The Svithe of Thomas


Over the last couple days I've read the Gospel of Thomas. I've heard of it of course---since being rediscovered it's become the headliner of new old Christian texts. Although 114 chapters long, it is quite short. It tells no story. Each chapter is one saying of Jesus, most of which do not appear in Matthew or Mark or Luke or John. Some of these I share with you now.

I tell you these things that you might be troubled and perplexed. I tell you these things that you might know that Jesus who made his listeners feel I felt as I read these confusing and challenging sayings. I do not share these things you might feel comfortable with the Jesus who has been explained away over two thousand years of explaining.

Chapter 7
1 Jesus said: "Blessed us the lion which the person eats---and the lion becomes a person. And cursed is the person whom the lion eats---and the lion becomes a person."

Chapter 67
1 Jesus said: "Whoever knows all, if she still needs herself, she still needs all."

Chapter 70
1 Jesus said: "When you give birth to the one within you, that one will save you. If you do not have that one within you, that one will kill you."

Chapter 80
1 Jesus said: "Whoever has known the world has found the body. And whoever has found the body, the world is no longer worthy of that person."

Chapter 87
1 Jesus said: "Damn the body that depends on a body; and damn the soul that depends on these two."

Chapter 98
1 Jesus said: "The realm of the Father is compared to someone who wanted to kill a powerful man. He drew his sword in his house. He stabbed the wall in order to see whether his hand might hold steady. Then he killed the powerful man."

Chapter 105
1 Jesus said: "Whoever knows mother and father will be called the child of a whore!"

Chapter 109
1 Jesus said: "The realm compares to a man who had in his field a hidden treasure, but he was unaware of it. And after his death, he left it to his son. The son was also unaware of the treasure. He took the field and sold it. The one who bought the field went plowing and found the treasure. 2 He began to lend money at interest to those he loved."

Chapter 114
1 Simon Peter said to them: "Let Mary leave us, for women do not deserve life." 2 Jesus said: "Look! I will lead her so that I might make her male, which will make her into a living spirit resembling you males. 3 For any woman that makes herself male will enter the kingdom of heaven."

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  1. Troubling and perplexing indeed. Looks like I've got some reading to do...and some subsequent pondering.

  2. These are challenging. Thank you.

  3. .

    Your welcome. I need more Jesus that I don't understand. Forces me to grapple with his message.

    1. I don't know much about this book, so of course questions of accuracy/authenticity are hard to escape. I don't accept these as actual teachings of Christ just because they're on the blog of a person I like and trust, or because they come from an ancient text. And there's the question of translation quality. But I don't think that's the point, either.

      Engaging in the "what if they are?" experiment has been good for me. I'm becoming increasingly aware of things about the gospel that challenge me, and I like (is that the right word?) the idea that some of Christ's teachings are just as strange and difficult to me as they were to the Jews back then. It seems like it should be that way.

    2. .

      Right. Shouldn't we know Jesus well enough to figure some of these things out for ourselves? I mean---give our faith's take on the Bible itself, we need to develop our capacity to parse truth from the poorly translated.

    3. Yes, on both counts. We need to be able to consider an idea without accepting it. I think we too often rely on what "feels right" (or doesn't), forgetting that the Holy Ghost speaks to both heart AND mind.

  4. Glad you included the parable of the assassin (Ch. 98). A lot of Thomas strikes me as coming from an independent ideological camp rather than from the ideologies Jesus clearly did advocate, but the parable of the assassin is a more challenging, striking articulation of a basic concept expressed in synoptic parables. I also think the variant on the treasure/field theme is pretty interesting.

    1. .

      It's so funny you commented on this. I just cited it last night in my first pass at a review of your book. Which I liked for some congruent reasons to liking this.