By Fr. J. H. CREHAN, S.J.
READERS who may have read and been puzzled by "The great discovery of the Gospel of Thomas—the New Sayings of Jesus" featured by the "Sunday Times", w ill have read last week's comment in the "Catholic Herald" by Fr. J. H. Crehan, S.J. This week Fr. Crehan reviews the latest publication on the subject. Fr. Crehan writes: THE team of researchers who
have produced this edition * of the Gnostic gospel make no reference to an interesting article by Professor Grant of Chicago, who would ascribe the original work to the sect known as the Naasencs or Ophites (literally, the serpentlovers).
This sect was attacked by St. Irenaeus at the end of the 2nd century, and one of the nicknames used for it was "the migrants". It is not surprising to read in the new work Saying 42, which runs, "Jesus said : Become passers-by," almost a direct invitation to join the new sect.
In spite of expressing dislike of the Jews in several places the Sayings show reverence for James of Jerusalem. The disciples are represented as asking who is to be great over them and are told: "Wherever you arrive you will go to lames the Just, for whose sake heaven and earth were made." This is a typically Jewish idea, and was claimed for Moses by the Jews. Yet again, in the very next section there is an elaborate dialogue given which sets out a parellel to the Confession of St. Peter, but this time the hero is not James but Thomas.
When Peter and Matthew have tried to say who Christ was. Thomas is asked and replies like a true Gnostic that he cannot say what Jesus is like. After a mysterious rebuke, Jesus speaks three words secretly to him and the others ask what these were.
Thomas answers': "If I told you one of them you would take ups stones and throw them at me, and the stones would burst into flame and burn you up."
FROM all this it is quite clear 4 that the sect wanted to be able to show that their hero. Thomas, had been favoured by Jesus in the same way as the ordinary Christian knew (from Matthew's gospel) that St. Peter had been. It is a notable testimony to the importance set on that episode of Peter's Confession in the 2nd century. Where these Sayings repeat the words of the gospel, as in the words, "the foxes have their holes etc.," the new work appears to have the same wording as the existing Coptic version of the New Testament, but in some places there are subtle changes of wording. As the Coptic version of the New Testament was made about the end of the 2nd century. it is
Concluded at foot of column 6