In Which I Read and Discuss The Coptic Gospel of Thomas

This is one of the gospels I was already aware existed before I even picked up this book.

And I am extremely EXTREMELY glad that it did not make it into the bible, though I am surprised, as it fits in with the other sexist sections of scripture.

The Gospel of Thomas, theoretically, is a collection of Jesus’ sayings written down by Dydymus Judas Thomas. There are 114 of these teachings, and nothing else. There are no stories of any kind, nor does the gospel touch on Jesus’ death and resurrection. It focuses solely on the sayings of Jesus.

Now, I could actually see someone doing this. If one isn’t really a writer but has trouble remembering things other people say, one might keep a sort of journal in which one only records the important sayings of important people. So, just because the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection is not included, that doesn’t mean the gospel is inherently false.

I can see, though, how that would be another reason this book was rejected for the cannon: if you can only compile a certain amount of material, you would want to include only the important stuff. A basic understanding of Jesus’ death and resurrection is a requirement of salvation. Some of the other stuff Jesus said might not be. So if you can only have so much included, I can see why this book would be tossed out.

Some scholars have said that this book is actually closer to what Jesus taught than what we find in the gnostic gospels. I…sure as shit hope not.

I’m getting ahead of myself. Some of this is actually quite familiar to those who’ve read the gnostic gospels.

Example:

Gospel of Thomas verses 9: Jesus said, “now the  sower went out, took a handful of seeds, and scattered them. some fell on the road; the birds came and gathered them up. Others fell on rock, did not take root int he soil, and did not produce ears. And others fell on thorns; they choked the seeds and worms at them. And others fell on the good soil and it produced good fruit: it bore sixty per measure and a hundred and twenty per measure.”

Example 2:

Gospel of Thomas verse 20: The disciples said to Jesus, “tell us what the kingdom of Heaven is like.”

He said unto them, “it is like a mustard seed. It is the smallest of all the seeds. But when it falls on tilled soil, it produces a great plant and becomes a shelter for the birds of the sky.”

So we do see some similarities in the teachings of Jesus. A lot, actually, but to quote them all would make this a really long post, so I’m going to skip over the things we already know.

Now for the awful part. This is toward the end of the text, though I’m not sure if it is the end of the original text, or if only part of the text is quoted in this book.

Gospel of Thomas 114: Simon Peter said to them, “let Mary leave us, for women are not worthy of life.”

 

Jesus said, “I myself shall lead her in order to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every woman who will make herself male will enter the kingdom of Heaven.”

Sadly, this is not actually an uncommon way of thinking, even today. I can not tell you how often in children’s literature I run into this. I think adult literature does it too, but I happen to read a lot of children’s books. Often, in order to be considered as good as the male protagonists, a female character must have as many masculine traits as possible.

For example, she must not like hair ribbons, dresses, or dolls. She must instead like football, getting dirty, or climbing trees.

Setting aside the fact that a girl can do all of the above masculine AND feminine traits and just be a well rounded person, this trope is disturbing.

I don’t have the book right in front of me, but in one of the Chronicles of Narnia books… I think it was The Lion, the Witch, and The Wardrobe, CS Lewis writes something about how, “Lucy was almost as good as any boy.” The character of Lucy is praised for acting like a tomboy, while her poor sister, Susan, is damned to hell in the last book, The Last Battle, for wanting to be a grown up, and “wearing lipstick and nylons!”

It is therefore disturbing to read it here. It’s bad enough that, in the narrative, PETER says it. He’s a fallible human. On the other hand, here we have Jesus here agreeing with it. If this had made it into the Bible, women would be even more oppressed than we already are.

I’m unsure if the Coptic Gospel of Thomas and the things written therein actually happened, or if it was just someone writing shit and hoping to have it authorized. Either way, at one point and by at least one group of people, it was taken as cannon.

I honestly don’t know what to think. Were these other gospels that were not included in the bible excluded simply because there wasn’t enough room? Do any of these contain truth or are they just lies written by someone?

I think, actually, that that question should be asked of the entire bible. After all, the Gospel of Thomas seems to fit in with the 4 canonical gospels except for that last verse. How do we know what is supposed to fit at all when the whole bible is rife with contradictions?

How do we know that these gospels aren’t real and the other ones fakes?

Regardless of whether or not this gospel should be included or not, I’m glad it wasn’t.

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