Q: I recently heard about Gospel of Thomas.
Why isn’t it included in the Bible?
THIS QUESTION CONTAINS
TWO PARTS. THE FIRST
QUESTIONS the validity of the Gospel of
Thomas, while the second deals with how the New
Testament was formed.
Let’s address the authenticity of the Gospel of
Thomas. This book belongs to a group of writings
called the Gnostic Gospels and contains no stories
or record of the crucifixion. Instead, readers find
a collection of confusing statements attributed to
Christ. The Gnostic cult affected parts of the secondcentury
church, and followers defined all material
things as evil. For instance, as Christians, we believe
Jesus inhabited a body and shed His blood for our
sins. The Gnostics couldn’t accept the sacrificial
death of Jesus since they believed both the body
and blood would be sinful.
Next, I’ll tackle the canon of Scripture. Luke said
that “many have undertaken to compile a narrative
of the things that have been accomplished among
us” (Luke 1:1, ESV), so we know others wrote about Jesus.
The Early Church chose certain tests to
validate inspired writings. The word canon means
“rule to judge.” Church fathers adopted three criteria
a book must meet to be part of the New Testament.
First, the writer had to be an apostle or associated
with an apostle. For instance, in the first Gospel
written, Mark recorded the eyewitness account of
Peter. Luke traveled with Paul and served as his
physician. He wrote Luke and Acts.
Second, the book had to convey a sense of authority
and claim to reveal God’s message. Consider the
book of First Corinthians. Paul introduced himself as
an apostle as he began writing and then addressed
divisions in the Corinth church. Church members
chose to identify with the minister who baptized
them, so the church broke into segments. Paul said
Jesus wasn’t divided and admonished believers to
follow Christ rather than the preacher. Clearly, Paul
knew he was conveying God’s revelation.
Third, the book must be recognized by the Early
Church. That may seem an unusual standard, but
first-century Christians agreed on most of the books
in the New Testament. Scholars debated several for
a time, but resolved their differences. When the first
church council met in 397, they all agreed on the 27
books in the New Testament.
To summarize, the Gospel of Thomas taught Gnostic
doctrine and it’s unlikely the Apostle Thomas penned
it. Further the book did not convey authority and
was not recognized by the Early Church. While
many wrote about the life of Christ, the Early Church
examined writings before recognizing them as part of
Scripture. Based on the wisdom of the Early Church
fathers, we can be certain we have all the revelation God gave mankind.