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  1. Zia Shah

    Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas — This is a worth reading book by Elaine Pagels.Elaine Pagels,(born February 13, 1943), is the Harrington Spear Paine Professor of Religion at Princeton University. The recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, she is best known for her studies and writing on the Gnostic Gospels. Her popular books include, The Gnostic Gospels (1979), Adam, Eve and the Serpent (1988), The Origin of Satan (1995), Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas (2003), and Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity (2007).Several verses in the Gospel of John seem best understood as responses to a Thomasine community and its beliefs. Pagels argues, for example, that John’s gospel makes two references to the inability of the world to recognize the divine light. In contrast, several of Thomas’ sayings refer to the light born ‘within’. John 1:9 (“…Light that lights every man born into the world”) acknowledges Thomas’ idea of the Light within. John also follows Thomas by personifying the Light as Jesus. John 14:16 (“I am the way, the truth, and the life…) and chapter 17, which emphasizes salvation via the logos of Christ, expands on Thomas’ logion 1. Intertextuality and acknowledgment of Thomas’ priority seems to be in play.For references see the actual text of the knol.

  2. Zia Shah

    Views of different scholars about the Gospel of Thomas — Burton L Mack writes:”As the comparative study of the Gospels unfolded, the nature of Jesus’ teaching eventually became a critical question. Ways to reconstruct the text of Q were developed. Another example of the genre was found, the sayings gospel known as the Gospel of Thomas.”(Burton L Mack. The Lost Gospel: The Book of Q and Christian Origins. HarperOne, 1993. Page 16.)”Q required explanation. It was the largest collection of the sayings of Jesus at hand. It therefore had to be taken much more seriously than the selection of parables scholars had been using as their data base. Q was a collection of sayings made by first-century followers of Jesus, not a modern selection of sayings by type that twentieth-century scholars had put together from different synoptic texts and traditions. A first-century collection must have had its own rationale. What if the question of wisdom and apocalyptic in the sayings of Jesus was asked by focusing on Q instead of the parables? What if the imagined historical Jesus as portrayed in the narrative gospels was not allowed to prejudice the study? What if those who made the collection of sayings in Q left some clues to help us understand what they thought about Jesus’ wisdom and prophetic speech?A stunning manuscript discovery in 1945 made it possible to get started with such a project. Among the Coptic-Gnostic texts found at Nag Hammadi was, of all things, a collection of the sayings of Jesus called the Gospel According to Thomas (see the new English translation by Marvin Meyer, 1992). The Gospel of Thomas looked very much like Q, and approximately 35 percent of the sayings in Thomas had parallels in Q. Here, then, was a text closely related to Q that proved the existence of the genre in early Christian circles. It also provided yet another text of the sayings of Jesus for comparative study. Since some sayings appeared in both collections. the two texts were somehow related. Surely a study of Thomas would help with the question of Q.”(Burton L Mack. The Lost Gospel: The Book of Q and Christian Origins. HarperOne, 1993. Page 34.)”The Gospel of Thomas was was thoroughly nonapocalyptic in tenor and that it contained sayings from the very earliest period of the Jesus movements. So Kloppenborg’s solution to the presence of wisdom and apocalyptic sayings in Q fit perfectly the growing consensus that Jesus was first remembered for his wisdom.”(Burton L Mack. The Lost Gospel: The Book of Q and Christian Origins. HarperOne, 1993. Page 37-38.)

  3. Zia Shah

    The genuine attributes of the Transcendent God are known through the Quran — The message of the Gospels is ambiuous at best. Let me here quote first 18 verses from John from New International Version. This is how the Gospel of John starts:In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.'” From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only,who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.Now let me quote from the Gospel of Thomas:Jesus said, “I am the light that is over all things. I am all: from me all came forth, and to me all attained. Split a piece of wood; I am there. Lift up the stone, and you will find me there.” (Verse 77)http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john%201&version=NIVThe concept of Transcendent God that is now equally used by the Jews, Christians, Muslims and agnostics comes from the Holy Quran. Let me quote a few verses, there are many that I will not be able to quote here:Eyes cannot reach Him but He reaches the eyes. And He is the Incomprehensible, the All-Aware. (6:104)Allah — there is no God but He, the Living, the Self-Subsisting and All-Sustaining. Slumber seizes Him not, nor sleep. To Him belongs whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth. Who is he that will intercede with Him except by His permission? He knows what is before them and what is behind them; and they encompass nothing of His knowledge except what He pleases. His knowledge extends over the heavens and the earth; and the care of them burdens Him not; and He is the High, the Great. (2:256)He is Allah, the Creator, the Maker, the Fashioner. His are the most beautiful names. All that is in the heavens and the earth glorifies Him, and He is the Mighty, the Wise. (59:25)Have they taken gods from the earth who raise the dead? If there had been in them (the heavens and the earth) other gods beside Allah, then surely both would have gone to ruin. Glorified then be Allah, the Lord of the Throne, above what they attribute. (21:22-23)All praise belongs to Allah Who created the heavens and the earth and brought into being every kind of darkness and light; yet those who disbelieve set up equals to their Lord. (6:2)Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The similitude of His light is as a lustrous niche, wherein is a lamp. The lamp is in a glass. The glass is as it were a glittering star. It is lit from a blessed tree — an olive — neither of the east nor of the west, whose oil would well-nigh glow forth even though fire touched it not. Light upon light! Allah guides to His light whomsoever He will. And Allah sets forth parables to men, and Allah knows all things full well. This light is now lit in houses with regard to which Allah has ordained that they be exalted and that His name be remembered in them. Therein is He glorified in the mornings and the evenings By men, whom neither merchandise nor traffic diverts from the remembrance of Allah and the observance of Prayer, and the giving of the Zakat. They fear a day in which hearts and eyes will be agitated, So that Allah may give them the best reward of their deeds, and give them increase out of His bounty. And Allah does provide for whomsoever He pleases without measure. (24:36-39)The Originator of the heavens and the earth! How can He have a son when He has no consort, and when He has created everything and has knowledge of all things? Such is Allah, your Lord. There is no God but He, the Creator of all things, so worship Him. And He is Guardian over everything. Eyes cannot reach Him but He reaches the eyes. And He is the Incomprehensible, the All-Aware. (6:102-104)

  4. Zia Shah

    Contrasting the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of John — Elaine Pagels writes:”Now we can see how John’s message contrasts with that of Thomas. Thomas’s Jesus directs each disciple to discover the light within (“within a person of light there is light”); (Gospel of Thomas 22) but John’s Jesus declares instead that “I am the light of the world” and that “whoever does not come to me walks in darkness.” (John 8:12) In Thomas, Jesus reveals to the disciples that “you are from the kingdom, and to it you shall return” and teaches them to say for them¬selves that “we come from the light”; but John’s Jesus speaks as the only one who comes “from above” and so has rightful priority over everyone else: “You are from below; I am from above. . . . The one who comes from above is above all.” (John 8:25) Only Jesus is from God, and he alone offers access to God. John never tires of repeating that one must believe in Jesus, follow Jesus, obey Jesus, and confess him alone as God’s only son.” (Elaine Pagels. Beyond belief: the secret Gospel of Thomas. Vintage Books, 1998. Pages 68-69.)Now Islamic position is much closer to the Gospel of Thomas than the Gospel of John. If light dwells in all people of light than there is no such thing as ‘original sin.’Elaine Pagels writes further:”The discovery of Thomas’s gospel shows us that other early Christians held quite different understandings of ‘the gospel’ For what John rejects as religiously inadequate-the conviction that the divine dwells as ‘light’ within all beings–is much like the hidden ‘good news’ that Thomas’s gospel proclaims. Many Christians today who read the Gospel of Thomas assume at first that it is simply wrong, and deservedly called heretical. Yet what Christians have disparagingly called gnostic and heretical sometimes turn out to be forms of Christian teaching that are merely unfamiliar to us–unfamiliar precisely because of the active and successful opposition of Christians such as John.”(Elaine Pagels. Beyond belief: the secret Gospel of Thomas. Vintage Books, 1998. Pages 68-73.)The Thomas Jesus tells his disciples that not only he comes forth from divine light but so do we all and are deserving of the kingdom of God:Jesus said, “Congratulations to those who are alone and chosen, for you will find the kingdom. For you have come from it, and you will return there again.” Jesus said,”If they say to you, ‘Where have you come from?’ say to them, ‘We have come from the light, from the place where the light came into being by itself, established [itself], and appeared in their image.’ If they say to you, ‘Is it you?’ say, ‘We are its children, and we are the chosen of the living Father.’ (Thomas 49-50)Elaine Pagels writes:The Gospel of Thomas interprets the kingdom of God as Tolstoy and Merton would do nearly two thousand years later. The Gospel of Mary Magdalene, also discovered in Egypt, but in 1896, about fifty years before the Nag Hammadi find, echoes this theme: Jesus tells his disciples, “Let no one lead you astray, saying, ‘Lo, here!’ or ‘Lo, there!’ For the Son of Man is within you. Follow after him!” Yet after including his version of this saying at one point in his gospel, Luke retreats from this position. (Elaine Pagels. Beyond belief: the secret Gospel of Thomas. Vintage Books, 1998. Page 51)

  5. Zia Shah

    Epiphany regarding the gospels and death of Jesus — Professor John S Kloppenborg who is an authority on the Gospel of Q, writes:”Perhaps the most striking difference between Q and the Synoptic Gospels is its lack of an explicit narration of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Before the discovery of the Gospel of Thomas scholars took for granted that Jesus’ death was the one critical datum that every early Christian Gospel writer would narrate and interpret. For that reason, few before the 1950s dared to call Q a ‘gospel,’ since it lacked what was deemed essential to any gospel. Q could only be conceived of as a supplement, intended for those who already knew the story of Jesus’ passion and resurrection. This in turn presupposed a hierarchy of Christian beliefs-those beliefs that were essential to Christian belief and others that were derivative or supplementary.”(Professor John S Kloppenborg. Q the earliest Gospel: an introduction to the original stories and sayings of Jesus. Westminster John Knox Press, 2008. Page, 73.)The discovery of the Gospel of Thomas in the middle of last century in Egypt has changed all that. In this gospel there is no mention of death or resurrection of Jesus. Perhaps there was no consensus about resurrection of Jesus in early Christianity as we are made to believe today. Perhaps there were varied opinions on this and other issues in the early Christianity.

  6. Zia Shah

    The lost Christianities were much closer to Islam — Prof. Bart Ehrman concludes his chapter titled, The Discovery of Ancient Forgery: The Coptic Gospel of Thomas in these words:This then is the Gospel of Thomas, a valuable collection of 114 sayings of Jesus, many of which may reflect the historical teachings of Jesus, but all of which appear to be framed within the context of later Gnostic reflections on the salvation that Jesus has brought. Unlike the Gospels of the New Testament, in this Gospel Jesus does not talk about the God of Israel, about sin against God and the need for repentance. In this Gospel it is not Jesus’ death and resur¬rection that bring salvation. In this Gospel there is no anticipation of a coming Kingdom of God on earth.Instead, this Gospel assumes that some humans contain the divine spark that has been separated from the realm of God and entrapped in this impover¬ished world of matter, and that it needs to be delivered by learning the secret teachings from above, which Jesus himself brings. It is by learning the truth of this world and, especially, of one’s one divine character, that one can escape this bodily prison and return to the realm of light whence one came, the King¬dom of God that transcends this material world and all that is in it.A remarkable document, an ancient forgery condemned as heretical by early proto-orthodox Christians and lost or destroyed, until the remarkable discov¬ery of the Gnostic library in Upper Egypt, near Nag Hammadi, preserved now for us as the secret sayings of Jesus, which, if rightly understood, can bring eternal life.Bart D Ehrman. Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scriptures and the Faiths We never Knew. Oxford University Press, 2003. Pages 64-65.

  7. Zia Shah

    The message of salvation in the Gospel of Thomas — Prof. Bart D Ehrman has devoted a chapter to the Gospel of Thomas in his book ‘Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scriptures and the Faiths We never Knew.’ Here I quote in his words, my additions are in brackets []:This salvation will not, therefore, be salvation that comes to this world; it will be salvation from this world. The world itself, this material existence, is not something that was created good (contrary to the doctrines of the proto-orthodox). It is a cosmic catastrophe, and salvation means escaping it. For that reason, the Kingdom of God is not something coming to this world as a physical entity that can actually be said to be here in this world of matter. The Kingdom is something spiritual, within:If those who lead you say to you, “See the kingdom is in the sky,” then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, “It is in the sea,” then the fish will precede you. Rather the kingdom is inside of you, and it is outside of you. … When you come to know yourselves. … you will realize it is you who are the sons of the living Father. (Saying 3)Notice once again the key: knowing yourself, who you really are.Since this world is a place to escape, no one should be tied to material things: “Do not be concerned from morning until evening and from evening until morning about what you will wear” (Saying 36). Instead, all that the world has to offer, all the riches it can provide, should be rejected in order to escape this world: “Whoever finds the world and becomes rich, let him renounce the world” (Saying 110). And so, one should not be attached to anything in this world; as indicated in the pithiest of the sayings of the Gospel, “Become passersby” (Saying 42). [This is exactly the metaphor used in a Hadith of the Holy Prophet Muhammad also]The key to the salvation brought by Jesus is having the proper knowledge,gnosis-knowledge of your true identity:When you come to know yourselves, then you will become known, and you will realize that it is you who are the sons of the living father. But if you will not know yourselves, you dwell in poverty [i.e., the material world/the body] and you are that poverty. (Saying 3b)Jesus himself is the one who can provide this knowledge, knowledge that the human spirit is divine, as divine as Jesus himself and one with Jesus: “He who will drink from my mouth will become like me. I myself shall become he, and the things that are hidden will be revealed to him” (Saying 108). And so Jesus brings the knowledge necessary for the divine spirits to be reunited with the realm whence they came. That is why Jesus is not a “divider” (Saying 72). He is not a divider but a unifier.This stress on becoming “one,” reunified with the divine realm in which there is no conflict and no division, is why the text emphasizes so strongly oneness, singleness, solidarity: “For many who are first will become last, and they will become one and the same” (Saying 4); “Blessed are the solitary and elect, for you will find the Kingdom” (Saying 22). Or as Jesus indicates when the disciples ask, “Shall we then as children enter the Kingdom?”:When you make the two one, and when you make the inside like the outside and the outside like the inside, and the above like the below, and when you make the male and the female one and the same, so that the male not be male nor the female female; and when you fashion eyes in place of an eye, and a hand in place of a hand, and a foot in place of a foot, and a likeness in place of a likeness, then you will enter the kingdom. (Saying 22)Bart D Ehrman. Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scriptures and the Faiths We never Knew. Oxford University Press, 2003. Pages 61-63.

  8. Zia Shah

    Overlap between the Gospel of Thomas and the Synoptic Gospels — Almost 75% of the Gospel of Thomas sayings exist in the Synoptic Gospels in some form.Prof. Mark W Muesse. Confucius, Buddha, Jesus and Muhammad. The Great Courses transcript book, 2010. Lecture number 19.

  9. Zia Shah

    Asssurance for the have nots! — See the verse number 64 in the Gospel of Thomas:Jesus said: Someone was receiving guests. When he had prepared the dinner, he sent his slave to invite the guests. The slave went to the first and said, “My master invites you.” The first replied, “Some merchants owe me money; they are coming to me tonight. I have to go and give them instructions. Please excuse me from dinner.” The slave went to another and said, “My master has invited you.” The second said to the slave, “I have bought a house, and I have been called away for a day. I shall have no time.” The slave went to another and said, “My master invites you.” The third said to the slave, “My friend is to be married, and I am to arrange the banquet. I shall not be able to come. Please excuse me from dinner.” The slave went to another and said, “My master invites you.” The fourth said to the slave, “I have bought an estate, and I am going to collect the rent. I shall not be able to come. Please excuse me.” The slave returned and said to his master, “Those whom you invited to dinner have asked to be excused.” The master said to his slave, “Go out on the streets and bring back whomever you find to have dinner.” Buyers and merchants [will] not enter the places of my Father.My interpretation:Those who serve a true religion and humanity will be blessed and the rich, selfish and the arrogant will be denied in the Hereafter.This verse of the Gospel of Thomas rhymes with the Quranic teachings that the prophets treat humans as equal; it is only their opponents that obsess over race and economic class divisions. As is recorded in the Holy Quran about the Prophet Noah, “They said, ‘Shall we believe thee (Noah), when it is the meanest that follow thee?’” (Al Quran 26:112) Whereas the Prophet Noah was gathering the weak and the have nots those who were more successful in worldly affairs found it to be a reason to shun Noah.The assurance for the have nots can also be read in or illustrated by a dialogue between Diogenes and Alexander:”The classic Cynic story is that of the encounter between Diogenes and Alexander the Great at Corinth in 336 B.C.E. The latter is just setting out to conquer the world through military power; the former had already done so through disciplined indif­ference. This oft-told tale was already known to Cicero in his Tus­culan Disputations 5.92 from 45 B.C.E.: But Diogenes, certainly, was more outspoken, in his quality of Cynic, when Alexander asked him to name anything he wanted: ‘Just now,’ he said, ‘stand a bit away from the sun!’ Alexander apparently had interfered with his basking in the heat. We are back, by the way, to the quotation from Burton Mack that headed Chapter 3. The story of Diogenes and Alexander involves a calculated questioning of power, rule, dominion, and kingship. Who is the true ruler: the one who wants everything, or the one who wants nothing; the one who wants all of Asia, or the one who wants only a little sunlight? If kingship is freedom, which of the two is really free, is really king? And just as Cynicism had a first flowering after the conquests of Alexander, so it had another after those of Augustus. Both times were ripe for a fundamental ques­tioning of power, and the Cynics did so not only in abstract theory among the aristocratic elites, but in practical street theater among the ordinary people. They were populist preachers in marketplace and pilgrimage center, and their life and dress spoke as forcibly as their speech and sermons.”John Dominic Crossan. The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant. Harper Collins, 1995. Page 130.

  10. jim andrews

    There is good reason to believe that the gospel of Thomas is the sealed book which in the 83rd sura of the Quran is called Illiyun. There is also good reason to believe that Tasnim, the spring at which the favored will refresh themselves, is the mouth of Jesus. (See Saying 108 of the gospel of Thomas.) See gospelofthomasgospelofjesus.com for further info. (Saying 2 promises that you will be astonished. Yes, this is true.)

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