In December 1945, at the base of cliffs that run along the Nile River near the modern-day town of Nag Hammadi, an Egyptian farmer discovered a sealed jar containing the ancient text of the Gospel of Thomas. At the time, this discovery represented arguably the most significant manuscript discovery of the twentieth century for the study of the New Testament and Christian origins. The Gospel of Thomas is among the most controversial writings related to early Christianity. Some scholars argue that it attests to a lost Christianity, while others argue that it is a later Gnostic offshoot. This debate directly impacts the doctrine of inspiration, canon formation, and the very essence of the message of Jesus.
This classic book presents the best text and the best translation of Thomas in user-friendly form. Additional chapters provide a general introduction to the Gospel of Thomas and tell the fascinating story of that discovery itself by one who was directly involved in bringing this new text to light. This new edition features updated material which takes account of recent research on the Gospel of Thomas. The translation has been refined at points, and the bibliographical material updated. This new edition also includes an annotated bibliography for further reading to provide readers with a guide to the most important current research on this important document.
Professor Patterson offers in this new edition the best general introduction to the Gospel of Thomas I have ever read: his is a well-balanced, academically solid, and yet accessible, synthesis, effectively placing the core of this Gospel into an intellectual milieu of the late first century, colored by Middle Platonism and Jewish wisdom traditions.
—Ismo Dunderberg, professor of New Testament, University of Helsinki
The perfect introduction to the Gospel of Thomas. The Fifth Gospel includes a definitive discussion of Thomas’ literary features, theology, and historical significance; a thrilling account of the text’s discovery and publication; and what is probably the best, clearest, and most accessible translation of this ancient, non-canonical account of Jesus’ words. A wonderful resource for those approaching Thomas for the first time, but a valuable tool for scholars as well.
—William Arnal, associate professor of religious studies, University of Regina, Canada
This is an excellent new presentation of the Gospel of Thomas for a general audience, and it will be a very useful textbook.
—Religious Studies Review
I hardly thought there was need for a new translation of the Gospel of Thomas until I read this one . . . this translation . . . advances the grace and ease of translation more than any previous one. . . . This translation also distinguishes itself by clarifying some of the more obscure and difficult readings of the Gospel of Thomas. Although scholars may disagree with the readings, the general reading public will find them more accessible. . . . In all, this is an excellent translation.
—Review of Biblical Literature
Stephen J. Patterson is George H. Atkinson Professor of Religious and Ethical Studies at Williamette University in Salem Oregon. He was formerly professor of New Testament at Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis.
Hans-Gebhard Bethge is professor of New Testament at the Humboldt University in Berlin and author of The Gospel According to Thomas (4 vols.).
James M. Robinson is the editor of The Nag Hammadi Library in English, 4th rev. ed..