Yesterday I made the most fascinating discovery. Before I wrote this page, I read the Gospel of Thomas and some introductions to it that attempted to date it.
Not one of them mentioned that the Gospel is quoted in 2 Clement!
Yesterday I read, "For the Lord himself, being asked when the kingdom would come, replied, ‘When two shall be one, that which is without as that which is within, and the male with the female, neither male nor female’" (2 Clement 12).
This is clearly a quote from the Gospel of Thomas, saying 22, which reads:
Now, I complain about this quote on my original page on the Gospel of Thomas. It could be interpreted to be anything. 2 Clement interprets it this way:
2 Clement is considered an orthodox work; however, no reputable scholar has ever considered it to be actually written by Clement, not even Eusebius, who makes the first mention of it in A.D. 323. In style, it is nothing like 1 Clement. It is only called 2 Clement because the 5th century Alexandrian manuscript includes it with 1 Clement as "the epistles of Clement."
Despite the fact that no one believes Clement authored it, it's universally considered orthodox. In fact, it's pretty awesome, and you ought to read it (but see sidebar).
Obviously, the writer of Second Clement considered the Gospel of Thomas orthodox, —assuming he was quoting it and not the same source the Gospel of Thomas used.
As I said on the original page on this gospel, I didn't find anything out and out anti-Christian. It just has that eastern mystical feel and has changed some of Jesus' sayings into philosophical claptrap that could mean anything. If the writer of Second Clement could interpret them the way he did above, then it's no surprise that he could consider it orthodox.
Overall, it seems likely that the Church knew about this gospel that claims to be from Thomas, yet they did not include it with Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John among the accepted Gospels, and they did that on purpose.
2 Clement is usually given a date from A.D. 140-160, specifically because of this quote.
No Christian writer before Eusebius in A.D. 323 makes reference to 2 Clement; however, the reason for dating it to c. A.D. 150 is that it quotes words of Jesus from something other than the four Gospels. That would have been unacceptable in an orthodox work, especially a sermon like Second Clement, anytime after the late 2nd century.
Of course, if 2 Clement is from A.D. 150 and it cites the Gospel of Thomas, then the Gospel of Thomas is at least that old.
Interestingly enough, Clement of Alexandria quotes the same words and attributes them to an apocryphal and unknown "Gospel of the Egyptians," which he does not regard as authoritative. The Gospel of Thomas has been found in Coptic (Egyptian) and Greek. Is it an Egyptian Gospel? If so, it's almost certainly Alexandrian, the intellectual center of Egypt, which would explain Clement of Alexandria would be quoting it.
Or maybe it was not always the Gospel "of Thomas." Was the sentence attributing it to Thomas added later?
There's a lot of other possibilities, of course. Maybe Second Clement was written later. Maybe that one quote made it into 2 Clement, Clement of Alexandria's Stromata (or Miscellanies), and the Gospel of Thomas from some other source.
I don't like that possibility. The only way that would have happened is if Christians considered at least that story orthodox. I find that hard to believe as it's such a terrible corruption of Jesus' wonderful statement in the Gospels that we must become like little children to enter the kingdom of heaven.
Of course, an opinion like that of mine isn't going to carry any historical weight. Good historians have to be unbiased. So you have to ignore that opinion, as do I, but I wanted you to know where I stand—help you get to know me a little better.