The Gospel of Thomas


Structure of the Sayings

One of the pioneering achievements of the scholars of l'Association Metanoia was to identify that the sayings in the Gospel of Thomas are made up from short phrases. By following their example it can be seen that the Gospel is a record of speech, for this is a characteristic of Semitic speech that Jesus would have used. It is quite different from the Greek form of language with its long sentences comprising linked clauses, which we have inherited. This difference can be seen most clearly by looking at the Lord's Prayer (it is 6:9 - 13 in Matthew's Gospel) and the Farewell Discourses presented in John's Gospel ch.14 ∓ 15. This manner of speaking would have made it easier to commit the sayings to memory.

What is so surprising is that this characteristic is so strong that it has survived translation from the original spoken Aramaic or Greek, through Coptic and into a modern language (if translated faithfully).

However, further consideration shows that Jesus used these phrases in several different ways in building up his sayings. Sometimes he arranged them in an hierarchical sequence, with the significance steadily increasing to the final one. An example is logion 2:

gospel of thomas translated and discussed by hugh ross

In other sayings he made contrasting pairs, in which the distinctive feature is that the the second phrase serves to heighten the impact of the first. This can be seen in the latter part of logion 3:

gospel of thomas translated and discussed by hugh ross

A third way in which Jesus used these short phrases was to create a kind of rhythm. What is important here is to recognize where the emphasis lies in each of the phrases. This can be sensed specially in the second half of logion 22:

gospel of thomas translated and discussed by hugh ross

The recognition of this phrase structure that Jesus used assists greatly in discerning the import of the hidden inner meanings of his parables.

Jesus untouched by the ChurchGo to this book that presents all the sayings structed in this way.