Found in Egypt
Only one ancient copy of the complete Gospel of Thomas exists. It was discovered in 1945 by Egyptian peasants, hidden in a jar buried in the sands next to the Nile, nearly 600 km from Cairo. It was one of the treasures from a nearby monastery, now known as the Nag Hammadi Library, that the monks must have concealed for safety at a time of danger.
These ancient books went through a series of hair-raising adventureseven involving barter for cigarettes, sugar and teauntil they came to the notice of western scholars and were secured in a museum in Cairo. In 1952 the Dutch professor Guilles Quispel discovered that one comprised a set of sayings by Jesus recorded by his disciple Thomas.
This ancient Gospel of Thomas is written in Greek and Coptic, an Egyptian language now used only in the liturgy of the Coptic Church. Quispel and four other scholars identified 114 sayings of Jesus and made the first translation into English. Their work was followed up by the French scholars of l'Association Metanoia, who published enhanced versions in 1975 and 1979. There is now a large literature.
What one discovers on reading the Gospel of Thomas is that it is definitely not a literary work. Nor does it contain any historical narrative. It can only be explained as the sayings of a spiritual Master recollected by a disciple and dictated to a scribe in the sequence they came back to memory. Only few of the sayings connect together, and there is no overall pattern or structure. It is thus recorded speech.
All of the sayings have a distinctive quality. They are mini-parables, each with an outer shape and an inner hidden meaning. No explanations of these inner meanings are given. We therefore quickly discover that Jesus' method or technique of passing on his spiritual awareness was to prompt us to discover these inner meaningsfor ourselves .
The Gospel of Thomas offers us the opportunity to discover the qualities of life presented by a great soul.
This first level of discovery thus relates to the ancient document itself and its faithful translation into a modern language.