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The Gospel of Thomas

Discussion in 'Christian Scriptures' started by Yoder777, Dec 29, 2010.

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  1. Yoder777

    Yoder777 Senior Veteran

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    Mainstream Christians are often dismissive of Thomas as a Gnostic Gospel, without really trying to understand the history that surrounds it.

    Scholars make a distinction between the Gospel of Thomas and Gnosticism. While Thomas' focus is on restoring the nature of man as it was before the fall, Gnosticism is world-negating. Thomas is better seen in light of Jewish wisdom literature than Gnosticism.

    Thomas was not universally rejected in the early church. For example, 2 Clement quotes from it. The Orthodox Christians of India and Mesopotamia trace their heritage to the Apostle Thomas. If he visited those regions, it could explain some of the Gospel's eastern tinge.

    Thomas can be a valuable resource for our spiritual lives, since it illuminates and expands on passages found in the canonical Gospels. It also goes into the deeper spiritual meaning of Jesus' message, just as John does.
     
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  2. Christos Anesti

    Christos Anesti Junior Member

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    It's possible that some of the statements attributed to Jesus in the Gospel of Thomas had widespread circulation outside of that text itself though. If a person attributes a statement to Jesus that is also found in the Gospel of Thomas that doesn't necessarily imply that they even knew of the Gospel of Thomas to begin with. I notice a lot of the early Church Fathers attribute statements to Jesus that we don't find in the Scriptures or any other written text from the time that we know of for that matter. I tend to think they were simply things passed down in oral tradition. Thats probably what a lot of the GOT is. Collections of statements attributed to Jesus. Some of them could be historical and others fabrications.
     
  3. Servant.DujmovJr

    Servant.DujmovJr MercyandTruth

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    I have never read the gospel of Thomas. Can someone tell me where I can find it online. Please, Thank you.
     
  4. Yoder777

    Yoder777 Senior Veteran

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    The Gospel of Thomas
     
  5. Servant.DujmovJr

    Servant.DujmovJr MercyandTruth

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    Wow, that was quick! Thank you
     
  6. Yoder777

    Yoder777 Senior Veteran

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    I think a reason why the church rejected Thomas is because it's meaning isn't immediately obvious to a mass audience. It's meant instead for the individual Christian to carefully read and contemplate its meaning, without necessarily the church telling you what it means.

    Another thing is that it doesn't contain a narrative of Jesus' passion and resurrection. Yet if you look at the text, there's reason to assume that it takes the resurrection for granted. It refers to Jesus as "the living Jesus."

    This is a well known quote from Thomas:

    I am the light that is over all things. I am all: from me all came forth, and to me all returns. Split a piece of wood; I am there. Lift up the stone, and you will find me there. (Compare to Luke 17:21, 1 Cor. 15:28)
     
  7. Kaitlin08

    Kaitlin08 Senior Member

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    Some of the sayings are so esoteric that they don't seem to have any understandable meaning at all, at least not the way the sayings are presented. There is a reason why the canonical Gospels were written as stories, not just detached sayings: to destroy the truism, to change the ordinary or the expected of the powers that be into the disorder of God.
     
  8. CryptoLutheran

    CryptoLutheran Friendly Neighborhood Spiderman

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    Thomas may not be Gnostic in the classic sense, that is it doesn't seem to contain any of the overt elements of mature Valentinian or Orphite (etc) 2nd and 3rd century Gnosticism; but in the broader sense of being rather cryptic and seemingly for a select few "in the know" Thomas would seem to fit the bill.

    Meaning, as you said, some of the sayings are so esoteric that it's likely that the only people who knew what they mean are the original intended audience who would have had the "theological decoder ring" to decipher the cryptic language.

    -------------------------------------

    I find Thomas fascinating, it really is a fascinating read. But I really feel it's important to point out here that the GoT was never a contender for inclusion into the New Testament; it would, therefore, be misleading to say that the Church "rejected" it from inclusion into the Canon. It's like saying that the Church "rejected" the Socratic Dialogues or The Great Gatsby.

    -CryptoLutheran
     
  9. Yoder777

    Yoder777 Senior Veteran

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    With careful interpretation, most of the sayings have profound meaning. I enjoyed reading this commentary:

    Amazon.com: The Gospel of Thomas: Annotated & Explained (Skylight Illuminations,) (9781893361454): Stevan L. Davies, Andrew Harvey: Books

    While Thomas should by no means replace the canonical Gospels, it can be read alongside them.
     
  10. CryptoLutheran

    CryptoLutheran Friendly Neighborhood Spiderman

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    I don't think it can. Not that I'm saying it shouldn't be read, but Thomas by no means stands on the same footing as the Four Gospels which the Church has universally agreed upon for two thousand years.

    If I may make an observation, I've noticed that you spend a lot of time attempting to deconstruct Christianity; I don't mean dismantle, just deconstruct. I wholly get investigating the depth and breadth of the Christian Tradition, looking into the history and theological developments that have happened over the last two thousand years.

    I get it because I love studying Church History, I love studying theology. I enjoy seeing how the two have gone hand-in-hand. I consider it a worthwhile exercise because I believe it strengthens faith.

    What I want to caution, however, isn't against asking questions--those are good, questions not only should be asked, they must be asked. Doubt and faith are not mortal enemies, the two compliment each other by inviting us to a more exciting and robust life of faith, away from spoon-fed easy-ism. What I want to caution is attempting to reconstruct Christianity. Assuming, for example, that a book isn't found in the Canon because the Church was "afraid" or "ignorant" or trying to garner power (or any combination thereof) whilst also thinking one can, on their own, improve upon what has been handed down, generation to generation, for centuries is a great way to create a Christianity that looks surprisingly just like how you want it to look.

    Now, on the one hand, it's impossible not to have a Christianity that in some ways reflect ourselves, precisely because we are talking about things we believe. I believe in the Trinity, therefore the Christianity I practice is Trinitarian; and furthermore Trinitarianism saturates and filters downward through the rest of my faith and how I think. That is, I think, unavoidable; it's just part of being a faulty, fallible, frail human being. That is why we need the Church; not so we can be told what to believe and how to think, but so that we can see that we are not islands of faith, but organic members of a living, dynamic community of faith engaging in very large, overarching conversations about how to live out our common faith in the world.

    So if one is going to make a statement such as that the Gospel of Thomas can be read alongside the Synoptics and John, one is wading very nearly in waters of spiritual isolationism.

    Note, I am not saying that the Gospel of Thomas can't be spiritually fulfilling. It very well might be for you, and if so, then awesome. But there is a reason why there are Four Gospels, not three or five or sixteen; not because non-Canonical or unorthodox texts are innately or inherently "evil" but because they do not represent the historic witness of the Christian community. It would, probably, have been far easier to have just one Gospel, perhaps Luke or John, or a harmony such as the Diatessaron; we wouldn't have to wrestle with the complexities, inconsistencies and other difficulties with having four distinct gospel texts and two very different evangelical traditions (Synoptics and John). To that end, I think it's relevant that there are four, because in spite of the inherent difficulty of attempting to reconcile different parts of the texts, these four are still what Christians have, very nearly universally since incredibly early on, agreed upon as bearing witness of the apostolic faith handed down of the Jesus in whom the Church commits itself in faith for its salvation and hope.

    Just my two friendly cents here.

    -CryptoLutheran
     
  11. Yoder777

    Yoder777 Senior Veteran

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    One could say the same things to the Protestant Reformers, or anyone who's attempted to either see the Christian faith in a new light or recover what the first Christians believed and practiced.

    Many Christians benefit from reading Thomas, not just myself.

    What if modern discoveries in scholarship tell us that Thomas does represent the historical witness of the Christian community, a witness that was later forgotten or rejected? We know that the four Gospels were written for particular Christian communities i.e. the Johannine community. What if the Thomasine community represents a group of first-century Christians that traced themselves to Thomas the Apostle?
     
  12. Yoder777

    Yoder777 Senior Veteran

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    What I am trying to do is have a Christian faith that listens to all streams of Christian tradition, even to first and second century groups that were ultimately deemed heretical. All truth is from Christ so we shouldn't be afraid to hear from different perspectives.
     
  13. ebia

    ebia Senior Contributor

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    Just to add that it also is not a Gospel, since it does not proclaim an event that would make it an evangellion.
     
  14. ebia

    ebia Senior Contributor

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    Its up to you what you want to read, but just because a text was produced by a group self-identifying as Christian does not mean that it has any value or brings us any closer to Jesus. Many have tried to show that Thomas has credentials comparable to the canonical Gospels but none have succeeded. I don't think anyone terribly serious thinks it has much to do with the apostle who's name it bears, do they.

    The canonical NT is firmly rooted in events, in something actually happening. All of Jesus sayings in the Gospels are embedded in their context if his world and his actions. Ripped out of that context (as you find in Thomas) and you've produced not just a different religion but a different type of religion.
     
  15. St_Worm2

    St_Worm2 Senior Member Supporter

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    So girls aren't in need all that grace and faith stuff to be saved, they just need to have an operation .. :confused:
    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."
     
  16. Yoder777

    Yoder777 Senior Veteran

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    How are you certain of this?
     
  17. Yoder777

    Yoder777 Senior Veteran

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    Furthermore, the deeper meaning of the last saying in Thomas may not be anti-female. To become a "living spirit" is to transcend the duality of male and female. The idea of transcending the duality of male and female is also found earlier in the Gospel.
     
  18. ebia

    ebia Senior Contributor

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    How can one sensibly address a hypothetical like that? One can only deal with the evidence we have, not a hypothetical conclusion reliant on evidence that does not exist.

    But it needs saying that its obvious from Paul's letters that from very early on there were people talking all sorts of rubbish. It's not unlikely there were communities that lost sight of the contextual, particular, material, part of the Jesus story and ripped sayings, authentic and/or otherwise, out of that context to create a 'faith' of timeless truths over particular action. And some of them may have written some of it down. But that doesn't make what they had to say authentic or valuable any more than we should reconstruct the Corinthians mistakes and try them on for size. Just because some group in the 1st century did it or said it doesn't make it good. Discernment is always required.

    [/QUOTE]
     
  19. Yoder777

    Yoder777 Senior Veteran

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    It's not hypothetical. There are good historical arguments in favor of Thomas' having been written in the first century.

    Some scholars suggest that Paul himself was a proto-gnostic or wrote letters that fit well with gnostic interpretation.

    Gnostic Paul: Gnostic Exegesis of the Pauline Letters [Paperback]
    Elaine Pagels (Author)
    Amazon.com: Gnostic Paul: Gnostic Exegesis of the Pauline Letters (9781563380396): Elaine Pagels: Books
     
  20. ebia

    ebia Senior Contributor

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    there are arguments, and there are counter arguments. Since I find the latter much more satisfactory than the former that's the position I'm standing in when I comment. The reality us there is little or no evidence but only theories that are rather too tightly circular, and have other major difficulties.

    and?

    There are massively more scholars who find that absurd and have demonstrated it to be so. Elaine Pagels has a good understanding of the gnostic literature but a poor understanding of the canonical literature, and it's possible to read almost any literature through the wrong lens.
     
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