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Paul and the Gospel of Thomas (Part I)

March 2, 2010

What is the relationship, if any, between the writings of Paul and the Thomas sayings tradition? I am currently finishing an article on this topic for a volume that will be coming out later this year. Very little has been written on this topic over the years, though Simon Gathercole has recently provided a helpful article on the subject (see “The Influence of Paul on the Gospel of Thomas [53.3 and 17]’, in J. Frey, E. E. Popkes, and J. Schroter, eds., Das Thomasevangelium: Entstehung – Rezeption – Theologie [BZNW 157; Berlin: de Gruyter, 2008], 72-94).

Apart from the occasional footnote or passing reference to potential parallels between the two, Thomas scholars have had little to say about the possibilities of a genetic relationship between Paul and Thomas, and Pauline scholars have virtually ignored Thomas altogether. Gathercole comments, “I am not aware of a single article or book on the subject” (p. 72).  This fact makes it even more difficult to approach the topic and allows for precious few conversation partners. Add to this that there is little consensus on the major issues in Thomasine studies and the prospects for exploring a possible relationship between Paul and the Gospel of Thomas seem even more tenuous. I find myself in substantial agreement with Gathercole’s conclusion that there are a handful of instances where the Gospel of Thomas‘s knowledge of Pauline traditions can be detected, but I believe this thesis can be taken a step further.

Over the next few weeks I plan to investigate this subject further in a series of posts. I also hope to consider how different Pauline traditions have been modified, reworked, or completely rejected in the light of Thomas‘s peculiar theological interests. Stay tuned for more.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. March 3, 2010 12:49 am

    I am looking forward to these posts. A few weeks ago I was thinking about this. So much discussion on the relationship between Thomas and the canonical Gospels yet nothing on Paul. The Gathercole reference has now pushed my list up from 0.

  2. matthewdavidlarsen permalink
    March 3, 2010 12:03 pm


    I am stay tuned to hear your thoughts. Interesting series.


    • matthewdavidlarsen permalink
      March 3, 2010 12:05 pm

      Pardon my grammatical snafus. That’s “I will stay tuned …” not “I am stay tuned …”, as I am not making some silly ontological claim. 🙂

  3. Frank McCoy permalink
    March 3, 2010 9:27 pm

    Perhaps the source for Th 14.4b-c is I Cor 10:27a,c:
    1. I Cor 10:27a eis tis kalei humas (If anyone invites you)
    Th 14.4b If they receive you
    2. I Cor 10:27c pan to paratithemenon humin estheite (everything set before you eat)
    Th 14.4c What they set under you, eat it

    Note that, despite their different languages, I Cor 10:27a,c and Th 14.4b-c share this common structure:
    If anyone/they invites/receive you…everything/what they will set under/put before you eat (it).

    Because of the common structure to I Cor 10:27a,c and Th 14.4b-c, there likely is a direct literary relationship between them. Further, because we know that I Cor 10:27a,c is early (c. 55 CE) and appears, in its context, to be a free composition of Paul, the likely relationship between them, if real, is that of Th 14.4b-c being based on I Cor 10:27a,c.
    Frank McCoy
    BA History

  4. Angela permalink
    March 8, 2010 5:03 pm


    I too, will stay tuned!!

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