The Gospel of Thomas


Hidden, and Clues

The Gospel of Thomas starts with 'These are the hidden logia'. Admittedly there not said by Jesus, nevertheless the key-word is one used frequently by him. It comes in sayings #0, #1, #5 (twice), #6, #32, #39, #83 (twice), #96, #108 and #109. Therefore it behoves us to recognize the intended meaning and its implications. It turns out that it may be one of the words of the lost language of parables that carries a distinctive meaning.

In the Coptic it has three spellings HOP, HOP, HEP which Crum does not distinguish, and translates as to be hidden or to hide. The Metanoia scholars render it as cache or cacher which translates to be hidden or to hide.

Some writers translate the word as secret (The Secret Sayings ..., The Secret Gospel ...). This may be merely a failure to look up the Coptic word in Crum's Dictionary. More likely, it may be a confusion, perhaps unconsciously, with the mystery religions of that time, thus importing into Thomas a concept completely alien.

The Concise Oxford English Dictionary comes to our help in discerning the subtle difference between hidden and secret. First, secret comes from Latin 'separate, set apart', whereas hidden comes from a more basic English word. Secondly, in defining hidden it says 'keep a thing from view without intention of secrecy'.

So something hidden is meant to be found.

Finding of course is another of Jesus' favourite words, the most-frequently used one in the Gospel of Thomas. Furthermore, in several sayings finding and hidden are intimately related. Thus:

5.3          what is hidden from you shall be revealed
6.10        For there is nothing hidden that shall not be manifest,
68.5        and the hidden things shall be manifested.
109.3     who owned in his field a hidden treasure ....
             While ploughing, he [buyer] found the treasure.

This concept of finding what is hidden comes by implication in three other sayings. It lies in the 'stone' used in the ancient language of parables, as in #19.6: even these stones will minister to you. and in #77.7&8:
lift up the stone, and you shall find me there.

Here the meaning is that there are hidden qualities in the words of Jesus even though they appear inanimate. (See also the mini-essay Stone.)

In saying #33:

What you will hear in one ear
and in the other Ear,
that proclaim from your housetops.

The 'other Ear' is our third or spiritual ear with which, once it is awakened, we can hear the inner meanings hidden in the literal words of Jesus. This saying goes even further, for its 'proclamation' is the very opposite of secrecy.

Professor Stevan Davies starts his commentaries in his 'The Gospel of Thomas' with a clear statement about the hidden nature of the sayings:

The "hidden-ness" of the sayings has to do with their enigmatic character. The meaning of these sayings is hidden in them as, for example, leaven is hidden in dough (saying 90) or a treasure might be hidden in a field (saying 109). The Gospel of Thomas is optimistic that what is hidden will be revealed (sayings 5, 6, 108). These are not sayings that were supposed to be kept secret from other people ....

So Jesus was not trying to baffle or perplex people. He was using his distinctive technique of giving sayings that have deeper inner meanings or greater import than first meets the eye, and either present a challenge or offer us more (depending on one's personality) that we have to find for ourselves. He is not like the solicitous servant or obsequious butler who offers us glasses of living water on a silver tray; he is a dynamic figure spurring us to rise to his level of spiritual awareness.

In doing this, he does not however leave us high and dry. He gives us clues. The spotting of these clues is not only a prerequisite to finding the hidden meanings, but it is also just as important. Experience shows that unless these clues are followed up subsequent studies, relying on our own pre-existing ideas, can lead to fruitless conclusions.

Thomas starts by the very direct clues:

#01  These are the hidden logia ....
           He who finds the inner meaning

Jesus goes on to sprinkle clues generously:

#2      Let him who seeks not cease from seeking until he finds;
#8      That wise fisherman .... chose the large fish without trouble.
#5      Know him who is before your face,
#59    Look on Him who is living
#46    he who amongst you becomes as a little child
#18    For in the Place where the beginning is,
#48    If two make peace with each other in this single house,
#22    When you make the two One
#94    He who seeks shall find
#90    come to me,

In our third book 'Jesus untouched' many more clues are offered to the discerning reader. The most obvious and significant one is the title name given to each Teaching and repeated, for guidance and emphasis, at the top of every page.

Other clues are given by occasional words added in the translation from the ancient document and, perhaps of more value, the notes and even a few mini-essays that are given at the end of those Teachings where experience shows that they may be of benefit. It is emphasised that these are not commentaries on the sayings nor explanations of the inner meanings, for that could frustrate Jesus' practice of requiring us to find the inner meanings by our own efforts. That is how he leads us to greater awareness of the spiritual Truth he embodied.

Written 14th April 2003