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The Gospel of Thomas


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Showing 1-25 of 225 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jul 20, 2012 12:15:30 PM PDT
Astrocat says:
There was a short-lived discussion on the Gospel of Thomas over in the Christianity Forum, but it devolved pretty quickly into a discussion on authority and whether it was older than the canonical gospels and so on. I'm interested in discussing the concepts in the Gospel of Thomas and am hoping we can do that without arguing about it. The Gospel exists, it has something to say, and perhaps we can talk about what it means to us.

The first lines of the Gospel read:

These are the secret sayings which the living Jesus spoke and which Didymos Judas Thomas wrote down.

1. And he said, "Whoever finds the interpretation of these sayings will not experience death".

What this means to me is that finding the underlying meaning of the symbols given in these teachings will liberate one from the cyclic births and deaths we know as reincarnation. You?

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 20, 2012 2:00:23 PM PDT
A customer says:
Nancy, David Capps has a great text on all the verses of the GoT titled: The Gospel of Thomas: A Blueprint for Spiritual Growth. Available here:

http://www.memoware.com/?screen=doc_detail&doc_id=18979&p=contributor_id%5E!40565~!

The commentary on verse 1:

"Jesus said a number of unusual things. In Matthew 8:21, 22 (RSV) "Another of the disciples said to him, `Lord, let me first go and bury my father.' But Jesus said to him, `Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.'" Obviously, Jesus is referring to something other than corpses burying other corpses. So the concept of death he is using is dealing with something other than physical death.

In the ancient Gnostic and mystery school tradition, this kind of death had to do with the spirit within and with its consciousness. We are really dealing with two separate and distinct things: the spirit within us, and the ego or outer personality. One of the most important conversations in the New Testament is in John, Chapter 3 (RSV), between two top leaders of the prime religious movements of the time, the Pharisees and the Gnostics. Here traditional Judaism meets and questions mystical Gnosticism. Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, comes to Jesus by night (the darkness represents ignorance), saying, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do, unless God is with him." Jesus answered him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew (or from above), he cannot see the Kingdom of God." Nicodemus said to him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?" Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit."

Here Jesus clearly defines two separate and distinct things. That which is born of the flesh is flesh. Our ego, or outer personality, is born of the flesh. It is called the false self or corrupted nature in the Gnostic system. That which is born of the Spirit is spirit. This is the true self, incorruptible and eternal. Notice that the first use of Spirit is capitalized, while the second spirit is not. The capitalized Spirit refers to God, the Creator, while the other spirit refers to that which is in each of us, our personal spirit. We are created in the image of God. On a practical level, this means that God created us out of God substance (spirit); just as a woman brings forth a child from her own substance, so too has God brought forth each of us from His own substance. The source of all life is Spirit (God), and everything that lives has some of that substance of God in it. The spirit within each of us is an individualized expression of the Spirit that is God.

In the Gnostic system a person was considered spiritually dead until their spirit was awakened. The awakening and empowerment of the spirit was referred to as resurrection, or being raised up from the dead, and applied only to the spirit within, not the physical body. This is why Jesus says "leave the dead to bury their own dead." As long as the consciousness is attached to the ego, or outer personality, it is temporary; it has no real life of its own. It is only when consciousness is attached to the spirit that it gains permanent status, for only the spirit remains alive after physical death. When people die do we not say "they are gone"? Clearly the body is still there. We can see
it, we can touch it. So what is gone? The spirit, the God substance, our personal source of life is gone, not the body.

So, "whoever finds the interpretation of these sayings will not experience death" describes the result of the process of moving the attachment of consciousness from the ego over to the spirit. In this process the spirit becomes awakened from its deep sleep, grows, matures, and takes its place as a mature spiritual being operating fully and completely in the presence of God (which Jesus often calls "the Kingdom")."

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 20, 2012 3:12:10 PM PDT
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Posted on Jul 20, 2012 3:14:37 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 20, 2012 3:22:25 PM PDT
Lee Freeman says:
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In reply to an earlier post on Jul 20, 2012 3:19:52 PM PDT
B. Josephson says:
I don't think that there is any indication of reincarnation in these verses.

If you want to look for liberation from the cyclic births and deaths, you should look at Buddhist scriptures.

Best Wishes,
Shaamba Kaambwaat

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 20, 2012 3:20:14 PM PDT
A customer says:
Lee, we can find a way to find the positive and useful way as well, as David Capps has on verse number 114 that you presented:

"In life we encounter many prejudices. People are prejudiced by gender, race, religion, ethnic origins, social position and many other conditions. The disciples were no exception. Women were considered more property than equals. Some branches of the mystery school system gave equal standing to women; some created relatively equal, but separate standing for women. Jesus did not see women as being inferior to men, but of equal value and importance to God.

The important thing Jesus is trying to get across is that it doesn't matter if a person is male or female; the balance between the masculine and feminine qualities within us is what is important. Balancing the masculine and the feminine also means balancing the intellectual and the emotional natures within us. We cannot sustain ourselves in the Kingdom if we are continually out of balance within ourselves. Part of what the journey of self discovery and inner unification produces is a balancing of all the qualities within. Everything joins in a seamless unity of balance and harmony. We come to peace with everything in our life and join in the oneness of God and all of creation. We become centered in Love and the presence of God, and act as a force for good and redemption in the world. As we fully and completely enter the Kingdom of Heaven, we become the mechanism through which God sends His Peace, Love and Joy into the world. Our thoughts, feelings and actions work together to bless all who come into our presence, and we are blessed in the process. Through us, the Kingdom of Heaven becomes a reality in the world."

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 20, 2012 3:32:14 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 20, 2012 3:36:18 PM PDT
Lee Freeman says:
When I routinely tell skeptics who accuse the canonical NT of being misogynistic that the texts have to be interpreted responsibly, and not taken in a wooden, literal fashion, they object that I'm mincing words.

Regardless, I'm not sure you're interpreting saying 114 the way its original readers would have. *Thomas* may not be fully Gnostic. But if so, we know that many Gnostic sects were misogynists because they had a low view of creation, hence of procreation. When the impostor god Ialdabaoth created the universe, certain divine sparks got trapped in physical bodies. The goal was, through secret *gnosis* to allow the divine spark to escape the prison of the body, and indeed physical existence altogether. So Gnosticism wasn't even open to everyone, only a select few "spiritual people."

Basically, the "good news" (if you can call it that) in *Thomas* is that you can save yourself if you become an aesthetic like the Thomas Christians and renounce the world. Jesus is your spiritual guru to teach you how to realize your inner divine spark.

The only way *Thomas* Christianity and full-blown Gnosticism can be made attractive is to reinterpret them. If they were presented to modern seekers as the exclusivist, dogmatic, anti-creation, anti-Jewish, anti-procreation, anti-feminine sects they actually were, nobody'd wanna join.

I'm pretty certain the Thomas Christians were not reincarnationists, whatever else they were. The LAST thing these people would want was for their soul to be put back into another physical body. Their who goal was to use the secret wisdom to *escape* from bodily existence.

Pax.

Lee.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 20, 2012 4:08:28 PM PDT
Astrocat says:
Karl, very well done. Thanks for your comments. I agree that when the individual thinks itself separated from all other beings, and even from the Soul that is dwelling within, that individual is, temporarily, at least, "dead". And as far as the dead burying the dead, that is about those who are sleep-walking through life.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 20, 2012 4:09:32 PM PDT
Astrocat says:
Lee, there is no real consensus about when the Gospel of Thomas was written. Some say as early as 50CE, others as late as 100CE.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 20, 2012 4:19:22 PM PDT
Astrocat says:
B. the concept of reincarnation, while openly taught by Buddhism, is still inherent in this whole gospel we're discussing here. I think it's not specifically called "reincarnation" because the people were aware of it and accepted it without question and so there was no need to teach it to the disciples. When Christ teaches, both in this gospel and in the canonical gospels, that the "Kingdom of God" - also known as the Kingdom of Souls, and the Hierarchy of Enlightened Masters, dwells within each of us, he was telling us that there is no such thing as death. And since the Law of Cause and Effect was also taught, as an "eye for an eye" and so on, the two go together like a horse and carriage.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 20, 2012 4:22:17 PM PDT
Astrocat says:
Oh, now that an important point, Karl, about the balancing of the masculine and feminine and does cast some needed light on that verse, which has, without question, perplexed many of us feminists. The emotional [feminine] aspect of the human being must merge and meld into the mental [masculine] aspect. One without the other is incomplete. Nice.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 20, 2012 4:41:27 PM PDT
B. Josephson says:
Sorry, I don't see it there.

You were asking for opinions, and I gave you mine.

Maybe others will see it the way you do.

Brian Curtis might, but I can't remember him mentioning reincarnation.

Best Wishes,
Shaamba Kaambwaat

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 20, 2012 4:51:47 PM PDT
Astrocat says:
B., that's fine, your opinion is a valid as anyone else's.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 20, 2012 5:27:07 PM PDT
Melanie says:
Nancy, so glad you started this discussion.

1. And he said, "Whoever finds the interpretation of these sayings will not experience death".

To me this means that Jesus is teaching the way to make a conscious connection with one's soul. The soul is immortal, and so does not die. When a person identifies with their soul -- instead of their personality, which dies with the body -- the person "knows" (gnosis) that he/she is immortal. It is not just a belief. Jesus was a spiritual master who could bring his followers, with grace (or spiritual power), into the state of knowledge and experience of the soul.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 20, 2012 5:46:05 PM PDT
Astrocat says:
Leone, YES! Wonderful. Thank you for your response.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 20, 2012 6:24:37 PM PDT
D. Thomas says:
LF wrote: "So *Thomas* is too late to tell us anything accurate about Jesus or his actual teaching."

That's true of all the gospels, of course.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 20, 2012 6:36:52 PM PDT
D. Thomas says:
People are fascinated with Thomas because it's unorthodox and anti-church. Gnosticism virtually defines mumbo-jumbo. It's bizarre, arcane and has nothing to offer modern society, unless one is a conspiracy theorist.

I think you meant asceticism rather than aestheticism. There's nothing to suggest that the author of Thomas advocated art for art's sake, or that Whistler and Rossetti were avid Gnostics.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 20, 2012 6:39:20 PM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Jul 23, 2012 2:37:30 PM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 20, 2012 6:43:37 PM PDT
D. Thomas says:
Sounds right on all counts.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 20, 2012 6:49:44 PM PDT
A customer says:
Lee, I'm not a skeptic. I'm me. :-)

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 20, 2012 7:04:07 PM PDT
A customer says:
Nancy, thanks.

>> I agree that when the individual thinks itself separated from all other beings, and even from the Soul that is dwelling within, that individual is, temporarily, at least, "dead".

Hmm, yeah, that makes sense. It can be infinitely confusing being a separated self.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 20, 2012 8:48:13 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 20, 2012 8:48:59 PM PDT
Astrocat says:
Karl, I think that's one of the reasons the Gospel of Thomas includes this third saying:

Jesus said, "If those who lead you say to you, 'See, the 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 inside of you, and it is outside of you. When you come to know yourselves, then you will become know, and you will realize that it is you who are the sons of the living father. But if you will not know yourselves, you dwell in poverty, and it is you who are that poverty."

I can't think of anything that could be clearer than that, which teaches that the "kingdom/God" is immanent and transcendent.

Posted on Jul 22, 2012 7:17:10 PM PDT
"I think it's not specifically called "reincarnation" because the people were aware of it and accepted it without question and so there was no need to teach it to the disciples."

Never let lack of evidence get in the way of a good story, is what I say.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 22, 2012 7:43:33 PM PDT
Astrocat says:
Well, Michael, in the Zohar, which was written from around 539 BCE to 70 CE, there are these remarks:

As long as a person is unsuccessful in his purpose in this world, the Holy One, blessed be He, uproots him and replants him over and over again. (Zohar I 186b)

All souls are subject to reincarnation; and people do not know the ways of the Holy One, blessed be He! They do not know that they are brought before the tribunal both before they enter into this world and after they leave it; they are ignorant of the many reincarnations and secret works which they have to undergo, and of the number of naked souls, and how many naked spirits roam about in the other world without being able to enter within the veil of the King's Palace. Men do not know how the souls revolve like a stone that is thrown from a sling. But the time is at hand when these mysteries will be disclosed. (Zohar II 99b)

The Zohar and related literature are filled with references to reincarnation, addressing such questions as which body is resurrected and what happens to those bodies that did not achieve final perfection, how many chances a soul is given to achieve completion through reincarnation, whether a husband and wife can reincarnate together, if a delay in burial can affect reincarnation, and if a soul can reincarnate into an animal.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 22, 2012 10:30:20 PM PDT
Nancy, you write that "...the Zohar ... was written from around 539 BCE to 70 CE," apparently on the grounds that it was written in Aramaic, which flourished in that period. But there's nothing to prevent anyone who lived later than that period from writing in Aramaic, right? Such is the conclusion of the noted authority Gershom Scholem, who regards it as a fraud of its publisher and self-professed "finder", the 13th century writer Moses de Leon. But let us assume that it was written when you assert. What follows? That despite what the Zohar itself says about people being ignorant of its doctrine of reincarnation, YOU assert that the opposite was the case, i.e., that reincarnation was so widely believed that it was simply assumed in Christian religious writings. Hmmm...
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