The Infancy Gospel of Thomas: Syriac

The Syriac text of IGT (Syr) is found in several interrelated compilations of Lives of Mary:

1. The earliest of these lives is extant in two manuscripts which compile the Protevangelium of James, the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, and the Assumption of the Virgin. The first publication of the IGT material from one of these manuscripts (London, British Library, Add. 14484 of the sixth century) came in 1865 by William Wright (Contributions to the Apocryphal Literature of the New Testament.London: Williams & Norgate, 1865, pp. 11-16 [text], 6-11 [translation]). The second manuscript (Göttingen, Universitätsbibliothek, Syr. 10 of the fifth or sixth century) was collated against Wright’s manuscript by W. Baars and J. Heldermann (“Neue Materielen zum Text und zur Interpretation des Kindheitsevangeliums des Pseudo-Thomas.” Oriens Christianus 77 [1993]: 191-226; 78 [1994]: 1-32). A third witness of this type is found in Vatican, Syr. 159 (dated1622/1623) of which chs. 5-8 were published (but only in French) by P. Peeters (Évangiles apocryphes, vol. 2 [Textes et documents pour l’étude historique du Christianisme 18], Paris 1914, p. 304-308). IGT is here appended to (but not incorporated into) Nestorian Life of Mary material in Garshuni. This manuscript is more complete than the previous two and seems to be our best source for the gospel in Syriac. Another Ms, Mingana 105 (1832/1833), has a text very similar to Peeters’ Ms.

2. The Jacobite Life of Mary: this compilation features the Protevangelium of James, the Vision of Theophilus, IGT, and the Assumption of the Virgin. Only the Vision section of this text has been published to date. Some manuscripts of this type, and of the Nestorian type, are listed by Anton Baumstark (Geschichte der syrischen Literatur mit Ausschluss der christlich-palästinensischen Texte. Bonn: A. Marcus & E. Webers Verlag, 1922, p. 69 n. 12 and 99 n. 4) and by S. C. Mimouni (“Les Vies de la Vierge; État de la question,” Apocrypha 5 [1994]: 239-243). Several additional manuscripts have not been noted by previous scholars. It is not always clear from the catalogue descriptions whether a given manuscript contains this text or the Nestorian text but the following  contain the Jacobite text: Mingana Syr. 48 (1906, but copied in part from a manuscript of 1757); Mingana Syr. 5 (1790); Mingana Syr. 560 (1491); Vatican, Syr. 537 (16th cent.); Paris, Bib. nat. 377 (1854/1855); Cambridge, Add. 2001 (1480-1481); and several Harvard manuscripts (Houghton Library,  Syr. 35 [16/17th cent.], Syr. 82 [17/18th cent.], Syr. 129 [17th cent.], and Syr. 39 [19th cent.]). The Jacobite text is also extant in two Garshuni manuscripts (Syr. 39 [from 1773] and the more recent Syr. 114).

3. The Nestorian Life of Mary: this compilation includes the Protevangelium of James, material incorporated also in the Arabic Infancy Gospel, IGT, episodes from the canonical gospels, the Assumption of the Virgin, and other miracles. The entire text was published from two manuscripts by E. A. Wallis Budge in 1899, though the IGT material was extant in only one of the manuscripts (a personal copy commissioned by Budge but based on a 13/14th century original). The IGT material has been shuffled around in the text; it consists of chs. 4, 6, 7, 11-16. The following manuscripts are believed to contain the Nestorian text: Berlin, OrOct 1130 (1814/1815); Cambridge, Add. 2020 (1697); Union Theological Seminary, Syr. 32 (18th cent.); Vatican, Syr. 587 (1917); Vatican, Syr. 597 (17th cent.); Vatican, Syr. 561 (1683; fragmentary); London, Brit. Libr. Or 4526 (1726-1727); Notre-Dame de Sémances 97 (1689/90); Mardin 80 (1728-1731); Diyarbakir 99 (undated); Séert 82 (16th cent.); Teheran, Issayi 18 (1741/42 based on an original from 1243/44); Houghton Library, Syr. 168 (18th cent), Syr. 36 (16/17th cent.), and Syr. 39 (19th cent.); Columbia University, Butler Library X893.4 B47; and three manuscripts (probably now lost) from Urmia (43 [1813] perhaps identical to Cambridge, Or 1341 [1863] and a manuscript at Princeton’s Speer Library [Clemons 346]); 38 [1885]; and 47 [1885]. Many of these Mss have yet to be evaluated but to date only Budge’s Ms has been found to contain the IGT material.

The Syriac tradition also spawned several offsrpring: the forementioned Arabic Infancy Gospel, the Armenian Infancy Gospel (both likely related to the Nestorian Life of Mary), the Georgian version of IGT, and a rarely-discussed Arabic version of IGT (published from an undated Ms in the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan [G 11 sup] by Sergio Noja, “À propos du texte arabe d’un évangile apocryphe de Thomas de la Ambrosiana de Milan,” in YAD-NAMA: im memoria di Alessandro Bausani. Biancamana Scarcia Amoretti and Lucia Rostagno, eds.; 2 vols.; Roma: Bardi Editore, 1991, 1:335-41).

The following translation of the Syriac IGT is based on Peeter’s Vatican Ms, to be published in full very shortly.  Chapter and verse divisions follow the standard numbering of Tischendorf’s Greek A text except chapter six which is significantly longer in the Syriac and other versions.


<A story about the childhood and upbringing of Jesus Christ and about the wonders which he performed in his time>

2 1 Now the boy Jesus Christ, when he was five years old, was playing at the ford of streams of water and he was receiving the waters and directing them in channels into pools and establishing them. And he was making the waters become pure and bright.
2 And taking from the wet ground soft clay, he moulded twelve birds. It was the Sabbath and many boys were with him.
3 But one of the Jews saw him making these things. And he went to his father Joseph and irritated him against Jesus, and said to him: “On the Sabbath he has moulded clay and fashioned birds of clay, a thing that is not lawful on the Sabbath.”
4 And Joseph came and rebuked him, and said to him: “Why are you making these things so?” Then Jesus clapped the palm of his hands with a noise and made the birds fly away before these things that he said. And when they were rising, he said to them: “Go, fly, and be mindful of me, you who are living”. And these birds went away and flew, twittering.
5 But when that Pharisee saw this he was amazed and went and told his friends.

3 1 But the son of Hann?n the scribe was also with Jesus. And he took a branch of willow and broke down the pools and let escape the waters Jesus had gathered together, and dried up their pools.
2 And Jesus said to him when he saw what had happened: “Without root shall your branches be and your fruit shall dry up like a branch torn apart by the wind”.
3 And that boy withered suddenly.

4 1 And again Jesus was going with his parents, and a boy (was) running and came and struck him on the arm. And Jesus said to him: “You shall not go on your way”. And suddenly that boy fell down and died. And those who saw him cried out and said: “Whence was this boy born, that all his words are deeds?”
2 And the family of that boy who died approached Joseph his father and they were blaming him and they were saying: “As long as (there is) this boy that you have, you cannot dwell with us in the village”.

5 1 And Joseph, having heard these things approached the boy Jesus and was teaching him and he said to him: “Why do you do these things? Why do you say these things? And the people are suffering and hating you”. And the boy Jesus said to him: “If the words of my Father were not wise, he would not know (how) to instruct children”. And again he said: “If these were not children of sin, they would not be receiving a curse. And these shall see their torment”. And immediately those who were accusing him were blinded.
2 But Joseph became angry and seized him by the hand and pulled him hard. And he answered and said to him: “It is enough for you, that you should be seeking me and you find me; for you did not act in knowledge”.

6 1 And a teacher, whose name was Zacchaeus, heard him speaking with his father and said: “O stubborn boy! Why are you saying these things?”
2 And he said to Joseph: “Till when will you not hand over this boy to learn so that he may love children of his age and may honour old age and so that he may be awed by elders and so that natural love may be with him and again so that he can teach them?”
2a And Joseph said: “Who is able to teach a boy like this? Do you not think that he  deserves to receive the small cross to come?”
2b And the boy answered and said to <the> teacher: “These words which you have spoken this hour—which will be names of renown—I am strange to them; for I am apart from you, and I dwell among you. Honour of the flesh I have not. And you are in the law and in the law you search. For when you were born, I was. But you think that you are my father. You shall learn from me that teaching which another man knows not and is not able to teach. And that cross of which you speak, he shall bear it, whose it is. For when I am greatly exalted I shall lay aside that which is mixed of your race. For you do not know <from> whence I was born nor from whence I am; for I alone know you all truly, where you were born and for how much time there is to you and how much remains to you here”.
2c But when they heard, they were astonished and cried out greatly and said: “O wonderful sight, o wonderful sound! Words like these we have never heard a man speak—neither the priests, nor the Pharisees, nor the scribes. Whence was this one born? And he is five years of age—and not yet fully—and speaks such words! Such a person has never been seen among us”.
2d Again Jesus answered and said to them: “You wonder about me and you do not believe me about what I have said to you. And I said that I know when you were born; and again I have something more to say to you”.
2e But they, when they heard, were silent, and no one spoke. And again he came near them and said to them, laughing: “I laughed at you because you are marveling at complete feebleness and you are becoming feeble in your mind”.
2f And they did not understand a little. And Zacchaeus the teacher said to the father of Jesus: “Bring him to me and I will teach him what is proper for him to learn”. And he coaxed him and made him go into the school. And when he was going in, he was silent. But Zacchaeus the scribe began to teach him from Aleph. And he was repeating many times and went (through) all of the alphabet. And he said to him that he should answer and say after him. But he was silent. Then the scribe became angry and struck him with his hand upon his head. And the boy said: “A smith’s anvil, being beaten many times, can learn and it feels nothing. Likewise, I can say those things which are spoken by you like a brass resounding or a cymbal which yields a sound. These do not respond any word of sound nor do they have the power of knowledge and understanding”.
3 Then Jesus said all the letters from Aleph to Tau with much wisdom. And again he answered and said: “Those who do not know the Aleph, how can you teach the <Beth>? Hypocrites! Teach what is the Alpha and then I will believe you concerning the Beta”.
4 Then Jesus began to enquire concerning the form of each character. And he began with the letters. Concerning the first, wherefore it had many angles and characters, pointed, thick and lying down and projecting and cast out. And their summits were gathered and collected and sharpened and ornamented and reaching out and square and crawling. And turning and doubled and bending over at the sides and were fixed in the trinity and crowned and clothed (in) life.

7 1 Then Zacchaeus the scribe, astonished and amazed at all these names and at the greatness of the speech, said <to him>: “I have brought this <matter> on me”.
2 “Take him away from me, I beg of you. It is not right for this (child) to be on the Earth; truly this (child) is worthy of a great cross. This (child) is able to even set fire to fire. And I think that this (child) was born before the flood of Noah. What womb carried this (child)? Or what mother reared this (child)? For I cannot bear it. I am in a great stupor because of him; and I cannot regain my mind. Wretched am I who had thought I brought myself a disciple; and, although I considered him a disciple, he was a teacher to me.
3 “Oh my friends! I cannot bear it. I am fleeing from the village; I cannot look upon him. By a little child I am defeated, I who am an old man. But how can I say that I was defeated? <How, even from the beginning, I did not understand a thing he said. Have mercy on me! I spoke clearly. My mind is before my eyes> because of his voice and the example of his words.
4 “This child is something great—either a god, or an angel; what I should say I know not”.

8 1 Then the boy Jesus laughed and he said: “Let those in whom there is no fruit, produce fruit; and let the barren see the fruits of life of condemnation”.
2 And those who had fallen under the curse lived and rose up. And no one was daring to anger him again.

9 1 And again, on the day of the Sabbath, the boy Jesus was playing on a roof. And one of the children fell and died. And when those children saw, they ran away. And Jesus was <found> alone.
2 And the family of the dead boy seized him and <they> said to him: “You threw the boy down from the roof and he died”. And the boy was <saying>: “I did not throw him down”. They were insolently accusing him.
3 And the boy Jesus answered and said to them: “Leave now, so that I may go down to the dead boy and I will ask him, and he immediately will declare to us the truth who really threw him down”. Then the boy Jesus came down. He stood above the corpse of the dead boy, and he said in a loud voice: “Zeno, Zeno” (for thus indeed was his name) “did I throw you from the roof as your family is accusing me?” But that dead boy, when he heard his voice, leaped up and stood immediately. And he said in the sight of everyone: “No, my Lord”.
4 And all of them were astonished. And also the boy’s parents who were accusing Jesus returned and were praising God for this wonder that had happened.

11 1 And again, when Jesus was seven years old, his mother sent him to fill water. And in the press of a great crowd, his pitcher struck and was broken.
2 And Jesus spread out the cloak which was covering him and he collected the water that had scattered from his pitcher and poured it on his cloak. And the boy came home. Then his mother Mary was astonished and she kept in her heart all these things she was seeing.

12 1 And again one time Jesus was playing. He sowed a seed; it was of wheat. And it was a great offering by him.
2 And he reaped, they reckoned, a hundred cors and gave them to the people of the village.

13 1 Jesus was eight years old. And Joseph was a carpenter and made nothing but ploughs and yokes. And a man ordered of him a bed of six cubits. And there was not the measure in one plank on one side, but it was shorter than the other. And the boy Jesus said to his father: “Take hold by the end of the short one”.
2 And Jesus took the measure of the wood and laid hold of it and stretched the wood  and made it equal to the other. And Jesus said to Joseph: “Do henceforth what you wish”.

14 1 And Joseph, when he saw that he was clever, wished to teach him learning. And he brought him to a scribe. And that scribe answered and said to him: “Say Aleph”. And Jesus said: “Aleph”. And again the scribe wanted him to say to him, Beth.
2 Jesus said to him: “Tell me first what Aleph is, and then I will tell you Beth”. The scribe was furious and beat him. And immediately he fell down and died.
3 And the boy Jesus went to his family. And Joseph called Mary his mother and commanded her and said to her: “Do not permit him to go out of the house, so that those might not die who struck him”.

15 1 But another scribe said to Joseph: “Hand him over to me. I will teach him by flattery”.
2 And Jesus was brought to that scribe. And he took a roll and was reading, not what was written, but he opened his mouth and spoke in the spirit, so that that scribe wrote it on the ground and asked him questions. And great crowds, hearing his words, gathered and remained there. And Jesus thus opened his mouth and spoke, so that all who arrived and remained there might marvel and be astonished.
3 And Joseph, when he heard, ran (and) came because he was afraid lest the scribe also would die. And the scribe said to Joseph: “I have delivered not a disciple but a master”.
4 And Joseph took him and brought him to his home.

16 1 And again Joseph sent his son James to cut down sticks. And Jesus went with him also. And while they were gathering sticks, a viper bit James hard on the hand.
2 And when Jesus came near to him, he did to him nothing more but he was stretching out his hand and he was blowing on the bite. And the bite was healed. And the viper died, and James lived.

19 1 And when he was twelve years old, they went to Jerusalem, as it was custom for Joseph and Mary, to the festival of Passover. And when he had made Passover, they returned to their house. And when they had turned to come (home), Jesus remained in Jerusalem. And his father did not know that he stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they thought that he was with their companions.
2 And when they came to the halting-place of that day, they were seeking him among their kinsfolk and among those who knew them. And when they did not <find him, they returned to Jerusalem and were seeking him. After three days> they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, and hearing from them and answering them. And all those hearing were astonished at him, because he was bringing the elders and the teachers to silence. And he was expounding to them the parables of the prophets and the mysteries and allegories of the law.
3 His mother said to him: “My son, why have you done this to us so? Behold, I and your father, in great agitation, were searching for you. Jesus answered and said to her: “Why were you searching for me? Do you not know that I must be in my father’s house?”
4 And the Scribes and the Pharisees answered and said to Mary: “Are you the mother of this boy? The Lord has blessed you in your fruit. For the like of this glory and wisdom in children we have neither seen nor heard.
5 And he rose and went with them and he obeyed them and was subject to his parents. But his mother was preserving all these words in her heart and she was comparing (?). And Jesus was growing and excelling and advancing in wisdom and stature and grace before God and before men.

Glory to him and his mercy on us forever and ever, amen.