Christianity / Bible / New Testament /
There are more gospels than the 4 included in the New Testament: Mark, Matthew, Luke and John. The Gospel of Thomas was found in the Nag Hammadi excavation in 1947-49 and is of some importance, especially for religious historians. Other gospels include the Gospel of Mary and the Gospel of the Hebrews, but these are seldom given much attention.
The 4 dominant Gospels were probably all written in Greek, (Thomas was written in old Coptic) but may have used Aramaic sources to reconstruct works and sayings of Jesus.
The oldest gospel is most likely Mark, and can be dated to around 70 CE, or 35-40 years after the time of Jesus' death. The 3 other gospels of the New Testament belong to the period of 80- 100 CE. The Gospel of Thomas dates to around 200 CE.
Many scholars believe that there may have been an original source, now lost, called Q (for Quelle, the German word for source). Although there is no direct proof for such a source, scholars claim to be able to reconstruct it from the similarities and differences existing between Matthew and Luke over against Mark.
The 4 dominant are often divided into two groups, the Synoptic Mark, Matthew and Luke, and John which has Gnostic elements. The Synoptic Gospels have many elements in common, many of the same stories, and a presentation of Jesus that is fairly parallel. While there are significant differences and contradictions, there are also numerous examples of identical phrasing and chronology. The language of the 3 Synoptics are on different levels, Mark being somewhat basic and Matthew and Luke representing a higher literary standard.
The names attributed to Gospel authorship represent long-established traditions by the church, although, in most cases, there were schools or perspectives which shaped the final documents long after the disciples' deaths. There is a good reason to believe, therefore, that each of the gospels represents the tradition, or even orientation, of the apostle or early Christian whose name it bears.
The gospel of Thomas contains a few stories, but mostly sayings, while the 4 dominant ones all have a chronology of 3 parts. The first is about Jesus before he arrives in Jerusalem his life as a preacher of both challenge and hope, all set within the context of a new interpretation of Judaism. The second part represents Jesus in Jerusalem, a part leading up to the stories surrounding Jesus' crucifixion and death. The third part deals with the resurrection of Christ and post-resurrection appearances.