13885Science, Superstition, and the Doubting Gospel of Thomas
- May 16, 2010Science, Superstition, and the Doubting Gospel of Thomas
First, it needs to be pointed out no claim is being made of exalted status for science. It's defined as the ability to predict experiments, no more, no less. (If Voodoo worked better than math for predicting experiments, science would drop math like a wet puppy.) And there's certainly no hostility to today's Christians. Quite the contrary. Their tolerance for commentary like this alone...
But science makes magic talking boxes in our living rooms, and great silver birds that fly through the sky. Any fundamental analysis of Thomas that doesn't consider what science has to say has a hard time claiming to be history here in the 21st century.
Can Science Determine Explicit Superstition from the Viewpoint of Science?:
From this point forward, for the sake of brevity and simple sentence structure, when the term "superstition" is used, it means "explicit superstition from the viewpoint of science."
If science can't determine what is explicit superstition, from the viewpoint of science, what can it determine? After all, there's those magic talking boxes and great silver birds in the sky that suggest otherwise.
Examples of Superstition, Not in Thomas:
1. Jesus rising from the grave, wounds and all, and talking to people
2. Judgment Day
3. Virgin Birth
4. Literal resurection of the dead believers on Judgment Day
9. Son of God-gods
10. A God that says things
11. A God that does things
12. A God you pray to
13. A God you get in trouble for cussing
14. Walking on water
15. Controlling the weather
16. Raising the dead miracles
17. Making extra fishes, loaves, wine and snacks in general out of thin air
18. Curing lepers
19. Restoring sight to the blind
20. Controlling waves on the sea
21. Remote healing
22. Foreign Wise men following a star to where Jesus is born
23. Etc. etc. etc.
Typical Proposed Examples of Superstition, that are in Thomas:
Saying 12's For whom Heaven and Earth came into being, about James. (A common Jewish honorific, not intended to be taken literally.)
12. The disciples said to Jesus: "We know that you will depart from us. Who (then) will rule [lit., `be great'] over us?" Jesus said to them: "No matter where you came from, you should go to James the Just, for whose sake heaven and earth came into being."
Saying 13's Magic stones. (It's Thomas himself talking, not Jesus, the only time in GThomas he does, and the only narrative in GThomas. Stones were long considered important to John the Baptist, it's in Q and the Mandaean literature, a common argument for a common source of John. It may have lost something in the tranlation, like the Heaven and Earth coming into being of #12. At any rate, it's not Jesus saying it.)
13. Jesus said to his disciples: "Compare me, and tell me whom I am like." Simon Peter said to him: "You are like a just messenger." Matthew said to him: "You are like an (especially) wise philosopher." Thomas said to him: "Teacher, my mouth will not bear at all to say whom you are like." Jesus said: "I am not your teacher. For you have drunk, you have become intoxicated at the bubbling spring that I have measured out." And he took him, (and) withdrew, (and) he said three words to him. But when Thomas came back to his companions, they asked him: "What did Jesus say to you?" Thomas said to them: "If I tell you one of the words he said to me, you will pick up stones and throw them at me, and fire will come out of the stones (and) burn you up."
Saying 15's Worship those not born of women. (For starters, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Atheists, Agnostics, and yes, even Biblical Scholars agree Jesus had a mother. So the primary message, the logically certain message, is that you don't bow down to Jesus, and he's not God. He never says the Father is going to show up to be worshipped. Far more likely to be Jesus tiring of people wanting to bow down to him, as they no doubt did, and telling them to stop, that he's just a man.
15. Jesus says: "When you see one who was not born of woman, fall on your face (and) worship him. That one is your Father."
Saying 31's Doctors healing people. (It's simply a statement of the scientifically proven placebo effect, the best medicine available at the time. And the only saying of Jesus in all four Christian Gospels, and the Greek version of Thomas. The most certain to be from Jesus by that standard.)
31. Jesus says: "No prophet is accepted in his (own) village. A physician does not heal those who know him."
Saying 77a's I am the light over all. (In Thomas, and the Mandaeans, and the Greeks, light is the true nature of things, enlightenment, and image is the false appearance of things. A person of light enlightens the world, not stick the light under a basket. A common theme in Thomas. It's like Jesus saying he's right about the big picture.
77. Jesus says: "I am the light that is over all. I am the All. The All came forth out of me. And to me the All has come. Split a piece of wood I am there. Lift the stone, and you will find me there."
Lots of incomprehensible mystical sounding sayings, maybe mystical doubletalk, but no explicit superstition, no walking on water or Satan-gods.
The non-Superstitous Doubting Thomas of the Gospel of John:
Elaine Pagels (and others) point out the possibility that the Gospel of John was written/edited to refute the (non-superstitious) Gospel of Thomas with the non-superstitous "doubting Thomas" finally admitting he was wrong about the superstition. All the things the "doubting Thomas" of John didn't believe in, the "doubting" Gospel of Thomas doesn't believe in. It was clear the Gospel of Thomas didn't have superstition 2000 years ago, it certainly should be clear now.
Why is it Important?:
For starters, if Pagels is right about the non-superstitious Gospel of Thomas/Doubting Thomas, that means the Gospel of Thomas was called Thomas when those capable of refuting Thomas wrote it were still around.
In the bigger picture, the absolute first thing a Christian or Gnostic would add to Thomas is superstition. (Look at what's left of Q after you subtract out the Thomas Parallels.) What commitee or redactors over time wouldn't add superstition? What single solitary example of that do we have? Only a rather unusual man would write the first such superstition free document in all human history.