This is the eighth in a series of nine posts in which it is argued that
there are three strata in GTh and they provide us with information on the
Thomas church: its locataion, history, sociological make-up, and beliefs.
In this post, the emphasis is on the beliefs of the Thomas church as
indicated in the three strata.
Across all three strata of Tthomas, one finds some constants in the belief
system of the Thomas church: the church at Tyre.
One is an emphasis on the Kingdom. The Kingdom is mentioned in all three
strata and it is something to be sought and found, something to be received
and entered, and something inside you and outside you.
As I've mentioned in several past posts, this Kingdom is likely Wisdom.
Another is a rather "high" Christology. In Proto-Thomas, Jesus is the Son
of God: the Son of the Living One in 37 and the Son in 44. In Pre-Thomas,
we have 77: where the Cosmos comes into creation through Jesus and he
permeates the Cosmos. In the latest strata, he is not just the son of human
parents, but the son of divine parents as well (101). He is even
As I've mentioned in several past posts, Jesus is likely the divine being
called the Word by Philo: who is Son of God, has God and Wisdom (Spirit) as
his divine parents, who is the one through whom the Cosmos was created, and
who permeates the Cosmos.
A third constant is the unique value of Jesus' words. In Proto-Thomas (38),
Jesus says, "Many times have you desired to hear these words which I am
saying to you, and you have no one else to hear them from." In Pre-Thomas
(1), Jesus (or Thomas?--this is not clear) says, "Whoever finds the
interpretation of these words will not experience death." In the latest
strata (19), Jesus says, "If you become My disciples and listen to My words,
these stones will minister to you."
Besides the constants, there also are the variables.
So, while the world (and the body as well) is inferior to the Kingdom in all
three strata, only in the second strata (i.e., Pre-Thomas), do we find it
described as a corpse (56) and are we exhorted to renounce it (110). So, it
is only in this strata that the world is conceived of as a place of evil and
death that must be renounced.
As mentioned earlier in these postings, Pre-Thomas appears to reflect the
perspective of the Jewish Christians at Tyre, with their extremely negative
attitude towards the world having arisen out of what happened to their
fellow Jews and the temple during their revolt against Rome and their own
persecution, involving executions of some and imprionment of the rest, at
Again, absent from the first strata (i.e., Proto-Thomas) are two things
stressed in the other two strata: (1) being a follower of Jesus brings about
strife with family members and a need to "hate" them (e.g., 16 and 101(last
strata) and 55 (second strata)), and (2) an emphasis on how the saved are
the solitary and the few (e.g., 75 (second strata) and 16, 23, 49 (last
This tells us that, sometime between the writing of Proto-Thomas (c. 60 CE)
and the writing of Pre-Thomas (c. 75 CE), the attitude of the populace in
Tyre, both Jewish and Gentile, became strongly anti-Christian, so that the
members of the Tyrian church faced pressure from family members to stop
being Christians and they began to perceive Christianity as being a religion
for an enlightened few living in a mass of ignorant and hostile humanity.
I suspect that the precipitating event was Nero's persecution of Christians
at Rome c. 65 CE. With the highest level of the Roman government thusly
turning strongly anti-Christian, I suggest, most of the people living in
Tyre became stongly anti-Christian themselves. Christianity was no longer
viewed as a form of Judaism, but, rather, as a separate up-start
religion that was a malignent threat to all the old and established
religions: even Judaism itself.
In the latest strata, we find a new idea: that the saved have pre-existed
and have come from the Kingdom as a place of light and images (e.g., 18-19,
49-50, and 83-84) So, now, not only is Christianity a religion only for
the the enlightened few, but these enlightened few come from a place of
light and the eternal realm of Platonic ideal forms and it is to this place
that they will return.
(Continued in part IX of a IX part series)
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