First page of "Gospel of Thomas" coptic manuscript. (Photo Courtesy of the Institute for Antiquity and Christianity, Claremont Graduate University)

Nag Hammadi Library main page

Introduction to Gnosticism and the Nag Hammadi Library

Alphabetic Index of the Nag Hammadi Library

Codex Index of the Nag Hammadi Library

Gospel of Thomas Collection

Apocryphon of John - Secret Book of John Collection

Search the Nag Hammadi Library

Return to The Gnostic Society Library page

Return to The Gnosis Archive main page

(Above image of the Gospel of Thomas courtesy of the Institute for Antiquity and Christianity, Claremont Graduate University)




Visit the Bookstore for a complete selection of translations and books about The Gospel of Thomas

The Fifth Gospel,  by Stephen Patterson


The Secret Teachings of Jesus, edited by Marvin Meyer


Gnosticism: New Light on the Ancient Tradition of Inner Knowing


The Gnostic Scriptures, by Bentley Layton

The Gnostic Society Library

The Gospel of Thomas Collection

The Greek Oxyrhynchus Fragments

Gnosis Archive | Library | Bookstore | Index | Web Lectures | Ecclesia Gnostica | Gnostic Society

Archive Notes

In 1897 and 1903 three ancient papyrus fragments from Greek copies of the Gospel of Thomas were discovered during archeological excavations on the site of an ancient town at Oxyrhynchus, Egypt. These excavations eventually recovered over 5000 papyrus fragments of ancient Greek texts, including both sections from the Gospel of Thomas and fragments from Location of the Oxyrhynchus discovery, in upper Egyptthe Gospel of Mary.  (In ancient times, Oxyrhynchus was the chief town of its district and the seat of a local governor. In the Roman period it was a flourishing place with about twenty temples, colonnaded streets, and an open air theatre. When Christianity came, it was famous for the numbers of its monks and nuns. Most of the papyrus documents found had been discarded in the ancient town's garbage sites.)

The three fragments of Thomas found at Oxyrhynchus apparently date to between 130 - 250 CE, and each probably represents a separate unique copy of the Gospel.  The textual source of the sayings contained in the fragments was initially unclear; based on the logion found in pOxy 654 – now identified as containing the prologue and first saying –  it was speculated they might represent remains of the lost Gospel of Thomas.  The Nag Hammadi discovery in 1945 which unearthed a complete and well-preserved version of Thomas in Coptic made it possible to definitely identify the Oxyrhynchus texts as fragments from a lost Greek edition of the Gospel.

The three Oxyrhynchus fragments preserve 20 of the 114 sayings (or, in Greek, logion) found in the complete Coptic version of the Gospel of Thomas:  pOxy 1 (the abbreviation indicates "Oxyrhynchus papyrus fragment 1") contains logion 26 to 30, 77, and 30 to 31; pOxy 654 contains logion 1 to 7; pOxy 655 preserves logion 36 to 40.  These texts allow careful comparisons to be made between the Coptic text found at Nag Hammadi and the original Greek version (the Gospel was almost certainly written in Greek originally, the Nag Hammadi version is a Coptic translation of this original Greek text).  The reader will note close correlation between the two versions – a fact that helps verify the textual integrity of the Coptic Gospel of Thomas.

The Excavations at Oxyrhynchus c. 1898The following English translation of texts from the Oxyrhynchus papyrus fragments of the Gospel of Thomas is based on the complete digital reconstructions of pOxy. 1, 654, and 655 created by Andrew Bernhard. His proposed reconstructions of various lacunae are heavily indebted to the critical texts of Grenfell and Hunt, Evelyn-White, Fitzmeyer, and Attridge.

Translations of the Greek fragments are followed by versions of the same sayings as they appear in the Coptic text of the Gospel of Thomas found at Nag Hammadi (the Lambdin translation is used here).

For further research, these are the standard academic translations and commentaries on the Oxyrhynchus Papyri:

Bernard P. Grenfell and Arthur S. Hunt, eds. "1. Logia Iesou." Pages 1-3 in vol. 1 of The Oxyrhynchus Papyri. London: Egypt Exploration Fund, 1898.

Hugh Evelyn-White, The Sayings of Jesus From Oxyrhynchus. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1920.

Joseph A. Fitzmeyer, "The Oxyrhynchus Logoi of Jesus and the Coptic Gospel According to Thomas." Pages 355-433 in Essays on the Semitic Background of the New Testam ent. London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1971.

Harold W. Attridge, "Appendix: The Greek Fragments." Nag Hammadi Codex II,2-7 Together With XIII,2*, BRIT. LIB. OR. 4926(1), and pOxy. 1, 654, 655. Edited by Bentley Layton. Vol. 1. New York: Brill, 1989.


The Gospel of Thomas Fragments from Oxyrhynchus

Prologue and Saying 1 (pOxy 654.1-5)

These are the [hidden] sayings [that] the living Jesus [sp]oke a[nd Judas who] is also Thomas [recorded.] And he said, "[Whoever finds the interpretat]ion of the[se] sayings will not taste [death]."

Coptic version of same saying as found in the Nag Hammadi manuscript:
These are the secret sayings which the living Jesus spoke and which Didymos Judas Thomas wrote down.  And he said, "Whoever finds the interpretation of these sayings will not experience death."


Saying 2 (pOxy. 654.5-9)

[Jesus said,] "Let the one seek[ing] not stop [seeking until] he finds. And when he find[s he will marvel, and mar]veling he will reign, an[d reigning] he will [rest.]”

Coptic version:
Jesus said, "Let him who seeks continue seeking until he finds. When he finds, he will become troubled. When he becomes troubled, he will be astonished, and he will rule over the All."


Saying 3 (pOxy. 654.9-21)

J[esus] said, "[If] those pulling you [say to you, 'Look,] the kingdom is in the sk[y,]' the birds of the sk[y will go before you. Or if they say t]hat it [is] beneath the ground, the fish of the se[a will go in, preced]ing you. And the king[dom of God] [i]s within you [and outside you. Whoever] knows [himself will] find this [and when you] know yourselves [you will know that] you are [children] of the l[iving] father. [But if] you will [not] know yourselves, [you are] in [poverty] and you are the pov[erty.]"

Coptic version:
Jesus said, "If those who lead you say to you, 'See, the kingdom is in the sky,' then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, 'It is in the sea,' then the fish will precede you. Rather, the kingdom is inside of you, and it is outside of you. When you come to know yourselves, then you will become known, and you will realize that it is you who are the sons of the living father. But if you will not know yourselves, you dwell in poverty and it is you who are that poverty."


Saying 4 (pOxy. 654.21-27)

[Jesus said,] "A per[son old in day]s will not hesitate to ask a ch[ild seven day]s old about his place in [life and] he will [live.] For many of the f[irst] will be [last and] many of the last will be first and they [will become one]."

Coptic version:
Jesus said, "The man old in days will not hesitate to ask a small child seven days old about the place of life, and he will live. For many who are first will become last, and they will become one and the same."


Saying 5 (pOxy. 654.27-31)

Jesus said, "K[now what is in fr]ont of your face and [what has been hidden] from you [will be] revealed [to you. For there] is [nothing] hidden that [will] not [be made] cl[ear] and n[othing] buried that [will] n[ot be raised]."

Coptic version:
Jesus said, "Recognize what is in your sight, and that which is hidden from you will become plain to you . For there is nothing hidden which will not become manifest."


Saying 6 (pOxy. 654.32-40)

[His disciples qu]estioned him [and s]aid, "How [should we] fast [and how] should we [pray,] and how [should we do charitable deeds a]nd what [food law should we] observe?"
Jesus said, "[Do not lie and that which] you [hate], do not do [because everything is evident before t]he tru[t]h. [For there is nothing hi]dd[en that will not be made clear.]"

Coptic version:
His disciples questioned him and said to him, "Do you want us to fast? How shall we pray? Shall we give alms? What diet shall we observe?"
Jesus said, "Do not tell lies, and do not do what you hate, for all things are plain in the sight of heaven. For nothing hidden will not become manifest, and nothing covered will remain without being uncovered."


Saying 7? (pOxy. 654.40-42)

[bl]esse[d] is [ . . . ]

Coptic version:
Jesus said, "Blessed is the lion which becomes man when consumed by man; and cursed is the man whom the lion consumes, and the lion becomes man."


Saying 24? (pOxy. 655d.1-5)

[it] is [ . . . l]ight [ . . . w]orld [ . . . i]t is [ . . . ]

Coptic version:
His disciples said to him, "Show us the place where you are, since it is necessary for us to seek it."
He said to them, "Whoever has ears, let him hear. There is light within a man of light, and he lights up the whole world. If he does not shine, he is darkness."


Saying 26 (pOxy. 1.1-4)

". . . and then you will see clearly to cast out the speck that is in your brother’s eye."

Coptic version:
Jesus said, "You see the mote in your brother's eye, but you do not see the beam in your own eye. When you cast the beam out of your own eye, then you will see clearly to cast the mote from your brother's eye."


Saying 27 (pOxy. 1.4-11)

Jesus said, "If you do not fast from the world, you will not find the kingdom of God. And if you do not keep the sabbath a sabbath, you will not see the father."

Coptic version:
<Jesus said,> "If you do not fast as regards the world, you will not find the kingdom. If you do not observe the Sabbath as a Sabbath, you will not see the father."


Saying 28 (pOxy. 1.11-21)

Jesus said, "I s[t]ood in the midst of the world and in the flesh I appeared to them. I found everyone drunk and none thirsty among them. My soul worries about the children of humanity because they are blind in thei[r] hearts and [they] do [not] see."

Coptic version:
Jesus said, "I took my place in the midst of the world, and I appeared to them in flesh. I found all of them intoxicated; I found none of them thirsty. And my soul became afflicted for the sons of men, because they are blind in their hearts and do not have sight; for empty they came into the world, and empty too they seek to leave the world. But for the moment they are intoxicated. When they shake off their wine, then they will repent."


Saying 29 (pOxy. 1.22)

"[. . .he dwells in th]i[s] poverty."

Coptic version:
Jesus said, "If the flesh came into being because of spirit, it is a wonder. But if spirit came into being because of the body, it is a wonder of wonders. Indeed, I am amazed at how this great wealth has made its home in this poverty."


Saying 30 + 77b (pOxy. 1.23-30)

[Jesus sa]id, ["Wh]ere there are [th]r[ee] t[hey ar]e [without] God. And [w]here there is only o[ne], I say, I am with hi[m]. Li[f]t the stone and there you will find me. Split the wood and I am there."

Coptic version:
(30) Jesus said, "Where there are three gods, they are gods. Where there are two or one, I am with him."
(77b) ...Split a piece of wood, and I am there. Lift up the stone, and you will find me there."


Saying 31 (pOxy. 1.30-35)

Jesus said, "A prophet is not acceptable in h[i]s homeland. Nor does a physican perform healings for those who know him."

Coptic version: 
Jesus said, "No prophet is accepted in his own village; no physician heals those who know him."


Saying 32 (pOxy. 1.36-41)

Jesus said, "A city that has been built and established on the summit of a high [m]ountain can neither fa[l]l nor be hi[d]den."

Coptic version: 
Jesus said, "A city being built on a high mountain and fortified cannot fall, nor can it be hidden."


Saying 33 (pOxy. 1.41-42)

Jesus said, “What you hear [i]n your one ear . . ."

Coptic version: 
Jesus said, "Preach from your housetops that which you will hear in your ear. For no one lights a lamp and puts it under a bushel, nor does he put it in a hidden place, but rather he sets it on a lampstand so that everyone who enters and leaves will see its light."


Saying 36 (pOxy. 655i.1-17)

[Jesus said, "Do not worry f]rom early u[ntil late no]r from ev[ening until m]orning. Worry neither [for y]our [food,] what [you] will eat, [nor] for [your] c[lothes,] what you will wear. [You are] [mu]ch gr[ea]ter than the [lil]lies wh[ich n]either ca[r]d nor s[pi]n. When you have n[o c]lo[thing], what do [you wear]? Who can add to your time of life? H[e it is who w]ill give you your clothing."

Coptic version: 
Jesus said, "Do not be concerned from morning until evening and from evening until morning about what you will wear."


Saying 37 (pOxy. 655i.17-23)

His disciples said to him, "When will you be visible to us? And when will we see you?"
He said, "When you undress and are not ashamed."

Coptic version: 
His disciples said, "When will you become revealed to us and when shall we see you?"
Jesus said, "When you disrobe without being ashamed and take up your garments and place them under your feet like little children and tread on them, then will you see the son of the living one, and you will not be afraid"


Saying 39 (pOxy. 655ii.11-23)

[Jesus said, "The Pharisees and the scribes] to[ok the keys] of [knowledge. They] hi[d them. They did not] go in, [nor did] they [allow those] trying to go [in to do so. You,] however, b[e wi]se a[s snakes and i]nnocen[t as do]v[es.]"

Coptic version: 
Jesus said, "The pharisees and the scribes have taken the keys of knowledge (gnosis) and hidden them. They themselves have not entered, nor have they allowed to enter those who wish to. You, however, be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves."


Gnosis Archive | Library | Bookstore | Index | Web Lectures | Ecclesia Gnostica | Gnostic Society