About Stephen J. Patterson

A scholar, teacher, and writer, Patterson is the George H. Atkinson endowed chair in Religious and Ethical Studies at Willamette University, where he teaches courses on the history of religion. He writes and lectures widely on the hidden histories of earliest Christianity, especially the lost gospels, Q and the Gospel of Thomas.  

Patterson holds graduate degrees from Harvard and Claremont, and he was a Fulbright Fellow in Germany. In nine books and more than seventy-five articles, essays and reviews, he has explored the origins of Christianity, especially through texts often overlooked because they are not in the Bible.  

For more than 20 years Patterson was professor of New Testament at Eden Seminary in St. Louis.  He was also a leading figure in the Jesus Seminar and has appeared on many documentaries in connection with his work on the Gospel of Thomas, Q, and the quest for the historical Jesus.

Curriculum Vitae

The Lost Way


The Gospel of Thomas was discovered near Nag Hammadi, Egypt, in 1945. Together with “Q,” the lost gospel behind the biblical gospels of Matthew and Luke, it opens a window onto a world of forgotten paths once trod in the earliest years of Christianity.
Thomas and Q don’t include a story of Jesus’ life. No miracles, no death, no resurrection. Instead, they are collections of sayings attributed to Jesus. According to Patterson, the followers of Jesus who created these gospels had a different conception of him than most modern Christians.
“Instead of thinking about Jesus as God, God’s son, or even a martyr, these early followers of Jesus considered him a great teacher who shared divine wisdom,” Patterson says. “I think that many will be surprised to learn that Jesus’ death and resurrection were not always the focus of his followers. For many, it was Jesus’ words that made him significant.”
Patterson has spent his career considering the question, “Who was Jesus?” from the perspective of lost and forgotten writings not found in the Bible. He’s still intrigued by the pursuit and shares this dramatic story in The Lost Way. 

From HarperOne

Reviews of The Lost Way

Stephen Patterson’s fascinating and wonderfully readable new book reveals how Jesus’ followers told, wrote, rewrote, and handed down his teachings.
— Elaine Pagels, author of "Revelations"
This accessible but scholarly introduction to the earliest Jesus traditions shares academic discoveries that do not usually reach the pews.
— Karen Armstrong, author of Fields of Blood
In this book Stephen Patterson, a leading scholar in the Jesus Seminar, explores the terrain of primitive Christianity. He explodes popular myths and proposes startling new possibilities.
— John Shelby Spong, author of The Fourth Gospel: Tales of a Jewish Mystic
The Lost Way is at once a crisp and readable introduction to two ‘lost’ gospels, the Sayings Gospel Q, and the Gospel of Thomas, and an exposé of the unnoticed ways that alternate views about Jesus are present in the books of the New Testament.
— John Kloppenborg, University of Toronto, author of Q, the Earliest Gospel

Books and Essays

Recent Essays

“The View from Across the Euphrates,” Harvard Theological Review 104 (2011) 411-31.

“The Oxyrhynchus Papyri,” Biblical Archaeology Review 37/2 (2011) 60-68.
“Is the Christ of Faith also the Jesus of History?”  Pp. 447-57 in J. Moreland, et al., ed., Debating Christian Theism.  Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.
“Everything in Parables: On Jesus’ Style.”  Pp. 95-117 in R. Stewart, ed.  The Message of Jesus.  Minneapolis: Fortress, 2013.
“When a Man Lies with a Man as with a Woman.”  The Fourth R 25/3 (2012) 16-17.
“David Loves Jonathan.”  The Fourth R 26/4 (2013) 13-14.

“Saint Paul Hated Sex.”  The Fourth R 26/6 (2013) 13, 16.
“Sodomy.”  The Fourth R 26/2 (2013) 9-10.
“Eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven.”  The Fourth R 27/2 (2014) 16-17.