Thomas 18

(18) The disciples said to Jesus: Tell us how our end shall be. Jesus said: Have you then discovered the beginning, that you seek after the end? For where the beginning is, there shall the end be. Blessed is he who shall stand in the beginning, and he shall know the end and shall not taste of death.

Main Point: The disciples really want to know what is to happen to them upon their death – the vast unknown at the end of their lives. But Jesus kind of muses with them that this implies they know the beginning, and now just want to know what the ending wil be. But rather than tell them what their end is to be, he tells them that if they know the beginning then they shall also know the end. There is no end, no death when you stand in the beginnig. A riddle?

New Light: This reminds me of Thich Nhat Hahn’s explanation of the horizontal and vertical axis. The horizontal axis is the element of time, of birth and old age and death, of all the minutiae of our lives of this happening and that. But in the vertical axis, time does not exist. On the vertical axis, which is the ultimate dimension, the beginning and the end are one, and consciousness is all. Your little self does not exist, you are you only your wholeness. This is difficult to describe – it takes a change of concept to grasp. In the vertical dimension, which pierces all-time and all coming and going, there is no death.

Implications: There are many instances here and elsewhere in the scriptures where Jesus is promising that one “who knows will not taste death.” It seems that even in this brief sentence, there is much to be interpreted. What is it to “know?” What is it to taste death? What is death? I also wonder, since it is repeated so often, that this teaching is designed to assuage a concern about death, – the most common fear of humans seems to be the prospect of their own death. I wonder if changing the conceptual framework in this way accomplishes this? For me, yes. I really do not fear death. Sure, I would try to save my life if I was drowning or falling, I wear my seat belt and drive carefully. But about death itself, I do not tremble. I envision only a vast peacefulness.

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6 responses

  1. I like the way you unpacked this verse. Your thoughts on Nhich Nhat Hahn’s words were very interesting to me. I had an experience awhile back, one that lasted for only a few moments, but that rocked me to my core. It was unexpected and never had I read of a similar experience. But these words of Nhich Nhat Hahn seem to almost describe the experience. It would take to long to explain. To just give a sentence to it: I was driving in my car, when suddenly I was in this totally different place. I (and when I say I, the meaning is the deepest part of me that has always been) was immediately aware not only of who I was in that instant, but all of my “past selves”. More than a knowing, it was a being. As if I were suddenly able to see through the eyes of a babe, a toddler, a child, a teen, a young woman and who I am now, all at once. The awareness was intense. I could FEEL all the emotions I’d had, the mind-set, the wonder, everything. Okay, it’s hard to describe. I’m not a poet, but I was moved to writing a poem about the experience. It’s on my blog here:http://whimsicalmystic.blogspot.com/2005/03/gift.html

  2. Oh, I forgot to say…I agree with Meredith that 10 of these sayings at a time is overwhelming. Could we do a few less? Maybe 5 or 6? Of course, I bow to whatever y’all want to do.

  3. Hi Meredith. I like the Buddhist slant on this passage.

  4. Insteresting, synchronistic, that I read Meredith’s words about change and immediately heard the Now program where a native of New Orleans was saying that when the crisis comes, it’s not the smartest one or the strongest one who survives; it’s the one who can change.Can we change?

  5. My idea of blocks of 10+ was becasue I didn’t want a long study thsi time round — John burned me out.I also don’t think we can do everything. So i have no problem with each of us responding to what speaks to us. This is what will happen even if we read one saying at a time.But folks want a more in depth look at the amterial. Fine by me.

  6. And the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive at where we started And know the place for the first time.- T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding in The Four Quartets

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