One of the highlights when I teach New Testament introduction courses is to have “story-time” with a reading from the Infancy Gospel of Thomas. Why would I read from such a book? Critics attempt to cast doubt on the New Testament canon by suggesting that there were plenty of other books that could have been in the canon but were left out, for either theological or political reasons.
I believe that the best response is not to hide these other gospels from Christians but rather to bring them out of the shadows. Read the canonical Gospels and then read these other books and compare.
What exactly is the Infancy Gospel of Thomas? It is not to be confused with the Gospel of Thomas or the Acts of Thomas. This is an infancy gospel, meaning it is about Jesus when he was a child. Other than Luke 2:41-51, the canonical Gospels do not give any information about Jesus between his birth and the beginning of his ministry. It is understandable that people would be curious about this period of his life and so authors used their imaginations to fill in the gap.
You will notice that this infancy gospel assumes that Jesus had his “powers” during his childhood. While the Gospels do not specify, it is my understanding that Jesus did not start to perform miracles until he received the Holy Spirit at his baptism.
The Infancy Gospel of Thomas was written sometime between 140-170 AD. This is another reason, as if it needed more, while it was not included in the canon.
Here are a couple of passages from the Infancy Gospel of Thomas.
2 When this boy, Jesus, was five years old, he was playing at the ford of a rushing stream. (2) He was collecting the flowing water into ponds and made the water instantly pure. He did this with a single command. (3) He then made soft clay and shaped it into twelve sparrows. He did this on the sabbath day, and many other boys were playing with him.
This passage is significant in that this story also appears in the Qur’an.
He will say: “I bring you a sign from your Lord. From clay I will make for you the likeness of a bird. I shall breath into it and, by God’s leave, it shall become a living bird.” (Sura 3:49)
Here is my favourite passage:
4 Later he was going through the village again when a boy ran and bumped him on the shoulder. Jesus got angry and said to him, “You won’t continue your journey.” (2)And all of a sudden, he fell down and died.
(3)Some people saw what had happened and said, “Where has this boy come from? Everything he says happens instantly!”
(4)The parents of the dead boy came to Joseph and blamed him saying, “Because you have such a boy, you can’t live with us in the village, or else teach him to bless and not curse. He’s killing our children!”
Yes, young Jesus does not mind killing other children who bump into him. Why is this not in the canon again?
You can find more about the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, including a variety of English translations, at this page.