Item description for Thomas, the Other Gospel by Nicholas Perrin...
Overview Since its discovery in the mid-1940s, the Gospel of Thomas has aroused the interest of scholars and general readers alike. Thomas, the Other Gospel provides a clear, comprehensive, nontechnical guide through the scholarly maze of issues surrounding the Coptic text. In it, Nicholas Perrin argues that the Gospel derives not from the era of Jesus or even the apostles but from the late second century AD. Further, contrary to what many scholars believe, he maintains that the Gospel was originally written in Syriac rather than in Greek, and he concludes that the real value of the Gospel of Thomas lies not in what it might be thought to say about the "real Jesus" but in what it tells us about early Christianity.
Since its discovery in the mid-1940s, the "Gospel of Thomas" has aroused the interest of scholars and general readers alike. "Thomas, the Other Gospel" provides a clear, comprehensive, nontechnical guide through the scholarly maze of issues surrounding the Coptic text. Nicholas Perrin argues that the Gospel derives not from the era of Jesus or even the apostles but from the late second century CE. Further, contrary to what many scholars believe, he maintains that the Gospel was originally written in Syriac rather than in Greek, and he concludes that the real value of the "Gospel of Thomas" lies not in what it might be thought to say about the "real Jesus" but in what it tells us about early Christianity.
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Studio: Westminster John Knox Press
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 8.47" Width: 5.72" Height: 0.42" Weight: 0.55 lbs.
Release Date Jun 14, 2007
Publisher PRESBYTERIAN PUBLISHING #86
ISBN 0664232116 ISBN13 9780664232115
Availability 0 units.
More About Nicholas Perrin
Nicholas Perrin (PhD, Marquette University) is Franklin S. Dyrness Professor of Biblical Studies at Wheaton College Graduate School in Wheaton, Illinois. His numerous books include "Jesus the Temple," "Thomas: The Other Gospel," and "Lost in Transmission? What We Can Know about the Words of Jesus."
Reviews - What do customers think about Thomas, the Other Gospel?
Brilliant--best commentary on the Gospel of Thomas. Ever. Mar 9, 2008
From now on, any scholar wanting to place the Gospel of Thomas in the 1st century is going to have to contend with this book.
In this short, readable book Perrin destroys the multiple conjectures of the Jesus Seminar, of DeConick, Pagels, etc, about Thomas having early material embedded in it. Perrin insists--and proves, I believe--that Thomas dates to 170-200 AD, and no earlier.
From the first, Thomas has been a source of contention. Among other speculations: that the asceticism looks like 2nd and 3rd century Syrian, that the author didn't seem to know Mark, that the privileging of sayings over narrative might indicate an earlier oral source.
Bultmann, whose cast a long shadow over 20th century scholarship, believed that "when Jesus preached the kingdom, he was not preaching a historic event...(but) an existential reality (p 32)." And Perrin notes, what "better vindication of Bultmann's Jesus than the Gospel of Thomas" (p 33) which was all sayings, with no nonsense about a resurrection.
Pagels argued that Thomas was earlier than the gospel of John, and John was written in response to Thomas. There are major problems with this speculation, among them that John does not present Thomas in a bad light and that we have not the smallest shred of evidence of there being a Thomasine community. Not to mention "two of the sayings...are traceable to second century contexts" (p 48).
Another major problem with Pagels' thesis is its close connection with her own opposition to authority. With keen insight, Perrin wonders "if Pagels has made Thomas and John don uniforms and re-enact a particular contemporary western religio-cultural conflict" (p 51), a conflict that would not make sense for the ancient world.
DeConick's arguments are just as poor. She says that as long as Jesus was present in spirit, the Thomasine community felt no interest in Jesus' life and actual history. Personally, I find this idiotic. She says "'certainly there was never a singular point of origin'" (p 58) such as the resurrection.
Instead, basing her arguments mostly on a comment from a 3rd century source, she ends up speculating about a community with no reason to start a movement, and therefore, no reason to exist. Nor has she an answer to why the four gospels combine biography, sayings, and action, while Thomas preserves nothing but a few scattered sayings.
Nor do any of their arguments connect with Paul, whose epistles contradict everything they argue. And Paul's epistles are the very earliest documents of Christianity that we have.
Here is where Pagels and DeConick and others truly come to grief because "how could Jesus followers so willfully ignore th facts that were so easily verifiable through eyewitness testimony?" (p 67). When Paul wrote, James, the brother of Jesus, was still alive. So were most of the people who has seen and heard Jesus. And nobody thought to ask or check the facts? This is simply not convincing.
After this start, Perrin goes on to show how Thomas was derived from Tatian. And, actually, this does fit much better with Thomas than speculations about an early sayings gospel. It explains the use of catchwords. It explains how Thomas promotes poverty, vegetarianism, and a horror of sex. After all, Tatian opposed marriage, and Syriac Christianity took its distinctive shape from Tatian. It also ties in well with Tatian's contention of God's ultimate unknowability.
There is a clear, unbroken line, Hegesippus and Irenaeus claim, in "an unbroken succession of bishops going back to the apostles" ( p 118) that protected the doctrine and authority of the church. What else could those who were not in communion with the great church do but try to subvert it with false gospels?
A Refreshing Change! Feb 6, 2008
In the first decade after its discovery in 1945 amid the sands of Egypt along with over a dozen other ancient texts, the Gospel of Thomas was overshadowed by its more famous cousins discovered near the Dead Sea in 1947. Now that the storm over the long-unpublished texts from Qumran, Cave Four has passed by, it appears that scholarly attention has turned to this most famous of the Coptic texts in the Nag Hammadi Library. The so-called Gospel of Thomas (GT) has emerged as the darling of the "lost Christianities" crowd of (mostly) American scholars, many of whom are also associated with the Jesus Seminar. This text, consisting of 114 sayings of Jesus supposedly preserved by the apostle Thomas, has been the subject of a large number of best-selling books. Consider Elaine Pagels, whose popular works on GT have appeared on the best-seller lists for over a decade. Her current one is titled "Beyond Belief." The popularity of the GT among scholars in the Jesus Seminar stems from the fact that a sayings Gospel like GT appears to be similar to the hypothetical "Q" document that was supposedly a sayings Gospel as well.
Many Evangelicals have tended to stay away from this discussion, even contemptuously casting the whole matter aside. But it is not OUR books that are on the best seller lists - it is Pagels and Karen King and Bart Ehrman who command a large readership today. And they often present an apparently cogent argument for a first century date for this document - a fact that Nick Perrin allows. But he is not willing to let this assault on traditional views of Jesus to go any longer unnoticed. He has taken the battle to them with a hard-hitting and scholarly satisfying work that takes the measure of the most popular forms of Thomas scholarship, and finds them wanting.
Nicholas Perrin teaches at Wheaton Graduate School and once served as NT Wright's research assistant after receiving his doctorate from Marquette University. His dissertation was on the GT and was published as Thomas and Tatian (Brill, 2002). This new book is a more popular and accessible work and takes into account the most recent writings of three GT authors, Stephen Patterson, Elaine Pagels, and April DeConick, as well as a host of others influenced by the Bultmannian school (Helmut Koester, James Robinson, e.g.).
Perrin's work is a model of thorough scholarship expressed in a felicitous style. He is eminently fair to those with whom he disagrees, even pointing out the valuable arguments of the three Thomas scholars and acknowledges them when they are correct in their observations. But Perrin mounts a withering attack on the supposed first century date of the GT, and brings his considerable knowledge of both Coptic and Syriac to bear on the questions of both the dating and the conceptual world in which the author of the GT lived and wrote. One surprising observation is that Perrin does not see the GT as part of the Gnostic movement of the second century. He does place it, however, within an ascetic movement that was prevalent in Edessan Syria at the end of the second century.
In this reviewer's opinion, he has established beyond cavil the fact that the author of GT drew on the first gospel harmony, the Diatessaron by Tatian, which was completed in Syria around 173 A.D. He does this by a detailed comparison between some Jesus sayings as preserved in Tatian's Diatessaron and how they are expressed in GT. The sayings are closer to the Diatessaron than to the canonical Gospels. He also illustrates that the aberrant theology of Tatian, a mix of Hermeticism and anti-Jewish mysticism, can be clearly discerned in GT.
The conclusion is simple. If the GT was penned after 173 AD, it does not derive from the first century and its value as another source for understanding the "real" Jesus is sorely diminished! Furthermore, while it may be a valuable source for understanding Syrian Christianity in the late second century, it pales in value before the eye-witness testimony of the canonical Gospels, each of which dates from the first century.
Perrin's painstaking search for the "real" Gospel of Thomas reads like a scholarly detective story. After he has finished his scholarly destruction of the first century date for GT, Perrin has some perceptive comments about the Jesus that emerges from the document. He is a teacher who does no miracles, who does not die and rise again, who has shed all of his Jewish context, and who provides no objective saving of anyone, but points us to know ourselves from within. His personal comments at the end of his own search are quite perceptive.
"Somehow, I suspect, we have heard this message before. The Gospel of Thomas invites us to imagine a Jesus who says, `I am not your saviour, but the one who can put you in touch with your true self. Free yourself from your gender, from your body, and any concerns you might have for the outside world. Work for it and self-realization, salvation will be yours - in this life.' Imagine such a Jesus? One need hardly work very hard.(is this a veiled reference to a John Lennon song?) This is precisely the Jesus we know too well, the existential Jesus that so many western evangelical and liberal churches already preach. Perhaps the original Thomas community was pleased to have a Jesus who could be divested of his Jewish story and domesticated to their way of seeing things. Perhaps too the early church fathers rejected this sayings collection because they had little patience for anyone or anything that might confuse their hope of a new creation with something approaching a Christianized self-help philosophy." (139)
We owe Nicholas Perrin a great debt for his meticulous research and for sharing the results with lay readers in an understandable way. It is highly recommend for readers who may be unduly impressed with a writing that well-deserved its rejection by the Great Church in the third and fourth centuries.