mystic


The Gospel of Thomas

By: Brian Robertson


“Discovered in Egypt in 1945 as part of the Nag Hammadi Library, the Gospel of Thomas was long considered irrelevant to the study of Jesus’ teachings. Stevan Davies’ influential The Gospel of Thomas and Christian Wisdom overturned this view, and enabled the Gospel of Thomas to be taken seriously as a source for the earliest Christianity.”

The Gospel of Thomas Available Here

The Gospel of Thomas is a remarkable document within Christianity, and if you’re not familiar with it I suggest you get ahold of Stevan Davies’ book as well as a good translation of the short, stunning Gospel itself. If you like, there are plenty of sources on the Web to keep you busy!
I won’t kid you — Davies’ book is a bit dry.  Within it’s pages is a glimpse into what many, including myself, believe are the closest one will come to the words of Jesus. The manuscript has a fascinating story, buried as it was in the desert for short of 2,000 years. Found with a cache of gnostic books, an early Christian movement later decried as heresy by the “winning team” in terms of Christian communities, it has convincingly been proven by scholars not in and of itself to be gnostic. (Plato’s Republic, or a fragment of it, was found in the same cache and I don’t hear anyone suggesting such a label belongs to it!)

More to the point, the Gospel of Thomas avoided much as it slumbered in the sand, placed there by concerned monks/Christians who were alarmed that the powerful wing of Christianity was burning everything that didn’t support thair particular view/version of Christianity. For one thing, the document is unadulterated by two hundred and more years of the editorial decisions and “official” (meaning winning) strand of Christianity that, one amongst many in the first years, became dominant and remains so today.

The general themes of the Gospel of Thomas are wonderful – the idea of discovering God not as a concept or a distant concept, but rather here and now. Jesus’ message had nothing to do with his death (this is a sayings gospel and doesn’t even mention such things or alude to them) but everything to do with life – how to move from being dead to alive, from the darkness to the Light, from the image of God to the likeness of God, the latter being a common strain of belief in Eastern Orthodox.

Jesus said, “If your leaders say to you, ‘Look, the (Father’s) kingdom is in the sky,’ then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, ‘It is in the sea,’ then the fish will precede you. Rather, the kingdom is within you (one manuscript adds: and it is outside you).

What I’d like to do as I have the opportunity is to look at various sayings from Thomas and reflect on them — how they may be far more accurate words closer to Jesus than some of their more well known counterparts in the New Testament. That’ll take more than one entry, though, so I’ll work through them from time to time. As you get a chance to study a bit on your own, you might find yourself struck, as I was, by their power and the remarkable picture it shows us of Jesus and the early Christians.

Blessings,

Brian

 


Comments:

[The final saying (really the last few) in the Gospel of Thomas are, for lack of a better word, weird and seemingly inappropriate. I’m tied up today in a new work situation that’s gotten me up at the horrid hour of 6am, so making sense at this time of day isn’t exactly what I’m best known for. (As if I make sense other times!)

Your question is essential — and later today if all goes well I’d rather just do an entire entry on it because I didn’t understand what was going on in the verse (which I’ll include later) until I started studying the way the manuscript had been put together. Then, it became pretty clear.

But, as the television does so well, let me say we’ll be back after this word from our sponsors!

Brian]

 

[What I love most about the Gospel of Thomas is how much it talks about seeing God in the natural world. How the prescense of God and the Kingdom of Heaven are all around you, rather than hidden in the Temple or the church, but that the church is within and a part of each person. It goes to the very heart of what I have always believed and how I practice. It also shows me a better understanding of what the ascetics taught and why they chose to live as they did.]

 

[There is some debate if the last verse was part of the original. In any case, there may be an allegorical way to read it.]

 

[Yes, that last saying is exceedingly strange, and I have no clue what to make of it. However, I find the one before it (v. 113) to be downright inspirational: “The Father’s kingdom is spread out upon the earth, but people don’t see it.”

To me, this means that God has provided what we need to realize His kingdom on earth, but one must see rightly in order to recognize this. As long as we are caught up in constant striving to fulfill ourselves, we can’t see the kingdom that surrounds us. I believe that seeing rightly requires relinquishing our ego-centered view of the world — “He who saves his life shall lose it; he who loses his life for My sake shall find it.” And find, to boot, I believe, the Kingdom of God, at least to the extent that it can be realized while we remain in our mortal frames.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about this idea, that we can through our word and action experience (and help others to see) the Kingdom of God on earth. I find my own greatest struggle is in going beyond thought to action — “Little children, let us love not with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.”]

 

[‘The Gospel of Thomas

114) Simon Peter said to Him, “Let Mary leave us, for women are not worthy of Life.” Jesus said, “I myself shall lead her in order to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every woman who will make herself male will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”‘

To understand the above scripture, please note the following:

‘Gospel of Philip

“As for the unclean spirits, there are males among them and there are females. The males are they which unite with the souls which inhabit a female form, but the females are they which are mingled with those in a male form, through one who was disobedient. And none shall be able to escape them, since they detain him if he does not receive a male power or a female power – the bridegroom and the bride.One receives them from the mirrored bridal chamber. When the wanton women see a male sitting alone, they leap down on him and play with him and defile him. So also the lecherous men, when they see a beautiful woman sitting alone, they persuade her and comple her, wishing to defile her. But if they see the man and his wife sitting beside one another, the female cannot come into the man, nor can the male come into a woman. So if the image and the angel are united with one another, neither can any venture to go into the man or the woman.”

Gospel of Philip

“The human being has intercourse with the human being. The horse has intercourse with the horse, the ass with the ass. Members of a race usually have associated with those of like race. So spirit mingles with spirit, and thought consorts with thought, and light shares with light. If you are born a human being, it is the human being which will love you.If you become a spirit, it is the spirit which will be joined to you. If you become thought, it is thought which will mingle with you. If you become light, it is light which will share with you. If you become one of those who belong above,it is those who belong above who will rest in you. If you become horse or ass or bull or dog or sheep or another of the animals which are outside and below, then neither human bein nor spirit nor thought nor light will be able to love you. Neither those who belong above nor those who belong within will be able to rest in you, and you have no part in them. He who is a slave against his will, will be able to become free.”‘

When a man unites with the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit (member or angel) is of female form. When a woman unites with the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit (member or angel) is of male form. When a human being unites with another being, the human is considered to be that being, and the being is considered to be that human – hence the two become one. What Jesus meant in the Gospel of Thomas was that every woman who will unite with the male form of the Holy Spirit (and make herself male on account of doing so) will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. She will be the living Holy Spirit, just as a man becomes the living Holy Spirit on account of him uniting with the Holy Spirit.]

 

[I know this post is a little old but I searched your site on the gospel of Thomas and wanted to give my 2 cents on the last saying.

It is just an hypothesis, but what if we read the last verse in lieu of how Paul said “there is no longer male nor female.. we are all equal”. In this context, it seems that Jesus is raising their status by saying “I will make her male” in the same way of saying “I will make her equal”.

As a more poetic writing above the rest of the gospels we might want to look at the metaphorical meaning of what is male. Does he mean male in the sense of “spiritual head”? I don’t think there would be much conflict if the verse read “For every woman who will make herself a spiritual head will enter the kingdom of heaven”.

In this reading, it is somewhat feminist in nature. He is telling Paul that he is teaching a woman how to be equal to a man’s spiritual elite role.

… Of course this is all speculation as I haven’t researched any of it.]

 

[It really has nothing to do with feminism or social equality. The mysticism here is showing that a woman must rouse her male energies (as a man must rouse his female energy) in order that union or oneness with god can occur. The manipulation of spiritual energy – the balancing of the opposites – is at the heart of “For every woman who will make herself male will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”]