11 Jesus said: This heaven shall pass away, and that which above it shall pass away; and they that are dead are not alive and they that live shall not die. In the days when you were eating that which is dead, you were making it alive. When you come in the light, what will you do? On the day when you were one, you became two. But when you have become two, what will you do?
Piece by piece — for I fear Thomas is being deliberately enigmatic here so I must start parsing it all out.
This heaven shall pass away, and that which above it shall pass away
Obvious parallel with Matthew 5:18: For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.
But Thomas is doing something different with it than Matthew. Matthew uses the phrase to affirm the eternal relevance of Jesus’ teachings. Thomas seems to have a different agenda.
and they that are dead are not alive and they that live shall not die
This seems to be denying the resurrection from the dead. It seems to be saying the living will live but the dead will remain dead. Paul takes some pains to affirm resurrection of the dead — even affirming they will rise before us (I Thessalonians 4:16). Is Thomas contradicting Paul? Or have people in Thassalonica read something too literal into Thomas and Paul feels a need to correct it?
In the days when you were eating that which is dead, you were making it alive.
Seems to me a parallel with Thomas 7: Blessed is the lion which the man eats, and the lion will become man; and cursed is the man whom the lion eats, and the lion will become man. We are what we eat. And at a mental/spiritual level — this means we are best to feed our spirits with meditations on life affirming matters. Paul says, be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God– what is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:12). I also wonder whether it relates to Paul’s concerns about letter and spirit (Corinthians 3:6). When we meditate on scripture (Thomas, or canonical) — reflect on the meanings more than the exactitude of the wordings.
When you come in the light, what will you do?
I can see John (the Evangelist) or even George Fox saying this. Encountering the Light is not necessarily a pleasant experience, for John all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed (John 3:20) and for George the light “shows us our iniquity”. Our tasks are to endure the light and its searchings so that we might become children of the light.
On the day when you were one, you became two. But when you have become two, what will you do?
I’m not sure about this one. I think it maps back to a Gnostic myth that when our “pure” spirits got mired in material bodies we were somehow separated from our true selves. The answer to the question would then be to seek the light — to be reunited — to become one again.
I’m not convinced that physicality is evil in and of itself. I do not see material or even sensual life to be evil but rather the spiritual power which rules in us that leads us to treat that physicality and that sensuality as God. As I write this I’m listening to a Dixieland jazz CD — I certainly hope the heavenly choruses that praise God through eternity sound alot more like this CD than the hymns sung in the majority of Protestant churches this morning.
So where does all this leave me? I do dwell on the dead. I like dead things. I read 17th century Quaker tracts. I haggle over textual references. I sat through a church service this morning and inwardly critiqued the style of the sermon. Guess I’m one lost puppy.