Sermons from the Gospel of Thomas, Vol 1, #9
These are the hidden sayings which the Living Jesus spoke, and I Didymus Judas Thomas (the twin) wrote them down. He says, whoever lives the interpretation of these words will no longer taste death. Logion 1, Gospel of Thomas
Happy birthday Jesus, and congratulations on getting published.
It’s about time.
Bear with me while I explain. If I’m deluded, I can only ask your forgiveness. I am a fool, like all mortals. But as Bill O’Reilly (what? you don’t know him?) is likely to say, after making one of his outrageous misrepresentations, am I wrong?
The world is far more strange, it appears, than I used to think, or than most of us have suspected. I’ve always thought, along with the rest of the west, that the earliest tradition of you and your story was monolithic, and only later came to be corrupted, after the heretics moved onto the scene. No longer am I able to accept that scenario…. And I’m far from alone. Current scholarly opinion (what? I know you don’t, but bear with me--it’s all we poor fools have, given the ambiguity of conditions here in this our present state of exile) has informed us that from the beginning the tradition was pluralistic. In other words, from Day One, there existed many different “takes” on your life and its meaning. Right there at the start there were different communities, promoting conflicting versions of you, who you were, what you said and did.
In the words of Lynn Bauman, for instance, "in the modern west we just happen to be heirs of one predominant strain preserved out of all this multiplicity."
Is he wrong?
So listen Jesus, how are we supposed to know? How can we be expected to sort all this out?
With all due respect, sir, may I remind you of what many have said all along, namely that you yourself could have prevented this confusion, left us with a rock-hard reliable version of things, ending all argument, erasing all doubt, had you only written something, left us with your own words, written your own book… It would have been the all-time Best Seller of the Ages… What an irony, then, that after all this time we may at last have your actual words, and we still won’t listen.
What? You did? No ‘may’ about it? You dictated it to Thomas, and he wrote it down? Well yes, I know. I’m reading it, over and over, and the voice I hear I’m convinced is your own. As I said congratulations, you finally got published. But we had to wait until 1945, and it’s only now catching on, after our afore-mentioned traditional alternate version, sponsored by the Great Church, has done its damage, lo for all these centuries. Therefore I have to say it may be too late.
What’s that? He that hath ears to hear, let him hear…is that what you said? Did I hear you right?
For seventeen centuries all we’ve had has been this Holy Bible of ours--and that won’t do any longer, for obvious reasons. Oh yes it worked for a while, until those same scholars showed that it hadn’t really been written by the very finger of God but by fallible men who themselves disagreed as to your words and deeds. There was John, and Mark, and then Luke and Matthew, and of course Paul (who didn’t even pretend to have ever met you in person). Even in the “New Testament” there was this disturbing diversity—and that supreme effort (closed and made final only in the year 367) was too obviously in itself an attempt to create one unifying and authoritative account of your life and sayings, so that the new Great Church could be united and speak with one voice. But for an example of the multiple voices that still lingered consider John and Mark. The former has you making long flowery discourses, touting daily in the public square your divinity, urging all to just believe, and in you. That can hardly be squared with Mark’s portrayal of you as a secretive person, on the sly, a man of action with little to say. Yes, he made you to say, I’m the Messiah, but don’t tell anybody. No wait, let me finish Sir, all due respect. Tremblingly, I continue. No, what we needed was a book by you yourself, your very own words, unfiltered through any second or third person’s agenda, just your words and no narration, so we could hear your voice for ourselves, face-to-face so to speak, make up our own minds.
We couldn’t figure out why you never bothered to write anything. We couldn’t forgive you. After all, that same John told us you were the Word of God, the very Logos from on high. So where was your book? You could have done better, you know. After all, you were God, or so we thought… You could have wiped out all those competing accounts, left us with your unchallenged One True Version, signed God Himself, 1st century a.d. But you let the heretics come on, win the election, rather like we did Donald Trump.
What? Don’t blame it on you?
As I was saying, this world of ours is strange, far stranger than any of us ever thought. I’m starting to get it, this Christmastime. Thanks for the gift. Now, after all this time, you’re published: you’ve given us this Gospel of Thomas thing, your letter to those who can hear it, are willing to listen, listen deeply. For such, according to your promise, no more the taste of Death.
But in its place, the taste of strangeness. For starters, it seems there is a gigantic battle going on. We’re all involved, even you, it seems. It’s a battle for truth and light, against the forces of darkness and stupidity. The outcome, in this newly revealed scenario, is far from certain. Seems it’s up to us, the future I mean. If this is dualism, so be it. That’s where we have to start, if we’re going to “make the two into One…” we have to start with the two. Look around, you say, everybody is drunk. Nobody’s thirsty, just intoxicated, horizontal position, passed out dead drunk. The cosmos is toxic. Who will stand to his feet and become a unified being, no longer two but one, united with Ultimate Reality at last? You’ve set a flame in the cosmos, a spark, and more—you are keeping watch over it until it blazes up. The hidden treasure is inside us, that’s what we’ve missed, and yet, at the end (which is also the beginning) this hidden Pearl must be known on ‘earth’ as it is in ‘heaven.’ Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done. We’ve repeated this for centuries, calling it Your Prayer—without a clue as to what it might mean.
But dare we believe this now, this Gospel of Thomas? Are you serious? Are these really your words, your very own words at last, and not just another spurious forgery? Even in this most strange of all strange worlds, can such a thing be true? Could there be a True God somewhere else, an alien just like us, the "Father," as you call him (or her?) who has allowed all this delay in publishing the words of His Son? Or even a ‘son’ of his? Yes, it’s a strange world. The wheels grind slowly, to say the least. We’ve fought for every inch, over the aeons, those of us who’ve tried to stand up, get vertical, only to fall again, to be struck down, and always by the reactionaries, the conservatives. We’re jaded. We’ll no doubt never know, the scholars have told us, never be sure as to what you really said, never be certain there has been no editing, no emendation of the texts we possess, now or in the future.
We’re still in the dark. Have another drink. Passed out, dead drunk. Look around: everybody’s in a drunken stupor. Drunk on Trump, drunk on Fox News, drunk on Dominionism.
“This Gospel of Thomas may yet prove to be the biggest turning point in Christian history since Constantine’s conversion—once people wake up and take a good look at it. If this document were to be proved authentic, it would single-handedly change the world’s entire understanding of the message of Jesus to humanity. Of all the early Christian works recovered at Nag Hammadi, the scholars are now telling us, this lost collection of sayings attributed to Jesus is the oldest and most important." And listen to this: "In the first centuries of the church, Thomas’ work was considered a genuine eyewitness account of Jesus’ teachings and was revered by the faithful right alongside those of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. We know it circulated widely in the early church because references to the Gospel of Thomas appear in numerous early Christian writings. There are various opinions about its specific date of origin but the MAJORITY OF SCHOLARS now place the Gospel of Thomas somewhere between 50 and 140 a.d. making it fully contemporary with the New Testament…” (Peter Novak, Original Christianity)
So Happy Birthday, Jesus, 2016, and thanks again… Now at last we have it: your book… It’s probably too late for most of us, but then again perhaps it always was. Because I'll take it even further: it seems to many of us now increasingly clear that this Gospel of Thomas is the "Q" document, or substantially at least, preceding the others, including Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. It was first. It was your book, but nobody wanted to hear it, or was able to. Seems you wanted to create a new race of single-consciousness men and women, beings of Light, who would stand to their feet and tell the truth. How different history might have been had it not been buried.
What’s that again? You were a Teacher of Wisdom? Yes, yes, I know, but Happy Birthday anyway.
I have chosen you, one from a thousand, two from ten thousand… And you will stand to your feet and be United.
I disclose my mysteries to those who are ready for Mystery--so keep secret from your left hand what your right hand is doing. It may take some Time.
How strange. But Happy Birthday, all over again.