Gilles Quispel, who has contributed to the study of Gnosis (Valentinus de gnosticus en het Evangelie der Waarheid
) and Hermetica (Corpus Hermeticum
) with his text editions for the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica, has now given a new impetus to the study of Early Christianity by means of a new translation, with a commentary of what is also known as 'the fifth gospel', the Gospel of Thomas.
The Gospel of Thomas, which contains 114 logoi or Words of Jesus, was one of the gospels which circulated in the first centuries CE. It was re-discovered only in 1945 among the codices found at Nag Hammadi in Egypt. The Gospel of Thomas was written in Edessa, a city in Mesopotamia, around 140, but is based on two earlier sources, an Alexandrian and a Judaean source. The latter can be dated to ca. 40 CE, making it the earliest known Christian source, older than the Logienquelle (Q) which fed the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. The Judaean source often gives a truer representation of the words once spoken by Jesus than the canonical gospels. It also appears that Jesus himself never called the Pharisees 'hypocrites'.
Gilles Quispel's new edition of Het Evangelie van Thomas does not only offer a complete translation from the Coptic text of Thomas, but also provides a commentary to each logion, whereby Quispel traces the source (Judaean or Alexandrian) and offers a context for each Word of Jesus, noting where possible also parallels and/or deviations in relation to the canonical gospels and other early Christian sources such as Clemens Alexandrinus' Stromateis (2nd century) and the pseudo-Clementine, Judaean-Christian Homiliae and Recognitiones (early 3rd century). These pseudo-Clementine writings have preserved much of the original Christianity. Quispel points out that the New Testament offers a highly one-sided picture of Early Christianity, because it is focussed on Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles, who ended his life in Rome. He shows that the Jesus of the Gospel of Thomas was a wisdom teacher; the eschatology of the canonical gospels is altogether absent in Thomas.
The logia are preceded by an introduction situating the Gospel of Thomas in the history of Christianity, and followed by a conclusion, in which Quispel recapitulates his findings.