The Gospel of Thomas for Yogis

Introduction to the Gospel of ThomasDoubting of Thomas icon

Readers of The Christ of India are aware of the hypothesis (we think it is a fact) that from the very beginning there were two Christianities.

One was the Christianity we know today that developed in the Mediterranean world over the centuries. It accommodated itself to the current religious beliefs–especially those of the Roman emperors–and even absorbed and conformed itself to them to such an extent that after three centuries it became the state religion of the Empire presided over by the unbaptized and blatantly unchristian “Saint” Constantine. He was only the first in a series of “vicars of Christ” (this expression originated with the Byzantine emperors and only some time later was appropriated by the Bishop of Rome, who also stole the title “Pope” from the Bishop of Alexandria) who ruled over the Church as well as the state, and who, despite their often shockingly violent and immoral lives were declared saints of the state servant-church. Today, divided into thousands of warring and warlike sects–the three leading ones being the Byzantine Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Roman Catholic Churches–it has become a multi-headed monster that, however wounded, flourishes with the tenacity and intensity often encountered in the mad and the madcap.

The other Christianity was the religion learned by Jesus from his Essene family and during his “lost years” in India, then brought by him back to the “West,” to Israel. Rejected and martyred for teaching that religion, after his resurrection he returned to India and lived twenty or more years at peace in the Himalayas with disciples. The apostle Thomas, the Twin, who truly was the spiritual twin of his Master, followed him to India. Saint Thomas went to Ephesus to be present at the death of the Virgin Mary, then journeyed on to Israel and persuaded a large number of the Qumran Essenes to come with him into South India (the present-day Kerala) to practice the religion Jesus had taught (virtually in vain) to the Israelites. They agreed and did so, linking up with a vast number of Brahmins who had emigrated from Kashmir after becoming disciples of both Jesus and Saint Thomas. It is this Christianity that is found in the Gospel of Thomas.

In December of 1945, an Egyptian farmer near Nag Hammadi unearthed in his field more than fifty ancient Christian books, written in the Coptic (ancient Egyptian) language. Among them was the book now know as The Gospel of Thomas. Portions of three Greek copies of the Gospel of Thomas had been found about half a century before in Oxyrhynchus Egypt. They are known as Oxyrhynchus Papyrus 1 (Oxy P 1) probably written not much later than the year 200, Oxy P 654, which can be dated to the middle or end of the third century, and Oxy P 655 dated not later than A. D. 250. The complete (Nag Hammadi) version in Coptic can be dated to about 340 A.D. The Coptic version is believed to be a translation of the Greek version.

According to the Pistis Sophia (Codex Askewianus), after His resurrection Jesus instructed Philip, Matthew, and Thomas to set down His words in writing. While Saint Thomas was in Israel visiting the Qumran community, Saint Matthew gave him a copy of his gospel, and perhaps at that time Saint Thomas gave Saint Matthew a copy of his record of Jesus’ sayings which became copied and circulated among those of gnostic inclination. Since the Nag Hammadi discovery we now possess Saint Thomas’ complete gospel. The translation I will mostly use in this commentary is that of Thomas O. Lambdin.

Chapters in The Gospel of Thomas for Yogis

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