My Upcoming Book: “Saint Thomas the Apostle: New Testament, Apocrypha, and Historical Traditions”

Posted: June 30, 2017 in General

Bloomsbury Book PictureHypothesis

Thomas traditions in John and in the so-called apocryphal works, like the Gospel of Thomas (GTh), the Book of Thomas (BTh), the Acts of Thomas (ATh), and the Infancy Gospel of Thomas (IGTh), have long been misunderstood. They have been explained from the perspective of Jesus’ disciples who went to the West, especially to Rome. The so-called apocryphal documents were composed long before there was any canon of the NT, and they must not be branded as ‘non-canonical.’ The present monograph examines all the traditions focused on Thomas from an interdisciplinary perspective. The insights and conclusions have proved surprising and challenge the well-known claim that there is no history in some of these very early traditions. The focal question is the following: Are the Thomas references in the Gospel of John, in the Thomas compositions, and the early Thomas traditions in the North-Western and Southren India purely legendary as biblical scholars have assumed or do they preserve unexamined historical traditions intermittently as the Thomas Christians in India have believed? Thus, this study is an endeavor to understand the person and work of Didymus Judas Thomas from a comprehensive perspective and interdisciplinary methodology.

Thomas appears as one of the most misunderstood characters from the early stages of NT history and interpretation. The nickname ascribed to him (that is, ‘doubting Thomas’) is mostly accepted as a synonymn for doubt, unbelief, and lack of devotion. The usual practice of studying the character of Thomas from the NT, apocrypha and historical traditions independently from one another, kept the interpreters far from a broader understanding of the character. The dichotomy of studying the character of Thomas independently from within the limits of canonical, extra-canonical, and historical disciplines created gaps within Thomas studies. This situation persuades us to review the Thomas Literature (hereafter TL) integratively to understand the character from a broader purview. The current study addresses the following questions: Was Thomas merely a ‘doubting Thomas’ or was he a ‘believing Thomas’? How will a study of Thomas that bridges the NT, apocrypha, and historical traditions provide a broader understanding of the character? How is a disciplinary perspective limited in its scope in the study of Thomas, and can an interdisciplinary perspective enables us to perceive the character comprehensively? How was Thomas connected to Eastern Christianity and how do the Thomas literature support this connectivity? Can we understand the Thomas traditions related to Judea, East Syria, Persia, Indo-Parthia, and South India with the help of canonical, extra-canonical, and traditional-historical documents? These questions have to be dealt with adequately in the process of exploring the TL. The task of the study is threefold: investigate the development of the TL right from the beginning stages, understand the peculiar approaches and methodologies of interpreting Thomas documents, and analyze the TL integratively to understand the character and his mission involvements.

Endorsements

“I find most attractive Thomaskutty’s interdisciplinary methodology. It is both revolutionary and refreshing. He examines the four selected texts [i.e., GTh, BTh, ATh, and IGTh] using textual criticism, biblical criticism, narrative criticism, and theological reflections. He is well read and knows the strengths of the leading scholars. His review includes the so-called canonical texts, the apocryphal compositions, and historical traditions in both collections.” (James H. Charlesworth, George L. Collord Professor of New Testament Language and Literature, Princeton Theological Seminary, USA)

“Prof. Thomaskutty offers a comprehensive assessment of the evidence for the Apostle Thomas within the New Testament, in early Christian literature, and in the traditions of the Church, particularly the church in India, which has long venerated the Apostle Thomas as its founder. Thoroughly researched and carefully argued, Prof. Thomaskutty’s treatment will be a valuable resource to scholars of the early church and to anyone interested in the development of apostolic traditions outside the western sphere.” (Harold W. Attridge, Sterling Professor of Divinity, Yale Divinity School, USA)

“Based on careful reading of all the ancient primary sources and attention to the traditions of India, Prof. Thomaskutty has succeeded in bringing the Apostle Thomas to life, in all his complexity. Anyone interested in the Apostle Thomas ‘the Twin’ would do well to start here.” (Charles M. Stang, Professor of Early Christian Thought, Harvard Divinity School, USA)

Johnson Thomaskutty, Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India.

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