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Thomas Gospel and Thomas Contender.

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  • Tom Saunders
    Both Crossan and Robinson make the claim that The Book of Thomas The Contender is composed from two or more other documents. It is the first part of the
    Message 1 of 2 , Dec 18, 2002
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      Both Crossan and Robinson make the claim that "The Book of Thomas The Contender" is composed from two or more other documents. It is the first part of the 'Contender' text that most would agree relates to the Gospel of Thomas. I would like to point out a couple of things which might reflect the general questions about a Thomas community.

      Consider Crossan's point that 'Q' adopts an apocalyptic doctrine related to community. 'Q' is also reflected in the "Didache" which is certainly an early text directed primarily at community. First and most important, although there are sayings in Thomas that reflect community and family concerns, Thomas focus in Jesus pedagogy is individualist oriented, not community.

      Consider the following from "The Book of Thomas the Contender..."

      ".....I am the knowledge of the truth. So while you accompany me, although you are uncomprehending, you have (in fact) already come to know, and you will be called 'the one who knows himself'. For he who has not known himself has known nothing, but he who has known himself has at the same time already achieved knowledge about the depth of the all. So then, you, my brother Thomas, have beheld what is obscure to men, that is, what they ignorantly stumble against."

      One, this is written by somebody who knew Thomas or this concept would not be so clear and reflect the content and intent of so many Thomas sayings in regard to the self. Further, this is not the only part of 'Thomas the Contender' which reflects Thomas sayings, it does seem to reflect a general creed. There is a little more which refers to the 'self,' again as a core theme, but specifically the self's relationship to the "light."

      "Yet when the light comes forth and hides the darkness, then the work of each will appear. And you, our light, enlighten, O lord."
      Jesus said, "It is in light that light exists."

      A redactional clue may exist in the above quote due to the fact that 'Jesus said' appears here while all other references to Jesus are as 'Savior." The 'savior' reference may be indicative of a relationship to the Gospel of Mary. I think this is likely and the best reason lies below. (Somebody give this idea a shot at the side of the barn)

      The above quotations are the part of the 'Contender' related to Thomas Gospel. All other theories aside about the rest of the 'Contender' text, Woe to it, it just does not fly as other than community wisdom. Is it Thomas community wisdom? Remember, Thomas is directed toward individualism. (I do not like the term ascetic)

      Consider the following sayings....(sorry about this particular translation)

      (21) (a) Mary said to Jesus : "To who are Your disciples like ?" He said : "They are like children who have settled in a field which is not theirs. When the owners of the field come, they will say : 'Let us have our field back.' When they will let them have the field back they will stand naked in their presence.

      (b)Therefore I say to You, if the owner of a house knows that the thief is coming, he will stay awake till he comes and will not let him break in the house of his domain to carry away his goods. You, then, be on Your guard against the world. Gird Your loins with great strength so that the robbers find no way to come to You, for they will find the advantage which You expect.

      (c)Let there be among You a smart man. When the fruit is ripe, he quickly came with his sickle in his hand and harvests it. He who has ears to hear, let him hear."

      I have divided it into three parts because they seem to have a naturally divided strata at these places in the body of the saying. Also there seems to be a virtual book that can be read between the lines if you consider the concept of the saying directed toward the concept of individual to community.

      In this case the community is who? The disciples. The individual is the householder. The community has who other than disciples "Christ Robbers." The answer to this community is to cut your fruit and run. That may be exactly what Thomas did. Clearly the trend in the early Christian camps which Thomas does not reflect is a teaching based upon punishment contingency. Thomas also sees an equality in salvation for men and women which may be a central point to why Thomas went his own way. I suggest the following.....

      "For the males move [...] upon the females and the females upon the males. Therefore it is said, "Everyone who seeks the truth from true wisdom will make himself wings so as to fly, fleeing the lust that scorches the spirits of men." And he will make himself wings to flee every visible spirit." (T the C) Compare this to saying 22, and 114 (nl).

      (22) Jesus saw infants being suckled. He said to His disciples : "These infants who suck are like those who enter the Kingdom." They said to Him : "Shall we then enter the Kingdom as infants ?" Jesus said to them : "When You make the two one, and when You make the inside like the outside and the outside like the inside, and the above like the below, and when You make the male and the female one, so that the male will not be male nor the female female ; and when You fashion eyes in place of an eye, and a hand in place of a hand, and a foot in place of a foot, and a likeness in the place of a likeness ; then will You enter the Kingdom."

      If 'Contender' was a work from a Thomas community then the rest of it will reflect at least some of what a Thomas community had in terms of its primary concerns in adjusting Thomas concepts of individualism to working community. I am not attempting that here.

      There is one other part of the Contender which may give a clue to a Thomas lineage.....

      The secret words that the savior spoke to Judas Thomas which I, even I, Mathaias, wrote down, while I was walking, listening to them speak with one another.

      Thomas to Jesus...."....before your ascension, and when I hear from......."

      Mathias was not Matthew here, it was Mathias who was chosen as an apostle in the place of Judas,
      (Ac.1v15-26.). The 'Contender' is pre ascension, post Judas. I think the 'Contender' reflects a community who used Thomas, perhaps knew Thomas or Mathias, and used Mary as well. As to what other texts were used is up for speculation. I do not think we are looking at communal living but respect for property, women, and salvation through self discovery.

      Tom Saunders Platter Flats, OK

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • klaus schilling
      ... it could also be of pre-christian (jewish wisdom) origin and deuterochristianized by apocalyptic christians. This is suggested by contender which might
      Message 2 of 2 , Dec 18, 2002
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        Tom Saunders writes:
        > Both Crossan and Robinson make the claim that
        >"The Book of Thomas The Contender" is composed from
        >two or more other documents.
        >It is the first part of the 'Contender' text
        >that most would agree relates to the Gospel of Thomas.
        >I would like to point out a couple of things
        >which might reflect the general questions about a Thomas community.
        >

        it could also be of pre-christian (jewish wisdom) origin
        and deuterochristianized by apocalyptic christians.

        This is suggested by 'contender' which might be the translation of 'esra'
        as in 'esra-el' , a pseudonym for the patriarch Yacob who struggled
        with the lord, somewhere in the Pentateuch, and was partiallyt paralyzed
        through the vigor of the fight. This had consequences for the koshut.


        Klaus Schilling
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