People love uncovering new artifacts that seem to contradict everything that we thought we knew, especially with regard to the common religious belief. That is why Reza Aslan’s book proclaiming that Jesus was a violent revolutionary was such a hit. Authors are given airtime on major networks because they proclaim that the body of Jesus was found. People love hearing that the Romans claimed that they invented Jesus. They love hearing that there are books out there, which were recently discovered, that have just as much historical credibility as the books of the Bible. Of course, the most popular one is the gospel of Thomas. So why isn’t the gospel of Thomas in the Bible?
Perhaps the skeptic could accuse Christians of just being traditional. Thomas did not emerge until just a few decades ago, and to add it into the Bible would contradict our tradition, especially since many of the teachings of the gospel of Thomas seems to contradict the gospels of the mid-first century that we have. Some scholars, like those of the radical Jesus Seminar and Bart Ehrman, proudly proclaim the gospel of Thomas as some sort of revolutionary discovery that contradicts everything that we thought we knew.
So the gospel of Thomas is published by many eager booksellers who know that the public will be taken in by it, and they are. People are asking, why isn’t the gospel of Thomas in the Bible? Is it just because we did not know about it? What does this mean of our tradition? Should we begin to print Bibles that include the gospel of Thomas? The answer is no. The gospel of Thomas was written much later, long after the death of Thomas.
The Gospel of Thomas Cites Too Much Of The New Testament. Publishing writings in the first century was nothing like it is today. If you want a copy of something, you take a quill and some papyrus and you just copy it. That is how the books of the New Testament circulated. It was a very slow process. By the early second century, only a few of the books of the New Testament were in full circulation. Christians of that time only had a few of the books of the New Testament to reference. The epistles of Ignatious, written in AD 110, does not even quote half of the New Testament.
But the gospel of Thomas shows familiarity with 15 of the 27 books of the New Testament! Doctor Craig Evans pointed out that he was not aware of any Christian writing which referenced this much of the New Testament prior to AD 150. The Gospel of Thomas simply references far too many books to be dated early. But despite that, the Jesus Seminar attempts to date Thomas between AD 60 and 70.
Further, this gospel not only cites too much New Testament material. It cites the the later New Testament material. Mark was not very strong in Greek grammar and etiquette, so when Matthew and Luke quoted Mark, they polished his wording. The gospel of Thomas quotes the polished wording, the later version. In fact, Thomas even has material from the gospel of John – penned in about AD 90. How can a book from AD 60 or 70 quote a book from AD 90? Thomas is not independent of the other gospels, it quotes the later ones and it is not early, it quotes too much of the New Testament to be considered early.
The Gospel of Thomas Shows Syrian Development. The gospels are published in the Koine Greek language, which was the most conventiant language of that time if the goal was to spread them far and wide. But when Christianity began to spread eastward, the gospels were translated into Syraic. But this did not happen immediately.
A student of Justin Martyr named Tatian compiled a Syraic translation of the four gospels in AD 175, which was named the Diatessaron (meaning ‘through the four’). He made the four gospels available to those who spoke Syraic. What makes this significant is that the gospel of Thomas shows traces of the Syrain language forms! Indeed, the gospel of Thomas adopts concepts that were only found in the Syrian church. It refers to Thomas as Judas Thomas, which was a concept that began with the Syrian church. The Syrians did not like ascetics, wealth, businessmen, commercialism, and were interested in elitism and mysticism. Precisely everything that the Syrians were not interested in, the gospel of Thomas was not interested in, and that which they were interested in, the gospel of Thomas was interested in.
Further, and critically, if we read the gospel of Thomas in English, it sort of looks like a non-contextual group of proverbs and sayings. It is just randomly assorted. It appears randomly assorted in Koine Greek as well. But if you translate it to Syrian, it is not random at all. There are literally hundreds of catchwords in Syrian that are meant to help people memorize the gospel. There are memory aids written in Syrian. The gospel of Thomas was written in Syrian.
Why Isn’t The Gospel Of Thomas In The Bible? It quotes far too much of the New Testament, including the later books to be even considered by most scholars to be earlier than AD 150. But the evidence also suggests that the gospel was written in Syrian, probably toward the end of the second century. The gospel of Thomas was a product of the Syrian church, generations after the apolostic age, with no evidence that it is connected with any of the apostles. It does not pass the test of canonicty and is therefore excluded from the Bible.
Strobel, Lee, The Case For The Real Jesus, Pages 32-36
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