Thomas Files

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The Acts of the Apostles
a collection of
apocryphal stories of the Apostles

The Acts of Thomas ( Latin Acta Thomae , German and Acts of Thomas ) are an apocryphal Acts that are part of Manichean collection of the Acts of the Apostles was. They were in the first half of the third century on Syrian written and are therefore pseudepigraphical . Its author was possibly close to Gnosticism , but was in any case an encratite . What has been preserved is a Syrian revision, which strongly pushes back the Gnostic element, and a less purified Greek translation. There are also Latin , Armenian and Ethiopian arrangements.

The acts begin, like the Acts of the Apostles, with the assembly of the apostles in Jerusalem . The apostle Thomas , who is called Judas Thomas, sometimes just Judas, refuses to go to India. When an Indian merchant wants to buy a “carpenter” on the slave market, Jesus offers Thomas (Syrian for twin) for sale in an ironic game of confusion. After the trade is completed, Jesus gives Thomas his purchase price so that Thomas can buy his way out at any time. Thomas then travels to north-west India as a slave by ship . On the way there he already commits conversion and miracles together with the risen Christ, his “twin”, until he is finally martyred in northwest India . The core of their sermon is the call to abstain from sexual intercourse, because from it all bad things arise.

Scattered into the files are numerous sermons and hymns . The wedding song and the pearl song are known as testimonies to the Gnostic doctrine of redemption. Also interesting is a sermon that Jesus, in the form of Thomas, gives to a newly wed, royal wedding couple about the harmfulness of having children.

The Acts of Thomas played an important role both in Manichaeism and among Syrian church Christians, and the book by the athlete Thomas, preserved in the Nag Hammadi writings , is traced back to the Apostle Thomas. In Manichaeism he finally becomes a Didymos (Arabic at-Taum ), the revealing angel who guides Mani to believe. The relationship to the description of Mani's trip to India , which partly contains comparable motifs, as well as the relationship between the Edessen Thomas tradition and the Manichaean Apostle Thomas who worked in Edessa is unclear .

For a long time the Acts of Thomas were respected by both Manichaeans and church Christians, but were finally counted among the apocryphal writings by the Decretum Gelasianum at the beginning of the 6th century, which are to be rejected in the constituted church.


  • Jan N. Bremmer (Ed.): The apocryphal acts of Thomas (= Studies on early Christian apocrypha, Vol. 6). Peeters Publishers, Leuven 2001, ISBN 9-042-91070-4 ( limited preview in Google book search).
  • Susan E. Myers: Spirit epicleses in the Acts of Thomas (= Scientific Studies on the New Testament, Series 2. 281). Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen 2010, ISBN 978-3-16-149472-7 (revised version of the Diss. Notre Dame University, Ind., 2003).
  • Klaus Zelzer (Ed.): The old Latin Acts of Thomas ('Passio sancti Thomae apostoli' and 'De miraculis beati Thomae apostoli'), Berlin, Akad.-Vlg 1977 (TU 122).