More on commentaries – DeConick

The second post in my series on commentaries on GosThom focuses on:

April DeConick’s The Original Gospel of Thomas in Translation

DECONICK, A. D. 2006. The Original Gospel of Thomas in Translation, With a Commentary and New English Translation of the Complete Gospel, London, T & T Clark (hardcover) and DECONICK, A. D. (2007). The original Gospel of Thomas in translation: with a commentary and new English translation of the complete gospel. London, T&T Clark (paperback). The paperback is considerablely cheaper and has a much nicer cover, with artwork by April herself. I bought the hardcover because I wanted a copy as soon as it was released. It is next because it was next on my pile.

Assessment of Thomas

DeConick argues that the Gospel is not Gnostic. She maintains that the most likely explanation for the Thomasine-Synoptic parallels is that they come from orally transmitted rather than literary sources. She suggests that it came into being over time, with the earliest Kernel of sayings originating in the Jerusalem mission prior to 50 CE and various layers of accretions added between 50 and 120 CE.

Positive Aspects

    • Has a significant amount of detailed comment on each saying, interacting with the various positions stated in the literature.
    • Provides the Coptic text and her English translation of each saying, together with the  full text of parallels from the literature of the time.
    • Each section has a selected bibliography at the end and the bibliography at the end of the book is comprehensive


  • Consistent methodology for approaching each saying, together with an informative introduction, makes her line of reasoning easy to follow
  • The layout is very easy to follow and the language is clear and relatively simple, without being simplistic
  • Provides an appendix of verbal similarities between Thomas and the Synoptics
  • The paperback edition is relatively inexpensive (and nicer to look at)

Negative Aspects

I found it very difficult to find any significant negative aspects, but two minor niggles…

  • although the introductory material summarises her hypotheses about the way in which GosThom evolved and the reasoning behind them, in order to follow this completely, one needs access to a copy of the companion volume, DECONICK, A. D. 2005 (hc) and 2006 (pb) Recovering the Original Gospel of Thomas: A History of the Gospel and its Growth, London, T&T Clark. The alternative would have been either one huge volume or skimping on the scholarship, so I think going with two volumes was the right decision.
  • the bibliography is perhaps less comprehensive of the German language literature than is Nordsieck’s, but Nordsieck’s is less comprehensive of the English language literature. It is hardly surprising that a scholar puts more emphasis on material in his or her first language. 🙂


For those doing intensive work on the text of GosThom this is a “must have”. Even if you don’t agree with her conclusions (which I do), it provides some extremely useful tools for doing your own textual analysis.  Those who want a less “in-depth” approach will still find this a very, very useful volume.

A little plug here for T&T Clark/Continuum – very few publishers in the field of academic biblical scholarship are prepared to release a paperback edition only twelve months after they launch the hardcover edition, but they did this both for the commentary and its companion volume. Kudos also to April for making the effort to negotiate for this to happen.

3 thoughts on “More on commentaries – DeConick

  1. This is to reproduce a comment I made on April Deconick’s Blog: Eyewitness Testimony.
    “We now know not only that none of the NT writings is apostolic witness to (Jesus) but that none of the writings of the NT is apostolic witness to (Jesus) as the early church itself understood apostolicity – all of them depend on sources earlier than themselves, and hence are not the original and originating witness that the early church mistook them to be – one is forced to decide for a traditional NT canon one can no longer justify by the early church’s own criterion of apostolicity or for this same criterian of canonicity that allows one to justify only a nontraditional canon. All appropriate “Christian” faith and witness are and must be apostolic.- – one believes and bears witness with the apostles, solely on the basis of their prior faith and witness – – the witness of the apostles is still reghtly taken to be the real “Christian” norm, evn if we today have to locate this norm not in the writings of the NT but in the earliest stratum of “Christian” witess (which is pre-Christian and pre-Gospels) ascessibleto us given our own methods of historical analysis and reconstruction – – the first step one must take is using Scripture as a theological authority is historical rather than hermeneutical – – Specifically that is the step of reconstructing the history of tradition, of which the first three Gospels are the documentation, so as thereby to identify the earliest stratum in this tradition, which is the real “Christian” norm by which Scripture has whatever authority it has. The procedures required to exeute it are identical with those long since worked out in the quest for the historical Jesus with the single, if crucial, difference that in this case (given our present historical methods and knowledge) there is no need to make any dubious inferences about Jesus himself, once the earliest stratum of witness has been reconstructed, one may be quite confident of finding what today we can rigthtly take to be the apostolic witness and hence the proper canon for jdging the appropriatness of all “Christian” witness and theology”. (The article Faith and Freedom by Schubert M. Ogden, online).

    On nomenclature: The term Christian is anachronistic. It was first applied to the Paul and Barnabus mission after 65 CE, it was never applied to the Jerusalem Jesus Movement. Thus the labels Christian Origins, Jewish Christianity, Earliest Christianity are misnomers. Significant origins of the Jesus tradition took place in the apostolic period 30 CE – 65 CE, before Christianity and before the Gospels. For such a reconstruction of the Jesus tradition see Comments April 12 – April 17 to April Deconick’s blog: My decision about the Jesus Project. It just may be of interest.

  2. Pingback: This and that « Judy’s research blog

  3. Pingback: Recent commentaries on the Gospel of Thomas « Judy’s research blog

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