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The Gospel of Thomas: The Hidden Sayings of Jesus Hardcover – Deckle Edge, April 27, 2004

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Editorial Reviews Review

The gospel according to Thomas is an ancient collection of sayings attributed to Jesus and thought to be recorded by his brother Judas, the Twin (Thomas means "twin" in Aramaic). Some scholars suggest that this gospel was collected from New Testament sayings, while others believe it springs from a completely independent author because many of the quotations are not in the New Testament at all. It slept for two millennia in a stone jar until it was accidentally exhumed by a group of fertilizer gatherers in the northern Egyptian desert in 1945. (The gospel is just one document in the fourth-century papyrus library discovered near the city of Nag Hammadi, from which the entire collection gets its name.) Marvin Meyer's distinguished translation includes Coptic text on each left page and the English translation on the right. It is considered by many to be perhaps the closest we'll ever get to reading what was actually said by the historical Jesus. In The Gospel of Thomas, you'll discover a different kind of Christ--a wandering spiritual teacher from Galilee who performs no miracles, reveals little prophecy, announces no apocalypse, and dies for no one's sins. --P. Randall Cohan


"Best known of the Nag Hammadi manuscripts (a collection buried c. 370 C.E. and found accidentally by an Egyptian farmer in 1945), the Gospel of Thomas confronts readers with sayings attributed to a Jesus who seems more like a Zen master ('Split a piece of wood; I am there') than either a political messiah or incarnate god.... Many historians of religion now think the Gospel of Thomas is the nearing surviving approximation to Q, a hypothetical collection of material about Jesus believed to have been used as a source by the authors of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the so-called 'synoptic' gospel. Thomas, however, contains no stories about Jesus, but instead consists of a compilation of 114 sayings attributed to him.... Free as it is from the encrustation of orthodoxy, the Gospel of Thomas can take the reader, as much as any book can, directly to an enigmatic teacher who walked out of Galilee two millennia ago." -- Gnosis

"Discovered among the gnostic texts found in Egypt in 1945, this gospel from Thomas gives the reader a fresh vision of Christ's teachings. Free of dogma, Zen-like wisdom graces the pages of this scholarly yet immensely readable work...superbly presented." -- NAPRA Trade Journal

"In this book an excellent, very readable translation of the Gospel of Thomas accompanies a new edition of the Coptic text and learned notes." -- Birger Pearson, University of California, Santa Barbara, Religious Studies Review

"The Gospel of Thomas, a collection of 114 sayings of Jesus, is one of the Nag Hammadi gnostic texts discovered in 1945 in upper Egypt. The collection belongs to the genre of wisdom sayings, and some of the sayings parallel those of Jesus in the synoptic gospels and Q. Professor Meyer, professor of religion at Chapman University, presents a critically established Coptic text and a new English translation on facing pages. He also provides an introduction and notes. Also included is a brief appreciation by Harold Bloom." -- Theology Digest

"Thomas tells us more about the historical Jesus than all of the Dead Sea Scrolls put together. A superb presentation of the most important early Christian text discovered in this century." -- John Dominic Crossan, author of The Historical Jesus

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne; 2nd Revised edition (April 27, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006065581X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060655815
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (95 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #97,607 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Marvin Meyer is one of the foremost scholars on gnosticism, the Nag Hammadi library, and texts about Jesus outside the New Testament.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

141 of 146 people found the following review helpful By Michael Lima VINE VOICE on June 5, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The first verse of the Gospel of Thomas tells the reader that whoever understands the gospel's sayings will not "...taste death." It is a clear message that understanding these sayings of Jesus is key to one's spiritual growth. Thus, the onus is on the interpreter to create both an effective translation and a context to evaluate the sayings in order to facilitate this growth. Meyer does a marvelous job of meeting these demands.
The book's introduction gives the reader excellent background information on the discovery and authorship of the text. The translation of the text itself is bolstered by the very helpful notes listed after the gospel. The notes made it very easy to cross-reference the gospel's text with similar passages in the New Testament's four gospels. Finally, Harold Bloom provides an interesting commentary that's useful for reflection on the gospel's themes.
There is no guarantee that reading the Gospel of Thomas as translated by Meyer will provide the spiritual enlightenment that many people seek. However, Meyer does his best to allow the reader to discover this enlightenment by not clutter the text with his own views and biases. The result is that Meyer's interpretation is a perfect way to learn about and evaluate this important "lost" book of Christianity.
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109 of 116 people found the following review helpful By Robert on April 26, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I have used this book as a study with my congregation and the members of the class found it both engaging and helpful. While not a 'traditional' gospel in the manner of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, it is a unique, though not entirely foreign, look at the sayings of Jesus.
There are several translations of the Gospel of Thomas available and I have found this particular one to be very straightforward, no nonsense, with little of the editorializing that sometimes slips into other translations. It has a brief but informative introduction and would serve the 'average' reader well.
As to the comment in a previous review that this book was written by the 'doubting Thomas'of the Gospel of John, I would hope that most people realize such an assertion is hog wash.Read the introduction to the book and get a more informative perspective on authorship.
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131 of 143 people found the following review helpful By Lawrance Bernabo HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on April 7, 2001
Format: Hardcover
In 1945 a couple of Egyptians digging in the Nile River valley found a sealed storage jar that contained a collection of fifty-two ancient manuscripts, most of which were devoted to the teachings of Gnosticism, early Christians who believed that matter is evil and that emancipation comes through "gnosis" (the Greek word for "knowledge"). The Gnostic inner quest for spiritual understanding put them at odds with the authority of the Church in the first, formative centuries of Christianity. It is not surprising that the Gnostic writings were suppressed by the early Church and were really only known to us through the writings of their opponents. The discovery of these manuscripts allows us to read what these early Christians were thinking and to judge for ourselves the value of their beliefs.
Marvin W. Meyer has provided new English translations of several of the most important and revealing of these early Christian texts. Of these, the Gospel of Thomas is the most interesting. Biblical scholars have long maintained that one of the source documents for the Gospels was a collection of sayings that was integrated with the Gospel of Mark to produce the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. The Gospel of Thomas is an example of such a collection, providing dozens of sayings attributed to Jesus. For example, Saying 75: "I am the light that is over all things. I am all: all came forth from me, and all attained to me. Split a piece of wood, and I am there. Pick up a stone, and you will find me there." The words might be different, but certainly the idea is recognizable, which is true of the vast majority of 144 Sayings collected in the Gospel of Thomas.
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173 of 195 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 30, 1998
Format: Hardcover
The Gospel of Thomas was found in 1945 along with the Nag Hammadi Library near the town of Nag Hammadi in Egypt. It's text dates back some 1600 years. The gospel contains many sayings which are found in the New Testament Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke & John). However, it also includes many sayings never found before. Unlike the other gospels, "The Gospel of Thomas" has no story line but instead focuses on the specific sayings of Jesus Christ. There are 114 sayings, spoken by Jesus and recorded by Judas Thomas the twin. Many have come to know this man as Thomas the disciple or "doubting Thomas". Either way the fact that it was written by one of the twelve disiples adds credibility to the text. As far as the translation goes; in the preface, Marvin Meyer explains his careful use of coptic text to translate the document. Nothing is added, nor is anything taken out. What a relief for christians seeking the truth! I highly recommend this book, however, I would advise skipping the reading by Harold Bloom.
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31 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Rev. F. Mark Mealing, Ph.D. on June 12, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a lucid, fluent, plain-English translation. Few readers will use the Coptic source text, but there it is for those who can appreciate such things. Book design & presentation aid reader access. A valuable book for historians, religious scholars & wise general readers.
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