Chris Skinner's slim volume on the Gospel of Thomas in the WATSA (What Are They Saying About): The Gospel of Thomas (New York: Paulist Press, 2012). And while the cover is lacking, Skinner does a great job of discussing the issues that surround the Gospel and introducing the reader to others that they need to consult. The most helpful piece was the bibliography in the back, though it is abridged. A full bibliography would have been more helpful. By the end of the book I had a pretty decent list of books to chase down. I get the sense that they are the more critical pieces that will take me to the heart of the issue. There are a number of volumes that provide an introduction to Thomas, but this was the most economical choice.
Skinner covers three areas that are largely related: 1. the date of Thomas' composition, 2. the relationship of Thomas to the canonical Gospels, and 3. the theological outlook of the Gospel. Skinner concludes the book with a discussion on the relationship of Thomas and the Historical Jesus. In many conversations these issues are regularly confused: if the Thomas is independent of the Canonical Gospels, then it must have been written in the first century; if it has a Gnostic outlook, then it must have been written in the second century. Assumptions of the early church further complicate these issues. The difficulty in assessing these issues are that there are both late and early traditions in Thomas making it difficult to place the Gospel before the canonical Gospels or afterward. Really the best way forward is to assess each saying on its own. Even though they are related, Skinner does a great job teasing out the issues and focusing on each one.
As a part of the "What Are They Saying About" series Skinner has to entertain the issue of consensus on a given issue. If I ever had an idea that there was any consensus concerning Thomas, its gone now. There's little agreement in each of the areas that Skinner presents. But for the most part different perspectives can be divided into various camps. Skinner does a fair job laying out all of the arguments. In that respect the book is helpful. The striking feature is that consensus, a hallmark of Modern scholarship, is sought throughout the book. The difficulty with consensus is that even though everyone agrees on a particular issue, they may all be wrong. At an introductory level of writing seeking consensus might be helpful so that the reader can get into the dialogue, but the more specific or granular the argument becomes the more difficult consensus will come by.
Overall, Skinner did a great job on this short introduction. I'd recommend this to anyone interested in pursuing Thomas as a point of study. Other works are still needed. Skinner doesn't discuss the transmission of Thomas or the language issues. I also would have appreciated more interaction with the text of the Gospel itself.