The Book of Thomas the Contender


The Book of Thomas the Contender is a lost Gospel and part of the Nag Hammadi collection (Codex II), found in the Egyptian desert in 1945. It is thought to have been originally written in the late first century.


1. The confidential teachings the Savior spoke to Judas Thomas, which I – even I – Mathaias, wrote down while I was walking and listening to them speak with each other.
2. The Savior said: “Brother Thomas, listen to me while you have time in this world, and I will reveal to you the things you have been wondering about.
3. “Now because it has been said that you are my associate and true follower, examine yourself and learn who you are – your composition and what you will become. Since you will be called my brother, it is not appropriate that you are ignorant about yourself.
4. “I already know you have understood, because you knew that I have the knowledge of the Truth. Thus while you follow me even when you do not know, you have actually already become aware, and you will be considered one who knows himself.
5. “For one who does not know himself knows nothing. But one who knows himself has already achieved the deep knowledge of the Omniscient.
6. “So you, my brother Thomas, have seen what is hidden from humans. This ignorance causes them to stumble.”
7. Then Thomas said to the Master, “Therefore I beg you to tell me what I asked before you ascended. And when I hear from you these confidential things, I will then speak about them. And I am certain that the Truth is hard to execute in the sight of people.”
8. The Savior answered and said, “If those things that you see are hidden to you, how can you understand the things that are invisible? If the works of Truth that are seen in the world are difficult to execute, then how will you execute that which pertains to the world above and that which is unseen?
9. “And how then will you be considered as workers? In this case, you are apprentices and haven’t received the greatness of perfection.”
10. The Savior said, “Like the animals, every human body is born into ignorance. Does it not appear to stand above other creatures? This is the reason that those from above are not seen among the visible, but they are seen by their heart, and by the fruit that nourishes them. Yet the visible bodies live by consuming animals like themselves, which results in a changing body. These changes lead to decomposition and death, and no prospect of life after that – because of that animal body.
11. “So, just as the animal body dies, so also will these embodiments die. Don’t they develop from copulation just like the animals? Since it also develops from copulation, how can it give birth to anything different than the animals? Therefore, you are ignorant until you become perfect.”
12. Then Thomas replied, “Therefore I must say to you, Master, that those who speak about the unseen and difficult topics are like those who shoot their arrows at their target during the night. Surely, they shoot their arrows like anyone else – because they shoot at the target: But it is unseen. Yet when the light comes out and removes the darkness, then their actions will become evident. And you, Master – our light – enlighten us.”
13. Jesus replied, “It is within the illumination that light lives.”
14. Thomas asked, “Master, why does this visible light that illuminates for the benefit of humans rise and set?”
15. The Savior replied, “Blessed Thomas, certainly this visible light illuminates for your benefit not so you could stay here, but so that you might leave here. Then whenever the chosen give up the material body, this light will return back to its Origin, and the Origin will accept it, since it is a devoted servant.”
16. Then the Savior continued, saying, “Alas, Boundless Love of the Light! Woe is the bitter fire that burns within human bodies from within their blood – kindling within them night and day, burning their limbs, intoxicating their minds and deranging their souls.
17. “That which is locked away within the bodies of men and women through the night which gives them motion secretly and visibly scalds them – as men connect with women and women connect with men.
18. “Therefore, it is said, ‘All who seek Truth from Wisdom will create the wings to fly – to escape the lust that scorches the souls of humans.’ Thus will one create the wings to flee from every material body.”
19. Then Thomas replied, saying, “Master, this is precisely what I was asking you about, as I know you care for us, just as you say.”
20. Once again the Savior replied, saying, “This is why it is important for us to speak to you, because this is the Perfect Teaching. If you now want to become perfect, you will follow through with these things. If not you are considered ignorant, because it is not possible for a smart man to accompany a fool – because the intelligent one is perfect in every wisdom.
21. “Among the foolish, the good and the bad are equal. Indeed, the wise one nourished by the Truth will become like a tree growing next to a flowing stream. There they will see some who, although they have wings, will dash towards the material things – things far from the Truth. Because the fire that guides them will give them an illusion of truth that flashes them with temporary beauty. Yet it will imprison them within a dark sweetness and captivate them with fragrant pleasure.
22. “And it will blind them with insatiable lust that burns their souls and becomes like a stake stabbed into the chest that they cannot remove. And like a bit in the mouth, it leads them around by its own will, and binds them with chains tying every limb – with the bitter bondage of lust for those material things that decompose – altering and bending through impulse. They will always be drawn downwards as they are slaughtered: They are assimilated into the perishable realm of the animals.”
23. Thomas replied, saying, “It is certain what has been said, ‘Many will cry to those who do not have peace in their soul.”
24. Then the Savior replied, saying, “Blessed is the wise person who searched for Truth, and when he found it, he rested upon it forever, and did not fear those who sought to dislodge him.”
25. Thomas replied, saying, “Master, is it good for us to have peace amongst each other?”
26. The Savior replied, “Yes, it is useful. And it is good for you because material things among humans will dissolve. Because the vessel of the flesh will decompose, when it is broken down it will turn into the other material forms we see around us.
27. “Then the burning of matter brings pain due to the loss of their previous love and faith. This returns them back to matter.
28. “Furthermore, without the first love, those who see the unseen things will die in the concerns of this life and the burning fire. In just a little while, that which is visible will dissolve.
29. “Then formless shades will emerge, and in the midst of the tombs they will forever live among the corpses of pain and the corruption of the soul.”
30. Thomas replied, saying, “What can we say in response to these things? What should we say to those who are blind? What doctrine should we communicate to the anguished mortals that say, ‘We came to do good, and not to be cursed.’ And yet they claim, ‘If we hadn’t been born into the flesh, we would not have known wickedness?’”
31. The Savior said, “Truly, for those who do not consider them humans, but regard them as animals – because animals consume one another – so also humans of this kind consume each other. On the contrary, they are deprived of the Sanctuary because they are attracted to the sweetness of the fire, and are servants of death and rush to the deeds of wickedness.
32. “They fulfill the lust of their teachers. They will be tossed down to the abyss to account for the torment of the bitterness of their wickedness. For they will be cursed to run backwards – where they do not know – and will depart from their bodies not with patience, but with despair.
33. “And they rejoice over their involvement with madness and derangement because they are fools. They chase this derangement without knowing their madness, thinking themselves wise. They love the beauty of their body [missing text].
34. “Their mind is directed towards themselves, because their thoughts are occupied by their own doings. Yet the fire will burn them.”
35. Then Thomas replied, saying, “Master, what happens to the one who is cast down among them? For I am anxious about them, as there are so many who are fighting.”
36. The Savior replied, saying, “What do you think?”
37. Judas, who is called Thomas, said, “It is you, Master, who should speak, and I should listen.”
38. The Savior replied, “Hear what I say, and trust in the Truth. He who sows and that which is sown will decompose in the fire – within the fire and water – and they will disappear into graves of darkness.
39. “And after awhile they will appear again in the fruits of wicked trees, being punished. They will be killed in the mouths of animals and humans, whenever the rains, winds and drafts come, and the light which shines from above.”
40. Thomas replied, “You have surely convinced us, Master. We understand from within our hearts the sense this makes and that your teaching is complete.
41. “Yet the statements you make to us would be misunderstood by the world and would be considered fantastic and abominable.
42. “How then can we go out and preach them, since we are not respected by the world?”
43. The Savior replied, saying, “Truly I say to you that one who listens to your teachings and turns his face away or scoffs or ridicules them – truly I tell you that he will be turned over to the King above who governs all the powers as their Ruler.
44. “And He will turn around and toss him from heaven into the abyss. And he will be locked into a tight dark place. Furthermore, he can neither turn nor move, on account of the depth of Tartarus and the bitter burden of Hades that remains.
45. “They will be drawn down into it and will not escape. They will not leave their delusion.
46. “And those who persecute you will be turned over to the angel Tartarouchos, who pursues with streams of fire with burning inflictions that cast a torrent of sparks upon those pursued. If he runs west, he faces the fire.
47. “If he turns south, he faces it there too. If he turns north, the threat of fire meets him again. He won’t find a way eastward in order to flee to be saved – as he didn’t find this during the time he was in the body so that he could find it at the time of judgment.”
48. The Savior continued, saying, “Woe to those without God, without hope, relying on things that won’t happen.
49. “Woe to those who trust in the flesh and the prison that will perish. How long will they be blind? How long will they assume the eternal will also perish?
50. “They have set their trust upon the material world, and their god is this material existence. They are destroying your souls.”
51. “Woe to those whose fire burns within, for it is unquenchable. Woe to those whose minds turn like a wheel.
52. “Woe to those captured by what burns within, for it will outwardly consume the body and render the soul as lost, and prepare them for their associates.
53. “Woe to the prisoners bound within caves. They laugh in mad laughter and rejoice. They neither realize their damnation, nor do they reflect on their situation, nor do they understand that they live in darkness and death. To the contrary, they are intoxicated by the fire and completed by bitterness.
54. “Their mind is disturbed because of the burning within. And the poison is sweet like the blows of enemies. Then the darkness emerges upon them like a light, because they gave up their freedom for servitude.
55. “They darkened their hearts and gave up their minds to foolishness, filling their minds with the smoldering from the fire within.
56. “And their light hid in the cloud of darkness and they deceivingly pursued the garment put upon them. Then they were captured by longing for what doesn’t exist.
57. “In what did they believe? Did they not understand that they dwelled among those who [missing text] and bragged as though there was hope.
58. “They immersed their souls in the water of darkness. They walked by their own whims.
59. “Woe to those who live in sin, unaware that the sun’s illumination that judges and looks down upon all will surround everything in order to enslave the wicked. They do not even notice the moon: How it looks down day and night, seeing the bodies of their slayings.
60. “Woe to those who love intimacy with women – and unclean intercourse with them.
61. “And woe to those gripped by the powers of the body – for they will afflict you.
62. “Woe to those gripped by the forces of evil demons.
63. “Woe to those who deceive your body with fire. Who will pour a refreshing rain to extinguish the buildup of fire that burns them?
64. “Who will cause the sun to shine to break up the darkness within, and hide the darkness and contamination?
65. “The sun and the moon will render a fragrance upon you with the air and the wind and the earth and the water. Because if the sun doesn’t illuminate these bodies they will wither and die like weeds or grass. If the sun shines on them they will prevail and choke the grape vine.
66. “But if the grapevine grows and flourishes, it alone will inherit the land upon which it grows, and all places it shades will be controlled. And when it matures, it overtakes all the land and be fruitful for its master, and it pleases him even more.
67. “For those plants would have given him great pains until he uprooted them. Yet the grapevine by itself removed and choked them, and they died and turned into soil.”
68. Then Jesus continued, saying, “Woe to those who did not receive the Teaching, and those who are [missing text] will serve by preaching [missing text]. And they rush in [missing text] will send them down [missing text] you slay them daily so they might rise from death.
69. “Blessed are those who know beforehand about the stumbling blocks, and who run from foreign things.
70. “Blessed are those who are scorned and not proud, due to the love their Lord has for them.
71. “Blessed are those who weep, who are oppressed by those with no trust, for they will be freed from all bondage.
72. “Watch and pray that you don’t continue to exist within the flesh. But rather, that you rise from the bondage of this bitter life. And as you pray, you will find peace, for you have departed from the suffering and the degradation.
73. “For when you depart from the sufferings and lusts of the body, you will receive peace from the Devoted One, and you will share the dominion of the Supreme Being, and become united with Him – and He with you – from now on, for eternity, Amen.”

The Book of Thomas the Contender, Writing to the Perfect.

Remember me, my brothers, in your prayers.
Glory to the saints, and those devoted to the Spirit.

Continue on to the Didache: The Teaching