|Ivan Miroshnikov, Doctoral student
The Gospel of Thomas and Plato: A Study of the Impact of Platonism on the “Fifth Gospel”
Since the middle of the twentieth century, a number of studies on Thomas and Hellenistic philosophy have been published. Various scholars suggested that some of Thomasine sayings might be better understood against Stoic, Cynic, or Middle Platonist backgrounds. There is, however, a growing recognition among the Thomas scholars that it is to Middle Platonism that Thomas is most indebted. And yet no systematic discussion of the Platonist elements in Thomas has been offered. My intention is to bridge this gap. My working hypothesis is that the author (or the authors) of Thomas was (were) aware of and subscribed to certain Middle Platonist views on the universe and human nature, the ultimate reality and human perfection. Hence a number of Thomasine sayings can be better understood by appreciating their appropriation of Middle Platonist metaphysics. To name a few, I propose that saying 7 alludes to Plato’s allegory of the soul and portrays anger, one of the most dangerous diseases of the soul, as the lion that fights against reason, the inner man; that saying 61 uses the Platonist notions of equality and indivisibility in order to describe the immutability of God; that saying 83 employs the Platonist concepts of “image” and “model” in order to depict the future transformation of the universe. These findings make Thomas an important witness of the earliest stages of the history of early Christian engagement with Platonism.