More on commentaries – Kasser

Back in January, I began a series of reviews of commentaries on GosThom and managed to do two.  Here is a third and I hope to do the rest over the next few weeks.

Rodolphe Kasser’s L’Evangile selon Thomas

Rodolphe Kasser, L’Evangile selon Thomas: présentation et commentaire théologique: Bibliothèque théologique; (Neuchatel: Editions Delachaux & Niestlé, 1961).

As you can see from the date, this French commentary is one of the earliest written on GosThom (perhaps the earliest?) and as such is very interesting.

Assessment of Thomas

Kasser argues that GosThom is clearly Gnostic and that it reflects Gnostic thought that was current in the second century CE. He does not commit to a date for composition, but does provide a summary of the thought current at the time of origins etc.

Positive Aspects

  • Has a significant amount of detailed comment on sayings with canonical parallels.
  • Provides a detailed overview of the current understanding of Gnosticism to justify his assessment of the text as Gnostic.
  • Provides a French translation and a Greek “retroversion” together with an index to the French vocabularly with Greek and Coptic equivalents.
  • Provides a table at the back that shows how the sayings numbering in the different editions of GosThom correspond with one another – Kasser uses the numbering of the Guillaumont-Puech-Quispel-Till-Yassah abd al Masih and Queck-(Garitte) edition which is currently in use.
  • For those for whom French is not their first language, the French used is not particularly complex.

Negative Aspects

  • does not address the Coptic text directly in the commentary (hence the index of French-Coptic-Greek equivalents).
  • transliterates Coptic and (because, I assume, there was no Coptic font available at the time) does not have a table that shows what the equivalent Coptic character is for each transliteration, just a list of transliterations in Coptic alphabetical order.
  • The layout is not easy to follow. Each saying number is in superscript, whereas the line numbers for each saying are much larger and in parentheses, so they are the ones that stand out. Kasser uses sequential line numbering throughout, rather than the page and line numbering which is now more usual. However, Grondin’s interlinear provides all three numbering systems, which is helpful. (Download the page-by-page version)
  • References are in footnotes without a bibliography, so one needs to hunt back to the first mention of any item to find its full bibliographical details.
  • Out of print, so must be purchased second-hand or borrowed from a library.


This provides a very interesting insight into early scholarship on GosThom, so very useful for anyone who is working seriously in the area. It provides some detailed background information that newer commentaries tend to skim over on the assumption that it is well known, but obviously lacks treatment of current thinking.

2 thoughts on “More on commentaries – Kasser

  1. Hi Judy. I enjoy your website and after reading this article I wonder what your thoughts are on Thomas as Gnostic.

    I am convinced it is simply one example of how Jesus sayings were first recorded. That if there truly is a Thomas Core that it evolved into the Coptic list that we have now, but that in its earlier form might have been a more Jewish sounding and looking document.

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

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