Date of Award

Spring 2003

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Hills, Julian V.

Second Advisor

Dempsey, Deirdre A.

Third Advisor

Golitzin, Alexander G.


The genesis of this dissertation occurred in the fall of 1990, when Julian V. Hills required each student in his introductory graduate "New Testament Method" class to present to their fellow-students a summary and state-of-the-question report on research into one piece of Christian apocrypha. I chose to learn about the Book of Thomas the Contender, from the Nag Hammadi find. That choice led me into the thicket of texts associated with the apostle Thomas. It also led me into Syriac, a language which at once I found attractive both to gaze upon and to read The trails of the Thomas texts and the Syriac language crossed in the Acts of Thomas - that is, Judas Thomas, the apostle - and I realized I had found my dissertation topic, at least in some respect. That the original language of the text might be either Greek or Syriac, but not yet fully determined: this conundrum was itself intriguing. I originally began to write upon the theology of celibacy in the Acts of Thomas, but this proved too large a topic. Much foundational work would have to be done before a study of the ascetic theology of the text could be undertaken. One cannot say with any certainty how many occurrences of any particular word appear in the Syriac Acts. So I took as my task the construction of a grammatical concordance to the Syriac text But again, with approximately 24,000 words to classify and then concord, this, too, proved too large a task for a dissertation. I therefore chose to focus my attentions on a more modest study-of the first two "acts" alone but one that would nevertheless contribute to current scholarly discussion of the original language of this important document. Thus the dissertation has traveled from an opus on the theologies of the Acts of Thomas to a validation study of modem research done on whether Greek or Syriac is the more likely to have been the original language of composition. To this end, after the entire Acts of Thomas has been concorded, I will write a study to ascertain the validity of some of the recent arguments of the last century on the original language of the Acts. Prior to the completion of an entire concordance I will employ this concordance to make observations between the Greek and Syriac of acts one and two. As I understand it, a Preface grants its author permission to speak a bit about his or her life in other than the purely intellectual realm. In retrospect, I see that the progress and modification of this dissertation parallel the progress and modification of my own Iife. My academic work has been interupted by several realities beyond my control: I was recalled to active duty as a Field Artillery Captain during Operation Desert Storm; upon my return I began adjusting to a set of disabilities which have forced me to rethink my identity and purpose; during that time I also experienced medication reactions which caused temporary loss of vison and other side effects, chronic pain, and other problems which necessitated recent surgery. Like my original dissertation idea, I am much reduced. But I believe we both, in our way, still have something to offer.



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