Q. Somebody was trying to convince me there was a Gospel According to Thomas that the Church has suppressed. Is this true?
A. Here’s a reply from Father Reginald Martin:
What we consider the New Testament resulted from debate and compromise among early Christian scholars and theologians. This was not an exact science, so, for example, certain communities did not accept the Book of Revelation until the 13th century. Likewise, the Church’s early authorities never judged some texts to be inspired, although they considered them valuable aids to our spiritual lives.
What are the standards by which texts became part of the New Testament? Reliability of the author is foremost; if the early Christians recognized its writer, a text stood a better chance of acceptance. Correspondence between the theology of a text and the traditional beliefs of the Christian community was vital; no work would be accepted that promoted a radically new belief or denied an existing one. Finally, communities compared their texts. Those texts shared most commonly are those found in the Bible today.
The Gospel of Thomas was known to early Christians, but disappeared until it was discovered by archaeologists in 1945. It is not a narrative, like the four Gospels in the New Testament, but a collection of Jesus’ sayings. Because these are introduced as “hidden” or “secret” utterances, most early Christians wanted nothing to do with the text.