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The Infancy Gospel Of Thomas

c. 150 C.E.

The Infancy Gospel of Thomas was probably the first of many attempts by the early Christians to document the first twelve years of Jesus's life, bridging the gap left in the second chapter of Luke. The original language of the text is unknown—Greek or Syriac are probable—but the story was popular enough to survive in numerous translations, redactions, and parallel stories, including several Egyptian infancy gospels, as late as the Protestant Reformation. The text may have influenced the authors of the Koran.

The gospel's portrayal of Jesus, though perhaps alarming to more orthodox sensibilities, would have been quite familiar to early Gentiles, as the young Christ displays all the precociousness, cleverness, and even destructiveness of the child-gods in pagan mythology. In the early passages of the story, Jesus shows a disturbing tendency to kill off his playmates when they displease him. He eventually learns to channel his divine abilities in more constructive ways and realizes his calling, culminating in the trip to the Jerusalem temple closely paralleled in Luke 2:41-52.

Claims of apostolic authorship were most likely a secondary development within the Syriac church, where most of the traditions surrounding Thomas originated. The oldest surviving text is a Syriac text from the sixth century, but the earliest known reference to the gospel was an unnamed citation by Iranĉus c.185 C.E. Later references by Hippolytus and Origen may refer to the Infancy Gospel or the Gospel of Thomas, both of which were viewed as heretical due to their use by Gnostic Christians.