I just finished reading the Gospel of Thomas. Gasp! O noz! Verboten literature!
I’m not sorry. I’d do it again, too!
The Gospel of Thomas is a brief collection of Jesus’ sayings — 114 of them, to be exact — written down around the same time as the canonical Gospels of Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John. It’s lean on storytelling and heavy on the tweetable Jesus quotes.
Some of the quotes are similar to what you’ll find in the church-approved Gospels. Others are less familiar.
Overall, the Gospel of Thomas reads like a succession of Zen koans, Confucius sayings, brain teasers, and parables. There’s a distinctly mysterious vibe about it, as evinced in the one-line introduction:
These are the secret sayings which the living Jesus spoke and which Didymos Judas Thomas wrote down.
Some of the sayings will blow your mind if you give them a chance. This is not just a bunch of self-evident niceties you can just swallow like a pill and forget about. You have to respect the philosophical maturity of the sayings to be found in this bad, bad, naughty, apocryphal document. It will tax your powers of insight.
Jesus here often presents some irresolvable paradoxes, defying us to rely on simplistic conclusions:
(83) Jesus said, “The images are manifest to man, but the light in them remains concealed in the image of the light of the father. He will become manifest, but his image will remain concealed by his light.”
(101) “Whoever does not hate his father and his mother as I do cannot become a disciple to me. And whoever does not love his father and his mother as I do cannot become a disciple to me. For my mother [...], but my true mother gave me life.”
You have to think about it. Sorry.
Jesus’ characteristic tendency to heckle his students with rhetorical snark is also evident:
(72) A man said to him, “Tell my brothers to divide my father’s possessions with me.”
He said to him, “O man, who has made me a divider?”
He turned to his disciples and said to them, “I am not a divider, am I?”
Other bits will appeal to the Naturist in you:
(53) His disciples said to him, “Is circumcision beneficial or not?”
He said to them, “If it were beneficial, their father would beget them already circumcised from their mother. Rather, the true circumcision in spirit has become completely profitable.”
(113) His disciples said to him, “When will the kingdom come?”
“It will not come by waiting for it. It will not be a matter of saying ‘here it is’ or ‘there it is.’ Rather, the kingdom of the father is spread out upon the earth, and men do not see it.”
Some of it even seems to hint at a specific view of cosmology:
(50) Jesus said, “If they say to you, ‘Where did you come from?’, say to them, ‘We came from the light, the place where the light came into being on its own accord and established itself and became manifest through their image.’ If they say to you, ‘Is it you?’, say, ‘We are its children, we are the elect of the living father.’ If they ask you, ‘What is the sign of your father in you?’, say to them, ‘It is movement and repose.’”
One bit in particular will get your imagination going. Here, Jesus asks three of his disciples to compare him to someone and describe who he’s like:
(13) Jesus said to his disciples, “Compare me to someone and tell me whom I am like.”
Simon Peter said to him, “You are like a righteous angel.”
Matthew said to him, “You are like a wise philosopher.”
Thomas said to him, “Master, my mouth is wholly incapable of saying whom you are like.”
Jesus said, “I am not your master. Because you have drunk, you have become intoxicated from the bubbling spring which I have measured out.”
And he took him and withdrew and told him three things. When Thomas returned to his companions, they asked him, “What did Jesus say to you?”
Thomas said to them, “If I tell you one of the things which he told me, you will pick up stones and throw them at me; a fire will come out of the stones and burn you up.”
What might those things have been? What might Jesus have told Thomas behind closed doors? We can only imagine. Here are some possibilities:
One, you do not talk about Jesus Club. Two. You do not talk about Jesus Club. Three, if someone says “stop”, goes limp, or taps out, the fight is over.
Okay, first off, don’t piss into the wind. Second, don’t eat yellow snow. Third, pass me the foot cream, these sandals are killing me.
Thomas, you’re pretty smart. Ever considered Yale? I think you’d do well there.
Just between you and me, these other disciples are annoying the hell out of me. Sorry, I didn’t mean that. Rough day.
Guess what! I’m just a dude. The only really special thing about me is I use hypnotic language to make you people chill out. Shhh, don’t tell anyone.
Thomas, you need to stop worshiping me. Your feelings of reverence are impairing your ability to hear what I’m actually saying. Don’t be such a sycophant.
If you’re interested in reading the entire banned and burned book, check out The Gospel According to Thomas at The Gnostic Society Library. It should take you a half-hour to read it (and an eternity to understand). For context, do read the Wikipedia entry.
Just don’t tell anyone. I hear it’s bad to learn things.
Filed under: Since the Christ Claimed Me
, Gospel of Thomas