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Thomas and Tatian: The Relationship between the Gospel of Thomas and the Diatessaron
Nicholas Perrin, Perrin
Publication Date
October 2002


065005P-PerrinThe relationship between the Coptic Gospel of Thomas and the synoptic gospels has been a matter of long-standing debate. Some maintain that the sayings of Jesus in Thomas reflect a line of transmission independent of the synoptic tradition; others contend that the Coptic collection is finally a reworking of the Greek synoptic gospels. This book proposes a third possibility: namely, that the Gospel of Thomas depends on a second-century Syriac gospel harmony, Tatian’s Diatessaron, written in 175 C.E. Following a linguistic analysis of Thomas, the author argues that the Coptic collection is actually a translation of a unified Syriac text which at places followed the wording and sequence of the Diatessaron. The book argues for a late second-century C.E. dating of Thomas, rules out Thomas as a meaningful source for Historical Jesus research, and suggests possible links between Thomas and other mystical literature of the ancient near east.

Nicholas Perrin is Researcher for the Canon Theologian of the Westminster Abbey in London, England.

“By means of his thorough linguistic analysis in Coptic, Greek and Syriac, Nicholas Perrin has demonstrated that the Gospel of Thomas is a finely crafted Syriac text, knit together by catchwords. What he maintains to be his final concern, namely, establishing the dependence of Thomas on Tatian, is still open to debate. Parallel texts in the two documents exhibiting precisely the same harmonization of synoptic readings could as easily prove the priority of Thomas and give further proof of the theory that Tatian used the original Syriac text of the Gospel of Thomas as his fifth source. No doubt the arguments on both sides will go on for some time to come. Perrin’s contribution to the discussion, however, is highly significant.”
— W. G. Morrice, Expository Times