Brett Williams's Reviews > Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas

Beyond Belief by Elaine Pagels
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it was amazing

Pagels remains a champion for truth and an asset to people who want to know it, painting a more complete picture of Jesus and the evolution of Christianity. Many still consider the Gnostic Gospels heresy - derided as such 2000 years ago, suppressed, lost and rediscovered in 1945 outside Nag Hammadi, Egypt. One of those gospels, the Gospel Of Thomas, is Pagels emphasis here. Scholars have dated Thomas to the same time frame as John, the latest (youngest) of the four Gospels. With Mark as the oldest surviving gospel (after a purportedly undiscovered Q Gospel). Pagels reveals an astonishing expansion of the concept of Jesus from man to God over time. We find much of John as a rebuttal of Thomas and his rival school of thought. The central message of Thomas is that Jesus claims the kingdom of the Father is upon the land and men do not see it, that each has God within them, they only need discover it for themselves and see the world in a new way conveyed by Jesus. John, however, rails against this perspective by making clear that only Jesus has “the light,” no one else, it is only through Jesus one finds salvation and the kingdom won’t be here until Armageddon. The Thomas Jesus is cryptic, demanding self-examination. John’s Jesus is easy, concrete and requires only belief in His divine nature. It is also from John we receive the gift of damnation for all non-Christians. Such claims made John (the Johnian school or whoever wrote John) appear in his day as a radical Jewish sect and apparently he/they were persecuted for it as John includes them in his list of rivals.

That John rebukes Thomas is clear through John’s differences with Mark, Mathew and Luke. Only in John, when Jesus reappears designating his disciples to carry forth, is Thomas not among them. Only in John is Thomas the doubter and does he receive a reprimand from Jesus. It is also in John that Jesus has a “beloved disciple” never named and superior to Peter. Does John want to claim the beloved is John, but find it politically expedient to only imply it?

Pagels book is a revelation itself in which Thomas shows us a Jesus not seen in the other gospels. Given the political nature of John and their timing one fears the same error in Thomas – was he responding to John, inventing words for Jesus for political/philosophical gain?
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
September 17, 2014 – Shelved

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