earliest Thomas reference ?
- In the light of Perrin's claim that the Gospel of Thomas is based on
the Diatessaron (composed 172 or slightly later). I have been trying to
find our earliest references to Thomas.
What may be our earliest evidence is referred to in Origen's
'Contra Celsum' book 8.
Celsus goes on to say: "That I may give a true representation of their faith, I will use their own words, as given in what is called A Heavenly Dialogue: 'If the Son is mightier than God, and the Son of man is Lord over Him, who else than the Son can be Lord over that God who is the ruler over all things? How comes it, that while so many go about the well, no one goes down into it? Why art thou afraid when thou hast gone so far on the way? Answer: Thou art mistaken, for I lack neither courage nor weapons.' Is it not evident, then, that their views are precisely such as I have described them to be? They suppose that another God, who is above the heavens, is the Father of him whom with one accord they honour, that they may honour this Son of man alone, whom they exalt under the form and name of the great God, and whom they assert to be stronger than God, who rules the world, and that he rules over Him. And hence that maxim of theirs, `It is impossible to serve two masters, 'is maintained for the purpose of keeping up the party who are on the side of this Lord."
Celsus quotes "How comes it, that while so many go about the well, no one goes down into it?" from an otherwise unknown work,
clearly of a full-blown gnostic nature; which is called 'A Heavenly
This has an obvious similarity to Thomas saying 74
<QUOTE>He said, "O Lord, there are many around
the well,but there is no-0ne in the well." </QUOTE>
Unless both are using an unknown common source one must be
dependant on the other.
Given the full blown nature of the Gnosticism of 'A Heavenly Dialogue'
and the much more muted Gnosticism of Thomas, it seems much
more likely that the Dialogue is borrowing from Thomas thn vice versa.
(Celsus' main source for Gnostic teaching seems to be the Ophites
who are quite likely the authors of 'A Heavenly Dialogue'. We know
from Hippolytus that the closely related Naassenes made vigorous
use of the Gospel of Thomas).
The date of Celsus is uncertain (c 180) and the date of 'A Heavenly
Dialogue even more so. (Anywhere in the 3rd quarter of the 2nd
century might be defended.) However it would seem likely that if
Thomas is based on the Diatessaron then it would have been written
too late for the author of 'A Heavenly Dialogue', to have been able to
make use of it.
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The earliest mention of the Gospel of Thomas by name is in Hippolytus, Refutation of All Heresies.
Saying 2 is quoted twice by Clement of Alexandria in the Stromateis, but it is ascribed to the Gospel of the Hebrews.
2 Clement 12.2 (I believe) is parallel to Saying 22 (I believe).
Both these near verbatim parallels can also be dated to the late second century.
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- Andrew you write:
"In the light of Perrin's claim that the Gospel of Thomas is based on
the Diatessaron (composed 172 or slightly later). I have been trying
to find our earliest references to Thomas. What may be our earliest
evidence is referred to in Origen's' Contra Celsum' book 8."
(A very interesting quote follows, as does an added reference from
Your "ancestral dependency" approach to discovering Thomas is very
interesting, but I have to wonder how one gets around the possible
mixed bloodline of a text (such as that of Thomas) or parts of it
which may have been "begged, borrowed or plagiarized" from a
secondary source and freely used in it. (This, of course, not being
different from the 4 evangilists). For example, there are scores of
Rabbinical Sayings, literary peculiarities and even fantasy verses
used in the NT and Thomas which are not necessarily of Jesus or of
the attributed author's own pen.
Notwithstanding all of the "all those who have ears etc etc", note,
Thomas 17 (and say) 1 Corinthians 2:9 " what no hand has touched
and what has never occurred to the human mind."
Thomas 102 (as also used in Matt 23:13 and Luke 11:52) likely
originated with the Greek fable writer Aesop (mid 6th century BC)
as well as (ditto) Thomas #109 / Luke 4:23 ("Physician heal
thyself" taken from Aesop's the Quack Frog), and Matt. 7:15 ("The
wolf in sheep's clothing") etc.
In fact, the saying "know thyself" (Thomas #3 / # 67) falls in this
same category of maxims as it is clearly inspired from the Oracle at
Delphi ... again long before Jesus was even born.
So, in using such a research method, where do we draw the line on
text dependency ???? A better case in point (although not used in
Thomas) is the Gospel of John. If pushed to extreme, how do we
come to conclude that it was written c. 100 C.E. when its opening
lines (Jn 1, 1- etc) are actually taken from the Vedas, a Hindu text
usually dated at appx 1500 BCE ???? (Vagvisarga TMB,XX,14,2) "In
the beginning was Brahman, with whom was Vak or the word and the
word is Brahman "
Suspecting that you are perhaps more so interested in the references
to the Gospel of Thomas mentioned in early text (as opposed to
actual or near quotes found in such texts) I might contribute (if
useful) that Clement of Alexandria (150 211 C.E.) produced a now
lost book called Hypotyposis which seemingly contained "secret
teachings" (wow!) taught by Jesus to some of his apostles following
his resurrection. The details of the secret teachings referred to by
him in his Hypotyposes, however, are not currently known to us
(Andrew Bernhard might clarify the detail of this), but depending on
how young Clement was when he wrote his Hypotyposis, his quotes
could in fact pre-date Origen's Contra Celsum as your candidate
for "earliest sourcer" re Thomas i.e. pre 172 CE
By the way, in which of his books does Perrin draw his thesis about
the Diatessaron ??????