The Parable Of The Lost Sheep In The Gospel Of Thomas -- By: John A. Jelinek

Journal: Michigan Theological Journal
Volume: MTJ 05:1 (Spring 1994)
Article: The Parable Of The Lost Sheep In The Gospel Of Thomas
Author: John A. Jelinek

The Parable Of The Lost Sheep In The Gospel Of Thomas

John A. Jelinek

The Gospel of Thomas has sparked considerable interest for New Testament scholars since its discovery nearly five decades ago. This article uses the parable of the Lost Sheep in Thomas as a reference point for understanding the direction that New Testament studies have taken. From the standpoint of evangelical theology much of the current and dated research into Thomas is based on invalid presuppositions concerning sources, and dates, but careful examination of that research still yields valuable results.


Since its discovery amongst the writings of the Nag Hammadi manuscripts in 1945, the Gospel of Thomas has been subjected to detailed and rigorous criticism. All of this criticism and study, however, has not brought scholars to any unanimous conclusions about the character of the work. Questions concerning the date of composition, sources employed by the author, and the relationship of Thomas’ materials to the canonical gospels continue to be items of serious scholarly debate.1 Issues such as these are of considerable interest to the New Testament scholar involved in sorting out potential sources for the canonical Gospels.

This article attempts to analyze critically one of Thomas’ parables, the Parable of the Lost Sheep, in conjunction with its synoptic parallels in Matthew and Luke. In so doing, it has proven necessary to consider the various approaches scholars have taken on the date and source of Thomas, as these approaches affect the interpretations given to the parables in these three sources. The analysis consists of textual comparisons between the three texts for elements of similarity and dissimilarity, some possible reconstructions which scholars have proposed, and some criticisms of these reconstructions from an evangelical position. The significance and value of The Gospel of Thomas for New Testament studies calls for serious consideration by evangelical scholars.2

Preliminary Considerations on the Interpretation of the Gospel of Thomas

The Questions of Sources and Date


As concerns the sources employed by The Gospel of Thomas (hereafter, simply Thomas), there are two broad categories into which scholarly opinions may be grouped. First, some see Thomas as an independent Gospel tradition, arising from an independent source.

The second category of opinions see Thomas as essentially dependent on the Synop...

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