Nearly 20% of the sayings in 'Thomas' are in the form of questions and answers, often answers that are least expected. This form of teaching was the most common approach when little was written and few could read. And the oral tradition lives on today in many forms but it is most effective in smaller groups consisting of an expert and a number of students; we use the terms Master and Disciple in the context of spiritual teaching. more...
Influence & Inspiration
Every day we are bombarded by all kinds of media trying to influence our thoughts and behaviour. TV celebrities recommend products, newspapers mix fact with opinion to the extent that we are no longer able to discern the truth. In the art world, Old Masters set up schools where students learned all the techniques through copying and completing their master’s work. It's not actual copying, more a varitaion-on-a-theme; there is little inspiration. more...
Well, Well, Well
We take water for granted in our homes;
turn on a tap or faucet and clean water gushes forth. Without such water we
would feel our civilization was falling apart. Yet for many in the developing
world, this lack of clean water is their daily concern.
Water and wells appear in 'Thomas' but perhaps with much deeper meanings more ...
Jesus and the Pizza Restaurant
There's a recent newspaper story about a small pizza restaurant in New York City. The chef and his wife are passionate about providing excellent pizzas for the local community. All ingredients are from the best organic sources and each pizza is hand-made to order.
Find out why this story reflects Jesus and his teachings more ...
In the crescendo of activities leading up to Christmas day we can all be so busy trying to meet so many expectations that our emotions become jangled. In this post-holiday period we can only now reflect on the possible feelings of frustration, irritation, and perhaps even anger we saw in others and perhaps ourselves!
Money and Wealth
Once we realize that the sayings of Jesus captured in the logia of the Gospel of Thomas have deeper meanings beyond our understanding on their first reading, we can begin to explore the profound teachings of this Great Master.
Just take logion #95 as a simple example:
If you have money,
do not lend at interest,
but give it/to him who will not return it. [#95]
Moving from the Darkness
Try this experiment: Close your eyes tightly, walk around your room towards the door. Obviously check before you start that there are no children, animals, toys, books, etc. underfoot. Did you manage it?
Are You Disturbed?
Do you feel that small knot in your stomach? Does your thoughts about Jesus, God, religion, belief, and faith bounce around inside your head? Are the words of Jesus in Thomas a source of understanding or confusion? Jesus knows that you will be disturbed; he declares it clearly at the start of the Gospel fo Thomas.
Sanctuary is a word coming back into fashion. Books are published on how to find one's own place to be at peace, monks extol its virtue from the tranquillity of their cloisters, and seekers flock to such holy places.
What did Jesus say on seeking peace & tranquility?
Asked to negotiate a financial settlement, Jesus replied 'Oh man, who made me a divider?' [logion #72]. He then turned to his disciples and challenged them on whether they understood that division was what he was trying to overcome. You can almost sense the frustration in his questioning of the disciples.
The Lord's My Shepherd
The Kingdom is like a shepherd
who owned hundred sheep. [#107 ]
This saying is recorded in all the Gospels. It is so well-known and accepted that we tend to skip over it and move to the next logion. Our acceptance of its meaning is usually based our early Sunday or week-day school teaching.
But wait; everything from Jesus in 'Thomas' challenges our assumptions, our pre-conceived ideas, and our beliefs. So maybe we need to look below the surface of this logion to find a deeper meaning.
Christmas is a myth!
Much of the Bible and other religious writings is a mixture of myth and allegory surrounding great Teachers. This is not a criticism, only an indication that these writings need to be considered with discernment to avoid literal meanings and mis-understandings.
What then are the facts surrounding Christmas?
As we move into Autumn thoughts of harvest arise in both country and city dwellers; a throw-back to our agrarian ancestry. It's a remembered time of reaping, lifting, and storing to provide food during the colder months of winter. In our current food market talk of food-miles dominate: for example, strawberries in December from Chile, but we shrug and enjoy the delight despite the cost.
In Jesus's environment, harvest time was critical. Most lived on a subsistence diet where a poor harvest could lead to starvation; something we in the West have long forgotten.
From the earliest times mankind has had expectations: "we will get meat today", "tomorrow the sun will shine", " I'm sure it will be a boy!" In the world of today our expectations have become ever greater: everyone expects to own their own home, a Brit will win Wimbledon! Even our charitable actions have been corrupted by expectations; we expect some 'reward' from our charity. Pop concerts entertain us, charity dinners feed our body but not our soul. Jesus clearly warns us of the dangers of charity: and if you give alms you will do harm to your spirits [logion 14.6-7]. When 'being seen' or 'being there' is more important, then ahamkara (pride) has taken control.
Show Me the Way
Seekers have a hunger. A hunger that's often expressed in the pleading "show me the way" or the common question "what is the way?" . The Way-with a capital letter-takes on a special meaning and when uttered usually results in slow nods by the listeners. Knowing-looks signal "we understand", "we know what you mean", when in reality there is little common understanding of The Way!
What have you given up for Lent?
Many sayings in 'Thomas' begin with "The disciples said to him." as they struggled to understand the message that Jesus was teaching. Logion #6 reflects the in-between stage that his followers were experiencing:
Do you wish that we should fast?
And in which way should we pray?
Should we give alms?
And what diet should we observe? [#6 2-5]
Life, Death, & Resurrection
About twelve months ago, the BBC broadcast a documentary titled the 'Lost Gospels' which explored the findings from the Nag Hammadi library; The Gospel of Thomas was one of the first documents discussed. A leading gospel expert was on-camera quoting logion #1: And he said: "Whoever finds the inner meaning of these words will not taste death."
He turned to the presenter and commented how irrelevant was such a gospel, "it's all about immortality" he said. Then went on to discount the whole gospel based on this single logion! This was a leading 'expert', yet he seemed to be unable to grasp the significance of 'life' and 'death' in 'Thomas'.
Are You Coming to Dinner?
A man had guests
and when he had prepared the dinner,
he sent his servant to invite the guests. (#64)
This is a well-known saying of Jesus. so well known that it is very easy to skip over it, to ignore it, or to believe we understand it. Whatever our views we need to look at this more closely in the context of Jesus' teachings in Thomas: the inner world of the spirit, and the outer world of objects and attachments.
To the listeners of the saying, Jesus' language had a special meaning. Dinners and feasting were big events in an area that suffered regular famines. To be invited to dinner was a great honour. Buyers and merchants were important people in the community—they traded goods, owned property, collected money—that was mainly agricultural workers. But buyers and merchants are criticized; an unusual thing by Jesus who always seeks unity rather than division. More generally, this criticism is really aimed at anyone preoccupied with material concerns.
When we use the 'hidden' language of Thomas, then a deeper meaning of the three themes in the logia become clear.
Become your Real Self, as ahamkara passes away
Passing away is about overcoming the dominance of our ahamkara. Many get confused about this concept, thinking it means 'killing' our ego-fuelled feelings, thoughts, and behaviours. When we focus on such feelings or thoughts then we actually increase their power. There is nothing that our ahamkara loves more than undivided attention.
. and abominated is the man whom the lion will eat,
and the lion will become man [#7 4-5]
The 'lion' will raise its head from time to time so our approach must be to simply give it recognition and acknowledgment: "hello there lion, I see what you're trying to do/make me feel, but I'm not going to do it/feel it - so goodbye!" Or in a more well-known modern catchphrase, "I'm not bothered!"
Now, these feelings, thoughts, or behaviours may be perfectly acceptable, but we need to be clear on their source. When we discern that the source of these feelings or thoughts is our ahamkara, then we start to overcome its dominance.
You are Becoming
Logion 42 is the shortest and most powerful saying in 'Thomas':
Become yourselves, while passing away
The Coptic original comprises of just three words, literally translated as 'Become yourselves, passing by'. Other translations attempt to overcome the enigmatic nature of these few words with additions and subtractions
We learn from the other Gospels of the Bible that went around amongst the people of his land as a Teacher. At the start of his ministry he called out to Simon and his brother Andrew "Follow me". Likewise to the brothers James and John. They heard him, and they did follow him, forsaking their families' tradition of being fishermen.
The disciple nick-named Didymos Thomas also heard Jesus. He treasured some of what he heard, and before setting out to India he recorded some of those sayings. Almost certainly he spoke them again to a scribe, and what the scribe heard and recorded has come down to us.
"Our Father who art in heaven . " is probably the most well known saying of Jesus in the Bible. This saying or prayer is not recorded in 'Thomas', yet the word Father appears more than 20 times. So Jesus obviously considered Father to be an important word that held a strong meaning to his listeners.
Jesus uses Father to describe aspects of the Kingdom (another common word in 'Thomas')
Hearing and Seeing
Eyes and ears, hands and feet, heart and mouth are referred to throughout 'Thomas'. If fact one of the most common phrases used by Jesus is:
He who has ears to hear let him hear (logia 8, 24, 21, 63, 65)
We can take this to mean "listen to what I'm saying and try to understand it" or perhaps "m é tano ï a, change your knowing" This is certainly a valid interpretation, but we know by now that Jesus always wants us to go deeper. He encourages us to overcome the duality of the physical and the spiritual:
Love Your Neighbour?
This famous saying occurs in Mathew 22:37-39, when Jesus answers a question posed by the Pharisees about the law; a question that was meant to trick Jesus. But it became important for the early Christian communities as they experienced anxiety and persecution from many sides; they needed to support each other. Today this saying still has a powerful influence as many churches and religious societies use it to give meaning to their outward activities. This has led to a service-minded religion that emphasises charity as 'God's work'. Many charity workers however, become disillusioned; at best they draw back from further involvement or at worst they become 'burnt-out' by the demands of such work.
Most spiritual traditions encourage followers to recognize the spirit in others. Most of us find this hard to do especially if we have to deal with bored shop assistants, hooligans, or even dictators. Where is God in these people?
Logion 15 in the Gospel of Thomas seems to give us a clue:
When you see
Him who was not begotten of woman
prostrate yourselves upon your face
and worship him;
that one is your Father
The Market Place
For thousands of years people have met together in market places to buy and sell goods, food, trinkets, etc. But they also met to have conversations; to share news, gossip, or to hear and learn new ideas and thoughts.
Thomas records the sayings of Jesus. Don't think that Jesus just uttered these sayings out of the blue: they came during conversations.