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Gospel of Thomas

By WizenedSage (Galen Rose) ~

I believe the most important test we can perform to verify the existence of any candidate god is to ask whether that god makes sense. Yes, this is a theme I have written on several times before over the years, but it’s important enough to bear repeating.

English: Image of the Last Page of the Coptic ...
English: Image of the Last Page of the Coptic Manuscript of the Gospel of Thomas. The title "peuaggelion pkata Thomas" is at the end. Courtesy of the Institute for Antiquity and Christianity, Claremont Graduate University. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
For example, does a god who gets in a fit of anger and drowns everyone on earth except for one family make sense? Or, does an all-knowing, all-powerful and good god that allows 6 million people to be shot, gassed, or starved to death during the Holocaust make sense? Any clear-eyed assessment of these actions will find them immoral.

Of course, the apologists will bend logic into ridiculous shapes to try to justify these actions, but their defenses only make sense to the thoroughly indoctrinated.

Similarly, that god’s defenders will tell us that we shouldn’t expect to understand god’s actions with our puny brains. However, our puny brains are all we have to work with, and experience has shown that those who don’t use their brains are in the habit of making very big mistakes. And besides, while we may not be capable of great understanding, surely a real god can – and should - make himself understood by us. How else can we possibly eliminate the phonies?

Thousands of god candidates have vied for the worship of man down through history and prehistory, and no more than one of them (or very few) could be a real god. This proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the chances of any particular god being a real god are miniscule, and quite possibly zero.

So, how do we judge Zeus, Thor, Quetzalcoatl, Ra, Ganesh, Osiris, Marduk, Yahweh, and all the others? We should insist that their descriptions and their messages make sense. Often, since the supernatural is involved, the God’s message is given in cryptic form to appear like deep, esoteric wisdom that only the enlightened can properly interpret. I argue that man’s tendency to swallow high-sounding nonsense has led him astray over and over, and for this reason any real god would make his message crystal clear, and that message would contain unambiguous evidence of his existence. Any real god would know that in order to stand out from the crowd he must avoid looking anything like the gods that charlatan prophets have promoted over and over in thousands of cultures.

Recently, I came across the Gospel of Thomas, a non-canonical (not in the Bible) gospel discovered in Egypt in 1945 in a cache of numerous ancient Christian documents. Various scholars have dated the Gospel of Thomas anywhere from 40CE to 140CE. According to the experts, the author is unknown but probably not Thomas. The Gospel of Thomas differs from the canonical Gospels in that it does not tell stories, but is merely a collection of Jesus’ sayings and parables numbering 114.

The Gospel of Thomas proclaims that the Kingdom of God is already present for those who understand the secret message of Jesus (saying 113), and lacks apocalyptic (end of the world) themes. Because of this, Bart Ehrman argues the Gospel of Thomas was probably composed by a Gnostic sometime in the early 2nd century.

The reason I bring this up is that the Gospel of Thomas is a perfect example of the cryptic form I spoke of earlier. It is just dripping with deepities. Deepity is a word first used publicly by philosopher Daniel Dennett. A deepity is a statement that is apparently profound but actually asserts a triviality on one level and something meaningless on another.

I think the Gospel of Thomas is an excellent example of the seeming profundity that a real god would avoid. As I have said, the only kind of message that would stand out from all the thousands of false claims of false gods would be a clear message easily understood by the average human and containing clear evidence supporting its claims that could be easily verified. I believe it can be reasonably argued that, at this time, no known message of any god contains these markers of a genuine god.

To give a flavor of the Gospel of Thomas, I have created three categories of sayings; Familiar, Way Out, and Bonkers. Of course there is considerable overlap among these categories and my assignments are pretty arbitrary.

FAMILIAR

These are sayings that show up in the canonical Gospels, though usually in slightly different form. The following are examples of familiar sayings.

16. Jesus said, "Perhaps people think that I have come to cast peace upon the world. They do not know that I have come to cast conflicts upon the earth: fire, sword, war. For there will be five in a house: there'll be three against two and two against three, father against son and son against father, and they will stand alone."

48. Jesus said, "If two make peace with each other in a single house, they will say to the mountain, 'Move from here!' and it will move."

44. Jesus said, "Whoever blasphemes against the Father will be forgiven, and whoever blasphemes against the son will be forgiven, but whoever blasphemes against the holy spirit will not be forgiven, either on earth or in heaven."

26. Jesus said, "You see the sliver in your friend's eye, but you don't see the timber in your own eye. When you take the timber out of your own eye, then you will see well enough to remove the sliver from your friend's eye."

WAY OUT

These sayings are weird in one way or another, their meanings often cryptic.

1. And he said, "Whoever discovers the interpretation of these sayings will not taste death."

So, everlasting life is not a matter of just believing or good works, it’s also solving these puzzles?

10. Jesus said, "I have cast fire upon the world, and look, I'm guarding it until it blazes."

53. His disciples said to him, "Is circumcision useful or not?"

He said to them, "If it were useful, their father would produce children already circumcised from their mother. Rather, the true circumcision in spirit has become profitable in every respect."

Now what is a “true circumcision in spirit,” do you suppose?


84. Jesus said, "When you see your likeness, you are happy. But when you see your images that came into being before you and that neither die nor become visible, how much you will have to bear!"

Is this esoteric or just meaningless?

BONKERS

Some sayings are just downright bonkers, although the indoctrinated will likely claim they are deep puzzles which can only be solved by the enlightened as they’re intended to be secret wisdom.

11. Jesus said, "This heaven will pass away, and the one above it will pass away.

Who knew there was more than one heaven? And how many do you suppose there are?

12. The disciples said to Jesus, "We know that you are going to leave us. Who will be our leader?"

Jesus said to them, "No matter where you are you are to go to James the Just, for whose sake heaven and earth came into being."

And all this time I thought god created earth because he was lonely. But, if it’s all about James, then why is he such a minor figure in the Bible?

Why would a real god want us to just guess which deity is the real one, given that at least 90 billion of us down through the ages have worshipped false gods14. Jesus said to them, "If you fast, you will bring sin upon yourselves, and if you pray, you will be condemned, and if you give to charity, you will harm your spirits.

22. Jesus saw some babies nursing. He said to his disciples, "These nursing babies are like those who enter the (Father's) kingdom."

They said to him, "Then shall we enter the (Father's) kingdom as babies?"

Jesus said to them, "When you make the two into one, and when you make the inner like the outer and the outer like the inner, and the upper like the lower, and when you make male and female into a single one, so that the male will not be male nor the female be female, when you make eyes in place of an eye, a hand in place of a hand, a foot in place of a foot, an image in place of an image, then you will enter [the kingdom]."

Now that sounds really hard to do. Do you suppose it takes a lot of practice?

30. Jesus said, "Where there are three deities, they are divine. Where there are two or one, I am with that one."

37. His disciples said, "When will you appear to us, and when will we see you?"

Jesus said, "When you strip without being ashamed, and you take your clothes and put them under your feet like little children and trample them, then [you] will see the son of the living one and you will not be afraid."

105. Jesus said, "Whoever knows the father and the mother will be called the child of a whore."

[Some experts think this last saying, below, was probably added to the original collection at a later date. Doesn’t it sound like something that misogynist-in-chief Paul would come up with?]

114. Simon Peter said to them, "Make Mary leave us, for females don't deserve life."
Jesus said, "Look, I will guide her to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every female who makes herself male will enter the kingdom of Heaven."

Now that is offensive on so many levels that to label it merely “bonkers” is probably being too kind.

So, does the Gospel of Thomas represent profound esoteric secrets of Christianity, or is it merely the ramblings of one or more confused or dishonest preachers? In the end, I don’t think it matters since it lacks the most basic markers we should expect from the message of a true deity; clarity and evidence. Why would a real god want us to just guess which deity is the real one, given that at least 90 billion of us down through the ages have worshipped false gods. It’s just way, way too easy to end up worshiping a false god, and surely a real god would know this and take steps to help us avoid it.

Christians tell us that god is everywhere, but then why is he so damned hard to find? They also tell us that god only reveals himself to those who seek him. However, I’ve seen over and over how people have “seeked” so hard they have convinced themselves they have found. But what have they found? It’s obvious that we humans have sought and “found” thousands of false gods down through the ages. So why seek? If a god truly wants me to believe, he surely can accomplish that with no help from me. That “leap of faith” that Christians regard so highly is really nothing but a guess made in the face of insufficient evidence.

Ultimately, a god and his message should make sense, and there is so much religious bullshit out there that no message purporting to come from a deity should be accepted as authentic if it lacks those basic markers of clarity and evidence.


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