My twenty-odd Gospel of Thomas Commentaries

Our seminarians and I got talking about  different translations of the Gospel of Thomas (GoT). I realized I own about twenty different GoT’s. There are so many cool commentaries and several powerhouse translations-with-commentaries!  My faves are Tau Malachi, Jean-Yves Leloup, and Miller’s newish one. I have Elaine Pagel’s, the only GoT commentary by a woman, as far as I know. [UPDATE: Oops, forgot April DeConick’s GoT translation-and-commentary, see comments below…]

Here’s a list on Amazon of all the many Gospel of Thomas translations available. I own about every other one of these…<laugh> It has turned into a “collection”.

But you know a favorite I must mention doesn’t even have GoT in the title, yet is indeed Thomas with short pithy zen commentaries on each verse. ‘Tis a little hardback book, slightly bigger than pocket-size. I love it.  It’s called Christian Zen: The Essential Teachings of Jesus Christ by [Sophiologist] Robert Powell.


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Katia

Katia is a consecrated independent sacramental bishop. She directs the online Esoteric Mystery School and Interfaith Theological Seminary. Check it out at NorthernWay.org.

6 thoughts on “My twenty-odd Gospel of Thomas Commentaries”

  1. For what it is worth, there is indeed another commentary on the Gospel of Thomas(actually a two-volume companion set) written by a woman. See: April Deconick The Original Gospel of Thomas in Translation: With a Commentary and New English Translation of the Complete Gospel (T&T Clark, 2006). Closely asociated with her commentary is here earlier monograph: Recovering the Original Gospel of Thomas: A History of the Gospel and Its Growth (T&T Clark, 2005).

    It is unfortunate that both of these books are a bit on the expensive side ($40-$50) but they are worth it if you wish to look at Thomas from the perspective of an emminent scholar.

    On another note: there are translations and then there are “translations” of the Gospel of Thomas. Without criticizing any one in particular, many of the “translations” are really nothing more than paraphrases of other English translations. There are only a handful of translations that work from the original Coptic text (Layton, Meyer-Robinson-Bethge and DeConick being among the best in English).

    Rick

  2. April DeConick has also published a well-known translation and commentary. A reliable one, that is, unlike some “translations” that insert the author’s own ideas into the text. Tau Malachi, BTW, uses the Lambdin translation from Robinson’s book. So when you say “translation and commentary”, the implication that the author of a book is responsible for both may be incorrect in some cases.

    Oh, BTW, I’m not aware that Pagels has ever done a Thomas translation herself.

  3. Thank you for reminding me of DeConick’s work, Rick and Mike. I do remember that coming out. Yes, too bad the cost is somewhat prohibitive.

    You are right, I should have worded my post differently to make it clear most of those authors did not do a full translation, but rather commentary on another’s translation.

    You are right about Pagels’ book on the GoT, Mike. Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas is all about the GoT as compared to the other gospels, but not a verse by verse commentary, and certainly not a translation.

    Sometimes I have trouble reading Pagels’ books, including this one. I don’t know why, her style is fine.

    What are your favorite GoT’s, Rick and Mike (if any)?

    +Katia

  4. Hi Katia,
    Rick’s response must have been waiting for moderation when I wrote, because I didn’t see it. As it turns out, we’re both moderators of GThomas, the Gospel of Thomas discussion list at Yahoogroups, but we didn’t consult with each other. He must have caught your blog post thru Google Alerts, just as I did. Anyway, as to my favorite GoT translations, I feature three on my site and link to several others, but only reputable translations, whether I like them or not. See http://gospel-thomas.net.

  5. Small world, seeing Mike show up here too. Google Alerts are a great and wonderful thing!

    In any case Katia, I’ve never given much thought to what my “favorite” Gospel of Thomas translation might be, so about all I can say at this point is, “The one that seems to do the least violence to the original Coptic text” (which is an admittedly subjective standard, by the way).

    Speaking of translations, may I mention two things: First, if you haven’t already done so, I encourage you and others to take a look at Mike’s Interlinear Translation of the Gospel of Thomas at his website. Second, Charlie Hedrick’s commentary and translation is due for release this fall (Wipf & Stock are the publishers so there is a reasonably good chance it will be affordable to us mere mortals).

    Rick Hubbard

  6. Hi Katia,

    Thank you for your post! I am always interested in applying Jesus’ teachings to various world religions (such as Zen Buddhism), because Jesus wasn’t teaching Christianity, he was teaching truth and wisdom.

    There is another book that I highly recommend to everyone, along these lines. It’s called “The Yoga of Jesus: Understanding the Hidden Teachings of the Gospels.” It’s taken from excerpts of Paramahansa Yogananda’s (1893-1952) teachings and lectures. In it you will find the deep esoteric meanings of Jesus’ teachings; Yogananda, takes apart, bit by bit, such misunderstandings like, ‘Jesus is the only way to God and heaven.’

    This book is a shorter version of a very long earlier work that addresses the gospels, verse by verse. That one is titled, “The Second Coming of Christ: The Resurrection of the Christ Within You, ” having a total of 1, 700 pages.

    This book (The Yoga of Jesus) has been a revelation for me. And Jesus’ universal esoteric messages have never before (at least in my experience) been explained in such a profound way, by a master (Yogananda) who knows what the experience of God-realization is really like, so the book isn’t just a cerebral exercise.

    “The Yoga of Jesus,” by Paramahansa Yogananda, Self-Realization Fellowship: Los Angeles, 2007.

    Happy Reading!
    Love, Jen
    Jennifer Reif
    “The Holy Book of Mary Magdalene”

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