The Acts of Thomas is a typical apocryphal acts narrative, marked by numerous miracles. It recounts the exploits of the Apostle Judas Thomas in India. This main character is Jude, the brother of Jesus. Presuming the Gnostic conviction that everything in heaven has an earthly counterpart, Thomas is presented as the heavenly Jesus' earthly "twin" - the meaning of the names Didymos and Thomas.
The Apostle refuses to go to India until Jesus sells him as a slave. There he is commissioned to build an opulent palace for King Gundaphorus. Instead, he uses the money to feed the poor. His real mission is to convert Indians to Christ, which entails a life of sexual purity, involving even abstinence from marital sex. The radical asceticism required of his converts brings trouble for both the Apostle and his followers. This persecution eventually results in the martyrdom of Thomas.
Chapters 108-113 are known as "The Hymn of the Pearl." This allegorical myth of the "redeemed redeemer" details how the soul originates in heaven and remembers its divine purpose once it attains the secret gnosis ("knowledge"), available to the spiritual elect. This book advocates a docetic view of the person of Jesus, rejecting his full humanity.
Title: also known as The Acts of the Holy Apostle Thomas
Canonical Status: New Testament Apocrypha
Author:An anonymous Christian Most likely one from Edessa in eastern Syria Perhaps disciples of Bardesanes
Date: AD 200-250
Original Language:Either Greek or Syriac Manuscripts survive in Greek, Syriac, Coptic, Latin, Ethiopic, Arabic, and Armenian
Notes prepared by Mark Seitz (Junior Biblical Literature Major)
for the Wesley Center for Applied Theology at Northwest Nazarene University
Copyright 2000 by the Wesley Center for Applied Theology
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