Gathercole’s Commentary on the Gospel of Thomas
I’ve just finished a review of Simon Gathercole’s commentary on the Gospel of Thomas (for Journal of Ecclesiastical History), and it’s an impressive piece of work: The Gospel of Thomas. Introduction and Commentary. Texts and Editions for New Testament Study, 11. Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2015. At well over 700 pages, it’s weighty, but in contents as well as bulk. Indeed, I’d say that it is now the major commentary on this much-written-about and fascinating early Christian text. (I noted the book’s publication in an earlier posting here.)
In his 183-page Introduction (comprising twelve chapters), Gathercole addresses all the major questions with admirable clarity and cogency: comparison of the Greek fragments and Coptic text; early references to the text; original language (Greek); provenance (difficult to judge); date of composition (second century CE); structure and genre (“mixed,” a “sayings Gospel” the best descriptor); religious outlook (elitist, ascetic, harsh toward Judaism and “non-Thomasine” Christians); and relation to the NT Gospels and historical Jesus (dependence on the Synoptics, possibility of also preserving “agrapha” of Jesus).
Thereafter, Gathercole gives detailed discussion of each of the 114 “Logia” of the text. He interacts with previous scholarly proposals about what the (often esoteric) sayings might have meant in the second-century setting of the text, giving cogent reasons for his own judgments and candidly admitting that some sayings simply elude any confident judgment about meaning.
A 55-page bibliography (indicative of the huge amount of scholarly publication on the text), and indexes complete this work, which will be an essential (though eye-wateringly expensive) acquisition for libraries supporting research on early Christianity.