This fact, along with the quite different wording Hippolytus uses when apparently quoting it (see below), suggests that the Gospel of Thomas "may have circulated in more than one form and passed through several stages of redaction." Although it is generally thought that the Gospel of Thomas was first composed in Greek, there is evidence that the Coptic Nag Hammadi text is a translation from Syriac (see Syriac origin). [The Naassenes] speak..a nature which is both hidden and revealed at the same time and which they call the thought-for kingdom of heaven which is in a human being.The earliest surviving written references to the Gospel of Thomas are found in the writings of Hippolytus of Rome (c. They transmit a tradition concerning this in the Gospel entitled "According to Thomas," which states expressly, "The one who seeks me will find me in children of seven years and older, for there, hidden in the fourteenth aeon, I am revealed." This appears to be a reference to saying 4 of Thomas, although the wording differs significantly. In the 4th and 5th centuries, various Church Fathers wrote that the Gospel of Thomas was highly valued by Mani.Pagels, for example, says that John's gospel makes two references to the inability of the world to recognize the divine light.
In the few instances where the version in Thomas seems to be dependent on the Synoptics, Koester suggests, this may be due to the influence of the person who translated the text from Greek into Coptic.
Koester also argues that the absence of narrative materials (such as those found in the canonical gospels) in Thomas makes it unlikely that the gospel is "an eclectic excerpt from the gospels of the New Testament".
After the Coptic version of the complete text was discovered in 1945 at Nag Hammadi, scholars soon realized that three different Greek text fragments previously found at Oxyrhynchus (the Oxyrhynchus Papyri), also in Egypt, were part of the Gospel of Thomas.
These three papyrus fragments of Thomas date to between 130 and 250 AD.
Scholars speculate that the works were buried in response to a letter from Bishop Athanasius declaring a strict canon of Christian scripture.