Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Thomas and the gnostics

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His Beatitude +Mar Didymos and Her Eminence +Marta Theodora

The Gospel of Thomas is a non-canonical work (c. 50-100) which is not a narritve of Jesus' life and ministry, but a list of 114 sayings attributed to Jesus. It's what might be characterized as the fortune cookie approach to gospel writing. Some of these sayings resemble those found in the four canonical gospels. Others were unknown until its discovery as a part of the Egyptian gnostic library at Nag Hammadi in 1945, and a few of these run counter to sayings found in the four canonical gospels. Gnosticism is a blend of paganism and Christianity, which is concerned with obtaining illumination (gnosis) and hidden truths rather than redemption and holiness. For gnostics, Jesus is "Savior" only in the sense of being a spirit guide who can help us save ourselves from unenlightened ignorance.

Here are some random excerpts:

14. Jesus said to them, "If you fast, you will bring sin upon yourselves, and if you pray, you will be condemned, and if you give to charity, you will harm your spirits."

19. Jesus said, "Congratulations to the one who came into being before coming into being."

30. Jesus said, "Where there are three deities, they are divine. Where there are two or one, I am with that one."

33. Jesus said, "What you will hear in your ear, in the other ear proclaim from your rooftops. After all, no one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, nor does one put it in a hidden place. Rather, one puts it on a lampstand so that all who come and go will see its light."

37. His disciples said, "When will you appear to us, and when will we see you?" Jesus said, "When you strip without being ashamed, and you take your clothes and put them under your feet like little children and trample then, then [you] will see the son of the living one and you will not be afraid."

Thomas and his "gospel" have had a fascination in gnostic circles as a druid-like guide to spiritual illumination. There is a Tomasine Church composed of some house congregations, mostly in Pennsylvania. The Apostle Thomas ("the Twin") is seen as the spiritual counterpart and intimate confidant of Jesus. Their website gives this explanation of their roots:

"The Gospel of Thomas has been hailed as the oldest surviving Christian text by many modern day scholars. Scholars believe it was likely written down for the first time between 50 and 60 CE. They have found that the Gospel of Thomas formed the bases for which the narrative synoptic gospels were based. The complete codex of thomasine texts are therefore like windows in time, enabling us to peer back to the primitive Christian tradition and the direct and unfiltered teachings of Jesus. These texts deliver a doctrine dramatically different from that found in the authorized Christian canons.

During one of his night time meditations, +Mar Didymos attained what hesychasts call a state of Illumination or Theoria. The next day he went to teach his students. One of them saw a physical illumination around him. When questioned by his students as to what that light was, he told them to not concern themselves with such things and to begin their normal studies.

It was after his Illumination that +Mar Didymos had begun to acquire an international student base. These students in turn, told others what they were learning and they began to form into local study groups. This church was to be based upon primitive Christianities’ teachings as found within the Gospel of Thomas exclusively. Thus was the (re)formation of the Thomasine Church."

The Thomasine Church creed is as follows:
"I seek the illumination of the Light of Truth. I seek reintegration with the Living Father, the Ruler of Rulers, the Silence and the Deep. I seek the annointing of the Mother, the Holy and Comforting Spirit, who is the front of all wisdom, to guide me to find that which internal, invisible, universal and secret. I seek the knowledge of the Master, the Living Jesus, upon whom the annointing of Truth, Light and Life was given. I seek to remove the veil of the Wicked Ones, so that I may obtain true understanding and attain liberation. Amen

1 comment:

Bishop Shimun said...

We, as Gnostics, would say that gnosis is in and of itself holiness and redemption.

I'm also not sure 'spirit guide' accurately sums up the Thomasine Church's conception of Jesus.

Quite nice of you to write about us, though.