Weekly Teachings 11/3/2012

The Gospel of Thomas

The teaching of Jesus in the ‘Gospel of Thomas’ expresses beautifully what we have been talking about. It encourages us to open ourselves to the Divine Reality, to Divine Wisdom. The way is true self-knowledge, arrived at by truly listening in silent interiority to the deeper spiritual significance of his teaching. Our effort is supported by his all-embracing grace.

The ‘Gospel of Thomas’ was a product of the still predominantly oral culture of the time of Jesus and the subsequent early centuries. His teaching was primarily passed on by word of mouth. Jesus himself did not write anything down. In the ‘Gospel of Thomas’ the most frequently recurring sayings of Jesus, which had formed part of this oral tradition, were collected together. There may have been a Syriac version of them written down as early as 50 – 100 CE. Fifty per cent of the sayings in this Gospel are also found in the Synoptic Gospels.

One of the early Church Fathers, Irenaeus, (2nd century CE), recommended in the interest of Church unity only four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and the letters of St Paul. He chose the Gospel of John rather than the Gospel of Thomas purely out of a personal choice: his teacher Polycarp had been a disciple of John. The Gospel of Thomas was actually at that time much more popular than the Gospel of John. Because of this exclusion the Gospel of Thomas disappeared from sight, until in 1945 an earthenware jar was found at Nag Hammadi in Upper Egypt, which contained a mixture of documents; some were in the Gnostic tradition but there was also the ‘Gospel of Thomas’ considered to be by most experts very much in the ‘apostolic’ tradition. The teaching in this Gospel shows us how the emphasis on transformation and realising your true nature as part of the Divine that we have been looking at, is part of the Christian Tradition right from the beginning. In Thomas’ view God’s light shines potentially in all of us. We are all children of God.

These sayings cannot be taken literally; Jesus’ words are pointers to the underlying meaning. They need to be reflected on as in the discipline of Lectio Divina, preferably after meditation, and thus intuitively understood. My remarks are therefore personal reflections only. One of the saying relevant to what we have been exploring is: Jesus said to them, “When you make the two into one, and when you make the inner like the outer and the outer like the inner, and the upper like the lower, and when you make male and female into a single one, ..... then you will enter the kingdom.” (Saying 22) As we have seen, the aspect of our being that allows us to survive, our ‘ego’, is only one aspect of the whole.

Our spiritual journey is about remembering that we are more; both sides of our being need to be integrated: ‘making the two into one’. ‘Make the inner like the outer’ challenges us to let the divine spark at our core permeate the whole of our being, so that our behaviour is guided by this higher wisdom. ‘Make the upper like the lower’ encourages us to open ourselves to the Divine Light, ‘the upper’, becoming ‘enlightened’; thus we divinise our whole being. And ‘make male and female into a single one’ entails integrating all aspects of our being, including the “male” and “female” aspects of our being, a process Jung emphasized. Then we will “enter the kingdom”, and experience the wisdom and presence of the Divine.”

Kim Nataraja

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