a Latin version of Thomas?
- Logion 52 of the Coptic Gospel of Thomas reads as follows:
His disciples said to Him, "Twenty-four prophets spoke in Israel, and all of them spoke in You." He said to them, "You have omitted the one living in your presence and have spoken (only) of the dead." (Lambdin's translation)"
This saying lacks very close parallels in the canonical Gospels. There is, however, one close parallel to this saying which is found in Latin in the writings of Augustine (Contra adversarium legis et prophetum) which reads:
“But when the apostles (so he said) asked what was to be thought of the Jewish prophets who, as men assumed, in the past proclaimed His coming, our Lord answered, under the impression that they still cherished such opinions: ‘You have rejected the Living One who stands before you and talked fables (prattled) about the dead.’”
The parallels between these two versions are fairly close. The actual words of Jesus are very similar in both cases:
GTh 52: "You have omitted the one living in your presence and have spoken (only) of the dead."
Augustine: ‘You have rejected the Living One who stands before you and talked fables (prattled) about the dead.’
Note that the unusual term “living one” (or "one living") appears in both versions. The two accounts also agree in adding the point that the living one is “in your presence” (or “stands before you”), a point which is not integral to the saying.
Augustine was responding to an anonymous Marcionite tract current in Carthage around 420. While the author of the Marcionite tract could have been familiar with a Greek or Coptic version of Logion 52 of the Gospel of Thomas, the text Augustine quotes at least raises the possibility that the author of the Marcionite tract knew a Latin version of Thomas. Augustine, however, says that he does not know the provenance of this saying and, moreover, a Latin translation of Thomas would have left other traces in the writings of other early church Latin authors, which seem to be lacking.
Saying 52 notwithstanding, the evidence on the whole therefore suggests that a Latin translation of the Gospel of Thomas either never existed or, if one did exist, it was never widely circulated.
- Kevin Johnson
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