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The Gospel of Thomas: A New Commentary

August 5, 2014

A new introduction and commentary on the Gospel of Thomas was published earlier this year:  Simon J. Gathercole, The Gospel of Thomas:  Introduction and Commentary (Leiden:  Brill, 2014).  Such detailed studies of the many fascinating extra-canonical texts of early Christianity are so few that it is a cause for celebration whenever one appears.  And in this case, it’s from a scholar with an established record of earlier and respected publications on this particular text.

You can see the publisher’s information here.  Again, as with so many good scholarly books in the field, this one is prohibitively expensive.  But one hopes that in due course a soft-back edition will be released and people other than Bill Gates will be able to purchase it!

You can see a brief interview with Gathercole about the book here.

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  1. “I have read some stuff on the historical Jesus, not a great deal.”

    Didn’t you just post a lengthy rant on all of the journals, articles and books you’ve read in the Scholarly Work and the “Blogosphere” thread?

    Why is it that in every thread posted on this blog you have some sort of smug cynical and skeptical reply to the OP? What’s with the chip on your shoulder?

    • Donald Jacobs permalink

      I have been honest no more no less. Professor Hurtado suggested some of his readers could do with reading some of his work before posting comments. So I thought I’d let him know what I’ve read and when. He can call me wrong or ignorant if he likes, but he can’t accuse me of not reading his books! So it was not a boast it was just a fact. None of Hurtado’s books that I have read are about the historical Jesus as such, so they are two different things, and it’s no contradiction to say I’ve not read much historical Jesus scholarship. I have read “Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium” by Ehrman, and sceptical books by Robert M. Price, Earl Doherty, Randel Helms, and Richard Carrier. But I have copies of the Sanders and Allison (not Bond) books on my shelf, so I’ll have a look at them.

      • “and sceptical books by Robert M. Price, Earl Doherty, Randel Helms, and Richard Carrier”

        Oooh. That explains everything including your constant aggressive behavior towards Prof. Hurtado, and your apparent belief that mainstream NT scholarship is controlled by some sort of Christian Illuminati.

    • Donald Jacobs permalink

      I don’t think any of those authors have any interest in conspiracy theories or illuminati. Have you read any of their stuff? I forgot to say I’ve also read both Ehrman’s and Casey’s defense of Jesus’ historicity too. Mythicism ultimately might not carry the day, but it certainly deserves better engagement than biblical and religious scholars have hitherto given it. However the historical Jesus is not my favourite subject. I prefer reading about textual criticism, paleography, Christology, secularisation, sociology of religion and so on. Hence my interest in Professor Hurtado’s blog. Just a shame I’ve come to disagree with almost every significant position he’s adopted because of the evidence.

      • Gee, Donald. You have the “evidence” and I guess all I have is nonsense. Where have you demonstrated your expertise in the field, in which publications? What ideas have you contributed? What positions have you established, or overthrown, and had the recognition of scholars that you’ve done so?
        You disagree “because of the evidence”. Give me a break!

      • Jason permalink

        Yes, I’ve read them, and yes, what they’re promoting is a conspiracy theory. And Carrier has made it very clear that one of his primary goals for writing and publishing is to “defeat the nonsense and lies” that is Christianity (see his From Taoist to Infidel essay here: As far as I know, Helms and Doherty have no academic qualifications in NT or early Christian studies, and Price should honestly stick with the Cthulhu stuff.

        Now that I know that you’re sympathetic to mythicism, that chip on your shoulder and your constant uninformed provocation of Prof. Hurtado makes perfect sense.

  2. Donald Jacobs permalink

    Didn’t you call it an example of a so-called gnostic text?

    I have read some stuff on the historical Jesus, not a great deal. Can you tell me which you think makes the best case for the gospels being reliable sources and I’ll definitely check it out!

    • Donald: In the posting and in my discussion in LJC I don’t call GThomas a “gnostic” text, contrary to your false assertion. If, somewhere, I’ve referred to it as a “so-called gnostic text”, that obviously refers to what some others have said, and the syntax obviously shows the claim isn’t mine.
      As for historical Jesus studies, I still think that E.P. Sanders, Jesus and Judaism is a good place to start; or E. P. Sanders, The Historical Figure of Jesus (London: Penguin Press, 1993)
      or, more recently, Dale C. Allison Jr., Constructing Jesus: Memory, Imagination, and History (Grand Rapids: Bake Academic, 2010). Or, if you want something smaller, Helen K. Bond, The Historical Jesus: A Guide for the Perplexed (London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2012).

  3. Donald Jacobs permalink

    In your last post I think you called the gospel of Thomas a gnostic text, but I notice in the interview Gathercole didn’t call it a gnostic text. My Coptic tutor told me that in his view there is little to be gained from calling it a gospel text. Isn’t calling it a gnostic text just a way of stigmatising it and making the other gospels “look good” by comparison. Gathercole says we can’t tell anything about the historical Jesus from this gospel. If I could say something to him I would simply ask him: can you be so sure the other gospels actually tell you anything about a real historical figure either?

    • Uh, Donald. Here’s another tip: Try reading my posts before you criticize them. I don’t characterize GThomas as “gnostic” in my latest post. And elsewhere, in my extended discussion of GThomas in my book, Lord Jesus Christ (pp.452-79), likewise, I don’t use the “g” word. Instead, I characterize it as esoteric and elitist in tone/emphasis.
      As to you final statement, surely you know the many reasons that historically-minded scholars treat the Gospels as valid sources to mine for information about the historical figure of Jesus. If not, there are lots of books that could inform you.

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