Saying #3 / C

Saying #3 – 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 that] it is under the earth, then the fish of the sea [will enter it, preceding] you. And, the [kingdom of God] is inside of you, [and it is outside of you. Whoever] knows [himself] will discover this. [And when you] come to know yourselves, [you will realize that] you are [sons] of the [living] father. [But if you] will [not] know yourselves, [you dwell] in [poverty] and it is you who are that poverty.” HW Attridge – Oxyrhynchus

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There are a couple of interesting points in this saying —

Knowledge …. the gospel of Thomas advocates salvation through the aquisition and understanding of secret knowledge, as opposed to the canonical gospels which put emphasis on faith and good works. This third saying tells us that if we come to know ourselves (hat tip to Socrates), we will then find the kingdom of heaven/God.

The Kingdom … the kingdom of heaven/God is not, according to this gospel, a physical place or an event that will happen in the future. It is here, it is now, it is inside us – it is an epiphany that becomes a state of mind. I’ve read that gnosticism and Buddhism share some concepts – one of these may be this idea of enlightenment. In zen Buddhism, one term for this is kensho … an awakening experience of one’s true or Buddha nature. In the gospel of Thomas, the realization is that we’re children of God.

In the canonical gospels, the concept of the kingdom of heaven/God is usually expressed in parables. My favorite one is Matthew 20:1-16 … a landowner goes out at different times during the day and hires men to work in his vineyard. At the end of the day, all the workers are paid the same amount of money, despite the fact that some had worked much longer hours than others. As opposed to the kingdom in the gospel of Thomas, this kingdom isn’t earned.

I can’t say I understand exactly what is meant in either the gnostic or the canonical examples of the kingdom of heaven/God, but I do have a thought about the difference they hold for me. I’ve had few epiphanies in life and if my salvation were to depend on my understanding of secret knowledge, well, as a gnostic, I’d probably be out of luck. But fortunately, the attainment of the kingdom of heaven/God as portrayed in the canonical gospels does not have to be deserved… it is a gift of love.

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12 responses

  1. To me, the canonical gospels also carry strong suggestions that Thomas’ interpretation may be correct.Jesus keeps saying, “I and the Father are one.” He speaks on his own authority – and sometimes that of his Father. By the “I” that was one with the Father and able to speak on its own authority/his Father’s authority, did he mean his small “I”, his mortal personality? Or did he mean an “I” that all of us can know, an I standing at the intesection of God with our lives in this world?Christians who were highly contemplative and made statements concerning their experiences of unity with God were charged with heresy in the Middle Ages. I’m sure those making the charges must have been clueless about the nature of this kind of experience, that Jesus knew it very well, and was trying to talk about it at least some of the time – but he may have been talking over the spiritual heads of most of his listeners.What the ultimate realization of the kingdom of heaven would look like – who knows? I like the mustard seed parable. Maybe it begins in the little bit of consciousness of God that we can come to here, and its full realization is something beyond anything we are now able to conceive.I think Thomas’ view is plausible. It’s always been interesting to me that some of Buddha’s followers tried to deify him. He lived into his eighties, we have a more accurate picture of his words than those of Jesus. And he explicitly rejected the attempt to deify him…

  2. I tend to see thsi one as neither about deserving the kingdom or about secret knowledge. I see it as political — in the sense of — how are we to live together — not in the sense of party politics. And its answer is — don’t let your leadership do your thinking for you. Know you are a citizen of the kingdom of God and a child of the Living Father. Then live your life that way. Don’t overthrow corrupt governments — live in a way that makes them irrelevant.

  3. Hey, Friends, we’re really cooking with gas this morning. Crystal has made me re-examine this logion with new ideas; the first two comments are equally provocative.I agree that Thomas is saying the same thing that Jesus said elsewhere, especially in Luke. The difference is a matter of emphasis. Thomas emphasizes the “secret”, which IMO is no more a secret than if I was to say, “I’ll tell you a secret; IMO the stock market is going down, down next week.” The only real secret in Thomas is the emphasis on the contemplative rather than the active.Or we could say that the synoptic Jesus is about activity, or about love, which is the same thing in essence (“love’s not a feeling, but an activity.”) Or I could put on my history hat and say that Thomas was Syrian, eastern, whereas the synoptics were western, and the West controlled the outcome of the Council of Nicea that banned Thomas.Thomas is reported to be gnostic, but far removed from other gnostic ideas, especially those bandied about by the ‘heretic haters’.Now re: zen Buddhist kensho and Christian children of God. Aren’t they substantially the same thing; in my vernacular isn’t Christ equally present in both constructs?Paul, IMO you’re right on with your “I and the Father are one”; it speaks much clearer to me than the more primitive idea that Jesus, a man, is on an equal footing with God, the Father.Jesus was of one mind with the “Father” in the same way that you and I are, or at least will be eternally.You’re also right about the ‘heretics’ (not of the past, but even down to the present moment). The established church cannot abide the full meaning of the individual relationship with God; it must be mediated by the priest.The ‘direct relationship’ has come down through the centuries, always threatening the authority of ‘those in charge’. Quakers are a late example, although they have been fairly well domesticated rather than being declared heretics (in the 20th and 21th centuries, but not in the 17th).Re your last paragraph you obviously know more about Thomas than I’ve been able to learn; I would appreciate your sources on Thomas’ age and the deification affair. Thanks to all: as I said, we’re (all) cooking with gas.

  4. we’re cooking with gas. I haven’t heard that one since … well … in donkey’s years!

  5. When I read “I and the Father are one”, i see the trinity. I don’t see an average guy who found enlightenment and spoke of his understanding that we are all one with God … I see a guywho was both human and divine in a way that’s unique … he was as vulnerable as any person yet so divine as to be able to raise the dead. A tough act for any of us to follow 🙂

  6. and yet, Crystal, we are coheirs with Christ Jesus destined to participate in the divine nature.

  7. David, I was mostly responding to Paul’s comments …Jesus keeps saying, “I and the Father are one.” … By the “I” … did he mean an “I” that all of us can know, an I standing at the intesection of God with our lives in this world?… my opinion is that when Jesus said that he and the father were one, he meant that he was god. Do I think that all of us can aspire to that same “I”? No, I do think we can have a relationship with god and that, perhaps when we die we are taken up into god somehow, but I don’t think we can “be” god while we’re alive. But that’s just my feeling … certainly, I don’t know for sure.

  8. OOps! I forgot to include the realm of religious experience. I was thinking of that as being under “relationship with god” … in a way, that’s kind of “being” god, I suppose 🙂

  9. Thinking about being one with God…Jesus prayed for us that, “they may all be one, even as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that thy also may be in Us…that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and Thou in Me, that they may be perfected in unity…”These words seem to speak not just about us being one with each other, but about us being one with God. (that we would taste of this oneness just as Christ tasted of it while with us) I’ve often imagined that this was a huge reason he walked among us – to demonstrate for us this union with God that we so desperately need. Note the emphasis at the end – Christ in us and God in Christ…that we might know this union, or unity.

  10. Hi Twyla. That part of John really does seem to be saying that we can be one with God the way Jesus was/is. I feel a conflict between seeing Jesus as God … performing miracles, having perfect love for others, appearing after death in a resurrected body … and trying to imagine any of us becoming just like that in this lifetime. Perhaps it works if you don’t think of Jesus as God, per se, but as a very holy person who was in deep union with God …. I can see us becoming like Jesus then.I prefer to see Jesus as part of the trinity, but I know not everyone sees him that way.Sorry if the above didn’t make much sense – I’m getting pretty confused about this whole subject.

  11. Hi Crystal! I don’t think of becoming exactly like Christ. Sheesh, I’m way too flawed and broken. I guess all of us are, to varying degrees.When I think of being one with God, it is a thing of grace, a reaching down into my life. It isn’t me being exactly like Christ, but me being one with God through Christ. Sort of a hidden thing – something I think is there for all of us. Yet, for me, it takes becoming quiet, becoming aware to perceive this union even slightly.I’m encouraged because so many over the years have come to a place of “perceiving” this union very well. I hope to shed the dualism in my thinking and emotions as I go, I long to be more and more aware of God’s continual Presence within me and all around me. I hope I’m making sense. What I’m trying to say is that I feel Christ demonstrated oneness with God, being in constant communion with Father. And I think that is available for us, too. As with Christ, it requires things from us. Surrender. Times of quiet. An inner, continual ‘yes’ to the Spirit. An open heart and empty hands.But I’m no expert here. I only know what I’ve read, experienced a tiny bit and hunger for more of. Peace to you, Crystal.

  12. Crystal,I think you’re correct when you wrote that the Kindgom of God “is here, it is now, it is inside us – it is an epiphany that becomes a state of mind.” When Jesus says the Kindgom of God is inside of you, and outside of you, and whoever knows themselves will discover this – I don’t read this in anyway about earning, or deserving, but rather dropping; dropping away all that keeps you separate and that keeps you from realizing that the presence of God dwells within you already. Likely the poverty you will dwell in in you do not discover this is the poverty of spirit. As for this being secret knowledge, well it is an open secret. Jesus tells us about this kingdom within many times, it is alluded to in so many different ways. And you are so right, this kingdom is truly “a gift of love.”

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