Thomas 1

I choose to look at the introduction. I like introductions. The philsophers call introductions “limnal texts” — they exist to control how we will read the rest of the text.

These are the secret words which the living Jesus spoke, and Didymus Judas Thomas wrote them down.

Didymus and Thomas both mean twin, and the intent seems to be that Judas was the brother (twin?) of Jesus.

(1) And he said: He who shall find the interpretation of the words shall not taste of death.

I notice three things here.

First of all, these are secret sayings of the living Jesus. What it sepaks to is a two tiered Chrsitianity or a two-tiered faith. There are secrets — and soe peopel get to know them and others don’t. Thomas Christians are better than Peter and Paul Christians because they (we) have access to secret information. The implication of this secret teaching of the “living Jesus” is that the public teaching of the rival sect’s Jesus belongs to a dead Jesus.

I find this disturbing.

We then launch directly into the saying which reinforces thsi living/dead things with a promise that these special Thomas Christians shall not taste of death.

The third thing I notice is interesting (to me) and sort of undermines the stuff I just talked about. In the canonical gospels the emphasis is eitehr on beliveing or obeying. Believ in Jesus. Or obey him. Those are the emphases.

Here it is finding an interpretation. It doesn’t even say the right interpretation. Just an interpretation.

I think Twyla may be right baout these sayings. Its not about what theys ay. Its like teh Buddhist koans. Its what they do you when you wrestle with them.


12 responses

  1. The middle paragraph of the “limnal texts” is not part of Thomas, but rather my own interpretation (in italics). I see that I shouldn’t have done it–at least without identifying it more explicitly as my own words. Sorry.It has always been “a two tiered Chrsitianity”. Look also at the synoptics: there were the 5000 and the 12. Jesus said many are called, but few are chosen. Today we have a great many nominal Christians and a few serious ones.Speaking in general only the serious ones can hope to fathom the “secrets” found in Thomas.

  2. Secret words of Christ. This speaks to me of the hidden things of God. The pearl the diver finds in his forrays deep into the ocean. In Psalm 25:14, “The secret of Yahweh is for those who fear him” That word (secret) is also translated elsewhere as intimacy. I’ve found this to be true – the Beloved will whisper hidden intimacies, secrets if you will, to the waiting lover. So rather than seeing the word “secret” as one to lift up or divide, I see it as the promise of whispered intimacies, if I would but come near with open heart and listening ear.

  3. I’m disturbed by the secret nature of this gospel … is it secret because Jesus wanted it that way, or is it Thomas who decided to keep it secret? Remember back to part of John (Jesus’ trial) where Jesus said that he kept nothing secret?And though these may be “secret” sayings, many of them are also found in the canonical gospels. I guess there is a discussion on whether Thomas came after the other gospels and was in part copied from them, or if the opposite is true?

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  5. The notion of ‘secret’ to me also indicates personal and intimate. ‘Secret’ as in a message just for the listener in an intimate dialogue with Christ.As David said, these are sayings of the living Jesus – which means always fresh and always being revealed. We hear them anew each time, and we understand them according to our condition. I don’t consider tiers, which is divisive, as much as I do about spirtual growth and deepening of meaning/experience.

  6. The trouble with the phrase nominal Christians is the finger is always pointed at someone we don’t like much when we say it. I don’t like tiered Chrsitainity — I particularly don’t liek a Christianity taht imposes it on the community form the beginning.That is what I see gnosticism doing. Telling everyone else they’re more spirity and more worthy that others. Whenever someone makes the claim to be more spiritual than someone else that’s a pretty good sign they aren’t.

  7. The thing I dislike about the Thomas intro is the secretness. I think I’m the only one of us who feels this way. It may be some personal foible of mine, but I always hoped christianity was not a mystery cult, an exclusive club, a “hide the ball from the dopes” kind of thing … because if it wass, then Jesus was not the up-front and inclusive guy he seems to be.

  8. Crystal ~ I don’t read it as a club for the “more spiritual” or more smart. If so, there wouldn’t be much hope for me! :)But I do see God hiding. There is this thing about seeking God. If it’s all out there, what is there to seek? It’s that attentiveness, that listening and watching to catch a glimpse of God, to sense the Divine Breathings. Even in our earthly relationships we see this. Part of growing in relationship is a growing knowledge of one another. Finding all those little quirks, those endearing tidbits that make us love one another all the more.Guess what I’m saying is that I read “secret” more like “intimacies”, which are for anyone who will open the door at his beckoning knock. I see this all through scripture, in the Psalms, in the Song, in the experiences of so many in the Book and here and now. We go to meet him in the “secret place” to hear the “secrets” or whisperings of the Beloved. That’s how it speaks to me, anyway.

  9. Hi Twyla. Maybe it’s a difference in style, yours and mine? In relationships, I like people to be available, transparent, and that’s how I try to be (often fail :-). I’d like God to be the same, with everyone who wants to, able to connect with him without any user’s manual necessary … but that’s just my wish – who knows how it really is?

  10. Yes Crystal – this is my concern as well. In a Mystery Cult the secret knowledge is parceleld out in packets based on how far up the ladder of secret mysteries you climb. Not my idea of Christianity.In Christianity when we talk about God being hidden its not becasue there’s a secret system for finding God — its because we are limited broken human beings who get stuck in our everyday lives and forget to look and see God where God is.As for the 5000 and the 12 — the issue is — do the 5000 exist tos ervcie the 12 or do the 12 exist to serve thje 5000? Is Peter a more spiritual person than the boy who brought forward the first fish and half loaf?

  11. If there is a secret, it is an open secret. Out in the open, God is right here at all times. It feels like a secret before one realizes this simple truth. And then it is as though Existence, in all its pure sad and joyful grandeur, is unveiled right before you and within you. And this awakening is remarkable and fresh, and everything is “ablaze with glory”, even sad things. But it has really been this way all along, except we were asleep. Once awake, of course we may close our eyes from time to time and forget…but God’s presence is still always right here, right now available. I believe all souls are on a journey of awakening. None is more worthy than another. Some may just be more asleep than another as a moment in time. But we all have this capacity to see. Interestingly, I have found that it has nothing to do with intellect, age, or religious culture. The 12 are not different than the 5000.

  12. Meredith. I think we ares aying something very similar — you say “asleep” — I say “forget to look” or “distracted”. My question — my niggle about this — is not with this. My question is how does Thomas use the word secret? For Thomas is the “secret” an open secret like you and I are talking about? Or is it a more nefarious kind of secret? One where he or his people get to share the secret of how to reach God with a select few?

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