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Thomas and Tatian: The Relationship Between the Gospel of Thomas and the Diatessaron (Academia Biblica, 5) [Hardcover]

By Nicholas Perrin (Author)
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Item Specifications...

Pages   216
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.92" Width: 6.32" Height: 0.8"
Weight:   1.21 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Sep 27, 2002
Publisher   Brill Academic Publishers
ISBN  9004127100  
EAN  9789004127104  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
The relationship between the Coptic "Gospel of Thomas" and the synoptic gospels has been a matter of long-standing debate. Some maintain that the sayings of Jesus in Thomas reflect a line of transmission independent of the synoptic tradition; others contend that the Coptic collection is finally a reworking of the Greek synoptic gospels. This book proposes a third possibility: namely, that the "Gospel of Thomas" depends on a second-century Syriac gospel harmony, Tatian's "Diatessaron," written in 175 C.E. Following a linguistic analysis of Thomas, the author argues that the Coptic collection is actually a translation of a unified Syriac text which at places followed the wording and sequence of the "Diatessaron," The book argues for a late second-century C.E. dating of Thomas, rules out Thomas as a meaningful source for Historical Jesus research, and suggests possible links between Thomas and other mystical literature of the ancient near east. Paperback edition is available from the Society of Biblical Literature (

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More About Nicholas Perrin

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Nicholas Perrin (PhD, Marquette University), former research assistant to N. T. Wright, is Franklin S. Dyrness Professor of Biblical Studies and associate professor of New Testament at Wheaton College Graduate School in Wheaton, Illinois. He is the author of numerous books and articles, including Thomas and Tatian: The Relationship between the Gospel of Thomas and the Diatessaron, Questioning Q (with Mark Goodacre), Thomas: The Other Gospel, and Lost in Transmission? What We Can Know about the Words of Jesus.

Nicholas Perrin was born in 1923.

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A Lucid Challenge to the Status Quo  Jun 18, 2003
Perrin makes a powerful case that the Gospel of Thomas was originally written in an eastern Aramaic dialect, and, somewhat less persuasively, that it is dependent on a gospel harmony written in 173 A.D. Both conclusions challenge the premises of the Jesus Seminar and other recent scholars that Thomas was originally written in Greek and predates the canonical Gospels. Although intended for academic audiences, Perrin's book is surprisingly accessible to non-specialists and well-educated laymen.

The Gospel of Thomas is a collection of 114 sayings attributed to Jesus contained in a 4th century Coptic manuscript that came to light in 1948. In addition, Thomas is attested in three Greek fragments that were discovered in 1898 and dated to the 2nd century. About half of its sayings parallel those in the New Testament, but others are quite different. Although scholars initially assigned the original composition of Thomas to the early-to-mid 2nd century, a recent trend in certain scholarly circles is to situate Thomas as early as 50 A.D., making it one of the earliest sources for early Christianity and the historical Jesus. As a result, Thomas has become very important in recent times.

Perrin approaches Thomas from a different angle, by concentrating on its original language of composition and using that to assess Thomas's origin. He makes a powerful case that Thomas was originally written in Syriac, an eastern dialect of Aramaic (Jesus spoke a western dialect). Perrin begins by surveying scholarship on Thomas's language of composition and notes several places where certain oddities in Thomas can be readily explained by an Aramaic or Syriac intermediary. Building on the observation that Thomas appears to be organized by catchwords (similarly sounding words that link one saying to the next), Perrin next investigates whether each saying can be connected by Syriac catchwords. He finds that Thomas has 502 potential catchwords in Syriac, but only 263 in Greek and 269 in Coptic. In addition, all but three of the sayings can be linked by a Syriac catchword to its neighboring sayings, and some of the repeated catchwords are based on puns that only work in Syriac. Perrin's case is compelling and fits very neatly with other scholars' findings that Thomas reflects an eastern Syrian provenance.

Perrin's second point, that Thomas is dependent on Tatian's Diatessaron, is less thoroughly established. Unfortunately, Perrin did not do a detailed comparison of each saying in Thomas with corresponding passages in the Diatessaron. Rather, Perrin argued that Thomas must have had written sources and the Diatessaron, as the first known source of Gospel tradition in Syriac, is the best candidate to be one of those sources. Although this argument is very suggestive and Perrin did point out a few contacts in Thomas with the Diatessaron in his initial survey, a full judgment on this issue must be withheld until the detailed comparison is made.

Those seriously interested in the Gospel of Thomas will find Perrin's book intriguing and thought-provoking. Knowledge of Syriac is not necessary to follow his arguments.


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