The Gospel of Thomas



Another of our untranslated and untranslatable Greek words in Thomas is makarios. It is still used in Greece as a personal name, for example Archbishop Makarios. It is used also in the beatitudes of the N.T. Gospels, where it is almost always rendered as 'blessed'. This rendering of the word can be very misleading, for it can be confused with 'blest', an entirely different word. The difference lies in the person concerned. A state of blessedness exists within a person; being blest involves another person outside oneself.

Makarios is used ten times in our ancient version of Thomas. It is one of the most frequently used words, and therefore of significance to Jesus. Its use is, however, rather different from the other two untranslated words.

The corresponding word in Aramaic, which Jesus would have used when speaking to the Jews, is tubwayham. Aramaic is a much more flexible language than Greek, and this word can mean happy, content, blissful, fortunate, delighted—where that word can suggest great happiness, prosperity and abundant goodness. Thomas must have chosen makarios to translate this into his Greek.

We must assume that when Jesus was speaking to the Hellenists, he chose to use makarios. But what we have to be careful of is that he would have used that word with the mind-set that is inherent in the middle-Eastern languages with all their flexibility.

Thus makarios cannot be directly translated into English. Grammatically it is an adjective—a makarios person or a makarios state of being. Hence in the 'Jesus untouched' book it is translated as 'happy' particularly in the phrase 'happy is he who ...' (meaning also she who ... ), from which we could get the noun happiness. But it is recognized, and it must be realized, that this can also be misleading, for happiness can be so easily confused with jollity.

We can get further by thinking of it as happiness-or-bliss, words permanently linked together as in the Sanskrit practice of sandhi, where the important feature is that the combination carries more significance, and usually an enhanced meaning, than the individual words themselves. It's a case of two plus two making more than four.

There is another word that comes near the meaning—joyousness. However really to get nearer the meaning one needs to think of the phrase 'happiness-or-bliss or joyousness'.

When seen in this way makarios becomes a pointer to a state of being, which is not only experienced within the self but is also an attribute of the Self. It is a manifestation of the very essence of Oneself. This Oneself is the individual personal experience of Oneness.

Real Happiness is a manifestation of the Real Self, and its source is within us. It does not have to be given us, it does not have to be made, we do not have to make it, we only need to become aware of it.

Thus it becomes relevant to quote from the lower half of page 122 in the 'Jesus untouched' book:

"Makarios is joy or bliss, associated with a profound contentment that leads to a repose. It appears as a poise and radiance. It is derived from a condition or state of being within. It may be regarded as a flowering of the Self, so that in any of the sayings 'Happy is he who does so-and-so' it is a pointer towards coming to an awareness of what lies within. Thus the emphasis, both here and in the sayings of Jesus, stems directly from happiness being one of the facets of the jewel that comprises spiritual Truth."

Herein lies, at a very profound and meaningful level, a correspondence between Thomas and advaita Vedanta.