This week when we ran across a new site (to us) called Religion for Breakfast. It is produced by Dr. Andrew Henry. Despite being a doctor in religious studies, Dr. Andrew works with more secular publications such as The Atlantic. The Chief Editor believes this gives him additional credibility. Plus he is a younger guy and sports some awesome facial hair.
This week he talked about the Gospel of Thomas, which is as good a reason as any to post three bullets about it here.
- Summary please. The Gospel of Thomas was found in Egypt in the 1940s as part of the Nag Hammadi texts. The texts date back to the 2nd or 3rd centuries CE, possibly earlier. It’s 114 sayings of Jesus. No narratives. No sermons. Some of the sayings are similar to Matthew, Mark, and Luke. But many scholars believe the G of T was produced by the Gnostic splinter group of early Christians.
- Gnostic splinter group? Yes, contrary to most Christian church publications, there was not a uniform system of beliefs that evolved spontaneously after Jesus’ life on earth. One of these groups was called the Gnostics. They had an interesting set of beliefs:
- There were two Gods — one good (Monad) and one not-so-good (Demiurge). The bad one set up Adam & Eve for failure in the Garden.
- There was no physical resurrection, but the soul of Jesus (and everyone else) escapes the wretched physical body at death and continues on in the ethereal realm.
- There were some secret sayings by Jesus that only a few people know about. For example, Judas and Jesus had a ‘talk’ in private right before the betrayal.
- Why did the Gospel of Thomas miss the cut? A few reasons. 1) the primary four gospels had already been making the rounds and had gained an exclusive fan club in the Christian community before the G of T was published. 2) The early church leaders considered the Gnostic system of beliefs to be the arch-heresy of all heresies. 3) The early church leaders thought the Gnostics ate babies during communion.
Well, that was fun.