There are people who find inspiration in the Jesus who walked through towns, speaking to people and teaching them. People who want to connect to the ‘original Jesus’ as a Rabbi, Sage, Teacher.
Gospel of Thomas is arguably (and it IS argued quite a bit) one of the most accurate portrayals of what the early teachings of Jesus were like. It contains no narrative, no imaginative framework, no death for sins and no miraculous resurrection. Many professional biblical scholars have demonstrated it’s independence from the other Gospels and have posited that it is even possible Mark was derived from Thomas.
This paper done by Stevan Davies, Professor of Religious studies, includes the reasons why Thomas deserves an early date (earlier than the other gospels of Mark, Matthew, Luke and John). http://users.misericordia.edu/davies/thomas/tomark1.htm
In that Essay, Davies quotes some work of another highly respected scholar – Stephen Patterson;
As for the date of Thomas, Patterson (1993:120) argues that
While the cumulative nature of a sayings collection understandably makes the Gospel of Thomas difficult to date with precision, several factors weigh in favor of a date well before the end of the first century: the way which Thomas appeals to the authority of particular prominent figures (Thomas, James) against the competing claims of others (Peter, Matthew); its genre, the sayings collection, which seems to have declined in importance after the emergence of the more biographical and dialogical forms near the end of the first century; and its primitive christology, which seems to presuppose a theological climate more primitive even than the later sayings of the synoptic sayings gospel, Q. Together these factors suggest a date for Thomas in the vicinity of 70-80 C.E.
These are solid lines of reasoning. When scholars put forth a later date for Thomas they generally do so because Thomas is said to show the influence of gnostic ideas. However, even if this were so it would not be determinative of a date, only of the cast of mind of the particular community from which Thomas originated and perhaps of the interests of Thomas’ copyists through the centuries. Gnostic or proto-gnostic ideas certainly circulated in the first century in Christian circles (e.g. the Gospel of John). I would say that we can date both Thomas and Mark to the same period, ca. 70 C.E..
There is an adequate amount of information available to argue for the authenticity of the writings called ‘The Gospel of Thomas’. Evidence that is at least as supportive as the evidence given for the authenticity of other biblical writings. Many Christians still view the bible as inerrant, even though it is a work of many people over many years – and none of the authors knew Jesus directly. The only person who wrote parts found in the bible that are possibly older than Gospel of Thomas is Paul – and he never met Jesus directly but rather had a vision, or spiritual experience.
Jesus left no writings. All gospels were written many decades after Jesus’ death and show multiple writings used by a variety of communities that understood Jesus in often completely conflicting manners.
Gospel of Thomas is without a high christology – it contains teachings written similar to the Vedas,(which written a thousand years before the common era). Mystic, wisdom teachings have been in existence since well before the New Testament was established (we see evidence of this within not only the Dharmic religions but within Old Testament as well) and we should not view the almost riddle like nature of Gospel of Thomas as being unimportant or a ‘later gnostic heresy’ simply because it is not easily understood. Jesus spoke in parables, and within Gospel of Thomas there is a genuine possibility of being very close to the actual teachings of Jesus.
If after reading this, and reading through the site a person still finds themselves quick to condemn and dismiss Gospel of Thomas, then peace go with you as you head along your own journey. The way of the Passerby is not for all, and it is not a desire to change anyone’s mind – this community is here for those who want it. Nothing more, nothing less.