Infancy Gospel of Thomas

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Not to be confused with the other Gospel of Thomas, a collection of Jesus's purported sayings.

The Infancy Gospel of Thomas is a non-canonical gospel which tells some tall tales about what the young Jesus got up to as a boy. Unlike most tales of Jesus's infancy, which concentrate on the circumstances of Jesus's birth and are keen to show the fulfilment of prophecies and establish doctrinal points, this focuses on Jesus's childhood. It largely consists of tales of miracles and wonders and smiting of enemies, although there is a bit of prophecy about how great Jesus will be.

It exists in various versions, of different lengths, some obviously edited-down versions of others. There are 2 main Greek forms, both quite late (13th century or more), and a Latin form.[1]

Contents

[edit] Plot

This is a summary drawing mainly on the Latin version, to which the references are given.[2]

  • Aged 2, Jesus flees to Egypt; this loosely resembles the story in Matthew. (Ch 1)
  • Aged 3, he restores a dried fish to life. (Ch 1)
  • Jesus annoys a schoolmaster by teasing twelve sparrows with some wheat. (Ch 2)
  • An angel tells Mary to take Jesus to Nazareth, which she does, because Herod is dead; again, as in Matthew. (Ch 3)
  • In Nazareth, Jesus creates a fountain or clear pool, and makes clay sparrows on the Sabbath, which come to life and fly away. (Ch 4)
  • A Pharisee tells the boy Jesus off for making things on the Sabbath; Jesus calls him a Sodomite and he falls down and dies. (Ch 4)
  • A child hits Jesus; Jesus causes him to fall down and die. (Ch 5)
  • The townspeople complain about Jesus blaspheming and killing people, and Jesus blinds them. (Ch 5)
  • A schoolmaster, Zacheus, undertakes to teach Jesus. Jesus says that he's the greatest and everything he says is right and he doesn't need a teacher. (Ch 6)
  • Zacheus tries to teach Jesus to read, but Jesus comes out with some mumbo-jumbo and Zacheus calls him God or an angel. In response, Jesus restores everyone he's killed or blinded. (Ch 6)
  • A boy falls over and dies; Jesus is accused of pushing him, but restores him to life and the boy says Jesus was innocent. (Ch 7)
  • Jesus heals a boy who hurts his foot with an axe splitting wood. (Ch 8)
  • Mary sends Jesus, aged 6, to get water. He breaks his pitcher but carries the water in his cloak. (Ch 9)
  • Jesus and Joseph sow wheat. Jesus has a big harvest and gives it to the poor. (Ch 10)
  • Joseph was a master-builder working making ploughs and ox-yokes. He is asked by a rich man to make a couch, but the wood he brought is too short. Jesus stretches it. (Ch 11)
  • Jesus is given to another teacher to learn to read and write. Jesus strikes him dead. (Ch 12)
  • Yet another teacher takes in Jesus; Jesus preaches to him, and the teacher says "ah but you are the master and I am the pupil" or words to that effect and sends him home. (Ch 13)
  • Brother James is bitten by a viper. Jesus cures him and kills the snake. (Ch 14)
  • Jesus restores another dead boy to life, and everybody finally recognises how winderful he is. (Ch 15)
  • Boy Jesus goes to the temple, his parents lose him, but find him debating with the priests; this is also found in the Gospel of Luke. (Not in Latin, but in Greek version A, ch 19)

Greek version A is similar to the Latin but adds the scene in the Temple from Luke. Greek version B is shorter, with the following incidents

  • A different version of the story with the fountain, where Jesus kills the boy (2)
  • A different version of the sparrow tale, where another boy tells Joseph that Jesus was making things on the Sabbath and Jesus kills the boy (3)
  • Jesus kills a boy who throws a stone at him (4)
  • Similar incident with teacher Zacchaeus (6-7)
  • Jesus restores boy who fell (8)
  • Jesus heals wood-chopping injury (9)
  • Miracle with water in cloak (10)
  • Miracle of couch (11)

[edit] Authorship

It claims to be written by the Apostle Thomas. However, this is considered implausible because of the lack of knowledge of contemporary Judaism shown in the text; this would suggest a much later authorship in a Christian community.[3]

[edit] Dating

It is generally dated to the mid or late 2nd century CE. The story of Jesus in the Temple is apparently lifted from Luke, which suggests a date after Luke, 80 CE or later.[1] IrenaeusWikipedia's W.svg mentions it c. 185 CE in a list of heretical documents. As stated above, surviving versions are much later, typically 13th century although there are fragments from the 5th century.[3]

[edit] Comparison

The character of Jesus is violent and hot-tempered. Although Jesus is often thought of as meek and mild, there are instances of violence and temper in other gospels, from cursing the fig tree because it has no figs (in Matthew 21:18–22 and Mark 11:12–14 and 11:20–25) to being curt with his disciples and overthrowing the moneychangers' tables in the Temple.

Performing miracles on the Sabbath is something else that crops up in other Gospels.

[edit] Literary form

While there are details clearly lifted from the Nativity stories in Matthew and Luke, it probably draws on the tradition of tales of tricky young gods from Greek myth.[1].

[edit] Canonicity

It is not included in any versions of the New Testament. Probably because it's a bit too silly, and unlike the canonical nativity myths, or even the Infancy Gospel of James which focuses on Mary's virginal and immaculate state, Thomas does not have much to say about theology.

[edit] Influence on Qur'ann

The story of the clay birds is mentioned in the Qur'an Sura 3:49 and Sura 5:110.[4]

[edit] References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 See the Wikipedia article on Infancy Gospel of Thomas.
  2. Infancy Gospel of Thomas, Translated by Alexander Walker. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight.
  3. 3.0 3.1 [1], cold case christianity, 2013
  4. [2], answering-islam.org
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