[The Greek and Coptic font material in the original has reverted to standard font format with the loss of some comprehensibility. This is unavoidable. However, as all sayings are given in English translation, the loss does not effect the comprehensibility of the essay itself.]

Johannine Sayings in the Gospel of Thomas:

The Sayings Traditions in their Environment of First Century Syria


Alexander Mirkovic, Ph.D.

student in New Testament and Early Christianity



Fall, 1995


In December 1945 Muhammed Ali, an Egyptian farmer, discovered the Nag Hammadi library containing more than fifty mostly unknown tractates. The Gospel of Thomas was among those unknown works. No one could have imagined what impact on the scholarship of Early Christianity the discovery was going to have. The writings from Nag Hammadi have changed our view of the early Church history. The Gospel of Thomas has changed our perception of the nascent Jesus movement more then any other tractate from Nag Hammadi. Because the Gospel of Thomas is a collection of sayings of Jesus, it has captured immediate attention of the scholars working on Q (the Synoptic Saying Source). Thomas looks very much like Q. Relationship between the Gospel of Thomas and other Early Christian writings, apart from the Synoptic gospels, has not been seriously analyzed. The purpose of this paper is to investigate the relationship between the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of John, the area on the contours of scholarly attention, but one increasingly coming to the foreground.

In this debate about Thomas' relationship to the canonical writings, at stake is the "map" of Early Christian communities. Raymond Brown, Robert Grant and many other scholar came up with the view that the Gospel of Thomas is a 2nd century Gnostic work.(1)

They support the view of Heresiologists that Gnosticism is a later deviation of Christianity. If this is the case, we must conclude that Thomas used and reinterpreted the existing Sayings tradition turning it into a launching pad of Gnosticism.

On the other hand, Helmut Koester sees the Gospel of Thomas as a first century independent re-interpretation of the sayings tradition.(2)

The Gospel of Thomas was written about the same time as the canonical gospels, since it does not presuppose the developed Gnostic cosmogony we know from the Gnostic writings of the second century.(3)

It is a collection of sayings like the Proverbs, Ben Sira, or the Wisdom of Solomon. While Koester correctly identifies the genre of Thomas as the sayings of a sage, or Logoi Sofwn, he does not consider the consequences of such a definition.

What is missing from both approaches is the placement of the Gospel of Thomas in its socio-cultural environment. One of the goals of this paper is to correct this in two ways, by establishing relationships with similar early Christian groups and by locating them not only geographically, but socio-culturally. Assuming that the Gospel of Thomas originated in Syria, the first step would be to establish intertextual relationship, if there is any, with other early Christian literary works originating from the same geographical and cultural environment. In this paper I have limited this task to the Gospel of John, because the Johannine community, in my opinion, belongs to the same geographical and socio-cultural environment. Furthermore, the Johannine community, not unlike the Thomasine community, found it self on the periphery of the early Church.(4)

The difference is that the Gospel of John was preserved for the patristic Church by an ecclesiastical redactor. Thomas Christianity was "lost" when it crossed the borders of the Roman empire and went deeper into Mesopotamia and further east to India.

James Robinson has already proposed a much more sophisticated definition of the socio-cultural setting for the sayings tradition. He argues that if the tradition of wandering radicalism was to continue and expand beyond the bounds of Palestine itself, and if we are to understand this as a movement carrying on its activities primarily in the small towns and villages of the countryside, then linguistic factors [Aramaic language] alone will have left the itinerants but one direction to go: east, to Syria, precisely the route followed by Thomas Christianity.(5)

Yet, even this proposal links the Gospel of Thomas only to Q, leaving aside Thomas' closest "theological kin" among the canonical writings, the Gospel of John. Theological similarities between John and Thomas are often dismissed to quickly. It is not a coincidence that Thomas appears as a "flesh and blood" character only in John. In the fourth gospel, Thomas appears seven times. In the Synoptic, his name appears only in the lists of the twelve.(6)

The similarity between John and Thomas lies in their portrayal of Jesus as a fully self-conscious sage - redeemer whose words and judgments are true and flawless. Both gospels claim: to understand Jesus and his words is to achieve salvation.

The research into the relationship between the newly found sayings gospel and the Gospel of John started in the 1960s. Raymond Brown first investigated the relationship in a short article and concluded that Thomas is a later Gnostic work dependent in few places on the canonical Johannine tradition.(7)

The pioneering article of Brown offers a lot of lucid ideas, but unfortunately limits its own results with the presupposition that the Gospel of Thomas is later than the Gospel of John. The article start with a question: "How much use, if any, Gospel of Thomas makes of St. John's Gospel."(8)

Raymond Brown, nevertheless, established the fact that the gospels of John and Thomas have some common material. He explains this common material by presupposing that the redactor of Thomas borrowed from John.

A turning point in scholarship on John-Thomas relationship occurred with a continuing interest of Helmut Koester in the problem. Koester's book "Ancient Christian Gospels"(9)

analyzes in detail the relationship between the Gospels of John and Thomas. The strength of Koester's position lies in his careful literary analysis. He follows the development of Early Christian literary forms (sayings, dialogues, narratives, full-blown gospels) through their mutual influence and complicated interrelationship. Koester argues that the Gospel of Thomas and the discourses of John's gospel belong to a trajectory based primarily on sayings. In many instances, "John and Thomas interpret the same traditional sayings, albeit with the use of quite different hermeneutic principles."(10)

While dwelling on the differences Koester does not explain similarities, except for the fact that both John and Thomas dwell on the pool of the Synoptic sayings tradition.

The most radical step in interpretation of John-Thomas relationship was undertaken by Gregory Riley. He argues, convincingly in my opinion, that there was a close interaction between the two communities in Syria.(11)

This is a common sense proposal and I will presuppose it in this paper. But he also believes that John stands for the orthodox position, the resurrection of the flesh, while Thomas believes in spiritual resurrection. Riley's conclusions about the orthodoxy of John and heresy of Thomas are based, for the most part on the Doubting Thomas episode, and cannot be maintained for the gospel of John as a whole. Such a sharp contrast between John and Thomas again emphasizes the differences and underestimates the similarities. It is difficult to make of John a champion of orthodoxy, as Kässemann and many others have shown, since the gospel contains a docetic Christology, only occasionally dyed with orthodoxy.(12)

It is a well known fact that the Gospel of John distinguishes only between belief and unbelief, and not between correct and incorrect belief. Such a distinction is made by the author of First Epistle of John.(13)

Thus, I believe that it is not productive to emphasize the contrast between the two texts coming form a very similar socio-cultural environment. Rather I will concentrate in this paper on the Johannine sayings in Thomas, that is, on similarities between John and Thomas. The number of the Johannine sayings in Thomas is defined by Raymond Brown's pioneering article.(14)

Furthermore, both Koester and Brown agree that the Gospel of Thomas has a number of "Johannine sayings." (15)

Building on this common ground, I propose a new explanation for the formation of the Johannine sayings in Thomas. I believe that these sayings are independent from the Synoptic tradition. Furthermore, in the common material neither has Thomas borrowed from John, nor vice versa. The similarity lies not in Thomas' dependence on John, nor in John's influence on the redactor of Thomas. Rather, the Johannine sayings in Thomas and their parallels in John originate from the same Sitz im Leben, the popular wisdom of wandering ascetics - holy men and women in the first century Syria. If these sayings look different from the Synoptic sayings, that is because they were produced in a different socio-cultural location, namely, not in Galilee. In short, the weakness of Brown' and Koester's arguments lies in the fact that they limit the production of sayings to the early Palestinian Jewish community and leave the interpretation to the "Hellenistic communities." This paper argues that the sayings of Jesus were "produced" outside the early Palestinian community and focuses on the sayings created and transmitted by Syrian holy men and women. Furthermore, the theological closeness of the two gospels, specially the self-consciousness of Jesus that permeates both texts indicates that similar socio-cultural factors shaped the beliefs about Jesus in both communities. In sum, I argue that the parallel material in the gospels of John and Thomas is a product of the same Sitz im Leben, namely, the wisdom of wandering ascetics in the first century Syria.


The Gospel of Thomas in the incipit declares the correct path of salvation:(16)
GTh 1 ...Whoever finds the interpretation of these sayings will not taste death(qanatou ou mh geushtai) Jn 8:51 Truly, truly, I say to you, if any one keeps my word (logon), he will never see death." (qanaton ou mh qewrhsh) 8:52 The Jews said to him, "Now we know that you have a demon. Abraham died, as did the prophets; and you say, `If any one keeps my word, he will never taste death.'

The Sitz im Leben for both sayings is the oral tradition of wandering holy men and women and their disciples. The followers are supposed to preserve, or interpret the saying of the master. The audience is not limited only to the immediate disciples, but also to "anyone - whoever" which, in this case, means local sympathizers.

The parallel is here obvious since the same words are used in the Greek fragments and in the Gospel of John.(17)

The sayings which attributes the salvific power to the word(s) of Jesus occur in both gospels. The difference, however, is stressed to much by Koester. In John a believer has to "keep" (thrh,sh ) the word. In Thomas a believer is the seeker, the interpreter (ecermhneia). This is clarified immediately in the saying # 2: "Let the one who seeks not stop seeking until one finds..." Thus, from the very beginning (GTh 1 & the Prologue of John) we know clearly what is required of a believer to achieve salvation. The requirements are not that different, since the words of Jesus guarantee eternal life.

Both gospels use the term Father for God. The saying #3 offers a parallel in the usage of the phrase "Living Father" which occurs only in John among the canonical gospels. This might be an indication of a connection between the two communities, although the expression 'Living Father' more probably testifies about the common environment in which both gospels were written.
GTh 3 ...When you know yourselves, then you will be known, and you will understand that you are children of the living Father. GJn 6:57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. (o zwn pathr)

GJn 4:42 They said to the woman, "It is no longer because of your words that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world."

GJn 8:13 The Pharisees then said to him, "You are bearing witness to yourself; your testimony is not true."

In the parallels we see the importance of knowledge. In Thomas one has to know oneself to recognize the living Father. In John the knowledge of the Father come with the recognition of Jesus as the Redeemer. Only the sayings will not be enough, according to what the Samaritan women says. The polemic in GJn 4:42 might have been against Thomas Christians who relied more on the sayings than the Johannine group.

John 8:13 shows that there was a counter-charge against claims to superior knowledge of wandering ascetics. The Pharisees argue that self-knowledge is not a valid criterion. The evangelist agrees with the GTh and rejects the argument of the Pharisees. In John, however, this self-awareness is, by and large, limited to Jesus, although the Paraclete open the way for the wandering ascetics in Johannine community to speak in the name of Jesus. The believers are saved by acknowledging the self-consciousness of the Savior, not by developing their own self-understanding like in Thomas. Both sayings parallel a notion of cataleptic impressions (fantasiai katalhptikai) in Stoic epistemology which indicates that the phenomenon of a divine human was the pattern of religious expression accross the Mediterranean. What distinguishes a sage from an ordinary person is that a sage is aware which impression is true and which false. For a sage all knowledge is self-knowledge because it relies on rational power to recognize true (cataleptic) impressions.(18)

John knows the counter-charge, a sage is bearing witness to himself. GTh adds to this notion the traditional sayings know thyself!
GTh 4 ...The person in old days will not hesitate to ask a little child seven days old about the place of life and that person will live...

[GMt 18:3 Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.]

GJn 3:4 ...Nicodemus said to him, "How can anyone be born after grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother's womb and be born?

The terms ge,rwn and xLlo signify, not only an old man, but an old man of wisdom, a teacher, a divine human, later in the monastic tradition, the leader of the community. John and Thomas make a pun out of the combination of terms, old man, wise man, children. The setting of both sayings is the contrast between institutional authority and the wisdom of wandering ascetics. One usually connects ge,rwn and xLlo with Syrian and Egyptian monks of the third and fourth century, but this is far from the truth. Divine human was an religious phenomenon, since the late Hellenistic period.

Both sayings call for comparison with Matthew's saying: Who is the Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven? In Thomas there is an absence of the Johannine idea of rebirth. Thomas is closer to the Matthean idea of being humble like children. It should be noted that the Matthew passage belongs to M (Matthew special material) which point again in the direction of Syria.
GTh 8 The human one is like a wise fisherman who cast his net into the sea full of little fish. Among them the wise fisherman discovered a fine large fish.

GMt 13:47 "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net which was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind; 48 when it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into vessels but threw away the bad.

GJn 21:1 After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he revealed himself in this way. 2 Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. 3 Simon Peter said to them, "I am going fishing." They said to him, "We will go with you." They went out and got into the boat; but that night they caught nothing. 4 Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, "Children, have you any fish?" They answered him, "No." 6 He said to them, "Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some." So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, for the quantity of fish. 7 That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his clothes, for he was stripped for work, and sprang into the sea. 8 But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off. 9 When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish lying on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish that you have just caught." 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three of them; and although there were so many, the net was not torn.

Here we have a parallel between John, Thomas and (M) Matthean special material. The origin of the saying is a common lore about fishing on which each evangelist adds his own theological twist. In John, the "fishing" is futile without Jesus and leads to the recognition of Jesus. In Thomas, a fisherman is a seeker for the "large fish." Jesus is not mentioned, except for the fact that this is a saying of Jesus who thus becomes an instructor. Matthew uses the same lore, but introduces the notion of the kingdom of heaven. The fisherman is the Son of Man who will separate good from bad fish. John uses the image of fishermen to construct the resurrection appearance. If we assume the composition of GMt in Antioch and the origin of Matthew special material from the same city, we can conclude that the origin of the lore was from areas around the Sea of Galilee.
GTh 13 ...I am not your teacher. Because you have drunk, you have become intoxicated from the bubbling spring that I have tended GJn 4:13 Jesus said to her, "Every one who drinks of this water will thirst again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

GJn 15:15 No longer do I call you servants

This is the final punch-line of Jesus, after Peter, Matthew, and Thomas have failed to recognize who Jesus really is.

Again, as in the previous parallel, John and Thomas use the common lore to construct an event in the life of Jesus. The saying #13 is typical of Thomasine theology of the knowledge of the salvific words (water) of Jesus. In John, Jesus in the dialogue with the Samaritan women speaks completely in line with Thomasine theology. The semblance is not just on the level of imagery of water, but also on the level of theology. However, John later defines that "water" ("living water" in Jn 4:10) is a recognition that Jesus is the Word of God (Jn 4:42).(19)
GTh 15 When you see one who was not born of women, fall on your faces and worship him. This is your Father. GJn 4:21 Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.

GJn 4:23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him.

Johannine Jesus, in the dialogue with the Samaritan women speeks again in Thomasine dictum. Raymond Brown sees the saying #15 as Gnostic, because it denies that Jesus is born of an earthly mother.(20)

This is inaccurate for two reasons, first Jesus does not speak here of himself, but rather about the absolute transcendence of the Father. Second, like in Job 15:14 the expression 'not born of woman' simply means nobody.
GTh 18 The disciples said to Jesus, 'Tell us how our end will be. Jesus said 'Have you discovered the beginning, then, that you are seeking after the end? For where the beginning is, the end will be. Blessed is one who stands at the beginning: that one will know the end and will not taste death GJn 8:44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

The parallel is here that both gospels uses the setting of a dialogue to say something about the beginning. What they have to say is quite similar, namely that the 'beginning' (the creation of the world?) is a work of an evil principle. Both statements are equally harsh to interlocutors, who are in Thomas the disciples and in John, the Jews (Judaeans). Since in the beginning was the devil and there was not truth before Jesus, the creation comes from an evil principle. The following parallel deals with a similar issue:
GTh 19 Blessed is one who came into beingbefore coming into being. If you become my disciples and hearken to my sayings, these stones will serve you. For there are five trees in Paradise for you; they do not change, summer or winter, and their leaves do not fall. Whoever knows them will not taste death. GJn 8:58 Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am."

GJn 17:5 and now, Father, glorify thou me in thy own presence with the glory which I had with thee before the world was made.

GJn 15:5 I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples.

The first two passages of John are proposed by Raymond Brown who believes that the one 'who came into being before coming into being' is a Gnostic disciple.(21)

In Thomas the language of 'coming into being' symbolizes gathering of knowledge of the words of Jesus and their subsequent interpretation. In John, it is Jesus who is before Abraham. Further, the comparison between the discourse about vine and the branches and the trees in paradise in Thomas shows how both use the common imagery of the tree to develop their theology. Koester suggests that both dwell on the synoptic tradition: (Q 3:9) "Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire." I see in the usage of a common image, a common Sitz im Leben, namely, a wandering sage is looking at a tree and wonders about knowledge. In Thomas, earthly trees is contrasted with heavenly trees. In John the tree is a symbol of the bond between the sage and the disciples. In Q the tree that does not bear good fruit is a symbol of this world. We can also notice characteristic redactional tendencies of Thomas and John.(22)

While Thomas adds the expression 'to heark Jesus' sayings' and to know, John uses his favorite term 'to abide in Jesus.'(23)

It is much simpler to look for a common Sitz im Leben then to reconstruct paths of literary dependance.

The following parallel belongs to the same cluster of sayings as GTh 4 which deals with babies and the Kingdom:
GTh 22 Jesus saw some babies nursing. He said to his disciples, "These nursing babies are like those who enter the kingdom... GJn 3:4 ...Nicodemus said to him, "How can anyone be born after grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother's womb and be born?

Above we have dealt with this group of sayings which appears also in Mt 18:3. Johannine procedure was to take the saying and develop it in a coherent imagery. Thus the saying about babies and the Kingdom becomes a discourse about rebirth. Again, the common imagery from everday life is used to express a life giving wisdom.
GTh 24 His disciples said, "Show us the place where you are, for we must seek it." He said to them, "Whoever has ears should hear. There is light within person of light, and it shines on the whole world. If it does not shine, it is dark. GJn 14:8 Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied."

GJn 1:9 The true light that enlightens every man coming into the world.

GJn 12:46 I have come as light into the world, that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.

The Thomasine saying parallels John in two ways. The first is the ignorance of the disciples. In Thomas they ask Jesus to show them 'the place' where he is. In John they ask Jesus to show them the Father. The second parallel is the usage of the imagery of light. It is so prominent in the GJn that it becomes a 'corner stone' of Johannine dualism. John identifies the light with Jesus, while the Thomasine Jesus speaks about the inner light, the 'light within person of light.'
GTh 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, and I did not find any of them thirsty. My soul ached for the children of humanity, because they are blind in their hearts and do not see, for they came into the world empty, and they also seek to depart from the world empty. But now they are drunk. When they shake off their wine, they will repent. GJn 1:10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not. 11 He came to his own home, and his own people received him not. 12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

There are many parallels in these two sections and they are best explained by presupposing the Sitz im Leben of a wandering divine human. Johannine expression, 'not born of blood nor of the will of the flesh' reminds us of the Thomasine expression, 'not born of woman.' GTh 28 parallels the large section of the Johannine prologue. We do not have the notion of double predestination in Thomas like in the Johannine prologue. Thomas starts the tradition which will finally develop into the notion of restoration of all things (apokatastasij twn pantwn), the idea featured so prominently in Origen. In this passage Thomas comes close to the notion that eventually everybody will be saved 'when they shake off their wine,' that is, when they reject their ignorance. In contrast John develops the idea of double predestination; saved are just those who had received Jesus and damned are those who had not (Jn 8:24 ...you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am he). For Thomas the sinners are just drunk; When they sober up "they will repent."
GTh 29 If the flesh came into being because of spirit it is a marvel, but if spirit came into being because of the body, it is a marvel of marvels. Yet I marvel at how great wealthhas come to dwell in this poverty. GJn 3:6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

GJn 6:63 It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.

GJn 1:16 And from his fullness have we all received, grace upon grace.

Thomas and John use many dualistic expressions like, wealth-poverty, spirit-body, light-darkness, truth-lie, but while Thomas sees every person as a compound between positive and negative essences, John has a tendency to move away from this Thomasine anthropological dualism towards a cosmological dualism. Johannine Jesus (Lo,goj) is the single positive principle in the whole world (ko,smoj). The believers in John (those who abide in Jesus) do not posses 'great wealth' in the 'poverty' of this world, flesh is flesh and spirit is spirit. Jesus is the only one who possesses the 'fullness.' On the other hand, in Thomas every person possesses 'wealth in this poverty.' For that reason, I believe that John is farther on the trajectory towards Gnosticism than the Gospel of Thomas. The dating of the GTh between the gathering of Q collection in the 50s AD and the composition of the GJn in the 90s AD seems well grounded.(24)

The sayings 30-37 constitute a cluster which parallels many of the synoptic sayings. The saying 38 offers the next interesting parallel to the GJn.
GTh 38 Jesus said, 'Often you have desired to hear these sayings that I am speaking to you, and you have no one else from whom t hear them.

There will be days when you will seek me and you will not find me.'

GJn 7:34 you will seek me and you will not find me; where I am you cannot come."

The above parallel preserves the most comprehensive agreement between the two gospels. Q 11:9 has also preserved this saying but in an earlier form without Christological additions 'seek me' and 'find me:' "And I tell you, Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you." We should note a similar Christological tendency in John and Thomas. Both have reshaped the saying in the similar direction. In John and Thomas, Jesus has become a redeemer who descends to earth and ascends to heaven. The similar hermeneutical principle in interpretation of the traditional material indicate that both gospels were written in approximately the same area and about the same time.

The following parallel might be a polemical innuendo against Johannine Christians, because of its usage of Johannine vocabulary and typical imagery of vine in derogatory terms:
GTh 40 Jesus said, 'A grapevine has been planted apart from the Father. Since it is not strong, it will be pulled up by its root and will perish.' GJn 15:1 "I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the vinedresser.

GTh claims that the 'vine' will be uprooted and perish. This might reflect a historical circumstances of Johannine community being moved from Syro-Palestine to Asia Minor. However, because of the lack of traces of Johannine community in Syria the thesis is difficult to prove. The polemical innuendo against a typically Johannine concept seems a probable explanation for the saying.(25)
GTh 43 His disciples said to him, 'Who are you to say these things to us?' 'You do not understand who I am from what I say to you. Rather, you have become like the Jews, for they love the tree but hate its fruit, or they love the fruit but hate the tree. GJn 10:38 but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father."

GJn 13:7 Jesus answered him, "What I am doing you do not know now, but afterward you will understand."

The Gospel of Thomas suddenly speaks in a Johannine voice, the disciple does not understand who Jesus is and the Jews are harshly criticized. Thomas and John could agree that the message of Jesus was not understood by his disciples, because both represent peripheral streams in Early Christianity which later, either merged with the Great Church, or defected to Gnosticism. Thomas is the only one among the disciples in the Gospel of Thomas who has the full understanding of Jesus He is the figure not unlike the Beloved Disciple in John. GTh 13 specifically give this privilege to Thomas over against Peter and Matthew. The passage also parallels Johannine polemic against the Jews (Judaeans), although the tone of the gospel as a whole is not anti-Jewish (Judaean).
GTh 44 Jesus said, "Whoever blasphemes against the Father will be forgiven, and whoever blasphemes against the son will be forgiven... GJn 5:23 He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.

The passage parallels the synoptic saying in Mt 12:31-32. Thomas, however, adds that the blasphemy both against the Father and the Son will be forgiven where the Synoptic have just against the Son of Man. Except for this little detail, the two passages are not connected. Raymond Brown sees in the addition "a Johannine ring."(26)

We should note that both gospels omit the title 'the Son of Man' which appears in Mt 12:32. The omission could indicate closeness in the place and time of composition.
GTh 45 ...Grapes are not harvested from thorn trees, nor are figs gathered from thistles... Jam 3:12 Can a fig tree, my brethren, yield olives, or a grapevine figs? No more can salt water yield fresh.

Agricultural imagery (figs, olives, grapes thistles) indicates origins from an agricultural region. The parallel here is also with the Epistle of James. I have included it here, because it indicates the existence of the oral tradition and might point to James' circle as one of the sources from which Thomas Christianity received the sayings tradition. James mentioning salt and fresh water bespeaks Palestinian envirolment.
GTh 49 Jesus said, "Blessed are those who are alone and chosen, for you will find the kingdom. For you have come from it, and you will return there again." GJn 13:18 I am not speaking of you all; I know whom I have chosen; it is that the scripture may be fulfilled, `He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.'

Both passages speak about the election of the believers. John expresses the election in both positive and negative terms. Some are chosen, but others are rejected ('I am not speaking of you all'). On the other hand, Thomas does not adopt the double predestination as the saying 28 shows. [sotp to choose, select, etsotp follows the Greek compound ex elegcw to choose from] Furthermore, the election does not offer a direct guarantee for salvation, rather the believers will have to find the kingdom.
GTh 50 Jesus said, "If they say to you, 'where have you come from?' say to them, 'We have come from the light, from the place where the light came into being by itself, established itself, and appeared in their image.' If they say to you, "Is it you?' say, 'We are its children, and we are the chosen of the living Father.' If they ask you, 'What is the evidence of your Father in you? say to them, 'It is in motion and rest.'" GJn 3:19 And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For every one who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.

GJn 12:46 I have come as light into the world, that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.

This is one of the sayings where Thomas uses 'typically' Johannine words like 'light' and 'living Father.' Because John and Thomas use the same language and imagery, the differences between their theology are here even more obvious than it is usually the case. All Thomasine disciples are 'the children of light,' while in John the only 'light' in the world is Jesus. In Thomas, Jesus awakens the disciples and tells them that they are 'the children of light.' In John, Jesus rebukes those who have rejected him because they hate the light. Such a pessimistic view of the world has been set up from the beginning of the GJn 1:5: The light shines in the darkness. There is no light in the world before the incarnation of the Logoj. Yet, the statement in Jn 12:46 comes close to Thomasine understanding of human nature. This is the passage where John is not consistent with the notion of double predestination otherwise common in his gospel. GJn 12:46 sounds like as if it was taken from the GTh. The usage of common vocabulary ('light') in addition to the borrowed Thomasine theology of divine spark indicate that, either John has borrowed GJn 12:46 from the Thomasine tradition, or they use a common source. One of the candidates for this hypothetical common source might be the circle around John the Baptist, the other the circle around James. In either case the question requires further research.
GTh 53 His disciples said to him, "Is circumcision useful or not?" He said to them, "If it were useful, their father would produce children already circumcised from their mother. Rather, the true circumcision in spirit has become profitable in every respect." GJn 7:22 Moses gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man upon the Sabbath. 23 If on the Sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because on the Sabbath I made a man's whole body well? 24 Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment."

The Johannine passage is a discourse on the Healing on the Sabbath episode in the Synoptics (Mk 3:1-6 and par.). John has appropriated the miracle story and transforms this early tradition into a discourse. However, the final comment in GJn 7:24 parallels GTh 53. It is typically Johannine to characterize something as true and the Thomasine expression 'true circumcision' has a Johannine ring. I believe that the Thomasine tradition has influenced the later phase in the development of the Johannine passage when the traditional material (Semeia source in this case) was reshaped into Johannine discourses.(27)

The Thomasine comment 'the true circumcision is spirit' is earlier, not later, than John's, 'do not judge by appearances,' because a similar expression is already present in Paul's epistle to the Philippians 3:3 'For we are the true circumcision, who worship God in spirit.'
GTh 56 Jesus said, "Whoever has come to know the world has discovered a carcass, and whoever has discovered a carcass, of that person the world is not worthy." GJn 15:19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.

GJn 17:14 I have given them thy word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.

Here again we have a contrast between Thomasine self-discovery and Johannine election. In Thomas, the disciples should 'discover' that the world is a carcass; In John, the disciples are not 'of the world.' John does not speak about knowing the world, but about the world which does not know Jesus. In the second part of GTh 56, however, we notice a sentiment of rejection ('of that person the world is not worthy') similar to the one we often find in John ('the world hates you').
GTh 61 ...I am the one who derives from what is whole, I was granted from the things of my Father... GJn 3:35 the Father loves the Son, and has given all things into his hand.

GJn 13:3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God

In contrast to the Johannine concept of Father 's giving all things into the hands of Jesus, Thomas speaks about the Son who was given 'from the things' of the Father. Such a low Christology is consistently spread throughout the GTh. We should also note Johannine 'I am' in Thomas.
GTh 69 Jesus said, "Blessed are those who have been persecuted in their hearts; they are the ones who have truly come to know the Father..." GJn 17:25 O righteous Father, the world has not known thee, but I have known thee; and these know that thou hast sent me.

To know the Father is a Johannine expression (GJn 8:19, 10:15, 14:7, 16:3). Here in Thomas appears to have been added to the beatitude which parallels Mt 5:10. To be persecuted in the heart is a Thomasine addition and reflects the notion of inner struggle for the divine spark. While Thomas allows the direct knowledge of the Father, John limits this knowledge to Jesus. The believers can only know that the Father has sent Jesus. In John Father is a unknown entity.
GTh 74 He said, "Lord, there are many around the drinking trough, but there is nothing in the well. GJn 4:11 The woman said to him, "Sir, you have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; where do you get that living water?

I have already pointed out (GTh 13) that Jesus in his dialogue with the Samaritan women speaks in a diction very close to Thomasine diction. Here the question is posed by a disciple and this reminds me of the Samaritan's woman question to Jesus. Both gospels use the image of a well to bring across a theological point. Above (GTh 13) Thomas uses water as a symbol for the words of Jesus and their salvific power. The saying # 74, therefore, could be polemical. Jesus' answer in GTh 74 confirms that: "There are many standing at the door, but those who are alone will enter the wedding chamber." Who is that group that lookd for water in a dry well is hard to tell.
GTh 77 Jesus said, "I am the light that is over all things. I am all; from me all came forth, and to me all attained. Split a piece of wood; I am there. Lift up the stone, and you will find me there." GJn 8:12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, "I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." 13 The Pharisees then said to him, "You are bearing witness to yourself; your testimony is not true."

This is, by far, the closest parallel between John and Thomas. In this passage Thomas comes very close to the Stoic natural theology which saw the revelation of the divine in every natural phenomenon. The image of 'light' found in a 'split peace of wood,' or under 'a stone' reminds me of Stoic hymns in which they praise nature as a visible part of God's universal reason (Logoj). Cleanthes (331-232 BC), Zeno's successor at the head of Stoa in his Hymn to Zeus writes:(28)

"All this cosmos, as it spins around the earth obeys you...with it [Zeus's thunderbolt] you direct the universal reason which runs through all things and intermingles with the lights of heaven both great and small... No deed is done on earth, god, without your offices, nor in the divine ethereal vault of heaven, nor at sea, save what bad men do in their folly."

Jesus in Thomas and John possesses a remarkable self-consciousness which is often contrasted with the naive notion of messianic secrecy in Mark. This self consciousness parallels the Stoic notion of cataleptic understanding which only a true Stoic sage can posses. A sage by using his ability of cataleptic understanding easily discerns truth from falsehood without any need of an external logical proof. The question of the Pharisees in John 8:13 is taken from the standard critique of the Stoic notion of cataleptic understanding. Cataleptic impressions, according to the Stoics are those which have a peculiar power of revealing their object.(29)

Similarly, Jesus reveals his own 'impression' that he is the 'light.' Because this is a 'cataleptic impression,' it is discerned just by itself. The Pharisees do not accept the notion of 'cataleptic impressions and demand an external logical argument verification, because Jesus is bearing witness to himself. In other words, for the Pharisees Jesus' argument is circular, but not for John, Thomas and the Stoics who believe that truth of a statement depends only on the self-consciousness of a speaker. A similar critique of the Stoic criterion of truth was exersized by the skeptics of New Academy.(30)

The influence of Stoicism can be explained only if we accept that both Thomas and John use popular Stoic tradition from the area in which the gospels were composed. In particular, both John and Thomas might have been influenced by popular Syrian stoicism. The most famous representatives of Syrian stoicism were, Menippus of Gadara (third century BC) and Posidonius of Apamea (135-50 BC). Lucian (AD 115-180), also from Syria, satirizes Mennipus in his 'Dialogue of the Dead' because of his Cynic tendencies. Unfortunately, virtually nothing is preserved of the writings of the Syrian stoics, but Bar Daisan (AD 155-222), a native of Edessa, provides in his work DeFato a vivid picture of popular Syrian stoicism in the early third century.
GTh 78 ...They are dressed in soft clothing, and cannot understand truth

GTh 79 ...Blessed are those who have heard the word of the Father and have truly kept it...

GJn 8:32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."

Both sayings in Thomas echo Johannine expression 'to know the truth.' The notion that truth makes one free is not necessarily Gnostic. It has appeared already in Stoicism. A similar idea that truth brings freedom we find in Epictetus (ca. AD 100).(31)
GTh 91 They said to him, "Tell us who you are so that we may believe in you." GJn 9:35 Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, "Do you believe in the Son of man?" 36 He answered, "And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?"

Although Thomas, for the most part, does not use a typically Johannine word 'to believe' here we have one of the cases where he does. In Thomas the dialogue is between the disciples and Jesus. In John, Jesus speaks with the Blind man.
GTh 92 Jesus said, "Seek and you will find. In the past, however, I did not tell you the things about which you asked me then. Now I am willing to tell them, but you are not seeking them GJn 16:4 But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you mayremember that I told you of them. "I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. 5 But now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, `Where are you going?'

Thomas combines a synoptic saying, 'seek and you will find' (Q 11:9) with a revelatory discourse (Offenbarungsrede) in Johannine style which parallels GJn 16:4-5. Both John and Thomas divide the time into 'then' (when Jesus was present) and 'now' (when Jesus is gone). Here we have a glimpse into Thomasine Messianic secret ("in the past, however..."). The commandment 'to seek' does not end with the departure (ascent) of Jesus, rather the search should intensify.
GTh 104 They said to Jesus, "Come, let us pray today, and let us fast."

Jesus said, "What sin have I committed, or how have I been undone?...

GJn 8:46 Which of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me?

The saying 104 as a whole has a parallel among the Synoptics (Mk 2:18-22 and par.). The parallel with John lies in their emphasis on the sinlessness of Jesus. The emphasis on the sinlessness of Jesus is much stronger in Thomas than in John.
GTh 107 Jesus said, "The Kingdom is like a shepherd who had a hundred sheep. One of them, the largest, went astray. He left the ninety-nine and sought the one until he found it. After he had toiled, he said to the sheep, 'I love you more than the ninety-nine GJn 10:11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hireling and not a shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheepand flees; and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hireling and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, 15 as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd.

This saying parallels Q 15:4-7 (A Lost sheep) but has a specific Thomasine ring attached to it. The imagery is taken from an agricultural setting. The saying is interpreted along the lines of Thomasine theology. The sheep symbolizes a believer in search for salvation. It would not be a big exaggeration if we say that Thomas makes the sheep look for the shepherd. John, throughout his gospel uses the image of sheep for Jesus. Jesus is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. Further, Jesus is the Good Shepherd. John takes this saying of Thomas and Q and transforms it into a typical Johannine discourse. The original saying of Jesus which first appears in Q cannot be reconstructed with certainty, because the redactional hand of both Matthew and Luke is so strong. What we have in the Synoptics is just two interpretations without their original context. Thomas does the same and his redaction is not heavier than the one found in the canonical gospels. Although we can not reconstruct the original saying of Jesus because of the heavy redaction by Matthew, Luke and Thomas it was probably a simple moralizing story and we can fairly well follow its development. John goes much further in his transformation of this saying than Matthew, Luke and Thomas. Thus, in John's case, we cannot speak about redaction, but about transformation of the saying.
GTh 108 Jesus said, "Whoever drinks from my mouth will become like me; I myself shall become that person, and the hidden things will be revealed to that one. GJn 7:38 He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water. 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, which those who believed in him were to receive; for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

The image of the living water coming out of a human body indicates the setting of a teacher with the followers. Both gospel use the symbolism of water. Thomas identifies water with the words of Jesus in accordance with his programmatic statement in GTh 1: 'Whoever discovers the interpretation of these sayings will not taste death.' In this saying Thomas adds that 'the hidden things will be revealed to that one.' John knows the similar saying and quotes it in a form of a proof from scripture. The Hebrew Bible reference here might be to any of the several prophetic passages which use the image of flowing water (Isa 43:19, Ez. 47:1-12, Joel 4:18, Zch 14:8). Quotation of the sayings of Jesus as a proof from scripture is a Johannine redaction to explain the outpouring of the Spirit and the coming of Paracletos. A typically Johannine word 'to believe' is introduced and the outpouring of water is equated with the outpouring of Spirit. Finally, John gives an explanation for the absence of the Spirit during Jesus' ministry in the style of the Messianic Secret.

In this parallel John and Thomas use a very similar saying of Jesus absent from the synoptic gospels. The same phenomenon has occurred in GTh 77 where both use the symbolism of 'light.' Thomas preserves an earlier form of the saying 110, but a characteristically Thomasine theology of inner light is visible even under Johannine redaction in GJn 7:38 which puts the saying as a quotation from the scripture.
GTh 110 Jesus said, "Let one who has found the world, and has become wealthy, renounce the world. GJn 7:36 What does he mean by saying, `You will seek me and you will not find me,' and, `Where I am you cannot come'?"

Thomas and John both use the same opposition between finding the world and finding Jesus. Both gospels reject the world, but as we have seen Thomasine view of human nature is much more optimistic than Johannine. The rejection of the world fits into the tradition of Syrian holy men, both earlier pagan and later Christian, who were traveling around towns and villages preaching 'apaqeia' ascetic life and, in case of the Christians, imitatio Christi.(32)
GTh 111 Jesus said, "The heavens and the earth will roll up in your presence, and whoever is living from the living one will not see death. Does not Jesus say, "Whoever has found oneself, of that person the world is not worthy?' GJn 8:51 Truly, truly, I say to you, if any one keeps my word, he will never see death."

In one of the final sayings of the gospel Thomas repeats the phrase from the beginning (Cf. GTh 1 'Whoever discovers the interpretation of these sayings will not see death.' Thus, Thomas puts an editorial frame to the gospel. The main goal of a Thomasine believer is also stated here: 'to find oneself.' John uses Thomasine expression 'not to see death' in the same manner. GJn 8:51 sounds as if it was taken from Thomas, since the accent in not on believing but on the words of Jesus.


The analysis of the parallel sayings material in John and Thomas has shown not only the similarity of tenor and diction, as Raymond Brown believed. The parallels represent the world, Jesus, discipleship, salvation in a very comparable way. Indeed, one may even speak about the common theology of the parallels. The summary of the similarities would be as follows:

1. The image of the living God as an unknown Father (GTh 3, GJn 6:57; GTh 18, GJn 8:44; GTh 40, GJn 15:1). Of particular interest is the phrase the living Father ov path,r zw/n which occurs in both gospels and never in the Synoptics, or anywhere else in the New Testament.

2. The world is a carcass (GTh 56, GJn 15:19 & 17:14). It belongs to the devil (GTh 18, GJn 8:44). It is marked by the contrast between flesh and spirit (GTh 29, GJn 3:6, 6:63).

3. The beginning and the end of the world are one and the same with the present (GTh 18, GJn 8:44, GTh 19, GJn 17:5). Both gospel engage in speculations about the beginning, but on a scale nothing like the developed cosmogony of the second century Gnosticism.

4. The Redeemer received everything from the Father (GTh 61, GJn 3:35 & 13:3). Who keeps his words will not taste death (GTh 1 & 111, GJn 8:51).

5. The Redeemer has come into this world of poverty (GTh 28, GJn 1:10-12)

6. The Redeemer is light (GTh 77, GJn 8:12).

7. The Redeemer is the teacher GTh 13, While for the most part in John teacher has a negative connotation of a Jewish leader in GJn 13:13-14, the Washing of the Feet episode, Jesus reveals what it means to be a dida,skaloj. To be a true teacher, means to be different from the socially accepted teachers.

8. The Redeemer speaks with remarkable assurance. He needs no proof for his testimony (GTh 3, GJn 4:42 & 8:13). He is the light (GTh 77, GJn 8:12). He is the living water (GTh 13, GJn 4:13). This particular idea, that is, that the redeemer needs no proof for his words, parallels the Stoic idea of cataleptic impressions.

9. The discipleship is about becoming like the Redeemer (GTh 108, GJn 7:38), renouncing the world (GTh 110, GJn 7:35), being like a little child (GTh 4, GJn 3:4), and worshipping the Father (GTh 15, GJn 4:21-23).

10. The most important prerequisite of the discipleship is listening to the words of Jesus (GTh 19, GJn 15:7, see also: GTh 1 & 111, GJn 8:51) and keeping them (GTh 78, 79, GJn 8:32).

11. The disciples will never see death (GTh 1, 111, GJn 8:51, GJn 21:23 a tradition that the beloved disciple will not die: The saying spread abroad among the brethren that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, "If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?"

12. The Redeemer has departed which makes his words even more important (GTh 38, GJn 7:34). One has to seek him, and will not always find him.

Besides using several similar theological concepts like, 'the beginning,' 'light,' 'darkness,' 'flesh,' 'spirit,' 'knowledge,' 'understanding,' 'living Father,' 'to know,' 'to seek,' 'to find' John and Thomas use similar metaphors for Jesus, some taken from the imagery of agricultural life like: 'water,' 'spring,' 'well,' 'vine,' 'shepherd,' 'sheep,' 'fish,' 'net.' This common imagery indicates a common sauce-cultural setting, namely, wandering ascetics and their orally transmitted teaching.

Furthermore, I believe that the parallels has shown that the gospels of John and Thomas are not directly dependent. There are only two instances where we have the verbatim agreement and where one can suspect the borrowing. These are the sayings 38 and 77:

GTh 38 Jesus said, 'Often you have desired to hear these sayings that I am speaking to you, and you have no one else from whom t hear them.

There will be days when you will seek me and you will not find me.'

GTh 77 Jesus said, "I am the light that is over all things. I am all: from me all came forth, and to me all attained. Split a piece of wood; I am there. Lift up the stone, and you will find me there.

But this verbatim agreement is not enough to establish a literary dependence. Rather, the phrases look very much like favorite sayings of wandering sages. The type of similarity indicates an oral tradition, rather then literary dependence.

The strongest argument for the dependence of Thomas on John rests on the peculiar Thomasine expression, the kingdom of the Father. Thomasine sayings 96-98 constitute a cluster of material about the Kingdom of the Father. In them there are no parallels with John except if we believe that the combination of the synoptic 'Kingdom of God' with Johannine 'Father' becomes Thomasine 'the Kingdom of the Father.' Yet, the phrase hv basilei,a tou/ patro,j occurs twice in Matthew (13:43, 16:29) which, in turn, points again to the environment of Matthean redactor working somewhere in Syro-Palestine. Since no one would argue that the phrase in Matthew hv balisei,a tou/ patro,j is a borrowing from John, there is no reason to suppose that Thomas has borrowed it from the fourth gospel.

The setting of the parallel tradition sayings is defined by several factors. First, we have two communities in which salvation comes through the transmission, listening, and interpretation of the words of Jesus (GTh 1, 19, GJn 8:51, 15:7). We should not immediately assume that the words of Jesus could come only from Q, or the Synoptic tradition in general. Second, the gigantic self-consciousness of Jesus permeates both gospels. Jesus for both Thomas and John is infinitely more important than the world. Such a self-confidence is transferred from Jesus to the disciples. This again indicates a social setting of a rejected sage with his followers.

Can it be proven that the origins of common imagery is the syncretistic-wisdom traditions of Syria? This will not be an easy task. We know a lot about Syrian holy men in the centuries after Christ. Thomasine theology of divine spark is quite common among them because they hoped to 'reenact' incarnation of the divine logos through asceticism and perfect their own imago Christi. Is there a religious movement that can explain the emergence of the Syrian wisdom tradition which we encounter in the gospels of John and Thomas? In the comments I have suggested Syrian Stoicism as a religious, philosophical and social phenomenon which stands both as a source and the refinement of Syrian wisdom tradition. Syrian Stoics provide a unique insight in the popular syncretistic wisdom from the Near East, albeit from the stand point of high culture of the imperial metropolis. Among the Stoics we find a notion of Stoic sage who much like latter Christian saints traveled around towns and villages of Syria and preached their "gospel" of ane,cou kai ape,cou, abstain and endure, and the presence of the divine Lo,goj-Sofi,a in every human being. I have also mentioned the notion of cataleptic impressions, that is, a claim that statements are true because they are verified by a flawless judgment of a sage. What distinguishes a sage from an ordinary person is that a sage is aware which impression is true and which false. For a sage all knowledge is self-knowledge because it relies on rational power to recognize true (cataleptic) impressions.(33)

The notion parallels many sayings in John and Thomas where Jesus expresses remarkable self-confidence and confidence in truth of his statements.

The existence of Syrian tradition of divine human is clearly attested by Celsus (late second century). Origen agrees with the existence of the phenomenon, but disagrees with Celsus in his evaluation of divine humans. Celsus complains that in Palestine and Syria there are many:

who go begging both inside and outside temples, some of them gathering crowds and frequenting cities of camps, and these men are of course urged to prophesy. It is routine for them to be ready with 'I am god', or 'a son of a god' or 'a divine spirit'; and 'I have come, for the universe is already perishing, and you, men, will die because of your wrongdoing, But I want to save you, and you shall see me once again returning with heavenly power. Happy is the man who has worshipped me on this occasion. Against all the rest, in town and country alike, I shall cast eternal fire. And men who are unaware of the impending punishment will repent in vain and wail, but those I have persuaded I shall protect forever.(34)

While some of Celsus' of statements are clearly meant to denigrate Jesus of Nazareth, he does that by comparing him to wandering ascetics of Syria. I believe that Celsus has done his homework well. His purpose is to slander, but he does that as a well informed observer.

Furthermore, it is not reasonable to believe that Syrian divine human tradition started only in the second century, or third century. There has been a radical shift in our understanding of asceticism in antiquity. It is no longer possible to thing of asceticism as a third or fourth century phenomenon represented only by the Christian monasticism and Neo-Platonist reaction. James Francis has successfully argued that the second century only open the way for social acceptability of the subversive virtue of wandering ascetics.(35)

According to Frances asceticism gained respectability in the second century AD when the upper literate classes of the empire accepted and transformed its subversive ideas. Ascetic practices of wandering sages became the active practice of duty. This shift should not be understood as a diachronic change from one form of askesis to another. Rather, two practices, the one of wandering ascetics of the lower strata and, the other represented by the moralism of duty of the upper strata existed in the Hellenistic society from the very beginning.

A glimpse into Syrian wisdom tradition could be achieved, among other ways, through the fragments of Stoic philosophers from the region, namely, Antipater of Tyre (1st cent. BC) who believed that the whole world is animate and rational,(36)

Posidonius of Apamea (135-50 BC) who believed that philosophers will be awarded the divinely ordained afterlife.(37)

Later writer like Lucian, and Bardesanes, Aramaic philosopher and poet are also indispensable. Already the early fragments provide an insight in two levels of the Stoic teaching, namely, the askesis of duty acceptable to the society, and askesis for the divinely ordained afterlife which separates from the society.

If at least a part of the Gospel of Thomas was composed and transmitted in the environment of the wandering ascetics, Thomas has added their sayings to the already established tradition of Jesus' sayings from Palestine. A similar process we can follow in John. As long as Johannine community stayed in Syria, it faced the same social, cultural and historical forces that Thomas faced, this should be enough to explain the similarities in the parallels. Could it be the case that in the early second century a part of Johannine community left Syria and moved to Ephesos where the gospel was redacted in line with the emerging patristic Church and saved from sinking into oblivion? We will probably never know this. But we know that the Gospel of Thomas had a different path, it was saved from oblivion by an illiterate Egyptian peasant fifty years ago. In sum, I believe that the parallels between the two gospels demand from us to seek the forgotten wisdom of illiterate, or semi-literate wandering sages of the ancient Near East.(38)


All quotations from the Bible are from the Revised Standard Version and from: Bible Works for Windows, Hermeneutika, Computer Bible Research Software, Seattle 1993.

All quotation from the Gospel of Thomas are by Marvin Meyer.

Brown, Raymond, The Gospel of Thomas and St. John's Gospel, in: New Testament Studies 9 (1962/62), pp. 155-177

Drijvers, Han, East of Antioch, Variorum Reprints, London 1984.

L. Edelstein & I. G. Kidd, Posidonius, vol. 1, The Fragments, (Cambridge: University Press, 1972).

Funk, Robert, The Five Gospels, Polebridge Press and Macmillan Publishing, New York 1993.

Käsemann, Ernst, Ketzer und Zeuge, ZThK 48, 1951, 292-311.

Käsemann, Ernst, The Testament of Jesus:A Study of the Gospel in the Light of Chapter 17, London, 1968.

Kloppenburg, John et. al., Q-Thomas Reader, Polebridge Press, Sonoma, California 1990.

Koester, Helmut, Ancient Christian Gospels, Trinity Press International, Philadelphia 1990.

Koester, Helmut, Introduction to the New Testament, vols. 1&2, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin and New York 1982.

Long, A. A. and Sedley, D. N., The Hellenistic Philosophers, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1987.

McCullough, Stewart, A Short History of Syriac Christianity to the Rise of Islam, Scholars Press, Chico, California 1982.

Patterson, Stephen, The Gospel of Thomas and Jesus, Polebridge Press, Sonoma California 1993.

Riley, Gregory, Resurrection Reconsidered, Fortress Press, Minneapolis 1995.

Robinson, James and Koester, Helmut, Trajectories through Early Christianity, Fortress Press, Philadelphia 1971.

Westermann, Claus, Roots of Wisdom, Westminster / John Knox Press, Louisville, Kentucky 1995.


0 Raymond Brown, The Gospel of Thomas and St. John's Gospel, in New Testament Studies 9 (1962/63), pp. 155-77 and Robert Grant, The Secret Sayings of Jesus, (New York, ??? 1960).


0 James Robinson and Helmut Koester, Trajectories through Early Christianity, (Philadelphia, Fortress Press 1971), passim.


0 It seems that Koester and Robinson's view is winning the day, since the new Synopsis Quattuor Evangeliorumwill include the Coptic Gospel of Thomas in a parallel column with the Synoptic gospels. This was reported by James Robinson on the 1995 annual meeting of the SBL in Philadelphia in his lecture: "The Nag Hammadi Discovery, Fifty Years Later."


0 I assume that the Gospel of John was written in Syria towards the end of the first century. See on the place of authorship of John in: James Robinson, The Johannine Trajectory, in Koester and Robinson, Trajectories, ibid., pp. 232-268. I also agree with Ernst Käsemann argument that Johannine community sees its self as an Hellenistic enthusiastic sect pushed to the periphery of the Church. See: Ernst Käsemann, The Testament of Jesus, London 1966.


0 James Robinson, On Bridging the Gulf from Q to the Gospel of Thomas (or vice versa), pp. 127-55 in C. W. Hedrick and R. Hodgson Jr. eds. Nag Hammadi, Gnosticism, and Early Christianity. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1986.


0 Thomas appears in Jn 11:16; 14:5; 20:24, 26, 27, 28; 21:2. In the Synoptics: Mt 10:3, Mk 3:18, Lk 6:15.


0 Raymond Brown, ibid., pp. 155-77.


0 Raymond Brown, ibid., p. 158.


0 Helmut Koester, Ancient Christian Gospels, (Philadelphia, Trinity Press International 1990).


0 Helmut Koester, ibid., p. 114.


0 Gregory Riley, Resurrection Reconsidered. (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1995) p. 177.


0 Ernst Käsemann, Ketzer und Zeuge, ??


0 Fernando Segovia, Love Relationship in the Johannine Tradition, SBL Dissertation Series 58, Chico, CA: Scholars Press, 1982, p. 18.


0 Raymond Brown, ibid., p. 177


0 Helmut Koester, ibid., p. 114.


0 The Gospel of Thomas opens, in fact, with the prologue: "These are the secret sayings that the living Jesus spoke and Didymos Judas Thomas recorded.' The prologue is, however, a later addition. See: Helmut Koester, Ancient Christian Gospels, ibid., p. 80.


0 The Gospel of John and the Gospel of Thomas are hereafter abbreviated as GJn and GTh.


0 Cf. Cicero, Academica, 1.40-41, [speaker the Antiochian Varro in defense of Stoic epistemology]: He [Zeno, the founder of Stoicism] did not attach reliability to all impression but only to those which have a peculiar power of revealing their objects. Since this impression is discerned just by itself, he called it 'cognitive' (katalhpton).


0 In the same passage (Jn 4:42) the Samaritan woman is told that her simple words are not enough.


0 Raymond Brown, The Gospel of Thomas and St. John's Gospel, ibid., p.162.


0 Raymond Brown, The Gospel of Thomas and St. John's Gospel, ibid., p.163.


0 The phrase 'stones will serve you' in Thomas is a direct opposition to the expression 'to serve the stones' (idolatry). The expression appears in the Epistle of Jeremia 1:39: These things that are made of wood and overlaid with gold and silver are like stones from the mountain, and those who serve them will be put to shame.


0 The verb 'to abide' (menete) appears thirteen times in the Johannine corpus (excluding Revelation). In the Gospel it appears only in the Farewell Discourses. It's object is always Jesus ('abide in me') except in 2Jn 1:9 which reads: 'abide in the doctrine of Christ.'


0 See: Helmut Koester, Ancient Christian Gospels, (Philadelphia, Trinity Press International, 1990), pp. 75-128, and Stephen Patterson, The Gospel of Thomas and Jesus, (Sonoma, Californian, Polebridge Press, 1993, pp. 113-120.


0 Cf. Raymond Brown, The Gospel of Thomas..., ibid., p.166. He claims that a saying might be parallel to the synoptic vineyard parables which mention a father (Mt 21:28-33). This is an interesting suggestion because Mt 21:28-33 belongs to M (Matthean special material) believed to have been assembled in Antioch. Above, we have already encountered a similar complex relationship between Johannine, Thomasine and M tradition in the saying # 8.


0 Raymond Brown, The Gospel of Thomas..., ibid., p.167.


0 Contra: Raymond Brown, The Gospel of Thomas..., ibid., p.168.


0 H. von Arnim, Stoicorum veterum fragmenta (Leipzig 1903-5), 1.537. Translation from: A. A. Long & D. N. Sedley, The Hellenistic Philosophers, vol. 1, (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1987).


0 Cicero, Academica, 1.40-41.


0 Cicero, Academica, 2:77-78.


0 Epictetus, Discourses, 4.1ff.


0 Han J. W. Drijvers, East of Antioch, (Variorum Reprints, London 1984), IV.33.


0 Cf. Cicero, Academica, 1.40-41, [speaker the Antiochian Varro in defense of Stoic epistemology]: He [Zeno, the founder of Stoicism] did not attach reliability to all impression but only to those which have a peculiar power of revealing their objects. Since this impression is discerned just by itself, he called it 'cognitive' (katalhpton).


0 Origen, Contra Celsum, 7.9.


0 James Francis, Subversive Virtue,


0 See: Diogenes Leartius, 7.138-139, in A. A. Long & D. N Sedley, The Hellenistic Philosophers, (Cambridge: University Press, 1987), p. 284.


0 L. Edelstein & I. G. Kidd, Posidonius, vol. 1, The Fragments, (Cambridge: University Press, 1972).


0 Vööbus, History of Asceticism in the Syrian Orient: A Contribution to the History of Culture in the Near East. Vol. 1: The Origins of Asceticism. Early Monasticism in Persia. Scriptorum Christianorum Orientaliem 184. Louvain: Secrétariat du Corpus SCO, 1958, pp. 14-15. G. Kretschmar, Ein Beitrag zur Frage dem Ursprung früchristlicher Askese, ZThK 61 (1964), pp. 27-67. Back To The Gospel Of Thomas Homepage