setting indicating the growth and transmission

of Thomas from Palestine to Egypt via Asia Minor. Hence the principal theoretical goal of

this book is to trace the most probable trajectory in early Christian thought that directly

contributed to the growth and development of the Gospel of Thomas. In order to achieve

this goal, we will have to rely on some very strict methodological principles. Not only

must we formulate a hypothesis that could provide answers to most of the questions and

dilemmas disscussed above, but also the validity of its arguments will have to be

confirmed in a creative encounter with all the other alternative options.

11 Including, of course, the Naassene/Ophite gnostic faction.

8
One of the preliminary results of such a critical appraisal will be the complete

rejection of the thesis regarding Syrian origins of the Gospel of Thomas. The examination

of an alternative view (i.e. the idea of the Egyptian provenance of this document), taken

as an auxiliary hypothesis, will aid us in determining the more familiar part of the history

of transmission of our document in the period between the second- and fourth-century.

This alternative view may also contribute to our better understanding of an early religious

community that transmitted and edited the collection of sayings known as the Gospel of

Thomas. Finally, a closer inquiry into the background of this community (the Naassenes)

will not only cast doubts on the Egyptian origin of the Gospel of Thomas, but aid us in

proposing a more primitive setting of ideas that inspired the first composition of this

document as well.

A further investigation of the earliest transmission of the logia Iêsou in the first

century will lead us to assume that the most authentic kernel of the Gospel of Thomas had

already existed in the first century, but that the critical step in its composition was made

by the redactors of these logia. In that sense, the Gospel of Thomas had a redactional

history similar to that of the synoptic gospels. A major difference is that Thomas was

originally composed in a markedly syncretistic milieu that very early (as early as the first

century C.E.) reflected strong gnosticizing tendencies. However, I will not seek such an

environment in Alexandria or Edessa. This course of inquiry will lead us directly to

Phrygia, more precisely, to the Hierapolis region.

I believe that all the enumerated problems that still surround one of the most

enigmatic documents of early Christian literature increase the need for its reassessment.

My new proposal adopts the evidence for the independence of at least part of the sayings-

tradition in the Gospel of Thomas. In terms of the synoptic problem, I am therefore

willing to align myself with the school of thought that regards Thomas as a collection of

9
sayings having a development more or less independent of the synoptic gospels.12 Any

further scrutiny leading in that direction would have to provide answers to the following

questions: In which sense is the Gospel of Thomas "independent" of the synoptic

writings? Is it because of the different redaction of the same underlying material, or

independent transmission of particular sayings? If Thomas did not use any of the synoptic

gospels as its common written source, could it perhaps have used an underlying tradition

in its oral or written form? Finally, are we able to trace that initial trajectory of the

sayings-material from its hypothetical Aramaic kernel to its first, and perhaps most

decisive, redaction in a gnostic key?

I agree with Wilson13 and Neller14 that the Gospel of Thomas bears witness to

the growth of an early Christian tradition, an occurrence which may indicate that it could

have originated in more than one geographic location. In terms of the temporal

perspective, James Robinson15 has furthermore suggested a kind of diachronical reading

of this collection of sayings. Indeed, there is internal, textual evidence in Thomas that

points to the layered redactional structure of this document, containing at least two major

layers of tradition that may even indicate different geographical locations.

These theoretical insights are very important and, in my view, they might

contribute to the formulation of a new hypothesis regarding the provenance and

transmission of the Gospel of Thomas. Also, the divergent traditional elements of this

document need to be precisely delineated by means of a redaction-critical analysis. We

12 Cf., for example: Oscar Cullmann, "The Gospel of Thomas and the Problem of the Age of the Tradition
Contained Therein," Interpretation 16 (1962): 418-38; Stevan Davies, The Gospel of Thomas and Christian
Wisdom, New York: The Seabury Press, 1983; John Dominic Crossan, Four Other Gospels, Minneapolis:
Winston Press, 1985; Charles Hedrick, "Thomas and the Synoptics: Aiming at a Consensus," SC 7
(1989/90): 39-56; Helmut Koester, Ancient Christian Gospels: Their History and Development, London:
SCM Press, 1990; Stephen Patterson, "The Gospel of Thomas Within the Development of Early
Christianity," Ph.D. dissertation, Claremont Graduate School, 1988.
13 R. McL. Wilson, Studies in the Gospel of Thomas, London: Mowbray, 1960.
14 Kenneth Neller, "Diversity in the Gospel of Thomas," SC 7 (1989/90): 1-18.
15 James Robinson, "On Bridging the Gulf From Q to the Gospel of Thomas (Or Vice Versa)," in Hedrick,
Charles and R. Hodgson, Jr., eds., Nag Hammadi, Gnosticism and Early Christianity, Peabody, Mass.:
Hendrickson Publishers, 1986: 162.

10
have to realize that it is not sufficient to separate only those logia in Thomas that

represent more or less apparent parallels with the synoptic gospels. One should also be

able to single out a considerable number of logia that have no echoes or parallels in the

synoptic writings and then explain their origin and function in the Gospel of Thomas. An

examination of that independent material (about 29 sayings with no synoptic parallels)

indicates that more than half of these sayings may be understood in the light of

Hippolytus' "Naassene source."16 I am inclined to believe not only that there are

redactional traits betraying the secondary recension of older sayings-material, but also

that it is possible to determine the character of that recension through the examples of

particular logia in Thomas.

On the basis of such a textual analysis, I reject the positions of those authors who

defend the complete dependence of the Gospel of Thomas upon the synoptic gospels. On

the one hand, I believe that the Coptic Gospel of Thomas represents a secondary

recension of an older sayings corpus, greater parts of which are independent of the

synoptic gospels. On the other hand - against the extreme positions of some of the

adherents of the independence school (such as Stevan Davies) - I do not see any particular

problem in the fact that Thomas may contain larger units of an independent sayings

tradition and still be a "secondary gospel" even in its first, Greek, recensions. Of course,

this quality of the Gospel of Thomas brings about another methodological as well as

hermeneutical problem: Are we in this case examining "the gospel within the gospel"

(i.e., a more authentic stratum of the Gospel of Thomas) or the final product taken as it is?

My proposal will suggest that this final product is no less important for the history

of earliest Christianity than its original kernel, because it bears witness to a specific line

of development of the sayings material in the primitive Gnostic circles of first-century

Phrygia.

16 For a more detailed account of this special sayings material, cf. our list on pp. 130ff.

11
A methodological problem that usually accompanies most of the historical

investigations of this type (in which the lack of explicit evidence opens up several

relevant theoretical possibilities) is the well-known problem of circular reasoning. How to

avoid circular argumentation in this case is one of the preliminary questions requiring our

attention. In other words, if we assume that the Gospel of Thomas was composed in

Phrygia or Egypt, and only then look for the evidence that could confirm such a

hypothesis, we would be exposed to this sort of criticism. Or, again, some authors who

have written on the Gospel of Thomas tended to make a pars pro toto movement and

propose theories concerning the origin of this document solely on the basis of some, more

or less evident, parallels with the works whose provenance is well-attested in the

scholarly literature. It is, indeed, hard to avoid criticism in theoretical quests of this kind.

What I would like to propose in the context of this general methodological

problem is a very specific course of inquiry that relies predominantly upon the material

evidence and explicit testimonia regarding authorship and provenance of our gospel. We,

therefore, begin with the more familiar in order to illuminate the less familiar through an

entire series of coherent deductions. Once we come to the point at which we may

formulate a distinctive hypothesis concerning the origin and transmission of the Gospel of

Thomas, we will not only tend to support our theory by the available evidence, but also

describe why that particular point of view has greater persuasive power than any other

rival hypothesis. Furthermore, if the new thesis about the provenance and transmission of

the Gospel of Thomas may shed additional light on some other questions and problems

(such as the Colossian conflict or the origins of Gnosticism in Asia Minor) the proposal

itself would certainly gain in its probative as well as theoretical value.17

On a more general plane, this work consists of two parts. In Part One I survey

some of the major theoretical problems in the area of Thomasine studies. These problems

17 The course of a further research in this area is only briefly suggested on pp. 224-5. A thorough
investigation of these problems is something that goes beyond the primary theoretical goals of this
dissertation.

12
include the question of Thomas' possible dependence upon the synoptic gospels, the

discussion of its Jewish-Christian background as well as the modes of ascesis recognized

in this document (chapter I). Such a survey is accompanied by a critical assessment of the

two extant proposals concerning the provenance of the Gospel of Thomas (chapter II).

These two hypotheses are examined in the light of the linguistic, redaction-critical as well

as social-historical evidence. In chronological or diachronical terms, the course of

transmission of the Gospel of Thomas is followed from the provenance of the Greek and

Coptic manuscripts of this document in the Nile Valley (in the period between the second

and the fourth century C.E.) back to the most reliable attestation, that of Hippolytus,

about the use of this document at the beginning of the second century. This period of

transmission may be reconstructed both in social-historical and linguistic terms because

we have firm evidence that the Gospel of Thomas was used in Egypt in the second half of

the second century. Unfortunately, the paucity of evidence as to the nature of first-century

Christianity in Egypt prevents us from postulating any direct transmission of the logia

Iêsou from Palestine to Egypt.

In the second part of this book, Hippolytus' Naassene source (Refutatio 5.6-11) is

analyzed with a view both to the redaction-critical (parallels with the Gospel of Thomas)

and social-historical aspects of the Naassene tradition (indications of their Phrygian

origin). An inquiry into the background of the Naassene tradition in Hierapolis, Phrygia

as well as its association with the apostolic preaching and the tradition of Jesus' sayings

transmitted from Palestine to Phrygia through various apostolic channels (e.g. Papias'

testimony; apocryphal traditions about James, Mariamne, Philip and Thomas) represents

an important segment of such an analysis. On this second level of inquiry, therefore, I

take a closer look at the heresiological problem related to the origins of the Naassene sect

and its identification with the Ophites (chapter III). Hippolytus' Naassene Sermon is

accordingly, assessed in the light of some other heresiological testimonies (e.g.

Epiphanius, Origen, Irenaeus) because one of the problems associated with Hippolytus'

13
account is that he is the only Christian author who furnishes evidence about the sect

under this name.

In this context, I highlight the character of Phrygian religious syncretism (both in

its Christian and pre-Christian forms) and examine the probable relation of these

syncretic ideas to the symbolic universe of the Gospel of Thomas (chapter IV).

Finally, the new hypothesis regarding the origin and transmission of the Gospel of

Thomas (chapter V) emerges not only as a necessary alternative to the theses proposing

either Egyptian or Syrian provenance of this gospel, but also as a logical outcome of an

examination that gives precedence to Hippolytus' valuable information about the sect

which preserved an ancient collection of Jesus' sayings under the name of his mysterious

apostle Thomas.

14
PART ONE

15
I. THE HERMENEUTICAL CHALLENGE OF THE GOSPEL OF THOMAS

A. An Invitation for Interpretation

The Gospel According to Thomas, one of the most significant and most intriguing

non-canonical documents of early Christianity, has prompted several decades of very

exciting scholarship. However, half a century after its discovery in the sands of Upper

Egypt this short but powerful text continues to challenge the experts with a myriad of

problems. Some of these problems may briefly be outlined as follows:

1. The collection of sayings ascribed to Jesus, and allegedly compiled by the

apostle Thomas, passed through several distinct phases of transmission and perhaps

through more than two purely linguistic alterations. The document is preserved in Greek

and Coptic versions, the second being the most complete text that we possess.

2. That process of transmission resulted in different recensions of Thomas. The

Coptic text is a translation of the original Greek document which was not preserved in its

entirety, but only in fragments. These fragments, on the other hand, pertain to three

independent manuscripts - i.e., P. Oxy. 1, P. Oxy. 654 and P. Oxy. 655. Furthermore, a

comparative textual analysis of all three different versions indicates that the Coptic

Thomas was an adapted translation of the original Greek text.1

3. The final, Coptic version of this document does not reveal the real name of its

compiler, nor does it offer any decisive clue to the community that produced and sealed

for the future this masterpiece of religious literature. More than a dozen attestations and

1 For a more detailed discussion of this problem, cf. Attridge's article in Bentley Layton, ed., Nag Hammadi
Codex II, 2-7: Together with XIII, 2, Leiden: Brill, 1989: 96-102. Also Joseph Fitzmyer, "The Oxyrhynchus
Logoi of Jesus and the Coptic Gospel According to Thomas," in Essays on the Semitic Background of the
New Testament, London: Chapman, 1971: 355-433; and Miroslav Marcovich, "Textual Criticism on the
Gospel of Thomas," JTS (1969): 53-74.

16
references to the euangelion kata Thôman encountered in the works of the Church

fathers bring still more confusion to the problem of Thomas' authorship. Even if we take

into account that some of these testimonia refer to the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, and not

to our collection of sayings, one is still perplexed by the information that the

Manichaeans not only used, but wrote this document2; or, again, that both Didymus Judas

Thomas, the apostle of Christ, and Thomas, the successor of Mani,3 are related to the

composition of this text, etc. Except from Hippolytus' attestation (Refutatio 5.7.20) -

which is accompanied by a fragment from Thomas that, most likely, represents an echo of

its log. 4 - we are even more confused by the testimonia of Christian writers who simply

refer to the Gospel of Thomas as one of the better-known heretical gospels.

4. The question of the provenance of this gospel brings about a rather disturbing

ambiguity that may seriously challenge the scholarly consensus about Thomas' Syrian

origin. Both versions of the document were found in Egypt and there is no extant Syriac

text or fragment that could conclusively confirm the Syrian phase of transmission of this

"gospel." It is quite possible that particular sayings of Thomas, taken as isolated units, had

circulated in the first century in the Aramaic language. We may uncover a certain number

of Semitisms behind the existent Coptic text, but we do not have enough linguistic

evidence to corroborate the Syriac "mediation" in any phase of Thomas' compositional

history. Besides, the work itself was not attested by contemporary or later Syrian authors.

Although thoughtful and provoking, Antoine Guillaumont's (1958 and 1981) attempts to

uncover a possible Syriac recension under the Coptic text remained rather isolated in the

history of Thomasine studies.4

5. The Gospel of Thomas is a collection of rather heterogeneous sayings-material

which has many parallels in other works of early Christian literature. The questions of

2 An obviously anachronistic note from the mid-fourth century, provided by Cyril of Jerusalem (Catechesis
4.36). For the critical rejection of this idea, cf. pp. 50-1. For the recent, more comprehensive, collection of
testimonia to the Gospel of Thomas, cf. Attridge, 103ff.
3 Again, Cyril of Jerusalem (Catechesis 6.31) is the source of this confusing information.
4 For a more elaborate discussion concerning this linguistic problem, see pp. 88-91.

17
relationship, dependence and, most importantly, the precedence of some of these parallels

confront interpreters with additional redactional and tradition-historical problems.

6. There is a major disagreement among scholars regarding Thomas as Gnostic or

non-Gnostic in origin. As a broader methodological issue, the problem of Gnosticism (its

definition and typology) further complicates the discussion of the textual history of this

document.

On the more general, exegetical plan, the text of Thomas confronts us with an

additional, hermeneutical, dilemma. As an original and vivid expression of early

Christian religious philosophy, the Gospel of Thomas represents a significant challenge

for any prospective interpreter. In order to take a closer look at the very nature of this

"hermeneutical challenge," I would like to emphasize two remarkable features of our

gospel.

First, not only does the dynamic world which produced Thomas appear as an

intellectual inspiration for any daring "archeologist" of Christian origins, but also the text

itself, by its programatic introductory logion, invites the interpreter to embark upon an

unusual hermeneia which is announced there as a matter of life and death (cf. log. 1)! A

great deal of the hermeneutical challenge associated with the text of Thomas consists of

its capacity to promote an unprecedented inquiry into the meaning of Jesus' words

recorded by Judas "the twin."

What kind of words, what type of text is at stake here? Put together, Jesus'

discourses encountered in the Gospel of Thomas constitute a collection of religious-

philosophical sayings with no apparent formal structure or plan. We may recall here the

Greek fragment of the Thomasine prologue (P. Oxy. 654.1) in which it is explicitly

claimed that the sayings in question are, in fact, hoi logoi hoi apokryphoi, i.e., the "secret"

or "apocryphal" words of the 'living Jesus.' Does this actually mean that in the so-called

"gospel" of Thomas we are dealing with an original compilation of Jesus' secret sayings,

or is it more likely the case that the religious group which had compiled these utterances

18
considered itself the bearer or successor of an apocryphal, esoteric tradition? In other

words, in which sense are those logoi - apokryphoi?

Even if we accept the first alternative, that is, the definition of Thomas as a unique

anthology of Jesus' secret or "esoteric" discourses, we may not so easily skip over the

paradox inherent in the very "anatomy" of this text: namely, those are the secret sayings

which reveal the mystery of life and death. And even a quick view of the content of those

utterances only confirms that the religious language of the Gospel of Thomas is inherently

paradoxical; taken also as separate units, Thomas' sayings aim at "revealing mysteries" by

concealing them!

The paradoxical nature of some of the Thomasine utterances strikingly resemble

the corresponding function of Zen-koans within the Japanese Buddhist tradition. It is

certainly no accident that the paradoxical world of the text of Thomas has been created by

an almost exclusive use of parables, proverbs, aphorisms, brief dialogues as well as short,

instructive stories. For these are some of the most condensed generic forms of religious

discourse that quite adequately express a very distinctive "tension in language" resulting

from the creative encounter with the non-verbal domain of the ultimate. In this realm,

rhetorical and ontological aspects of religious discourse tend to amalgamate. In a similar

sense, one may speak about good poetry as disclosing certain aspects of being by the

discoursive process of distorting the standards or limits of everyday language. This kind

of verbal "distortion" or commitment to paradox appears in the Gospel of Thomas as a

mysterious key to revelation, as a way of disclosing the grand mystery embedded in the

deep structure of reality opened up by the 'living Jesus.' One may only wonder, or remain

silent, before the tremendous power by which the new awareness of reality (the reality of

the kingdom) is being re-enacted.

To put it differently, Thomas' Jesus did something with the words. His profound,

paradoxical proclamations were designed to fulfil a distinctive performative-

19
soteriological function, an effect which the canonical gospels partly produce with the help

of some "meta-verbal" devices, such as the miracles or 'signs.'

Second, the redactional complexity of this composition creates yet another

difficult hermeneutical as well as methodological problem. This problem is inherently

related to the question ofpossible dependence of the Thomasine sayings tradition upon the

synoptic gospels. In its radical form, this question could perhaps be formulated as

follows: Is Thomas an autonomous literary creation based upon an earlier, independent,

collection of Jesus' sayings (with a form-critical status similar to that of the synoptic

gospels), or an entirely dependent "gnostic" product with no specific value with respect to

the synoptic problem? Or is it a palimpsest, a multi-layered document containing the

elements of both?

In this case, as I will be inclined to argue in the next section, one is not confronted

with a simple alternative (pro- or against the dependence) that does not allow for the

third, or even fourth possible solution. My position concerning this form-critical question

(with important hermeneutical consequences) is that the presence of some gnostic

elements, exemplified by a different recension of the synoptic-like material, does not

necessarily indicate the dependent status of the Gospel of Thomas. On the contrary, an

independent sayings material, which presumably originated in apostolic circles, could

have been used in a gnosticizing or syncretistic manner as early as the first century. The

New Testament epistles themselves are probably the best witnesses to such a process, at

least in the social-historical context of Asia Minor. In that same turbulent religious

landscape of the first and early second century, I will be inclined to seek for the origins of

the first Greek composition of the Gospel of Thomas.

Suffice it to say for the purpose of this hermeneutical propaedeutics that the

Gospel of Thomas invites potential interpreters on at least two textual levels. On the first

level, one should be able to deal with various "external," that is, historical, textual-

critical, redactional and form-critical problems. An adequate solution of these problems

20
may significantly facilitate our hermeneutical approach to individual logia. On the

second, "internal," level of this work, the reader is invited to participate in an

extraordinary event of discourse, in the paradoxical world of the Thomasine community

in which the word of 'living Jesus' is considered a deed leading to an ultimate revelation

or 'perfection.'

On the one hand, it is possible indeed to provide a hermeneutical analysis of the

Gospel of Thomas without any recourse to the aforementioned "external" problems.

However, without the proper understanding of the origins, character and the ways of

transmission of this apocryphal work, the Gospel of Thomas remains, in many respects, a

"ghost-document." Unexpectedly found in a mysterious jar buried in an old monastic

cemetery near the village of Hamra Dom in Upper Egypt, Thomas may, therefore, easily

deceive its readers by a plethora of ambiguous messages and symbols appearing in the

boundless holographic field of potential meanings for which one hardly finds any

interpretive clue in the text itself.

B. Some Aspects of the Current Debate

1. The Problem of Dependence

It is difficult indeed to estimate if any broad scholarly consensus has been reached

in the area of Thomasine studies. I am inclined to believe that in this case such an

agreement depends on the types of questions that have been asked in the still growing

literature on the Gospel of Thomas.

Even a brief survey of this literature indicates that the more comprehensive of

those studies usually address the general questions as to Thomas' possible dependence

upon the synoptic tradition, or its Gnostic vs. non-Gnostic origin, whereas some of the

more specialized essays and articles deal with the various parallels of the Gospel of

21
Thomas with other pieces of early Christian literature. Some detailed examinations of the

composition and redaction of this document, as well as the analyses of particular logia in

Thomas, pertain to that second major group of studies.

The issues of Thomas' possible dependence upon the synoptic gospels5 as well as

its parallels with the works of Syrian and Egyptian Christianity are meaningful starting

points of any inquiry into the origin and transmission of this document. For in this context

we are dealing with the theories of the two major groups of scholars who support two

seemingly irreconcilable positions as to the origin and character of our gospel.

The advocates of the "independence school" generally maintain that the Gospel of

Thomas is not a Gnostic composition, but an early Jewish-Christian document that had a

development independent of the canonical, particularly synoptic, gospels. According to

some of these authors, such a hypothesis may be confirmed by the redactional,

compositional as well as terminological features of the whole series of logia and their

parallels in other Jewish-Christian writings (especially those pertaining to the Syrian,

Edessan, milieu).

Some of the arguments that frequently occur in the books and essays of these

scholars emphasize, for example, the following features of the Thomasine collection of

sayings:

- the absence of the framework material as well as redactional traits typical of the

synoptic gospels;6

- the importance of James the Righteous as the bearer of an independent, Jewish-

Christian, tradition of Jesus' words;7

5 For the most recent discussion of this problem, cf., for example, John Meier, A Marginal Jew: Rethinking
the Historical Jesus, Vol. 1, New York: Doubleday, 1991: 127ff.; Koester 1990: 84ff.; Hedrick 1989/90;
Klyne Snodgrass, "The Gospel of Thomas: A Secondary Gospel," SC 7 (1989/90): 19-38; and Patterson
1988.
6 For the best summary of this argument, cf. Crossan 1985: 35ff.
7 E.g. Gilles Quispel, Gnostic Studies, Vol. 2, Leiden: NHA Institut te Istanbul, 1975a: 3ff.; Charles-Henri
Puech, "The Gospel of Thomas," in Hennecke and Schneemelcher, eds., New Testament Apocryphal Books.
Vol. 1, Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1963: 306; or Cullmann 1962.

22
- wisdom proclivities of the Gospel of Thomas characteristic of the Jewish-

Christian background of this work;8

- the occurrence of the translation variants in the Gospel of Thomas of the

Aramaic words or phrases which were translated differently in the synoptic gospels, but

presumably derive from the common Aramaic source;9

- the parallels with some other, Jewish-Christian and Syrian documents, such as

the Acts of Thomas, the Gospel of the Hebrews, the Gospel of the Egyptians, Pseudo-

Clementines, Tatian's Diatessaron, etc.;10

- the figure of the apostle Thomas as the indication of an autonomous, eastern

Syrian provenance of this gospel;11

- the prominence of an ascetic ideology of the Syrian-Encratite type;12

- the form-critical autonomy of the Gospel of Thomas, or its relation to the Q-

stratum of the canonical gospels.13

Robinson, Koester and their followers have been mostly engaged in proving that

the Gospel of Thomas reflects the existence of an independent tradition of Jesus' logia

that are either alternative to, or older than, the synoptic redaction of these sayings. One

line of their argumentation has led toward an inquiry into the genre of Thomas (identified

by Robinson as the logoi sophon, "words of the wise," and by Koester as the gnomai

8 Cf. especially Davies 1983 and Robinson and Koester, Trajectories through Early Christianity,
Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1971: 71-157.
9 Cf. Gilles, Quispel, "Some Remarks on the Gospel of Thomas," NTS 5 (1958/59): 276-90; Antoine
Guillaumont, "Sémitismes dans les logia de Jésus retrouvés à Nag Hammadi," JA 246 (1958): 113-23; " Les
sémitismes dans l'Evangile selon Thomas: Essai de classement," in R. van den Broek and M. J. Vermaseren,
eds., Studies in Gnosticism and Hellenistic Religions, Leiden: Brill, 1981: 190-204.
10 Cf. Quispel 1975a and "The 'Gospel of Thomas' and the 'Gospel of the Hebrews'," NTS 12 (1965/66):
371-82; Puech 1963: 293ff.; Aelred Baker, "The 'Gospel of Thomas' and the Syriac 'Liber Graduum'," NTS
12 (1965-66): 49-55; "The Gospel of Thomas and the Diatessaron," JTS 16 (1965a): 449-54; A. F. J.
Klijn, "Das Thomasevangelium und das alt-syrische Christentum," VC 15 (1961): 146-59.
11 Cf., for example, Koester 1990: 78-80; Bentley Layton, The Gnostic Scriptures, New York: Doubleday,
1987: 360ff.; Han Drijvers, "Facts and Problems in Early Syriac-Speaking Christianity," SC 2 (1982):
158ff.; Tai Akagi, "The Literary Development of the Coptic Gospel of Thomas," Ph.D. dissertation,
Western Reserve University, 1965: 50ff; Puech 1963: 286ff; Klijn 1961: 148ff and "Christianity in Edessa
and the Gospel of Thomas," NovT 14 (1972): 76ff; Grant 1960: 67.
12 Cf. particularly Quispel 1975a: 98-112.
13 Cf. Koester 1990; Patterson 1988; Robinson 1986; Cullmann 1962.

23
diaphoroi).14 Both these authors - joined later by Davies, Crossan, Patterson and others -

argue for an inherent connection between the Q-element of the synoptic gospels and the

collection of Thomas' sayings in terms of origin as well as literary genre. Not only is the

Gospel of Thomas a Jewish-Christian document reflecting the earliest stage of

transmission of the sayings of Jesus, but it is an important witness as to the sophiological

tendencies of that community as well. To an examination of this last thesis Stevan Davies

has dedicated a whole book.15 He believes that Thomas is in no meaningful sense a

gnostic treatise.16 Moreover, it is an early Jewish-Christian document (written in the

mid-first century) that served primarily as instruction for the newly baptized members of

the Christian community.17

As a representative of the Bultmannian form-critical school, Helmut Koester has

devoted much more attention to the examination of the synoptic parallels of the Gospel of

Thomas. In his latest book Ancient Christian Gospels (1990) he argues, very persuasively,

for the form-critical independence of the logia in Thomas. A greater part of his analysis

deals with the Q/Thomas parallels, as well as the comparative analysis of the parables in

Thomas and in Mk 4. Koester asserts, in his own right, that only a careful, step-by-step,

analysis of these parallels may conclusively prove or disprove possible dependence of one

document upon the other. As we will be able to reckon soon, the absence of any common

redactional traits between Thomas and the synoptists may, of course, be an important clue

as to the history of the tradition of these documents.

Nevertheless, the second major group of scholars (including R. Brown, Doresse,

Gärtner, R. Grant, J. Meier, Rudolph, Schrage) challenge the view regarding an

independent, Jewish-Christian origin of the Gospel of Thomas. In order to advance their

own theories, these scholars offer equally interesting arguments. For example, if Thomas

14 Cf. Robinson and Koester 1971, chs. 3 and 4.


15 Cf. Davies 1983.
16 Davies, 147.
17 Davies, 136.

24
bears witness to an independent development of Jesus' sayings, how can we explain the

fact that the document itself contains such diverse parallels with all four canonical

gospels, some Pauline epistles, apocryphal gospels of the Hebrews and the Egyptians, as

well as a plethora of other, non-canonical, sources and documents from the Syrian and

Egyptian Christian traditions?

Furthermore, a very powerful antidote to the thesis concerning the independence

of Thomas from the synoptic gospels could be obtained by proving that the author or the

redactor of this collection of sayings made use of the special Matthean or Lukan material

(M or L) and hence relied upon Matthew's or Luke's redaction of the logia Iêsou. This

argument has very recently been supported in John Meier's book on the historical

Jesus.18 Because of its methodological importance for the problem of Thomas' relation to

the synoptic gospels, Meier's argument deserves our attention.

Meier's argumentation has been developed in the chapter regarding the Nag

Hammadi material as a possible source in the quest for the historical Jesus. As far as the

relevance of that material is concerned, Meier's answer is negative. The only Nag

Hammadi document to which he pays much attention, however, is the Gospel of Thomas.

Meier's arguments are interesting, because they tend to embrace most of the

typical objections to the thesis concerning Thomas' independent status. Admittedly, some

of these arguments are general in their character and, therefore, do not pretend to be

conclusive in any meaningful sense.19 However, the most specific of Meier's objections

aim at showing that the Gospel of Thomas made use of the special Matthaean and special

Lukan material, and hence apparently relied upon Matthew's or Luke's redactions of the

sayings of Jesus. If correct, this would lead us to concede that the Gospel of Thomas itself

may not be considered a relevant source for determining the authenticity of Jesus' logia.

The most we could say in that case would be that this document has secondary

18 Meier 1991.
19 Meier, 130-32.

25
importance for the problem of authenticity, because its sayings were mediated by the

synoptic gospels.

A closer look at Meier's examples of GTh/M and GTh/L parallels will not,

however, convince everyone that Thomas was directly influenced by Matthew or Luke.

On the contrary. Believing perhaps in their cumulative power, Meier submits at least

eleven GTh/M and five GTh/L instances of parallelism respectively.20 Although these

Lukan parallels are not to be found in Matthew, they have a strong probability of being

derived either from Q or the common underlying source of tradition. John Kloppenborg,

for example, includes them all, except 17:20ff., in his collection of the "Sayings Gospel

Q,"21 whereas Koester and Patterson refer to them as QLk (including 17:20-21 as well22

). But, most importantly, all five GTh/L parallels represent different recensions of that

underlying material. And Thomas' own versions of these logia (log. 3/113, 10, 63, 72 and

79) do not indicate that their redactor relied on, or was influenced by, any of the Lukan

variants of that common sayings tradition.

In the case of the Matthaean parallels listed by Meier, one is mostly dealing with

the echoes, and not with the clear, verbatim, parallels that would betray the influence of

Matthew's redaction on Thomas. Four of these parallels are the parables (with different

recensions in Thomas) which might have been known to both Matthew and Thomas from

the common underlying source. One of the seven other examples is the general

community rule about fasting, almsgiving and prayer which is very briefly mentioned in

Thomas (log. 6, 14), but widely elaborated in a different context in Mt 6:1-18. Another

parallel (Mt 11:28-30=log. 90) may apparently represent an echo of the common wisdom-

tradition pattern which is to be found, for instance, in Sirach as well.

20 Ibid., 134-6.
21 John Kloppenborg et al., eds., Q-Thomas Reader, Sonoma, Ca.: Polebridge Press, 1990: 31ff.
22 Helmut Koester and S. J. Patterson, "The Gospel of Thomas: Does It Contain Authentic Sayings of
Jesus?" BR 6/2 (1990): 31ff.

26
Only three of these cases should be considered somewhat closer parallels (i.e.,

"city on the hill," "serpents and doves," and "pearls before swine"), but, again, they might

have been well known in both traditions (Thomasine as well as Matthean) as proverbs

and aphorisms pertaining to an earlier stratum of Jesus' sayings. In various religious

traditions all over the world, these types of sayings are most easily remembered and had

been orally transmitted for a long time before they were written down in some document.

As such, they are methodologically very unreliable witnesses in terms of the precedence

of one version over the other. This applies especially in the cases of those GTh/Mt

parallels concerning which one may not conclusively prove the redactional precedence of

any of the extant versions of these sayings.

Finally, as far as the last two examples are concerned, Mt 18:20 represents a very

remote parallel to either Coptic or Greek variant of log. 30, whereas the relationship

between Mt 15:13 and log. 40 (one of Meier's crucial examples) may be explained by a

common underlying source.

In any case, variants do not necessarily presuppose any literary dependence,

especially in those instances in which the editorial influence cannot be determined.

Remote parallels with some sayings that pertain even to the special Matthaean or Lukan

material, do not constitute sufficient evidence with respect to Thomas' dependence upon

these sources. One may, for example, be able to find such parallels or echoes through

comparative analysis of the synoptists and John, but that, of course, does not necessarily

mean that John relied on the synoptic writings at the time when he composed his own

versions of these parallels. The existence of a common underlying source as well as the

durative force of the oral tradition in relationship to parables, proverbs and aphorisms

may equally well explain such occurrences.

I contend, therefore, that Meier has not succeeded in showing that the Gospel of

Thomas expressly employed, in any phase of its redaction, either the Matthean or Lukan

special material. A more detailed analysis of his examples reveals that the occurrence of

27
this type of parallels in Thomas may equally well be explained either by a common

underlying source of Mt, Lk and the Gospel of Thomas, by a common catechetical fund of

sayings, or by the durative force of the oral tradition - i. e., by those elements that could

have contributed to similar redactions of particular sayings in both the Gospel of Thomas

and the synoptists.

Yet another challenge to the thesis concerning the independent origin of the

Gospel of Thomas is to be found in works of the scholars who unambiguously argue for

the Gnostic character of this work. Robert Grant's book The Secret Sayings of Jesus

represents an exemplar of this type of analysis. I agree with Grant's theory insofar as it

brings Thomas in connection with the Naassene source quoted in Hippolytus' Refutatio

omnium haeresium. In my own investigation, I will be inclined not only to pursue that

"Naassene connection," but to support it with additional, even more specific arguments as

well. However, a redaction-critical analysis of the Gospel of Thomas , which may

demonstrate that in the case of this writing one is concerned with a multi-layered

document that passed through at least two distinct phases of transmission, should

certainly allow the possibility of a later, secondary recension of this document in a more

or less apparent "gnostic key." But, as we have already argued in the introduction, the fact

that the Gospel of Thomas may indeed represent a "secondary" gospel, does not conflict

with the very persuasive form-critical evidence indicating that it contains, as one of its

earlier strata, a Jewish-Christian collection of Jesus' sayings developed independently of

the synoptic gospels.

2. The Jewish-Christian Features of the Gospel

28
The thesis regarding the Jewish-Christian23 origins of the Gospel of Thomas was

originally proposed by the international group of scholars24 who prepared and published

the editio princeps of this document in 1959. The ground-breaking studies which paved

the way to such a theory have been done by Henri-Charles Puech and Gilles Quispel, in

their series of articles on the Gospel of Thomas.

In his own contribution to the Hennecke-Schneemelcher edition of the New

Testament Apocrypha, Puech proposed several arguments relevant to the problem of

origin and transmission of the Gospel of Thomas. Some of these arguments may

succinctly be outlined as follows:

- The redundancy of the name Didymus Judas Thomas ('Didymos' and 'Thomas'

are the Greek and the Aramaic variants of the same epithet - "the twin") as an indicator of

the Jewish-Christian origins of the Thomas tradition in eastern Syria;25

- The exaltation of James the Just (log. 12) as the bearer of the tradition which has

been preserved in the Gospel of Thomas;26

- The existence of Aramaisms which presumably point to the Syriac linguistic

milieu, but may also indicate an early Palestinian background of the Gospel of Thomas (in

this instance Puech primarily relies upon Guillaumont's investigations);27

- The parallels with other Jewish-Christian documents such as the Acts of Thomas,

Gospel of the Hebrews, Pseudo-Clementines, Tatian's Diatessaron, etc...28

This idea has further been supported by Gilles Quispel in a series of articles on the

Gospel of Thomas. The greater part of these essays were collected and reprinted in the

second volume of his Gnostic Studies (1975).29 Quispel argues not only that the Gospel

23 In this book, I use the term 'Jewish-Christian' in a very broad sense: it simply refers to early Christian
groups of Jewish background or origin.
24 Primarily by Puech, Quispel and Guillaumont. Cf. Introduction, note 1.
25 Cf. Puech, 286-7.
26 Ibid., 306.
27 Ibid., 293.
28 Ibid., 286ff.
29 Cf. above, note 7.

29
of Thomas is a Jewish-Christian document that originated in Syria, but also that its text

itself refers to the character of the community which transmitted these sayings.

After thorough investigations of the various parallels to the Gospel of Thomas in

the canonical and non-canonical Christian literature, Quispel came to the following

important conclusions:

- The Gospel of Thomas is not a Gnostic composition, but an early Jewish-

Christian document that had a development independent of the canonical, particularly

synoptic, gospels. This may be claimed on the basis of its internal evidence, the textual as

well as terminological features of the whole series of logia and their parallels in Jewish-

Christian writings.30

- The text of Thomas bears witness to an early evolution of Christian asceticism

(monasticism), again with Jewish-Christian origins. There are some historical and textual

clues that explicitly confirm these ascetic/encratite tendencies of the community of

Thomas. 31

- In the case of this community one is, furthermore, dealing not only with the

encratite type of asceticism, but also with an ideology which promotes a very specific

form of l'ascèse itinérant characteristic of the first Jewish-Christian groups that made the

historic move to Syria.32

- The text itself was written around 140 C.E. in Edessa, eastern Syria. Its parallels

with other works of the same, Edessan milieu (such as the Diatessaron of Tatian, or

Syriac Recognitions) implies the existence of a third, older, document as their common

source. That document was, in all likelihood, the Gospel According to the Hebrews.33

30 Cf. Quispel 1975.


31 Ibid., 99ff.
32 Ibid., 104ff.
33 Quispel 1975a: 6ff and 1965/66: 371-82.

30
- About half of the logia in Thomas are, however, of the syncretist type and

probably derive from the second major source of the Gospel of Thomas - the Gospel

According to the Egyptians.34

French author Antoine Guillaumont, the third member of this international team

of scholars, focused primarily on the Aramaisms in Thomas as a possible linguistic clue

to the Jewish-Christian origins of this document. His investigations are important insofar

as he was able, in a few of his articles,35 to identify some of the Aramaisms in Thomas,

but, in my opinion, he overstated the argument by proposing the Syriac Vorlage of the

Gospel of Thomas. Aside from the fact that we do not possess any extant version of this

gospel in Syriac (nor is this document attested in the works of the later Syrian authors),

one may conclude that it is methodologically untenable, without some further evidence, to

make an arbitrary move from the assumed Aramaic substratum of Thomas to the Syrian

version of the document itself.36

The genuine hypothesis as to the background, milieu and character of the Gospel

of Thomas, originally proposed by Puech and Quispel, has challenged the initial

assumptions about this work as one of the Gnostic documents found in the predominantly

"heretical" library at Nag Hammadi. The theses of the aforementioned scholars have

found a significant number of supporters (as well as critics) in the United States, Canada,

Germany, Netherlands and Japan. Among these scholars there are, of course, authors who

disagree with Quispel or Puech on a number of issues, but today one may at least admit

that the majority of scholars pertaining to the "independent school" tend to support at

least the following three assumptions:

1. The Gospel of Thomas originated in eastern Syria;

2. Even if Gnostic in its general proclivity, it was somehow related, in one of its

earlier strata, to Jewish Christianity;

34 Quispel 1975a: 3ff.


35 Cf. above, note 9.
36 For a more elaborate discussion of this problem, cf. pp. 88-91.

31
3. Thomas promotes an ascetic ideology of the Syrian-Encratite type.

Especially strong is the conviction of Thomas' interpreters as to the Syrian

(Edessan) provenance of this gospel. The thesis regarding the Edessan birthplace of

Thomas is certainly one of those theses which gain almost instant confirmation among the

most renowned scholars in the field. Hence I am inclined to believe that there does exist a

broad scholarly consensus in Thomasine studies, at least with respect to the Syrian origin

of the Gospel of Thomas. This consensus, however, will be more systematically contested

in our next chapter.

Let us now return to the question of the Jewish-Christian background of our

gospel. As far as Quispel's hypothesis regarding the two main sources37 of the Gospel of

Thomas is concerned, we may conclude that it is based upon a correct preliminary insight.

Indeed, the Gospel of Thomas is a document composed of at least two different types of

sayings. A greater part of these sayings have scriptural parallels and may, in particular, be

related to the synoptic material. In a broad sense, most of these sayings may be designated

as Jewish-Christian in tone. The second type of logia in Thomas are different in character,

and derive, in all likelihood, from another, syncretistic, source which Quispel too quickly

identifies as the Gospel of the Egyptians.38

Before the discovery of the Coptic manuscript of Thomas, a considerable number

of scholars believed that the Oxyrhynchus sayings of Jesus (i.e. the Greek version[s] of

this gospel) represented a portion of either the Gospel of the Egyptians or the Gospel of

the Hebrews.39 And that is certainly no accident. Although we now possess very

scattered fragments of both "Alexandrian gospels," they contain some striking parallels

even with our Coptic version of Thomas. Based upon the facts that Thomas includes very

idiosyncratic sayings material which may be encountered in both the Egyptians and the

37 That is, the Gospel of the Hebrews and the Gospel of the Egyptians.
38 As may be observed from our list of the special Thomasine material on pp. 35-38, at least 29 logia in the
Gospel of Thomas pertain to that second, very distinctive, sayings corpus.
39 Cf. Puech, 297.

32
Hebrews, as well as that the latter two texts do not share any common material, one might

perhaps suggest the following schema of transmission:

GEg GHeb

\ /

GTh

According to this scheme, Thomas would be the latest of the three documents. Let

me, therefore, briefly consider the nature of this relationship as well as the general

plausibility of Quispel's intriguing source-hypothesis.

It is significant to notice, first, that all three gospels from this list incorporate

segments of the traditions that are independent of the canonical gospels. Second, they

were all presumably written within the same period - i.e., at the beginning, or toward the

middle, of the second century. Third, according to Hippolytus' testimonium (Refutatio

5.7.8ff. and 5.7.20), at least two of these documents were known to the Phrygian religious

sect of the Naassenes.

With regard to the type of parallels that exist between Thomas and the Gospel of

the Hebrews, one might emphasize the importance of the following features:

1. Both texts ascribe a prominent role to James, the brother of Jesus, which may

indicate their common, Jewish-Christian, heritage (compare, for example, log. 12 in

Thomas and Jerome's De viris illustribus, 2).

2. Both Thomas and the Gospel of the Hebrews were, admittedly, used in early

Greek-speaking Christian circles of Alexandria and Egypt. The existence of the Greek

copies of Thomas as well as the peculiar title 'Hebrews' (referring usually to the Greek-

speaking Jews of the diaspora) corroborates this assumption.

3. In Thomas as well as in the Gospel of the Hebrews, we may recognize apparent

wisdom proclivities. With respect to the second text, one should note the function of the

33
Holy Spirit, shaped according to the image of the divine wisdom in the Jewish sapiential

literature.40

4. A very peculiar parallel has also been recognized in the similar usage of the

formula seek - find - (be afflicted) - marvel - reign - (rest) in Thomas' log. 2 (P. Oxy.

654.5-9) and the Gospel of the Hebrews (Clement, Stromateis 5.14.96). Whereas Thomas

inserts 'affliction' as an existential condition preceding the state of perfection, the author

of the other gospel insists on the eschatological connotations of the state of 'rest.' In any

case, Thomas is known for its general disregard of the eschatological material.

Let me now specify the resemblances between Thomas and the Gospel of the

Egyptians:

1. the common theme of 'singleness' (virginity, asexuality) occurs in both gospels

as a very peculiar feature (cf., for example, log. 22 = Stromateis 3.13.96 = Second

Clement 12.1-2; cf. also logia 11, 15, 106, 114);

2. common baptismal symbolism (i.e., the motif of the 'garment of shame' in log.

37 and Stromateis 3.13.92);

3. compare the role of Salome as the common interlocutor in both gospels;

4. the importance of the Naassenes as the group which used both gospels

(Refutatio 5.7.8ff. and 5.7.20).

Despite these striking similarities between the Gospel of Thomas and the other

two apocryphal gospels, the fragmentary character of both the Gospel of the Egyptians

and the Gospel of the Hebrews prevents us from deriving any firmer conclusions

concerning the possibility of their direct relationship or dependence. Especially after the

discovery of the most complete, Coptic, version of the Gospel of Thomas, it is

methodologically problematic to advance any form-critical hypothesis that would treat the

Gospel of Thomas as a simple combination of the other two documents. The least we may

contend in this respect is that Quispel relied upon some very isolated (however important)

40 Cf. P. Vielhauer, "Jewish Christian Gospels" in Hennecke and Schneemelcher, 161.

34
parallels between Thomas and the Gospel of the Egyptians and the Gospel of the Hebrews

respectively. Put simply, the origin of 114 sayings of the Coptic Thomas may not

sufficiently be explained with the help of the two "Alexandrian gospels."

Nevertheless, as far as the sources of Thomas are concerned, I agree with

Quispel's preliminary observations: this document is composed of at least two types of

sayings material, one of which is more syncretistic in its tone. In the case of the second

stratum of the Gospel of Thomas, we are most likely dealing with an independent Jewish-

Christian source which predominantly displays characteristics of the synoptic type of

sayings. But, even though this Jewish-Christian source comprises a greater part of the

sayings material in Thomas, we may ask ourselves if the Gospel of Thomas, taken as a

whole, is to be labeled as a Jewish-Christian gospel. My answer to this question is

negative. And I am ready to submit at least two major reasons for this claim.

First, the hermeneutical as well as redaction-critical analysis of this collection of

logia indicates that we are dealing here with a composite, multi-layered, document that

strongly reflects not only the variety of sources of tradition, but the syncretistic religious-

philosophical milieu as well. Although the sayings from the following list represent less

than a quarter of the entire Gospel of Thomas, they are peculiar enough to indicate a

secondary recension of an earlier sayings material in the predominantly syncretistic or

"gnosticizing" context:

The Special Thomasine Material (Sayings with no Synoptic Parallels)

logion #

4a - Jesus said: The man old in days will not hesitate to ask a little child of seven days
about the place of Life, and he will live.

35
7 - Jesus said: Blessed is the lion which the man eats and the lion will become man; and
cursed is the man whom the lion eats and the lion will become man.

11b - In the days when you devoured the dead, you made it alive; when you come into
light, what will you do? On the day when you were one, you became two. But when you
have become two, what will you do?

15 - Jesus said: When you see Him who was not born of woman, prostrate yourselves
upon your face and adore Him: He is your Father.

18 – The disciples said to Jesus: Tell us how our end will be. Jesus said: Have you then
discovered the beginning so that you inquire about the end? Blessed is he who shall stand
at the beginning, and he shall know the end and he shall not taste death.

22c - Jesus said to them: When you make the two one, and when you make the inner as
the outer and the outer as the inner and the above as the below, and when you make the
male and the female into a single one, so that the male will not be male and the female
(not) be female, when you make eyes in the place of an eye, and a hand in the place of a
hand, and a foot in the place of a foot, (and) an image in the place of an image, then shall
you enter [the Kingdom].

28 - Jesus said: I took my stand in the midst of the world and in flesh I appeared to them;
I found them all drunk, I found none among them athirst. And my soul was afflicted for
the sons of men, because they are blind in their heart and do not see that empty they have
come into the world (and that) empty they seek to go out of the world again. But now they
are drunk. When they have shaken off their wine, then will they repent.

29 - Jesus said: If the flesh has come into existence because of <the> spirit, it is a marvel;
but if <the> spirit (has come into existence) because of the body, it is a marvel of
marvels. But I marvel at how this great wealth has made its home in this poverty.

42 - Jesus said: Become passers-by.

49 - Jesus said: Blessed are the solitary and elect, for you shall find the Kingdom; because
you come from it, (and) you shall go there again.

56 - Jesus said: Whoever has known the world has found a corpse, and whoever has
found a corpse, of him the world is not worthy.

59 - Jesus said: Look upon the Living (One) as long as you live, lest you die and seek to
see Him and be unable to see.

60 - <They saw> a Samaritan carrying a lamb on his way to Judea. He said to His
disciples: (Why does) this man (carry) the lamb with him? They said to Him: In order that
he may kill it and eat it. He said to them: As long as it is alive, he will not eat it, but
(only) if he has killed it and it has become a corpse. They said: Otherwise he will not be

36
able to do it. He said to them: You yourselves, seek a place for yourselves in Repose, lest
you become a corpse and be eaten.

67 - Jesus said: Whoever knows the All but fails (to know) himself lacks everything.

70 - Jesus said: If you bring forth that within yourselves, that which you have will save
you. If you do not have that within yourselves, that which you do not have will kill you.

74 - He said: Lord, there are many around the cistern, but nobody in the cistern.

77b - Cleave a (piece of) wood, I am there; lift up the stone and you will find Me there.

80 - Jesus said: Whoever has known the world has found the body, and whoever has
found the body, of him the world is not worthy.

83 - Jesus said: The images are manifest to man and the Light which is within them is
hidden in the Image of the Light of the Father. He will manifest himself and His Image is
concealed by His Light.

84 - Jesus said: When you see your likeness, you rejoice. But when you see your images
which came into existence before you, (which) neither die nor are manifested, how much
will you bear!

85 - Jesus said: Adam came into existence from a great power and a great wealth, and
(yet) he did not become worthy of you. For if he had been worthy, [he would] not [have
tasted] death.

87 - Jesus said: Wretched is the body which depends upon a body, and wretched is the
soul which depends upon these two.

97 - Jesus said: The Kingdom of the [Father] is like a woman who was carrying a jar full
of meal. While she was walking [on a] distant road, the handle of the jar broke. The meal
streamed out behind her on the road. She did not know (it), she had noticed no accident.
After she came into her house, she put the jar down, she found it empty.

98 - Jesus said: The Kingdom of the Father is like a man who wishes to kill a powerful
man. He drew the sword in his house, he stuck it into the wall, in order to know whether
his hand would carry through; then he slew the powerful (man).

101b - And whoever does [not] love [his father] and his mother in My way will not be
able to be a [disciple] to me, for My mother [ ] but [My] true [Mother] gave me the Life.

105 - Jesus said: Whoever knows father and mother shall be called the son of a harlot.

110 - Jesus said: Whoever has found the world and become rich, let him deny the world.

37
112 - Jesus said: Woe to the flesh which depends upon the soul; woe to the soul which
depends upon the flesh.

114 - Simon Peter said to them: Let Mary go out from among us, because women are not
worthy of the Life. Jesus said: See, I shall lead her, so that I will make her male, that she
too may become a living spirit, resembling you males. For every woman who makes
herself male will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

A further inquiry into the background of the Naassene sect will certainly

contribute to our better understanding of the secondary, redactorial process which

determined the character of the Gospel of Thomas. On the one hand, such a process has

somehow been neglected in Quispel's investigations on behalf of a Jewish-Christian

Vorlage of the Gospel of Thomas. On the other hand, Grant clearly emphasizes the

importance of that secondary recension, but argues against the possibility that Thomas

contains some genuine and autochthonous sources of the Jesus tradition. Since our own

analysis aims to show that the Naassenes were a syncretistic religious sect of Greco-

Phrygian (and not Jewish-Christian) origin,41 and since I consider the members of this

group as the original editors of Thomas, one may hardly regard this gospel in toto as a

Jewish-Christian document.

And now we come to the second major reason why the Gospel of Thomas does

not seem to be a Jewish-Christian composition. Even the older, independent, stratum of

the Gospel of Thomas betrays certain inconsistencies in terms of its general, Jewish-

Christian proclivities. This phenomenon has already been noticed by several scholars.42

The Thomasine community, for example, respects sabbath (log. 27), but condemns

41 Suffice it to say at this point that the Naassenes, according to Hippolytus' account (Refutatio 5.9.10),
"attend" the mysteries of the Great Mother Cybele!
42 E.g. Grant and Freedman 1960; R. McL. Wilson 1960; Otto Piper, "The Gospel of Thomas," PSB 53
(1959): 22-23; Johannes Munck, "Bemerkungen zum koptischen Thomasevangelium," ST 14 (1960): 130-
47.

38
circumcision (log. 53); extols James the Righteous (log. 12), but gives precedence to

Thomas, the most "gnostic" of Jesus' disciples (incipit, log. 13); praises 'fasting from the

world' (log. 27), but, generally, expresses reserve toward fasting, prayer and almsgiving

(log. 14).

These incongruities could, additionally, be augmented by the negative tone in

which the Thomasine Jesus speaks about the Pharisees and the Scribes (log. 39 and 102),

twenty four prophets of Israel (log. 52) as well as the Jews in general (log. 43). Finally,

logion 30, in which some authors recognize traces of a rabbinic background,43 is

construed in the Coptic Thomas in an apparently "polytheistic" manner! It is interesting

that this same logion sounds more "orthodox" in its Oxyrhynchus version (P. Oxy. 1.23-

30). However, it is supplemented there by another, more pantheistic, saying which is to

be found in the second part of the Coptic log. 77 (77b).

All these eclectic, and somewhat contradictory, ideological features of the Gospel

of Thomas complicate an already complex tradition-history and restrain us from defining

this document as a product of distinctly Jewish-Christian origin. In all likelihood, we are

concerned here not only with a kind of palimpsest which reflects expansion of an early

tradition of Jesus' sayings, but also with a markedly syncretistic document whose

secondary recension points to an eclectic, less homogenous, religious-philosophical

environment. Such an environment will be more precisely determined in chapter two,

through our discussion of the background of the Naassene sect.

43 Cf. Wilson, 121-22. Compare Mt 18:20.

39
3. The Modes of Ascesis in the Gospel of Thomas

If we consider some forms of ascetic practices in the cross-cultural perspective, it

seems, at first sight, that we are dealing with a relatively limited number of common acts

directed toward a variety of goals which are more or less specifically defined within

different religious traditions. Among that common fund of practices one may, for

example, include fasting, prayer, almsgiving, meditation, vigils, different kinds of manual

work, sexual continence, physical separation or withdrawal, certain forms of self-inflicted

pain, etc...
On the other hand, it appears that the variety of religious teachings, ideas and

symbols provides these fundamental expressions of religious life with rather divergent

objectives. Offhand, some of these goals may be described as follows: attaining

perfection, immortality, liberation; purification, enlightenment, divinization; ecstasy,

extinction, ultimate knowledge (knowledge of the ultimate); renunciation of the world,

disgust, repentance, "isolation" or transformation.

At second glance, however, one realizes that it would be too simplistic if one

would aim at explaining varieties of ascetic expressions in terms of "similar means which

lead to different goals" (established within the particular religious contexts). Very soon it

comes to be realized that in the case of religious asceticism one is dealing with a far more

complex phenomenon. For instance, a closer look at certain forms or techniques of

meditation reveals that in similar context (i.e. religions of India), the classical system of

yoga on the one hand, and the Buddhist practice of dhyana on the other, represent two

very distinctive ascetic disciplines.44 In this case, the practice of "meditation" is to be

44 I am particularly inclined to understand the term ascesis in its original, Greek, sense - i.e., as 'exercise',
'discipline' or 'training'.

40
understood only as a common noun, or common denominator, for the two different

systems of ascetic "engrossment."

On the other hand, in purely practical terms, the Eastern Orthodox technique of

hesychia (understood as the "prayer of the heart") and some forms of the mantra-yoga

appear to be closer to each other than we admit in regard to the previous example.

Furthermore, ascetic practices of sexual "self-restraint" find their specific modes of

expression both in the common cenobitism of the desert fathers and in the baroquesque

Tantric or Taoist techniques of attaining "immortality." Or, again, the "mendicant

philosophy" of the begging ascetics and charismatics, familiar from the Cynic, Early

Christian and Buddhist traditions, may equally be promoted through the itinerant, non-

institutional, and monastic, institutional, ways of life.

Against this cross-cultural diversity of forms and techniques of ascesis, one

encounters a very recognizable dualistic rhetoric (and symbolism) which tends to provide

the basic religious or metaphysical justifications for such an ascetic behavior. And

immediately a plethora of symbols and metaphors that are usually associated with the

ultimate objectives of asceticism (such as "purification," "liberation," "isolation,"

"extinction") begin to function within the broader dualistic schemes of spirit and matter,

world and kingdom, samsara and nirvana, prakrti and purusa, etc. But again, this dualistic

proclivity is not an invariable characteristic which accompanies all forms of asceticism.

Particular religious communities may find their own, specific ways of formulating the

rationale for performing certain ascetic rituals or practices.

Let us, therefore, turn to the more specific expressions of ascetic symbolism

encountered in the somewhat paradoxical language of the community which produced

and transmitted the collection of Jesus' sayings known as the Gospel of Thomas.

41
In the case of Thomas we may recognize at least five, rather typical, emblems of

asceticism familiar from some other religious traditions as well. What I have in mind here

in the first place are the themes, images and symbols related to the following general

ascetic attitudes:

I. Renunciation of the World (an attitude typical of the early Christian, early

Buddhist, as well as Jain ascetic systems): cf., for example, log. 27, 56 or 80.

II. Itinerantism (log. 14b or 42). In social-historical terms, this was the earliest,

apostolic, mode of transmission of the Christian message in Palestine, Asia Minor, Syria,

Egypt and some other parts of the Mediterranean world. In the more general religious

context, we may perhaps compare these Christian "begging charismatics" (described in

the Didache or the Acts of the Apostles) with the Cynic or Buddhist mendicants.
III. Encratism - expressed through the variety of symbols such as the 'monachos'

(log. 16, 49, 75), 'the single one' (log. 4, 22, 23), the male/female symbolism (log. 22,

114), etc...45

IV. The Ritual Ascesis. Sets of symbols related to the preparation for baptism,

such as : treading the 'garments of shame' (log. 37),46 'becoming a child' (log. 4, 21, 22,

37, 46),47 'bubbling spring' (log 13), 'bridegroom' and 'bridal chamber' (log. 75, 104),
etc...

V. The Ascesis of (Self-)Examination. The Gospel of Thomas served not only as a

manual of ascetic discipline, but the text which presumably served for the purposes of

meditation of some later, Egyptian Christian communities as well. In this context, we

should pay attention to the frequent presence of the seek-find formula in some "strategic"

logia of this document (e.g. log. 2, 38, 59, 92); or, again, to the theme of self-recognition

(cf. log. 3, 111). In the cross-cultural perspective, one may also compare the

45 Cf., for example, A. F. J. Klijn, "The 'Single One' in the Gospel of Thomas," JBL 81 (1962): 271-78.
46 Cf. Jonathan Z. Smith, "The Garments of Shame," HR 5 (1965/66): 217-38.
47 Cf. Howard Kee, "'Becoming a Child' in the Gospel of Thomas," JBL 82 (1963): 307-14.

42
corresponding functions of the Dhammapada in the Buddhist tradition or the Lao-tzu and

the Yoga Sutras in the early Taoist and Yoga systems respectively.

All these recognizable patterns of ascetic religiosity are expressed in the Gospel of

Thomas by some very distinctive symbols and metaphors. Let us consider only a few

examples.

The theme of renunciation of the world is augmented in Thomas by the opposition

between the symbols of the 'world' and the 'kingdom'. The anti-cosmic attitude of this

gospel is perhaps best exemplified by frequent rejections of 'body', 'flesh', and the 'corpse'

(cf. log. 29, 56, 60, 80, 87, 112). Such a world-view may remind us, to a certain extent, of

the "philosophy of disgust" of the early Buddhist mendicants. Hence, for example, in the

selective corpus of the Thomasine "special material"48 we find the following saying:

"Whoever has known the world has found a corpse, and whoever has found a corpse, of

him the world is not worthy" (log. 56; also in 80). Or, again, "wretched is the body which

depends upon a body, and wretched is the soul that depends upon these two" (log. 87). To

this general negative attitude of Thomas, we may also ascribe the theme of the 'fasting to

the world' (log. 27a).49

I have already mentioned some symbols that reflect either encratite or ritual

modes of ascesis. We might perhaps add that the symbol of monachos appears in the

Gospel of Thomas as an ideal of virginity, purity and perfection, whereas the male/female

dichotomy reflects some peculiar aspects of the Naassene ideology.50 The Gospel of

Thomas is probably the earliest Christian document in which the word 'monachos' ("the

solitary") is employed almost as a terminus technicus. Its Coptic variants oua ("one") and

oua ouôt ("the single one") appear even more often in sayings referring to the celibate

person or the spiritual ideal of perfection. In the Gospel of Thomas, however, the Greek

term monachos - which is, in fact, an etymological antecedent of the English words

48 Cf. pp. 35-38.


49 Cf. Aelred Baker, "Fasting to the World," JBL 84 (1965b): 291-4.
50 In chapters III and IV, I address this Naassene symbolism in more specific terms.

43
'monk', 'monastic', and 'monasticism' - does not have any specific connotations related to

the later sense of monastic order, society or community. Monachos appears here as an

ideal state of purity, virginity, celibacy and perfection, but, at the same time, does not

refer to any institutional form of asceticism, such as the cenobitism or monasticism of the

desert fathers.51 Thus I am inclined to locate the community of Thomas along the

historical trajectory that both connects and divides the itinerant radicalism of the first

apostolic missions of the first century and the more developed forms of monasticism of

Pachomius, Gregory of Nyssa or Evagrius of Pontus (about fourth century). Suffice it to

say at this point that the Thomasine community tends to express some sort of "proto-

monastic" ideology, i.e., an ascetic system in which the notions of solitude, male/female

unity, androgyny and celibacy play an unusually important role. In the paradoxical realm

of the Thomasine symbols, 'woman' should make herself 'male' in order to enter the

kingdom of heaven (log. 114). Only the solitary ones, who are able to 'find themselves',

are worthy of Jesus' mysteries (log. 62, 111).

Another dominant ascetic feature that brings Thomas even closer to its Jewish-

Christian, Palestinian, pre-history is the praise of the itinerant, wandering life-style.

Messages like 'Become passers-by' (log. 42) or 'Go into any land and wander in the

regions' (log. 14) only confirm that the community which created the original stratum of

this document did not favor static or institutional forms of life. These sayings more likely

reflect the spirit of the first apostles and wandering charismatics who travelled all over

the Mediterranean world in order to proclaim the gospel of their exalted teacher.

The Thomasine Christians further believed in the constant presence of the

Kingdom which is spread upon the earth, but is not visible to everyone. In order to enter

it, one has to become like a 'little child' or 'monachos', the single one. This kind of

51 See ch. II, sec. B.2. There is a possibility, however, that the Coptic redactor of Thomas understood the
term monachos as already applicable to "a recognised social type in Egypt" (cf. E. A. Judge, "The Earliest
Use of Monachos for 'Monk' (P. Coll. Youtie 77) and the Origins of Monasticism," JAC 20 (1977): 87).

44
"realized eschatology" went hand in hand with some of the early Christian groups that

accepted Thomas as their gospel.

Interestingly enough, in the Gospel of Thomas we encounter a rather negative

stance toward the common ascetic practices of fasting, prayer and almsgiving. This

problem has been discussed briefly in our previous section. I believe that such an

exception from the (ascetic) rule may be explained by another, unusually emphasized

aspect of the Thomasine ascesis - the ascesis of examination. In the same way in which

the expectation of the future, apocalyptic, events does not aid in the search for the

Kingdom, fasting and prayer may not substitute for an esoteric hermeneia of Jesus' words

which has programatically been announced, at the very beginning of this gospel, as the

matter of life and death.

45
II. THE QUESTION OF THE PROVENANCE

A. The Problems Concerning the Syrian Hypothesis

It is interesting that the problem of the independence of the Gospel of Thomas, the

idea of an autonomous development of this collection of Jesus' sayings, has, from the

very beginnings of scholarly investigation, been closely related to the issue of Thomas'

Syrian provenance. It is certainly no accident that the authors who strongly support the

Jewish-Christian character of this text are particularly apt to advance the idea of its Syrian

origins. In this context, Thomas would bear witness to an early presence of Jewish-

Christian communities in eastern Syria.

In his series of articles on this gospel, Quispel, for instance, has argued that some

internal, textual features in Thomas point to an early evolution of Christian ascesis in

Syria. Not only are we confronted here with an encratite type of asceticism, but the

Gospel of Thomas (like the Acts of Thomas, the text which is believed to pertain to the

same tradition) promotes a very specific form of itinerant ascesis characteristic of the first

Jewish-Christian communities that migrated to eastern Syria as well.

As we have already pointed out in the previous chapter, some scholars have been

particularly prone to advocate the eastern Syrian, Edessan, birthplace of this gospel.1

Such a hypothesis has rarely been seriously disputed2 and it seems to me that now most

of the scholars who work on the Gospel of Thomas tend to adopt this view without further

consideration. Let me mention only two, relatively recent, examples of such a conviction

which is based upon some very inconclusive evidence.

1 Cf. ch. I, n. 9-11.


2 Cf. Barbara Ehlers, "Kann das Thomasevangelium aus Edessa stammen?" NovT 12 (1970): 284-317. Also
Davies, 18-21.

46
In his rather informative article on the meaning and origin of the name 'Judas

Thomas', J. J. Gunther supports the Edessan provenance of the Gospel of Thomas by

making use of the following textual indications:

Its traditions took shape in a wealthy (log. 29, 45, 63, 81, 85, 100, 110)
commercial (64, 95) center where merchants transporting a load of goods might
find it advantageous to sell it all unexpectedly (76). Richly attired kings and
nobles (81) were characteristic of Edessa...The reference to a rider on horseback
drawing a bow (47) would be commonplace in Osrhoene.3

Aside from the fact that the notions of 'wealth,' 'treasure,' 'kingship' or 'richness' in

logia 29, 81, 85 and 110 are employed in a predominantly symbolic manner (and, as such,

may hardly be treated as the social-historical "ciphers" pointing exclusively to Edessa), all

the other examples furnished by Gunther (i.e. log. 45, 47, 63, 64, 76, 95, 100) represent

the well-known parables, proverbs and community rules familiar also from the synoptic

material and mostly deriving from the common sayings source (usually designated as Q).

Even a brief account of these logia reveals that Gunther employed some very traditional

and common sayings in Thomas in order to illuminate the specific, Edessan, origin of this
gospel.4 Suffice it to say that if we would apply such a methodological procedure to our

synoptic gospels, we would easily be able to "prove" that all these texts, and not only the

Gospel of Thomas, had originated in Edessa. What's good for the goose, is good for the

gander! In other words, it is hardly possible for a man to mount two horses not only in

Edessa, but in any other part of the world, including Mongolia!

In his own introduction to the Gospel According to Thomas, Bentley Layton


examines the literary background of this document and concludes that the place of its

composition "may be Edessa in northern Mesopotamia (see map 6), or another city of the

same region..."5 In order to strengthen this presupposition, Layton refers to the

3 J. J. Gunther, "The Meaning and Origin of the Name 'Judas Thomas'," Muséon 93 (1980): 121, n. 42.
4 The only exceptions to this are the already mentioned logia 29, 85 and 110 which, according to our list on
pp. 35-8, pertain to the special Thomasine material. However, their symbolical content does not provide any
idiosyncratic clue that could possibly refer to the presupposed Edessan milieu of the Gospel of Thomas.
5 Layton, 1987: 377.

47
"Historical Introduction" of his book in which he has enumerated several scholarly

arguments supporting the Edessan or northern Mesopotamian provenance of the "school

of St. Thomas." These arguments run as follows:

1. Mesopotamia is part of the geographical area traditionally associated with the


wanderings of the saint, especially according to the Acts of Thomas. The young
prince who is protagonist in HPrl [The Hymn of the Pearl] sets out from this
general region.
2. The Acts of Thomas (including HPrl, which forms a part of it) was transmitted
in the Syriac language as well as Greek; for technical reasons most specialists
hold that Syriac must have been the original language of its composition.
3. At least by the end of the fourth century, the church of Edessa possessed as a
relic the bones of St. Thomas; they were seen there by Egeria, a Christian lady
from France or Spain, on April 19, 384, and mentioned in her travel diary, which
survives to this day.
4. The ethos of the texts suggests a region where a Syrian form of Christianity was
present, and certain details such as references to wandering ascetics anticipate the
character of monastic life that was peculiarly Syrian and Mesopotamian in
following centuries.
5. The model of twinship between a divine being and a wandering missionary,
which is found in Thomas scripture, profoundly influenced the founder of the
Manichaean world religion, who lived in Mesopotamia in the third century A. D.
From external sources, Manichaeans are known to have read GTh [The Gospel of
Thomas] as part of their scripture.6

Let me just briefly examine the character of these arguments with respect to the

question of the origin of the Gospel of Thomas.

The first argument is designed to persuade the reader that - since the content of the

Acts of Thomas, the work which contains a few parallels with the Gospel of Thomas,

points to Mesopotamia as the place of origin of its literary hero - the provenance of any

other work ascribed to the same apostle (including the Gospel of Thomas) should indicate

the same provenance.

The major intent of argument no. 2 may perhaps be formulated as follows: the fact

that the Acts of Thomas was transmitted in Syriac as well as Greek (Syriac being the

6 Ibid., 361.

48
original language of this document) should lead one to assume the existence of a Syriac

Vorlage for the Gospel of Thomas.7

According to argument no. 3, we should suppose that the fourth-century testimony

about the existence of St. Thomas' relics in Edessa (the testimony preserved in a travel

diary of a Christian lady from France or Spain) may also indicate the probable place of

origin of the first- or second-century "gospel" ascribed to this legendary apostle.

Argument no. 4, referring to the textual evidence provided by the "Thomasine"

writings, deals with the peculiar ethos of the wandering ascetics. However, this

characteristic alone could point not only to Syria, but in any other direction in which one

may witness the spread of the earliest Christian missions, including Asia Minor, Egypt or

Western Syria as well. In any case, the acceptance of Thomas' Jewish-Christian ascetic

origin does not tell much about its assumed Syrian roots.

With respect to the last argument, the possible use of the Gospel of Thomas by the

Manichaeans in the third century does not necessarily indicate the provenance of the

Gospel of Thomas, because the Manichaeans could have used our document in Egypt as

well as in Syria. Finally, the model of the divine "twinship" influenced not only the father

of the Manichaean religion, but some earlier Gnostics such as Carpocrates as well.8

It is strange that some advocates of the Syrian, Edessan, provenance of the Gospel

of Thomas argue that the supposed use of this gospel by the Manichaeans "strongly

supports a Syrian origin" of Thomas.9 First of all, it is not clear, either in Cyril's

attestation (ca. 348 C.E.)10 or in the testimonia of later authors (which are presumably

based upon Cyril's Catechesis), that it was our gospel, and not the Infancy Gospel of

Thomas, that was used by the Manichaeans. Cyril's claim that this gospel "destroys the

souls of the simpler folk" (Catechesis 4.36) may, in my opinion, be more aptly applied to

7 Ibid., 361 and 377.


8 According to Epiphanius of Salamis, Carpocrates, "a native of Asia," maintained that "if one does the
sorts of things that Jesus did, he is like Jesus" (Panarion II 27, 2).
9 Cf. Klijn, 1972: 77.
10 Cf. ch. I, n. 2-3.

49
the infancy narratives about Jesus and his portrayal as an enfant terrible. But even if the

Manichaeans used and accepted our gospel, as Layton and Klijn maintain, they could

have used it in Egypt as well as in Syria, where their missions were already active in the

middle of the third century. Finally, it is logically impossible, as Cyril tended to believe,

that they "wrote" (egrapsan) our collection of sayings, because the Greek version of

Thomas is dated in the second century (ca. 140 C.E.), and Mani, the very founder of this

religious movement, was not born before 216!

Generally speaking, what most of these five arguments have in common is the

conviction that, if the so-called "school of St. Thomas" could be attested in Edessa, Syria,

all the other documents ascribed to this apostle may be expected to point to this same

geographic region. In the next section I am going to argue that even if the existence of

such a "school" in Edessa could be corroborated historically, this circumstance alone

would not necessarily confirm the Edessan, Mesopotamian or eastern Syrian provenance

of the Gospel of Thomas.

Contrary to the views of the aforementioned scholars, there are, of course, authors

who maintain that this document was not only found in Egypt, but written in this

geographic area as well.11 Nevertheless, the adherents of the two "rival" hypotheses

concerning the origins of the Gospel of Thomas have not shown much interest in to

examine carefully each others' positions. An exception to this case is Barbara Ehlers'

article entitled "Kann das Thomasevangelium aus Edessa stammen?" in which she very

reasonably objects to the supporters of the "Syrian" circle. Some of her arguments will be

discussed later on in this section. Unfortunately, Ehlers does not propose any alternative

to the view that has been scrutinized in her article.

11 Cf., for example, Grenfell and Hunt, Logia Iêsou: Sayings of Our Lord, London: Frowde, 1897: 16;
Piper, 23; Kendrick Grobel, "How Gnostic is the Gospel of Thomas?" NTS 8 (1961/62): 373; R. McL.
Wilson, "Thomas and the Synoptic Gospels," ExpTim 72 (1960): 39; L. Cerfaux and G. Garitte, "Les
paraboles du royaume dans l'Evangile de Thomas," Muséon 70 (1957): 319.

50
As far as the less numerous advocates of the idea of Thomas' Egyptian roots are

concerned, we may contend that they are not particularly inclined to support their theses

in any systematic manner. Moreover, most of them belong to the academic group which

favors the view of Thomas' Gnostic character as well as its dependence upon the synoptic

gospels. One of the reasons for such a scholarly assessment of the logia in Thomas is to

be sought in these authors' rejection of the possibility that the sayings could have been

directly transmitted from Palestine to Egypt. It seems that even W. H. C. Frend, a scholar

who strongly believed in the early Jewish-Christian origins of Egyptian Christianity,

championed the Syrian provenance of our gospel.12

Now, after these preliminary considerations, we should examine the two rival

hypotheses concerning the origin and milieu of the Gospel of Thomas in greater detail.

First I will summarize and dispute the most frequent arguments of the advocates of the

Syrian origin of Thomas.

A vast majority of scholars who argue for the Syrian background of this document

support their views by the following types of arguments:

1) The Argument from the Name: The work Gospel of Thomas is ascribed to

Didymus Judas Thomas; therefore, it pertains to the broader corpus of the Thomasine

literature, including the Acts of Thomas as well as the Book of Thomas the Contender.

And since this "Thomas-school" as well as the peculiar name of the apostle (Didymus)

Judas Thomas have traditionally been associated with eastern Syria and Edessa, the

Gospel of Thomas itself must have originated in that area.

2) The Argument from the Parallels: The fact that the Gospel of Thomas has many

parallels in the works of the Syrian Christian literature represents a strong indication of its

assumed eastern Syrian provenance.

12 W. H. C. Frend, Town and Countryside in the Early Christian Centuries, London: Variorum Reprints,
1980: III, 18ff.

51
3) The Linguistic Argument: A number of Semitisms (Aramaisms) that may be

recognized even behind the Coptic version of the Gospel of Thomas point to an Aramaic-

speaking environment, such as the eastern Syria or, more specifically, Edessa.

Due to their cumulative value, these arguments have prompted many scholars to

contend that the Gospel of Thomas was written in eastern Syria. In the forthcoming

sections I will, therefore, examine these suppositions in greater detail. The principal goal

of such a scrutiny will be to show that the arguments in question are founded on some

very disputable, if not spurious, assumptions.

1. Who is 'Judas Thomas'?

Thus far we have referred only to a more general form of the argument claiming

the Syrian background of the Gospel of Thomas on the basis of the common Thomasine

tradition or "Thomas' School" which might perhaps be located in Edessa. As we have

already pointed out, this basic idea has determined the course of Layton's conclusions

regarding the origin of this gospel. In the growing corpus of literature on the Gospel of

Thomas one encounters, however, a few other, very distinctive, variations of the argument

from the name.

Henri-Charles Puech is, for example, one of the first scholars to have emphasized

the importance of the apostle's triple designation as a plausible clue to Thomas'

provenance.13 Puech has assumed that the pleonastic and very peculiar form of the name

Didymos Judas Thomas, appearing in the incipit of the Coptic version of our gospel, may

be indicative of an eastern Syrian environment. Namely, Didymos is the Greek translation

of the Aramaic Thomas, meaning "the twin." And although Thomas Didymus is a familiar

figure in the Western tradition, the addition of the third, peculiar, name Judas to this

double epithet, may indicate the Eastern provenance of our gospel. Moreover, such a

13 Cf. Puech, 286ff.

52
triple designation occurs again in the Acts of Thomas, a Syrian work from the third-

century C.E. The cumulative weight of these facts led Henry-Charles Puech to assume,

almost four decades ago, that this document originated in Syria. This argument has

further been supported in the works of some other scholars.

In his most recent book Ancient Christian Gospels (1991), Helmut Koester argues

again (on the basis of Thomas' triple name as well as the significance of this apostle for

the Eastern Church) "for an east-Syrian origin of the Gospel of Thomas."14 Moreover, A.

F. J. Klijn, Tai Akagi and J. J. Gunther have provided three interesting variations of this

basic argument. Because of their more developed outlines, these three arguments deserve

our greater attention.

In several of his articles,15 Klijn refers to the evolution of the apostle's name from

Judas (appearing as a single name in the oldest Syriac version of the Acts of Thomas); via

Judas "the twin" (appearing in the Greek text of the Acts as Ioudas ho kaì Thômas,

whereby "thomas" should be understood only as the epithet 'twin'); to Didymus Judas

Thomas (an idiosyncratic triple name encountered both in the Acts of Thomas and the

gospel under his name). In his 1972 response to Barbara Ehlers, Klijn concludes that the

later two additions of the proper name Judas (i.e. 'Thomas' as well as 'Thomas Didymus')

reflect the influence of the canonical gospels, and the Gospel of John in particular. In any

case, contends Klijn, "we may be sure that the word 'Thomas' originated within an

Aramaic speaking environment."16

Relying on some of Klijn's early investigations, Tai Akagi17 explains the

composite structure of the apostle's name as a result of the fusion of the two traditions

("Eastern" and "Western") which reflect the literary transmission and development of the

Gospel of Thomas from its Syrian birthplace to the original provenance of the Coptic

14 Koester 1991: 78-80. Cf. also his Gnomai Diaphoroi in Robinson and Koester, 134-5.
15 Cf., for example, Klijn 1972, 1961 or "John XIV 22 and the Name Judas Thomas," in Studies in John,
Leiden: Brill, 1970: 88-96.
16 Klijn 1972: 76.
17 Akagi, 50-68.

53
manuscript. In line with Klijn's treatment of Thomas' name, Akagi argues, first, that

"because the Acts of Thomas are believed to have been composed in Edessa sometime

during the first half of the third century, it is to be inferred that these developments in

Thomas' name and capacity [i.e. as the "twin" and the apostle, partaker in the divine

mysteries] most uniquely have belonged to the Syrian Christian tradition, particularly as it

was developed in Edessa and its vicinity."18

According to Akagi, the two distinctive traditions, echoed in the two variants of

the apostle's name (i.e. the Johannine 'Thomas Didymos' and the Syrian 'Judas Thomas')

independently reached Alexandria and "finally became transformed into a new name,

'Didymos Judas Thomas'."19 Hence this triple designation should be understood as an

'artificial product', an outcome of "mixing up the two distinct early Christian traditions

concerning Thomas..."20

Finally, J. J. Gunther explains such a triple designation as a result of confusion of

the two different names - Judas Thaddaeus, the "brother of Jesus and apostle of Syria and

Didymus Thomas, "the alleged spiritual twin of the Lord and apostle of Parthia."21

Gunther, furthermore, supposes that "in the second quarter of the second century, the

portraits of the apostles of east and west Parthia were successively blurred, merged and

gnosticized as 'Judas Thomas, twin brother of Jesus.'"22

It is interesting that Akagi himself anticipates that some similar amalgamation of

the two names could have occurred in Syria as well as Alexandria: "Thus it appears that

the Acts of Thomas probably took a course of literary development similar to that of the

Gospel of Thomas, in the way of assuming the unusual triple name, 'Didymus Judas

Thomas.'"23

18 Ibid., 53.
19 Ibid., 67.
20 Ibid., 68.
21 Gunther, 113.
22 Ibid., 147.
23 Akagi, 68.

54
It is apparent, I think, that the scholars who argue for the eastern Syrian

provenance of the Gospel of Thomas have made various attempts to relate our document

closely to the traditional milieu of the Thomasine "school," and, furthermore, to

determine the identity of the mysterious apostle Didymus Judas Thomas.

I agree with these scholars insofar as they maintain that Judas was the original,

proper, name of the disciple in Syria, whereas Thomas represents only an epithet,

meaning "the twin."24 I also admit that the peculiar designation 'Didymus Judas Thomas'

should be understood as the product of a subsequent conflation of two independent

names. However, these various forms of the argument which are meant to support the

Syrian origin of Thomas by referring to the peculiar name of this apostle are very often

built upon some problematic presumptions. In fact, the argument itself may be questioned

from several different angles.

(1) Even if the existence of the so-called Thomas'-tradition (or "school") in Syria

is historically confirmed, the ascription of our text to this apostle does not tell much about

its assumed provenance. Several early Christian writings were attributed to bishop

Clement, but it is well known that they were not written in the same location; they do not

pertain to any common "Clementine tradition" either. Furthermore, the relationship of the

Gospel of Thomas and the Book of Thomas the Contender on the one hand, and the Acts

of Thomas on the other, reminds us, in terms of their different forms and contents, of the

relationship of the First and Second Clement to the Pseudo-Clementines. More precisely,

the Acts of Thomas and the Pseudo-Clementines are, in all likelihood, both written in

Syria, and belong to the same genre of "romance," whereas the literary format of the other

pair of the "Thomasine" and "Clementine" writings is different, and their provenance is

not so easy to attest.

24 Besides the already discussed works, cf. Fitzmyer, 369 or Judah Segal, Edessa: The Blessed City,
Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1970: 65-66.

55
Against Klijn's proposal,25 I would like to state that it is methodologically

illegitimate to derive the Syrian roots of the work Gospel of Thomas from the fact that

the name 'Thomas' originated in the Aramaic speaking environment. If this principle had

any methodological importance, we would easily be able to locate the provenance of the

Coptic Gospel of Bartholomew somewhere in Palestine because the name of this apostle

originated from that linguistic area. Moreover, the 'Aramaic-speaking environment' is a

linguistic milieu that is not exclusively limited to the city of Edessa and its vicinity, but

may include many places in Palestine as well.

(2) The triple name 'Didymus Judas Thomas' does not appear in the Greek incipit

of our gospel, that is, in an older version of this document. If the Gospel of Thomas was

first translated from Syriac to Greek, and then to Coptic (as some supporters of the Syrian

hypothesis presume), it is very unusual indeed that the redundant, Syriac, version of the

apostle's name did not appear already in that first transmission or translation. Let us not

forget, first, that the only extant manuscript whose prologue reads 'Didymus Judas

Thomas' is the Coptic version of this gospel itself. And the Coptic Thomas is dated in the

fourth or fifth century.26 Even the Greek copy (P. Oxy. 654), which may not be dated

earlier than the mid-third century,27 contains only K[……………..] KAI ΘΩMA, leaving

a perplexing lacuna of approximately seventeen letters.28 Thanks to the Nag Hammadi

25 Klijn 1972: 76.


26 Cf. Guillaumont et al., vi.
27 Cf. Grenfell and Hunt 1904: 1 or Attridge, 97.
28 Cf. Charles Taylor, The Oxyrhynchus Sayings of Jesus, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1905: 3. My own
review of the facsimile of the P. Oxy. 654 (cf. Grenfell and Hunt, The Oxyrhynchus Papyri, Pt. 4, Plate 1,
London: The Egyptian Exploration Fund, 1904) confirms such an estimate. At the point where the papyrus
is broken off, the K of the second line (654.2) is placed right beneath the I of the first line (654.1). And
although the restored half of the first line would comprise 15 letters, whereas the second, according to my
reading, would have seventeen, we should take into account that the restored half of 654.1 begins with the
space between OI and AΠOKPYΦOI In the second line, however, the first A of the restored text (in KAI is
attached directly to the K of the extant fragment which allows for one more letter in the second line.
Furthermore, the restored part of 654.1 contains three letters (i.e. Π, Κ, Λ) which, in view of the rest of the
manuscript, exceed the average breadth. None of these letters should appear in the restored half of the
second line, where we expect the letters of the average size. Finally, it is important to notice that 654.1, as a
whole, already contains 31 letters and 7 spaces between the words. According to my adjustment of 654.2
(with ΔIΔYMOΣ instead of IOYΔA<Σ>), we would have 30 letters and 7 spaces altogether! At this point I,
therefore, disagree with Marcovich (1969: 53) who contends that "there is no space for ΔIΔYMOΣ in O

56
version, we are now able to restore at least the first two words of the missing Greek text

of this prologue, i.e. K[AI EΓPAΨEN……..] KAI ΘΩMA. The problem, however occurs

when one attempts, on the basis of the available Coptic text, to reconstruct the rest of the

lacuna. The name ΘΩMA<Σ> may be supplemented by only one additional designation

and thus we are left with the two possibilities:

1) K[AI EΓPAΨEN IOYΔA<Σ>] KAI ΘΩMA;29

2) K[AI EΓPAΨEN ΔIΔYMOΣ O] KAI ΘΩMA.

Although most of the scholars tend to align themselves with Lake's reading of the

P. Oxy. 654.2,30 it is apparent that the missing half of 654.2 allows for the second

alternative as well. It is interesting that R. McL. Wilson included […ΔIΔYMO TO] KAI

ΘΩMA (in dative), instead of […IOYΔA O] KAI ΘΩMA as a variant reading of the

same line.31

To sum up. If 'Didymus Thomas', and not 'Judas Thomas', is the person introduced

in the Greek incipit of our gospel, the entire "argument from the name" automatically

loses its relevance, because (Didymus) Thomas is the apostle's name common in the

"western" tradition (canonical gospels, Acts, Diatessaron) and, as such, does not indicate

any specific geographic location in the ancient Christian world.32

(3) As Klijn, Akagi and others rightly maintain, the triple designation 'Didymus

Judas Thomas' represents, indeed, the secondary modification of the name of the apostle

who, according to the synoptic tradition, is known to us only as Thomas. Now, instead of

supposing that Thomas' proper name was Judas, while 'Thomas' represents only his

second(ary) name-epithet, why do not we admit that Judas, and not Thomas, may be a

subsequent addition in this context? Accordingly, it is reasonable to assume that 'Thomas'

[i.e. in the Oxyrhynchus Thomas]." Our proposed reading ...AI EΓPAΨEN ΔIΔYMOΣ O... adds up to no
more than seventeen letters.
29 Cf. Marcovich, 53; Fitzmyer, 369-70; Attridge, 113.
30 Kirsopp Lake, "The New Sayings of Jesus and the Synoptic Problem," HibJ 3 (1904-5): 339.
31 R. McL. Wilson, "The Coptic 'Gospel of Thomas'," NTS 5 (1959): 275.
32 I will return to this problem later on in this section.

57
(even as the name-epithet) is the original Aramaic name of the apostle, whereas 'Judas' is

the secondary addendum, coming up as a result of the later confusion of the apostle

whose original name accidentally meant "the twin," and the traditional (historical) brother

of Jesus with the name Judas.33

In any case, we do not know with absolute certainty that 'Judas Thomas' or 'Judas

Thomas Didymus' was the name of the alleged compiler of the Gospel of Thomas in the

original version of this document whose terminus a quo may perhaps be put in the first

century C.E. On the other hand, works such as the Acts of Thomas as well as the Coptic

version of our Thomas and the Book of Thomas the Contender (where 'Judas' and

'Thomas Didymus' appear as a joint name) may not have been written before the third

century. And in all the extant attestations our work is known only as the "Gospel

according to Thomas."

(4) Unlike the Acts of Thomas, Thomas is not the major character of this

composition. Beside the two, already mentioned, instances in which his name passively

indicates the pseudepigraphic character of this collection of sayings, we encounter only

one logion (log. 13) in which Thomas is mentioned at all. But even this logion is

problematic, in a certain sense, because it raises the question of the double authority of

Jesus' followers. In log. 12, for example, James the Righteous is the only legitimate

bearer of the tradition, while in the very next logion (log. 13) Thomas appears as the

recipient of Jesus' secret words. Instances like these may sometimes suggest the

possibility of a later interpolation of a "secondary" tradition. It is striking indeed that the

document from the same Nag Hammadi Codex (The Book of Thomas the Contender, II,

7), bearing the name of the apostle Judas Thomas, had, in all likelihood, been composed

by a secondary addition of the "Thomas material" to the collection of 'secret sayings'

(schaje ethêp) originally compiled by a certain Mathaias.34

33 Against Koester's argumantation in Robinson and Koester, 134ff.


34 Cf. John Turner, The Book of Thomas the Contender, University of Montana: Scholars Press, 1975:
108ff. On the parallels between the Gospel of Thomas and Thomas the Contender cf. pp. 84ff.

58
Thus far we have raised several objections to the views of some scholars who

argue, either on the basis of the apostle's peculiar name or his traditional association with

Edessa, for the eastern Syrian origin of the Gospel of Thomas. However, despite these

objections, there remains the fact that the most complete, Coptic version of Thomas

(probably from the fourth century) still introduces the apostle called Didymus Judas

Thomas. It would be helpful, therefore, to inquire into the identity of this mysterious

person and possibly determine the relationship between Didymus Thomas and some other

figures of the early apostolic tradition with the proper name Judas.

Who is, then, Didymus Judas Thomas? The biblical traditions distinguish at least

a dozen characters with the name Judas,35 but only three of them are relevant in the

present context. For, according to the gospel tradition, these three figures were the

disciples or relatives of Jesus. Since the "Thomasine tradition" - recorded in the works

such as the Acts of Thomas, Book of Thomas the Contender or the Gospel of Thomas -

acknowledges Judas Thomas as the disciple as well as the relative ("brother", "twin

brother") of the Lord,36 it would be worthwhile to examine his association with the three

Judases of the canonical gospels.

First of all, we realize that the gospel tradition clearly distinguishes Judas Iscariot

both from the apostle Thomas and the other two Judases who might be considered the

relatives of Jesus.37 Thus it is not difficult to "eliminate" this person first as a possible

recipient of Jesus' secret words recorded in the Gospel of Thomas. His second name

Iskariôth (Mk 3:19; Lk 6:16) or ho Iskariôtês (Mt 10:4; Jn 14:22) is already a differentia

specifica which apparently separates this apostle from the other disciples of Jesus with

the same first name. Moreover, there are at least two other disciples (i.e. Thomas and

35 Cf., for example, Paul Achtemeier, ed., Harper's Bible Dictionary, San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985:
513-14.
36 Cf. Acts of Thomas 39:12-15; Book of Thomas the Contender 138:5ff; Gospel of Thomas, incipit, log.
13.
37 Mt 10:3-4; Mk 3:18-19; 6:3; Lk 6:15-16; Jn 11:16; 14:22.

59
Judas, the brother of Jesus) who, in contrast to Iscariot, may have been identified in the

post-canonical literature as the "twins of the Lord."38

The difficulties, however, arise when one tries to determine the relationship of the

apostle Thomas, who in the New Testament gospels is never called Judas, and the other

two followers of Christ with the proper name Judas; one of them is identified as his

brother, and the other as one of the Twelve. Let me, therefore, pay more attention to the

lists of the disciples of Jesus as they are recorded in the New Testament gospels and some

other early Christian documents.

It should be noted, first, that Luke is the only New Testament evangelist who

clearly differentiates Thomas (6:15) from Judas, the son of James (6:16). On the other

hand, both Matthew and Mark mention in their lists, instead of Ioudas Iakôbou, the

disciple called Thaddaeus (Mt 10:3 and Mk 3:18). This has led many scholars to assume

that Thaddaeus and Judas, the son of James, are, in fact, one and the same person.

Whatever be the case, they are both unambiguously distinguished from the apostle

Thomas.

Such a distinction is not completely evident from Jn 14:22, which reads Ioudas,

ouch ho Iskariôtês. We are only informed that the Judas in question is not to be identified

with Iskariot. This sentence from John is especially important, because Thomas is also

mentioned in the same section (14:5), and the only other interlocutor of Jesus who

appears in chapter 14 is Philip.

Regarding Thomas' relation to this 'Judas not Iscariot', we may suggest the

following alternative: Judas of Jn 14:22 is either an entirely different person from

Thomas (and thus may probably be identified with Ioudas Iakôbou, or Thaddaios) or

John is the only New Testament evangelist who refers to Thomas under the proper name

Judas. And it is reasonable to assume that the synoptists - who do not ascribe any

38 Thomas is, of course, marked by his own name-epithet, whereas Judas or Jude (Iouda) from Mk 6:3 and
Mt 13:55 is identified as one of the four brothers of Jesus (besides James, Joses or Joseph, and Simon).

60
prominent role to Thomas, and mention him only as one of the twelve - had to distinguish

this apostle from the other two Judases (i.e. the Iscariot as well as Judas, son of James).39

On the other hand, it is possible that John, who mentions Thomas on several other

occasions (e.g. 11:16; 14:5; 20:24; 21:2), regarded it as appropriate to introduce him at

least once (i.e. in 14:22) under his proper name. But why would the author of John

choose, at this point, "Judas, not Iscariot" as Thomas' differentia specifica, if otherwise he

designates this disciple with an additional, pleonastic, nickname Didymos? Or why would

not he simply pick Judas Thomas, instead of an unusual negative designation Ioúdas ouch

ho Iskariótes? Since Thomas is already clearly distinguished, by his own name epithet

"the twin", from the other disciples, it seems more likely that John employed this negative

designation in order to discern another disciple with the proper name Judas from Ioúdas

ho Iskariótes.40 We may, therefore, infer that all four canonical gospels unanimously

distinguish this second Judas (Thaddaeus or Jacobi) from our apostle Thomas.

The evidence furnished by the Acts of the Apostles and the Diatessaron once again

corroborates this assumption. In Acts 1:13 Thomas is introduced as a disciple different

from Ioúdas Iakóbou; the same distinction is made in the list of the Twelve encountered

in the Diatessaron (8:20-23).41

Finally, the Abgar legend, as it is recorded in Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History

(1.13.16ff.), mentions "Judas, also known as Thomas" as the successor of Jesus who

sends the apostle Thaddaeus, one of the seventy, to king Abgar's court. In any case,

39 In contrast to Luke, who makes this distinction clear by distinguishing Thomas, Judas Iscariot and Judas-
the son of James, Matthew and Mark found necessary to introduce that third Judas as Thaddaeus, and thus
eliminate any reason for his confusion with Iscariot or, perhaps, Thomas.
40 We may agree with Klijn (1970: 89) that in "the Johannine tradition the word 'thomas' was used as an
epithet and not as a proper name," but this does not mean that 'Judas' in Jn 14:22 should be understood as
Thomas' proper name. We just do not know if John himself knew the apostle, whose traditional epithet was
thomas, under the proper name Judas or any other proper name. This is certainly not evident from the Greek
Jn 14:22. All that we know is that the Old Syriac redactors identified this "Judas not Iscariot" with Thomas
(Sinaitic Syriac) or Judas Thomas (Curetonian Syriac). Cf. Gunther, 125 and Klijn 1970: 88ff.
41 Hamlyn Hill, ed., The Earliest Life of Christ (The Diatessaron of Tatian), Edinburgh: T & T Clark,
1894.

61
Eusebius preserves yet another tradition in which (Judas) Thomas and Judas Thaddaeus

appear as the two different persons.

At some point in the history of the early Christian tradition, this Judas Thaddaeus

(or Judas, the son of James) began to be identified with the apostle Thomas of the

canonical gospels. Moreover, a twofold identification occurred whereby Judas, the son of

James, was blended with Judas (or Jude), the brother of James, the brother of Jesus.

Let us now take a closer look at the documents which contributed to the confusion

of these names.

It is important to notice, first, that the advocates of the "Syrian hypothesis"

regarding the origin of the Gospel of Thomas tend, as a rule, to utilize this confusion in

order to support Thomas' Edessan provenance. Some of these scholars believe, in fact,

that such a secondary modification of the apostle's name occurred as the outcome of a

subsequent blending of the "western" tradition concerning the apostle Thomas Didymus

and the "eastern," Syrian, tradition regarding Judas Thaddaeus, the son or brother of

James.42 Ultimately, such a process resulted in the formation of 'Judas Thomas' or

'Didymus Judas Thomas', a character appearing in the Syrian works such as the Acts of

Thomas or the other two writings commonly ascribed to the same, Thomasine tradition

(i.e. the Coptic Gospel of Thomas and the Coptic Book of Thomas the Contender). Since

the Doctrine of Addai associates Judas Thomas with Edessa, and since at least the Acts of

Thomas (another work which bears witness to the conflation of two names) derive from

the eastern Syrian milieu, these scholars conclude that the other two Thomasine works,

including our Gospel of Thomas, should have originated in the same area.

We have already raised several objections to this line of reasoning. However, none

of these objections addressed the character of the tradition which associates Judas

Thomas or Judas Thaddaeus with eastern Syria. Now I would like to address this issue in

42 Cf., for example, Akagi, 67-8 or Puech, 286. Gunther, on the other hand, describes this process as a
merging of the "portraits of the apostles of east and west Parthia" which took place in the second quarter of
the second century (147).

62
more specific terms, and explain why I believe that this confusion regarding the name

does not necessarily imply the Syrian provenance of our document.

It is important to notice, first, that the crucial literary witnesses that relate the

apostle Thomas to the origins of the Edessan Christianity are to be found in two legends,

both unknown before the third century C.E. Besides the already mentioned romance

recorded in the Acts of Thomas, scholars who argue for the Syrian origin of the Gospel of

Thomas are particularly fond of using the so-called Doctrina Addai, the work which Han

Drijvers aptly describes as "a piece of historical fiction that was completely unknown

before the time of Eusebius."43 Admittedly, this legend represents a third-century anti-

Manichaean polemic designed to emphasize the pre-eminence of Jesus' direct followers

to Mani, the so-called 'apostle of Jesus Christ.' At any rate, Doctrina Addai itself, as

Barbara Ehlers has pointed out, is imbued by "a strong anti-Jewish tendency,"44 and,

therefore, brings even more confusion into the debate regarding the Jewish-Christian

origins of Christianity in Edessa.

Nevertheless, the "Teaching of Addai" is relevant for our present discussion

because, according to Eusebius' account, it associates the apostle Judas Thomas with

Thaddaeus, his envoy to the court of king Abgar. As we have already remarked, Eusebius

nowhere identifies these two persons. Unlike Judas, son of James, or Thaddaeus of the

synoptic gospels, this Thaddaeus is not even a member of the Twelve.45 Most

importantly, however, he is the product of Eusebius' own editing. Namely, the original

Doctrina Addai does not know of any Thaddaeus, but only of Addai (or Adda) - most

likely, the Manichaean missionary "who was active in the Syrian-Mesopotamian area in

43 Drijvers, 160.
44 Ehlers, 309.
45 Eusebius of Caesarea, The Ecclesiastical History (1.13.4, 11), Vol. 1, Cambridge: Harvard University
Press, 1953.

63
the years 261-62 and earlier."46 As Drijvers correctly observes, "Thaddaeus" is not even

the appropriate Greek transliteration of the Semitic Adda(i).47

Consequently, this whole legend does not represent a reliable witness either with

regard to the origins of Edessan Christianity48 or to the possible identification of the

apostle Thomas with James' son Judas (Thaddaeus).

It is, therefore, rather unusual that the advocates of the "Syrian" Thomas

(including Drijvers) employ this story in order to strengthen their case. In order to

accomodate information provided by these third-century legends with the Gospel of

Thomas, Drijvers, for example, opts for 200 C.E. as a 'plausible' date of composition of

our document.49 Let us recall at this point that the date proposed by Drijvers is already a

terminus ad quem for one of the Oxyrhynchus manuscripts of Thomas. Moreover,

Hippolytus of Rome bears witness to the use of this gospel by the Naassenes of Phrygia at

least before the beginning of the third century (and probably much earlier).50

In contrast to these spurious, but, obviously, very popular, legends concerning the

origins of Syrian Christianity, we would perhaps be better off if we would employ some

other sources of information which directly refer to the missionary activity of the apostle

Judas Thaddaeus. This information is preserved in various redactions of the Acts of Judas

Thaddaeus.51

According to Amrus, "Judas, the brother of James, with the surname Lebbaeus

and Thaddaeus, had preached the Gospel in Antartosa (Antarados) and Laodicea, and then

46 Drijvers, 161.
47 Ibid., 160.
48 In this respect, Walter Bauer's assessment of the Doctrina Addai is still sound in its own right (cf. his
Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1971).
49 Drijvers, 173.
50 His Refutatio is, namely, written between 222 and 235 C.E. and we should certainly allow some
reasonable period of time between the date of the original composition of Thomas and Hippolytus'
knowledge about the Naassene use of this document. For a more precise dating of Hippolytus' Naassene
source, cf. n. 184.
51 Cf. Richard Lipsius, Die Apokryphen Apostelgeschichten und Apostellegenden, Vol. 2.2, Braunschweig:
Schwetschke und Sohn, 1884: 154ff.

64
went to Thodmora (Palmyra) and Raka (Kallinikos), Kirkesion (Karkemish), Theman

and, accompanying Thomas, to India."52 After staying for some time in India, he

returned, and died at Berytus.53

Some other sources (such as the Syrian recension of Transitus Mariae) also

connect Thaddaeus with Laodicea,54 whereas in Horreum Mysteriorum we find that his

other name was Judas, son of James, that he preached at Laodicea and was buried at

Aradus.55

Finally, in the Sahidic Coptic fragment of the Acts of Thaddaeus,56 this apostle is

identified with Judas, brother of Jesus. The Coptic tradition, including the Ethiopic text

of Certamen apostolorum,57 associates Thaddaeus with Syria, Dacia and Mesopotamia.

In the light of this literary evidence which goes beyond the data supplied by the

Doctrina Addai and the Acts of Thomas, one could certainly argue for Judas Thaddaeus'

genuine connection with Laodicea or some other place in Asia Minor, Parthia or Syria.

A plethora of toponyms associated with the missionary activity of Judas, the son

or brother of James might provoke some other interesting hypotheses concerning his

relationship with the apostle Thomas. Unfortunately, as in the case of the Abgar legend,

we may hardly, just on the basis of these sources, prove or disprove the origin and milieu

of the Gospel of Thomas. The most I could suggest in this respect is that the apostle Judas

Thaddaeus, one of the twelve, is recognized in all these various traditions as a close

relative of James (i.e. his son or brother) and, therefore, of Jesus himself. He could easily

be perceived as the bearer of the James-tradition which, admittedly, displayed strong

Jewish-Christian proclivities. At some point in the history of the early Christian tradition,

the name of Judas, the son or brother of James, was conflated with Thomas. If Didymus

52 Lipsius, 155-6.
53 Ibid.
54 Ibid., 155, n. 3.
55 Ibid., 156.
56 Ibid., 176.
57 Ibid.

65
Judas Thomas from the incipit of the Coptic Gospel of Thomas58 represents an authentic

designation, and not a subsequent addition of the proper name Judas to the Aramaic

name-epithet "the Twin," such a designation could indeed serve as an idiosyncratic

emblem of the tradition which claimed the secret sayings of Jesus as their own. But such

a tradition would primarily lead to James, the brother of Jesus, and, consequently, to

Jesus himself. In the case of the Gospel of Thomas, the prominence of the James tradition

could additionally be confirmed by log. 12; and even more importantly, Thomas from log.

13 (this time recognized as Judas Thomas) would support the tradition preserved by

James and reflected in the collection of logia which bears Thomas' name. But at the same

time we should bear in mind that eastern Syria is only one, however relevant, locale in the

ancient Christian world where this James-Thomas tradition could have developed its

roots.59

I will end this part of our discussion with the following negative conclusions:

1. The document whose origin and transmission is being examined in this

dissertation has traditionally been ascribed to the apostle Thomas, and all the extant

testimonia refer to that document as the "Gospel according to Thomas." If the work itself

had originally been ascribed to Didymus Thomas, and not to Judas Thomas, that is, if

'Judas' from the incipit of the Coptic codex represents a subsequent addition (interpolated

perhaps during the later course of transmission of this document in Egypt), the name

Didymus Thomas itself would not provide any significant clue as to the provenance of the

original composition. For Thomas, or Didymus Thomas, is the name of the apostle known

to us from the traditional lists of the Twelve supplied by the canonical gospels and Acts

as well as the Diatessaron. In terms of the origin of the Gospel of Thomas, the mere name

Thomas does not say anything more than the names of some other disciples (such as

58 As I have already pointed out, it may still not be conclusively confirmed that the Oxyrhynchus Thomas
(654.2) reads Judas Thomas instead of Didymos Thomas.
59 As we have mentioned earlier, James occupies a prominent place in the Gospel of the Hebrews (which
probably originated in Egypt), in the Hippolytus Naassene source (which points to Asia Minor and Phrygia)
as well as the Letter of James, the epistle presumably written by a Hellenistic Christian.

66
Matthew, John or Bartholomew) tell about the provenance of the documents ascribed to

them.

2. If the Judas from the Coptic incipit does not represent a secondary addition but

a genuine part of the apostle's name from the original composition of Thomas, the

problem of the secondary conflation of the two names (i.e. Judas, the son or brother of

James and Thomas, called Didymus) becomes relevant for our discussion. Although we

do possess some evidence from the Syrian Christian context (cf. Doctrina Addai, Acts of

Thomas) as to the association, or even amalgamation, of these two names, we may

legitimately expect that such a blending of the two names as well as the two traditions

(sometimes designated as "eastern" and "western") could have also occurred somewhere

else in the early Christian world. As Tai Akagi has suggested, this could have happened

in Egypt as well as Syria. Let us not forget that at least two Coptic works (the Gospel of

Thomas and the Book of Thomas the Contender), found in Egypt, testify to the conflation

of these two names. And it still remains to be proven that these two texts were written in

Syria (and not in Egypt), as the supporters of the Syrian hypothesis would have.59a

The prominence of the James tradition in Asia Minor,60 as well as the literary

evidence about the presence of Judas Thaddaeus in Laodicea, opens up the possibility that

such a process might have taken place even in Asia Minor, in the eclectic encounter of the

Palestinian, Ephesian, Phrygian and Syrian traditions concerning this apostle.61

59a In other words, their inductive argument is based upon the following reasoning: If the two texts from
the Syrian background display one common peculiar characteristic (i.e., they refer to the apostle Thomas as
Judas Thomas), then any other text manifesting the same feature (even if composed in Egypt) should
unambiguously point to the "original," Syrian milieu. A subtle, and easily overlooked, exchange of an
inductive and deductive reasoning lurks beneath the surface of this argument.
60 Cf. Refutatio 5.7.1 and the Acts of Philip (Lipsius, 7). J. Munck, for example, maintains that "auch bei
den Heidenchristen hat Jacobus eine hohe Stellung innegehabt..."(138-9). Munck supports his claim by
referring to the New Testament Letter of James.
61 Whereby the Johannine Didymus Thomas, with his image of the "twin," could have, for example, been
conflated with Judas Thaddaeus or Judas Jacobi of the Palestinian tradition even before this "dual tradition"
was introduced to Syria.

67
At any rate, it may not be conclusively determined whether the triple name from

the Coptic incipit of the Gospel of Thomas represents the result of such a blending in

Egypt, eastern or western Syria or Asia Minor.

One may, therefore, conclude that the name of the apostle Judas Thomas does not

represent any reliable indicator concerning provenance of the Gospel of Thomas. The

problem related to his name may bring even more confusion into the already complicated

history of transmission of this document. As a more meaningful starting point of our

analysis, I will, accordingly, suggest the extant testimonia about this gospel in the works

of early Christian literature.

In regard to the present problem, all that one may infer with some degree of

certainty could perhaps be summed up in the next several points:

a) The earliest Christian tradition bears witness to a close kinship between James,

the brother of Jesus, and the apostle Judas Thaddaeus (his own son or brother).

b) At some point in early Christian history this Judas Thaddaeus began to be

identified with the apostle Thomas. Both Thomas and James appear as the bearers of the

tradition delivered in the Gospel of Thomas (log. 12 and 13).

c) The Naassenes, who "expressly deliver" their tradition about the kingdom of

heaven in the "gospel entitled according to Thomas" (Ref. 5.7.20), received that tradition

(in the form of the pollôn pany logôn) through James and a woman called Mariamne

(5.7.1).

d) The tradition recorded in the Acts of Philip connects both Mariamne, the sister

of Philip, and the Naassenes (Ophites) with the Phrygian Hierapolis.62

Aside from this last information, there are some other indications which associate

the Naassenes with Phrygia and Hierapolis. I will closely examine that evidence in the

next two chapters.

62 Cf. Montague James, ed., The Apocryphal New Testament, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1924: 448ff. or
Lipsius, 7ff.

68
2. The Question of Parallels

It is quite understandable that the adherents of the Syrian hypothesis have laid

much emphasis upon the parallels of the Gospel of Thomas with Syrian Christian

literature. Indeed, a significant number of very peculiar parallelisms have been detected in

this context.63 However, a direct dependence of Thomas on any known Syrian text (or

vice versa) has never been proven. Unlike the parallels with the Hippolytus Naassene

source (Ref. 5.6-11), the similarities between our gospel and works such as the

Diatessaron, Liber Graduum, Acts of Thomas, Pseudo-Clementines, Odes of Solomon

(or any other document which is believed to be written in Syria) are not accompanied by

an explicit reference to the Gospel according to Thomas. And parallels alone, as we

know, do not necessarily imply a direct dependence. It is, therefore, certainly no accident

that Dom Aelred Baker, an expert in Syrian Christianity who, beside Quispel, has

published the most scholarly articles on this matter, categorically rejects any direct

correlation between the Gospel of Thomas and some of the aforementioned Syriac

writings.64

At any rate, a large number of parallels to the Gospel of Thomas exist in some

other, canonical as well as non-canonical, Christian documents that were most likely

composed in Alexandria or Asia Minor. In order to determine the possible relationship of

all these documents (including the Syrian ones) with the Gospel of Thomas, we would

inevitably have to rely on some more meticulous methodological principles.

63 Cf. Gilles Quispel, Tatian and the Gospel of Thomas, Leiden: Brill, 1975b; "L'Evangile selon Thomas et
les Clementines"; "L'Evangile selon Thomas et le Diatessaron"; "The Syrian Thomas and the Syrian
Macarius"; "The Latin Tatian or the Gospel of Thomas in Limburg" (Gnostic Studies, 1975a: 17-55; 113-
21; 159-68); Aelred Baker, "Pseudo-Macarius and the Gospel of Thomas," VC 18 (1964): 215-25; Baker
1965/66; Drijvers 1982; Klijn 1961.
64 Cf. his methodologically very instructive article "Early Syriac Asceticism," DR 88 (1970): 393-409.

69
It would be impossible, of course, in the present context, to undertake a detailed

investigation of all these various parallels with the Gospel of Thomas. A more

comprehensive examination of the Naassene material, including its relevance for the

Gospel of Thomas , is the primary subject of our next chapter. In regard to the Syrian

sources we may concede that their possible relationship with our gospel has already been

thoroughly scrutinized in the works of the supporters of the Edessan provenance of

Thomas. Suffice it to say that Gilles Quispel himself has dedicated a whole book to an

inquiry into the correlations between the Thomasine logia and the sayings encountered in

various versions of the Diatessaron.65 One should remark that most of the Thomasine

parallels with some other Syrian works (such as the Liber Graduum or Aphraates) could

be explained through their mutual relationships with the common source underlying

Tatian's Diatessaron. In any case, the alleged resemblances between the Gospel of

Thomas and some later Syrian writings will be rejected in principle as a reliable clue as to

the origin of our gospel. But before I raise some of the general, methodological,

objections to such a view, let me provide a general account of the primary sources in

which one may encounter most of the parallels with the Gospel of Thomas.

I. The New Testament, primarily the synoptic gospels and the Johannine writings.

II. Tatian's Diatessaron, its use by the Syrian authors of Liber Graduum,

Aphraates as well as various other, medieval, versions of the "Life of Christ."66

III. The so-called "Jewish-Christian Gospels,"67 primarily the Gospel of the

Hebrews and the Gospel of the Egyptians.

IV. Various other works with Gnostic proclivities, such as the Book of Thomas the

Contender, Pistis Sophia, the Gospel of Philip, etc...

V. The Naassene Source, which will be separately analysed in the third chapter.

65 Cf. above, note 61.


66 Cf. Quispel's exhaustive list of the western Diatessara provided in 1975b.
67 Here I refer to Vielhauer's classification of the Jewish-Christian gospels in Hennecke-Schneemelcher I,
117ff.

70
Thomas' relationship with the synoptic as well as Jewish-Christian gospels has

already been discussed in the previous chapter. We have concluded that our document is

not dependent upon the extant redactions of Matthew, Mark or Luke. As far as the Gospel

of the Egyptians and the Gospel of the Hebrews are concerned, the unavailability of the

original documents prevents us, of course, from deriving any categorical conclusions.

However, it must be noted that except for the close verbal connection of the Thomasine

logion 2 with the Gospel of the Hebrews (Strom. 5.14.96), and the similar use of the

male/female dichotomy and baptismal symbolism in the log. 22c, 37b of Thomas and in

the Gospel of the Egyptians (Strom. 3.13.92 and 96),68 we do not possess enough explicit

evidence that could allow us to admit any direct dependence in this case. And even these

close verbal resemblances between the three non-canonical gospels are mediated by

Clement of Alexandria and do not represent clear, verbatim quotations.

Furthermore, the Gospel of Thomas is not the only document which contains these

parallels. The same saying from the Gospel of the Hebrews is reflected in the Book of

Thomas the Contender 140:41- 141:2, and the fragment from the Gospel of the Egyptians

in Strom. 3.13.96 is echoed in a well-known passage from Second Clement, 12:1-2. On

the other hand, the Naassenes employed the male-female dichotomy and the idea of

androgyny in even more distinctive manner (Ref. 5.7.15).

Finally, I would like to align myself with the discoverers of the Greek copies of

the Gospel of Thomas who, back at a time when only scattered fragments of this

document were known, simply proposed the following, very convincing, argument:

A far graver and in fact almost fatal objection, however, to regarding the
[Oxyrhynchus] Sayings as extracts culled from either the Gospel according to the
Hebrews or the Gospel according to the Egyptians is the irreconcilability of such a
view with the introduction of [the P.Oxy.] 654. It is very difficult to believe that
an editor would have boldness to issue extracts from such widely known works as
an independent collection of Sayings claiming the authority of Thomas...69

68 Cf. page 34.


69 Grenfell and Hunt 1904: 17.

71
Although this argument had originally been related to the question of the

authorship of the theretofore unknown sayings of Jesus discovered at Oxyrhynchus, it is

relevant, I think, even with regard to the problem of the possible inter-dependence of

these three gospels. Judging from the incipit as well as the title of Thomas, the

compiler(s) of this work obviously had their own sources of the tradition of Jesus'

sayings.

Before paying some closer attention to Thomas' relationship with the Syrian

documents, I would like to briefly address the "Johannine overtones" of the Gospel of

Thomas which have not been discussed in our preceding chapter.

Raymond Brown is one of the few scholars who have rather extensively dealt with

this problem.70 Brown discusses it with respect to the general problem of the Gnostic use

of John.71 His main theoretical objective is, however, to inquire into the "possible

Johannine conceptual or literary parallels" with Thomas.72 Even when John and Thomas

use the same terminology, Brown maintains, they use it "in an entirely different

theological framework."73 The Gospel of Thomas is thus considered the later work, "a

theological adaptation and reorientation of gospel ideas."74 Brown also argues for the

existence of an intermediary (be it oral or written) source that somehow connected

Thomas and John in the history of the tradition. Aware of the methodological problems

inherent to the different linguistic versions of both documents (in Greek and Coptic),

Brown confines himself to an investigation of the parallels in the Coptic translations of

the two works. Moreover, his principal criterion of selection demands that the analysis be

70 Raymond Brown, "The Gospel of Thomas and St. John's Gospel," NTS 9 (1962/63): 155-77. Cf. also
Davies, 106-16 and Koester 1990: 113-24.
71 Brown, 156.
72 Ibid., 157. Among the Johannine writings he subsumes the Gospel of John, First John and the
Revelation.
73 Ibid.
74 Ibid.

72
focused upon phrases and ideas which are found in John, but not in the synoptic

gospels.75

Brown undertakes an extensive examination of 55 out of 114 logia in Thomas.

Almost every second logion has been discussed in this context! Among the most frequent

points of comparison we find the following features: the themes of 'light', 'world', 'life',

unity, the 'beginning' and the 'end'. The flesh-spirit dichotomy is also encountered in both

contexts, but the most peculiar common expressions are, in my view, the '(Living) Father',

the 'twenty four prophets (elders)' of Israel as well as the very name of the apostle

Thomas who in both traditions is additionally addressed as Didymus.

Such an extensive comparative investigation of the two documents has led Brown

to the following important conclusions:

1) at least half of the discussed Johannine/Thomasine parallels are tenuous;

2) many of the other resemblances should not be ignored because they indicate

Thomas' awareness of the ideas and vocabulary found in John;

3) the absence of any verbatim citations suggests that the contact between John

and Thomas was not direct.76

Since most of the Johannine parallels are encountered in complex sources such as

the Last Supper discourse, no hypothetical source in the form of the Offenbarungsreden is

evident in this context either. Brown also rejects the possibility that Thomas made use of

either the recollections of the fourth gospel or memories of the oral preaching underlying

this text. He, therefore, ends up his inquiry into the possible dependence of the Gospel of

Thomas upon the Johannine tradition with the following conclusion:

Personally, we are inclined to believe that the Johannine elements came into this
source not from any contact with John itself, but from an intermediary which
made use of John. We emphasize that this is only one possible interpretation of
the evidence we have presented.77

75 Ibid., 158.
76 Ibid., 174-5.
77 Ibid., 177.

73
Despite certain methodological problems inherent to Brown's comparative

procedure,78 we have to admit that, in many instances, John and Thomas share not only

idiosyncratic terms or concepts, but also a similar ideology which is more characteristic

of the "western" than of the "eastern" tradition of Jesus' sayings. Such a remark is not so

much a product of our conviction that the Johannine parallels have a greater "probative

value" than the Syrian ones, as an attempt to show how literary parallels themselves may

suggest various, mutually discordant, possibilities. In line with Brown's treatment of the

two documents, we may not, however, exclude the possibility that the non-synoptic and

gnosticizing layers of Thomas may have been influenced by similar currents of early

Christian tradition which made an impact on the Gospel of John or the Apocalypse as

well.

The parallels between the Gospel of Thomas and the Diatessaron are, on the other

hand, of an entirely different sort. None of the 54 textual variants discussed in Quispel's

monograph79 (which connect the Gospel of Thomas with the Diatessaron against the

synoptic readings of the same parallels) are to be found in the special Thomasine source.

78 At this point, I would like to mention four of those problems: (1) Brown apparently presupposes that the
Gospel of Thomas is both a Gnostic and a later document (pp. 156-7), but he does not justify the criteria by
which he makes such a characterization of this work. In other words, what is the definition of "Gnosticism"
that Brown operates with, and what are the form-critical principles by which he declares Thomas as a later
document? (2) Although he analyses the Coptic versions of both writings, we should bear in mind that these
versions were not composed by the same Coptic redactor, but through the two independent Coptic
recensions of the two original Greek documents. The language problem pertinent to any comparative
analysis of this kind is thus only partially avoided by Brown's linguistic choice. (3) Unfortunately, there is
no extant or identifiable intermediary source in early Christian literature that could decisively connect the
Gospel of Thomas with John. There is an intriguing possibility, however, that the Naassene redaction of the
Gospel of Thomas was influenced by Johannine ideas. First of all, according to Hippolytus' account, the
Naassenes made use of the Gospel of Thomas as well as several quotations reflected in the Johannine
writings (e.g. Ref. 5.7.40; 5.8.5, 11, 14, 20, 27, etc...). Secondly, according to some other accounts
(Epiphanius, Panarion 37.1.2), the Naassenes were closely related to the Nicolaitans, the heterodox
Christian group condemned in the Revelation (2: 6,15). Thirdly, in Brown's detailed list of the
Johannine/Thomasine parallels we encounter at least eleven possible correlations between John and the
special Thomasine material (i.e. log. 4a, 15, 22d, 28, 29, 42, 49, 56, 101b, 110, 114). Even if taken as very
remote congruences, these cases might perhaps jointly support Brown's plausible assumption that "the traces
of the Johannine influence could be attributed to the second general source of the Gospel of Thomas" (i.e. a
Gnostic or semi-Gnostic source; cf. Brown, 177). (4) Finally, even more striking parallels to the Gospel of
Thomas are found in the synoptic gospels, but there are still very convincing arguments for the tradition-
historical or form-critical independence of Thomas.
79 Quispel, 1975b.

74
And this is certainly not an accident. Although the original text of Tatian's Diatessaron

has not been preserved,80 we may agree with the general results of Quispel's inquiry into

the various "western" versions of this document. These results may, perhaps, be summed

up in the following three conclusions:

1) The Sayings of Thomas had many variants in common with the Western Text.
This would seem to prove that the Western Text was influenced by an
extracanonical tradition of the Sayings of Jesus also to be found in the Gospel of
Thomas. Further investigations seemed to show that the Western Text originated
in Antioch and was brought to Rome in the first half of the second century...Tatian
is supposed to have brought such a Western Text of the Gospels with him from
Rome, when he returned to the East and wrote his Diatessaron there (+- 170
A.D.). The Old Syriac version contained in the Syrus Sinaiticus and the Syrus
Curetonianus is of a much later date and leans heavily upon the Diatessaron...
2) The Gospel of Thomas contained many Sayings which showed a marked
affinity to the Gospel quotations of the so-called Pseudo-Clementine writings. The
latter contain the views of Jewish Christians, as opposed to the Gentile Christians.
Therefore, their Gospel quotations also would seem to have been transmitted in a
Jewish-Christian milieu and not necessarily to have been derived from the
canonical Gospels...
3) The Gospel of Thomas had many variants in common with the Diatessaron of
Tatian, as preserved in its Syriac, Armenian, Persian, Italian, English, and Dutch
translations. This confirmed the old and well-founded hypothesis that Tatian,
when composing his Diatessaron in the East, had not only used the four
Gospels, but also a Jewish-Christian source [emphasis added].81
Be that as it may, I would like to discuss the tendency of some authors who use

the Diatessaron as an important witness to the eastern Syrian or Edessan provenance of

the Gospel of Thomas. Indeed, the Thomasine parallels with the Diatessaron readings of

Jesus' sayings are so numerous, that it would be normal to inquire into their possible

interdependence.

We should primarily bear in mind that many scholars in this area tend to believe

that Tatian was originally from the "blessed city" of Osrhoëne.82 Accordingly, they

80 A part of Baker's critique of this document as a reliable source for Syrian encratism is based upon this
fact. Cf. Baker 1970: 397ff.
81 Quispel, 1975b: 27-8.
82 It is interesting that no historical evidence corroborates Tatian's connection with Edessa. As Arthur
Vööbus has pointed out, "behind [this] view is the feeling that such a great spirit should be linked with such
a great place, as the Mesopotamian metropolis" (Arthur Vööbus, History of Asceticism in the Syrian Orient,
Vol. 1, Louvain: Durbecq, 1958: 38). If this really were the case, infers Vööbus, Tatian would certainly be

75
assume that the parallels with Tatian's major work indicate that the Gospel of Thomas

influenced, or was influenced by, the text of the Diatessaron. If either of these cases were

true, these authors surmise, one would be able to connect the Gospel of Thomas with

Edessa as well.

Thus, for example, Han Drijvers, in order to find "an organic place" forThomas in

early Syriac-speaking Christianity, picks Tatian, "a typical representative of Syrian

Encratism in the second half of the second century," as a "good starting point."83 And

"instead of assuming an independent Jewish-Christian gospel that was used as well by the

author of the Gospel of Thomas as by Tatian, it seems a much simpler and more satisfying

explanation," contends Drijvers, "to assume that the author of the Gospel of Thomas used

Tatian's Diatessaron; at least this would apply to the author of an original Syriac version

that might have been different from the preserved Coptic version."84 This line of

argumentation has prompted Drijvers to alter the standard date of composition of the

Gospel of Thomas (140 C.E.) and put it after Tatian's Diatessaron and closer to the third

century Syrian writers such as Bardaisan or the Manichaeans (i.e. around 200 C.E., which

is, in fact the date of the Greek Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 1 found in the Nile Valley).

First of all, let us point out that no "original Syriac version" of the Gospel of

Thomas has ever been found or attested in the literature, and there is no persuasive

linguistic evidence that would corroborate the Syriac-Greek-Coptic course of

transmission of this document. This linguistic problem will be discussed separately in the

next section.

For the sake of argument, however, let us suppose that Tatian was a 'typical

representative of Syrian Encratism' somehow related to Edessa. Even in that case, I

submit, we would be able to reject the hypothesis claiming an interdependence of the

mentioned in the Chronicle of Edessa, along with Marcion, Mani and Bardaisan. However, the chronicle is
totally silent about the author of the Diatessaron.
83 Drijvers, 172.
84 Ibid., 173.

76
Gospel of Thomas and the Diatessaron, and, ultimately, the Edessan Sitz im Leben of our

collection of sayings.

1. All that we know about the history of the original Diatessaron is that Tatian

brought a Western Text of the gospels from Rome and probably wrote his own version of

the Diatessaron in Syria about 170 C.E.85 But the assumed dependence of the Gospel of

Thomas upon Tatian's variant of the Gospel "Harmony" may easily be compromised by a

simple circumstance that the author or a compiler of Thomas may have relied on some

earlier version of the Western Text even before Tatian composed his Diatessaron in

Syria. Gilles Quispel, who himself supports the Edessan provenance of our document, has

been cautious enough to admit that "the Diatessaron may prove too late to be relevant,

because some readings which these [Thomas'] Logia and the 'Western Text' have in

common are already found in the Gospel quotations of Justin Martyr and Marcion, who

lived before Tatian wrote his Diatessaron."86 I would like to add that it is not improbable

that the Gospel of Thomas derived some of its sayings from the original version of the

Western Text. In any case, we do not have any reason to extend the date of composition

of the hypothetical Syriac Vorlage of the Gospel of Thomas up to the date assigned to one

of the Greek copies of Thomas edited in Egypt!

2. Concerning the possible impact of Thomas upon the Diatessaron, we should

simply remember that Tatian is supposed to have brought his "Western Text" of the

gospels from Rome. It is, therefore, not necessary to postulate a eastern Syrian provenance

of the Gospel of Thomas in order to elucidate the variant readings of the gospel sayings in

the Diatessaron. The most one could admit at this point is that both collections of logia

(i.e. the Diatessaron as well as the Gospel of Thomas) could have been influenced by a

common, or similar, traditional source of sayings which has independently been reflected

in both these documents. In all likelihood, that was the same Jewish-Christian source

85 Cf. Quispel 1975b: 28.


86 Quispel 1975a: 12.

77
which pervades an earlier, and non-syncretistic, layer of Jesus' sayings in Thomas.

Although I do not accept Quispel's hypothesis that such a Jewish-Christian Vorlage

should be identified as the Gospel of the Hebrews, I am ready to admit that the significant

number of the variant readings of the gospel quotations, underlying both the Diatessaron

and the Gospel of Thomas, has to be explained by a common Semitic source of tradition.

In the next section I am, furthermore, going to argue that the existence of some Semitisms

in Thomas should be explained by this common Jewish-Christian source.

Now I would like to emphasize that most of the other, very peculiar Syriac

parallels to the Gospel of Thomas may be understood either in the light of their

subsequent use of the Diatessaron,87 or perhaps this common Semitic substratum of

sayings which was reflected in the Gospel of Thomas as well.88

Whatever be the case, I will reject all these Syriac parallels with the Gospel of

Thomas as a possible clue regarding the origin of this document on the basis of the

methodological principles which will be introduced at the end of this section. Before that,

however, I am going to briefly address the last group of parallels that have to be discussed

prior to our detailed examination of Hippolytus' Naassene source. What I have in mind

here in the first place are the Thomasine parallels with the more or less Gnostic works

such as the Gospel of Philip, the Book of Thomas the Contender and Pistis Sophia.

I would like, first, to explain the reasons for my selection of these three particular

documents. It is well known that the Gnostic tradition recorded in the Pistis Sophia

identifies Philip, Thomas and Matthew as the only three disciples of Jesus to whom it was

given to write his secret words.89 The Gospel of Philip, the Gospel of Thomas as well as

the Book of Thomas the Contender (the work which was originally ascribed to Mathaias)

would, in that case, represent three documents that, according to the heterodox tradition,

have been "authorized" by the disciples who are considered recipients of Jesus' secret

87 This is the case with Liber Graduum and Aphraat (cf. Baker 1965: 452).
88 This is probably the case with the Pseudo-Clementines and the Acts of Thomas.
89 Carl Schmidt, ed., Pistis Sophia (1.42.18-22), Leiden: Brill, 1978.

78
sayings. It is, therefore, certainly no accident that both the Gospel of Thomas and Thomas

the Contender begin with the references to Thomas and Mathaias, respectively, as the

"authorized" recorders of Jesus' schaje ethêp. We may assume at least that the editors of

these two texts were familiar with the tradition about Jesus' close circle of disciples, the

tradition which had been contained in the Pistis Sophia as well.

Moreover, all three of these texts have been preserved in the same Nag Hammadi

Codex II (II, 2; II, 3; II, 7), and, due to a significant number of very idiosyncratic

parallels, may perhaps be considered the parts of a very unusual "apostolic trilogy."

Aside from these coincidences, I would like to emphasize that four early Christian

testimonies (i.e. Clement of Alexandria, Hippolytus of Rome, Eusebius of Caesarea and

the author of the Acts of Philip) quite independently bring each of these three disciples in

close proximity to the Naassene sect!

Both Eusebius (Hist. eccl. 3.31 and 3.39.9) and the Acts of Philip (107ff.)90 report

that Philip preached and ended his life in Hierapolis. The Acts, furthermore, mention

many Ophites who were converted by him.91 In any event, Philip's martyrion in

Hierapolis (Pamukkale) has recently been rediscovered.92

Clement of Alexandria, on the other hand, relates the deacon Nicolaus with a

certain Matthias, who taught the similar doctrine that we must "slight the flesh and abuse

it, yielding nothing to it for pleasure, but to make the soul grow through faith and

knowledge" (Miscellanies III in Hist. eccl. 3.29.4). It is interesting that such an ideology

goes hand in hand with the philosophy of the Book of Thomas the Contender (authorized

by Mathaias), and that the deacon Nicolaus, the proponent of the same doctrine, is treated

by Epiphanius of Salamis as a direct ancestor of the Ophites!93

90 Cf. James, 448.


91 Ibid.
92 Cf. G. E. Bean, "Hierapolis," in The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites, ed. by R. Stillwell,
Princeton: University Press, 1976: 390. Also, by the same author, Turkey Beyond Meander: An
Archaeological Guide, London: Ernest Benn, 1971: 243ff.
93 Cf. Panarion 37.1.2.

79
Finally, Hippolytus testifies that to the Gospel according to Thomas was delivered

by the Naassenes, the sect which claimed to possess "very many sayings" which James

himself handed down to Philip's sister Mariamne (Ref. 5.7.1). Later on in the same book

Hippolytus mentions Matthias, a person who recorded logoi apokryphoi privately

received from the Savior himself (Ref. 7.20.1). It is also interesting that Papias of

Hierapolis refers to a certain Matthaios as a compiler of the sayings of Jesus in the

Hebrew language; and everyone interpreted these logia "as best as he could" (Hist. eccl.

3.39.16).

What can be gleaned from all this various information? John Turner, discussing

the independent sources of tradition recorded in the Book of Thomas Contender (and

originally ascribed to two different disciples of Jesus, Matthias and Thomas), has

proposed the following hypothesis:

In spite of the orthographical variants, it is possible that Mathaias, Matthaios,


Matthias may together point to a certain individual to whom tradition ascribed the
role of recipient and traditioner of the words (λóγοι, λóγια) of Jesus. He is clearly
connected by Papias with a tradition of logia, and by Hippolytus with a tradition
of λóγοι απóκρυφοι, while the incipit of Thomas the Contender designates him as
privy to and scribe of these words spoken, not totally privately, but in the
company of Thomas. Clement credits him with being an ascetic teacher, as does
the incipit of Thomas the Contender by implication, and Papias. Therefore, if the
name Mathaias entered the incipit of Thomas the Contender by being borrowed
from the title of section B of Thomas the Contender, it is reasonable to suppose
that section B forms a portion of the stream of tradition about a certain Matthew
who was a recipient of the Savior's secret words. The variation in the orthography
of Matthew's name would then have arisen through attempts to harmonize this
Matthew's name with the name of other Matthews, e.g. the tax-collector, or
Iscariot's replacement, etc.94

In any event, it is intriguing that Philip, Matthias and Thomas are somehow all

related to the Naassenes/Ophites: Philip - as the apostle in Hierapolis (Ophioryme);

Matthias - as an ascetic related to Nicolaus, the precursor of the Ophites; and Thomas - as

the alleged compiler of the gospel delivered and probably originally composed by the

Naassenes.

94 Turner 1975: 111-12; emphasis added.

80
With regard to the parallelisms between the Gospel of Thomas and the two other

works from the Nag Hammadi Codex II95, a rather simple comparative analysis displays

the following regularity:

1. The most idiosyncratic parallels between the Gospel of Thomas on the one

hand, and the Gospel of Philip as well as the Thomas the Contender on the other, are all

echoed in the Hippolytus Naassene source.

2. These parallels are to be found either in the special Thomasine material,96 or

the fund of sayings which indicate the Naassene recension of the sayings reflected in the

New Testament as well.97 Most of the parallels with the Gospel of Philip pertain to that

second group.

3. Only two parallels from Thomas the Contender may not be classified in either

of the former two groups. However, even these two congruences are very peculiar

because they may be found only in the incipit of the Gospel of Thomas and the logion 2

which is, again, paralleled in the Gospel according to the Hebrews.98

Thomasine parallels with Pistis Sophia are also very interesting, but almost all of

them have their counterparts in the synoptic gospels.99 No peculiar Naassene echoes may

be detected in this case either. The only remarkable characteristic is that the majority of

these parallels with Pistis Sophia are to be found on plate 84 of the Coptic Thomas

(Codex II, 2, 84),100 which may be purely coincidental.

95 That is, Thomas the Contender (II, 7) and the Gospel of Philip (II, 3).
96 Cf. log. 4a = Cont. 139: 11-12; log. 7 = Cont. 139: 2-3; 141: 27-29; log. 11b = GPh 73: 20; log. 15 =
Cont. 139: 8-11; log. 22c, 114 = Cont. 139: 41-42 = GPh 67: 31-35; log. 28 = Cont. 139: 37; log. 29, 56,
60, 80, 87, 112 = Cont. 141: 24-25; log. 83, 84 = GPh 67: 15-16; 84: 20-21. For the Naassene parallels with
the same logia in Thomas, cf. pp. 131-34.
97 Log. 3, 111 = Cont. 138: 8-9; 15-17 = GPh 76: 19-21; log. 13b = GPh 54: 11-13; log. 19a = GPh 64: 10-
11; log. 24 = Cont. 139: 18-19?; log. 37 = Cont. 139: 11-12 = GPh 75: 24-26; log. 50a = Cont. 139: 21; log.
50b = Cont. 140: 42; 145: 11 = GPh 72: 22; log. 75 = GPh 69: 1-4. For the Naassene parallels, cf. pp. 134-
36.
98 Cf. Gospel of Thomas, incipit = Contender, incipit; 142: 7-8; log. 2 = Cont. 140: 41-141:3; 145: 11-14.
99 Cf. PS I, 1.5 = log. 16b; PS I, 17.10 = log. 21; PS I, 54.15 = log. 61b; PS III, 116.5 = log. 19c; PS III,
135.10 = log. 23. All sayings except log. 19c are paralleled in the synoptic gospels as well.
100 That is, PS I, 1.5 = GTh 84: 1-2 (log. 16b); PS I, 17.10 = GTh 84: 34 (log. 21); PS III, 116.5 = GTh
84: 22-23 (log. 19c).

81
The purpose of this section is not, however, to initiate the discussion regarding

possible Naassene connection with the aforementioned Nag Hammadi "trilogy," but

rather to show how very peculiar parallels to the Gospel of Thomas may be encountered

in writings of various origins and backgrounds.

In cases like these, where a plethora of mutually independent literary sources

display some rather atypical common features, it is difficult, indeed, to conclusively prove

a direct influence of one text upon another. It is even harder, I think, to manifest that such

an influence necessarily indicates the common provenance of the two documents.

Without any further probative clues, it is, in fact, often possible to explain the existence

of even the most peculiar parallels by use of an intermediary, or common underlying,

source.

This is how we may very efficiently interpret the resemblances between the

Gospel of Thomas and the Johannine, Syriac and Gnostic writings discussed above. A

great number of the parallels could also be understood in the light of the prevalent

ideology or terminology shared by particular currents of early Christian thought. These

features, however, do not necessarily refer to the same provenance of some of these

groups that influenced the development of the new religion in the first few centuries of

the common era.

In order to be able to distinguish the parallels indicating a direct dependence of

one text upon another, from all other types of parallelism, we must resort to some

additional and more precise methodological criteria. Some of these principles could,

perhaps, be summarized as follows:

1) The literary parallels between the two documents have a greater probative value

in cases in which one of these documents provides a direct attestation to the other

document.

2) Even if very specific in their content, scattered parallels do not necessarily

indicate any direct dependence. Nevertheless, if among these parallels two or more

82
subsequent textual segments from one document are reflected, in the same order, in

another document, there is a high probability that either one of these documents is

expressly dependent upon the other or that both documents derive from the same

underlying tradition.

3) If the same quotations encountered in the two documents (e.g. the sayings of

Jesus) are introduced by the same framework material, there is a high probability that one

of these texts borrowed from, or was dependent upon, the other text.

None of these criteria apply in the context of the parallels discussed in this

section. The first two of them, however, do function in the case of the Naassene parallels

with the Gospel of Thomas. These parallels will, therefore, be more thoroughly examined

in our next chapter.

3. The Linguistic Problem

The third, and the least supported argument of the proponents of the Syrian origin

of the Gospel of Thomas implies that a number of Semitisms identified in this work attest

to a Syriac-speaking environment. Despite a considerable reserve expressed toward such

an argument,101 this line of reasoning is not without a certain appeal. One should bear in

mind that the Syriac language, a dialect of Aramaic, was particularly cultivated in Edessa.

This fact (along with some other, already discussed arguments) brings some cumulative

weight to the provenance issue.

Guillaumont himself has been very attentive in presenting this argument. He first

makes a distinction between the Semitisms in Thomas which, on the one hand, reflect the

101 Beside A. Guillaumont (1958 and 1981), very few scholars from the "Syrian circle" found this
argument convincing. Cf., for example, J.-E. Ménard's monograph L'Evangile selon Thomas, Leiden: Brill,
1975: 3ff.

83
Hebraic, Judaeo-Aramaic or Aramaic Judaeo-Christian substratum, from the particular

type of Semitisms specific to the Syriac dialect (Syriacisms).102

Among the examples from this second group we find, for instance, the peculiar

Thomasine reading of the log. 14 - "and if you give alms, you will do evil to your

spirits"103 - a phrase which is characteristic of the Syriac dialect. Or, again, Guillaumont

supposes that the original term which lurks beneath the Greek word monachos in the

logia 16, 49 and 75104 is, in fact, the Syriac îhîdâyâ - the "unmarried" or "single."105

Some of these concepts are thoroughly discussed in the literature on the Gospel of

Thomas. However, the major problem of Guillaumont's analysis is how to demonstrate

that phrases like these originate from the Syriac recension or, perhaps, hypothetical

Vorlage of the Gospel of Thomas. Recall that Guillaumont's colleague Gilles Quispel,

who believes in the Edessan origin of this gospel, has put forward a very instructive

warning concerning these peculiar Semitisms uncovered in our document. In the context

of his discussion of log. 25, in which we encounter an Aramaism characteristic of the

Syriac readings of the New Testament, Quispel makes the following remark:

The expression 'as your soul' for 'as yourself' is typically Semitic too. It is found
very often in the Syriac versions of the New Testament, even in the well-known
commandment to love your neighbour as yourself. This, however, does not mean
that this Logion in this form originated in a Syriac milieu, for instance in Edessa,
where the Gospel of Thomas is supposed to have been composed about 140 A.D.
The same idiomatic expression can be found in Hebrew, even in the Old
Testament (Gen. 27, 19 and 31; Isaiah 43, 4).106

102 Guillaumont, 1981: 201.


103 The Coptic text reads plural, ennetempna ("your spirits").
104 The same Greek form of the word is preserved in the Coptic version (albeit in plural, that is,
enmonachos).
105 For a rather detailed explanation of this concept, cf., for example, Vööbus, 106ff. or Baker, "Syriac and
the Origins of Monasticism," DR 86 (1968): 348ff.
106 Quispel 1975b: 78; emphasis added. Compare Guillaumont's treatment of this same logion in 1958:
117-18.

84
The most we could say in this respect is that "the logion was originally transmitted

in a Jewish-Christian milieu, among the descendants of the primitive community of

Jerusalem."107

Most of the examples provided in Guillaumont's articles108 could still be

explained by this common Jewish-Christian stratum of the Gospel of Thomas. In any

event, one reads in Thomas the Greek term monachos instead of the Syriac îhîdâyâ, and

how some of these peculiar concepts find themselves in the Coptic manuscript is not

always easy to explain. However, the postulation of a hypothetical Syriac recension

brings even more confusion into this problem.

Without any further material evidence as to the Syriac version of the Gospel of

Thomas, Guillaumont's proposal is hardly tenable even in methodological terms. In

general, it is almost impossible, solely on the basis of the "third-order translation,"109 to

detect the phrase pertaining to a specific dialect, if such a phrase is also encountered in

the language from which this dialect has originally been derived.110

At any rate, I would like to submit the following objections to Guillaumont's

linguistic argument:

(1) Due to the non-existence of any Syriac version of Thomas, there is no material

evidence that could verify Guillaumont's hypothesis.

(2) There is no persuasive linguistic evidence either that would corroborate the

Syriac-Greek-Coptic course of transmission of the Gospel of Thomas. The only extant

versions of this collection are written in Greek and Coptic, and, today, a broader scholarly

consensus has been reached with respect to the Greek Vorlage of the later Coptic

document. Of course, one might uncover in the Gospel of Thomas a certain number of

Aramaisms, but this is also the case with other (canonical) gospels! The most we could

107 Ibid., emphasis added.


108 Cf. also Guillaumont 1958: 114-20.
109 That is, on the basis of the Coptic translation of the assumed Greek translation of the specific Aramaic
dialect (Syriac).
110 Cf. Barbara Ehlers' critique of such a procedure in 1970: 304.

85
admit is that these Aramaisms (including the ones which are characteristic of the Syrian

milieu) may suggest an independent, Palestinian, origin of at least part of the sayings in

Thomas. But this thesis alone does not necessarily point to the eastern Syrian trajectory.

(3) Despite a plethora of assumed Syriac parallels, there is no mention of our

gospel in the works of later Syrian authors. 111

(4) Even at the end of the second century there existed an insignificant number of

Christian works that were translated from Syriac into Greek.112 If that was the situation

at the end of the century, we may infer that this was even more likely the case in the first

half of the century, i. e., at the time when that hypothetical translation from Syriac into

Greek should have taken place.113

(5) The occurrence in a given document of a phrase typical of a certain language

(or dialect) does not necessarily indicate that the document itself was written in the area

in which this language (or dialect) was spoken.

B. The Problem of Transmission: The Egyptian Hypothesis

1. The Strengths and Weaknesses of the Hypothesis

It seems to me that the aforementioned problems related to the idea of the Syrian

provenance of the Gospel of Thomas become even more manifest in light of a "rival"

hypothesis which locates this document in the geographic area in which it was actually

found, that is, in Egypt. Let me, therefore, develop an alternative set of arguments that are

111 Cf. Ehlers, 303.


112 Cf. Sebastian Brock, "Greek into Syriac and Syriac into Greek," in Syriac Perspectives on Late
Antiquity, London: Variorum Reprints, 1984: II, 11ff.
113 As we know, the plausible date for at least one of the Greek manuscripts found in Egypt (P. Oxy. 1) is
200 C.E.

86
commensurate with the first intuitions of Grenfell and Hunt,114 the scholars who

discovered and edited the Greek manuscripts of the Gospel of Thomas at the time when

the title of this work was yet unknown to the academic world. On the basis of the

provenance of the papyri themselves, as well as on the reasonable assumption that the

extant parallels with the Gospel of the Egyptians could indicate the probable locus of the

logia Iêsou, these two authors were inclined to believe that the entire collection originated

in Egypt.115

Indeed, the material evidence from Oxyrhynchus and Chenoboskion (Nag

Hammadi), the circumstance that the only extant texts of Thomas were found in the Nile

valley, and not in Syria, provides us with one of the most effective arguments against

Thomas' Syrian background. Additionally, the bilingual environment in which this

document was found is Greek/Coptic and not Greek/Syriac, as the promoters of the

"Edessan consensus" would have it.

Moreover, linguistic evidence, the fact that the Greek manuscripts belong to the

second- and the third-century (whereas the Coptic codex should be dated later in the

fourth-century) suggests that the most probable course of transmission and translation of

the Gospel of Thomas should be located within this period. That is to say, the Coptic

version is, most likely, a translation and an adaptation of the original Greek text.116

Even if the Aramaic substratum of Thomas originated in Palestine, it is not

necessary to seek for a Syrian mediation in the process of transmission of this work. As I

have already pointed out, close connections between the Jews of Palestine and Alexandria

were developed in the first century. We have evidence of independent and very original

ascetic traditions of Jewish origin that flourished in the Alexandrian region in the middle

of that century. On the other hand, it would be very hard indeed to establish such early

Christian connections between Jerusalem and the Edessan diaspora. All the evidence that

114 Cf. Grenfell and Hunt 1897 and 1904.


115 Grenfell and Hunt 1897: 16.
116 Cf. ch. I, n. 1.

87
we possess in favor of the Syrian context is the spurious tradition recorded in the so-

called Doctrine of Addai, which we have already rejected as an unreliable guide regarding

the Jewish-Christian origins of Edessan Christianity.117

Furthermore, we may analyse, from the standpoint of their attestation and

relevance, the Thomasine parallels with the two "Alexandrian gospels" (i.e., the Gospel of

the Egyptians and the Gospel of the Hebrews). It is apparent from our previous

analysis118 that the similarities between these works and our gospel are at least as

relevant as the Syriac parallels of Thomas. As far as attestations are concerned, we

should bear in mind that one of the earliest testimonia about the Gospel of Thomas is

provided by an Alexandrian Christian author (Origen, ca. 233 C.E.).119 We have already

mentioned that no such testimony (be it earlier, contemporary or later) is to be found in

the works of the Syrian writers. In the Syrian chronicles there is a complete silence about

this document.

Besides Origen's attestation, a number of other testimonia refer to the Gospel of

Thomas along with the two other heterodox gospels that probably originated in Egypt.120

They are the already mentioned Gospel of the Egyptians and the so-called Gospel of

Matthias, which we may have reasons to believe represents an original version of the

Book of Thomas the Contender, a previously unknown manuscript discovered with the

rest of the Nag Hammadi Library.121

Finally, the hermeneutical as well as redaction-critical analysis of our collection

of logia indicates that we are dealing here with a composite, multi-layered, document that

strongly reflects not only a variety of sources of tradition, but also a syncretistic

religious-philosophical milieu. This type of syncretism (which comprises both Jewish-

117 Cf. pp. 65-6.


118 Cf. pp. 32-5.
119 In his First Homily on Luke, Origen reports that in his time there was "in circulation also the Gospel
According to Thomas and the Gospel According to Matthias and many others" (Attridge, 104).
120 Jerome, Comm. in evang. Matth., Prologue (PL 26. 17A); Ambrose, Expositio evangelii Lucae 1.2.,
etc. (cf. Attridge, 106ff).
121 Cf. pp. 84ff.

88
Christian features and Gnostic, Orphic, Hellenistic mythemes and mysteries) is more at

home in first- and second-century Alexandria than in the "traditionalist" eastern Syria or

Edessa.

Despite all these intriguing presuppositions which certainly may contest the

alternative hypothesis regarding the Syrian provenance of the Gospel of Thomas, the idea

about the Egyptian origin of Thomas is susceptible to some serious objections.

First of all, if we accept the results of form-critical analysis of the Gospel of

Thomas and pursue the theory concerning an early and independent substratum of this

document (containing an original collection of Jesus' sayings), we would have to be able

to elucidate the course of transmission of such a collection from Palestine to Egypt as late

as the end of the first-, beginning of the second-century C.E.122 Regrettably, we do not

possess any firm historical evidence that such a collection of logia could have reached

Egypt at such an early period of its Christian history. As a matter of fact, there is no

extant evidence whatsoever about first-century Christianity in Egypt. As in the early

Syrian context, a chronic lack of historical data prevents us from deriving any plausible

conclusions concerning transmission of the Gospel of Thomas prior to its appearance in

Oxyrhynchus in the late second century. The most we could guess is that Thomas may

have reached Alexandria as early as the mid-second century, but before this very tentative

date we find ourselves in an almost complete darkness.

Second, if one accepts the reasonable assumption of some scholars that the Gospel

of Thomas may have been composed as early as the first century, the applicability of this

hypothesis to the Egyptian context would mean that Thomas is the earliest available

witness to the development of Christianity in this geographic area. Attractive though it is,

such a hypothesis seems not to be founded on any extant historical facts.

122 This is because one has to allow a reasonable period of time between such a hypothetical transmission
and the composition of this gospel in Greek before, or about, 140 C.E.

89
Third, if Thomas was truly composed in Egypt before 140 C.E., one could at least

expect that this document reflects social-historical conditions characteristic of that

period,123 or at least to contain some literary parallels with contemporary works such as

the Epistle of Barnabas. Unfortunately, the picture of early Alexandrian Christianity

reflected in Barnabas is incomparably different from the ideological world of the Gospel

of Thomas.

Finally, Hippolytus bears witness to the use of this document by the Naassenes as

early as the beginning of the second century.124 But, as I will be able to demonstrate in

the next chapter, the Naassenes were originally a Phrygian, and not an Egyptian religious

sect. It is almost impossible to demonstrate that this group used or compiled our

document so early in Egypt, rather than in their original homeland in Asia Minor.

2. The Gospel of Thomas and the Beginnings of Christian Asceticism in Egypt

In this century, the view of the earliest Church history in Egypt has been subjected

to two quite radical reformulations. Adolf von Harnack's authoritative study on primitive

Church history, written at the turn of the century, proclaimed "our almost total ignorance"

of Christianity in Egypt and Alexandria until the episcopate of Demetrius (ca. 189-231

C.E.).125

In 1934, Walter Bauer was the first scholar to challenge this rather discouraging

awareness.126 He put forward an original thesis about the heretical pre-history of

orthodox Christianity in Egypt. According to Bauer, it is not the case that we do not

123 For example, the annihilation of the Egyptian Jews under Trajan, at the beginning of the second
century.
124 This approximation is based upon the fact that the song to Attis quoted in Hippolytus' "Naassene
chapter" is generally dated in the reign of Hadrian (117-38 C.E.). I take this first date as a tentative terminus
a quo for the Hippolytus Naassene source.
125 Adolf von Harnack, The Mission and Expansion of Christianity in the First Three Centuries, Vols. 1-2,
New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1908: 158.
126 Cf. Walter Bauer, Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1971.

90
possess enough evidence as to the origins of Christianity in the land of the Nile; the

problem is that we do not take into consideration gnostic sources which widely circulated

there in the second century C.E.

The problem of Bauer's theory is, however, that he put into the same gnostic

basket works such as the Epistle of Barnabas, The Gospel of the Egyptians or the Gospel

of the Hebrews along with the treatises of the Valentinians, Carpocratians and Basilides.

If these works are "heretical" by definition, then the history of Egyptian Christainity

cannot be other than gnostic. Bauer believed that this was the main reason why the

ecclesiastical sources had been so silent about Christian origins in this country.

If we set aside the problem of Egyptian gnosticism, we may contend that Bauer's

challenge has been progressive for at least two reasons: (1) he encouraged scholars to

look into the whole variety of available sources in order to advance their knowledge of

Egyptian Christianity; (2) he drew our attention to the existence of two different groups of

Christians - Gentile and Jewish - who were, according to Bauer, definitely present on the

Alexandrian scene at the very beginning of the second century (and, presumably, some

time before that). He also maintains that they used two different gospels, the Gospel

according to the Egyptians and the Gospel of the Hebrews.127

Bauer's investigations paved the way to the second, even more significant,

breakthrough in the studies of early Christianity in Egypt. After the publication of C. H.

Roberts' Manuscript, Society and Belief in Early Christian Egypt,128 a growing number

of scholars (including Pearson, Klijn, Koester, Green and others)129 have contributed to

the consensus on the Jewish-Christian origins of the earliest Christianity in Egypt.

127 Ibid., 54ff.


128 C. H. Roberts, Manuscript, Society and Belief in Early Christian Egypt, London: Oxford University
Press, 1979.
129 Cf., for example, Birger Pearson, "Christians and Jews in First-Century Alexandria," in G. W. E.
Nickelsburg and G. W. MacRae, eds., Christians Among Jews and Gentiles, Philadelphia: Fortress Press,
1986: 206-16; "Gnosticism in Early Egyptian Christianity," in Gnosticism, Judaism and Egyptian
Christianity, Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1990: 194-213; Birger Pearson and J. E. Goehring, eds., The
Roots of Egyptian Christianity, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1986 (especially chs. 6, 8 and 9); Helmut

91
What kind of evidence do we possess for the existence of the Jewish-Christian

movement in Egypt that scholars like Harnack could not take into consideration?

To begin with, entire corpora of manuscripts have been found and studied, in the

course of this century, that shed light on the generally obscure periods of Christian history

in Egypt. Besides the Coptic Christian sources, including the Nag Hammadi Library, we

are now in possession of a certain number of Greek and Latin literary papyri (both

biblical and non-biblical), as well as letters and other manuscripts and inscriptions.

Although none of those papyri represents a manuscript evidence for the first century, they

at least testify to the very early Christian contacts that existed between Alexandria and

Middle and Upper Egypt. Furthermore, C. H. Roberts called our attention to the

occurrence of the nomina sacra, a silent mark of the earliest Christian presence in this

country. On the basis of these investigations and some other papyri evidence, Roberts

concluded that Christianity must have reached Egypt from Jerusalem and Palestine "in a

form strongly influenced by Judaism."130 According to this scholar, the low profile of

the first Christians at that early period of Church history as well as the extinction of

Egyptian Jewry at the beginning of the second century (the revolt under Trajan in 115-

17), contributed very much to the significant lack of available documents from the first

two centuries of the common era.131 In any case, contemporary events such as wars, riots

and massacres, rather than the heretical character of Egyptian Christianity, contributed to

the fact that we still have a very fragmentary picture of that earliest period.

However, in the light of these new discoveries and theories, modern scholars

express more readiness to re-examine, or at least differently accentuate, the traditional

sources such as Eusebius, Philo, Josephus, Clement of Alexandria or Luke-Acts.

Koester, History and Literature of Early Christianity, Vol. 2, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1982: 219ff.; H.
A. Green, The Economic and Social Origins of Gnosticism, Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1985.
130 Roberts, 49.
131 Ibid., 54ff.

92
As a result of this increasing scholarly interest, a whole series of significant

studies and monographs has recently begun to cope with the different aspects of Egyptian

Christianity, such as: the social and economic background of Christianity in Egypt;132

social history and ecology of Early Christianity in North Africa;133 Jewish-Christian

relations in the first-century Alexandria and Egypt;134 the connections between

gnosticism and early monasticism in Egypt,135 etc...

In addition, a vast number of studies on the Nag Hammadi documents have

provided us with further knowledge about the doctrines and ideologies of some Christian

Gnostic groups in second- and third-century Egypt.

Such being the case, we are now in a better position to reappraise the importance

of the Gospel of Thomas as one of the most original early Christian documents that had

somehow been introduced in this very obscure period of Egyptian Church history. One

should bear in mind that this document incorporates some of the significant features that

early Egyptian Christianity could have acquired in its transitional period of development.

In the late second-century Egyptian context, Thomas certainly provides an important link

between the Gospel of the Egyptians, Gospel of the Hebrews and the more developed

religious doctrines expressed in the Teaching of Silvanus or in the monastic teachings of

the desert fathers. Therefore, it would be worthwhile to reflect upon these specific

features of Thomas which must have made an impact on some early trends in Egyptian

Christianity.

First of all, Thomas is a document found at two different locations in the Nile

valley - Oxyrhynchus and Chenoboskion. The manuscript evidence from this area

indicates that these two places had frequent and very close contacts with the city of

132 Green 1985.


133 W. H. C. Frend, Town and Countryside in the Early Christian Centuries, London: Variorum Reprints,
1980.
134 Pearson 1986 and Pearson-Goehring 1986.
135 Frederick Wisse, "Gnosticism and Early Monasticism in Egypt," in B. Aland, ed., Gnosis: Festschrift
für Hans Jonas, Göttingen: Vanderhoeck & Ruprecht, 1978; Armand Veilleux, "Monasticism and Gnosis in
Egypt," in Pearson-Goehring 1986.

93
Alexandria.136 In the light of the aforementioned sources and theories, it is not difficult

to suppose that the early Christians from Alexandria may have transmitted this document

deeper into the land of Egypt. As noted by Puech, Quispel and some other scholars, the

Gospel of Thomas has very distinctive Jewish-Christian features. These are, for example,

the prominent position of James, "the righteous one" (log. 12); an understanding of the

Pharisees as the legitimate recipients of the Mosaic tradition (log. 39); various other logia

that either reflect the life-situation of the Jewish-Christian community (cf. log. 16 and 64)

or may be distinguished as typically Semitic modes of expression (e.g. log. 12b, 25,

etc...).

Furthermore, the Gospel of Thomas is a text with apparent wisdom

proclivities.137 The Jewish and Jewish-Christian sapiential tradition had flourished in

Egypt between the time of Philo on the one hand, and the Alexandrian theologians and

desert fathers on the other (i.e. between the first- and the fourth-century). The fact that

Thomas may be very easily embedded in the course of development of various sapiential

ideas may additionally speak in favor of its early acceptance in Egypt. It is, in fact, very

easy to understand Thomas' wisdom proclivities if they are placed on the same line of

thought leading from Philo and the Alexandrian gospels to the Teaching of Silvanus and

the theological-philosophical wisdom of the Church fathers.

Finally, as we have already pointed out in the first chapter, this gospel is marked

by the typical characteristics of an ascetic attitude. Thomas' Jesus recommends literal as

well as spiritual fasting ("fasting to the world"); he glorifies virginity, singleness and

celibacy; he expresses a negative attitude toward wealth and instructs renunciation of all

possessions. These distinctive features of ascetic and monastic ideologies and practices

prompt us to consider the idea of Thomas' inherent "proto-monasticism" as an ideological

trend characteristic of the Christian missionaries in Egypt even before the time of Antony.

136 Cf. Roberts, 3ff.


137 Cf. Davies 1983.

94
As far as this proto-monasticism is concerned, we may primarily refer to Philo of

Alexandria and his understanding of the male/female categories138 as well as his

valuable description of the ascetic community of Therapeutae.139 In this context Thomas

would perhaps pertain to an important stage in the development of the wisdom and

ascetic ideas, the stage that links bios theoretikos of Philo and the Therapeutae with the

bios praktikos of the desert monks from the third or fourth century.

Given these presuppositions, I am inclined to believe that the emergence of

Christian asceticism in Egypt was a very gradual and natural process which had been, in

some way, already "prepared" by the works and ideas of Philo, the Jewish Platonists, as

well as the numerous, but nameless, philosophic and ascetic groups that either lived in the

Alexandrian metropolis or spread their doctrines to some other cultural centers along the

Nile valley.

One course of our inquiry into the Egyptian trajectory of Thomas could perhaps

drive us from the earliest stages of consolidation of Jewish Christianity in Egypt, to the

monastic asceticism of the desert fathers as the culminative point of such a development.

In historical terms, this course is, however, very hypothetical and related to the more

obscure periods of the Egyptian Christian history. Therefore, I think that it would be

methodologically justified if we would trace one more, reversed, line of inquiry in order

to see if the occurrence of the Gospel of Thomas in this ancient country may be observed

in the light of some more familiar phases of the Egyptian Church history.

What I have in mind here, in the first place, is a brief consideration of the

developed forms of monasticism in Egypt in the late third and fourth century.

Several historical figures and movements need to be mentioned in this context: 1)

the figure of St. Antony as portrayed by Athanasius; 2) the figure of St. Paul of Thebes;

138 Cf. Richard Baer Jr., Philo's Use of the Categories Male and Female, Leiden: Brill, 1970.
139 Philo of Alexandria, The Contemplative Life, etc. New York: Paulist Press, 1981: 41-57.

95
and 3) the Pachomian cenobitic community, whose work is nowadays often associated

with the preservation of the Nag Hammadi manuscripts.

Sources such as the Vita Antonii, Vita Pachomiii, Apophthegmata Patrum or the

Historia Monachorum in Aegypto enable us to take a closer look at the life and doctrines

of the Egyptian monks who were either the immediate predecessors or the contemporaries

of the Coptic editor of the Gospel of Thomas. After a brief examination of these

anchoritic, cenobitic and monastic movements and trends, we will probably be able to

provide the missing link that connects our gospel with the official history of Coptic

Christianity.

In the third- and fourth-centuries, two major forms of asceticism had been

developed in Christianized Egypt: the anchoritism of the Antonian type and the

Pachomian cenobitism (or the monasticism proper).

Although regarded as "the father of the monks," St. Antony (251-356) was

certainly not the first Christian hermit to withdraw from his village and begin to live an

ascetic life. What is so unique about Antony, however, is that he (owing primarily to

Athanasius' Vita Antonii) has been praised for centuries as a paradigm or a prototype of

ascetic religiosity. Despite its clearly propagative character, Athanasius' work on Antony

provides us, I think, with some valuable historical information as to the beginnings of

Christian anchoritism in Egypt. We learn, for example, that at the time when Antony was

still a youth there existed some monasteries in Egypt, as well as ascetics who used to

withdraw from the villages.140

The act of anachoresis (literary 'withdrawal,' 'separation') was in those earliest

times of Egyptian Christianity closely associated with the practice of "tax-evasion" as

140 St. Athanasius, The Life of Saint Antony, Westminster, Md.: Newman Press, 1950: 20.

96
well.141 As a form of group protest, anachoresis originally meant an act of flight or

'going up' to the desolate areas of Thebaid or Upper Egypt.

Besides Athanasius' work, we possess few other sources of information as to the

"Antonian" form of anchoritism in Egypt: the letters of Saint Antony (seven of which are

considered to be authentic) as well as the Apophthegmata Patrum, in which we find a

collection of 38 apophthegms ascribed to Antony.142

Some aspects of Antony's teachings, scattered both in the Vita Antonii and the

Apophthegmata Patrum, may perhaps be summarized as follows:

1) a strong, almost literalist attachment to the precepts of the Scriptures and the

deeds of the saints;143

2) constant prayer as well as meditation upon the messages of the apostle Paul,

such as: "I die daily" or "Do not let the sun go down upon your wrath";144

3) an "interiorization" of the symbol of the kingdom of God (an attitude already

expressed in Luke and the Gospel of Thomas);145

4) an anti-Arianism of Antony, augmented by Athanasius' own polemic/apologetic

design;146

5) the simplicity of life corresponds to the simplicity of mind and intellect, etc...

Antony's ascetic practices included the well-known acts of fasting, constant prayer

and almsgiving; reduced sleep (on the ground), manual labor as well as disregard for

dress and bodily needs.147 Moreover, according to Athanasius, Antony was a healer and

141 Cf. James Goehring, "The World Engaged: The Social and Economic World of Early Egyptian
Monasticism," in J. E. Goehring et al., eds., Gnosticism and the Early Christian World, Sonoma, Ca.:
Polebridge Press, 1990: 138-39.
142 Cf. The Desert Christian: Sayings of the Desert Fathers (Apophthegmata Patrum), trans. by B. Ward,
New York: Macmillan, 1980: 1-9.
143 Cf. The Life of Saint Antony, 33-57; The Desert Christian, 5-9 (sayings 19, 22, 32, 37).
144 The Life of Saint Antony, 36 and 67.
145 Ibid., 37-38.
146 Ibid., 78-9; 87-9.
147 Ibid., 21ff.

97
a wonder-worker, able not only to predict various events,148 but to fall into deep

contemplation as well.149 He was not a philosophos, but he was indeed a sophos, a wise

man, encountered as an archetype in many other Hellenistic and Oriental cultures.

The paradigmatic function of Antony's biography is clearly and explicitly

emphasized even at the very beginning of Athanasius' work.150 Indeed, owing primarily

to Athanasius' literary skills, including different techniques of embellishing, Antony has

been celebrated for centuries as an archetype of ascetic religiosity. The propagative as

well as programatic aspects of the Vita Antonii were perhaps some of the main reasons

which, at the end of the last century, prompted several historians to contest the

authenticity of this biography.151 Moreover, some authors have characterized it as a pure

romance or, at best, a literary classic pertaining to the same genre as, say, Philostratus'

Life of Apolonius.

The existence of some other sources of our knowledge about Antony (such as the

Greek "Life of Saint Pachomius," Apophthegmata Patrum, or Rufinus', Palladius' and

Jerome's testimonia) aids us in understanding Athanasius' own work as a genuine piece of

historical literature that obviously had an additional, propagative purpose, especially in

the context of the Arian controversy. This fact alone, however, does not prevent us from

examining some historical-biographical facts which apparently lurk beneath the surface of

this celebrated work. Besides, we should constantly bear in mind that the notion of

history, as developed in Late Antiquity, was quite different from our own concept of

history or historiography. It included, among other things, various "demonologies" or

"angelologies" as are to be found, for example, in some works of Josephus Flavius.

148 Ibid., 87-93. Also, The Desert Christian, p. 3 (say. 12); p.4 (14).
149 The Life of Saint Antony, 74ff.
150 Ibid., 17.
151 Cf. Armitage Robinson, ed., The Lausiac History of Paladius (Texts and Studies, 6) Cambridge:
University Press, 1904: 215ff.

98
The Life of Antony supplies us, first, with some very important historical

information: despite the fact that no man before Antony knew the great desert, there were

indeed some monasteries in Egypt, as well as ascetics who used to withdraw from the

villages.152 If Vita Antonii was a pure romance designed to praise Antony's "orthodoxy,"

anti-Arianism or, most importantly, an unprecedented status of a monk, its author would

not have any particular need to stress this fact. Furthermore, Jerome bears an independent

witness to Paul of Thebes' withdrawal into the Arabian desert in order to avoid Decian

persecutions.153 Although Paul's biography had been modelled under the influence of

Vita Antonii, it seems that he was an authentic ascetic of Alexandrian origin who

presumably met St. Antony shortly before his own death.154

At any rate, I am inclined to support an earlier date for the origins of Christian

asceticism in Egypt and hence to accept some valuable hints provided by Athanasius' own

account.

Eusebius' source Dionysius of Alexandria also corroborates the information that

Christians withdrew into the desert under the persecution of Decius (249-51).155 The

same practice of anachoresis, as we know, has been confirmed by the Life of Antony. I do

not see any particular reason why these Christian withdrawals, prompted either by

taxation or severe persecutions, may not have occurred at the beginning of the second

century as well, that is, at the time when Egyptian Jewry (including probably the Jewish-

Christians) was exposed to tragic extermination caused by Trajan's armies (115-17 C.E.).

Nevertheless, the monastic anachoresis of Egyptian Christians in the third- and

fourth centuries was primarily motivated by religious reasons. The renunciation of the

152 Cf. above, note 140.


153 Saint Jerome, Life of Saint Paul the First Hermit, Willits, Ca.: Eastern Orthodox Books, 1976 (repr.):
81-2.
154 Ibid., 85ff.
155 Ecclesiastical History 6.41ff.

99
world is, certainly, a major aspect of Christian ascesis. In this sense, again, Athanasius

appears to be a rather reliable witness.156

The Antonian type of ascetic anachoresis was later developed among those monks

who first followed Antony. By the end of the fourth century this form prevailed north

from Lycopolis, especially in Nitria and Scetis (Wadi Natrun). Among other historical

sources that supply us with informations concerning this particular form of ascetic

monasticism one may include John Cassian, the Lausiac History of Palladius as well as

the so-called Historia Monachorum in Aegypto.157

We learn, for example, that a great number of monks lived in Nitria, Scetis and

Celia in the "inner desert" of the cells. On Saturdays and Sundays these monks used to

share agape, the common meal. Also, they committed themselves to manual work and

residence in cells. "Sit in your cell" was one of the major precepts for this kind of

monastic life.158 The monks also practiced meditation and a "silent prayer" or the

"prayer of the heart" (hesychia).159

Here, therefore, we encounter the forms of a purely eremitical life, without any

regulated monastic system. This is one of the basic features which clearly contrast

anchoritism of the Antonian type from the Pachomian koinonia. Such a form of anchoritic

ascesis may perhaps be labeled as a "spiritual democracy." It should be noted that only the

oldest ascetics served as the spiritual leaders and nobody was subordinated to anyone

else.

This tradition is still alive in the Eastern Orthodox Church, in some forms of

eremitism encountered on Mount Atos, or among the Russian "holy men" (the so-called

156 According to his account, these religious motives prompted St. Antony to start his anchorite life as a
youth, soon after the death of his Christian parents (cf. The Life of Antony, 19ff.).
157 Cf. Joannes Cassianus, Institutions cenobitique (Sources chrétiennes, 109), Paris: Editions du Cerf,
1965; The Lives of the Desert Fathers (The Historia Monachorum in Aegypto), London: Mowbray, 1980
and A. Robinson 1904.
158 Cf., for example, The Desert Christian, 63, 139.
159 Ibid., 13, 57, 179, etc.

100
stareci). Even nowadays a starec lives an eremitical, solitary life, but, on the other hand,

he is highly venerated both by the official church and the common folk.

The communal or cenobitic asceticism was developed in the fourth century, south

of Lycopolis. It was established by Antony's contemporary Pachomius (292-346). In

contrast to Antony, whose parents were already Christians, Pachomius was born of pagan

parents in the Thebaid.160 At the age of twenty, while he was a recruit of the Roman

Army, Pachomius came under the influence of Christianity.161 Soon after being

discharged, he went to the Upper Thebaid where he was baptized in a Christian

community at Chenoboskion (Nag Hammadi).162

Pachomius started his own monastic career under the guidance of the hermit

Palamon,163 who himself lived near Chenoboskion. He spent seven years with this

experienced anchorite who taught him how to practice the "hard ascesis." About 322 C.E.

Pachomius settled in a village called Tabennesi,164 in order to commit himself to the

ascetic practices. Soon after, a whole community gathered around him. There he

established the rules of common labor, common meals and prayer. According to these

rules, each member of the koinonia was responsible for all the others. It is striking indeed

that, in the case of the Pachomian community, a completely new monastic system,

resembling the military form of organization,165 had been established by an ex-soldier!

According to Veilleux's systematization,166 such a form of desert monasticism

was characterized by the following features:

160 Cf. "The First Greek Life of Pachomius," in Pachomian Koinonia, Vol. 1, trans. A Veilleux,
Kalamazoo, Mich.: Cistercian Pubs., 1980: 299.
161 Ibid., 300.
162 Ibid., 301.
163 Ibid.
164 Ibid., 305.
165 Namely, it was fully organized in both the material and "ideological" aspects.
166 Cf. Armand Veilleux, "Pachomius, Saint," in Atiya Aziz, ed., The Coptic Encyclopedia, Vol 6, New
York: Macmillan, 1991: 1860.

101
1) "an integral sharing and mutual service under a monastic rule" (in contrast to

the 'spiritual democracy' of the anchorites);

2) the monastic community was, as a rule, accompanied by a secular Christian

congregation;167

3) a separate church was usually formed for this secular community;168

4) monasteries for women were established side by side with nine Pachomian

monasteries.169

As far as the internal organization is concerned, we should emphasize that an

Abba ("the father") was at the head of the monastic community of the Pachomian

type.170 He was normally accompanied by a second (ho deuteros).171 A great steward

(ho oikonomos) was responsible for the material organization of the monasteries.172

According to the Greek Life of Pachomius, which is the main source of our knowledge

about this cenobitic koinonia, the whole community participated in the morning and

evening prayers.

Without going into further detail, it is important to notice at this point that the

Pachomian koinonia represented the type of monastic community which may have

composed the Coptic version (translation) of the Gospel of Thomas. Indeed, several

scholars have already associated this community with the compilation of the Nag

Hammadi codices.173 Some of the reasons which may support this reasonable hypothesis

are summarized as follows:

167 Athanasius reports that Antony was sometimes visited by the common folk, but he also tended to
withdraw deeper into the desert in order to avoid major crowds.
168 This was certainly not the case with the anchorite monasticism.
169 This was apparently not the case with the eremits in Nitria or Cellia. Even today women are not
allowed to visit monasteries on Mount Atos.
170 Pachomian Koinonia, 316.
171 Ibid., 315-16.
172 Ibid., 315.
173 Cf. James Robinson, The Nag Hammadi Codices, Claremont: The Institute for Antiquity and
Christianity, 1974: 3ff.; John Barns, "Greek and Coptic Papyri from the Covers of the Nag Hammadi
Codices," in Essays on the Nag Hammadi Texts, ed. M. Krause, Leiden: Brill, 1975: 9-17; Charles Hedrick,
"Gnostic Proclivities in the Greek Life of Pachomius and the Sitz im Leben of the Nag Hammadi Library,"

102
1) The codices themselves were found in close proximity to the Nag Hammadi

village (Chenoboskion) where the Pachomian koinonia had one of its monasteries.

2) On an internal basis, most of the documents from the Nag Hammadi Library

are dated in the fourth century, the time framework which corresponds to the period of an

enormous literary activity of this monastic community.174

3) There are some indications that the cartonage used for the binding of these

codices contained letters and other documents with the names of the people who might

have been the Pachomian monks. It is, however, impossible, at the present state of

research, to conclusively prove or disprove such an intriguing idea.175

4) The colophon of the Book of Thomas the Contender, the work belonging to the

same codex as our Gospel of Thomas, is an extraneous part of the document itself. The

text reads: "Remember me also, my brethren [in] your prayers: Peace to the saints and

those who are spiritual,"176 and thus sugests that the scribe himself could easily have

been a monk.

5) Some scholars have detected Gnostic proclivities in the Greek Vita Pachomii

and hence have challenged the belief in the absolute "orthodoxy" of the Pachomian

movement.177 At least some gnosticizing factions of this monastic community could

have preserved the documents contained in the Nag Hammadi Library.

6) An "internal purge" of heretical books which was probably prompted by

Athanasius' paschal letter (367 C.E.) may have provided a sufficient reason for the

removal of these documents from the Pachomian monasteries.

NovT 22 (1980): 78-94; James Goehring, "New Frontiers in Pachomian Studies," in Pearson and Goehring
1986: 236-57. Also, Wisse 1978 and Goehring 1990.
174 Cf. Goehring in Paerson and Goehring 1986: 237ff.
175 Cf. Barns in Krause 1975: 9-17. Also, the critique of Barns' proposal in J. C. Shelton, "Introduction," in
J. W. B. Barns, G. M. Browne and J. C. Shelton, Nag Hammadi Codices: Greek and Coptic Papyri from
the Cartonage of the Covers, Leiden: Brill, 1981: 1-11; Armand Veilleux, "Monasticism and Gnosis in
Egypt," in Pearson and Goehring 1986: 278ff.
176 The Book of Thomas the Contender 145: 20-23 (trans. by J. Turner).
177 Hedrick 1980.

103
All these interesting coincidences do not, of course, conclusively confirm that the

Pachomian koinonia produced the Coptic manuscripts discovered at Nag Hammadi in

1945/46.178 However, as far as the transmission of the Gospel of Thomas is concerned,

this monastic community may indeed provide a sufficiently authentic Sitz im Leben for

the Coptic version of Thomas. Even if the Meletian monks,179 or some other

contemporary ascetic group had (for whatever reason) preserved our document for

posterity, in terms of the provenance of the Gospel of Thomas they represented only the

last, however important, link in the chain of its transmission.

It is, therefore, quite probable that some of these monachoi used and, most likely,

translated the Gospel of Thomas from Greek into Coptic. Nevertheless, the Sitz im Leben

for the original, Greek document should be sought elsewhere in the early Christian world.

Three different Greek recensions of this work found in Oxyrhynchus indicate that

the course of transmission of the Gospel of Thomas led from Lower and Middle to Upper

Egypt (and not vice versa). Indeed, the Greek Thomas arrived at Oxyrhynchus already in

the second century, that is, before 200 C.E. Regrettably, we still know very little about the

scribal and scholarly activity of Oxyrhynchus Christians from this period.180 It is

striking, however, that one copy of Irenaeus' Adversus Haereses, written in Lyons about

180 C.E., found its way to Oxyrhynchus "not long after the ink was dry on the author's

manuscript."181 If this were the case with an anti-heretical treatise, we may just imagine

how fast the circulation of the "heretical" literature would have been!

In any event, at the present state of research and evidence, it is most likely that the

Oxyrhynchus scriptoria represented only a "transitory stop" for the original version of the

Gospel of Thomas. In order to be able to pursue the earlier course of transmission further

we have to rely on the available attestations supplied by early Christian authors.

178 Cf. the objections raised by Armand Veilleux in Pearson and Goehring 1986: 277ff.
179 Cf. ibid., 284.
180 Cf. Eric Gardiner Turner, Scribes and Scholars of Oxyrhynchus, MPER, n.s. 5.
181 Roberts, 53.

104
The two earliest and the most reliable attestations regarding the Gospel of Thomas

come to us from Hippolytus (222-35 C.E.) and Origen (233 C.E.). Hippolytus' testimony

has already been mentioned several times in this work, and I will analyse it in greater

detail in the forthcoming chapter.

Origen's attestation is important in the present context because it provides a

historical link in terms of the transmission of the Gospel of Thomas in Egypt. More

precisely, about 233 C.E. Origen bears an Alexandrian witness to the "circulation" of

works such as the Gospel according to Thomas, the Gospel according to Matthias (an

original version of the Book of Thomas the Contender?), and "many others" (kaì alla

pleiona).182 It is apparent, therefore, that by the beginning of the third century our

document was known in the scholarly circles of Alexandria. However, at least one

version of Thomas had been transmitted to Oxyrhynchus before 200 C.E. Due to the fact

that this version is composed in Greek, as well as that the academic connections between

Alexandria and Oxyrhynchus were surprisingly frequent at that time,183 one might

expect that Thomas was read in Alexandria already in the second half of the second

century. In any case, it circulated there during Origen's life-time (185-255) and

presumably represented a relatively recent literary phenomenon for the early Christian

circles of this city. Unfortunately, there is no other extant evidence that could corroborate

the existence of this document in Egypt earlier than the late second century.

Hippolytus, on the other hand, unambiguously points to the Naassenes as the sect

which played a prominent role in the transmission of the Gospel of Thomas. Even if the

Naassenes were not the redactors of the Greek version discovered in Oxyrhynchus, it may

be inferred, on the basis of Hippolytus' account, that they used this gospel in the second-

century .184 But, as we will be able to demonstrate in the next chapter, they were the

182 Cf. Attridge, 104.


183 Cf. Roberts, 23-4 and 53.
184 Hippolytus' testimonium itself was recorded between 222 and 235 C.E., but the song to Attis, quoted in
Refutatio 5.9.9, is dated in the time of Hadrian (i.e. 117-38); cf. Ulrich Wilamowitz-Mollendorf,

105
religious sect related to Hierapolis, Phrygia, and not Alexandria, Egypt. Therefore, if the

Gospel of Thomas circulated in Phrygia before or at the time when it was known in

Alexandria, it would be reasonable to assume that it may have been composed in Asia

Minor or perhaps in some other location from where it could have been delivered to both

Phrygia and Alexandria. However, we have already raised some serious objections as to

the possible Syrian provenance of the Gospel of Thomas. As far as Alexandria is

concerned, one does not possess any evidence that document of this type could have

reached this city directly from Palestine prior to 140 C.E.

On the other hand, such a collection of sayings would be at home in Asia Minor,

and Papias of Hierapolis himself provides testimony as to the Logia Iêsou composed in

the Aramaic language, and interpreted (translated) by various other compilers.

Furthermore, if the Naassenes were the redactors of the Gospel of Thomas, then

the tentative terminus a quo determined by the hymn to Attis185 may be extended back to

the reign of Trajan (98-117) when, according to the Acts of Philip, "many [Ophites] were

converted" to Christianity by Philip and his sister Mariamne.186 One may certainly

expect that the earlier missionaries such as Epaphras, who had "worked hard" in Laodicea

and Hierapolis (Col. 4: 12-13), succeeded, as early as the mid-first century, in converting

some adherents of pagan religious-mystical groups.

Nevertheless, it would be safe to assume that some of the Ophite converts -

known to their Jewish and Jewish-Christian contemporaries under the Hebrew variant of

their name187 - were indeed able to produce a document such as the Gospel of Thomas

between 100 and 138 C.E.188 This assumption is, of course, commensurate with the

"Lesefruechte," Hermes 37 (1902): 329. Wilamowitz is very confident not only regarding this date, but the
provenance of the Attis-hymn in Asia Minor as well.
185 Cf. ch. I, n. 124.
186 Cf. Acts of Philip 107-13.
187 Hoi Naassenoi is, most likely, a secondary Greek transliteration of the Hebrew designation for the
Ophites.
188 This time-framework is determined by the aforementioned evidence (Acts of Philip, Hymn to Attis)
related to the reigns of the two Roman emperors - Trajan and Hadrian. In any case, the Platonist Celsus,
who himself lived in the time of Hadrian, had been familiar with a rather complex metaphysical diagram

106
form-critical analysis of this gospel. In other words, it allows for the existence of an

earlier stratum of sayings in Thomas deriving from a first-century Palestinian source. Due

to the lack of any relevant historical information, such a hypothesis would be hardly

tenable in the Egyptian context. Therefore, the most we could suggest at this point is that

the Gospel of Thomas reached Alexandria from Asia Minor, where it had already been in

circulation in the first half of the second century.

Now I am going to support this new hypothesis by a more scrupulous textual as

well as social-historical analysis.

which Origen unambiguously ascribes to the Ophites (see Contra Celsum 6.24ff.). On the basis of this
information one may rightly contend that at least some of the Ophites developed their religious-
philosophical system (under the influence of Judeo-Christianity) no later than the beginning of the second
century. In the middle of the third century, when Origen completes the critique of his philosophical
opponent, the Ophites were already an insignificant sect (Ibid., 6.24).

107
PART TWO

108
III. THE ORIGIN OF THE NAASSENES

A. The Importance of Hippolytus' Attestation

1. The Character of Hippolytus' Account

In our introduction it has already been pointed out that the new hypothesis

concerning the origin and transmission of the Gospel of Thomas is to be built upon an

examination of the social-historical as well as ideological background of the Naassene

sect. The most detailed account of the Naassene doctrine is furnished by Hippolytus of

Rome, a presbyter and the leader of the Greek-speaking Christian community of this city

from 218 to 235 C.E.

Hippolytus is known as the author of several heresiological treatises. The most

comprehensive and the most significant one is certainly the Refutation of All Heresies

(Ho kata pasôn hairesêon elenchos), written between 222 and 235 C.E. Our conclusions

about the Naassenes will be based upon the conviction that Hippolytus' information

regarding this sect, albeit presented in a polemical-apologetic context, is reasonably

reliable and objective. Indeed, not only does Hippolytus provide the most complete

independent attestation regarding the Gospel of Thomas in early Christian literature, but

he makes an additional effort as well to expound the Naassene 'unknowable gnosis'

(agnôstos gnôsis) "to the best of [his] ability" (Ref. 5.10.1).

In comparison with Epiphanius' description of the Ophites, Hippolytus sets his

own exposition in the framework of a relatively mild polemic. He also repeatedly refers

(either verbatim, or by summarizing) to an unknown Naassene source which may have

109
represented a selection of excerpts from some book.1 Moreover, thanks to Hippolytus'

heresiological procedure which is commensurate with Irenaeus' idea that the exposition of

a heretical teaching itself is the most effective way of refuting it,2 we are now in a

position to assess a rather unique anthology of various Gnostic doctrines, including the

Naassene religious-philosophical system.

An additional factor contributing to Hippolytus' objectivity is to be sought in the

circumstance that this author often plagiarizes his source in order to demonstrate that the

Gnostics themselves borrowed most of their ideas from Greek philosophers and poets.

Indeed, as "an unscrupulous and reckless plagiarist,"3 Hippolytus aids us in gleaning a

rather accurate, albeit fragmentary, picture of the Naassene doctrines and practices. It is

interesting, however, that some authors who wrote at the end of the last century (e.g.

Salmon, Staehelin) raised their objections as to the credibility and reliability of

Hippolytus' Refutatio.4 And even before Salmon and Staehelin formulated these

objections, there had been some problems in terms of establishing the authorship of this

heresiological treatise.5

The discovery of the Nag Hammadi literature, which supplies us with some very

important parallels and cross-references with Refutatio, significantly contributed to

Hippolytus' "rehabilitation" as a reliable informant or mediator of various Gnostic

teachings and concepts. I, therefore, follow Miroslav Marcovich, the most recent editor of

the Refutatio, who maintains not only that "Hippolytus' passion for plagiarizing his

1 Cf. Marcovich's "Introduction" to Refutatio, pp. 49-50; also, F. Legge, "Introduction" to Hippolytus'
Philosophumena or the Refutation of All Heresies, London: Macmillan, 1921: 17ff.; R. Reitzenstein,
Poimandres, Leipzig: Teubner, 1904: 82; Josef Frickel, Hellenistische Erlösung in christlicher Deutung:
Die gnostische Naassenerschrift, Leiden: Brill, 1984: 19ff.
2 Cf. Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies, 1. 31. 3. This polemical method is discussed in greater detail in
Gérard Valée's book A Study in Anti-Gnostic Polemics, Waterloo, Ont., Canada: Wilfrid Laurier University
Press, 1981: 51ff.
3 Marcovich, "Introduction," 36.
4 For this debate, see Legge, "Introduction," 8ff.
5 For the decisive critique of such an opinion, cf. Marcovich's argumentation elaborated in his
"Introduction," 10-17.

110
sources is a blessing for us,"6 but also that his work "remains a reasonably reliable, first-

class heresiological source for our study of Gnosticism."7

In the context of our discussion of the relationship between the Gospel of Thomas

and the Naassene religious-philosophical system, Hippolytus' account presented in

Refutatio 5.6-11 is noteworthy for several reasons:

1. As remarked earlier, Refutatio 5.7.20 contains the most reliable attestation

regarding the Gospel of Thomas in early Christian literature.

2. This testimony is further accompanied by a direct (albeit non-verbatim)

reference to a very specific logion in Thomas (i.e. log. 4).

3. In the immediate context of Hippolytus' testimony, two consecutive logia from

the Gospel of Thomas (log. 3 and 4) are evoked in the same order in Refutatio 5.7.20.

4. Finally, Hippolytus' Naassene "chapter" contains a plethora of parallels with the

Thomasine "special material" as well as some other logia which themselves reflect the

Naassene recension of the same (or a similar) source of Jesus' sayings.

After these preliminary remarks, it would be worthwhile, I think, to take a closer

look at the Naassene Thomas-Fragment as well as to examine the nature of the parallels

between the Gospel of Thomas and Hippolytus' own source of the Naassene doctrine.

2. The Analysis of the Naassene Thomas-Fragment

I define the Naassene Thomas-Fragment (NTF) as the text of Hippolytus'

Refutatio 5.7.20 containing the reference to the Gospel of Thomas together with an echo

of its logion 3 and a non-verbatim citation of the logion 4. This small textual segment is,

in fact, the most reliable extant testimonium to the Gospel of Thomas. Scholars

6 Marcovich, "Introduction," 50.


7 Ibid., 51.

111
unanimously acknowledge the importance of this fragment for the discussion of the

history and authenticity of our collection of sayings. Hence, for example, Harold Attridge

considers Refutatio 5.7.20 "one indubitable testimonium to the Gospel of Thomas,"8

whereas Marvin Meyer, in the most recent critical edition of Thomas, classifies it as "the

most secure" of the references encountered in the church fathers.9 Finally, in his own

interpretation of a part of this fragment, Marcovich declares Hippolytus a "trustworthy

source."10

In contrast to the "Hymn to Attis" (Ref. 5.9.8-9) or the so-called "Naassene Psalm"

(Ref. 5.10.2), NTF does not represent a direct, verbatim quotation of the passage from the

Gospel of Thomas, but, more likely, an excerpt from an intermediary source. Fortunately,

this fragment has been preserved in its complete form, with only a few lacunae in the text

that do not generate any significant text-critical problems.

Because of the utmost importance of NTF for our understanding of the

background and transmission of the Gospel of Thomas, I will first quote the original text

of Hyppolytus, and only then provide the translation as well as interpretation of this entire

fragment.

With respect to Refutatio 5.7.20, Marcovich's 1986 edition does not

fundamentally differ from the one prepared by Paul Wendland in 1916. The NTF reads as

follows:

Ou mónon <dè> autôn epimartyreîn phasi tô lógo tà Assyríon mystéria kaì


Phrygôn, <allà kaì tà Aigyptíon> perì tèn tôn gegonóton kaì ginoménon kaì
esoménon éti makarían kryboménen homoû kaì phanerouménen physin, hénper
phasìn <tèn> entòs anthrópou basileían <tôn> ouranôn zetouménen. Perì hês
diarréden en tô katà Thomân epigraphouméno euangelío paradidóasi légontes
hoútos: "Emè ho zetôn heurései en paidíois apò etôn heptá; ekeî gàr en tô
tessareskaidekáto aiôni krybómenos phaneroûmai."11

8 Attridge in Layton, 103.


9 Marvin Meyer, ed., The Gospel of Thomas, San Francisco: Harper, 1992: 6.
10 Marcovich 1969: 61.
11 Cf. Marcovich, ed., Refutatio 5.7.20 (p. 147).

112
And this is the translation of NTF based upon Marcovich's edition of Hippolytus'

Refutatio:

<And> they12 say that not only the mysteries of the Assyrians and the Phrygians
<but those of the Egyptians as well> bear witness to their discourse regarding the
blessed nature, hidden and yet revealed, of the things that were, and are, and will
be, which, he says, is <the> kingdom of heaven sought for within man.
Concerning this, they expressly deliver their tradition in the gospel entitled
according to Thomas, saying: "The one who seeks shall find me in children from
seven years; for there, hidden in the fourteenth aeon, I am revealed."

It is important to notice first that I do not consider Ref. 5.7.21 an original part of

the NTF. Although this passage clearly represents an interpretation of the cited logion

from the Naassene Thomas, I assume that it is actually Hippolytus' own interpolation,
designed to demonstrate that the Naassenes "borrowed" most of their ideas from classical

Greek sources. As such, this interpretation does not illuminate the genuine relationship

between the Gospel of Thomas and Hippolytus' Naassene source in any meaningful sense.

At any rate, we do not find this interpretation of log. 4 in any of the extant versions of the

Gospel of Thomas.

Now I would like to discuss, in more detail, the content as well as context of NTF

itself. To bring these out, we first note that the entire NTF consists of at least three

smaller hermeneutical units that may be uncovered beneath Hippolytus' recension in

Refutatio 5.7.20.
1. A reference to the ancient mysteries which support the Naassene teaching:

"<And> they say that not only the mysteries of the Assyrians and the Phrygians, <but

those of the Egyptians as well> bear witness to their discourse..."

2. A brief summary of the Naassene discourse about the kingdom of heaven,

which Hippolytus apparently excerpts from his own source (cf. phasin in 5.7.20.101).

Such a Nassene discourse is echoed in the Gospel of Thomas, log. 3:

12 That is, the Naassenes.

113
The Naassene Discourse Coptic Thomas, log. 3

"...(their discourse) regarding the a) Jesus said: If those who lead you say
blessed nature , hidden and yet to you: "See the Kingdom is in
revealed, of the things that were, heaven," then the birds of the heaven
and are, and will be, which, he says, will precede you. If they say to you: "It
is <the> kingdom of heaven is in the sea," then the fish will
sought for within man." precede you. b) But the Kingdom is
within you and it is without you. If
you (will) know yourselves, then you
will be known and you will know that
you are the sons of the Living Father.
But if you do not know yourselves,
then you are in poverty, and you are
poverty.

3. A testimonium regarding the Naassene tradition delivered in the 'gospel entitled

according to Thomas,' accompanied by the quotation paralleled in both the Greek and the

Coptic Thomas, log. 4:

The Naassene Saying Coptic Thomas, log. 4

Concerning this, they expressly a) Jesus said: The man old in days
deliver their tradition in the gospel will not hesitate to ask a little child of
entitled according to Thomas, saying: seven days about the place of Life, and
"The one who seeks shall find me in he will live. b) For many who are first
children from seven years; for there, shall become last and they shall
hidden in the fourtheenth aeon, become a single one.
I am revealed."

The Naassene saying is then followed by Hippolytus' own loose interpretation,

claiming that the logion in question is "not of Christ" (ouk estin Christou), but of

Hippocrates. But in the Naassene version of the saying Christ is not even introduced as

the author of this logion! We may, therefore, contend that Hippolytus himself implicitly

reveals that, in the history of the (Naassene) tradition, this saying was originally ascribed

to Christ. And indeed, according to the Gospel of Thomas, log. 4, Jesus is the genuine

author of this saying.

Two points should be noted from what has just been said:

114
(1) It seems that Hippolytus somehow knew that the quoted Naassene saying had

originally been ascribed to Jesus Christ. Such being the case, we may argue that the

Thomasine logion 4 is an authentic version of the same saying.

(2) Not only is Hippolytus' own citation derived from an intermediary source (cf.

phasin from the previous sentence), but the author of Elenchos also makes an attempt to

re-interpret that Thomasine saying in a new key, in order to uphold his general view that

the Naassene had plagiarized from classical sources.13 Due to such an intention of the

Roman presbyter, the saying from the "Naassene Thomas" represents only a summary,

and not a direct, verbatim, quotation of our logion 4. Nevertheless, as I will attempt to

demonstrate soon, the saying from the "Naassene Thomas" preserves all the important

elements that are to be found both in the Greek and Coptic versions of this logion.

Finally, Hippolytus ends up this entire passage by pointing to the "unutterable and

mystical" character of the Naassene saying (ho aporretos kai mystikos logos - Ref.

5.7.22a).

Now that we have established three major hermeneutical units of NTF, it would

be worthwhile to reflect upon this passage from the standpoint of both the immediate and

the broader contexts within Hippolytus' "Naassene chapter" (i.e. Ref. 5.6-11).

With respect to this general perspective, we realize that NTF finds its place within

a broad framework of the so-called Naassene Sermon, or the commentary to the hymn to

Attis. Reitzenstein and his followers proposed that this sermon, representing the major

portion of the "Naassene chapter" of Hippolytus, begins at Ref. 5.7.3, and ends with the

hymn to Attis,14 whereas Josef Frickel suggests a slightly different structure-analysis of

this major literary segment.15 Whatever be the case, it is important to notice that both

these reconstructions of the Naassene commentary begin with the discussions of the

13 This general tendency of Hippolytus' Refutatio is persuasively argued in Marcovich's "Introduction,"


36ff.
14 Reitzenstein, 82ff.
15 According to Frickel, this Attis kommentar does not really begin before Ref. 5.7.9b (cf. Frickel, 10, 15-
17).

115
myths and mysteries of the ancient nations (Assyrians, Phrygians, Egyptians, etc.), which,

in fact, corresponds to the immediate context of NTF as well.

With this in mind, let us consider the narrow context of NTF. The Naassene

teaching, according to Hippolytus, represents a syncretistic attempt to harmonize the

mysteries of the most ancient peoples with Greek philosophy and earliest Christian

tradition. Such a view is clearly emphasized at the very beginning of book 5 (Ref. 5.2;

5.7.1) and it is certainly relevant to our understanding of the immediate context of NTF.

More precisely, the proclamation that the mysteries of the Asssyrians, Phrygians and

Egyptians confirm the Christian doctrine about the kingdom of heaven16 is preceded in

Hippolytus' Refutatio by a reference to the "secret and unutterable mystery of the blessed

pleasure [of baptism]."17 After a short exposition of the Naassene interpretation of the

mystery of baptism, Hippolytus introduces NTF with a reference to the "blessed nature"

of the kingdom of heaven which, according to the Naassenes, may, again, be understood

in the light of ancient mysteries. Hippolytus then explains the Naassene version of logion

4 as an "unutterable and mystical saying" (Ref. 5.7.22a), whereas the new passage

(5.7.22bff.) begins with an additional reference to Egyptian and Phrygian "initiations and

secret rites of the gods" (teletas kai orgia theôn).

What can be gleaned from this information regarding the immediate context of

NTF? It is important to notice that NTF is an organic part of the Naassene Sermon in the

sense that the Christian mystical rites and doctrines (sayings) find their fulfillment in the

mysteries of the most ancient nations of the world, and vice versa. It seems that in the

syncretistic world of the Naassene sect, the elements of the new, Christian, religion are

approved by religious and mystical doctrines of the ancient civilizations; at the same

time, however, these ancient teachings find their completion in the Naassene

16 The symbol of the kingdom (of heaven) is the most employed theme in the Gospel of Thomas.
17 Ref. 5.7.19: to kryphion autôn kai arreton tês makarias mystêrion hedonês.

116
interpretation of Christianity. On both sides of this typological relationship,18 an

emphasis is laid upon the mystical aspects of the two sources of the Naassene tradition -

i.e. ancient, pre-Christian, and Christian. In such a context one encounters the most

reliable attestation to the Gospel of Thomas in early Christian literature.

Let us now, again, consider NTF, this time from the perspective of its parallels

with the Gospel of Thomas as well as its relevance for the question of the origin of our

document. Allusions to the mysteries of the ancient nations (Assyrians, Phrygians and

Egyptians) provide in Ref. 5.7.20 an appropriate framework for the exposition of the

Naassene doctrine about the kingdom of heaven. Two striking parallels with the Gospel

of Thomas are then introduced along with an explicit reference to euangelion kata

Thôman as a genuinely Naassene writing (cf. diarrêden...paradidoasi in 5.7.20!).

The first of these parallels is available in NTF in the form of a summary of the

Naassene discourse concerning the kingdom of heaven, whereas the second one

represents a quotation of the saying which is parallelled in log. 4 of the Gospel of

Thomas. However, this fact alone should not confuse us, especially if we take into

account a very peculiar mode of Hippolytus' presentation characteristic of his "Naassene

chapter." The Naassene doctrine is discussed in a highly unsystematic manner, and it

seems likely that the schismatic bishop of Rome had primarily relied on incomplete

excerpts from a book. In other words, most of the information about the Naassene sect

comes to us already mediated by Hippolytus' summarized reading of another source.

Nevertheless, we are in a position to distinguish some remarkable

correspondences between NTF and the Gospel of Thomas, log. 3 and 4. Logion 4 is

adequately reflected in Hippolytus' own quotation through the presence of at least three

common motifs: the themes of the search, little child and the symbolical meaning of the

number seven.19 Moreover, both versions of the logion are, in a certain sense, related to

18 Which reminds us, to a certain extent, of the typological exegesis of the Old Testament with the help of
the New Testament.
19 Cf. Cornelis, 90ff.

117
the theme of the kingdom of heaven. In NTF, this is suggested by an explicit reference to

the kingdom in the previous sentence as well as by an invocation of the fourteenth

aeon.20 In the Gospel of Thomas, the kingdom is, again, evoked by the very idea of

singleness21 as well as the condition of "becoming a child" as a prerequisite for entering

the kingdom of heaven.22

If we take into account that the symbol of the kingdom is the most elaborated

topic in the Gospel of Thomas,22a as well as that Hippolytus was aware of the

significance of this symbol for the Naassene system,23 we may conclude that NTF is a

very relevant passage in terms of understanding the principal ideas of the Gospel of

Thomas. And unlike any other parallel with Thomas in early Christian literature, this

passage is supported by an explicit reference to our gospel.

With regard to logion 3, one may infer that the Naassene discourse mentioned in

NTF, even in its abbreviated form, strikingly reflects the major point of the Thomasine

saying. The message of the logion 3 is, in fact, that the "blessed nature" of the kingdom of

heaven is both hidden and revealed, both concealed and manifest, and that the right way

to know it is to know oneself, one's own nature which resembles the nature of the Living

Father.24

This general religious-philosophical outlook is supported both in the Gospel of

Thomas and the Hippolytus Naassene source by many other, very suggestive, parallels.

These parallels will be discussed in the next section.

20 I am not inclined to follow Hippolytus in his understanding of the fourteenth "aeon" as the biological age
of the boy at the time when he becomes a father. The theme of the fourteenth aeon is, for example, present,
in a more esoteric context, in the teaching of Nicolaus' sect, who, according to Epiphanius, are considered
the predecessors of the Ophites (cf. Panarion 25.7.1-2 and 37.1.2). For the discussion of fourteen aeons in
Nicolaus' teaching, cf. Panarion 25.5.1, and for the use of this term in the Naassene system, cf. Refutatio
5.6.5; 5.8.45; 5.9.5; 5.10.2.17.
21 Cf. also log. 16, 22, 23, 49.
22 Cf. 21, 22, 37, 46.
22a See p. 206.
23 Cf. Ref. 5.7.20.101-2.
24 Cf. also the Naassene views recorded in Ref. 5.6.6-7; 5.8.8; 5.8.38.

118
In line with our treatment of NTF, I would like to conclude that this textual unit

itself is a genuine part of the Naassene teaching presented by Hippolytus. Refutatio 7.5.20

is not only the most secure attestation as to the Gospel of Thomas, but also an important

link which relates this document to an unusual syncretistic system of Gentile Christian

thought, developed in Asia Minor already by the end of the first century C.E.

B. Thomas and Hippolytus' Naassene Source

I have already stated in the introduction that the main thesis of this study is built

upon the hypothesis that the background of the sect which delivered and edited the

Gospel of Thomas may eventually lead us to the provenance of this document itself. A

thorough investigation of that initial thesis should consist of at least two steps. First, we

will have to be able to demonstrate that the proposed sect (the Naassenes) had

traditionally been associated with the transmission of the Gospel of Thomas and,

likewise, that they played an important role in the recension of this document. Secondly,

we should put forward persuasive evidence that the Naassenes indeed originated in

Phrygia. The ideological background and the social-historical milieu of this specific

religious environment would, then, certainly contribute to our better understanding of

some major problems encountered in the area of Thomasine studies.

In the previous section I have made an attempt to support the Naassene traditional

association with our gospel and its early transmission by an analysis of the most reliable

testimony concerning the Gospel of Thomas. Now I would like to strengthen such a

traditional connection through an investigation of a whole range of parallels and

similarities with the Gospel of Thomas, uncovered beneath Hippolytus' exposition of an

unknown Naassene source (Refutatio 5.6-11).

I have also argued in the introduction that the Coptic Gospel of Thomas represents

a secondary recension of an older sayings collection (material closely resembling the

119
synoptic sayings source[s] of Matthew and Luke). I have, furthermore, suggested that the

redactional traits indicating a secondary recension of an older sayings-material may

provide an important clue as to the redaction, and probable authorship, of the Gospel of

Thomas. In terms of this proposal, I would like to discuss two types of parallels between

Thomas and Hippolytus' Naassene source. First I will analyze ideological as well as

terminological correspondences between the Naassene source and the special Thomasine

material, and then I am going to investigate whether the synoptic-like material of this

gospel might also have passed through Naassene hands. The positive results of such an

analysis would corroborate Hippolytus' statement that the Naassenes "expressly delivered

their tradition [of Jesus' sayings] in the gospel entitled according to Thomas." Let me,

therefore, first emphasize some common ideological features encountered in the special

Thomasine material and the relevant parallels from the Hippolytus Naassene source

(including NTF).

The Synopsis*

The Gospel of Thomas Hippolytus' Naassene Source

log. Refutatio

4a: Jesus said: The man old in days will not 5.7.20: Thus they [the Naassenes] say: "The
hesitate to ask a little child of seven days one who seeks shall find me in children from
about the place of Life, and he will live. seven years; for there, hidden in the
fourteenth aeon, I am revealed."

11b: (Jesus said:) In the days when you 5.8.32: They [the Naassenes] say indeed: "If
devoured the dead, you made it alive; you ate dead things and made them
when you come into light, what will you living ones, what will you do if you eat
do? living things?"

* The specific points of this comparison are emphasized by italics.

120
15: Jesus said: When you see Him who was 5.7.26: ...and nothing comes into being
not born of woman, prostrate yourselves from theprocreated.
upon your face and adore Him: He is your
Father.

22c: Jesus said to them: When you make the 5.7.14-15: For, he says, the Man is masculo-
two one, and when you make the inner as the feminine. And this thought is in harmony
outer and the outer as the inner and the above with their [the Naassene] teaching that the
as the below, and when you make the male intercourse of woman with man is the most
and the female into a single one, so that the wicked and forbidden act. For, he says, Attis
male will not be male, and the female (not) was castrated, that is to say, he ascended
from be female...then shall you enter [the the lower region of earthly creation up to the
Kingdom]. eternal realm, where, he says, there is
neither female nor male, but "a new
creature," "a new Man,"<who> is masculo-
feminine.
(comp. 5.9.10-11!)

29: Jesus said: If the flesh has come into 5.8.18: This is the marvel of marvels.
existence because of <the> spirit, it is a
marvel; but if <the> spirit (has come into
existence) because of the body, it is a marvel
of marvels. But I marvel how this great
wealth has made its home in this poverty.

56: Jesus said: Whoever has known the 5.8.22-24: But this same one, he says, the
world has found a corpse, and whoever Phrygians call Papas, because he put to rest
has found a corpse, of him the world is everything that had ben moved in disorderly
not worthy. and discordant manner before his
appearance...And the Phrygians call <this>
same being the Corpse, for he is buried in
the body as in a monument and tomb.
60: ...He said to them: You yourselves, seek
a place for yourselves in Repose, lest you
become a corpse and be eaten.

67: Jesus said: Whoever knows the All but 5.8.38: For, he says, "the beginning of
fails (to know) himself lacks everything. perfection is the knowledge of man, but the
knowledge of God is complete perfection."

5.6.6: Thus they [the Naassenes] say: "The


beginning of perfection is the knowledge of
m(an), but the knowledge of (God) is
complete perfection."

83: Jesus said: The images are manifest to

121
man and the Light which is within them 5.7.36: Allegorically, he says, he speaks
is hidden in the Image of the Light of the about the image of the Man.
Father. He will manifest himself and His 5.7.33: This is the Christ, he says, who
among Image is concealed by His Light. all the procreated things is portrayed by the
unportrayable Logos, as the Son of Man.
84: Jesus said: When you see your likeness,
you rejoice. But when you see your images 5.8.21: But the one who says this, he says,
which came into existence before you, is the perfect Man who is, again, portrayed
(which) neither die nor are manifested, by the Unportrayable One.
how much will you bear!

85: Jesus said: Adam came into existence 5.6.5: So this Man is masculo-feminine and
from a great power and a great wealth, and is called by them [the Naassenes] Adamas .
yet he did not become worthy of you. For if 5.7.6-7: ...and the Chaldaeans (tell the same)
he had been worthy, [he would] not <have> about Adam. And they say that he was the
tasted> death. man alone created by the earth. And he lay
breathless, without motion unshaken, like a
statue, being an image of the one on high,
praised in the hymn as the Man Adamas.
And he was created by many powers....
image of the great and most praiseworthy
and perfect Man - this is how they call him.

The Gospel of Thomas Hippolytus Naassene Source

log. Refutatio

5.9.5: This, he says, is the word (hrêma) of


God, the word, he says, of the proclamation
(apophásis) of the great power.
(cf. also 5.7.30; 5.7.36)

87: Jesus said: Wretched is the body 5.7.40: For mortal, he says, <is> everything
which depends upon a body, and wretched that is born below, but what is born in high
is the soul which depends upon these two. is immortal; for the spiritual <man>, and not
the earthly one, is born "of water" alone "and
spirit;" and the earthly man is of the flesh.
112: Jesus said: Woe to the flesh which This, he says, is what is written: "That which
depends upon the soul; woe to the soul is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is
which depends upon the flesh. born of the spirit is spirit" (Jn 3:6).

101b: And whoever does [not] love [his 5.7.39: ...that is, to flee from earthly

122
father] and his mother in My way will intercourse to Jerusalem on high, which is
not be able to be a [disciple] to me, for My "the Mother of <all> the Living" (Gen
mother [ ] but [My] true [Mother] gave 3:20).
me Life.
5.6.5 [the Naassene hymn]: "From thee,
105: Jesus said: Whoever knows father Father, and through thee, Mother, the two
and mother shall be called the son of immortal names, parents of the Aeons
a harlot.* citizens of heaven, Man of the great name!"

114: Simon Peter said to them: Let Mary go 5.7.15: ...to the eternal realm where, he
outfrom among us, because women are not says, there is neither female nor male, but
worthy of the Life. Jesus said: See, I shall “a new creature,” a "new Man," <who> is
lead her, so that I will make her male, masculo-feminine.
that she too may become a living spirit,
resembling you males. For every woman 5.8.44-45: For this, he says, is the "gate to
who makes herself male will enter the heaven," and this is the "house of Kingdom
Heaven. God," where the good God dwell as the
single one; where no unpurified person,
says he, will enter, no psychic or carnal one;
but it is kept for the spiritual ones only. And
there everyone must disrobe their
"<wedding> garments," and they become
bridegrooms, transformed into males
through the virgin spirit.

74: He said: Lord, there are many around


the cistern, but nobody in the cistern.*

According to our view, the following parallels betray traces of the Naassene

recension of the synoptic-like material in Thomas.

* According to Augustine (in Hoseam 1.4.14), dea meretrix, "the harlot mother," is an epithet of the Great
Mother Cybele! Cf. Ref. 5.9.10.
* This logion is not reflected in Hippolytus' Naassene source, but, interestingly enough, occurs in Origen's
work Contra Celsum, in the context of his discussion of the Ophite system, and, as such, is relevant for the
present analysis (cf. Contra Celsum, 8.15-16).

123
The Gospel of Thomas Hippolytus' Naassene Source

log. Refutatio

3: the themes of the kingdom of 5.7.20; 5.6.6; 5.8.8; 5.8.38


heaven and self-knowledge

9: the parable of the sower 5.8.29-30: the parable interpreted as one


of the mysteries (mystêrion) heard
only by the perfect gnostics (hoi
gnostikoi teleioi); cf. also 5.6.4!

12: the prominence of James 5.7.1: the Naassenes as the bearers of the righteous
the tradition of "many sayings" (pollôn pany logôn)
transmitted through James, "the brother of the Lord"
and Philip's sister Mariamne (cf. The Acts of Philip,
107);

13: the motifs of the "bubbling 5.9.19: zôn hydôr and zôntos hydatos;
spring," "three (powerful) words," 5.8.4: hoi treis hyperonkoi logoi;
and "living stones;" 5.7.10: hoi lithoi empsychoi;

19: the theme of the living stones 5.7.10

20: the parable of the mustard-seed 5.9.6

24: the theme of the light (man of 5.9.20 (cf. Jn 1.9)


light)

30: "three gods" 5.12.3 (on Peratae): treis theous; comp.


the Nicolaitan teaching about
"one Father" and "many gods"
(Epiph., Pan. 25.5.4);

33: "preaching from the housetops" 5.7.28: phôs <ouch> hypo ton modion and "the
light under a bushel;" kêrygma kêrysomenon epì tôn dômaton

37: the theme of "taking off your 5.8.44-45


clothing without being ashamed;"

39: the theme of gnosis 5.10.2; 5.6.4

50: the themes of "image" (eikôn), 5.7.7; 5.7.36: cf. to plasma


"movement" and "rest;" 5.8.22: etymological variations on the

124
theme of the "rest" (Papas, pauo,
paûe); there is an etymological
connection between the verb pauo ("to
cause to stop," "to cease") and the
name Papas.

61a: the motif of the "rest" 5.8.22

66: the proverb about the "rejected 5.7.35: ho lithos, ho eis kephalên
stone/corner-stone" gegenêmenos gônias (cf. also
Ps 118:22; Mt 21:42 and the parallels);

75: the motif of the "bridal chamber" 5.8.44

76: the parable of the pearl 5.8.33: the Naassene use of the proverb
"...margaritas tois choirois;"
93: the proverb about the pearls
and the swine

96: the parable of the leaven 5.8.8: the kingdom of heaven (within
us) as a leaven and a treasure;

104: the themes of the bridegroom 5.8.4


and a bridal chamber

106: the themes of androgyny and 5.6.5: (the Naassenes) exalt the Man
the Son of Man and the Son of Man; this Man is
masculo-feminine and is called
by them Adamas;

109: the parable of the treasure 5.8.8 (cf. above)


hidden in the field

111: the theme of finding oneself 5.8.38: archê teleiôseôs; 5.6.6: gnôsis
anthrôpou (estin)

113: the theme of the expectation 5.7.20


of the kingdom

Now that we have displayed these various echoes and parallels between

Hippolytus' Naassene source and the two major strata of the Gospel of Thomas,

respectively, it would be helpful to provide a brief description as well as systematization

of the excerpted material.

125
A preliminary statistical survey of those examples indicates that more than one

third of the logia in Thomas are echoed, or closely paralleled, in Hippolytus' source of the

Naassene teaching. More precisely, in the first major group of parallels (a total of 29

sayings) sixteen sayings from the Thomasine special material are reflected in the

Naassene source (i.e. logia 4a, 11b, 15, 22c, 29, 56, 60, 67, 83, 84, 85, 87, 101b, 105,

112, 114). One more logion from this same group (log. 74) is not paralleled in Refutatio,

but Origen ascribes this saying to the Ophites. In the second group, one finds twenty three

instances of parallelism between the Naassene source and the synoptic-like material in

Thomas (i.e., log. 3, 9, 12, 13, 19, 20, 24, 30, 33, 37, 39, 50, 61a, 66, 75, 76, 93, 96, 104,

106, 109, 111, 113).

Since Hippolytus' own excerpts from the Naassene source are mediated by at least

one more, intermediary, informant, one may not expect to encounter in Refutatio a large

number of clear, verbatim, citations from the Gospel of Thomas. However, at least two of

these parallels (log. 4a=5.7.20 and 11b=5.8.32) come to us almost in a verbatim form.

Also, it is striking that the selection of parables quoted by Hippolytus, and ascribed to the

Naassene use of the traditional material, corresponds to the choice made by the redactor

of the Gospel of Thomas.24a

Before I address some common terminological as well as ideological features that

more specifically determine the contents of the two discussed documents, I would like to

emphasize a few additional formal aspects of this comparison. First, as has been

previously pointed out, all the Naassene congruences with the Gospel of Thomas are

encountered in one chapter of a heresiological work (Refutatio 5.6-11), and are supported

by an explicit reference to the Naassene transmission of the Gospel of Thomas. Second,

most of the parallels mentioned above are relatively condensed and grouped around the

clusters of logia. This fact brings an additional weight to the hypothesis claiming the

24a More precisely, all four parables mentioned in the Naassene source (the parables of the sower, mustard
seed, treasure and leaven) are included in the Gospel of Thomas (log. 9, 20, 109 and 96)!

126
Naassene redactional impact on an older sayings source in Thomas. For example, eight

out of the ten concluding logia in the Gospel of Thomas are parallelled in Hippolytus'

Naassene source (i.e. 104, 105, 106, 109, 111, 112, 113, 114)! Another small cluster of

this type is, of course, the Naassene Thomas-Fragment itself (i.e. the Naassene parallels

with log. 3, 4a), and we encounter at least three more groups of logia that are closely

related to Naassene phraseology or doctrine (i.e. 11b - 12 - 13- 15; 74- 75 - 76; 83 - 84 -

85 - 87).

After these preliminary considerations, let us take a closer look at some common

terminological and ideological aspects of the two writings. In his article published in

Vigilae Christianae in 1960, William Schoedel made an effort to classify at least seven

major Naassene themes appearing in the Coptic Gospel of Thomas. As I have already

remarked in the introduction, this examination led Schoedel to assume that the Gospel of

Thomas is "a Naassene document, i.e. that it was either composed or thoroughly redacted

by members of this sect."25 In a similar attempt to demonstrate that the Naassenes played

a decisive role in the composition of our Gospel, I am going to supplement Schoedel's

conclusions by an additional inquiry into the nature and character of these common

themes.

We first note that some of the parallels from our former lists are more relevant

from the aspect of the common religious-philosophical themes and doctrines, whereas

others are interesting with regard to their phraseological or terminological idiosyncrasy.

The following themes could, perhaps, be included in the first of those two groups:

I. The Kingdom of Heaven

Cf. log. 3=Ref. 5.7.20; 5.8.8; log. 9=5.8.29-30; log. 20=5.9.6; log. 76=5.8.33;

log. 93=5.8.33; log. 96=5.8.8; log. 109=5.8.8; log. 113=5.7.20.

25 Schoedel, 233. Cf. also Grant and Freedman, 116.

127
II. The Theme of Androgyny

Cf. log. 22c=Ref. 5.7.14-15; log. 75=5.8.44; log. 104=5.8.44; log. 106=5.6.5;

log. 114=5.7.15; 5.8.44-45.

III. The Theme of a Little Child

Cf. log. 4a=Ref. 5.7.20.

IV. The Theme of Self-Knowledge

Cf. log. 3=Ref. 5.7.20; 5.6.6; 5.8.38; log. 67=5.8.38; log. 111=5.8.38; 5.6.6.

V. Concerns about (Eating) Dead and Living Things

Cf. log. 11b=Ref. 5.8.32; log. 56=5.8.22-24; log. 60=5.8.22-24.

VI. Adam and the Great Power

Cf. log. 85=Ref. 5.6.5; 5.7.6-7; 5.9.5. Also 5.7.30; 5.7.36. Log. 106=5.6.5.

VII. The Theme of the Light and Images

Cf. log. 33=Ref. 5.7.28; log. 83, 84=5.7.36; 5.8.21; 5.9.20.

VIII. The Body - Soul - Spirit Trichotomy

Cf. log. 87, 112=Ref. 5.7.40.

IX. The Prominence of James

Cf. log. 12=5.7.1.

128
All these religious-philosophical themes and symbols are of fundamental

importance for the ideological world of the Thomasine community. They will be more

thoroughly discussed in the fourth chapter.

A further classification of some common terms and phrases, occurring both in the

Gospel of Thomas and Refutatio 5.6-11, displays the following similarities:

1. The peculiar use of the expression "marvel of marvels" in log. 29 and Ref.

5.8.18;

2. The common baptismal symbolism manifested through the motifs of the

"bubbling spring," "living water" (log. 13=Ref. 5.9.19 and 21); "bridegroom" and the

"bridal chamber" (log. 75, 104=5.8.44); "disrobing the garments" (without being

ashamed, log. 37=5.8.44-45);

3. The Simonian theme of the "great power" (log. 85=Ref. 5.9.5);

4. The common motif of the "living stones" (hoi lithoi empsychoi in Ref. 5.7.10

and the belief in the mystical powers of the stones in log. 13 and 19);

5. The "three gods" and "three (powerful) words" (log. 30=Ref. 5.12.3; log.

13=5.8.4(?) - Caulacau, Saulasau, Zeesar from Is 28:10);

6. The theme of the "image" (the use of eikôn in log. 50 or plasma in Ref. 5.7.7

and 5.7.36);

7. The peculiar symbol of the cistern (log. 74 and Origen, Contra Celsum 8.15-

16);

8. The use of the idiosyncratic phrase "the son of a harlot" in the Gospel of

Thomas, log. 105 (cf. Augustine, in Hoseam 1.4.14);

9. The common motif of the celestial or "true" parents (log. 101b=Ref. 5.7.39 and

105=5.6.5);

10. A parallel appearance of some characteristic scriptural motifs and symbols,

such as the "pearl" (log. 76, 93 = Ref. 5.8.33) or the "rejected stone/corner-stone" (log.

66=5.7.35);

129
11. A very peculiar usage of the terms "rest" (log. 50, 61a=5.8.22) and "gnosis"

(log. 39=5.10.2; 5.6.4).

Admittedly, some of these symbols and expressions are very common in the early

Christian tradition (e.g. the "bubbling spring," the "bridegroom," and the "bridal

chamber;" the "pearl," the themes of androgyny, gnosis or "rest"), whereas the others

(such as the "marvel of marvels," "three words," "three gods," the "living stones," or the

"cistern") are very peculiar, especially in the context of our understanding of the Naassene

relationship with the Gospel of Thomas. Most of these common features are very specific

and atypical in their nature and may not so easily be explained by the general fund of

early Christian ideas and themes. This strongly suggests that the Naassenes may have

been the sect which adapted an earlier tradition of Jesus' logia to produce the present form

of the Gospel of Thomas. Like Grant, Freedman and Schoedel, I believe that the

Naassenes provided a fundamental gnosticizing or syncretistic recontextualization and

recension of older material. To summarize the arguments which clearly support the first

part of our hypothesis - that is, that the Naassenes should be considered as the redactors

or even the genuine authors of the original Greek version of the Gospel of Thomas:

1. Hippolytus of Rome is a reliable witness to the Naassene redaction and

transmission of the Gospel of Thomas. His testimony is independently supported by a

quotation which corresponds to the log. 4a of the extant versions of the Gospel of

Thomas.

2. Hippolytus' attestation is further supported by an echo of the Thomasine log. 3,

which is reflected in the same fragment (Refutatio 5.7.20).

3. More than half of the sayings belonging to the Thomasine "special material"

(i.e. sayings with no parallels in the synoptic gospels) are either echoed or closely

parallelled in Hippolytus' Naassene source. This fact supports the possibility that the

Naassenes were responsible for the secondary recension of the synoptic-like material in

Thomas.

130
4. There are at least 23 parallels which suggest the Naassene recension of that

independent sayings material as well.

5. Both types of parallels (cf. 3 and 4) are relevant for our comparison in terms of

the doctrinal, ideological as well as the terminological or phraseological, aspects of the

two documents. In other words, the focal themes, concepts and expressions of the

community which produced the Gospel of Thomas are reflected in the Naassene source of

Hippolytus.

6. Finally, there is a tradition-historical connection which brings the Gospel of

Thomas even closer to the Naassene source. This connection becomes apparent through

their mutual emphasis upon the authority of James, who is considered by the Naassenes

as an early bearer of a "plethora of sayings" transmitted to them through independent

apostolic channels.26 These sayings were presumably recorded in the earliest version of

the Gospel of Thomas.

The second step in our main argument will consist of an attempt to demonstrate

that the Naassenes were a sect which originated in Phrygia, and that the Phrygian

religious landscape most accurately reflects the ideas encountered both in Hippolytus'

source and our Gospel of Thomas.

C. Who were the Naassenes?

1. The Name and Origin

It is intriguing that Hippolytus of Rome is the only early Christian heresiologist

who furnishes evidence about the Hellenistic sect with the name Naassenes. Nonetheless,

26 That is, through the mediation of Philip's sister Mariamne (cf. Ref. 5.7.1; 10.9.3; Acts of Philip 107-108
and Origen, Contra Celsum 5.62.

131
his own etymological clarification of this name, provided in Refutatio 5.6.3-4 and 5.9.11-

13, enables us to derive rather firm conclusions regarding the identity of this sect.

The Naassenes were given their unusual name because they venerated nothing else

than the serpent (timôsi de ouk allo ti ê ton naas, 5.9.11) and dared to sing hymns to it

(ophin hymnein, 5.6.3). In fact, "the priests and the leaders of this doctrine were the first

who were called the Naassenes (hoi Naassenoi, 5.6.3)," a name which is derived from

the Hebrew word nâhâsh (Gk. translit. naas), meaning the 'serpent' or 'snake.'27

A further etymological interpretation of the word naas provided in Ref. 5.9.12ff.

represents, however, a less persuasive attempt to demonstrate that there is some genuine

connection between the snake (as naas) and the temple (naos): "...all the temples under

heaven are called naos [from naas]; and for this náas alone is devoted every shrine, and

every rite, and every mystery, and no rite may be found under heaven in which there is no

temple (naos) and the snake (naas) in it, from which the name naos is derived."

Suggestive though it is, this etymological speculation on the words naos and naas

may also be described as a common "disease of language" characteristic of the Hellenistic

age.28 On the other hand, one should certainly pay more attention to Hippolytus'

information that "afterwards" (meta de tauta) the Naassenes "called themselves gnostics"

(hoi gnôstikoi)," claiming that "they alone knew the depths (ta bathê ginôskein, 5.6.4)." It

seems, therefore, that in the history of the Naassenes there was a time when the members

of this sect had been known only as the snake-worshippers or perhaps the "snake(-like)

27 Cf. 5.9.12: naas de estin ho ophis.


28 With regard to etymology, I would be much more inclined to derive the Naassenes' own use of the word
nâhâsh, a serpent, from the Hebrew verb and an onomatopoietic root indicating the practice of sorcery,
divination or enchantment (cf. Gesenius' Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon, Grand Rapids, Mi.: Eerdmans,
1969: 544-5). This type of sorcery was known to the ancients as ophimanteia or "divination by serpents."
This meaning may perhaps be supported by Epiphanius' description of the Ophite "eucharist" in Panarion
37.5.6-8.

132
people,"29 and only later they assumed the epithet hoi gnôstikoi, attributed to the

Carpocratians and some other heterodox groups as well.30

There are two other things in Hippolytus' report that draw our attention in this

context. First, as Hippolytus puts it, "many others" have split off from the Naassenes and

"divided the heresy, which is really one, into many factions, describing the same (thing)

by different words, as will be argued in the forthcoming discussion (5.6.4)." In his

exposition of the gnostic heresies, Hippolytus not only gives absolute priority to the

Naassenes (he discusses their teaching at the very beginning of the fifth book),31 he also

states that the sects discussed after the Naassenes (such as the Peratae, Sethians,

Justinians and probably some others) originate from the same type of heresy described in

the "Naassene chapter." This is, I think, further supported by Hippolytus' reference to ho

katholikos ophis, the "universal serpent," in the section on the Peratae (Ref. 5.16.8).

Second, Hippolytus explicitly points to Mariamne as a woman who, according to

the Naassene tradition, transmitted to this sect a great number of sayings originally

ascribed to James.32 It is striking indeed that some of the most important information

concerning the origins of the Naassene sect, which comes to us through Hippolytus, is

independently corroborated by some other sources of early Christian tradition.

First of all, one should notice that these other sources (including the Acts of

Philip, Epiphanius, Origen and Philaster of Brescia) generally use the Greek name

Ophites while describing the sect known to Hippolytus under their Hebrew designation.

Since Hippolytus himself very precisely defines the term naas as a Hebrew equivalent to

29 Cf. also Epiphanius, Pan. 26.18.5.


30 Cf. Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies (1.25.6), trans. by J. Keble, Oxford: James Parker, 1872: 77.
Also, Morton Smith, "The History of the Term 'Gnostikos'," in B. Layton, ed., Rediscovery of Gnosticism,
Vol. 2, Leiden: Brill, 1981.
31 Cf., for example, his expression arxasthai de apo tôn tetolmekotôn ton aition tês planês genomenon
ophin hymnein...It is interesting that Philaster of Brescia, a fourth-century heresiologist, includes the
Ophites in the "catalogue of those who taught heresies before the coming of Christ" and begins his
exposition of various heresies with the words: "Primi sunt Ofitae, qui dicuntur serpentim" (cf. Filastrius
Brixiensis, Diversarum hereseon liber, 1.1; in Corpus Christianorum, Series Latina IX, Turnholti:
Typographi Brepols, 1957: 218).
32 Ref. 5.7.1.

133
the Greek ophis, and since the crucial information concerning the Ophites, provided by

these other sources, generally corresponds to Hippolytus' own account about the

Naassenes, it is probable that in the case of the Naassene sect we are dealing with one of

the original branches of the worshippers of katholikos ophis mentioned in Refutatio

5.16.8. At any rate, there is no particular reason why we should not discuss Hippolytus'

report on the Naassene sect in the light of the other authors' knowledge about the

Ophites.32a

In chapter 37 of his Panarion, Epiphanius corroborates Hippolytus' information

regarding the sect which received its name "because of the serpent which they

magnify."33 Moreover, Epiphanius himself traces the origin of this heresy back to the

sect of Nicolaus and the "Gnostics."34

In contrast to Hippolytus, Epiphanius is a very biased and unreliable witness and

his report should be read with a great deal of caution and reserve. However, at least a part

of the information encountered in his Panarion seems to be authentic, and I will refer to

that in the subsequent discussion. Epiphanius provides not only the basic description of

the Ophite mythos and ritual, but also indicates that the Serpent of the Ophites was

glorified as "a new divinity,"35 indeed, as Christ himself!36

Origen is yet another Christian author who provides some information about the

Ophites,37 but his own characterization of this sect is confusing. He attacks Celsus for

his belief that the Ophites were Christians and then depicts the Ophites not only as "a

most undistinguished sect"38 of his time, but also as genuine antichristians.39

32a For an inherent connection between the Naassenes and the Ophites, see Mansel 1875: 95-109; Legge
1915: 25-82 and 1921: 118ff.; Casey 1925/26; Leisegang 1955: 39; Goodenough 1958: 75-77; Grant and
Freedman 1960: 76ff.; Jonas 1963: 93.
33 Pan. 37.1.2. Like the Naassenes of Hippolytus, Epiphanius' Ophites sing hymns in the presence of the
serpent (35.5.7)!
34 Compare also Pan. 25.2.1 and 25.7.2.
35 Cf. Pan. 37.1.2; 2.4.
36 Cf. ibid., 37.2.6; 6.5; 8.1.
37 Contra Celsum 6.28.
38 Ibid., 6.24.

134
I will clarify this confusion regarding the actual ideology of the Ophites later.

Now it is important to notice that Origen was aware of the sect whose members

considered themselves "gnostics,"40 as well as of the tradition which connects some of

the unnamed heretics with Philip's sister Mariamne.41 A more detailed account of this

tradition is to be found in the Acts of Philip.

Another apocryphal work, The Acts of Philip, is one of the crucial literary

witnesses to the Phrygian origin of the Naassenes. But before we consider in more detail

the question of the provenance of this sect, let me briefly enumerate several notices of

this document which support the data provided by the heresiologists.

I will first quote the very beginning of the Acts attributed to the apostle Philip in

Hierapolis:42

In the days of Trajan, after the Martyrdom of Simon, son of


Clopas, bishop of Jerusalem, successor to James, Philip the
apostle was preaching through all the cities of Lydia and Asia.
And he came to the city Ophioryme (Snake-street), which is
called Hierapolis of Asia, and was received by Stachys, a believer.
And with him were Bartholomew, one of the Seventy, and his
[Philip's] sister Mariamne, and their disciples. And they
assembled at Stachys house. And Mariamne sat and listened to
Philip discoursing. He spoke of the snares of the dragon, who
has 'no shape' in creation, and is recognized and shunned by
beasts and birds. For the men of the place worshipped the snake
and had images of it; and called Hierapolis Ophioryme. And
many were converted (Acts of Philip 107-13).43
Even granting that a greater part of this account about the travels of the apostle

Philip described in these Acts represents a legend, one should not discount too quickly the

historical value of some of the information provided by this work.44

39 Ibid., 6.61.
40 Ibid., 6.28.
41 Ibid., 6.62.
42 This text is preserved in three different recensions and is compiled both by Montague James in his
edition of the Apocryphal New Testament, pp. 448ff. and Richard Lipsius, Die Apokryphen
Apostelgeschichten und Apostellegenden, pp. 7ff.
43 James, The Apocryphal New Testament, 448.
44 Cf. Lipsius' discussion on pp. 11ff.

135
First, Eusebius is a very reliable witness to Philip's mission and death in

Hierapolis, Phrygia,45 and his account is independently confirmed by recent results of

Italian excavators.46 Second, even if the description of the adventures of Philip in

Hierapolis is highly embellished, we may not discount the significance of the toponyms

listed in the Acts. It is quite probable that in some circles from the end of the first century

(and later) Hierapolis was known as Ophioryme, and, furthermore, that it was the seat of

some local Phrygian cult of the serpent. The pre-Christian background of these cults in

Phrygia, originating from the worshipping of the Great Mother Cybele, Attis and

Sabazius, will be discussed in the next chapter. In this context I would like to remark that,

according to the Acts, the snake-worshippers were active in Hierapolis, Asia, even before

the coming of Philip and his companions. And at least some of them were converted to

Christianity.47

The first important confirmation of Hippolytus' Refutatio (5.7.1) encountered in

the Acts of Philip pertains to the role of Mariamne, the alleged transmitter of Christian

doctrine to the Naassenes. According to the Acts, Mariamne, Philip and Bartholomew talk

privately in Hebrew,48 an occurrence that indicates the Gentile background of the local

cult. Later in the Acts there is a reference to the priests of this sect devoted to Echidna, the

Viper.49 The cruelty of these priests and the snake-worshippers is certainly exaggerated

for literary purposes, but at some points the careful reader may recognize features

characteristic of the heresiologists' descriptions of the Naassenes/Ophites. Among these

features I would like to include the references to the "deep,"50 the cult of virginity51 and

Philip's allusion to the image of the First Man.52 Finally, one encounters here a striking

45 Cf. Eusebius' reference to Polycrates' letter in the Ecclesiastical History 3.31.


46 Cf. ch. II, n. 92.
47 Cf. Acts 113.
48 Cf. Acts 115-16, 127.
49 Cf. Acts 123, 131; also Ref. 5.6.3!
50 Acts 132.
51 Ibid., 134.
52 Ibid., 140. Compare Ref. 5.7.6-7; 5.7.36; etc.

136
parallel to the Gospel of Thomas, log. 22: "For the Lord said to me: Unless ye make that

which is beneath to be alive, and the left to be right (and the right left), ye shall not enter

into my kingdom."53

All these various sources of our knowledge about the Naassenes and the Ophites

agree at several critical points and thus enable us to derive some preliminary conclusions

with regard to the profile of this heterodox sect.

1. The original background of the Naassene Ophites is most likely to be sought in

pre-Christian forms of worshipping the snake as a symbol of the divine. The name of the

sect itself, along with the heresiological descriptions of some of their rituals and

doctrines, strongly suggest such a background.

2. Only later did the Ophites accept some of the elements of the Hebrew religious

tradition, primarily the Adamic myth and the story of the creation described in the first

three chapters of Genesis. During the rise of Christianity in Asia Minor and some other

parts of the Mediterranean world, some of these Ophite groups accepted the basic

components of the new religion and adapted them to an already existing syncretistic

system of beliefs. Very early they came under the influence of various apostolic traditions

which, in the case of the Naassenes, were associated in a legendary fashion with the

apostle Philip and his sister Mariamne. It is very likely that the Naassenes did not begin to

call themselves "Gnostics" before such an unusual syncretistic blending of the ancient

Greco-Phrygian, Jewish and Christian beliefs had actually taken place. The chance that

some of the Ophite factions did not accept Christianity led to the confusion of some

church fathers (as is to be inferred from Origen's refutation of Celsus). It is quite possible

that those non-Christian Ophites were antagonistic to the followers of Jesus and such an

animosity was reflected in the Acts of Philip, Epiphanius' Panarion and Origen's writing.

Now I would like to propose a very tentative "definition" of the Naassene sect

with respect to their geographic as well as ideological background: The Naassenes are a

53 Ibid.

137
syncretistic religious-mystical sect with its origin in Asia Minor - more precisely,

Hierapolis, Phrygia; in their rites and doctrines they tended to integrate elements of

ancient Phrygian religion, magic and Hellenistic mystery cults with their own

(re)interpretation of the Old Testament creation-myth and the Christian Gospel. The basic

components of this syncretism were developed in Asia Minor and Phrygia already in the

first century.

Be that as it may, we still have to support the thesis concerning the Phrygian

origin of the Naassenes by some explicit arguments. Also, a question needs to be asked as

to how these syncretistic elements of the three religious traditions (i.e., Greco-Phrygian,

Jewish and Christian) found themselves creatively united in the Naassene doctrines and

rituals. Finally, how did these various ideological trends influence the Naassene redaction

of the Gospel of Thomas ? Some aspects of these questions will be elaborated in our next

chapter.

What I would like to affirm at the end of this section is that the Naassenes really

originated in Phrygia. Also, there are some clear textual indications that their syncretism

embraced the elements of all three aforementioned religious currents.

The Phrygian background of the sect may, in my view, be supported by the

following evidence:

1. The Acts of Philip unambiguously points to Hierapolis, Phrygia as the

headquarters of the sect that worshipped the cult of the Serpent. On the basis of some

idiosyncratic toponyms (such as Ophioryme), as well as historical and archaeological

evidence about the preaching of the Apostle Philip in Hierapolis, we assume that these

sectarians were, in fact, our Naassene Ophites.

2. Such an assumption is further corroborated by the importance of Mariamne,

Philip's sister, as a transmitter of Christian doctrine to the Naassenes (both in Hippolytus'

Refutatio 5.7.1 and in the Acts of Philip). Her role as the bearer of the tradition of one of

the heterodox groups is also attested in Origen's Contra Celsum 5.62.

138
3. Hippolytus explicitly asserts (Ref. 5.9.10) that the Naassenes "attend

(paredreuousin) the so-called mysteries of the Great Mother" (tois legomenois Mêtros

megalês Mystêriois), whose main centers of worship were located in Phrygia. The

Phrygian background of this sect is further indicated by their praises to Attis (Attis as

Adonis in Ref. 5.7.11; Attis as Papas in 5.8.22ff.; also 9.1-10) as well as their imitation of

the Galli,54 the eunuch-priests of the Great Mother who were traditionally active in

Hierapolis.55

It is quite possible that their veneration of the serpent as a religious symbol was

related to the syncretistic worship of Sabazius, a god often associated with the snakes.55a

The ancient sources clearly indicate that Sabazius is a Phrygian deity,56 and his

association with various forms of the Great Goddess is confirmed both by archaeological

and literary evidence.57 William Ramsey specifically links Sabazius with the Phrygian

goddess Leto, a manifestation of the Great Mother as she was celebrated in Hierapolis

during the great religious festivals of Letoia.58 In such a context, Sabazius and Leto were

normally identified with Attis and Cybele as two aspects of the same deities.

4. A Phrygian milieu is also suggested by the peculiar symbolism reflected in the

Naassene Sermon of Hippolytus (e.g. the already discussed motifs of the corpse, lion,

trees, living stones; note also the importance of the "Mother of All," androgyny and

Delphic ideology).59

54 Cf. Ref. 5.9.10-11.


55 Cf. Strabo, Geography 13.4.14.
55a See ch. IV, n. 78.
56 Cf. Aristophanes, Horae, frg. 566 ([ton] Phryga, ton aulêtêra, ton Sebazion) or the Orphic Hymn, no.
48 (makar Phrygies mêdeôn). A detailed account of Testimonia Antiqua with regard to the cult of Sabazius
is provided in E. N. Lane, The Other Monuments and Literary Evidence (Corpus Cultus Iovis Sabazii, II),
Leiden: Brill, 1985: 46-52.
57 Cf., for example, Strabo 10.3.15, 18. For a full survey of archeological and epigraphical evidence, cf.
Lane, Conclusions (CCIS, III), Leiden: Brill, 1989: 16ff.
58 Cf. W. Ramsey, Cities and Bishoprics of Phrygia, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1895: 89ff.
59 These themes and symbols, closely related to the Phrygian religious lanscape, will be discussed in
greater detail in our next chapter.

139
5. According to Epiphanius (Pan. 37.1.2), the Ophites "took their cue from the

sect of Nicolaus," the heterodox Christians who were active in Asia Minor in the first

century (cf. the Revelation to John 2:6, 15). It seems that the Nicolaitans significantly

contributed to the rise of a number of sects which considered themselves "Gnostics"

(Pan. 25.7.2; 26.1.3, 3.3). In fact, this is an epithet originally ascribed to Hippolytus'

Naassenes.60 At any rate, it is interesting that some of the Ophite themes are reflected in

the Apocalypse, and we have already referred, in a similar context, to the importance of

the Johannine parallels with the Gospel of Thomas.61

The cumulative impact of all these arguments will be tested further through a

comparative analysis of Phrygian religious syncretism and the symbolism of Thomas. But

before I embark upon an inquiry into the symbolic world of the text which, according to

our evidence, was edited by the Naassenes, I would like to assess the type of syncretism

that pervades the heresiological accounts of the Naassene-Ophite doctrines and practices.

2. Myth, Doctrine, Ritual

There are four patristic sources relevant to our discussion of the Ophite religious

system: Hippolytus' Refutatio (5.6-11), Epiphanius' Panarion (chs. 37 and 26), Irenaeus'

Adversus Haereses (1.30.1-15) and Origen's Contra Celsum (6.24ff.). It is important to

realize that these four heresiologists do not provide a uniform picture of the Ophite

teachings and beliefs and there are, in my view, two major reasons for that.

60 It is striking, indeed, that Epiphanius' theory concerning the background of the Ophites is corroborated
by Hippolytus of Rome himself. In his treatise "On Resurrection" (De Resurrectione, frg. 1), Hippolytus
claims that Nicolaus of Antioch "was the first to affirm that the resurrection had already come; meaning by
'resurrection' the fact that we believe in Christ and have received baptism; but he denied the resurrection of
the body. And several, at his instigation, have founded sects. Among these were all the self-styled Gnostics
to whom Hymenaeus and Philetus belonged" (cf. Doresse, 301). This type of "realized eschatology" would
certainly go hand in hand with the ideology of the Gospel of Thomas (cf. log. 3, 51, 113) or Hippolytus'
Naassene Gnostics. In any case, the existence of Hymenaeus and Philetus as well as the content of their
teaching is further corroborated by 2 Tim 2:17-18. We should also remember that this epistle itself reflects
the spiritual landscape of Asia Minor at the end of the first century of the common era.
61 Cf. ch. II, n. 78.

140
First, since the Ophites themselves were a "sectarian family" with several

branches that, according to our proposal, gradually evolved from the common syncretistic

ancestor,62 it is quite understandable that these early Christian authors, who wrote at

different times, left accounts describing the teachings of different Ophite factions. This

particularly applies to Irenaeus63 and Origen,64 whereas Hippolytus, on the other hand,

is the best informed anthologist of the Ophite heresies. Epiphanius' own report is

somewhat confusing, not only because of his partisanship, but also because he describes

the elements of the Ophite system in two different chapters: "Against Ophites" (ch. 37)

and "Against Gnostics" (ch. 26).

Second, it is evident in some cases that the antiheretical writers relied upon

different sources of information about the Ophites. Hippolytus, for example, wrote after

Irenaeus, but possessed much more textual material, coming from a new source

underlying the fifth book of his Refutatio.65

In an attempt to characterize the type of information furnished by these

heresiologists, one could derive the following general conclusions:

- Hippolytus of Rome presents the most detailed account of the Naassene-Ophite

syncretism. However, the unsystematic mode of his presentation causes some problems

regarding the structure and stratification of that syncretistic system.

- Irenaeus, on the other hand, provides the most homogeneous description of the

Ophite myth, especially with respect to their reinterpretation of the biblical themes and

doctrines. However, the fact that his report could have reflected the more specific views

of the Sethian Ophites brings about additional methodological problems.

62 Hippolytus himself distinguishes at least four such groups: the Naassenes, Peratae, Setians and Justinians
(cf. Ref. 5.1-5).
63 According to Theodoret (Haer. Fab. 1.14), Irenaeus actually describes the Sethian-Ophite system.
64 Origen is primarily focused on one aspect of the Ophite doctrine, related to the description of the so-
called "Diagram of the Ophians." It is not completely clear which Ophite faction he actually had in mind.
65 Cf. Marcovich, "Introduction," 32ff.

141
- Epiphanius is the most biased source, but his own account corroborates Refutatio

and Adversus Haereses in some major points.

- Origen is certainly the most specific of all four authors. He picks only one aspect

of the Ophite symbolic system and his explanation of the Ophite "diagram" is set in the

context of his polemics with Celsus. In any case, I will make only occasional references

to his work.

With regard to these presuppositions, I will treat Hippolytus' Refutatio as a

primary source of our knowledge about the Naassene myth, doctrine and ritual. Indeed, he

is the only heresiologist who explicitly refers to the Naassene Ophite faction. And,

according to our evidence, the Naassenes were the redactors of the Gospel of Thomas.

Irenaeus of Lyons is a valuable informer too, especially with respect to the biblical

background of the Ophite myth, but one should bear in mind that the interpretation of the

opening chapters of Genesis represents only one, however important, aspect of the Ophite

religious-mystical system.66

Origen aids us in better understanding the Ophite cosmogeny as well as the

religious climate in which works such as the Apocalypse or the Naassene Psalm were

composed. We will return to him in our discussion of the sources of Phrygian

Christianity.

Finally, a selective and critical reader of Epiphanius' Panarion (ch. 25, 26 and 37)

may grasp the basic context in which various heterodox groups known as "Gnostics"

(including the Ophites) developed their teachings and practices.

We have already distinguished the Naassene Ophites as a religious-mystical group

that tended to comprise in their teaching the elements of the Greco-Phrygian, Jewish and

Christian myths and doctrines. Nowhere is that more obvious than in Hippolytus'

66 It is not entirely clear if the teaching of the "others" (alii), presented in Against Heresies 1.30.1-15,
reflects the general views of the Ophites, or, perhaps, the more specific features of the Sethian gnostic
cosmogeny. The most comprehensive scholarly attempt to define the phenomenon of "Sethian Gnosticism"
is to be found in B. Layton, ed., The Rediscovery of Gnosticism, Vol. 2, Leiden: Brill, 1981.

142
Refutatio. Although three other refuters of Ophitism do not explicitly refer to the

Naassenes as the bearers of such a syncretism, I will make an attempt to support

Hippolytus' unique account by some evidence provided in Irenaeus', Epiphanius' and

Origen's expositions of the Ophite doctrines.

According to Hippolytus, the Naassenes attend the mysteries of the Great Mother

(5.9.10), sing hymns to Attis (5.9.8-9) and adopt a concomitant syncretistic mythology.

We have already suggested that the Naassene worship of the serpent could have been

related to the local Phrygian veneration of Sabazius. Sabazius, on the other hand, is easily

associated, or even identified, with Attis. As William Ramsey has put it, "the serpent,

εηιδνα in Hierapolis, was usually the species with swoln cheeks (παρεíασ), and he

impersonated Sabazios; hence, when the superstitious man of Theophrastus saw a παρεíας

óφις in his house, he invoked Sabazios."67

On the other hand, the immediate context for the mysteries of Attis and Cybele is

to be sought in the accompanying myths and legends recorded by Pausanias, Arnobius of

Sicca, Diodorus Siculus, Ovid and Firmicus Maternus.68 Legge conveniently summarizes

the basic elements of these various myths:

Cybele, called also Agdistis, Rhea, Gê, or the Great Mother, was said to have been
born from a rock accidently fecundated by Zeus. On her first appearance she was
hermaphrodite, but on the gods depriving her of her virility it passed into an
almond tree. The fruit of this was plucked by the virgin daughter of the river
Sangarios, who, placing it in her bosom, became by it the mother of Attis, fairest
of mankind. Attis at his birth was exposed on the river bank, but was rescued,
brought up as a goatherd, and was later chosen as a husband by the king's
daughter. At the marriage feast, Cybele, fired by jealousy, broke into the palace
and, according to one version of the story,69 emasculated Attis who died of the

67 Ramsay, n. 1, p. 94. Cf. Theophrastus, Characters, 16.4 and 27.8 in Lane 1985:46.
68 Cf. Paus. 7.17.9-12; Arnob., Adv. nat. 5.5-7, 16-17; Diod. Sic. 3.58, 59; Ovid, Fasti 4.221-46; Firm.
Mat., De Error 3. A more detailed account of these stories is to be found in Grant Showerman, The Great
Mother of the Gods, Ph.D. dissertation, University of Wisconsin, 1900: 240-45. For the most recent
compilation of some of these myths, cf. Marvin Meyer, The Ancient Mysteries, San Francisco: Harper,
1987: 116ff.
69 According to Pausanias, Arnobius and Ovid, Attis, in a state of frenzy, emasculated himself.

143
hurt. Then Cybele repented, and prayed to Zeus to restore him to life, which
prayer was granted by making him a god."70

Against the background of this myth, we are now in a better position to appraise

the meaning of Hippolytus' occasional allusions to castration, androgyny and relentless

asceticism.71 Also, the references to an almond-tree,72 living, animated, nature73 or the

"green ear of grain harvested,"74 represent the components of the same symbolism

associated with the myth of the Great Goddess.

It seems, however, that, despite these frequent evocations of the Attis/Cybele

myth, which comprise a great deal of the Naassene Sermon (or the so-called Attis-

commentary), Hippolytus grants a certain priority to the Naassene cosmogonic-

anthropological speculations concerning Anthropos-Adamas and the corresponding

tripartite conceptions of the Man and the Universe.75 Even though the Naassenes

worship the serpent and attend the mysteries of the Great Mother, they, "according to

their own teaching, revere beyond all others, the Son of Man."76

Some other aspects of the same doctrine include the belief in Adamas-Anthropos'

androgyny77 as well as the triple division of the Man, Soul, Church or even the new

grammatikê technê.78

Finally, as a third component of that Naassene syncretism, Hippolytus mentions

their unique Christology,79 baptismal practice80 and the doctrine of the kingdom of
heaven.81

70 Legge 1921: 119.


71 Cf. Ref. 5.9.10-11. Compare Epiphanius' Panarion 25.6.5-6!
72 Ref. 5.9.1ff.
73 Cf. 5.7.10.
74 5.8.39. Compare log. 21 in the Gospel of Thomas.
75 Cf. 5.6.5-5.7.2; 5.7.7ff.; 5.7.30ff.; 5.8.2ff.; etc.
76 5.6.4.
77 5.6.5.
78 Cf. 5.6.6-7; 5.7.7ff.; 5.8.1ff.
79 5.7.1-2.
80 5.7.19; 5.8.44-45.
81 5.7.20.

144
At first sight, Hippolytus' account of the Naassenes seems artificial. The reader

can hardly comprehend that all these divergent doctrinal elements could find themselves

together in one syncretistic system. However, the dynamic social-historical background of

first- and second-century Asia Minor could have, indeed, provided a fertile soil for the

Naassene-Ophite speculations and rituals. As Legge aptly remarks,

Phrygia, by which is meant the entire central part of Asia Minor or, to use its
modern name, Anatolia, must from its situation have formed a great meeting-
place for different creeds, among which that of the Jews occupied in the first
centuries of our era a prominent place...These Jews of the Eastern Diaspora or
Dispersion had, however, by no means kept whole the faith of their forefathers,
and there seems in consequence to have been less racial hatred between them and
the earlier inhabitants of the country here than elsewhere. In religious matters,
these last, too, seem to have been little affected by the Euhemerism that had
destroyed the faith of the more sophisticated Greeks, and the orgiastic worship of
Cybele, Attis, and Sabazius found in Phrygia its principal seat.82

Therefore, it is not unusual that a unique sort of religious syncretism could have

emerged through an amalgamation of the indigenous, Greco-Phrygian forms of

worshipping with the elements of the Old Testament religion and early Christian

kerygma. Indeed, Irenaeus', Epiphanius' and Origen's reports unambiguously confirm that

Jewish-Christian doctrines were the original and authentic components of the Ophite

eclecticism. In Hippolytus' Refutatio, this particular stratum of the Ophite system is

manifested through their allegorical re-interpretation of the myth of Genesis;83 an

original blending of the Phrygian Attis, biblical Adamas and Christ84 as well as the Naas

and the serpent of Eden;85 and then, through subsequent adaptation of Phrygian and

Jewish beliefs and practices to the Christian Gospel.86

In contrast to the diversity of Hippolytus' sources of the Naassene teaching,


Irenaeus' exposition of the Ophite "heresy" is primarily focused on their cosmogonic

82 F. Legge, 1915: 28.


83 Cf., for example, 5.9.14ff.
84 5.7.2; 5.8.9-12.
85 Cf. 5.16.8.
86 Cf., for example, the parallels with Paul, John and the Gospel of Thomas as well as the allusions to
esoteric baptismal practices in 5.7.19 and 5.8.44-45.

145
speculations. Irenaeus' selective, but detailed, report supplements Hippolytus' Naassene

source insofar as it provides a more developed version of the Ophite Adamic myth,

cosmogeny or the role of the snake as an agent of gnosis. Even though this rather

developed religious-mythological system described by Irenaeus may have represented the

outcome of the later, Sethian-Ophite, speculations,87 it is not methodologically unsound,

I contend, to trace the roots of this thought back to the proto-Ophite (or Naassene) views

of the androgynous Primal Man, Adamas,88 the demiurge Esaldaeus (later Ialdabaoth)89

or a great number of powers90 surrounding this world.

In contrast to both Hippolytus and Epiphanius, Irenaeus is not dealing with the

Ophite ritual. Let us, therefore, concentrate on some of the "Naassene themes" in

Irenaeus' work Against Heresies (Adv. haer. 1.30.1-15) and try to understand them against

the background of the common fund of Ophite symbols, mythemes and metaphors.

In Irenaeus' description of the Ophite system one encounters a more consistent

employment of the biblical figures and motifs than is the case in Hippolytus' Refutatio.

One should also remember that Hippolytus himself relied upon excerpts from an

unknown Naassene source, and that the most complete units of such a composition are

the two songs to Attis (5.9.8-9) as well as the so-called "Naassene Psalm" (5.10.2).

In spite of severe textual and methodological limitations that must accompany any

comparison of this type, we are still in a position to assess the meanings and functions of

some common images and concepts pervading the two well-known chapters of the

heresiological literature (i.e. Adv. haer. 1.30.1-15 and Ref. 5.6.1-11).

Concerning the character of Irenaeus' exposition of the Ophite cosmogeny, we

first note that the account itself is composed of two distinctive sections (1.30.1-10 and

87 It is important to notice that, according to Hippolytus' account, the Sethians should represent one of the
"many factions" (Ref. 5.6.4) that split off from the Naassenes. Namely, the Sethians assume the third place
in his exposition of the Ophite sects.
88 Ref. 5.7.30.
89 5.7.30.
90 5.9.5.

146
11-15), dealing with the Ophite reinterpretation of the opening chapters of Genesis and an

epitome of the New Testament gospels respectively. Most likely the Christian portion of

this discourse was a genuine segment of the described cosmogeny/soteriology.

The theme of the "first light in the power of the deep" which represents the Father

of all or the First Man (1.30.1) closely resembles the Naassene speculations about the

Primal Man91 and the knowledge of the depths leading to the ultimate knowledge of the

Perfect Man.92

The Thought (Ennoia) which proceeds from the First Man is recognized as the

Son of Man,93 whereas the third member of this primordial triad is the Holy Spirit, the

First Woman or the "Mother of the Living."94 As a result of the union of these primordial

entities, the Third Man is born, whom the Ophites call Christ.95

Four elements which separated from the primeval trinity are water, darkness,

Abyss and Chaos.96

The Church is described as the gathering place of the First Man, Son of man,

Christ and the First Woman. At one point, a portion of Woman's power and light fell

downwards, and was drawn to the region on the "Left," creating a female figure

(Prunicos) with the qualities of the Lewd, Wisdom (Sophia) and an Androgyne (Adv.

haer. 1.30.3). At the same time, Christ was lifted up to the higher regions on the "Right,"

into an Imperishable Aeon.97

On the other hand, Sophia Prunicos reached the bottom of the watery abyss where

she obtained a body. Such an event gave rise to another cycle of creation whereby seven

archontic sons were born, becoming the rulers of both the heavenly and earthly realms.

91 Cf. Ref. 5.6.4-5.


92 Comp. 5.6.4, 5.6.6-7 and 5.8.38.
93 Cf. Ref. 5.6.5.
94 Cf. Ref. 5.6.5.
95 Adv. haer. 1.30.1.
96 Compare the Naassene speculation in Ref. 5.8.16; 5.9.13ff.; 5.10.2.2 and 13.
97 Compare Ref. 5.7.20: the place of Christ is in the fourteenth aeon!

147
However, the first-born of these archons, Ialdabaoth,98 rebelled against his mother and

thus created various angels, powers and authorities. One of his sons, Nous, the Mind (or a

Nun, Hebrew letter)99 took the form of a snake (Adv. haer. 1.30.5).

Ialdabaoth then proclaimed himself the only God and Father, an event which

provoked the anger of his mother. He also created a man and a woman, Adam and Eve

(Adv. haer. 1.30.6-7). Further genealogy generally corresponds to the accounts provided

by the introductory chapters of Genesis, with an important difference. The Ophite snake

of Eden assumes a positive role as an agent of Sophia Prunicos, initiating Adam and Eve

into the powers higher than Ialdabaoth himself. Ialdabaoth was, therefore, defeated by the

results of his own creation (1.30.7). He sent the flood on disobedient humankind, but

Sophia, again, intervened and saved Noah's ark. According to this account, Ialdabaoth is

the god who makes covenant with Abraham and, through Moses, leads the Jews out from

Egypt (1.30.10).

In the second part of this exposition (1.30.11-15), which reminds us, to a certain

extent, of the second, Christianized, segment of the Naassene Psalm (Ref. 5.10.2.10ff.),

Christ unites with Sophia and assumes the role of the Savior of the world. According to

Irenaeus' Ophites, Christ and Sophia are united as a "bridegroom" and a "bride"

(1.30.12),100 whereas the earthly manifestation of Christ is Jesus in his "psychic,"

corporeal form. Against Heresies 1.30.14 is the passage which calls to mind some

Valentinian speculations regarding pneumatic, psychic and fleshly body, and it is

certainly no accident that Irenaeus himself, in the concluding passage of this presentation

(1.30.15), derives the Valentinian gnostics from this Ophite sect.101

98 Jalda-bahuth is literally the "Son of Chaos"; compare Ref. 5.7.30 and 5.10.2.
99 The first letter of the Hebrew word nâhâsh (a 'serpent'), presumably representing a vox solemnis which
served as the basis for an etymological interplay of the Greek words naas, naos and nous. Compare
prototokos noos of the Naassene Psalm (Ref. 5.10.2.1). Cf. also note 109a of this chapter.
100 Compare this common symbolism with Ref. 5.8.44-5.
101 Cf. Adv. haer. 1.30.15.

148
To sum up, several "Naassene themes" may be recognized in Irenaeus' exposition

of the Ophite teaching:

1. An identification of the primordial "trinity" as the (First) Man, Son of Man, and

the Mother of the Living (Adv. haer. 1.30.1=Ref. 5.6.4-5; 5.7.39);

2. The belief in the "power of the deep" (Adv. haer. 1.30.1=Ref. 5.6.4; 5.6.6-7;

5.8.38);

3. The positive role of the serpent as an agent of wisdom, and knowledge (sophia

vs. gnosis, hence gnostikoi in Ref. 5.6.4);

4. Speculations concerning the water, darkness, abyss and chaos (Adv. haer.

1.30.1=Ref. 5.8.10; 5.9.13ff.; 5.10.2.2 and 13);

5. The concept of the demiurge (Ialdabaoth, Esaldaeus) as an "enslaver" of

humanity (Adv. haer. 1.30.5-11a=Ref. 5.7.30-31);

6. The theme of androgyny in Adv. haer. 1.30.3 and 12 and Ref. 5.6.5.

7. The role of Jesus as a Savior in Adv. haer. 1.30.11ff. and Ref. 5.10.2.10ff. (or

5.7.33ff. in relation to the demiurge).

8. The cosmic place of Christ in the "imperishable" or fourteenth aeon (Adv. haer.

1.30.2 and Ref. 5.7.20);

9. The pneumatic meaning of the symbols of the "bridegroom" and "bride" (Adv.

haer. 1.30.12=Ref. 5.8.44-5).

Now if we take a look at Epiphanius' report about the Ophites (Panarion 37),102

we realize that the elements of the Judeo-Christian myth of the fall and salvation

described in Irenaeus' treatise (and, to a certain extent, in Hippolytus' Naassene chapter)

are reinforced again by Greco-Phrygian aspects of snake-worshipping. The combination

of these two fundamental layers of the Naassene religious system is already familiar to us

from Hippolytus' work. On the other hand, it seems that Epiphanius himself made use of

102 In the forthcoming exposition, I will quote from F. Williams' translation of The Panarion of
Epiphanius, Leiden: Brill, 1987.

149
Irenaeus' "Ophite chapter" (1.30.1-15) in order to provide an account of the major Ophite

myth. Nevertheless, the fierce heresiologist of Salamis, who, according to his own words,

had personal contact with some of the later Ophite sects,103 conveys two very important,

and previously unknown, pieces of information concerning the origin of the Ophites and

the content of their basic ritual.

Let me, therefore, consider Epiphanius' description of the Ophites proper (ch. 37)

and then supplement it with some additional references to the "Gnostics" (ch. 26). Since

the Naassenes very early called themselves gnostikoi (cf. Hippolytus' Ref. 5.6.4), it is

possible that Epiphanius of Salamis knew them under this second name, too, as one of the

Ophite factions that were explicitly labeled as Gnostics.

I have already referred to Panarion 37.1.2 as an important passage with regard to

the question of the Ophites' origin. Epiphanius expressly declares: "As I said, the Ophites

took their cue from the sects of Nicolaus and the Gnostics, and the ones before them. But

they are called Ophites because of the serpent which they magnify." (37.1.2).

The expression "as I said" (hos proeipon) indicates in this context that Epiphanius

has already made some references to the Ophites earlier in the same work. Indeed, the

principal textual link with hos proeipon is to be sought in the concluding sentences of his

account about the Nicolaitans (25.7.2), as well as at the very beginning of the next chapter

(Against Gnostics 26.1.1-2), where the sects which were "partially" or "closely"

associated with Nicolaus have been discussed.104

Returning to the "Ophite chapter" itself, Epiphanius bears witness to the Ophite

glorification of the serpent as a "new divinity" (37.1-2). They exalt their snake as God

(37.2.4) and, furthermore, it is to be recognized as Christ himself (37.2.6). And even if

this information goes beyond the data provided by Hippolytus, Epiphanius' statement that

the Ophites "ascribe all knowledge to this serpent and say that it was the beginning of

103 Cf. Pan. 26.18.2.


104 Cf. also the reference to "the school of the snake-like" people in 26.18.5.

150
knowledge for men,"105 could easily be understood in the light of both Irenaeus' and

Hippolytus' descriptions of the Ophite heresy.

After these introductory remarks, Epiphanius proceeds with a brief exposition of

the Ophite principal myth, the basic elements of which are already known to us from

Irenaeus.106 The same story about Prunicus' mistake, Ialdabaoth's arrogance and Adam's

and Eve's deception is retold only in a more sarcastic manner. It is very likely that

Epiphanius borrowed such an account directly from Irenaeus.107

The next segment of this chapter (37.5.6-8) is, however, completely new and

represents a unique description of the Ophite mystical ritual with the serpent. This

account itself is so significant that I will cite it in its entirety:

5, 6 For they [the Ophites] have an actual snake, and keep it in a sort of basket.
When it is time for their mysteries they bring it out of the den, spread loaves
around on a table, and call the snake to come; and when the den is opened it
comes out. And then the snake - which comes up of its own purpose and villainy,
already knowing their foolishness - crawls onto the table and coils up on the
loaves. And this is what they call a perfect sacrifice.
5, 7 And so, someone has told me, not only do they break the loaves the snake
has coiled on and distribute them to the recipients, but they each kiss the snake
besides. The snake has either been charmed into tameness by some sort of sorcery,
or cajoled for their deception by some other work of the devil.
(8) But they worship an animal like this, and call what has been consecrated by
its coiling around it the eucharistic element. And they offer a hymn to the Father
on high - again, as they say, through the snake - and so conclude their mysteries.

In this passage, several features call our immediate attention:

1. The parallel between the Ophite ritual and early Christian eucharist is evident.

We may, in fact, contend that the ritual itself represents a conscious synthesis of the pre-

Christian and the earliest Christian forms of worship. The fact that the Ophites, in the

presence of a serpent, offer hymn to the "Father on high" goes hand in hand with

Hippolytus' description of the Naassenes in Refutatio 5.6.3.

105 Pan. 37.3.1.


106 Cf. Panarion 37.3.2-5.5.
107 Cf. Panarion 31.33.3. Also 31.1.3, 8.3ff; 32.6.7.

151
2. As Leonhard Fendt pointed out more than a half a century ago,108 the serpent-

ritual of the Ophites is composed of at least five acts familiar from the Christian eucharist

as well: a) the offering; b) the invocation (epiclesis); c) the breaking of bread

(communion); d) the brotherly kiss (prostratio); e) the hymn.

According to Fendt, the serpent itself symbolizes presence of the Logos.109 It is

not difficult to suppose that this ritual had been practiced by some proto-Ophites in

Phrygia even before the acceptance of Judeo-Christianity, i.e., before the divine serpent

began to be identified with the snake of Eden or, perhaps, Christ himself. In other words,

Epiphanius' description of the Ophite ritual, its association with the myth of Genesis,

together with the conception of Christ (Messiah) as a divine serpent,109a may

additionally corroborate our initial assumption that the Naassene Ophite religious

syncretism was composed of at least three layers of tradition: 1) Greco- Phrygian forms of

veneration of the snake as an attribute or symbol of the divine; 2) a subsequent blending

of this ritual with the Adamic myth of Genesis; 3) with emergence of Christianity, a

reinterpretation of this initial syncretism in the light of the Christian Gospel. The

introduction of that third element is suggested in Epiphanius not only by the Ophite

association of the sacred serpent with Christ, but also by a reference to the Gospel of John

3:14, that is, by an allusion to the ascension of the Son of Man.110

One may conclude that Epiphanius' own report on the Ophites supports

Hippolytus' description of the Naassenes as a religious-mystical group that, in its

syncretism, tended to embrace the elements of at least three religious traditions.

In order to confirm that this type of eclecticism was not just an artificial

heresiological invention, we may refer both to the textual and archaeological evidence

108 L. Fendt, Gnostische Mysterien, München: Kaiser Verlag, 1922: 22ff.


109 Ibid., 71.
109a It is striking, indeed, that the Hebrew words nâhâsh ("serpent") and mâshiâh ("Messiah") have the
same numerical value - 358!
110 Compare Hippolytus' use of this allusion in the context of the Peratic Ophites (Ref. 5.16).

152
supplied by the Nag Hammadi Library as well as some ancient artifacts presumably

originating from the eastern provinces of the Roman Empire. What I have in mind here in

the first place is a text from the Nag Hammadi collection generally ascribed to the

Ophites ("The Hypostasis of the Archons") as well as the "Jewish-Gnostic amulet" and an

alabaster bowl described by Erwin Goodenough111 and Hans Leisegang,112

respectively.

The Hypostasis of the Archons is a Christian Gnostic midrash on the first six

chapters of Genesis. It is composed by a community of worshippers who recognize the

authority of the "great apostle" Paul.113 The work itself strongly reflects the spirit of the

Ophite gnosis as it has been described by Irenaeus and Epiphanius. The familiar figures

and themes of the arrogant archon,114 imperishable aeon,115 Adam, Eve and the serpent-

instructor,116 together with the Father of the All, Mother of the Living, Cain, Norea and

the androgyne,117 exchange their roles and places in this cosmic drama which closely

resembles the accounts provided by the heresiologists.

In this text we may recognize at least two constitutive elements of the Ophite

syncretism: that is, the reinterpretation of Genesis and the subsequent addition of

Christian themes and motifs. It is not unimportant, I think, that the gnostic group standing

behind this anonymous work acknowledges the authority of the apostle Paul by referring

to the concepts familiar from the two letters which circulated widely among the Phrygian

Christian communities.118

111 Erwin Goodenough, "A Jewish-Gnostic Amulet of the Roman Period," Greek and Byzantine Studies 1
(1958): 71-80.
112 Hans Leisegang, "The Mystery of the Serpent," in Pagan and Christian Mysteries, ed. by Joseph
Campbell, New York: Harper & Row, 1955: 3-69.
113 Cf. "The Hypostasis of the Archons," in the Nag Hammadi Library in English (II 86.21-26), ed. by J.
Robinson, San Francisco: Harper, 1988: 162ff.
114 Ibid., II 86.29-32.
115 Ibid., II 87.1-2.
116 Ibid., II 88.16ff.; 89.32ff; 91.31ff.
117 Ibid., II 88.11; 89.15; 91.12; 92.14.21; 94.18, etc.
118 That is, the epistles to the Colossians (1:13) and the Ephesians (6:12); cf. "Hypostasis," 86.22 and 25.

153
In the case of the Jewish-Gnostic amulet which Goodenough very tentatively dates

in the third or fourth century C.E.,119 we recognize (this time in an explicit, pictorial

form) a symbolical universe evoking many of the themes discussed above. What is

striking about this amulet is that it contains, in a single piece of black steartite, a number

of very suggestive images and symbols familiar to us from the "Ophite chapters" of

Hippolytus, Irenaeus and Epiphanius. The parallels with Epiphanius' Ophites are

particularly apparent. The original users of this amulet venerated a serpent coiled around

an omphalos, believed in astrology, and, at the same time, adopted the myth of Adam and

Eve in Paradise, where, according to their views, the snake played an unusually important

role. In the light of Epiphanius' report, one may recognize on this amulet several other

symbols, such as: the Dionysiac basket (resembling the cista mystica used in the Ophite

rite); a table (the gathering place for the Ophite eucharist); the allusions to the "heavenly

city" with three levels; and, finally, four mystical masks.120 The letter nun on one of the

accompanying inscriptions represents, perhaps, a verbal symbol for nâhâsh, the vox

solemnis which has already been discussed in this section.121

Finally, an alabaster "serpent-bowl"122 (whose religious significance is discussed

in Leisegang's comprehesive study) depicts sixteen naked figures participating in a

mystery ritual with a winged snake. The snake itself is twined around an omphalos in a

manner similar to the serpent from the stearite amulet.

Relying upon the Greek inscriptions on the outer edge of the bowl, Leisegang

persuasively argues for the Orphic-Dionysiac background of this serpent ritual. His

interpretation significantly highlights the early origin of the cult itself. This alabaster

119 Cf. Goodenough, 73. On the basis of the characteristic inscription of the letter nun, Gershom Sholem
has dated this piece as early as the second century, which is my preferable date, too.
120 Cf. Goodenough, 78-80.
121 Cf. especially n. 99 above. It is interesting that, according to Epiphanius, some of the Gnostic sects
"transform the good Hebrew expressions, correctly rendered in Greek, <still> clear to those who read
Hebrew, and containing nothing obscure, into images, shapes, real principles, practically statuary, on the
model of the things their disgraceful, phony craft sows" (Pan. 25.4.3).
122 Originating probably from the first- or second-century Syria or central Asia Minor. Cf. Leisegang, 5
and 27.

154
bowl, serving in Late Antiquity as a ritual vessel, is an important clue to the pre-Christian

roots of the Naassene-Ophite eucharist.123 One should also remember that the cult of

Sabazius, the deity often identified or associated with Zeus, Apollo, Dionysus, Attis,

Asclepius and the Great Mother,124 was widespread in central Asia Minor and Phrygia at

the dawn of Christianity. In this area the cult itself was enriched with various elements of

the Attis-Cybele worship. In such a religious atmosphere, the components of the Jewish-

Christian tradition, developed in the Phrygian diaspora as early as the first century, could

have been easily amalgamated to an older stratum of Gentile beliefs and practices.125 In

the next chapter I will reflect more thoroughly upon this syncretistic process.

How might this whole inquiry into the complexity of the Naassene-Ophite

syncretism prove to be helpful for our central discussion concerning the origin and

transmission of the Gospel of Thomas ? I would like to conclude this section with a few

general remarks addressed to this query.

The analysis applied in this chapter has been essential for the formulation of our

main hypothesis. Not only have we been able to examine the textual material

demonstrating the Naassene role in the redaction of the Gospel of Thomas, we have also

furnished evidence indicating that this sect originated in Phrygia. Moreover, there are

some explicit indications that the major cult of the Naassene Ophites was located in

Phrygian Hierapolis (modern Pamukkale in Turkey).

Further, we have provided an account of some very peculiar parallels which bring

the Gospel of Thomas in direct connection with Hippolytus' Naassene source. A number

of additional parallels with the Gospel of Thomas could, perhaps, be uncovered beneath

the polemical surface of Epiphanius' Panarion as well.126

123 Cf. especially Leisegang's discussion on pp. 27ff.


124 Cf. Lane 1989: 11ff. On the basis of the available data, Lane, however, argues against the Sabazius
identification with Dionysus (p. 14).
125 Compare Epiphanius, Panarion 26.16.6-8.
126 Cf., for example, Pan. 37.7.6=log. 39b=Mt 10:16; Pan. 26.9.2=log. 74=Prov. 5:15; Pan. 26.6.3;
7.2=log. 78=Mt 11:7-8; Pan. 26.6.4=log 46=Mt 11:11; Pan. 26.3.1=log. 108, 30, 77=P.Oxy. 1.23-30.

155
In any case, the syncretistic structure of the Naassene-Ophite system is certainly

much more complex than the symbolic universe of a single document such as the Gospel

of Thomas. And this is quite understandable. The rich texture of an entire religious-

philosophical system, imbued by ancient rituals, magic and esoteric theology, composed

of so many divergent doctrinal elements, may not be fully expressed in a single collection

of 114 sayings. However, our current stratification of the Ophite religious edifice enables

us to distinguish at least three major constitutive factors contributing not only to the

emergence of Ophitism, but to the rise of Christian Gnosticism in Asia Minor in general

as well. Those three components have been identified as the Greco-Phrygian mystery

tradition, Judaism of the "Asian" diaspora and the earliest Christian kerygma transmitted

through various apostolic channels. At one point in the history of Asian Phrygia (roughly

corresponding to the end of the first, beginning of the second century C.E.), these three

elements contributed to the emergence of a whole variety of sects known under the

common denominator Ophites ("the snake people"). After the acceptance of Christianity

in Asia Minor, the doctrines and writings of these sectarians began to differ in scope and

interest, ranging from slightly Christianized treatises such as the Hypostasis of the

Archons to the various forms of apocryphal "gospels" described, for example, in

Epiphanius' discussion of the Gnostics.127 One of these "other gospels" that, in orthodox

Christian circles, was labeled relatively early as "heretical,"128 was our Gospel of

Thomas. At the time when it was written, some of the Naassene Ophites had already

combined the power of the mighty Echidna, the sacred viper, with the salvific magic of

Jesus' "secret words."

127 For example, "The Gospel of Perfection," "The Gospel of Eve," "Questions of Mary," etc...(cf.
Panarion 26.2.5-6; 26.8.1).
128 Cf. Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 3.25.6.

156
IV. PHRYGIAN RELIGIOUS SYNCRETISM AND THE SYMBOLISM OF THOMAS

A. The Evidence for the Earliest Christian Missions in the Lycus Valley

The beginnings of Christianity in Phrygia as well as in Asia Minor in general are

closely related to the work of the apostle Paul and his circle. It is interesting, however,

that neither Acts nor the epistles provide any explicit evidence that Paul himself visited

any of the three cities of the Lycus Valley, i.e. Hierapolis, Laodicea or Colossae.

According to Luke-Acts 16:6, Paul and Timothy "went through the region of Phrygia and
Galatia," but were "forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia" (i.e. the

province which included western Phrygia and the Lycus Valley itself).

What is the significance of Luke's statement that Paul and his associates were

"forbidden" to preach the gospel in this part of the Phrygian land? This question itself is

open to conjecture. The least one could assume at this point is that, for some reason, the

conditions met during this journey were not favorable for such a task. On the other hand,

one has to be fully aware in this context of the disputable character of Luke's account in

the Acts. Luke, furthermore, reports that Paul had another chance to visit the cities of

Phrygia. In Acts 18:23 we read that he "went from place to place through the region of

Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples." Then, having "passed through the

upper country" (i.e. inner Asia Minor, 19:1), he arrived at Ephesus. After almost three

years of Paul's sojourn in Ephesus, "all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord,

both Jews and Greeks" (19:10).

The impression left by this second account of Paul's travels in central Asia Minor

is that the apostle himself only passed through certain regions of Phrygia (we do not

know for sure if the cities of the Lycus Valley were on his route). Apparently, Luke

thought that his mission in this area was directed from Ephesus. After all, Paul's own

157
letter to the Corinthians leaves such an impression. In First Corinthians 16:19, Paul sends

greetings from Ephesus on behalf of the "churches of Asia."

From the Letter to the Colossians, which is the earliest evidence of Christian

presence in Laodicea, Hierapolis and Colossae, we finally learn that the foundation of the

churches in the Lycus Valley itself should be attributed to Paul's disciples. One of those

disciples, who himself was originally from Colossae,1 played an especially important role

in this context. His name was Epaphras, and the author of this letter1a "bears witness"

that this envoy of the Apostle to the Gentiles "worked hard" not only for the Colossians,

but for those in Laodicea and Hierapolis as well (Col 4:13). One detail, in particular,

demands our attention in the concluding greetings to the Colossians. Not only does the

apostle advise the Colossian brethren to read this letter once again "in the church of the

Laodiceans," but he insists also that the "Letter from Laodicea" is read among them.

There is no clear evidence as to who wrote that second letter, the epistle from

Laodicea. There are some reasons to believe that Epaphras himself could have been its

author.2 Even if the Colossian ambassador of Paul was not the writer of this epistle, one

may argue that Epaphras had been the principal figure in the earliest stage of formation of

Christian churches in the Lycus Valley. We may even suppose that in the first period of

Phrygian Christian history Epaphras assumed a role as important as that of his more

famous successors Philip and Papias (who himself concluded the process of consolidation

of the Phrygian Church in Hierapolis).

To assess how successful 3 that initial impetus had been is not an easy task.

According to Walter Bauer, it is quite possible that "Epaphras is not entirely blameless

for the fact that in the community he established at Colossae, peculiar syncretistic ideas

1 Cf. Col 4:12 ("who is one of yourselves").


1a Scholars are generally divided as to the issue of authenticity of the Colossians. Some prominent authors
in this field argue for the deutero-Pauline character of the epistle (cf. the comprehensive list of literature
quoted in George Cannon, The Use of Traditional Material in Colossians, Macon, Ga.: Mercer University
Press, 1983: 6-7 (n. 17).
2 Cf. Charles Anderson, "Who wrote the Epistle from Laodicea," JBL 85 (1966): 436-40.
3 Primarily in terms of the ideological framework defined within the Pauline circles.

158
were introduced such as the worship of the cosmic elements - or perhaps it would be

more accurate to suggest that such ideas were present from the very beginning in

Colossae, but that Epaphras did not take the trouble to eliminate them."4

Whatever be the case, the author of the Apocalypse bears witness to some

common ideological "disturbances" that took place in the "seven churches of Asia,"

including Epaphras' Laodicea. Although Colossae and Hierapolis are not mentioned in the

Johannine list of the Asian churches, one may assume that the situation in Laodicea

perhaps reflected the current status of the other two congregations as well.

In the context of our discussion about the Naassene Ophites, it is important to

notice that, among the early heresies condemned by John, one recognizes the Nicolaitans

as well as those who claim to "know the deep things of Satan" (egnôsan ta bathea tou

satana, Rev 2:24). According to Hippolytus of Rome, it was Nicolaus of Antioch, the

person mentioned on several other occasions in this study, who "was the first to affirm

that the resurrection had already come, meaning by 'resurrection' the fact that we believe

in Christ and have received baptism; but he denied the resurrection of the body. And

several, at his instigation, have founded sects. Among these were all the self-styled

Gnostics (sic!) to whom Hymenaeus and Philetus belonged."5

Now, both Hymenaeus and Philetus are rebuked in 2 Tim 2:17, in a context

concerned with Christians who "turned away" from the Pauline mission in Asia.6 In 1

Tim 1:20, Hymenaeus is condemned once again along with a certain Alexander.7 The

letter itself concludes with the admonition to "avoid the godless chatter and

contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge" (he pseudônymos gnôsis, 1 Tim 6:20).

When the apostle Philip arrived in Hierapolis with his daughters and his sister

Mariamne, one may assume that the ideological profile of Christians in Phrygia did not

4 Bauer, 235.
5 Cf. n. 60 on p. 152.
6 Cf. 2 Tim 1:15.
7 Alexander the coppersmith from 2 Tim 4:14.

159
significantly differ from the situation described in the Revelation or the Pastoral Epistles,

that is, in the writings which reflect some trends in "Asian Christianity" operative by the

end of the first century. If Epaphras himself contributed to the emergence of a new

religion among the Phrygians of the Lycus Valley, Philip and his followers were

confronted with the difficult task of providing a definition of their movement in the

syncretistic context of Phrygian spirituality. The religious landscape of this country had

been composed of the temples dedicated to Greco-Phrygian deities and the Jewish

synagogues. It was, moreover, inhabited by people like Hymenaeus and Philetus who

were not hesitant to proclaim that the resurrection had already come.

In the days of Trajan (98-117), when Philip was preaching "through all the cities

of Lydia and Asia" (including Hierapolis),8 the second stage in the history of early

Phrygian Christianity had just begun. In this period, I submit, the Naassene Gospel of

Thomas was written.

Several ancient sources connect the apostle Philip and his family with Hierapolis.

Three independent and reliable witnesses confirm some details concerning Philip's

mission and death in the "holy city" of Phrygia. Polycrates, the bishop of Ephesus (c.

190), writes to Victor, bishop of Rome (189-99) that "Philip, one of the twelve apostles...

sleeps at Hierapolis with his two daughters, who grew old as virgins and his third

daughter who lived in the Holy Spirit and rests in Ephesus."9 The Dialogue of Gaius, a

churchman of Rome who wrote against the Montanist Proclus, informs us that Philip's

daughters were gifted with the prophetic spirit. It is interesting that, according to the Acts

of the Apostles (21:9), it was Philip the evangelist (and not Philip the apostle) who "had

four unmarried daughters, who prophesied" (Acts 21:9). Also, the Montanist Proclus, a

native of Phrygia, is familiar with the tradition regarding "four prophetesses at Hierapolis

in Asia, daughters of Philip. Their grave is there, as is their father's."10

8 Acts of Philip, 107.


9 Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 3.31.3=5.24.2.
10 Ibid., 3.31.4.

160
Finally, according to Eusebius, Papias of Hierapolis himself personally knew

Philip's daughters who transmitted to him a story about the miraculous resurrection of the

wife of a certain Manaen, as well as "another miracle connected with Justus surnamed

Barsabbas, for he drank poison but by the Lord's grace suffered no harm."11

The information provided by the Acts of the Apostles and the Acts of Philip relates

some more details of Philip's life. It is interesting that Luke associates another Philip

(who, in his own tradition, is known as the evangelist, and not an apostle)12 both with

Nicolaus of Antioch (6:5) and Simon Magus (8:13), the alleged forerunners of Christian

Gnosticism. It is, therefore, no accident that one of these "Philips", along with Thomas or

Matthias, assumes a privileged status in the Gnostic traditions.13 On the other hand,

Philip the apostle encounters strong opposition among some Hierapolitan Ophites. "Many

others" were, nonetheless, converted to Christianity.14

We have already expressed some doubts about the historical authenticity of the

data furnished by the Acts of Philip. One may, however, admit that the basic tradition

recorded in these Acts only corroborates some other, more reliable, accounts concerning

Philip's activity in Hierapolis as well as the location of a sect whose members we identify

as the Ophites. The role of Mariamne, Philip's sister, as a person who played an important

role in the conversion of some of these Ophite groups is, again, confirmed by Hippolytus

of Rome (Ref. 5.7.1). The evidence furnished by Hippolytus has prompted us to assume

that, long before Papias wrote his Interpretation of the Lord's Sayings, the Christians of

Hierapolis, including the Naassene-Ophite converts, had been familiar with an ancient

tradition of Jesus' sayings reflected in our Gospel of Thomas, too.

In the light of all these various sources of information about Philip, it is somehow

surprising that he is not considered by the ecclesiastical tradition as the first bishop of

11 Ibid., 3.39.9.
12 Cf. Acts 21.8. Acts, in fact, distinguishes between Philip the Apostle (1:13) and the Philip who was a
member of "the seven" headed by Stephen (6:5).
13 Cf. pp. 84ff.
14 Cf. Acts of Philip, 113.

161
Hierapolis. Heros, an almost unknown churchman appointed by Philip, is known as the

first bishop of the "holy city." Heros was then succeeded by Papias and Claudius

Apollinaris. We can only guess as to the reasons for such an episcopal order. Perhaps

Christianity in Hierapolis before Philip had been so heterodox that he personally decided

to appoint a "right person" as the first bishop. Or, although Philip's family, his daughters

and his sister, assumed more prominent roles in the conversion of the local population,

the office had nonetheless been granted to a male bishop, presumably one of Philip's own

disciples. Or, was it perhaps that Philip was not "orthodox" enough for the taste of the

later ecclesiarchs who themselves did not witness the consolidation of the Phrygian

churches before the time of Papias?

Many similar questions might be asked at this point, but most of them, like the

ones already posed, would be merely speculative. In any event, with Papias of Hierapolis,

himself a Phrygian, the short history of the Church in this area enters a new stage, the

stage of the consolidation of ecclesiastical authority. Papias himself is the first known

annalist of the early Church. He was born by the end of the first century, and we may

assume that his major work in five volumes, Logiôn kyriakôn exêgêseis,15 originated in

the second half of the second century. According to tradition, he died as a martyr at

Pergamum in 164 C.E.

Papias is yet another important witness to the fact that some of Jesus' "oracles" or

"sayings" had already been differently interpreted at the beginning of the second century.

Let us remember, in this context, the incipit of the Gospel of Thomas which introduces

an alternative esoteric hermeneia of Jesus' words. Papias' famous testimony recorded in

Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History (3.39.16) represents the most decisive historical clue

linking an independent tradition of Jesus' sayings with the Naassene setting in Hierapolis.

If the Gospel of Thomas was truly composed in the Hierapolis region, that would explain

the existence of Aramaisms in this document. The bishop of Hierapolis himself bears

15 Cf. Ecclesiastical History 3.39.1. Also in Irenaeus' Against Heresies. 5.33.4.

162
witness to the fact that at least one collection of logia Iêsou compiled in the Aramaic

language may have already circulated in this area by the end of the first century. In any

case, Eusebius' low opinion of Papias may be taken as one of the criteria for authenticity

of Eusebius' own account.16 Among other things, we read that Papias "inquired into the

words of the presbyters, what Andrew or Peter or Philip or Thomas (sic!) or James or

John or Matthew... had said, and what Aristion and the presbyter John, the Lord's

disciples, were saying. For I did not suppose that information from books would help me

so much as the word of a living and surviving voice ."17

Can we assume in this context that the utterances of the "living Jesus" recorded in

the Aramaic Vorlage of the Gospel of Thomas had been transmitted in a similar way to

Phrygia, Hierapolis? Furthermore, according to Eusebius' testimonium, Papias reproduced

"other accounts, as though they came to him from unwritten tradition and some strange

parables and teachings of the Saviour, and some other more mythical accounts."18 As we

know, experts in Thomasine studies are still perplexed by the existence of synoptic-like

parables in the Gospel of Thomas that have no counterpart in the synoptic tradition.19

Papias' testimony may be a testament to an independent tradition of Jesus' words, some of

which were presumably recorded in the Vorlage of the Gospel of Thomas.

In summary: There is clear evidence of the early presence of Christian missions in

Phrygia in the first century C.E. In addition to the Apocalypse, the Epistle to the

Colossians bears witness to the development of a syncretistic or proto-gnostic type of

Christianity that emerged more or less independently of the Pauline mission (represented

in this area by a "hard-working" Epaphras). Furthermore, there is an ecclesiastical

tradition, preserved in Eusebius' History, describing the apostle Philip as the first

prominent Christian leader in Phrygian Hierapolis. According to Polycrates, Philip was

16 Cf. Ecclesiastical History 3.39.13.


17 Ibid. 3.39.4; emphasis added.
18 Ibid. 39.11; emphasis added.
19 Cf., for example, log. 97 and 98.

163
buried at Hierapolis. His martyrion has recently been identified by Italian archaeologists.

Finally, there is an apocryphal tradition recorded in the Acts of Philip that connects this

apostle not only with Hierapolis, but with the Ophites as well! According to this tradition,

in the days of Trajan, Philip, "successor to James," was preaching with his sister

Mariamne in the "Ophite Alley."20 Not only does this tradition confirm the presence of

an early apostolic preaching in Hierapolis, but it also associates Philip with James and

Mariamne who, according to Hippolytus' testimony (Ref. 5.7.1), were championed by the

Naassenes as the bearers of their own tradition of a "great number of sayings" (Ref.

5.7.1). It is plausible to assume that some of these sayings, pertaining to the Jewish-

Christian tradition of Jesus' words (and transmitted by James' followers), found their way

to the Naassenes, and hence, to our own version(s) of the Gospel of Thomas.

B. Some Early Forms of Religious Syncretism in Phrygia

We have already suggested at the end of the previous chapter that the roots of the

Naassene-Ophite veneration of the serpent should be sought not only in the underlying

myth of Genesis (as well as the later identification of the serpent of Eden with Christ), but

also in some Greco-Phrygian forms of worship of the sacred Naas/Ophis as an aspect or

manifestation of the divine. This "pagan" stratum of the Naassene ideas and practices was

actually embedded in traditional Anatolian spirituality as well as the Hellenistic cults and

mysteries of Attis, Sabazius and the Great Mother of the Gods.

Literary, archaeological and epigraphical evidence indicate that Hierapolis, the

"holy city"21 of Phrygia, was known in Late Antiquity as a religious stronghold of such

20 In Greek: Ophioryme.
21 As W. Ramsay aptly remarks, by its very name "Hierapolis was marked as...a place of approach to God;
and a great religious establishment (hieron) existed there. At first it was called Hiero-polis, the city of the
hieron; and on a few coins of Augustus this name appears. But as the Greek spirit became stronger in the
Lycus Valley, the strict Greek form, Hiera Polis, established itself" (Ramsay, 87). The city itself was

164
beliefs and rituals.22 We will take a closer look at these pre-Christian forms of religious

syncretism that were developed in Phrygia and Hierapolis long before Epaphras, Philip

and Mariamne introduced the Christian Gospel in the cities of the Lycus Valley. The

question needs to be asked about the religious or ideological profile of the Ophites of

Hierapolis prior to their acceptance of Christianity.

At least two mystery cults deserve special attention:

1) the local Anatolian cult of the Great Goddess and her consort Attis;

2) the closely related worship of the Phrygian god Sabazius, the deity

predominantly associated with serpents.

1. The Mysteries of the Great Mother

Earlier we have recounted an abbreviated version of the myth of the Great Mother

of the Gods and Attis.22a Some of the basic elements, motifs and symbols recognized in

this myth reappear, in a somewhat different context, in Hippolytus' Naassene Sermon.

Indeed, Hippolytus himself refers to Attis and the Great Mother on several occasions in

his Refutatio 5.6-11, but once he explicitly states that the Naassenes actually attended the

mysteries of the Great Mother, "thinking that through those rites they will comprehend

the complete mystery" (5.9.10).

The Naassenes, however, apparently did not participate officially in these

mysteries as priests of the Great Mother, for Hippolytus remarks that they themselves "are

not castrated,"23 but, through sexual abstention, only "accomplish the acts of those who

founded in the Hellenistic period and was well-known for a great number of sanctuaries (cf. Stephanus of
Byzantium, Ethnika, Graz: Akademische Druck, 1958: 327). One of them, the temple of Apollo Archegetes,
the patron-deity of the city, has recently been excavated.
22 Besides Acta Philippi, cf. Stephanus of Byzantium, Ethnika, 327-8; Strabo, Geography 13.4.14. For the
inscriptions, see M. Vermaseren, Corpus Cultus Cybelae Attidisque, Vol. 1, Leiden: Brill, 1987: 30 and
Ramsay, 115ff. (especially inscription no. 17).
22a See p. 155-6.
23 Hippolytus, in fact, refers to the galli, the eunuch-priests of the Great Goddess.

165
are castrated" (5.9.10-11). Moreover, according to Hippolytus' Naassene source, the

members of this sect claimed that "of all men (they) alone are Christians," because they

were able to "enter the true gate24 which is Jesus the blessed" (5.9.22).

Viewed in terms of Hippolytus' own account, we may assume that the Naassene

Christians attempted to understand the ancient mysteries (and, more specifically, the cult

of the Great Mother and Attis) in the light of the new, Christian, religion which itself had

been interpreted in a strongly mystical or ascetic-ritualistic manner.

At the time when the Naassene Ophites accepted Christianity, the cult of the Great

Mother was actually very popular in the Roman Empire. Especially with the reign of

Hadrian, the figure of Attis began to occupy a more prominent place in this religion. Of

course, it is difficult to assess, just on the basis of Hippolytus' report, the true character of

the Naassene involvement in the cult of Attis and Cybele. One does not have the

impression that the Naassenes were devoted worshippers of this cult prior to their

acceptance of Christianity. It seems that they selectively adopted some elements of the

traditional Phrygian religiosity (such as the worship of the serpent as an aspect of both the

Great Mother and Attis-Sabazius) in an effort to provide a new understanding of an

ancient cult from the perspective of the Genesis-myth and early Christian thought and

practice. At all events, even the pre-Christian Ophites may not be considered exclusively

Attis-Cybele devotees. Their relationship with the Sabazius-cult will be discussed later on

in this section.

Turning now to the question of religious background of the pre-Christian Ophites,

the oriental religion of the Great Mother (Lat. Magna Mater) was introduced to Rome in

204 B.C.E., and the cult itself survived, both under the republic and empire, for almost

six centuries. However, it was not until the reign of Claudius that Roman citizens began

officially to serve the cult of Magna Mater. The original homeland of this ancient cult was

Phrygia in Asia Minor, but the religion itself had even more archaic roots which may be

24 The "third gate" is also mentioned in the same context (5.9.22).

166
traced further East, all the way to the Indian subcontinent. In Asia Minor and Syria the

Great Mother of the Gods was worshipped under different names and manifestations, the

most notable ones being those of Cybele or Kybéle, Agdistis, Leto, Mâ and Atargatis.

Classical authors identify her with Gaia, Demeter or Rhea.25 She is traditionally

associated with the mountains and wild forests, and in her Phrygian homeland she was

believed to live on the sacred heights of Mt. Ida (near Troad), Mt. Dindymum, Mt.

Sipylus and Mt. Cybela. Some of her names and epithets are closely associated with these

regions.26

In art and literature, on coins and medallions, Cybele is often represented as

potnia thêrôn, "the mistress of the wild beasts,"27 and is thus accompanied by lions,

snakes and wild animals. The scepter is usually in her hand and sometimes she nourishes

a child. In connection with the myth of Cybele and Attis, we have already made

references to the symbolism of the sacred trees and animated stones. The instruments

used in her worship ranged from cymbals and tambourines to flutes, drums and

castanets.28

Since the most ancient myth of Attis - ascribed to the elegiac poet Hermesianax

and summarized by Pausanius - may hardly be dated before the mid-fourth century

B.C.E., one may agree with Showerman that the "Cybele-Attis legend had not taken on

definite shape much before 340 B.C., the floruit of Hermesianax..."29 As Vermaseren

correctly remarks, "in the story of Cybele's advent in Rome no mention is made of

Attis,"30 but during the early Imperial period, his cult was so popular that he began to be

25 Cf., for example, Julian, Oratio 5.159; Euripides, Bacchae 59; Sophocles, Philoctetes 391 or Lucian of
Samosata, De Dea Syria 1.15.
26 Cf. Strabo, Geography 10.3.12; Stephanus of Byzantium, 389 or Catulus, Poem 63.13 and 30.91. For a
more detailed account of various representations of the Great Mother in the Greek and Roman literature, cf.
M. Vermaseren, Cybele and Attis: The Myth and the Cult, London: Thames and Hudson, 1977: 81ff.
27 Cf. Franz Cumont, The Oriental Religions in Roman Paganism, Chicago: The Open Court, 1911: 48.
28 Cf. Catulus, Poem 63.20-25; Lucian, De Dea Syria 50; Strabo, Geography 10.3.13,15.
29 Cf. Showerman, 248.
30 Vermaseren 1977: 96.

167
worshipped as a divinity. Hippolytus of Rome was certainly one of the witnesses to such

a theosis, whereas a century later Julian the Apostate refers to Attis already as the "great

god" or "king."31 Attis was also identified with the sun,32 and in some circles he was

even addressed as hypsistos,33 "the Supreme," an appelation usually reserved in Asia

Minor for the god of the Hebrews.34 On coins and artefacts Attis was usually depicted

with the Phrygian cap, standing near the pine-tree or accompanied by the Mother of the

Gods. With the sun as his symbol, he was also related to the signs of the zodiac.

We know very little about the actual content of the mysteries of the Great Mother

and Attis. On the other hand, we do know that the mystic cult of Cybele and Attis did not

remain unchanged during six centuries of their worship in the Greco-Roman world.

Furthermore, as G. S. Gasparro has pointed out in her recent study,35 the cult itself had at

least two forms: one related to the public ceremonies "known to everybody"36 (with its

orgiastic aspects) and another containing presumably some "specific initiatory

practice."37 Moreover, according to some sources, the ritual actions of the galli were

sometimes considered 'mysteries.'38

The galli themselves have been mentioned on several occasions in this work, and

it would be appropriate, I think, to say a few words about their actual function in this cult.

The very name Galloi was a source of some speculation among the ancients. Some

believed, for example, that it was derived from the Latin word for the cock (gallus),

which itself appears as an important symbol of these priests.39 Others, again, noted a

genuine connection between these galli and the king Gallus who, like Attis, emasculated

31 Oratio 5.168c.
32 Ibid.
33 Cf. Georg Kaibel, ed., Epigrammata Graeca, 824, Hildesheim: Georg Olms, 1965.
34 Cf. Cumont, 62.
35 Cf. Giulia Sfameni Gasparro, Soteriology and Mystic Aspects in the Cult of Cybele and Attis, Leiden:
Brill, 1985.
36 Julian, Oratio 5.169a; cf. Gasparo, 76.
37 Gasparro, 119.
38 Ibid., 77.
39 Cf. Vermaseren 1977: 96.

168
himself.40 Stephanus records yet another, similar, legend about the Phrygian priest who

castrated himself near the stream which was later called Gallus.41 Whichever may be the

case, the name Galloi, as a technical term, is first mentioned in the Anthologia Palatina

(second century B.C.E.), where these eunuch-priests were also known as the 'sorcerers'

(goêtes) or 'dwellers in the chambers' (thalamêpoloi or amphipoloi thalamês).42 Imitating

the archetypal act of Attis, the priests of Cybele performed castration, usually at the

climax of an orgiastic ritual characterized by wild, rapid dances, sacred songs and

ecstasy.43 After those gruesome acts of emasculation, the galli would literally attain the

state of androgyny, becoming thus 'half-men' (semiviri)44 or 'half-women' (hêmithêlys),45

'neither men nor women,'46 etc... Some of these ascetics were also known as metragyrtai,

the begging priests47 of the Mother Cybele. Before the emperor Domitian declared the

practice of eviratio illegal,48 the Roman citizens themselves participated in the rites of

emasculation.

It seems that the practices of the galli, related to the cult of Cybele and Attis,

provoked bewilderment among the Roman citizens. Obviously disturbed by the actions of

these initiates, Catulus, for instance, sarcastically addresses the Great Goddess with the

following words: "Great Goddess, Goddess Cybele, Goddess lady of Dindymus, May all

your fury be far from my house. Incite the others, go. Drive other men mad."49

40 Ibid.
41 Ethnika, 198.
42 Meaning, presumably, the inner chambers of the temples, where the esoteric initiation of mystes takes
place. Cf. Anth. Pal. 6.173,220; 9.340 (Showerman, 236).
43 Cf. Catulus' description in Poem 63.20-26 or Lucian's account in De Dea Syria 50ff.
44 Minutius Felix, Oct. 22.4 (cf. Vermaseren, 96).
45 Anacreon 2.2 (cf. Vermaseren, 96).
46 Lactantius, The Divine Institutes 1.21; transl. by M. F. McDonald, Washington, DC: The Catholic
University of America Press, 1964: 83.
47 Cicero, De Legibus 2.22.40.
48 Cf. Digest. 48.8.4.2 (cf. Vermaseren, 97).
49 Catulus, Poem 63. Transl. by C. H. Sisson in M. Meyer, ed., Ancient Mysteries, 128.

169
On the other hand, an aura of mystery and extraordinary power50 surrounds the

Galli of Hierapolis in Strabo's description of the Plutonion. Plutonion or Charonion is a

deep opening in the earth, full of toxic, mephitic vapour that appears to be fatal for

anyone except for the eunuch-priests of Cybele. The passage from Strabo's Geographica

reads as follows:

But the Galli, who are eunuchs, pass inside with such impunity that they even
approach the opening, bend over it, and descend into it to a certain depth, though
they hold their breath as much as they can (for I could see in their countenances an
indication of a kind of suffocating attack, as it were), - whether this immunity
belongs to all who are maimed in this way or only to those round the temple, or
whether it is because of divine providence, as would be likely in the case of divine
obsessions, or whether it is the result of certain physical powers that are antidotes
against the vapour.51

Now let us return to G. S. Gasparro's classification of the Phrygian mysteries of

Cybele and Attis and her discussion of the relationship between the public and esoteric-

initiatory forms of this cult.52 A thorough examination of the evidence related to the cult

itself led Gasparro to conclude that the "formation of mysteries in the Phrygian cult was

not an original element but a later addition, the result of an encounter with Greek

religious structures familiar with the phenomenon in various forms."53 Although we

know very little about the actual content of these esoteric rites, it is quite natural that the

galli not only played a central role in the public, orgiastic or dramatic, aspects of this cult,

but that at least some of them (as archigalli) performed significant functions in the inner

chambers of the temple as well, where the 'mystes of Attis' were initiated into the secrets

of immortality and perfection.

50 As William Ramsay puts it, "these priests, having separated themselves from the world, already
possessed some of the divine nature, and could support unharmed the terrors of the world of death...the
annihilation of the distinction of sex brings the man closer to the divine life. Hence it is part of the religion
to confuse in various ways the distinction; to make the priest neither male nor female, and to make
mutilation the test of willingnes to enter the divine service" (pp. 93-4). Such a conception of the divine
androgyny is already familiar to us both from the Gospel of Thomas and the Naassene source.
51 Strabo, 13.4.14.
52 Cf. Gasparro, 65ff.
53 Ibid., 122.

170
The only two sources which give some hints as to the character of that inner,

esoteric ritual are Clement of Alexandia and Firmicus Maternus. In his Protrepticus 2.15,

Clement quotes the formula used in these esoteric initiations εκ τυμπανου εφαγον εκ

κυμβαλου επιον εκιρνοφορησα υπο τον παστον υπεδυν ("I have eaten from the

tympanum; I have drunk from the cymbal; I have born the cernus; I have entered the

chamber").

Firmicus Maternus cites a very similar symbolon in his De errore profanarum

religionum: "In a certain temple a man who is dedicated to die pronounces the following

formula in order to be admitted into the temple: de tympano manducavi, de cymbalo bibi,

et religionis secreta perdidici, which in Greek reads: εκ τυμπανοθ βεβρωκα, εκ κυμβαλου

πεποκα, γεγονα μυστης Αττεωσ."54

Whereas the first two statements of the initiatory formula ("I have eaten from the

tympanum; I have drunk from the cymbal...") are identical in Clement and Firmicus (and

refer to the preparatory acts of eating and drinking from the cultic instruments), the

symbolon ends with three different variations:

a) "I have entered the chamber" (Clement);

b) "I have revealed the secrets of the cult" (Firmicus, in Latin);

c) "I have become a mystes of Attis" (Firmicus, in Greek).

Today, many authors are inclined to support Festugiere's interpretation of

Clement's pastos as the "(inner) room of the Goddess."55

A synoptic view of a, b and c also suggests that the culminative point of the

mystery of Attis and Cybele, the revelation of the secrets, took place in the inner chamber

or cell of a temple. At all events, the highest initiation into the esoteric aspects of the

Phrygian cult of the Goddess finds its parallel in Orphic and Eleusinian mysteries and, as

54 De err. prof. rel. 18.1 (quoted in Vermaseren, 116).


55 Thus, for example, Vermaseren 1977: 117 or Gasparro, 81.

171
Gasparro and others rightly argue, this part of the ritual was very likely shaped after the

patterns of ancient Greek mysteries.56

Now, if we take a closer look at Hippolytus' ambiguous statement that the

Naassenes "attended the so-called mysteries of the Great Mother, thinking that through

those rites they will comprehend the complete mystery" (Ref. 5.9.10), we may ask

ourselves if the drômena mentioned by the bishop of Rome should refer to the "public"

rites, performed in the theaters (5.9.7), or perhaps to some esoteric type of initiation as is

documented by Clement and Firmicus.

The most one can infer from Hippolytus' report is that some of the Naassenes

probably attended the public (or theater) performances in which the hymns to Attis had

been sung as a part of the Festival of the Great Mother.57 Apparently, these singers

enacted ta megala mystêria through their songs to Attis (5.9.7), and "because of these and

similar words," the Naassenes themselves attended such public performances. As a result

of that, they were able to get a better grasp of the "universal mystery" (to holon mystêrion,

5.9.10). Hippolytus clearly indicates that the Naassenes, despite their praise of an extreme

continence and androgyny, were not the galli, the priests of the Great Mother. There are

no hints that they were the mystes of Attis either, so that the most realistic conclusion one

may derive from this passage in Hippolytus is that the Naasenes attended the festivals and

public ceremonies in order to be able to accomodate some elements of the mystery-cult to

their own syncretistic edifice.58 We have already seen that in the same, eclectic, manner

they treated the Genesis-myth of creation as well as the Christian Gospel.59 This is

exactly the sense in which Hippolytus himself understood their efforts to reveal the

spiritual essence of all things: "Thus they go astray," says Hippolytus, "and alter

56 Cf. Gasparro, 122 and Vermaseren, 117.


57 On the character of these public feasts, known in Rome as Megale(n)sia, cf. Vermaseren 1977: 110ff.
58 It is quite probable, I think, that the original "Naassene Sermon," which was only summarized in
Hippolytus' Refutatio, represented a direct result of such a syncretistic effort.
59 Cf. also Hippolytus' opening statement in 5.6.2 that the Naassenes "profess the doctrines which were
formulated by the Greek philosophers and the transmitters of the mysteries; on such a pretext, they have
constructed (their own) heresies."

172
everything that has been said or done by anyone to their own understanding, claiming that

all the things become spiritual" (5.9.7). As an example of such an eclectic procedure

Hippolytus mentions the Naassene "pneumatic" interpretation of the theater performances

in which the Great Mysteries of the Mother of the Gods and Attis were acted out (5.9.7-

10).

What has been said thus far indicates that the Naassenes most likely adapted to

their own teaching the elements of the Phrygian mysteries of the Great Mother pertaining

only to the public ceremonies and festivals performed in honor of the two Phrygian

deities. Be that as it may, one may also assume that the two songs to Attis, quoted at the

end of Hippolytus' Naassene Sermon, were just a part of this common syncretistic corpus.

On the other hand, we do not have any evidence that the Naassenes participated in

other more esoteric aspects of this oriental cult, and Hippolytus certainly does not identify

them as the authentic mystes of Attis. Nevertheless, some of the Ophites did take part in

the mystic rituals associated with the serpent, and the question still needs to be asked as

to the exact nature of those rites.

Before we make an attempt to relate these other, "ophitic," mysteries with the

coeval forms of worshipping the Phrygian god Sabazius, we have to admit that the

Naassene unique syncretism could have been significantly enriched (at least in its

"theoretical aspect") by a polyvalent symbolism of the religion of the Magna Mater. Even

before the rise of Christianity in Asia Minor, some of the Greco-Phrygian sects (the

Ophites, in particular) were a part of a religious universe imbued by the ideas of

androgyny, purification, salvation and sacrifice. Resembling the archetypal model of

Attis, the galli popularized various ascetic techniques, ranging from begging and fasting

to radical self-flagellation. A life of chastity and the state of arsenothêlys (male-female)

became some of the ideals of these religious communities.60 The extent to which the

60 For the rituals of taurobolium and criobolium, cf. Vermaseren, 101-7 or Showerman, 280ff.

173
peculiar Naassene-Thomasine symbolism may have been influenced by these ideas is the

subject of our next section.

A direct encounter with Judaism of the Asian diaspora as well as the contacts with

the first Christian missions additionally contributed to the rise of various types of

syncretism which certainly flourished at the time when the Naassene Ophites formulated

their own soteriological system. Not only the traditional Greek mysteries of Orpheus and

Dionysus, but Semitic ideas, too, made a significant impact upon the local Phrygian

population. As Grant Showerman remarks, "the medium of communication between the

Semitic people and the Phrygians were the Lydians, who represented the Semitic stock in

Asia Minor...The revolting sensual rites, the presence of the hermaphroditic element, and

the mountain temples of the Cybele cult all have their parallels in Semitic worship."61

Among these Semitic influences upon the indigenous cult of the Great Mother,

one should certainly include Jewish monotheism:

We know that numerous Jewish colonies were established in Phrygia by the


Seleucids, and that these expatriated Jews agreed to certain compromises in order
to conciliate their hereditary faith with that of the pagans in whose midst they
lived. It is also possible that the clergy of Pessinus62 suffered the ascendancy of
the Biblical Theology. Under the empire Attis and Cybele became the "almighty
gods" (omnipotentes) par excellence, and it is easy to see in this new conception a
leaning upon Semitic or Christian doctrines, more probably upon Semitic
ones."63

One of the fundamental questions posed by Cumont in this context is related to

the problem of the modification and adaptation of these Gentile Hellenistic traditions

"through an infiltration of Biblical ideas."64 Contemporary biblical scholars are, for

example, occupied by a phenomenon known as Hellenistic Judaism. In the case of the

syncretism discussed by Cumont, one may, however, speak of the problem of Judaized

61 Showerman, 246-7.
62 The place in Galatia in which the cult of the Great Mother was particularly prominent.
63 Cumont, 62-3.
64 Ibid., 63.

174
Hellenism, an ideological synthesis that also developed its roots in the Phrygian,

Alexandrian and Antiochian religious milieus.

For example, the magical texts which, according to Cumont, "are almost the only

literary documents of paganism we possess, clearly reveal this mixture of Israelitic

theology with that of other peoples. In them we frequently find names like Iao (Yahweh),

Sabaoth, or the names of angels side by side with those of Egyptian or Greek

divinities."65 The Nag Hammadi Library contains texts with these features.

The question of the influence of the biblical traditions upon the local, Greco-

Phrygian stratum of beliefs and rituals will not lose its relevance in the context of our

discussion of the cult of Sabazius. In fact, this problem gains an additional, specific

weight in terms of a more general inquiry into the nature of the Naassene Ophite

syncretism.

2. Some Aspects of the Cult of Sabazius

In the previous chapter we have already made reference to the cult of the Phrygian

god Sabazius.66 According to William Ramsay,66a Sabazius played a prominent role in

the religion of ancient Hierapolis. On the basis of some analogies with the nearby

Dionysopolis, Ramsay infers that "the great religious festival of Hierapolis was the

Letoia, named after the goddess Leto. She was a local variety of the Mother Goddess,

who was worshipped under many names but with practical identity of character in all

parts of Asia Minor."67 Since Apollo was the traditional patron of the city, the festivals

of Letoia tended to unify the two most important deities - Apollo and Leto.68 Now, as the

65 Ibid.
66 See pp. 151-2.
66a Cf. Ramsay, 90.
67 Ibid., 89.
68 Hence the name of the festival - Letoeia-Pythia (cf. Ramsay, 90).

175
local manifestation of the Great Goddess, Leto was normally identified with Cybele, and

sometimes with Artemis.69 On the other hand, Leto's son Sabazius, through the same

analogy, became Attis,70 the consort of the Great Mother of the Gods.

According to Strabo's account, the temple of Hierapolis was served by the galli,71

and the analogy with Lydian customs suggests that this hieron may have been served by

consecrated prostitutes as well.72 Among other features of the Hierapolitan religion, one

may perhaps emphasize the importance attached to the corpse in the ceremonies of

burial.73

In such a global context of the traditional religion of Hierapolis we should place

the cult of Sabazius, a deity often associated with the Great Mother.74 Male deities with

whom Sabazius is either associated or identified are Zeus/Jupiter, Hermes/Mercury,

Dionysus, Apollo, Attis, Mithras, etc...75

Like Attis, Sabazius is considered a solar deity76 and in the iconography he is

usually accompanied by the moon and the stars.77 His most significant symbol is the

snake, but on the votive hands and other artefacts he also appears with frogs, lizards,

turtles and rams. The presence of the snakes, lizards and turtles on various bronze

hands78 may suggest the regenerative attributes of this deity,79 that is, the characteristic

69 Cf. Ramsay, 91.


70 Ibid. Cf. Strabo 10.3.15.18.
71 Cf. p. 186.
72 Cf. Strabo 2.14.16. Ramsay interprets Strabo's report in the light of the inscription found in Trallis,
Lydia (cf. Ramsay, 94-95 and 115).
73 Cf. Ramsay, 98ff.
74 Cf. Strabo 10.3.15; 10.3.18; Orphic Hymns, no. 48 and 49; Eustahius, in Odysseam 1431.45ff;
Iamblichus, De Mysteriis 3.9-10; Apuleius, Metamorphoses 8.25; Origen, Contra Celsum 1.9 (all in Lane
1985: 47ff.). This association with the Magna Mater is further supported by the inscription at Nicopolis and
several other artefacts (cf. Lane 1989: 16ff.). In Lydia, Sabazius is the companion of Meter Hipta or
Artemis Anaeitis (cf. plate 15, 37 in Lane 1985).
75 Cf. Lane's survey and discussion of the inscriptions and other documents in 1989: 11ff. In his
interpretation of this evidence, Lane is careful not to identify Sabazius with Dionysus (cf. pp. 13ff. and 51).
76 Cf. Lane, 21.
77 Ibid.
78 Cf. the plates in M. Vermaseren, The Hands, Leiden: Brill, 1983.
79 This has been pointed out by Lane in Conclusions (CCIS, III), Leiden: Brill, 1989: 23ff.

176
belief in renovatio linked with the cult itself. The figure of the ram evokes the ritual of

criobolium (the sacrifice of the ram),80 practiced probably as a part of the common

worship of Sabazius and the Great Mother. As in the case of the cult of Attis, trees,

especially the pine, find a prominent place in Sabazius iconography.81 He also wears the

Phrygian cap, but, unlike the androgynous Attis, Sabazius is often represented with a

beard.

Of the more specific artefacts which demand our special concern in this context, I

would include the large crater (amphora, cista mystica),82 table83 and the loaf of bread84

- all of which presumably served as ritual objects that, in my view, bring the Sabazius-

cult closer to the religious universe of the Ophites of Hierapolis. These objects strongly

suggest the possibility that the Sabazius worshippers participated in a common cultic

meal, which was more or less esoteric in its character. In such a rite, the described cista

mystica may have functioned as a ritual vessel, whereas the table and the loaf of bread

could serve as the elements of a sacred meal.85 If we observe these symbols and objects

from the perspective of Epiphanius' description of the Ophite communion (Pan. 37.5.6-

8), we may not avoid the impression that the worshippers of Sabazius, who historically

and geographically coincide with the Ophites, should somehow be related with the

original members of this sect. Of course, such a hypothesis could be significantly

strengthened if one would be able to demonstrate that ophis or naas played an equally

important role in the "eucharist" of the Sabazius devotees. Unfortunately, one may only

speculate presently about this possibility.

80 Cf. Lane, 25.


81 Cf. Lane, 30.
82 Cf. the plates 12-17 (15bis a and b) in Vermaseren 1983. Also, Lane 1989: 21.
83 Cf., for example, plates 25, 36 (42) and 60 in Vermaseren 1983.
84 Especially on the plates 13-14 (15 bis a) in Vermaseren 1983. Cf. also photographs 1, 13, 14, 26, 29, etc.
in ibidem.
85 Cf. also Lane's proposal in 1989: 31-34, as well as his reference to the similarities between the Sabazius-
worship and early Christianity.

177
What is more evident, however, is that the snake, both as an object and a symbol,

was an inseparable element of the Sabazius-cult,86 and that the sacred echidna had been

worshipped in Hierapolis, Phrygia (and probably in Laodicea, too)87 before and after the

advent of Christianity.88 One may also assume that some sort of ideological interaction

occurred when the members of this and other Phrygian sects began to be influenced by

Judeo-Christian monotheism. Some authors, for example, argue that the "modern

speculation on a syncretism of Sabazius cult with Judaism, (is) something unlikely in

itself, and not grounded in any clear evidence."89 But even if we admit that the coexistent

Judaism of the Anatolian diaspora was not influenced by these Gentile cults in any

meaningful sense,90 one may certainly expect that the beliefs of the early Ophites,

Sabazius worshippers and some devotees of the Great Mother may have been transformed

in such a religious encounter. Franz Cumont, for example, noted the striking resemblance

between the expression kyrios Sabaoth in the Septuagint and the epithet kyrios Sabazios

,91 identified in an inscription of Nicopolis ad Istrum.92 Or, again, how should we

interpret the identification of the Ophite serpent with Christ93 as well as the presence of

Adam and Eve, a cultic serpent, a table and a cista mystica on the same magic amulet

from the Imperial period? Let us not forget that "the purifications practiced in the

86 Such as the pareias snake in Theophrastus, Characters 16.4 and Demosthenes, De Corona 259-60 (cf.
Lane 1985: 46 and 52). From the polemical context of Demosthenes' work, we learn, for example, that the
thiasoi, crowned with wreaths, practiced to lift these cultic snakes over their heads. At the same time, the
other participants in this mystery would dance and invoke the name of the deity with the words euoi saboi
as well as hyês attes, attes hyês!
87 Cf. Nicetas Paphlago, quoted in Ramsay, 51ff.
88 Aristophanes bears witness to an early Phrygian origin of the cult (e.g. Horae, frag. 566; cf. Lane 1985:
46). Cf. also an Anatolian inscription from the period of Artaxerxes II in Lane 1985 (plate 13, 31).
According to Valerius Maximus (1.3.2), in 139 B.C.E. the members of the cult of Jupiter Sabazius were
already expelled from Rome (cf. Lane 1985: 47). For the popularity of Sabazius in the Imperial period, cf.,
for example, the Bithynian inscription (from 99 C.E.) in Lane 1985 (plate 9). Also, Lane 1989: 38ff.
89 Lane 1989: 55.
90 Although we have to admit that the phenomenon known as "Hellenistic Judaism" was a result of at least
a philosophical impact of the Greco-Hellenistic culture upon Judaism.
91 Cf. Cumont, 64.
92 Cf. Lane 1985: plate 5 (16) and 1989: 11. The inscription reads: Zeus Hêlios megas kyrios Sabazios
Arsilenos. On some Roman inscriptions, Atis is called 'Hypsistos' (Inscr. graec. 14.1018), which is an
epithet characteristic of the Old Testament God. Cf. Cumont, 62.
93 Epiphanius, Pan. 37.2.6; 6.6.

178
mysteries were believed to wipe out the hereditary impurity of a guilty ancestor who had

aroused the wrath of heaven against his posterity, much as the original sin with which

Adam's disobedience had stained the human race was to be wiped out."94

Analogies like these opened up possibilities for various typological connections

between the dominant religious trends of Late Antiquity. Oddly enough, the "celestial

feast can be seen in a fresco painting on the grave of a priest of Sabazius called

Vincentius, who was buried in the Christian catacomb (!) of Praetextatus."95 Cumont

argues that this priest "belonged to a Jewish-pagan sect that admitted neophytes of every

race to its mystic ceremonies."96

These features correspond to a similar tendency in the syncretism of the Naassene

Ophites. Is this syncretism reflected in the symbolism of the Naassene Gospel of Thomas?

C. The Symbolical World of the Naassene-Thomasine Community

In the substantial corpus of literature on the Gospel of Thomas surprisingly few

works have paid attention to the analysis of its symbols. Even in those few cases where

such an inquiry has been undertaken, it has been within the broader framework of

discussing the theology or "message" of Thomas.97 There is one, particularly striking,

tendency in the literature on Thomas, displayed even in the more focused scholarly

articles,98 to assess symbols proper as "themes," "terms," "images" or "concepts."

More comprehensive studies of this document, published soon after the first

international edition of the Gospel According to Thomas (1959), are methodologically

94 Cumont, 64.
95 Cumont, 64-5. Cf. plate 27 in Lane 1985.
96 Ibid., 65.
97 Cf., for example, Bertil Gärtner, The Theology of the Gospel According to Thomas, New York: Harper
& Bros., 1961; Ernst Haenchen, Die Botschaft des Thomas-Evangeliums, Berlin: Verlag Alfred Töpelmann,
1961; H. Turner and H. Montefiore, Thomas and the Evangelists, Naperville, Ill.: Allenson, 1962.
98 Such as those of Klijn 1962 and Kee 1963.

179
univocal with respect to their basic presumptions. The standard theoretical

presuppositions may be outlined as follows:

- Thomas is a typical gnostic work;

- As such, it may be understood from the broad context of gnostic mythology and

theology (an "ideal type" of Gnosticism);99

- The symbols of Thomas "find" their meaning and significance in this larger

interpretive macrocosm.

The initiators of this methodology were the eminent German scholars Rudolf

Bultmann and Hans Jonas.100 Following this same syllogistic procedure, both authors

defined the "original" or "genuine" Gnosticism according to some "typical" (=universal)

gnostic patterns (dualist cosmology, myth of the Anthropos, the cosmic Logos, world as a

tragic event, etc.) and then applied that "ideal type" to the alleged Gnosticism of the

distinctive early Christian works (such as the Gospel of John or some non-canonical

writings). This entire procedure cannot, however, escape the charge of circular reasoning.

The ambiguous effects of such a methodology may be recognized throughout

Gärtner's, otherwise magisterial, work on the Gospel of Thomas. Let me mention one

typical example from his book. One of the most obscure sayings encountered in the

Gospel of Thomas inaugurates the symbol of the lion "who becomes man" (log.7). The

author first refers to the usage of this symbol in the Mandaean literature as well as the

Valentinian Excerpta ex Theodoto, and then makes an anachronistic attempt to illuminate

the mystical "lion" from Thomas by reading in the connotations characteristic of these

later writings.101 When we compare the outcome of such a process of hermeneutical

99 See Morton Smith's criticism of this "ideal type" in his book review in JBL 89/1 (1970): 83. Also, in
1981: 796ff.
100 Cf., for example, Jonas' classic The Gnostic Religion, Boston: Beacon Press, 1963 or Rudolph
Bultmann's Primitive Christianity in its Contemporary Setting, trans. by R. H. Fuller, New York: The
World Publishing Company, 1956: 162-171 and The Gospel of John: A Commentary, trans. by G. R.
Beasley-Murray, Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1971: 13-83.
101 Cf. Gärtner, 162ff. For a comprehensive study of this leontomorphic symbol in Thomas , cf. Howard
Jackson, The Lion Becomes Man, Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1985.

180
deciphering of the lion-symbol with the actual Thomas logion, not even the principle of

symbolic polysemy may aid us in better understanding its "message." Is it because of the

fact that Lidzbarski's significant translation of the Mandaean Ginza introduced a kind of

"Mandaean fever" among contemporary biblical scholars, that Gärtner himself resorted to

this particular interpretive frame of reference?

Our own hermeneutical investigation begins, therefore, with the particular, with

the text itself in its uniqueness as well as symbolical autonomy and difference. It will not

presuppose any universal "gnostic" system of symbols; actually, the only dynamic context

in which it positions itself is the context of Phrygian Christianity.

1. The Symbol of the Kingdom

Viewed in terms of the interpretive procedure described above, one may observe,

for instance, the symbol of the kingdom of God in the lengthy history of its origination,

redescriptions, and semantic transformations through all of the prophetic as well as

apocalyptic connotations emerging from the real life of the Jewish and Jewish-Christian

religious communities. At the same time, we have to be sensitive to the radical

redescription of this symbol in the specific context of the Naassene syncretism.

If one pursues a very instructive Ricoeurean "stratification" of fundamental

symbols (as originating in the primordial experience; first articulated and interpreted in

myths; and, finally, elaborated in speculative thought), one should agree with Norman

Perrin's statement that the kingdom of God, being dependent on a prior myth, is not an

archetypal or primordial symbol.102 In other words, we would not have had the symbol

without the corresponding mythos. Despite the fact that the Jesus of the New Testament

gospels frequently employs this symbol in a very personal manner, in our reading we

should constantly be aware of its remarkable history in Jewish eschatological thought.

102 Cf. Norman Perrin, "The Interpretation of a Biblical Symbol," JR 55/3 (1975): 362-5.

181
Discussing the interpretation of the idea of the kingdom of God in the message of

Jesus, Norman Perrin has put forward two important theses. For Perrin, kingdom of God

is here a symbol rather than a concept; furthermore, it is a symbol evoking a myth.103

If the symbol of the kingdom of God truly evokes a myth, then one may argue that

in the history of the tradition this myth preceded, or gave rise to, the symbol. If the

opposite were the case,104 the myth of the kingdom would evoke a primordial symbol of

the kingdom. The logic of such an inference should lead us to assume that in the case of

the Judeo-Christian religious tradition we are not dealing with any primordial symbol of

the kingdom of God, but with a fundamental or primal myth that had given rise to a

whole series of (re)interpretations and semantic alterations in Judeo-Christian history.105

In the symbolic universe of the Gospel of Thomas we may hardly recognize traces

of any such myth, especially in its eschatological or apocalyptic interpretation. In the

absence of any trace of eschatologization of the symbol of the kingdom, the symbol itself

begins to live its own, independent, semantic life. It is specifically redescribed to function

in the personal context. This, however, does not necessarily mean that the 'kingdom of

heaven' in Thomas does not historically presuppose the traditional myth of the kingship

of God. Rather, the basic myth which preceded the symbol of the kingdom of God "fades

away" in this text, and is no more a necessary condition for its proper understanding. This

atypical feature of Thomas may prompt one to surmise that the text of this gospel, at the

moment when it was used by the Naassene community, had already passed through an

important process of de-eschatologization. Indeed, this assumption may have far-reaching

consequences for our diachronic reading: namely, the history of the symbol may indicate

a later date for Thomas' composition. But what about the possible redactional priority of

these kingdom-logia? What if the redescription or recontextualization of the symbol of

103 Perrin, 355. Also in Jesus and the Language of the Kingdom, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1976: 33ff.
104 E.g. the relationship of the symbol of guilt or sin and the Adamic myth in the Ricoeurian interpretation
(cf. Perrin 1975: 363).
105 Ibid., 348.

182
the kingdom really preceded, in the history of the tradition, some later "adjustments"

observed in the canonical gospels?

'Kingdom,' 'kingdom of the Father' or 'kingdom of heaven' are not fully elaborated

concepts in the Gospel of Thomas as they are, for instance, in the works of Augustine or

some modern theologians. Evolution, mediation and interraction are terms that most aptly

explain the development of this symbol in a diachronic perspective. Such a process might

be represented by the following trajectory:

the underlying myth

symbol

conception

In the tradition-historical perspective, this trajectory may be followed from the

Ancient Near Eastern (including Israelite) myths of the kingship and reign of God, via the

prophets' and Jesus' proclamation of the kingdom of God, up to the more or less

speculative redescriptions of this symbol in works such as the Gospel of Thomas as well

as its subsequent conceptualizations in later theological treatises (beginning with

Augustine's City of God).

Perrin rightly insisted that the origins of the symbol of the kingdom of God lie in

the Near Eastern myths of divine kingship.106 All these myths have some common

features, such as the confirmation of one god (be it Marduk, Baal, Yahweh or Zeus) as a

king by the others, usually after his great victory over the monsters, powers of evil, chaos

and darkness. These "installations" are regularly accompanied by appropriate hymns,

psalms and lists of divine attributes. Although in the case of YHWH we do not have firm

evidence for the existence of a festival of his enthronement, most of the deities were

celebrated in annual festivals and rituals. Some of them were considered not only 'a great

106 Ibid., 348ff.

183
king above all gods' (Ps 95:3), but as a 'king of kings' as well (2 Macc 13:4). In their

kingship they combine divine and human sovereignty, being thus universal rulers of the

world. In ancient Israel, the sovereignty of YHWH, his 'kingship of heaven' (malkuth

shamayim) had gradually embraced two distinctive aspects: he is not only the main "hero"

of the creation myth, but the principal agent in the history of salvation as well. Perrin

believes that the synthesis of these two mythological aspects contributed to the emergence

of the symbol "Reign or Kingdom of God."107 The attributes of righteousness and

justice, together with the idea of God as the "judge over the nations," were particularly

emphasized in the Israelite context. In Psalms, YHWH's authority as a judge is associated

with his future coming. In the period of the monarchy, king David appears as a royal

figure that has been granted covenantal kingship over the God's people.108

Some of the elements of the Israelite myth of the divine kingship have been

reinterpreted and further developed in the deuteronomistic history and the works of the

prophets.109 It seems that in this period of Jewish history the myth of the divine kingship

assumes some of its more profound symbolical features. The prophets, for example,

restate the myth, but redescribe it in the more augmented ethical or eschatological

contexts. Apocalyptic eschatology is a dominant characteristic of the intertestamental

stage of Jewish literature. In the symbolical milieu of the Hellenistic age, the kingdom of

God expresses the ultimate hopes of the nation. A new language of the kingdom, a rich

apocalyptic imagery, provides a transition from the underlying myth to a profound

eschatological symbolism such as is to be found in the writings of the Qumran

community.110 Perrin himself is one of a great number of scholars who tend to

emphasize this trajectorial development as a shift "from the group to the individual,"111

107 Ibid., 352.


108 Ibid., 354-5.
109 Ibid., 355ff.
110 Ibid., 359.
111 Ibid.

184
i.e. to personal experience. This shift is characterized, among other things, by a

personalization of the language of the kingdom (as, for example, in Lk 11:20 or 17:20ff.).

According to Perrin, the (re)interpretation of the symbol of the kingdom of God in the

New Testament literature is "highly distinctive."112

While Perrin's investigation is helpful, I contend that all four evangelists

reinterpret Jesus' message of the kingdom in a more or less distinctive manner. Matthew

is closer to the rabbinic tradition when he uses the term 'kingdom of heaven'. In Luke the

symbol of the kingdom has already been placed in the context of the "realized

eschatology." Luke seems to demythologize traditional elements of the kingship-myth and

put them in the more personal framework. Finally, John promotes his own theological

agenda, in which the idea of the kingdom becomes overshadowed by some other images

and symbols.

At least four types of discourse refer to the kingdom of God in the New Testament

gospels:

1) the kingdom sayings proper;

2) the Lord's Prayer;

3) various proverbial sayings;

4) the parables of the kingdom (Mk 4, Mt 13, etc.).113

As a rule, the symbol of the kingdom in these discourses is represented as an

object of coming, entering, searching or celebration.

When we apply this standard categorization to the text of the Gospel of Thomas,

we realize that only a few of these aspects have been emphasized in its kingdom

discourses. Statistical analysis shows that the word 'kingdom' appears twenty-two times in

the logia of Thomas. The word itself is predominantly used in the parables and kingdom-

112 Ibid., 361.


113 Cf. Perrin, 1976: 40ff.

185
sayings. With one exception, we do not find it in proverbial sayings. The Lord's Prayer is

entirely missing in Thomas.

On the other hand, we encounter the term 'kingdom' at least four times in the

contexts of ascetic symbolism. This fact indicates one of the major concerns of this

document: whoever seeks to enter the kingdom, should "fast from the world" and become

like a child, solitary and elect. In order to achieve this, a woman needs to become 'male'

and all the seekers have to attain the state of singleness (cf. log. 4, 16, 22, 23, 49,

114).114

In contrast to the synoptic gospels, Thomas expresses no interest whatsoever in

the themes of the coming and the celebration of the kingdom.115 On the other hand, the

themes of entering and search are equally well represented in the logia of the kingdom

(cf. log. 3, 22, 27, 49, 82, 99, 113, 114). Again, this may indicate the mystical and non-

eschatological proclivities of this gospel. The polarization between the 'world' and the

'kingdom' is not expressed in any apocalyptic or eschatological milieu. Moreover, no

particular myth is underlying this distinction. 'Kingdom' figures here as a "tensive

symbol" interpreted in an extremely personalized context. If Jesus' sayings about the

kingdom of God from the canonical gospels somehow express the tension between the

eschatological and existential dimensions of human life, the Thomasine basileia is almost

exclusively a matter of an inner, mystical experience and transformation.116 There is no

gap in Thomas between the kingdom present and the kingdom expected, or, more

generally, between the present and the future. The kingdom of the Father is eternal and is

to be found everywhere, but the people do not see it (log. 3, 13). One should know

himself or herself in order to understand that. Until the moment of that inner, mystical,

revelation, one lives in 'poverty' (log. 3).

114 Compare Ref. 5.7.14-16; 5.7.20, etc.


115 Cf. the polemical tone of the logia 51 and 113.
116 Compare Ref. 5.7.20; 5.8.8; 5.8.29-30; 5.8.38, etc.

186
If the parables of Jesus in the synoptic gospels reflect the paradoxical nature of the

kingdom of God, each mention of it in the Gospel of Thomas invokes that paradox.

Within the ascetic-mystical world of the Naassene-Thomasine community, the kingdom

is an essentially demythologized and de-eschatologized symbol. The Gospel of Thomas

may be the earliest Christian document to contain a radical redescription or

recontextualization of the traditional Jewish idea of the kingdom of God. This process of

"liberation" of the symbol from the traditional bondage of the myth had already begun

with the prophets and was especially advanced in the message of the Jesus of the synoptic

gospels. Works such as the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Luke have somehow

completed that process of symbolization and internalization of the 'kingdom' and thus

paved the way to a later conceptualization of this idea in the history of Christian theology.

On the synchronic, non-historical, level of our inquiry into the symbolic world of

the Naassene-Thomasine community, we encounter a whole network of closely related

images and symbols. Some of them are familiar from the New Testament, whereas others

are characteristic of the text of Thomas only. We have already referred to the symbol of

the 'kingdom' (mentero)117 as the central or focal symbol of the Gospel of Thomas.

Furthermore, it is the most frequently mentioned symbol. It appears twenty- two times,

which simply means that it may be encountered in almost every fifth logion of this

gospel!

Other frequently used symbols include 'the world' (kosmos), 'the solitary'

(monachos; appearing also as oua -"one", and oua ouôt -"the single one") and the 'little

child' (schêre schêm). Less numerous, but equally suggestive, are the symbols of the

'living one' (etonh), 'the light' (ouoein), 'the fruit' (karpos), 'the body' (sôma), 'the corpse'

(ptôma), 'the spring' (pêgê), 'the beginning' (archê), 'the bridegroom' (numphios), etc...118

117 Appearing in two additional Coptic variants as 'the kingdom of the Father' (mentero empeiôt) and 'the
kingdom of heaven' (mentero nempeue, pl.).
118 Compare Ref. 5.7.28 ('the light'); 5.8.22 ('the corpse'); 5.8.23 ('the living man'); 5.9.19, 21 ('the living
water'); 5.8.44 ('the bridegroom'); 5.7.40 ('the body'), etc...

187
Even from this partial selection of symbols in Thomas, we are able to recognize a

familiar lexical fund encountered (in Greek) throughout the greater corpus of early

Christian literature. What, then, is so unique about the symbolism of this particular

Christian document?

2. Ascesis, Baptism and the Primeval Androgyny

It has already been pointed out that the programatic statement - "Whoever finds

the interpretation of these words will not taste death" - proclaimed at the very beginning

of this gospel, invites the reader to embark upon an unusual hermeneutical search for the

meaning of Jesus' words. Indeed, the sayings of Jesus recorded by Judas Thomas do

conceal as much as they disclose. Technically, they are hoi logoi hoi apokryphoi, that is,

the secret or apocryphal words of the 'living Jesus.' They are esoteric, secret words which

reveal the mystery of life and death, the world and the kingdom, male and female. The

religious language of the Gospel of Thomas is, therefore, inherently symbolical and

paradoxical.

What has been said on the level of this text as a whole is even more applicable in

the case of specific symbols and metaphors within the microcosm of the Thomasine

discourses. On that microlevel of otherwise unsystematic, logia, we encounter an entire

network of very profound symbols that may speak on several hermeneutical levels.

In accordance with Philip Wheelwright's119 classification of symbols, I am

inclined to regard the 'world' as a tensive symbol which is primarily used in order to stress

a polarization between the kingdom (seen as the state of purity, perfection, asexuality,

oneness, etc.) and the imperfect, dualistic realm of human life. In other words, 'world' is

the symbol which represents the negative aspects of an imperfect carnal existence. The

metaphors of the 'body' (sôma) and the 'corpse' (ptôma) are closely related to this focal

119 Philip Wheelwright, Metaphor and Reality, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1962.

188
symbol, and as such, they participate in an entire network of antagonistic root-metaphors.

Quite the opposite, the 'spring,' the 'beginning' and the 'light' form another cluster of

affirmative archetypal images, serving now as metaphors, and now as symbols,

reminiscent of other canonical gospel texts (e.g. the Gospel of John).

Some of the symbols and metaphors that are used in the Gospel of Thomas have

meanings and functions similar to their doublets in the New Testament gospels. For

instance, 'becoming a child' is an important metaphor both in Thomas and in the

synoptists. On the other hand, the 'single one' or the 'solitary' is a symbol with very

peculiar connotations. In the Gospel of Thomas 'monachos' is not yet a terminus technicus

referring to any developed form of monastic life. However, it has the capacity to embrace

a whole set of meanings related to the idea of singleness, celibacy, androgyny, perfection,

etc. Observed as a metaphor, it is an "event" of Thomas' discourse.120 It is a live, vital

metaphor which interacts with other images and expressions reflecting the ascetic

propensities of the Thomasine community. As a symbol, it mediates the tension between

the other two focal symbols, the 'world' and the 'kingdom.' Monachos (along with its

Coptic synonyms) is a sort of transitionary, initiatory, symbol. In the world of the

Naassene-Thomasine community, attaining the state of singleness or oneness is a

necessary condition for entering the kingdom of God.

Let us examine more closely the polarization between the image of the sunken,

"intoxicated," world on the one hand, and the symbol of the kingdom (seen also as the

'new world')121 on the other. Between the 'world' as an existential, personal, symbol and

the 'kingdom' as the focal image of the whole gospel, one may place two "transitionary"

symbols: that of the 'little child' and the 'monachos,' the 'solitary one.' This relationship

may be represented by the following scheme:

120 Cf. Paul Ricoeur's "definition" of a metaphor in his Interpretation Theory: Discourse and the Surplus
of Meaning, Fort Worth: The Texas University Press, p. 64.
121 Cf. log. 51.

189
WORLD → /MONACHOS, CHILD/ → KINGDOM

An internal connection exists between these pairs of fundamental symbols

dispersed throughout the "world" of Thomas' text. These axial symbols, interpreted in a

non-eschatological context, indicate the course of the spiritual or, rather, ontological,

transformation that should ultimately result in a new religious awareness of reality. Some

of these symbols refer to the need for self-transformation, characteristic of the initiatory

"betwixt and between" situations.

It is intriguing to relate Thomas' initiatory symbolism with a concrete form of

ritual praxis (i.e. the baptismal rite). Although this text has few explicit symbolic

references to baptism (e.g. the metaphor of the 'bubbling spring' in log. 13 or the 'garment

of shame' motif in log. 37), one should take into account that the whole symbolic pattern

of transition from the 'world' to the 'kingdom' (the transition conditioned by the solitary

and the child-like state of the initiant) may be interpreted in strictly cultic terms. The

symbols of the 'monachos,' the 'single one,' and the 'child' are dispersed, in a rather

unsystematic manner, throughout this gospel.122 They tend, however, to gravitate toward

the de-eschatologized symbol of the 'kingdom' that, itself, has marked baptismal

connotations.

Furthermore, the frequent references to various kinds of "mysteries," as well as

the occurrence of the idiosyncratic formula "seek-find-be afflicted-marvel-reign"123

enhance the esoteric aspects of Thomas, and suggest its possible function as a "manual of

discipline" of a specific Naassene Christian community in Asia Minor. A negative

attitude toward circumcision (log. 53), along with the baptismal connotations of some of

122 Cf. the random order of the logia in which they appear: 4-11-16-22-23-49-75-106-114, etc.
123 In log. 2; cf. also log. 92.

190
Thomas' symbols, prompt us to consider some of these logia in light of the famous

Pauline formula from Galatians 3:28.124

How much does this entire symbolism of initiation have to do with the more

general typology of the Adam-Androgyne figure encountered in the conceptions of some

early Christian circles (including Hippolytus' exposition of the major Naassene doctrine)?

Scholarship has already recognized an inherent connection between the baptismal

symbolism of Thomas (e.g. log. 21, 22, 37) and the recurrent themes of celibacy,

asexuality and androgyny. Jonathan Smith125 recognizes in log. 37 four characteristic

elements of the baptismal initiation: 1) nudity; 2) the state of "nakedness without shame";

3) the theme of "treading upon the garments;" 4) the metaphor of a "little child." Smith

relates this symbolism to the Adamic myth of Genesis and interprets these basic elements

of the baptismal practice as a symbolic "recovery of the lost innocence."126 According to

Smith, "the disciple is called upon to transfigure himself, to appear naked and

unashamed; to transcend himself, trampling on the fleshly sinful garments of the Old

Man; and to become reborn, to be as a little child."127 In such a condition, the initiant

abolishes sexual differentiation128 and gains "sacramental rebirth"129 which,

typologically, corresponds to the state of the New Adam in the New Kosmos130 or Eden.

Wayne Meeks discusses these baptismal undertones of Thomas in the context of

the theme of androgyny which, according to him, pervades the symbolic universe of the

earliest Christian communities. The Thomasine ideal of "singleness" has a double

124 With reference to this point, Wayne Meeks' seminal article "The Image of the Androgyne: Some Uses
of a Symbol in Earliest Christianity," HR 13/3 (1974): 165-208, is particularly helpful.
125 J. Z. Smith 1965/66.
126 Ibid., 237.
127 Ibid., 234.
128 Ibid., 236.
129 Ibid., 237.
130 Smith reflects upon the theme of "taking off the clothing" in log. 21 and the corresponding acquisition
of the "new field" or "new kosmos" (cf. pp. 235-6). Cf. also the eschatological theme of the "new world" in
log. 51.

191
significance for Meeks; it refers both to celibacy and asocial isolation.131 In the

Thomasine circles, "the union of male and female represents...a neutralization of

sexuality, and therewith a renunciation of all ties which join the 'unified' individual with

society."132

It is interesting that Meeks observes this tendency in the communities associated

with the apostle Paul. The baptismal reunification implied by a formula expressed in Gal

3:28, 1 Cor 12:13 and Col 3:10-11 may have prompted some of the early Christian

congregations, established through the Pauline mission, to think of themselves "as a new

genus of mankind, or as the restored original mankind."133 Of course, this self-

perception was a result of a genuine interaction of the biblical myth of the lost "image of

the Creator," the Adamic "robe of light"134 as well as an inclination to restore that

bisexual image through a particular ritual - the baptismal rite. "The new man" would,

therefore, represent a being "clothed with Christ" (Gal 3:28),135 the one who rejects the

"body of flesh" (Col 2:11) in order to be "born again" in a "new world."

The Naassene-Thomasine community, with its ideology of "singleness," celibacy

and an all-pervading "anti-cosmic" attitude would fit well into this pattern. Moreover, our

inquiry into the background of this religious group concurs with Meeks' assumption that

the ideal of androgyny, enacted through the baptismal practice, was one of the basic

ideological features of the communities associated with Paul and his school. The

Naassene Christians of Phrygia could certainly represent one such community.

In his book The Gospel of Thomas and Christian Wisdom Stevan Davies identifies

a whole series of logia in Thomas that may be interpreted in the context of the ritual of

131 Meeks, 194.


132 Ibid., 197.
133 Ibid., 166.
134 Ibid., 187.
135 Cf. Meeks, 183.

192
baptism.136 Such an investigation prompts Davies to conclude that the Gospel of Thomas

is "probably part of the post-baptismal instruction of new Christians and was probably

read aloud to such persons, with explanations added orally for at least the more difficult

sayings. Thomas is not, therefore, a purely intellectual document: it is based on a rite, an

event, a ritual transformation."137

This "practical" aspect of the Gospel of Thomas has been neglected in some

earlier studies on the symbolism of this document.138 On the other hand, scholars like

Klijn and Kee contributed to our better understanding of the theological or ideological

framework in which symbols such as the 'single one' or 'little children' find their

appropriate place. More precisely, A. F. J. Klijn interprets the theme of "oneness" in the

Gospel of Thomas as an apparent expression of the Judeo-Christian idea of salvation as a

return to the original state.139 Klijn contends, in his own right, that the "doctrine of the

Gospel of Thomas was influenced by Jewish ideas about the original Adam being

'one'."140 However, he is not inclined to understand the Thomasine ideal of the "single

one"141 in the light of the gnostic symbol of androgyny.142 Obviously assuming that the

Gospel of Thomas is a Jewish-Christian, and not a "gnostic" gospel, Klijn concludes that

the idea of "oneness" should be derived from the Jewish circles that influenced both the

Gospel of Thomas and the religious philosophy of Philo of Alexandria.143

Relying upon Klijn's conclusion that the "goal of redemption [for Thomas] is the

return to the prefall condition of Adam,"144 Howard Kee develops the idea of a

136 Cf. Davies 1983: 117-37. Besides log. 21 and 37 (already analyzed by Smith), he attempts to uncover
traces of baptismal symbolism in sayings 22, 44, 46, 53 and 108.
137 Ibid., 136.
138 E.g. Klijn 1962 or Kee 1963.
139 Klijn, 273ff.
140 Ibid., 278.
141 According to Klijn, 'monachos' is the word employed by the fourth-century translator of Thomas (as a
supplement to Coptic oua and oua ouôt, meaning "one" or the "single one"), in order to "render a term
unknown to him with the help of a word familiar to his readers" (p. 272).
142 Ibid., 276.
143 Ibid., 278.
144 Kee, 308.

193
primordial, childlike, innocence in the more specific context of the doctrine of the

kingdom. In contrast to the canonical tradition, "entering the kingdom according to these

logia is not the consequence of childlike acceptance of a gift, but the spiritual return to the

primordial state in which a man may regain the asexual innocence of Adam...Here [i.e. in

the Gospel of Thomas, log. 22] it is evident that becoming as a child and entering the

kingdom, and achieving a state of asexuality are very nearly interchangeable terms."145

The scheme introduced on page 212 is further clarified by other specific examples

encountered both in the Gospel of Thomas and Hippolytus' Naassene source.

In the previous chapter I referred to some terminological as well as conceptual

parallels between the two documents. At that point, our goal was to demonstrate the

redactional compatibility of the sayings in the Gospel of Thomas with references to the

Naassene teaching provided by Hippolytus. Apart from such a redaction-critical analysis,

one may regard the same terms and concepts as symbols or metaphors whose meaning

may be construed on a hermeneutical level. For example, the symbols of the 'body' and

'corpse', encountered both in Thomas and the Naassene source,146 might be understood

in the context of our discussion concerning the "old" and the "new" man as well as the

theme of "taking off the world" (as a sôma or ptôma) in order to attain a "pneumatic" state

of purity, asexuality and perfection. The ritual components of such a transformation are

indicated by the unique Naassene-Thomasine understanding of the symbols of the

'bridegroom' and the 'bridal chamber.'147 The virgin spirit,148 the spirit of "oneness" and

asexuality, is granted to those who, by "taking off their garments,"149 become (through

the baptismal reunification) like 'little children,'150 'neither male nor female,'151 the

145 Ibid., 312-13.


146 Cf. log. 11b, 56, 60; 87, 112; Ref. 5.8.22-24, 32; 5.7.40.
147 Cf. log. 75, 104; Ref. 5.8.44.
148 Cf. parthenikou pneumatos in Ref. 5.8.44-45.
149 Ref. 5.8.44=log. 37.
150 Cf. log. 4a, 21, 22, 37, 40; Ref. 5.7.20.
151 Log. 22, 114; Ref. 5.7.14-15.

194
'solitary'152 and the 'spiritual' ones.153 Becoming thus perfect, they will not only regain

the image of the Primal Man,154 but receive the knowledge (gnôsis) of God, which,

according to the Naassene doctrine, is the complete perfection.155

In contrast to the participants of the Lesser Mysteries, "those of the fleshly

generation,"156 the Naassene-Thomasine neophytes, the spiritual ones, are able to enter

the kingdom of the Father, "the house of God where the good God dwells alone

(monos!)."157

It is not the major purpose of this study to carry out a systematic hermeneutical

analysis of the symbolism of the Gospel of Thomas. Our primary concern here is to

demonstrate that the ideological background of this document is to be sought in various

early currents of Phrygian Christianity, and more specifically, in the religious-mystical

doctrines and practices of the Naassene sect. But even on the basis of these few examples

it is apparent, I think, that the Naassene-Ophite Christians, who compiled the Gospel of

Thomas as "their gospel," were able relatively easily to accommodate their pre-Christian

heritage to the elements of the new religion of salvation. In the case of this religious-

mystical faction (whose immediate ancestors and contemporaries still frequented the

mysteries of Sabazius, Attis and Cybele), we encounter a prototype of an early Gentile

Christian community formed in the period between the earliest Pauline mission in Asia

Minor and the subsequent preaching of Philip and his companions. Whereas the majority

of their contemporaries in Phrygia still attended the mysteries of the Great Mother, the

Naassene-Thomasine Christians were able to amalgamate, in a markedly syncretistic

fashion, the Hellenistic myth of the androgyne with the Judeo-Christian soteriological

152 Log. 16, 49, 75; Ref. 5.8.44.


153 Ref. 5.7.40; 5.8.44-45.
154 Log. 83, 84, 85; Ref. 5.7.36; 5.8.21.
155 Log. 3, 39, 111; Ref. 5.6.6; 5.7.20; 5.8.38; 5.10.2.21.
156 Ref. 5.8.44: ta tês sarkikês geneseos.
157 Cf. Ref. 5.8.44.

195
conception of a return to the original condition of humanity before the fall (i.e. to the

archê, Adamic state, or the kingdom of heaven).

According to our evidence, supplied both by the Gospel of Thomas and the

heresiological accounts158 about the Naassenes/Ophites, we infer that such a syncretistic

ideology was rooted both in mytho-ritualistic practices and religious-philosophical

concepts related to an ideal of perfection, androgyny and primeval unity. Such an

ideology is predominantly ascetic in its actual manifestation, and soteriological in terms

of its principal function and motivation. This means that the asceticism of the Naassene-

Thomasine community - embedded in the myth of the "New Adam-Androgyne" (with

some typological reflections in the figures of Attis and Christ), and expressed by an entire

network of symbols and metaphors familiar both from the Gospel of Thomas and the

Naassene source - had been inspired primarily by an idea of salvation. The myth itself

was re-enacted through the baptismal practice as well as an anti-sexual, "encratic"

behavior which is one of the dominant features of the Naassene-Thomasine ideology.

Abstention from sex, glorification of "singleness" together with a general resentment

toward procreation were some of the most visible characteristics of this attitude. We may

not expect that the Gospel of Thomas, as a highly condensed document, should epitomize

all the elements of the Naassene religious-philosophical edifice.

It seems, however, that a particular Naassene community which edited this

document, tended, in their own interpretive framework, not only to de-eschatologize the

content of Jesus' sayings, but also to reduce the elements of an underlying Adam-

Androgyne myth to a bare minimum.159 Hence in the religious language of the Gospel of

Thomas one encounters a unique class of "strong" or "creative" symbols and metaphors

inhabiting the more subtle domains between the typical allegorical metaphors and

symbols proper. A tensive use of language in the Gospel of Thomas, resorting both to

158 These accounts very often ridicule the pre-Christian heritage of the Ophite circles.
159 As a character, Adam appears only twice in this gospel (log. 46, 85).

196
symbols and metaphors, seems to uphold a 'tensive concept of reality'160 of a particular

Naassene congregation.

One may argue that the Naassene Christians who actually composed the Gospel of

Thomas as their scripture were already acting out an archetype of singleness or androgyny

that had been presupposed by an underlying myth of their Ophite ancestors. Both

generations of these Naassene Ophites may be recognized in the descriptions of the

church heresiologists.

In our view, the Gospel of Thomas itself would correspond to the final stage of

Christianization of Hippolytus' and Epiphanius' snake-worshippers, that is, to the time

when they already proclaimed themselves "Gnostics" or "pneumatics." With this stage, I

assume, the theological-philosophical grounds of the more sophisticated, Valentinian

system had already been established. Shortly after, the Gospel of Thomas found its way to

Alexandria and Egypt.

160 Cf. Ricoeur, 68.

197
V. THE NEW HYPOTHESIS

The principal theoretical goal of this work has been to identify the most probable

trajectory in early Christian thought which directly contributed to the growth and

transmission of the Gospel of Thomas. We have presented various arguments against the

eastern Syrian or Egyptian origin of Thomas and, furthermore, we have discussed and

analyzed the evidence for the Phrygian provenance of the original, Greek, recension of

this document. It would be worthwhile, I think, to recapitulate at this point some of the

results of the investigation.

An elaborate discussion of the two alternative hypotheses promoting an eastern

Syrian (Edessan) or Egyptian birthplace of Thomas prompted us to draw some very

important preliminary conclusions. In line with the arguments proposed in the first part of

the second chapter, we have, first, rejected the idea that the Gospel of Thomas was

originally composed in Syria. Then we challenged the view that this collection of sayings

could have reached Egypt before the end of the first half of the second century (i.e. 140

C.E.).

In order to support a third, and hitherto neglected, hypothesis concerning the

Phrygian origin of the Greek Gospel of Thomas, we pursued, in the third chapter, two

successive stages of examination. A combined redaction-critical, hermeneutical as well as

social-historical inquiry into the background of the Naassene sect indicated not only that

the Naassene Ophites originated in Phrygia, but also that they played a decisive role in the

composition and transmission of our gospel. I am unaware of any other study that has

paid attention to the geographic or ideological background of the Naassene sect as a

plausible clue to the provenance of the Gospel of Thomas. A closer scrutiny of

Hippolytus' Naassene source, his explicit testimonium to the Naassene transmission of

198
Thomas, along with the very peculiar parallels between the Naassene doctrines and the

symbolism of the Thomasine community, have shown that the history of this Phrygian

sect is compatible with the original composition of the Gospel of Thomas. This fact alone

does not, of course, necessarily entail that Thomas was written in Hierapolis, Phrygia.1 In

this respect, not even a discovery of another Greek version of Thomas at the side of

Philip's martyrium in Pamukkale would suffice, without some additional information, to

prove conclusively that the gospel itself was written in Hierapolis! On the other hand, a

discovery of the Syriac version of the Gospel of Thomas in Edessa would certainly have a

greater probative value for the adherents of the rival hypothesis.2

But, as we know, all the extant versions of this work were found in Egypt, and not

in Asia Minor or Syria. And in this case, unfortunately, the provenance of the manuscript

is not a decisive clue to the provenance of the document itself.

Because of these and other problems, we find ourselves in a position similar to

that of the first supporters of the Edessan milieu of the Gospel of Thomas. We have to

suggest a course of transmission of this work which would take into account the Egyptian

phase in the history of its redaction, and, at the same time, be able to point to an earlier

provenance of Thomas somewhere else in the early Christian world. Any such theory

should rely on, or start with, Hippolytus' crucial testimony. This attestation, as we have

already demonstrated, brings the Gospel of Thomas into direct relationship with the so-

called Naassene Sermon presented in the fifth chapter of the Refutation of All Heresies.

One of the most intriguing outcomes of our inquiry is the discovery that the

original Thomasine community which composed and used the Greek version of this

gospel, was, in all likelihood, closer to the Pauline missions in Asia Minor and Phrygia

1 But we should also not forget that the novel of an American author, although written in Japan, is still an
American novel! In other words, the Gospel of Thomas would be a Phrygian gospel (containing the
ideological and symbolical features typical of this provenance) even if the Naassene Ophites composed it on
their "pilgrimage" to Egypt, and not in Hierapolis itself!
2 This is because their theory is partly based upon the linguistic argument claiming the hypothetical Syriac
recension of Thomas.

199
than to the eastern Syrian "encratites" or later Egyptian hermits and monks. With this in

mind, let us proceed to formulate a new hypothesis regarding the origin and transmission

of the Gospel of Thomas which results from this investigation.

I contend that the original kernel of the Gospel of Thomas consisted of a relatively

concise collection of sayings, resembling Q of the synoptic gospels. Presumably, these

sayings were transmitted in the Aramaic language in the earliest Christian circles

associated with Jesus' brother James. At all events, such a collection had circulated

already in the first century, being delivered through some special apostolic channels. We

know almost nothing about this earliest phase of transmission of the "inchoate" Gospel of

Thomas. We do not even know if such a collection was originally ascribed to Thomas.

However, based on a significant number of Aramaisms in the most complete, Coptic,

version of Thomas as well as the status attributed to James as a bearer of this tradition,

one may infer that an original stratum of Jesus' sayings, representing a sort of Vorlage of

the Gospel of Thomas, was subsequently edited and translated into Greek.

The second, and the most decisive, phase in the history of this document is related

to the transmission of these logia to Asia Minor and Phrygia at the end of the first,

beginning of the second century C.E. Fortunately, there are some indications that Philip's

sister Mariamne played a major role in the transmission of this corpus of Jesus' sayings to

the Naassenes. At this stage, I submit, the original kernel of the Gospel of Thomas was

not only translated into Greek but underwent its first complete redaction in the

"gnosticizing" context as well. It is important to realize that such a recension of an older

collection was carried out in a manner similar to Matthew's or Luke's treatment of the

Synoptic Sayings Source (Q). The major difference, however, is that the Naassenes, the

genuine editors of this collection in Greek, did not include in "their gospel" any narrative

segments, such as the ones compiled in the Gospel of Mark. We may assume that the

"snake-people" did not even know of any other literary units beside the logia Iêsou

expressly transmitted to them by Mariamne, and allegedly authenticated by the apostle

200
Thomas or, probably, James the Righteous himself. The members of this sect should,

nevertheless, be regarded as responsible for the first Greek recension of this document.

As I have noted previously, their compilation contained not only the major segments of

an earlier tradition of Jesus' sayings, but also their own ideas and concerns regarding

asceticism, magic, a baptismal rite and an allegorical interpretation of Genesis. As the

community developed its ideas and practices in close proximity to the earlier Pauline

missions in the Lycus Valley, the Naassenes interpreted, and often adapted, those logia

Iêsou in the light of the following specific ideological features:

a) the ideal of androgyny associated with the baptismal rite;

b) the typological connections between Jesus, Attis and the New

Adam/Anthropos;

c) the soma-sema identification; furthermore, the division of human nature into its

carnal, psychic and spiritual aspects;

d) the polemics against circumcision.

All these doctrinal elements are already familiar to us from the Pauline epistles.

The parallels with the Johannine writings, discussed in the first chapter, reinforce

our conviction that the roots of Thomas' gospel should not be sought in eastern Syria.

These roots are, in fact, connected with the "western branch" of Early Christianity.3

I have already suggested that the Naassene recension of Thomas took place

between 100 and 138 C.E.4 Since, according to the tradition, Philip and Mariamne

sojourned in Hierapolis "in the days of Trajan," I am inclined to locate the date of

composition of the Naassene Gospel of Thomas closer to the beginning of the second

century.

3 One of the rare, but praiseworthy, attempts to link the Gospel of Thomas with this western trajectory is to
be found in Michel Desjardins' recent article "Where was the Gospel of Thomas Written?", TJT 8/1 (1992):
121-33. Desjardins argues that the Gospel of Thomas originated in Antioch.
4 Cf. p. 115.

201
The last stage of the transmission of this collection of sayings corresponds to its

circulation in Alexandria and Upper Egypt. This period has been reviewed in our second

chapter (section B). At the present state of evidence, it is, unfortunately, impossible to

determine exactly how the Naassene Thomas found its way to Alexandria. Origen bears

credible witness to the fact that this gospel circulated there in the second half of the

second century.5 One may argue that the religious connections between Alexandria and

Asia Minor were rather developed in the second century, and that the great number of

syncretistic cults and sects could only facilitate the delivery of a document such as the

Gospel of Thomas through some of these religious channels. Perhaps the Naassene

Ophites themselves transmitted their gospel to Egypt. Or maybe some of the Ophite

factions found their permanent seat in Alexandria as early as the mid-second century C.E.

In any event, the information provided by Hippolytus compels us to insist on Phrygia as

the most secure starting point of inquiry into the origin of the Gospel of Thomas.

Viewed in terms of this proposal, we should remark that the Phrygian Hypothesis

supports the form-critical independence of this document from the synoptic gospels and,

at the same time, opens up the possibility for an even earlier transmission of an oral

version of Thomas from Palestine or western Syria (Antioch?) to Asia Minor. In the first

and early second century the cities of the Lycus Valley such as Colossae or Hierapolis

represented an area relatively isolated from the major trends in "orthodox" Christianity.

This fact may have contributed not only to the transmission of an independent tradition of

Jesus' words, but a subsequent interpretation of that tradition in the "gnostic key" as well.

The Phrygian provenance of the Gospel of Thomas could, moreover, easily explain the

presence of some Pauline or Johannine parallels in this document.

Some of the significant gaps related both to the "Syrian" and the "Egyptian"

hypotheses regarding the origin and provenance of the Gospel of Thomas could, perhaps,

be adequately covered with the new insights into the character of the Naassene

5 Cf. pp. 114ff.

202
community which, in my view, played the crucial role in the history of the composition of

this document. As a result of this analysis, the new hypothesis emerges as a necessary

alternative to these two traditional views. Although a few scholars have already referred

to the importance of the Naassenes as the bearers of the tradition promoted in the Gospel

of Thomas, thus far no detailed investigation of the background of this sect has been

undertaken in the area of Thomasine studies.

This study has also paid attention to the relationship between Phrygian religious

syncretism and the symbolism of Thomas. The more general issue of the origins of

Christian Gnosticism in Asia Minor and Phrygia is especially relevant in this context. It

would certainly be interesting to know whether the Nicolaitans or the Naassenes were the

first to attract the epithets "gnostics" and "heretics" by which they were often classified in

the treatises of the Church heresiologists. An inquiry into the philosophical nature and

syncretistic forms of the earliest Christian "Gnosticism" is, therefore, closely related to

the Phrygian religious environment.

Further research in this direction should shed more light on the background of the

Colossian controversy and may identify the character of the group(s) that instructed the

first Christian converts in this area. On the basis of an implicit (deutero-)Pauline polemics

with the "false teachers" who were active in Phrygia and Colossae in the second half of

the first century, one learns that the issues of esoteric gnosis and philosophy (the worship

of angels, observance of sabbath, mystery cults, ascetic rites and animism) were closely

associated with the phenomenon that is now termed "Colossianism" or the "Colossian

philosophy." It is striking, however, that some of these syncretistic elements correspond

to the Naassene teaching recorded by Hippolytus as well as to the ideological background

of the community that composed and edited the Gospel of Thomas.6 The spirit of gnosis,

angelology, Greek philosophy and Hellenistic rites and mysteries were some of the

6 On the previous pages we have discussed in some detail the character of the Naassene-Thomasine
asceticism as well as the mystery cults associated with the Naassene Ophites. For the importance of sabbath
in this syncretistic system, cf. the Gospel of Thomas, log. 27.

203
elements that marked this early Colossian instruction. The scholarly proposals that have

usually been advanced with respect to this problem seem to me highly unrealistic. In

some works the Colossian heresy is now identified as Essenism, now as Iranian religion,

and now as Judaizing theosophical speculation.7 It is apparent, however, that in this case

we are concerned with a more diverse, syncretistic, milieu that was open to many

different streams of influence. The teaching of the Naassene sect, for example, embraced

elements of the old Phrygian religion, Greco-Roman cults and mysteries as well as

Jewish-Christian tradition. All these doctrinal aspects were linked in a very eclectic

manner, so that it would be almost impossible to single out any of these features as the

most important for the Naassene speculation.

In the case of the Naassene doctrine before the acceptance of Judeo-Christianity,

we are, for example, concerned with the form of Hellenistic religiosity in which the cults

of Attis, Cybele, Sabazius and some other, Egyptian, deities, played a prominent role.

"Afterwards,"8 those Phrygians adopted some practical elements of Judaism as well as

early sources of the Jesus tradition, so that they eventually composed an eclectic,

syncretistic, system of beliefs known today as "Gnosticism."

As noted earlier, the thesis about the origin of the Gospel of Thomas in Asia

Minor could provide an explanation for the unusual presence of Johannine and Pauline

parallels in a document which otherwise strongly suggests an impact of a synoptic-like

tradition of Jesus' words. This would, of course, be another impediment to any theoretical

insistence on the dependence of the Gospel of Thomas upon Matthew or Luke.

This new hypothesis may illuminate some more specific parallels of the Gospel of

Thomas which occur in Syrian Christian literature. It is reasonable to assume that these

similarities originated from the common underlying tradition of Jesus' sayings that were

7 Cf. the survey of these different proposals in F. Francis and W. Meeks, ed., Conflict at Colossae,
Missoula: University of Montana, 1973.
8 Cf. Ref. 5.6.4.

204
first transmitted to western Syria and Asia Minor (including Phrygia), and later to the

eastern parts of Syria as well.

Finally, in a wide church-historical context, this new hypothesis attempts to

provide the link between the most primitive sources of the Jesus tradition (exemplified by

different collections of logia Iêsou) and the subsequent use of these collections in a

syncretistic or gnosticizing manner. It is important both for Thomasine studies and the

history of earliest Christianity, to understand that such collections could have reached

some of the proto-gnostic sects already in the first century. The fact that the logia of the

Savior were interpreted in a non-ecclesiastical manner should not go against their early

transmission or authenticity. Indeed, the sayings of Jesus could have been preserved in a

more primitive manner before they were finally recorded in the four canonical gospels.

Even if that historical task was first accomplished by the "heretics," we do not have

particular reasons to suspect their authenticity, especially where they do not betray traces

of any major transformation or adaptation in the spirit of later Gnosticism.

205
SUMMARY

The Gospel According to Thomas, one of the most significant and most intriguing

non-canonical documents of Early Christianity, has prompted several decades of very

exciting scholarship. However, half a century after its discovery in the sands of Upper

Egypt, this short but powerful text continues to challenge the experts with a myriad of

problems. In this work I have proposed a new solution for at least one major issue in the

area of the Thomasine studies - i.e., the question of the origin and transmission of this

ancient document.

The question of the provenance of the Gospel of Thomas brings about a rather

disturbing ambiguity that may seriously challenge the current consensus regarding

Thomas' Syrian origin. Both versions of the document (in Greek and Coptic) were found

in Egypt and there is no extant Syriac text or fragment that could conclusively confirm the

Syrian phase of transmission of this "gospel." Nevertheless, the conviction of some

scholars as to the eastern Syrian, Edessan, birthplace of our document is adamant. This

view has rarely been seriously disputed after having gained almost instant confirmation

among the most renowned scholars in the field. There are, of course, authors who still

believe in the possibility that this document was not only discovered in Egypt, but written

in this geographic area as well. The two rival hypotheses have thus presented scholarship

with an impasse.

In the first part of this book I have, therefore, disputed the most frequent

arguments of the advocates of the Syrian origin of Thomas: 1) the argument based upon

the triple name of the apostle Thomas (i.e. Didymus Judas Thomas); 2) the argument

based on the parallels with Syrian Christian documents; 3) the linguistic argument.

206
The first, and the most important, argument has been rejected on two different

grounds. First, the original, Greek, version of the Gospel of Thomas does not contain in

its incipit the triple name of the apostle Thomas. It is therefore, plausible to assume that

such a triple name is the product of a later tradition (which has been partly preserved in

the Coptic Thomas from the fourth century C.E.) and that the apostle himself was known

to the original editors of this gospel only as "Thomas" or "Thomas the Twin" (Didymus

Thomas). Without the proper name Judas (which is an emblem of the apostle in some

Syriac Christian works), "Thomas (the Twin)" does not necessarily point to eastern Syria

as the provenance of this document. Second, even if we assume that the Judas from the

Coptic incipit did represent a genuine part of the apostle's name in the original Greek

version of this gospel, some literary evidence from the non-Syrian tradition about Judas

Thaddaeus indicates that the conflation of the two names (i.e. Judas, the son or brother of

James, and Thomas, called "the Twin") could also have occurred somewhere else in the

early Christian world (e.g. Palestine, Egypt or Asia Minor).

As to the third, linguistic, argument, I contend that there is no conclusive

philological or material evidence verifying the existence of the Syriac recension of the

Gospel of Thomas.

Finally, the most serious objection to the second argument is the very fact that a

large number of important parallels to the Gospel of Thomas exist in non-Syrian Christian

documents composed in Alexandria, Egypt or Asia Minor. In order to be able to

distinguish parallels indicating a direct dependence of one text upon another from all the

other types of parallelism, we have proposed some specific methodological criteria.

According to these criteria, the parallels between the Gospel of Thomas and Hippolytus'

Naassene source (the major topic of our third chapter) possess a greater probative value

than any other Thomasine parallels in early Christian literature.

With regard to the problem of the origin and transmission of the Gospel of

Thomas, I have also discussed an alternative to the view of the scholars who tend to

207
locate the gospel in the geographic area in which it was actually found, that is, in Egypt.

An inquiry into the background of an early religious-philosophical sect (the Naassenes)

that transmitted, edited and most likely composed our document, not only casts doubts on

the Egyptian and Syrian hypothesis, but also aids us in proposing a more primitive setting

for the ideas that inspired the first composition (redaction) of this document in Greek.

Furthermore, I argue that the Naassene redaction of Thomas is to be dated between 100

and 138 C.E., with the preference given to the first quarter of the second century.

In the second part of the book, I have made an attempt to trace the most probable

trajectory in early Christian thought that directly contributed to the growth and

development of the Gospel of Thomas. An inquiry into the earliest transmission of the

sayings of Jesus in the first century has led us to surmise that the most authentic kernel of

the Gospel of Thomas had already existed at that time, but that the critical step in its

composition was made by the redactors of these logia. In that sense, the Gospel of

Thomas had a similar, although a more complicated, redactional history as the synoptic

gospels. A major difference is that Thomas was originally composed in a markedly

syncretistic milieu that very early (as early as the first century C.E.) reflected strong

gnosticizing tendencies. However, I am not inclined to seek such an environment in

Alexandria or Edessa. This course of inquiry leads us directly to Phrygia, more precisely,

to the Hierapolis region.

An analysis of the name, origin as well as the myth, doctrine and ritual of the

Naassene Ophites has enabled us to derive some firm conclusions concerning the identity

of this sect. I maintain that the Naassenes were a syncretistic religious-mystical sect with

its origin in Hierapolis, Phrygia. In their rites and doctrines they tended to integrate the

elements of ancient Phrygian religion (the myth of the Great Mother and Attis and some

aspects of the cult of Sabazius) with their own (re)interpretation of the Old Testament

creation myth and the Christian Gospel.

208
The main thesis of this study has been based upon the idea that the geographic as

well as ideological background of the Naassenes, the sect which composed and delivered

the Greek Gospel of Thomas, should normally indicate the provenance of the document

itself. In the third chapter we have demonstrated, first, that the Naassenes played a crucial

role in the composition of the Gospel of Thomas, and second, we have submitted several

arguments supporting the Phrygian origin of the sect. In the fourth chapter an additional

attempt has been made to understand the Naassene system in the light of the coeval

religious-mystical trends of the pre-Christian and Christianized Phrygia. Although one

does not have enough evidence to identify the pre-Christian Ophites as initiants of

Cybele, Attis or Sabazius, we have been able to illuminate some aspects of Naassene

syncretism with the help of the local mystery religions and cults of their time.

On the basis of the polyvalent (hermeneutical, social-historical as well as

redaction-critical) analysis of the Gospel of Thomas, I reject the positions of some authors

who defend the complete dependence of our collection of sayings upon the synoptic

gospels. On the one hand, I believe that the Coptic Gospel of Thomas represents a

secondary recension of an older sayings corpus, greater parts of which are independent of

the synoptic gospels. On the other hand, my proposal suggests that this secondary

recension is no less important for the history of earliest Christianity than its original

kernel, because it bears witness to a specific line of development of the sayings material

in the primitive Gnostic circles of first-century Phrygia.

As far as I have been able to determine, the Phrygian religious landscape has

never been treated as a possible geographical or ideological setting in which most of the

Thomasine syncretistic concepts may have converged. Such being the case, this

hypothesis could have important theoretical consequences not only for the textual history

of the Gospel of Thomas, but for some aspects of earliest Christian history in general as

well.

209
First, we may be in a position to provide answers to most of the perplexing

questions and problems that still surrond the history of transmission of this small

apocryphal document. Moreover, I expect that this thesis will initiate a new field of

research in the domain of Thomas scholarship.

Second, in support of this new line of inquiry, I have scrutinized other, rival,

hypotheses as to the origin and milieu of the Gospel of Thomas. As a result of this

analysis, a new hypothesis emerges as a necessary alternative to these other unconvincing

views.

Third, our study has paid particular attention to the relationship between the

Phrygian religious syncretism and the symbolism of the Gospel of Thomas. A more

general issue of the origins of Christian Gnosticism in Asia Minor and Phrygia has been

discussed in this context, too.

Finally, in a broad church-historical context, this new hypothesis should provide

the link between the most ancient sources of the Jesus tradition and the subsequent use of

various collections of his sayings in a syncretistic or gnosticizing manner. It is important,

indeed, both for Thomasine studies and for the history of earliest Christianity to

understand that such collections could have reached some of the proto-Gnostic sects

already in the first century.

210
BIBLIOGRAPHY

Achtemeier, Paul, ed. Harper's Bible Dictionary. San Francisco: Harper &Row, 1985.

Akagi, Tai. "The Literary Development of the Coptic Gospel of Thomas."


Ph.D. dissertation. Western Reserve University, 1965.

Anderson, Charles. "Who wrote the Epistle from Laodicea." JBL 85 (1966): 436-40.

Athanasius, Saint. The Life of Saint Antony. Trans. by R. T. Meyer. Westminster, Md.:
Newman Press, 1950.

Atiya, Aziz, ed. The Coptic Encyclopedia, Vols. 1-8. New York: Macmillan, 1991.

Baer, Richard A. Jr. Philo's Use of the Categories Male and Female. Leiden: Brill, 1970.

Baker, Aelred. "Pseudo-Macarius and the Gospel of Thomas." VC 18 (1964): 215-25.

________. "The Gospel of Thomas and the Diatessaron." JTS 16 (1965a): 449-54.

________. "Fasting to the World." JBL 84 (1965b): 291-4.

________. "The 'Gospel of Thomas' and the Syriac 'Liber Graduum'." NTS 12 (1965-66):
49-55.

________. "Syriac and the Origins of Monasticism." DR 86 (1968): 342-53.

________. "Early Syriac Asceticism." DR 88 (1970): 393-409.

Barns, John. "Greek and Coptic Papyri from the Covers of the Nag Hammadi
Codices." Pp. 9-17 in M. Krause, ed. Essays on the Nag Hammadi Texts.
Leiden: Brill, 1975.

Barns, J. W., J. M. Browne and J. C. Shelton. Nag Hammadi Codices: Greek and Coptic
Papyri from the Cartonage of the Covers. Leiden: Brill, 1981.

Bauer, Walter. Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity. Philadelphia: Fortress


Press, 1971.

Bean, George. Turkey Beyond the Meander: An Archaeological Guide. London: Ernest
Benn, 1971.

211
________. "Hierapolis." Pp. 390-1 in R. Stillwell, ed. The Princeton Encyclopedia of
Classical Sites. Princeton: University Press, 1976.

Brock, Sebastian. "Greek into Syriac and Syriac into Greek." Essay II in Syriac
Perspectives on Late Antiquity. London: Variorum Reprints, 1984.

Brown, Raymond E. "The Gospel of Thomas and St. John's Gospel." NTS
9 (1962/63): 155-77.

Bultmann, Rudolph. Primitive Christianity in Its Contemporary Setting. Trans. R. H.


Fuller. New York: The World Publishing Company, 1956.

________. The Gospel of John: A Commentary. Trans. G. Beasley-Murray. Philadelphia:


The Westminster Press, 1971.

Cannon, George. The Use of Traditional Materials in Colossians. Macon, Ga.: Mercer
University Press, 1983.

Casey, R. P. "Naassenes and Ophites." JTS 27 (1925/26): 374-87.

Cassianus, Joannes. Institutions cenobitiques (Sources chrétiennes, 109). Trans. J-C.


Guy. Paris: Editions du Cerf, 1965.

Cerfaux, L. and G. Garitte. "Les paraboles du royaume dans l'Evangile de Thomas."


Museon 70 (1957).

Cornelis, E. M. J. M. "Quelques éléments pour une comparaison entre l'Evangile de


Thomas et la notice de Hippolyte sur les Naasènes." VC 15 (1961): 83-104.

Crossan, John Dominic. Four Other Gospels. Minneapolis: Winston Press, 1985.

Crum, W. E. A Coptic Dictionary. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1962.

Cullmann, Oscar. "The Gospel of Thomas and the Problem of the Age of the Tradition
Contained Therein." Trans. B. H. Kelly. Interpretation 16 (1962): 418-38.

Cumont, Franz. The Oriental Religions in Roman Paganism. Chicago: The Open Court,
1911.

Davies, Stevan. The Gospel of Thomas and Christian Wisdom. New York: The Seabury
Press, 1983.

Desjardins, Michel. "Where was the Gospel of Thomas Written?", TJT 8/1 (1992): 121-
33.

Doresse, Jean. The Secret Books of the Egyptian Gnostics. New York: The Viking Press,
1960.

212
Drijvers, H. J. W. "Facts and Problems in Early Syriac-Speaking Christianity." SC 2
(1982): 157-175.

Ehlers, Barbara. "Kann das Thomasevangelium aus Edessa stammen?" NovT 12 (1970):
284-317.

Epiphanius of Salamis. The Panarion. Trans. by F. Williams. Leiden: Brill, 1987.

Euripides. Bacchae. Ed. by E. R. Dodds. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1960.

Eusebius of Caesarea. The Ecclesiastical History. Vols. 1-2. Trans. by K. Lake and J. E.
L. Oulton. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1953.

Fendt, Leonhard. Gnostische Mysterien. München: Kaiser Verlag, 1922.

Filastrius, Brixiensis. Diversarum Hereseon Liber (Corpus Christianorum, Series Latina


IX: 208-324). Turnholti: Typographi Brepols, 1957.

Fitzmyer, Joseph A. "The Oxyrhynchus Logoi of Jesus and the Coptic Gospel according
to Thomas." Pp. 355-433 in Essays on the Semitic Background of the New
Testament. London: Chapman, 1971.

Francis, F. and W. Meeks, ed. Conflict at Colossae. Missoula: University of Montana,


1973.

Frend, W. H. C. Town and Countryside in the Early Christian Centuries. London:


Variorum Reprints, 1980.

Frickel, Josef. Hellenistische Erlösung in Christlicher Deutung: Die gnostische


Naassenerschrift. Leiden: Brill, 1984.

Gärtner, Bertil. The Theology of the Gospel According to Thomas. New York: Harper &
Brothers, 1961.

Gasparro, Giulia Sfameni. Soteriology and Mystic Aspects in the Cult of Cybele and Attis.
Leiden: Brill, 1985.

Gesenius' Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon. Grand Rapids, Mi.: Eerdmans, 1969.

Goehring, James E. "The World Engaged: The Social and Economic World of Early
Egyptian Monasticism." Pp. 134-44 in J. E. Goehring et al., ed. Gnosticism and
the Early Christian World. Sonoma, Ca.: Polebridge Press, 1990.

Goodenough, Erwin. "A Jewish-Gnostic Amulet of the Roman Period." Greek and
Byzantine Studies 1 (1958): 71-80.

213
Grant, Robert M. "Notes on the Gospel of Thomas." VC 13 (1959): 170-80.

Grant, Robert M. and D. N. Freedman. The Secret Sayings of Jesus. New York:
Doubleday & Comp., 1960.

Green, H. A. The Economic and Social Origins of Gnosticism. Atlanta: Scholars Press,
1985.

Grenfell, Bernard P. and A. S. Hunt. Logia Iêsou: Sayings of Our Lord. London: Henry
Frowde, 1897.

________. The Oxyrhynchus Papyri. Pt. 4. London: Egypt Exploration Fund, 1904.

Grobel, Kendrick. "How Gnostic Is the Gospel of Thomas?" NTS 8 (1961/62): 367-73.

Guillaumont, Antoine. "Sémitismes dans les logia de Jésus retrouvés à Nag Hammadi."
JA 246 (1958): 113-23.

________. "Les sémitismes dans l'Evangile selon Thomas: Essai de classement." Pp. 190-
204 in R. van den Broek and M. J. Vermaseren, eds.Studies in Gnosticism and
Hellenistic Religions. Leiden: Brill, 1981.

Guillaumont, Antoine et al., trans. The Gospel According to Thomas. New York: Harper
& Row, 1959.

Gunther, J. J. "The Meaning and Origin of the Name 'Judas Thomas'." Muséon 93
(1980):113-48.

Haenchen, Ernst. Die Botschaft des Thomas-Evangeliums. Berlin: Verlag Alfred


Töpelmann, 1961.

Harnack, Adolf von. The Mission and Expansion of Christianity in the First Three
Centuries. Vols. 1-2. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1908.

Hedrick, Charles. "Gnostic Proclivities in the Greek Life of Pachomius and the Sitz im
Leben of the Nag Hammadi Library." NovT 22 (1980): 78-95.

________. "Thomas and the Synoptics: Aiming at a Consensus." SC 7 (1989/90): 39-56.

Hennecke-Schneemelcher, eds. New Testament Apocryphal Books. Vols 1-2. Trans. by R.


McL. Wilson. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1963-65.

Hill, Hamlyn. The Earliest Life of Christ (The Diatessaron of Tatian). Edinburgh: T & T
Clark, 1894.

Hippolitus of Rome. Refutatio omnium haeresium. Ed. by M. Marcovich. Berlin: Walter


de Gruyter, 1986.

214
Irenaeus of Lyons. Against Heresies. Trans. by J. Keble. Oxford and London: James
Parker and Co., 1872.

Jackson, Howard. The Lion Becomes Man. Atlanta, Ga.: Scholars Press, 1985.

James, Montague. The Apocryphal New Testament. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1924.

Jerome, Saint. Life of Saint Paul the First Hermit. Willits, Ca.: Eastern Orthodox Books,
1976 (repr.).

Jonas, Hans. The Gnostic Religion. Boston: Beacon Press, 1963.

Judge, E. A. "The Earliest Use of Monachos for 'Monk' (P. Coll. Youtie 77) and the
Origins of Monasticism." JAC 20 (1977): 72-89.

Julian, the Apostate. The Works of the Emperor Julian. Trans. by W. C. Wright. Vol. 1.
New York: Macmillan, 1913.

Kaibel, Georg, ed. Epigrammata Graeca. Hildesheim: Georg Olms, 1965.

Kee, Howard C. "'Becoming a Child' in the Gospel of Thomas." JBL 82 (1963): 307-14.

Klijn, A. F. J. "Das Thomasevangelium und das alt-syrische Christentum." VC 15 (1961):


146-59.

________. "The 'Single One' in the Gospel of Thomas." JBL 81 (1962): 271-78.

________. The Acts of Thomas: Introduction, Text, Commentary. Leiden: Brill, 1962.

________. "John XIV and the Name Judas Thomas." Pp. 88-96 in Studies in John
Presented to Prof. Dr. J. N. Sevenster. Leiden: Brill, 1970.

________. "Christianity in Edessa and the Gospel of Thomas." NovT 14 (1972): 70-77.

Kloppenborg, John. The Formation of Q: Trajectories in Ancient Wisdom Collections.


Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1987.

Kloppenborg, John et al. Q-Thomas Reader. Sonoma, Ca.: Polebridge Press, 1990.

Koester, Helmut. History and Literature of Early Christianity. Vol. 2. Philadelphia:


Fortress Press, 1982.

________. Ancient Christian Gospels: Their History and Development. London: SCM
Press, 1990.

215
Koester, Helmut and S. J. Patterson. " The Gospel of Thomas: Does It Contain
Authentic Sayings of Jesus?" BR 6/2 (1990): 28-39

Labib, Pahor, ed. Coptic Gnostic Papyri in the Coptic Museum at Old Cairo. (Vol. 1,
plates 80-99). Cairo: Government Press, 1956.

Lactantius. The Divine Institutes. Trans. by M. F. McDonald. Washington, DC: The


Catholic University of America Press, 1964.

Lake, Kirsopp. "The New Sayings of Jesus and the Synoptic Problem." HibJ 3 (1904-5):
332-41.

Lane, E. N. The Other Monuments and Literary Evidence (Corpus Cultus Iovis Sabazii,
II). Leiden: Brill, 1985.

________. Conclusions (CCIS, III). Leiden: Brill, 1989.

Layton, Bentley, ed. The Rediscovery of Gnosticism. Vol. 2. Leiden: Brill, 1981.

________. The Gnostic Scriptures. New York: Doubleday & Company, 1987.

________. Nag Hammadi Codex II, 2-7. Together with XIII, 2. Leiden: Brill, 1989.

Legge, F. Forerunners and Rivals of Christianity. Vol 2. Cambridge: University Press,


1915.

________, trans. Hippolytus of Rome. Philosophumena or the Refutation of All


Heresies. London: Macmillan, 1921.

Leisegang, Hans. "The Mystery of the Serpent." Pp. 3-69 in J. Campbell, ed. Pagan and
Christian Mysteries. New York: Harper and Row, 1955.

Lightfoot, J. B. Saint Paul's Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon. Grand


Rapids, Mi.: Zondervan, 1956.

Lipsius, Richard. Die Apokryphen Apostelgeschichten und Apostellegenden. Vol. II. 2.


Braunschweig: Schwetschke und Sohn, 1884.

Lucian of Samosata. The Syrian Goddess (De Dea Syria). Missoula, Mt.: Scholars Press,
1976.

Mansel, H. L. The Gnostic Heresies of the First and Second Centuries. London: John
Murray, 1875.

Marcovich, Miroslav. "Textual Criticism on the Gospel of Thomas." JTS (1969): 53-74.

Meeks, Wayne. "The Image of the Androgyne: Some Uses of a Symbol in Earliest

216
Christianity." HR 13/3 (1974): 165-208.

Meier, John P. A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus. Vol. 1. New York:
Doubleday, 1991.

Meyer, Marvin, ed. The Ancient Mysteries: A Sourcebook. San Francisco: Harper & Row,
1987.

________, trans. The Gospel of Thomas: The Hidden Sayings of Jesus. San Francisco:
Harper, 1992.

Menard, J.-E. L'Evangile selon Thomas. Leiden: Brill, 1975.

Munck, Johannes. "Bemerkungen zum koptischen Thomasevangelium." ST 14 (1960):


130-47.

Neller, Kenneth. "Diversity in the Gospel of Thomas." SC 7 (1989/90): 1-18.

Origen. Contra Celsum. Trans. by H. Chadwick. Cambridge: University Press, 1965.

Patterson, Stephen J. "The Gospel of Thomas Within the Development of Early


Christianity." Ph.D. dissertation. Claremont Graduate School, 1988.

Pearson, Birger. "Christians and Jews in First-Century Alexandria." Pp. 206-16 in G. W.


E. Nickelsburg and G. W. MacRae, eds. Christians Among Jews and Gentiles.
Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1986.

________. Gnosticism, Judaism and Egyptian Christianity. Minneapolis: Fortress Press,


1990.

Pearson, Birger and J. E. Goehring, eds. The Roots of Egyptian Christianity.


Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1986.

Perrin, Norman. "The Interpretation of a Biblical Symbol." JR 55/3 (1975): 348-70.

________. Jesus and the Language of the Kingdom: Symbol and Metaphor in New
Testament Interpretation. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1976.

Philo of Alexandria. The Contemplative Life, The Giants and Selections. Trans. by D.
Winston. New York: Paulist Press, 1981.

Piper, Otto. "The Gospel of Thomas." PSB 53 (1959): 18-24.

Quispel, Gilles. "Some Remarks on the Gospel of Thomas." NTS 5 (1958/59): 276-90.

________. "The 'Gospel of Thomas' and the 'Gospel of the Hebrews'". NTS 12 (1965-66):
371-82.

217
________. Gnostic Studies. Vol 2. Leiden: NHA Institut te Istanbul, 1975a.

________. Tatian and the Gospel of Thomas. Leiden: Brill, 1975b.

Ramsay, W. M. Cities and Bishoprics of Phrygia. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1895.

Reitzenstein, R. Poimandres. Leipzig: Teubner, 1904.

Ricoeur, Paul. Interpretation Theory: Discourse and the Surplus of Meaning. Fort Worth:
The Texas Christian University Press.

Roberts, C. H. Manuscript, Society and Belief in Early Christian Egypt. London: Oxford
University Press, 1979.

Robinson, Armitage, ed. The Lausiac History of Palladius (Text and Studies, vol. VI).
Cambridge: University Press, 1904.

Robinson, James. The Nag Hammadi Codices. Claremont: The Institute for
Antiquity and Christianity, 1974.

________, ed. The Nag Hammadi Library in English. San Francisco: Harper, 1988.

Robinson, James M. "On Bridging the Gulf From Q to the Gospel of Thomas (Or Vice
Versa)." Pp. 127-75 in Hedrick Ch. and R. Hodgson, Jr., eds. Nag Hammadi,
Gnosticism and Early Christianity. Peabody, Ma.: Hendrickson Publishers, 1986.

Robinson, James M. and H. Koester. Trajectories through Early Christianity.


Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1971.

Rudolph, Kurt. Gnosis: The Nature and History of an Ancient Religion. Edinburgh:
Clark, 1983.

Russell, Norman, trans. The Lives of the Desert Fathers (The Historia Monachorum in
Aegypto). London: Mowbray, 1980.

Schmidt, Carl, ed. Pistis Sophia. Leiden: Brill, 1978.

Schoedel, W. R. "Naassene Themes in the Coptic Gospel of Thomas." VC 14 (1960):


225-34.

Schrage, Wolfgang. Das Verhaltnis des Thomas-Evangeliums zur synoptischen Tradition


und zu den koptischen Evangelienübersetzungen. BZNW 29. Berlin: Töpelmann,
1964.

Segal, Judah B. Edessa: The Blessed City. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1970.

218
Showerman, Grant. The Great Mother of the Gods. Ph.D. dissertation. University of
Wisconsin, 1900.

Smith, Jonathan Z. "The Garments of Shame." HR 5 (1965/66): 217-38.

Smith, Morton. "The History of the Term 'Gnostikos'." Pp. 796-807 in B. Layton, ed.
Rediscovery of Gnosticism. Vol. 2. Leiden: Brill, 1981.

Snodgrass, Klyne. "The Gospel of Thomas: A Secondary Gospel." SC 7 (1989/90): 19-38.

Sophocles. Philoctetes. Ed. by T. Webster. Cambridge: University Press, 1970.

Spivey, R. A. "The Origin and Milieu of the Gospel According to Thomas." Ph.D.
dissertation. Yale University, 1960.

Stephanus of Byzantium. Ethnika. Graz: Akademische Druck, 1958.

Strabo. The Geography. Vols. 5 and 6. Trans. by H. Jones. Cambridge: Harvard


University Press, 1961.

Taylor, Charles. The Oxyrhynchus Sayings of Jesus. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1905.

Turner, Eric Gardiner. Scribes and Scholars of Oxyrhynchus. MPER. New Series 5.
Vienna, 1932.

Turner, H. E. W. and H. Montefiore. Thomas and the Evangelists. Naperville, Ill.:


Allenson, 1962.

Turner, John. The Book of Thomas the Contender. University of Montana: Scholars Press,
1975.

Vallée, Gérard. A Study in Anti-Gnostic Polemics. Waterloo, On., Canada: Wilfrid


Laurier University Press, 1981.

Veilleux, A., trans. Pachomian Koinonia: The Lives, Rules and Other Writings of Saint
Pachomius and His Disciples. Vols. 1-3. Kalamazoo, Mi.: Cistercian Pubs.,
1980-82.

Vermaseren, Maarten. Cybele and Attis: The Myth and the Cult. London: Thames and
Hudson, 1977.

________. The Hands. Leiden: Brill, 1983.

________. Corpus Cultus Cybelae Attidisque (CCCA). Vol. 1. (Asia Minor). Leiden:
Brill, 1987.

Vööbus, Arthur. History of Asceticism in the Syrian Orient. Louvain: Durbecq, 1958-60.

219
Ward, Benedicta, trans. The Desert Christian: Sayings of the Desert Fathers
(Apophthegmata Patrum). New York: Macmillan, 1980.

Wheelwright, Philip. Metaphor and Reality. Bloomington: Indiana University Press,


1962.

Wilamowitz-Mollendorff, Ulrich. "Lesefruechte." Hermes 37 (1902): 329-32.

Wilson, R. McL. "The Coptic Gospel of Thomas." NTS 5 (1959): 273-6.

________. Studies in the Gospel of Thomas. London: Mowbray, 1960.

________. "Thomas and the Synoptic Gospels." ExpTim 72 (1960-61): 36-39.

Wisse, Frederick. "Gnosticism and Early Monasticism in Egypt." Pp. 431-40 in B. Aland,
ed. Gnosis. Göttingen:Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1978.

220