[i]Stigmata[/i] and the Gospel of St. Thomas

This might be more appropriate for GQ, nevertheless, I feel that there is a debate in here…

The recent movie, Stigmata, is based on the idea that there is a Gospel of St. Thomas that has been suppressed by the RCC since it’s discovery in 1945. Supposedly this ‘new’ gospel was written on the night of the last supper, and contains Jesus’ final instructions on how to be Christians. The other four are mere remembrances of what might have happened 40 or 80 years before they were written; this one is the Straight Dope, as it were. Apparently it’s quite controversial- no need for the Church or even churches. The Kingdom of God is all around us.

Questions: Is there any truth to the existance of this fifth gospel? I know that many other writings have been excluded from the Canon. Is it time we reviewed some of these? And is this message really all that controversial?

It’s not how you pick your nose, it’s where you put the boogers

We went over some of this information just a couple of months ago, right here in GD:
The Gospel According to Thomas- Fact or Fraud??


Thanks for the link, Tom. It answered my ?'s about Thomas. I’d still like to know about canonical review.

Look at the time on that last post. What happened?

When all else fails, ask Cecil.

I guess this answers the question posed in the “Is Time Travel Possible” thread in the Comments on Cecil’s Answers forum :slight_smile:

The board went out like a trick knee Thursday afternoon. When it came back, most of the afternoon posts were post dated (as it were).

As for canonical review, we really have never found “new” writings from the first century. The writings of the first century were all passed around and commented upon by the church Fathers in the late first through the third centuries. The canon was established based on the collective thoughts expressed at that time.

(Various reports of “new” writings tend to fall into two categories:

  1. Scholars coming across older documents and realizing that this document is actually (a copy of) the text referred to by that writer in the second century (or whenever). (A scenario similar to this occurred with one of the “Thomas” gospels and to the Didache.)
  2. Pseudo-scholars discovering for themselves ancient texts that are well-know to scholars but which have fallen out of the consciousness of the general public. The pseudo-scholars then re-publish the texts as “things the church does not want you to know.” (This is the scenario for the republication of some New Testament Apocrypha by some ditz several years ago.)

To get something new into the canon at this point, we would have to have a scenario similar to that silly potboiler by Irving(?), The Word. We would have to find an actual document originating in the first century that had the provenance to prove that it was actually written by Jesus, himself, or an apostle or similar witness. Given that there would be no corroborating evidence for this text, (are we going to compare handwriting?) provenance could not be established, so discovering a first century text would be a marvelous find, but would probably not change the New Testament canon.


What about second guessing the church fathers? They might have felt one way on an issue, and included or excluded text, whereas the church today might disagree with the reaoning.

It’s not how you pick your nose, it’s where you put the boogers

I’m trusting the CGI that my response of 10 minutes ago to BigDaddyD’s post of 2:38 is actually out here somewhere. If not, I’ll post agin later this evening.


(Hoping the CGI doesn’t bite me: )

You haven’t been watching the RCC. Even when the “understanding” changes, the original view is only seen in a new light. Nothing officially ever changes.

The Protestants are in the same boat. Luther went out and re-evaluated what should be considered Scripture and the various Protestant denominations have been fiercely holding to his thoughts for 450+ years.

At this point, the only way to get new Scripture would be for some group to break away from the RCC, the Protestants, and the Orthodox, completely. (One view would be that the LDS did just that.)

Even Luther only re-examined existing Scripture with an eye to removing the excess, not with the intent of adding new things. All of the big three Christian traditions–Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant–hold to a long-stated belief that NT Scripture must be Apostolic in character (written by someone of the first generation of Christians). Current scholars can use various literary analyses to decide that the early church made mistakes (based on that criteria) in their selection. (E.g., there are a substantial number of scholars who do not believe that the letters to Timothy or Titus were written by Paul.) However, once the canon has been established, there is almost no way to get anything new added to it.

The various letters of Clement, the Shepherd of Hermas, and other letters have already been separated from Scripture and categorized among the Patristics (the writings of the Church Fathers). It is not in the nature of any existing Christian group to change that.

To be newly added to Scripture, a document or text would have to be identifiable as coming from Jesus or one of his followers. I can think of no way that that could be accomplished (i.e., proved). The only other way would be for a group to separate themselves completely from one of the existing traditions in the way that the LDS looks to its Scriptures that are not in the Orthodox/Catholic/Protestant tradition.

Is it possible that the RCC or the Maronites or the Missouri Synod of Lutherans could consider another ancient text as Scripture? Sure. But it is rather less likely than that John Paul II will abdicate his post and join the Nation of Islam. I wouldn’t look for it to happen, soon. Anything might happen; some things could only happen in an alternative universe.