The Gospel of Thomas


Signature of Thomas

Logion 13 is the only saying in the Gospel where Thomas allows himself, or his influence, to appear.

The saying that starts:

Make a comparison to me (logion 13)

is the only autobiographical one in the Thomas Text. As a true disciple Thomas would know he must record faithfully, and must not intrude elsewhere. Thomas tells of an episode that, when combined with related passages from the gospels in the Bible (Matthew 16:13, Mark 8:27, Luke 9:18), other contemporary documents, and what can be seen today, can be very easily visualized.

After his initial ministry around the Lake of Galilee and having gathered some disciples, Jesus might have suggested a visit up the River Jordan, 70 kilometres or so through mountainous country, to its source. At that time, as now, merit attached to a journey to the source of a holy river. To accommodate the many pilgrims, Proconsul Hadrian had enhanced a village nearby, in the country of the Phillipians, but by naming it after the Roman Caesar he angered the Jews.

Around the source there have been through the ages small shrines or monuments to sacred figures, philosophers and wise men. At this stage the stature of Jesus had not yet been recognized, even by all the disciples. But looking round him he might well have asked whom he resembled. The replies of Peter and Matthew might have been prompted by the small shrines on either hand. However, Thomas had beheld him, with awe and wonder—incomparable. Immediately Jesus implied that in a certain sense the experience of Oneness made something common to both the disciple and to the Source.

The source itself of the Jordan is a powerful spring that gushes, bubbling, out of the clefts in the rock at this place. The significance of the dialogue with Thomas that follows is heightened by the newness of the water of the spring, that this spring and the Jordan is the only river in Palestine that flows continuously through the year, and by the immense historical and spiritual importance of the Jordan to anyone born a Jew.

There then develops a situation of a type that is well authenticated in other situations: Jesus could discern the spiritual capability of a follower, and, taking him aside, gave a facet of Truth that others were not yet ready to grasp. We cannot tell what Jesus said. But it is very clear that Jesus taught his chosen disciple something that he and his colleagues considered to be blasphemous and punishable by ritual stoning, and had the power to set the world on fire. There is not much likelihood that the others would wish to record this. How could anyone other than he who had this daunting experience recount it, or feel it important to record it? It can only be the way Thomas put his 'signature' to his Text—for those with eyes to see it.

Perhaps today, for anyone brought up in the Jewish or Christian Churches, Jesus might still be speaking what appears to be a blasphemy.

In seeking to see Jesus it is of inestimable value—in fact it may be said to be essential—also to consider the incidents and episodes concerning Jesus narrated in the gospels of the Bible. Perhaps because these are less direct or specific than the sayings attributed to him, it does seem that they may have been less influenced by the doctrines of the emerging Christian Church. When working on the meaning, import or significance of these narrated episodes, the clue is to seek an answer to the question: from the reaction of the disciples or other persons what quality in Jesus did they see?

Jesus untouched by the Church This section is copied from this book