The Gospel Of Thomas And Christian Wisdom

The Gospel Of Thomas And Christian Wisdom

by Stevan L Davies

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780974566740
Publisher: Bardic Press
Publication date: 12/01/2004
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.58(d)

Read an Excerpt

Here we are in the early twenty-first century amidst an upsurge of interest in secret gospels. The mega-bestseller The Da Vinci Code (2003) features a hidden cache of unorthodox Christian texts buried along with Mary Magdalene, one that is sought by all the novel's characters. The Celestine Prophecy (1994), an enormously popular book, centered on a newly discovered collection of Aramaic sayings found in Mayan ruins deep in the jungle of Peru. This, in turn, seems to have inspired the Hollywood movie Stigmata (2001), which has to do with an ancient Gospel of Thomas manuscript, but changes the setting of its discovery from Peru to Brazil. In that movie we repeatedly hear the Gospel of Thomas' saying 77: "Split wood, I am there. Lift up a rock, you will find me there" combined with phrases from Thomas' saying 3 and Acts 7:48. The characters in the movie never use the same words twice for the saying, a practice that reflects the reality of oral transmission of sayings at any time. Their saying, with all of its variations, is: "The Kingdom of God is inside/within you (and all about you), not in buildings/mansions of wood and stone. (When I am gone) Split a piece of wood and I am there, lift the/a stone and you will find me." One suspects that the Thomasine community would have approved of this saying wholeheartedly. The phenomenal success of The Celestine Prophecy and The Da Vinci Code surely means that fiction featuring unorthodox ancient texts will continue to populate best-seller lists. One hopes that this will, in turn, give rise to increased interest in the realities behind the fictions, the ancient teachings of Jesus and about Jesus that really were found in 1945 in Nag Hammadi Egypt, after having been hidden for 1,600 years. Bart Ehrman has recently written, in Lost Christianities (2003), his scholarly study of those newly discovered early Christian texts, that "among the books of the Nag Hammadi library, none has provoked such intellectual fervor and excitement as the Gospel of Thomas, the single most important non-canonical book yet to be uncovered, a collection of the sayings of Jesus, some of which may be authentic, many of which were previously unknown." While it is encouraging that our culture is taking much greater interest in the Gospel of Thomas than it did two decades ago, it's disappointing that many Christian denominations remain reluctant to think that new information may be available to them about Jesus. Some day this will change. As time goes by the Gospel of Thomas seems to be gaining respect in liberal Christian circles and it is greatly respected by New Age religious movements. Perhaps this is because the Gospel of Thomas, presumably by coincidence, came into the light again at a time when increasing numbers of people were prone to adopt its views and welcome the knowledge that those views might have been Jesus' own. Thomas' sayings value human beings, assuming that they all have light within them and they all originally came from the Father's light. Thomas is anti-doctrinal, refusing to insist upon a list of required truths. On the contrary, Jesus demands that people "seek and find" truth on their own, work their own way through his difficult sayings, and discover the Kingdom and light within themselves and outside upon the earth. Thomas' gospel lacks all of the ideology of original sin and final judgment, it has no interest in the notion that Jesus needed to be a substitutionary human sacrifice to atone for sins; in the Gospel of Thomas Jesus is a role model, not a God/man whose Divine nature is wholly unlike that of mortals. Neither hell, nor the Passion of the Christ, nor the Day of the Son of Man when the sun will be darkened is ever mentioned. This new introduction to The Gospel of Thomas and Christian Wisdom gives me an opportunity to share some of the ideas and thoughts and concerns I've had about the Gospel of Thomas during the past several years. First, I'll survey some of the best recent scholarship on Thomasine issues. Then I want to discuss, in considerable detail, the question of Thomas' independence from, or dependence on, the canonical gospels. As you will see, that question is interwoven with the debate as to whether or not Thomas should be labeled a "gnostic" document. I will then examine the role of Mary (Magdalene) in Thomas, a personage whose positive place in various apocryphal Christian documents has attracted much recent discussion. Finally, I'll share a few thoughts on various topics: How did Thomas first come into being? What did its compiler think the three mysterious sayings were that Jesus told only to Thomas? Why does Jesus show so little respect for Jewish religious customs?

Table of Contents

Introduction to the Second Edition i

The Gospel of Thomas and Christian wisdom
1. The Gospel of Thomas 1
2. Is the Gospel of Thomas Gnostic? 18
3. Wisdom and Thomas 36
4. Image and Light 62
5. Christology and Sophiology 81
6. Thomas and the New Testament 100
7. Thomas and Baptism 117
8. Thomas and First Corinthians 138

Does the gospel of Thomas Have a Meaning? 148
Appendix I: The Structure of Thomas 169
Appendix II: A Translation of the Gospel of Thomas 177
Notes 193

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