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Apocalypse of Thomas

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Estimated Range of Dating: 300-400 A.D.

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Information on the Apocalypse of Thomas

A. de Santos Otero comments (New Testament Apocrypha, vol. 2, pp. 748-749):

For centuries the Apocalypse of Thomas was known only through the notice of it in the Decretum Gelasianum (Item 27, cf. vol. 1, p. 39). In 1908 C. Frick (ZNW 9, 1908, 172) drew attention to another reference which is contanied in the Chronicle of Jerome of the Codex Philippsianus No. 1829 in Berlin. In this it says in reference to the 18th year of Tiberius Caesar: in libro quodam apocrypho qui dicitur Thomae apostoli scriptum est dominum iesum ad eum dixisse ab ascensu suo ad celum usque in secundum adventum eius novem iobeleus contineri.

Today two versions of the Apocalypse of Thomas exist.

The longer is represented by: a) Cod. Clm 4585 fol. 66-67 (9th cent.) of Benediktbeuern. This text has been edited by Fr. Wilhelm in his book: Deutsche Legenden und Legendare, 1907; b) a manuscript from the Library of the Chapter of Verona (8th cent.) which has been published by M. R. James in JTS 11, 1910, 288-290; c) Cod. Vatic. Palat. no. 220, discovered by E. v. Dobschütz and used by Bihlmeyer in his edition of Cod. Clm 4563. An early English form of this version is found in the fifteenth sermon of the famous Anglo-Saxon manuscript of Vercelli (9th cent.), cf. M.R. James, Apoc. NT, 556ff. This version consists of two different parts. The first is concerned with the events and signs which are to precede the last judgment. In this it reveals a close dependence on similar descriptions of other apocrypha of an apocalyptic nature, e.g. the Assumption of Moses, the Ascension of Isaiah and the Sibylline Books. This part should be regarded as an interpolation; its origin can be dated to the first or second half of the 5th century because of some historical references in the text (e.g. to the Emperor Theodosius and his two sons Arcadius and Honorius). Cf. Bihlmeyer in Rev. Bénéd. 28, 1911, 277.

The second part corresponds in range and content with the shorter version of the Apocalypse of Thomas. This version is represented by: a) Cod. Vindob. Palatinus 16 (formerly Bobbiensis) fol. 60r-60v from the 5th century. This text was first discovered by J. Bick (SWA 159, 1908, 90-100) and identified by E. Hauler (Wiener Studien 30, 1908, 308-340) as a fragment of the Apocalypse of Thomas. It is the oldest witness of all to our Apocalypse; b) Cod. Clm 4563 fol. 40r-40v (11th/12th century) from Benediktbeuern, discovered and edited by Bihlmeyer (Rev. Bénéd. 28, 1911, 272-276). This text agrees basically with Vindob. Palat. 16, has been fully preserved and reveals no interpolations.

The shorter version is our oldest witness to the original Apocalypse of Thomas, which should have been subject in the course of time to various orthodox and heretical revisions. We must associate this development above all with Manichean and Priscillianist currents of thought. In favour of that there is not only the mention of the Apocalypse of Thomas in the Decretum Gelasianum but also some parallel places in Priscillianist writings; cf. De Bruyne (Rev. Bénéd. 24, 1907, 318-335) and Bihlmeyer (ibid. 28, 1911, 279). Some typical Manichean ideas, e.g. that of light, appear again and again in our Apocalypse. In this connection Bihlmeyer (ibid. p. 282) points to the name Thomas which (according to the Acta Archelai of Hegemonius) was borne by one of the three greatest disciples of Mani. Both the longer and shorter versions (Cod. Vindob. Palat. 16 dates from the 5th century) suggest the conjecture that the Apocalypse of Thomas originated prior to the 5th century. Closely dependent on the canonical Revelation of John, it is the only apocryphal apocalypse which apportions the events of the End into seven days. This clearly recalls the seven seals, the seven trumpets and the seven bowls of the Revelation of John (Rev. 5-8:2; 8:2-11; 16). The numerous variants of the Latin codices point to different versions of an original Greek text.

The basis of our translation is the Latin text of Cod. Clm 4563 in the edition of Bihlmeyer (Rev. Bénéd. 28, 1911, 272-276) in which he takes into account the variants of the other codices. There is a complete English translation of both versions in M.R. James.

Accordingly, the text may have been written in the fourth century.

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Kirby, Peter. "The Apocalypse of Thomas." Early Christian Writings. <>.