Re: [GTh] Thomas Tradition and Tyre VI
This is the sixth in a series of nine posts in which it is argued that
there are three strata in GTh and they provide us with information on the
Thomas church: its locataion, history, sociological make-up, and beliefs.
In this post, it is pointed out, the information they provide indicates that
the Thomas church had likely been located at Tyre.
THE THOMAS CHURCH AS THE TYRIAN CHURCH I
For determining the location for the Thomas church, I think it best to
begin with the earliest strata of GTh, i.e., to begin with Proto-Thomas..
Let us look at unit 61, "Jesus said, 'Two will rest on a bed: the one will
die and the other will live.' Salome said, 'Who are You, man, that You, as
though from the One, have come up on my couch and eaten from my table?'
Jesus said to her, 'I am He who exists from the Undivided. I was given some
of the things of my Father.' 'I am your disciple.'"
Salome is a very important person to the Thomas church, for
she is, except for Jesus himself, the only person given a name in
Proto-Thomas. Indeed, such a unique status in this church's earliest
document indicates, to me, that she is the founder of the Thomas community.
I suggest that she is the Syro-Phoenician woman, from the area around Tyre,
mentioned in Mark 7:24-30.
For one thing, this woman had a daughter lying on a bed. Is it a
coincidence that lying on a bed/couch plays an important role in 61a?
I think not.
For another thing, the Syro-Phoenician woman tells Jesus, "Lord, even the
doggies under the table eat from the crumbs of the children." Is it a
coincidence that eating at a table plays an important role in 61a? I think
So, I suggest, Salome is the name of the Syro-Phoenician woman of Mark
7:24-30 and she was the founder of the Proto-Thomas church.
If so, then, as she resided in the vicinity of Tyre, the expectation is that
the Thomas church was located at Tyre.
In support of this idea, there is an extensive over-lap between the
Proto-Thomas tradition and the Q tradition. Further, in both traditions,
their is a focus on sayings of Jesus and a down-playing the significance of
Jesus' death. All this suggests that the Thomas church was located close
to the area where the Q tradition was circulating.
In this regard, many scholars think that the Q tradition circulated in
So, it would appear, the Thomas church was located close to Galilee.
This fits like a glove with the hypothesis that the Thomas church was
located at Tyre: for Tyre was but a short distance from Galilee. Tyrian
coins were the standard currency in many areas of Galilee and Tyre couldn't
produce enough grain to feed its population and, so, depended upon Galilee
for a part of its food supply.
(Too, according to Mark 3:7-8, while Jesus preached near the Sea of Galilee,
the most likely location for the heartland of the Q community, those who
listened to him included some people from Tyre)
Also, that the leadership of the Thomas church consisted of upper class
Gentiles suggests that it was located in a primarily Gentile area and Tyre
was a primarily Gentile city with a Jewish minority.
Relevant to the discussion is Acts 21:3-5 (RSV), "When we had come in sight
of Cyprus, leaving it on the left we sailed to Syria, and landed at Tyre;
for there the ship was to unload cargo. And having sought out the
disciples, we stayed there for seven days. Through the Spirit they told
Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. And when our days there were ended, we
departed and went on our journey; and they all, with wives and children,
brought us on our way till we were outside the city; and kneeling down on
the beach we prayed and bade one another farewell."
Here, we learn, there was a Christian church at Tyre in the mid or late
What is said here about the Christian church at Tyre is consistent with
the hypothesis that it is the Thomas church.
First of all, its members warn Paul of the dangers he faced from Jews
zealous for the Law if he insisted on going to Jerusalem.
This suggests that the members of the Tyrian church did not include those
zealous for the Law.
Indeed, this appears to be the case with the members of the Thomas church!
As for the Gentile leadership, they did not obey Mosaic Law. As for the
other Gentile members, they were vehemently against observing the Law. Even
the Jewish members were lack-luster, at best, as respects the Law: for they
had stopped observing the Sabbath and circumcision laws and likely were
observing the dietary laws only under pressure from Palestinian Christian
Jews. Indeed, because of their non-observance of the circumcision and
Sabbath laws, they would have gotten into *deep* trouble themselves at
Again, in Acts 21:3-6, it is emphasised, the Spirit was important to the
members of the chuch at Tyre. Similarly, the Spirit was important to the
members of the Thomas church: see unit 44, "Whoever blasphemes against the
Father will be forgiven, and whoever blasphemes against the Son will be
forgiven, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be
forgiven either on earth or in heaven." (Note: unit 44 comes from
Proto-Thomas and, so, comes from the earliest strata in GThomas.)
So, based on evidence in Proto-Thomas, the earliest of the documents
produced by the Thomas church, it appears likely that the Thomas church was
the church, at Tyre. In this case, it was founded by the Syro-Phoenician
woman described by Mark and it was thriving at the time that Paul and some
of his followers visited it in the mid or late fifties.
THE THOMAS CHURCH AS THE TYRIAN CHURCH II
Next, let us turn our attention to Pre-Thomas: which represents the
perspective of Jewish members of the Thomas church.
At the time Pre-Thomas was written, the Jewish revolt of 66-70 CE was past
See, for example, unit 71, "Jesus said, 'I shall destroy [this] house, and
no one will be able to rebuild it.": This appears to allude to the
destruction of the Jerusalem temple in 70 CE..
Also see 79b, "For there will be days when you will say, 'Blessed are the
womb which has not conceived and the breasts which have not given milk.".
This appears to allude to the horrors of the Jewish revolt of
66-70 CE, which led to the death, maiming, and enslaving of many Jews.
Now, and this is a key point, what happened to the Jews at Tyre at the time
of Jewish revolt is thusly described by Josephus in Wars of the Jews
(Book II, Chap. XVIII, Sect. 5), "Those of Tyre also put a great number [of
Jews] to death, but kept a greater number in prison."
So, if the Thomas church was the church at Tyre, then the expectation is
that its Jewish members, who wrote Pre-Thomas, would have made some
allusions, in it, to some of themseves being executed for being deemed
pro-Zealot and the rest of themselves imprisoned for a period of time.
Indeed, we find evidence that some had died for Zealot beliefs.
See, in particular, 55, "Jesus said, 'Whoever does not....take up his cross
in My way will not be worthy of me." Compare S.G.F. Brandon who, in Jesus
and the Zealots, states (p. 145), "The cross was the symbol of Zealot
sacrifice before it was transformed into the sign of Christian salvation."
Perhaps significantly, unit 55 is the only time the cross is mentioned in
GThomas and it is not as a symbol of salvation, but (as with the Zealots) a
symbol of sacrifice. So, I suggest, this part of unit 55 indicates that
some of the Jews in the Thomas Church followed the example of Jesus in being
executed on a charge of wanting to rebel against Rome.
Again, we find evidence that the Jewish members of the Thomas church had
undergone a period of persecution and suffering due to hatred: see 58,
"Blessed is the man who has suffered and has found life.", and 68, "Blessed
are you when you are hated and persecuted. Wherever you have been
persecuted, they will find no Place."
I suggest that this was their imprisonment due to their being Jewish.
Note that (unlike in Synoptic parallels) there is no mention of being
persecuted for the sake of Jesus or for the sake of the gospel--which is
consistent with the persecution having occurred because they were Jewish
rather than because they were Christian.
Note, too, that references to persecution are absent from both Proto-Thomas
and the latest strata material--both of which come from a Gentile
perspective. This underscores that the persecution appears to have been
limited to Jewish members of the Thomas church: just as one would expect if
it were the Tyrian church--where no known persecution of Christians occurred
in the first century CE, but where Jews were persecuted in the late
sixties--with some being executed as pro-Zealot and the rest imprisoned
because even their loyalty to Rome was suspect simply because they were
Relevant to the discussion is 56, "Whoever has come to understand the world
has found a corpse, and whoever has found a corpse is superior to the
The world is negatively viewed in the earlier Proto-Thomas, but not to this
extreme. This radically negative view of the world arises for the first
time in Pre-Thomas, I think, because it was written by
the Jews in the Tyrian church: who had been so traumatized by what
transpired during the revolt to their fellow Jews in Palestine and, even, to
themselves and the other Jews at Tyre, that they came to perceive the world
as being nothing but a realm of death and evil.
THE TYRIAN CHURCH III
One of the units in Pre-Thomas is 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 looked for that one until he found it. When he
had gone to such trouble, he said to the sheep, I love you more than the
As respects this parable, there is an early Christian legend regarding Simon
Magus--who is mentioned in Acts 8:9-24.
According to this legend, he believed that there is a First Thought of God
who created some angelic beings who, in turn, created the Cosmos. They
rebelled against her and imprisoned her on earth by forcing her to keep
being reincarnated as a woman, one of whom was Helen of Troy. Further,
when he went to Tyre, he found a prostitute, named Helen, who he declared to
be the current incarnation of the First Thought.
Now, in Gnosticism & Early Christianity, Robert M. Grant (p. 77) thusly
recounts a part of the Simonian myth as cited by Irenaeus (c. 180 CE), "She
passed from body to body, always suffering disgrace from it; last of all she
was manifest in a prostitute; this is the lost sheep."
What I find significant here is that the prostitute found *at Tyre* by
Simon, and identified by him as the First Thought, is declared to be the
lost sheep of unit 108!
Indeed, one can see how such an identification could have been made.
First of all, this parable regards the Kingdom: which, as I have pointed out
in a number of past posts, appears to be Wisdom in the GTh tradition.
Furthermore, there is reason to believe that Simon's First Thought is
Wisdom, e.g., Grant (p. 80) states, "The most obvious parallels to a god's
First Thought are provided in Hellenistic philosophy and rhetoric and in the
Jewish Wisdom literature." Third, the sheep has become lost--which can be
interpreted to mean that Wisdom = First Thought has somehow fallen from
heaven and become entrapped on earth. After finding the sheep, the man
remarks how he loves this sheep, when can be interpreted to mean that that
the First Thought = Wisdom is entrapped in the body of a sexually
So, this whole legend about Simon and the prostitute he found at Tyre
apparently revolves around a saying of Jesus found only GThomas--in
particular, in its Pre-Thomas strata. (for the Lukan parable of the lost
sheep is radically different in that the sheep is not identified with the
Kingdom but, rather, with a repentent sinner). This suggests that the place
of origin for this saying of Jesus is Tyre--which, in turn, suggests that
the Thomas church is the Tyrian church.
THE THOMAS CHURCH AS THE TYRIAN CHURCH IV
The one copy of GThomas we possess, which is in Coptic, was discovered in
Egypt. There are earlier Greek fragments of Gthomas that have also been
discovered in Egypt.
If the Thomas church was Tyre, one can readily explain how Thomas
Christianity and, in particular, GThomas itself, took root in Egypt.
Tyre was a port city with two major harbor areas. The first, on the north
side, was called the Harbor of Sidon. As its name implies, much of the
shipping involving this harbor was to and from Sidon: the next major
Syro-Phoenican city, roughly 25 miles north up the coast.
The other major harbor area was on the south side and it was called the
Harbor of Egypt. As its name implies, much of the shipping involving this
harbor was to and from the great Egyptian port city of Alexandria.
So, if the Thomas church was the Tyrian church, then Egypt would have been
one of the two most likely areas for Thomas Christianity to have spread:
the other area being Sidon.
THE THOMAS CHURCH AS THE TYRIAN CHURCH: CONCLUSION
Evidence in Proto-Thomas and Pre-Thomas indicates that the Thomas church was
the church at Tyre. Its founder appears to have been a woman, named Salome,
who met Jesus while he was in the vicinity of Tyre. If so, then it might
have founded even before Jesus was crucified. This helps to explain why the
Thomas church gsve no special salvific import to the crucifision: for, in
this case, what made Jesus special to them was something about him perceived
by Salome while he was still alive.
In this case, the allusions to persecution and suffering we find in
Pre-Thomas occur because this document, which reflects the perspective of
the Jewish members of the Thomas church, was written after some of the
Jewish members of the Tyrian church had been executed and the rest
imprisoned at the time of the Jewish revolt against Rome.
(Continued in post VII of a IX post series)
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