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The Acts Of Thomas

c. 200-225 C.E.

Aside from the section of the Acts of John known as the "Preaching of the Gospel," the Acts of Thomas are probably the most overtly Gnostic of the apocryphal Acts, portraying Christ as the "Heavenly Redeemer" who can free souls from the darkness of the physical world. Surprisingly, Thomas is the only one of the five primary Acts to have survived in its entirety—in a Syriac text from the seventh century and a Greek text from the eleventh, as well as scores of fragments. While the Syriac texts are earlier and likely represent the original language of the work, they appear to have been purged of the unorthodox passages. Thus the Greek, though often poorly translated, represents the earlier tradition.

Thomas is also the only book of Acts claiming apostolic authorship, though it is difficult to fathom how Thomas could have recorded his own martyrdom. Most believe the author wrote in the early third century, though links to the Gospel of Thomas may place it earlier.

The book tells how the apostles drew lots to divide up the world for their missionary work, and India fell to Thomas. He gains Indian followers by performing exorcisms and ressurections, but is eventually sentenced to death after converting the wives of King Misdaeus and his kinsman Charisius. While in prison, Thomas sings the "Hymn of the Pearl," a poem that gained a great deal of popularity in orthodox circles.