The first papyrus was found at a place called Oxyrhynchus, 100 miles South of Cairo, in Upper Egypt. During Greek and Roman Times it was a cultural center, later becoming a focal point of the Eastern Christian Church.
Grenfell and Hunt discovered the first two Papyrus in 1897 and 1903, which contained 15 of the sayings. Later in 1945 in a tomb at Nag Hamadi, 50 miles downstream from Luxor, another 114 sayings were found amongst twelve volumes of Coptic, Gnostic scriptures.
These scriptures, although themselves dated during the late third century, were based upon an earlier version, a Shioic Coptic translation of A.D. 140. G. Quispel advocated that some of the sayings were not taken from the canonical Gospels, but from the “Jewish-Christian” gospel tradition. These sayings in the Gospel According to Thomas may have been transmitted directly from this tradition without any Pauline Theological influence. Thereby, the words of Jesus could have been preserved in a truer form than the canonical Gospels.
Gnosticism grew out of the doctrines of Babylonia, Egypt, India, and Christianity. As we see in ”Roots of Religions”, the thread of Truth flowed through each of the ancient religions. So that same Truth is found in these Scriptures of the Gnostics before they became drowned by the Roman-Pauline Catholic Church Doctrine.
Along with the Dead Sea Scrolls, these revealing scriptures show that the teachings of Jesus, when stripped of their surrounding background material contain a saving knowledge often obscured by the myth and worship of the person.
Every word is precise as when a master, such as Lao Tzu, proclaims. If any one word were to be changed the meaning would be changed, therefore words that appear to have been added are suspect.
The Gospel has homogeneity, there cannot be a clash between the Logia. So they cannot always stand alone, if they appear difficult, then reference must be made to other Logia for clarification.
In translation, even when several words would fit the sentence, it was found that only one choice gave a significant meaning. You will find that as you work with these teachings within, you will know for yourself whether they are true.
first thing you will find is that: -
There is no sin except in Logia 14 and 104 when it is related to guilt.
It is free from judgment.
Condemnation only once, again in Logia 14.
And there is no FEAR.
Everything appears to go to overcoming the ego and finding the Kingdom of heaven here and now. The Ego is not mentioned specifically but everything is directed to a knowing of the Self.
There is no birth story, and no resurrection. Rather it is a culmination of a Life in the here and now independent of death. For there are only the sayings of Jesus.
The Gospel According to Thomas was branded as heretical by Hippolytus, Bishop of Rome, in the early third Century. We have to look at what heretical meant to that time, not what it has come to mean today. Hippolytus died in 236 just as the churches were formulating their status and beliefs. By the time of the Nicene convention of 333 these were ready to be set in stone. So, consequently anything that did no agree with them was erroneous or wrong.
The word heresy from the Greek Haereus, meaning ‘an act of choosing’, and then ‘the choice of philosophical principles’ and ‘those who profess them’. But Paul and then 1st Century Ignatius began to apply it to the views that they considered disruptive to their own. Thus it came to be something to be condemned.
Thus to have a heresy there must be an orthodoxy. ‘My idea is the right one’, which concept was in place by the time of Hippolytus.
Because the Gospel was then destroyed we have had only the ragings of these two Bishops to give us an inkling of its content until the discoveries at Oxyrhyncus and Nag Hammadi.
There have been many alternative levels of spiritual awareness in both the Hasidim of the Hebrews, the Sufis of the Muslim, the Vedanta, and in Zen and the Tao.
If we recognize that the term heresy can also mean an alternative choice we can look at this Gospel as giving us an opportunity to look at a form of Christian spirituality that has been hidden from us all these centuries under the sands of Egypt.
* * * * * * *
IS THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO THOMAS GNOSTIC
Part of the Seminar’s program is
to give the political climate and the social background to the times of Jesus.
There were many sects and religious groups at the time. One of the main
ones being the Essene grouping and the Gnostics.
Some supposedly wise ones, in
dating scrolls and writings, seem to think that this Gospel is a copy of the
canonical gospels. Whereas, if we
look at the true history of Gnosticism we will see that their writings came
its emphasis on Gnosis, meaning the knowing at the center of one’s being, far
beyond the mind, is of spiritual Truth. It
is a conscious awareness of the ultimate spiritual knowledge of which a man or
woman is capable.
When Jesus began his ministry, he walked
beside the Lake of Galilee and called to Peter and his brother, ‘Come metanoia,
and follow me.' This has been mistranslated as ‘repent’ the word actually
means 'change your knowing' at your center. This they did and their lives were
Secret knowledge - is in error for
‘hidden’ - knowledge that is hidden within each of us waiting to be awakened
as something mysterious is an error - rather it is something that has an outward
form and an inner meaning.
positive ways make a good setting for the use of the Gospel in a Gnostic
monastery. But Professor Guilles Quispel is emphatic in asserting that this is
not a Gnostic Text. Because it does
not appear to have been altered to conform to Gnostic thinking.
Creation of the physical world - The Gnostics rejected that it was
formed by the God Head and created a demiurge of lower Gods for this
purpose. This occurs nowhere in the Gospel.
Gnostics considered that there was an image of God not the incarnation.
The God says in Logia 27 that, "I
stood up in the midst of the world and manifested to them in the flesh” which
The New Testament scholar Wilhelm Bousset,
who traced Gnosticism to ancient Babylonian and Persian sources, declared that:
“Gnosticism is first of all a pre-christian movement which had roots in
itself. It is therefore to be
understood…in its own terms, and not as an offshoot or byproduct of the
1. And he
said: Whoever finds the explanation of these words will not taste death.
teachings were considered to be to his disciples, therefore more advanced.
Basic to this is the concept of eternity therefore when we believe in the
Eternal Life there is no death of the soul and spirit. The body is as nothing.
said: Let him who seeks, not cease
seeking until he finds, and when he finds, he will be troubled, and when he has
been troubled, he will marvel and he will reign over the All.
words are quoted in my Curriculum of Study Classes. For once we set our feet upon the path of inner knowledge
there is no ceasing. If we are not
troubled there is no impetus, some call this Divine discontent.
the Gospel of Hebrews it says. “He
shall not cease from seeking until he shall find. And having found he will be amazed and having been amazed he
will reign and having reigned will rest.”
is no rest always there is one more mountain to see beyond.
This is one of the precepts of Gnosticism that we are continuously
Logia 3. Jesus said: If those who lead you say to you. “See the Kingdom is in heaven”, then the birds of the heaven will precede you. If they say to you: “It is in the sea,” then the fish will precede you. But the Kingdom is within you and it is without you. It you [will] know yourselves, then you will be known and you will know that you are the sons of the Living Father. But if you do not know yourselves, then you are in poverty and you are poverty.
we do indeed know who we are, that we ARE spiritual beings both inside and
outside, that we are solitaires, then will our lives be fruitful.
Manichean Song Book says, “The Kingdom of the heavens Behold, it is within us
behold it is without us, if we believe in it we shall live for ever.”
love the last line of this Logia. So many of us really do get into that state of
belief about ourselves.
4. Jesus said:
The man old in days will not hesitate to ask a little child of seven days
about the place of Life and he will live. For
many who are first shall become last and they shall become a single one.
Little child means an illumined
one and seven days is the time of physical completion.
A Single One or a solitaire is a
basic tenet meaning that we are complete within ourselves if we recognize that
it is so. So many of the Logia
stress the within as the without, the two shall be one, the inner as the outer.
Logia 22 stresses the inner
as the outer – a single one within thyself.
The oneness that you do not need anyone else because when you are that
oneness you are at one with God.
Logia 89 stresses the inside
as the outside.
Emerson says: “Do not be
misled by dimples and curls the soul may be a thousand years old.”
5. Jesus said:
Know [ him who ]
what is in thy sight, and what is hidden from thee will be revealed to
thee. For there is nothing hidden
which will not be manifest.
says that there is nothing to be healed only to be revealed if we but listen.
All knowledge if ours if we but let it be revealed to us.
* * * * * * *
CAREFUL WHAT YOU 'KNOW'
Care has to be taken when using
translations especially when you have two languages in the same document.
For like all the books of the Nag Hammadi Library, the manuscript of the
Gospel According to Thomas is written predominantly in Coptic.
This was a synthetic or manufactured language, in contrast to English,
which has grown up over many centuries.
The Egyptian spoken language was
first written down in hieroglyphics. This was gradually replaced by an alphabet
type of writing, called Demotic. But by the last century BC and the first AD
philosophical, religious and spiritual writings were appearing in Egypt in
It was found that Demotic did not
have the vocabulary to give a complete translation.
So Coptic was invented. It
was a gradual process and Coptic was written with Greek capital letters,
together with six from Demotic. The
Gospel itself was written in a version called Sahidic common to the Nile area.
This Gospel is written about 60% in
Coptic and 40% in Greek. There
being no Coptic words for the more abstract meanings.
The Coptic had to actually use
three different versions for the word ‘know’.
English translators also seem to not like using a phrase and prefer a
single word even if it does not convey the true meaning.
First there is
consistently with the meaning of a profound certainty known at the depth of
one’s being. i.e. “I know that
I am myself and no one else.” You will find this usage in Logia 3:9, 10, 13,
5:2, 18:9, 46:8, 56:2, 65:15, 69:5, 78:8, 80:2, 91:7 and 105:2.
it is used with a lesser significance.
i.e. “to realize”, ‘to
recognize’, ‘to understand’ as when we say “I know it is raining”.
This is used in Logia 12:2, 16:4, 31:3, 51:8, 65:21, 67:1, 91:8, 103:2, 109,4
The third form
is lighter still, and is “to be aware’,
i.e. “I am aware that there are many religions in the world”. It
is in Logia 3:11, 21:14, 43:4, 62:5, 97:8 and 98:6.
[The translation I have used is
that by A Guillaumont, H,Ch Puech, G Quispel, W.Till, and Yassah ‘abd al Masih.
The second digits as the 11 in 3:11 indicates the line in the Logia, as there is
sometimes three different version of the word in one Logia.]
This is why every word in these Logia is
used very precisely and sparingly. And
because they are so absolute they require much meditation to absorb their
Logia 6. His
disciples asked Him: they said to Him
[How] Wouldst thou that we
how should we pray (and) should we give alms and what diet should we
Jesus said: Do not lie and do not do what you hate, for all things are manifest before heaven. For there is nothing hidden that shall not be revealed and there is nothing covered that shall remain without being uncovered.
The Pharisees and Sadducees would
pray publicly and do public fasting and because this was for what others thought
of them they did indeed beget the sin of pride.
of alms for the sake of giving alms is not the true purpose.
Give somebody a load of scraps to make a quilt for themselves rather than
the giving of money. Which seems the panacea today.
For you push them into being poverty.
When you look and see poverty you will hold it in place because of your
position as a metaphysician.
have to accept with your consciousness that there is plenty for all.
Recognize it for yourself then it will radiate out to the All.
You have to start it. Who
else will do it if you do not? WE
have to break the cycle for lack.
We become what we appropriate –
Our God is a living God and has abundantly supplied us as we accept it.
Logia 7. Jesus said: 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.
(man will become lion.)
Lion symbolizes the material
nature. Blessed is the material
nature, which the man appropriates and the material nature will become man, and
cursed is the man whom the material nature appropriates and the man will become
Man can allow his material nature to join his spiritual nature.
[ LION – In Hypostasis of the
Archons, another document from the Nag Hamadi Library, Samael, the Creator-God
is said to be characterized by a shadowy existence below the limits of the aeons,
He became a willful animal in the form of a lion, and is both male and female,
since he came into existence from the matter, hyle.
Logia 8. And He said: the
Man is like a wise fisherman who cast his net into the sea, he drew it up from
the sea full of small fish; among them he found a large (and) good fish, that
he chose the large fish
without regret. Whoever has ears to
hear let him hear.
Net is to
gather in and with fish as floating ideas, we are to gather in the heavenly
ideas and make sure that they are large concepts.
When we look to God is All and All is God we discard the little concepts.
You will hear
the last phrase many times throughout this Gospel.
Walter Lanyon in all his books keeps saying ‘Do you hear what I say do
you really hear’
We so often
gloss over words when we read which is why I have created a Seminar to really
study each phrase until you do hear with the inner ear that taps into your
into the great idea and concept revealing the larger ideas of our selves.
(You will find the next installment in the current issue of Pulse.)