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1, P.Oxy. 654, and P.Oxy. 655). The Coptic Thomas survives as the second writing of NHC II. Since
the text of Thomas comes down to us in two languages, Greek and Coptic, one of the first problems
that scholars were supposed to solve was the relation between the Greek and the Coptic Thomas. In
the earliest days of Thomasine scholarship, Gérard Garitte suggested that the Greek text of Thomas
attested by the Oxyrhynchus fragments was a translation from Coptic.17 A year later, however,
Garitte’s arguments were successfully refuted by Ernst Haenchen, who also pointed out that Garitte’s
hypothesis presupposed the existence of a Coptic Thomas already in the second century CE, which
appears to be extremely unlikely.18
If the Greek text of the Oxyrhynchus fragments was not translated from Coptic, then it follows
that the opposite must likely be true: the Coptic Thomas attested by NHC II is translated from a Greek
Vorlage. Some scholars, however, have made attempts to add yet another language to the mix and
proposed that the Semiticisms in Thomas indicate that the Greek text is, in fact, a translation from
either Aramaic or Syriac. But these Semiticism hypotheses do not hold up to much scrutiny. As Simon
Gathercole has recently demonstrated, there is no reason to suspect a Semitic Thomas behind the
Greek one.19
The former question that needs demystifying, the date of Thomas, is a much more complicated
issue and thus merits a much more thorough discussion. To begin with the material evidence, the
earliest witness to the text of Thomas is P.Oxy. 1.20 P.Oxy. 1 is a fragment of a leaf from a papyrus
codex. Larry Hurtado estimates the original size of the leaf to be 10–13+ × 27+ cm, which means that
P.Oxy. 1 belongs to Eric G. Turner’s “Group 8” of papyrus codices,21 i.e. “one of the more common
shapes among codices of the second and third centuries CE.”22 Paleographically, however, P.Oxy. 1
is commonly dated to the early third century CE;23 this latter date was suggested by the first editors
of the fragment, Bernard P. Grenfell and Arthur S. Hunt, who wrote that, based on the scribe’s hand,
“the papyrus was probably written not much later than the year 200.”24
The fact that our earliest textual witness was produced in the early third century CE establishes
the most reliable terminus ante quem for Thomas; hence, the text that is attested by the Oxyrhynchus
fragments and NHC II must have been composed somewhere between the first generations of the
Jesus movement and the early third century CE. Remarkably, the range of dates that are theoretically
possible almost coincides with the range of dates that have actually been suggested: from 50–70 CE,
as suggested by Stevan Davies,25 to about 200 CE, as suggested by Han J. W. Drijvers.26
This disparity of opinions may to some degree be explained by the fact that Thomas itself
provides us with what the field of law dubs “conflicting evidence.” The most telling data come from
the study of Synoptic parallels to Thomas. There are Thomasine sayings that are demonstratively
dependent on the Synoptics, as Risto Uro, for instance, has noted, in the obvious Matthean editorial
See Garitte 1960; see also Kuhn 1960, 319–20.
See Haenchen 1961, 157–60.
See Gathercole 2012, 19–125. See also my critical notes on the alleged Semitic background of the Thomasine term
μοναχός in chapter 7.
For the high-quality images of P.Oxy. 1, see Wayment 2013, 391–2.
See Turner 1977, 20–1.
Hurtado 2008, 21.
See Attridge 1989a, 96–7; Hurtado 2008, 22; cf., however, Turner 1977, 91 and 143, where P.Oxy. 1 is dated to the
turn of the second century, i.e. ± 200 CE.
Grenfell and Hunt 1897, 6.
See Davies 1983, 146.
See Drijvers 1982, 173.