Doubtfully Thomas

I have heard this story so much I feel I have been raped “from the window to the wall” mentally. What surprised me recently was that I found this story was not known to 31/33 of the earliest Christian writers. Here is a list of who knew it and who didn’t.

  1. Irenaeus of Lyon never heard of the doubting Thomas incident and only mentions Thomas once in Against Heresies 1.18.3 where he speaks of Thomas being absent from the resurrection appearance of Jesus. Interestingly this is the original episode in John. Thomas is simply absent.
  2. Hippolytus of Rome in his Philosophumena 5.2 mentions Hippocrates using a Gospel of Thomas which he quotes in a dishonest way. No doubting Thomas episode here. Keep in mind this is the only mention of Thomas by Hippolytus in all his extant works!
  3. Clement of Alexandria mentions Thomas in his Stromata 4.9, speaking very highly of him and never mentioning the doubting Thomas episode.
  4. Tertullian ‘A treatise on the soul’ 17 and 50 seem to be the earliest mention of doubting Thomas and by a heretic whose writings were condemned by Pope Gelasius who was seen as more orthodox than orthodox. ‘Against Praxeas’ 24-25 call Thomas ‘incredulous’ as well.
  5. Origen ‘Contra Celsus’ 2.61-2.62 and his ‘Commentary on John’ 10.27 both mention the doubting Thomas episode, possibly inspired by Tertullian, although doubtfully.
  6. Pseudo-Ignatius of Antioch Long recension of Smyrnaeans 3 mentions it
  7. Papias fragment via Eusebius’ CH mentions Thomas but not as doubting.
  8. 3Corinthians has the episode included and may be the actual source for the information.
  9. Jerome and Eusebius make use of the episode
  10. Clement of Rome, Polycarp, Ignatius, Barnabas, Hermas, Didache, Aristides, Tatian, Minucius Felix, Athenagoras, Theophilus of Antioch, Justin Martyr, Quadratus, Aristo, Claudius Apollinaris, Melito, Hegesippus, Dionysus of Corinth, Rhodon, Theophilus of Caesarea, Bardesanes, Maximus, Polycrates, Victor, Pantaenus, Serapion, Apollonius, and Caius never mention it!

The fact remains then, that not one church father before Tertullian mentions the incident. Tertullian is writing as a Montanist when he does mention it. This makes it a post-207AD writing. Origen was teaching at the catechetical school of Alexandria in 203 making it very likely that Tertullian was a teacher there or even his student! Not long after 270AD Christians in Syria were writing about the letter of 3Corinthians. It seems to me that due to the fact that Mani and Hippocrates and other heretics used the Gospel of Thomas, Tertullian and Origen had to rail against it to discredit it. To achieve this, they first had to edit their gospels to conform to a model of belief that ostracizes Thomas as a doubter.

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