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P.M. Moldovan

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The Gospel of Thomas: Composition, Message and Readership

By this project I intend to identify and underline the aspects by which the rather oscillatory research on the Gospel of Thomas has succeeded or failed to make convincing contributions towards its understanding. My attempt is [A] to provide a detailed and critical view of the scholarship developed around this fascinating text and [B] to put forth a new reading towards its understanding. One of the main concerns of this project is to come with a fresh view about ‘the milieu’ of Thomas, among the other Codices founded at Nag Hammadi, in the Coptic literature.

I believe that this project is relevant and necessary for the following reasons: [1] it is time for more clarity within the amorphous collection of interpretations given to the Gospel of Thomas by emphasizing the weak and strong points of interpretations, and [2] one should put forth an interpretation that should start from other premises than the ones already employed and which have not provided any outcomes.

This project is methodologically organized in three inter-dependent parts. The first part will offer a critical review and comparative analysis of the studies devoted to the Gospel of Thomas, including its discovery, its character and its relation to other literary corpora of Late Antiquity: neo-testamentary, patristic, monastic, hermetic and, of course, Manichean literature. The second part of the project is dedicated to the apostle Thomas as the main character. The reason for this methodological choice is given by the ‘Thomasine tradition’ itself which has been seen as a regional expression for the Christianity of the first centuries. The emphasis will lay here, on the one side, on the connections between the Gospel of Thomas, the Book of Thomas and the Acts of Thomas; and on the other side on the possible scenarios that we can conclude from them by evaluating the different trajectories that emerge from these texts: on the one hand, from the Gospel of Thomas towards the Acts of Thomas, on the other hand from the Gospel of Thomas passing through the Acts of Thomas towards the Book of Thomas. The third part, and the last one, aims at employing an intra-textual reading for each logion in order to decipher how the text is internally organized. The aim of such an investigation is to emphasize both the dynamics of internal connections into the Gospel of Thomas and themes like Gnosis, anthropology, cosmology and philosophy that the Gospel of Thomas encapsulates. In other words, one should read the Gospel of Thomas as a unitary whole.

As a general conclusion, this detailed investigation focuses on the Gospel of Thomas and the ‘Thomasine tradition’ and attempts at re-arranging and clarifying the problems arisen within sixty years of scholarship. By the analysis of each logion together with the attempt to better position the Gospel of Thomas within the world of ideas of ‘Late Antiquity’ I am convinced that this type of approach not only opens new avenues of research on the Gospel of Thomas, but it can also provide new solutions to old interpretative problems with this text.

Last modified:04 January 2021 1.31 p.m.

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