Monthly Archives: October, 2005

Saying 46 / C

[46]. Jesus says: “From Adam to John the Baptist, among those who have been born of women, there is none greater than John the Baptist! But for fear that the eyes should be lost I have said: He who among you shall be the small shall know the Kingdom and be higher than John!”

*****

Most commentators seem to thinkthat this saying was a retelling, with some changes, of Matthew 11:11-12 … Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, 9 and the violent are taking it by force.

The meaning – the NAB says … “John’s preeminent greatness lies in his function of announcing the imminence of the kingdom (⇒ Matthew 3:1). But to be in the kingdom is so great a privilege that the least who has it is greater than the Baptist.”

What I find interesting is the relationship between Jesus and John the Baptist. If I understand correctly, based on the interaction between Mary and Elizabeth, Jesus and John were relatives, perhaps cousins. They were very close in age, probably knew each other growing up, and they both chose the religious life. Jesus asked John to baptise him and they both continued to preach for a time (about 6 more months for John?), though their styles were very different … John was an ascetic who wore rope fiber clothing and ate “locusts and wild honey” (Matt. 3:4) … Jesus, however, was seen by some as a drunkard and a glutton. The NAB says there was likely some tension between the followers of Jesus and John, and John did lose a few disciples to Jesus.

I suppose all of this had some influence on the saying in Matthew. The question arises of why Thomas, if he did get the saying from Matthew, decided to change it somewhat. Maybe it had to do with the Gnostic view of John? According to Wikipedia … In Gnosticism, John the Baptist was a “personification” of the Old Testament prophet Elijah. According to Gnostic theology, John the Baptist was a Prophet from the Old Testament who did not know the True God (the God of the New Testament), and thus had to be reincarnated. As predicted by the Old Testament prophet Malachi, Elijah must “come first” to herald the coming of Jesus Christ.

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The child

We come now to a series of sayings which contain
the child:

4 Jesus said: The man aged in his days will not
hesitate to ask a little child of seven days about
the place of life, and he shall live. For there
are many first who shall be last, and they shall
become a single one.

21 Mary said to Jesus: Whom are thy disciples like?
He said They are like little children dwelling in a
field which is not theirs. When the owners of the
field come, they will say: Yield up to us our field.
They are naked before them, to yield it up to them
and to give them back their field. Therefore I say:
If the master of the house knows that the thief is
coming, he will keep watch before he comes, and
will not let him dig into his house of his kingdom
to carry off his vessels. You, then, be watchful
over against the world. Gird up your loins with
great strength, that the brigands may not find a
way to come at you, since the advantage for which
you look they will find. May there be among you a
man of understanding! When the fruit was ripe, he
came quickly, his sickle in his hand, and reaped
it. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.

[22 has already been extensively commented on,
but included here in the interests of consistency.
]
22 Jesus saw some infants at the breast. He said
to his disciples: These little ones at the breast
are like those who enter into the kingdom. They
said to him: If we then be children, shall we
enter the kingdom? Jesus said to them: When you
make the two one , and when you make the inside
as the outside, and the outside as the inside,
and the upper side as the lower; and when you make
the male and the female into a single one , that
the male be not male and the female female; when
you make eyes in the place of an eye, and a hand
in place of a hand, and a foot in place of a foot,
an image in place of an image, then shall you
enter [the kingdom].

37 His disciples said: On what day wilt thou be
revealed to us, and on what day shall we see thee?
Jesus said: When you unclothe yourselves and are
not ashamed, and take your garments and lay them
beneath your feet like little children, and tread
upon them, then [shall ye see] the Son of the
living One, and ye shall not fear.

46 Jesus said: From Adam to John the Baptist
there is none born of woman who is higher than
John the Baptist, so that his eyes will not be
broken (?) But I have said, He who shall be
among you as a little one shall know the kingdom,
and shall be higher than John.

Logion 29

29 Jesus said: If the flesh has come into being because of the spirit, it is a marvel; but if the spirit (has come into being) because of the body, it is a marvel of marvels. But as for me, I marvel at this, how this great wealth has settled in this poverty.

Which is scarier? That spirit might be the cause/origin of flesh or that it is flesh that is the cause/origin of spirit?

Perhaps this life is a soul-making factory. Perhaps we aren’t born with spirits but they are created in us as we turn our attentions our consciousness away from life as it is and imagine a life that could be and there find ourselves confronted by a God waiting for us.

How I read this passage is conditioned by all sorts of prior reading hearing knowing and half-knowing.

When I read Paul and the many many many spiritual writers from within the Christian traditions that followed him – and I’m thinking especially of writers like the anonymous author of Theologia Germanica — I hear the word flesh and think not meat blood and bone but that spirit that reigns and rules in me despite my better intentions — that spirit of self-will whose constant mantra is me, my, mine.

But when I hear this in Thomas I’m less certain of the sense of it. That prior reading hearing knowing and half-knowing tells me Thomas was a Gnostic — or more cozy with them than John and Paul were. And I associate Gnosticism with those folks who have swerved from the truth by claiming that the resurrection has already taken place (2 Timothy 2:18). For them flesh is matter and matter doesn’t matter. For them they have already entered the kingdom in its fullness. The Ranters that George Fox distanced himself from. Those who felt they had attained the divinity that Christ was the seal and promise of.

But also I know that all I know of these people is the preserved writings of those who disagreed with them and who disagreed so violently they were willing to imagine a just and loving God consign these people to flames throughout eternity.

Saying 14 – LC

14 Jesus said to them: If you fast, you will beget
a sin for yourselves; and if you pray, you will be
condemned; and if you give alms, you will do an
evil to your spirits.
And if you go into any land and travel in its
regions, if they receive you eat what they set
before you. Heal the sick among them. For that
which goes into your mouth will not defile you,
but that which comes forth from your mouth, that
is what will defile you.

I have to wonder if Thomas isn’t commenting on one
(or more) of the synoptics:

Matt 6:16-18: Jesus (in both gospels) was conscious
of the spiritual cost involved in hypocritical
fasting, praying, and giving alms that are no doubt
prevalent among us, and likely within us.

In Thomas Jesus speaks more incisively about these
things, you might say mercilessly, and he does it
here in such a way that if we’re guilty, we’re
condemned and if we’re innocent, then we’re likely
just confused.

In the second paragraph he has addressed two other
passages from the synoptic account: Matt 10:5-8 and
15:11.

The saying illustrates how close to the other gospels
Thomas is. We don’t know which one came first, but
if we postulate that Thomas was later, then we see
that he had a close familiarity with the others. In
fact two thirds of his sayings are close relatives
of synoptic verses, and students of Thomas can cite
a relative verse in all of them.

It still pains me very much to realize that the
‘Church Fathers’ banned it and in fact made a
concerted attempt to destroy it.

Saying #29

(29) Jesus said: If the flesh came into existence because of the spirit, it is a marvel. But if the spirit (came into existence) because of the body, it is a marvel of marvels. But as for me, I wonder at this, how this great wealth made its home in this poverty.

This saying expresses the disctinction for gnostics between the spirit and the flesh (or matter). There is a contempt for the material and a veneration for the spiritual … they believed we were more truly of the spirit (this great wealth) and are only temporarily mired here in matter (this poverty).

While there are some similar references in the canonical gospels, for the most part, this ascetic philosophy seems alien to the Jesus portrayed elsewhere. For instance, in Luke 7:34 and Matthwe 11:19, Jesus is accussed of being a drunkard and a glutton. And Jesus’ bodily resurrection would seem to imlpy that we are not made spiriit only after death, but that we still have bodies material enough to be touched/felt by others and material enough to enjoy the consumption of food … … “Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have ” … he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of baked fish; he took it and ate it in front of them. – Luke 24:39-43

It is through this philosophy that spirit and matter are oppossed, that the idea of who Jesus really was/is becomes problematic. According to gnostics, Jesus descends from the realm of spirits to dispenses gnosis and awaken those trapped in ignorance; the body is a prison, and the spirit alone is good; and salvation comes by discovering the “kingdom of God” within the self. He had no part in matter, did not suffer in death (First Apocalypse of James: “Never have I suffered in any way, nor have I been distressed”), was not bodily resurrected.

While I flinch at calling gnostics “world-hating dualists” 🙂 I must disagree with this ethical division between the material and the spiritual, if only because of what it says about the nature of Jesus and our own state after death.

If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit that dwells in you. – Romans 8:11

Flesh and Spirit

This group is about flesh and spirit. (Some of
them may have already been dealt with, but in
another context.)

14 Jesus said to them: If you fast, you will beget
a sin for yourselves; and if you pray, you will be
condemned; and if you give alms, you will do an
evil to your spirits.
And if you go into any land and travel in its
regions, if they receive you eat what they set
before you. Heal the sick among them. For that
which goes into your mouth will not defile you,
but that which comes forth from your mouth, that
is what will defile you.

29 Jesus said: If the flesh has come into being
because of the spirit, it is a marvel; but if the
spirit (has come into being) because of the body,
it is a marvel of marvels. But as for me, I marvel
at this, how this great wealth has settled in this
poverty.

53 His disciples said to him: Is circumcision
profitable or not? He said to them: Were it
profitable, their father would beget them from
their mother circumcised. But the true
circumcision in spirit has proved entirely
profitable (lit.: has found usefulness
altogether).

112 Jesus said: Woe to the flesh which depends
upon the soul; woe to the soul which depends upon
the flesh.

114 Simon Peter said to them: Let Mary go forth
from among us, for women are not worthy of the
life. Jesus said: Behold, I shall lead her, that I
may make her male, in order that she also may
become a living spirit like you males. For every
woman who makes herself male shall enter into the
kingdom of heaven.

Me blogging again

Just a note … I’ve started up my personal blog again. Now it’s here for anyone who might be interested – http://povcrystal.blogspot.comlink

Another Gathering

I have a feeling that some have developed some
resistance to Thomas. That suggests two
additional options:

At this point we could go ‘Back to the Bible’,
as they say.

Or we could look at some of the Sayings that more
closely resemble the ‘four gospels’.

I await some input on those suggestions.

A Lesson Plan for Gainesville

Gang, I’m departing from the usual format and
imposing upon your generosity with this post:

Ellie and I lead a Thomas class at our monthly
meeting; it meets this first day. They have had
something near an equal exposure to Thomas. Ellie
came up with what seems to me like a smashing
plan. It will likely be the end of our study of
that book– at Gainesville:

She sees Thomas’ way as a six stage journey:

1. There is hidden truth. (Sayings 3 and 5)

2. We learn to see things differently. (Sayings
4, 17, and 51)

3. Reconciling two worlds (Sayings 22 and 29)

4. Becoming One (50,70)

5. Manifesting the openness (24, 49, 83, 106)

6. Inner awareness: living each moment by
self-knowledge (77, 91, 111)

If you feel led, I would appreciate input here;
otherwise I will come forth with another post.
(Of course some may have copies of Thomas with
different numbering. (The links access the
appropriate saying below.)

Blessings to all.

Here are the sayings:


(3) Jesus said: If those who lead you say unto
you: Behold, the Kingdom is in heaven, then the
birds of the heaven will be before you. If they
say unto you: It is in the sea, then the fish will
be before you. But the Kingdom is within you, and
it is outside of you. When you know yourselves,
then shall you be known, and you shall know that
you are the sons of the living Father. But if ye
do not know yourselves, then you are in poverty,
and you are poverty.


(4) Jesus said: The man aged in
his days will not hesitate ask a little child of
seven days about the place of life, and he shall
live. For there are many first who shall be last,
and they shall become a single one.


(5) Jesus said: Know what is before thy face, and
what is hidden from thee shall be revealed unto
thee; for there is nothing hidden which shall not
be made manifest.


(17) Jesus said: I will give you that which eye
has not seen, an ear has not heard, and hand has
not touched, and which has not entered into the
heart of man.


22) Jesus saw some infants at the breast. He said
to his disciples: These little ones at the breast
are like those who enter into the kingdom. They
said to him: If we then be children, shall we
enter the kingdom? Jesus said to them: When you
make the two one , and when you make the inside as
the outside, and the outside as the inside, and
the upper side as the lower; and when you make the
male and the female into a single one , that the
male be not male and the female female; when you
make eyes in the place of an eye, and a hand in
place of a hand, and a foot in place of a foot, an
image in place of an image, then shall you enter
[the kingdom].


(24) His disciples said: Teach us concerning the
place where thou art, for it is necessary for us
to seek after it. He said to them: He that hath
ears, let him hear. There is a light within a man
of light, and it gives light to the whole
world. If it does not give light, there is
darkness.


(29) Jesus said: If the flesh has come into being
because of the spirit, it is a marvel; but if the
spirit (has come into being) because of the body,
it is a marvel of marvels. But as for me, I marvel
at this, how this great wealth has settled in this
poverty.


(49) Jesus said: Blessed are the solitary and the
elect, for you shall find the kingdom; for you
came forth thence, and shall go there again.


(50) Jesus said: If they say to you: Whence have
you come?, tell them: We have come from the light,
the place where the light came into being through
itself alone. It [stood], and it re- vealed itself
in their image. If they say to you: Who are you?,
say: We are his sons, and we are the elect of the
living Father. If they ask you: What is the sign
of your Father in you?, tell them: It is a
movement and a rest.


(51) His disciples said to him: On what day will
the rest of the dead come into being? And on what
day will the new world come? He said to them: That
which ye await has come, but ye know it not.


(70) Jesus said: When you bring forth that in
yourselves, that which you have will save you. If
you do not have that in yourselves, that which you
do not have in you will kill you.


(77) Jesus said: I am the light that is over them
all. I am the All; the All has come forth from me,
and the All has attained unto me. Cleave a (piece
of) wood: I am there. Raise up the stone, an ye
shall find me there.


(83)Jesus said: The images are revealed to the
man, and the light which is in them is hidden in
the image of the light of the Father. He shall be
revealed, and his image is hidden by his light.


(91) They said to him: Tell us who thou art, that
we may believe in thee. He said to them: You test
the face of the heaven and the earth, and him who
is before you you do not know, and you know not to
test this moment.


(106) Jesus said: When you make the two one, you
shall become sons of man, and when you say:
Mountain, be moved, it shall be moved.


(111) Jesus said: The heavens shall be rolled up
and the earth before your face, and he who lives
in the living One shall neither see death nor
(fear); because Jesus says: He who shall find
himself, of him the world is not worthy.

Saying 22– overdue

22) Jesus saw some infants at the breast. He said
to his disciples: These little ones at the breast
are like those who enter into the kingdom. They
said to him: If we then be children, shall we
enter the kingdom? Jesus said to them: When you
make the two one , and when you make the inside as
the outside, and the outside as the inside, and
the upper side as the lower; and when you make the
male and the female into a single one , that the
male be not male and the female female; when you
make eyes in the place of an eye, and a hand in
place of a hand, and a foot in place of a foot, an
image in place of an image, then shall you enter
[the kingdom]. Matthew 18:1-3; John 17:11

This post is a ’10 month baby’ because I found some
pertinent material in A History of God, page 161:

Armstrong quotes a traditional ‘saying of
Mohammed, supposedly the voice of God:

“My servant draws near to me ..as a duty. And
my servant continues drawing nearer to me
through superrogatory acts until I love him:
and when I love him, I become his ear…. his
eyes… his hand….his foot whereon he walks.”

One might think that Mohammed got this from
Thomas, although he was illiterate of course.
Be that as it may, I find it pleasant to see
the close relationship between the two faiths.
Islam (naturally) appears to be closer in spirit
to Thomas than to John.

The Koran emphatically rejects the “blasphemous
doctrine of the Trinity”. In the Christian
tradition it’s most supported of course by
John and least by Thomas, and most likely by
the numerically larger Arians who civilized
most of Europe and the numerically large
Eastern Christians (larger than the Western
tradition which became orthodoxy).