Gospel of Thomas: Thomas 13
How Thomas Became ‘Doubting Thomas’
Thomas 13: Jesus said to his disciples, “Compare me to something and tell me what I am like.”
Simon Peter said to him, “You are like a just messenger.”
Matthew said to him, “You are like a wise philosopher.”
Thomas said to him, “Teacher, my mouth is utterly unable to say what you are like.”
Jesus said, “I am not your teacher. Because you have drunk, you have become intoxicated from the bubbling spring that I have tended.”
And he took him, and withdrew, and spoke three sayings to him. When Thomas came back to his friends they asked him, “What did Jesus say to you?”
Thomas said to them, “If I tell you one of the sayings he spoke to me, you will pick up rocks and stone me, and fire will come from the rocks and devour you.”
Thomas 13 is not the first time a religious text has a follower of Jesus claim some kind of privileged knowledge. It happens in the Gospel of Judas, The Gospel of Mary Magdalene, and in the New Testament when Peter, in Matthew 16:19, is given the keys to heaven. We now know that there are no keys, as there are no gates—the kingdom is everywhere and cannot be contained. It is what we are – a collective consciousness, the singularity. Ironically, the very next story, ‘The First Prediction of the Passion’ (Matthew 16:21-23), sees Jesus rebuke Peter as an obstacle, thinking not as God does but as a man would. People who desired power and control wrote those words, giving Peter autonomy and power. Historically, we know Mark was the first of the Synoptic Gospels, written around seventy to ninety years after Jesus’ death. The other gospels are elaborated, edited, and embellished versions of Mark and Thomas – also known as the Q Source.
In Thomas 13, the author of the gospel wants to make it clear the Gospel of Thomas is like nothing else written about Jesus. This gospel is not a biographical narrative about Yeshua and who He was. It is about His teachings—unedited. This is what makes Thomas’ response believable. Reading the sayings in the Gospel of Thomas requires meditation on the metaphors and symbols they contain. In the period Yeshua spoke these words, the Pharisees and most of His contemporaries would have considered His rhetoric blasphemous and heretical. The Gospel of Thomas essentially negates the existence of a ‘creator god’ outside of the self. Instead, we see that we are connected to the Father/Source—this link is through Its remnant, which we call the soul. Like Jesus, we are Its offspring. We could imagine the other apostles picking up stones and throwing them at Thomas if he had said such things to them. Their entire belief system would have been shaken to its core. The disciples’ understanding of what Jesus was like came from their knowledge of the Torah—The Old Testament. Jesus came to us through the great Jewish tradition and culture, but He was not the Saviour they expected.
The New Testament authors, and their successors, had social and political agendas, stemming from their heritage. These people were either influenced by this heritage or opposed to its adherents, as we see in Luke’s accounts. The lion we find in Thomas 7 had consumed these people, as they either desired to control a growing community or vilified those whom they blamed for Jesus’ death. Consider how Mark 14:21 claims Jesus speaks of Judas: ‘For the Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him [in the Torah], but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for that man if he had never been born.’ These words appear to be out of character. An enlightened being, such as Yeshua, would not utter such condemnation. Did Judas really betray Him or had he done as Jesus asked of him? The Gospel of Judas purports the latter. If Judas betrayed Jesus, then He would have seen Judas as someone consumed by the lion and taken pity on him. In this sense, we might interpret this statement as a prophetic description of how one person would be blamed for destroying Jesus, as the notion that Jesus did this to Himself would be too difficult to fathom. Thomas was different. He could see Yeshua did not fit the positions within His society the others hoped He had come to fulfil. Yeshua came to liberate the invisible—the thing we cannot comprehend without the knowledge He brought to us—from the realm of the Spirit.
In ultimately giving up the man that clothed Him, Yeshua showed us how we suffer because of the flesh and the materiality it dwells in. Through His sacrifice, we see that the new and everlasting covenant becomes that which is physically left behind. Jesus’ words are the body, the blood He spilled for us becomes a metaphor for the Light which flows through all of us—It is the Source of all things, the Source of life. Through the knowledge we gain in these sayings, we awaken the Spirit and truly ‘live’. This extraordinary symbolic act (seen in this didactic sacrifice) is what makes Jesus someone most people are unable to fathom.
Thomas 13 is extremely important—it is the reason why we have the Gospel of Thomas. When Jesus realised Thomas could not compare Him to anything in his past, Jesus saw in Thomas the future. The language Jesus’ contemporaries had access to came to them from the Old Testament (the Jewish Torah). Their replies to His question (in Thomas 13), demonstrate this clearly. When Thomas claims that his mouth is utterly incapable of comparing Jesus to something, a very important thing takes place—the recognition that a new vocabulary was necessary in order to understand Jesus’ teachings. It was a language that was not fully evolved until the twenty-first century. Ironically, the way Thomas replies to this question placed him in a vulnerable position and he became labelled as ‘doubting Thomas’. This becomes evident in the Gospel of John 20:24-29. Here, the author(s) references Thomas in order to make his case for Jesus having been physically resurrected. It becomes evident the author of John was aware of the Gospel of Thomas and its inferences to a spiritual resurrection, rather than a physical one. The author of John found, in the saying of Thomas 13, a way to justify making Thomas a doubter. The other disciples used language from their heritage to describe what Jesus was like and, to the author of John, this was the only reference point that made sense.
The label of ‘doubting Thomas’ has been detrimental to the Gospel of Thomas, but when we analyse where it came from we see that the label is unfounded. Moreover, we find in Mark 16:12-14 that all the disciples were in fact doubters of Jesus’ resurrection:
‘After this, he showed himself under another form to two of them as they were on their way into the country. They went back and told the others, who did not believe them either. Lastly, he showed himself to the Eleven themselves while they were at table. He reproached them for their incredulity and obstinacy, because they had refused to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.’
Note also, the two disciples on their way into the country experienced Jesus’ presence in another form, which tells us that Jesus was not resurrected in flesh. After all, once the pearl has matured and been extracted from the oyster shell, why would one cover it up in the same shell? The author of the Gospel of John (20:24-29) changes Mark’s account (16:12-14), making Thomas the singular focus of the incredulity and obstinacy. Thomas’ response in Thomas 13 makes it possible for the author of John to attack his faith.
A very important and revealing statement is made by Yeshua when He says: ‘Because you have drunk, you have become intoxicated from the bubbling spring that I have tended.’ This is the predicament all people find themselves in when they are deep in the woods of the spiritual quest. When they find the pearl, or they catch the large fish, they become overwhelmed by its aesthetic or satisfying qualities. The satisfaction and knowledge they gain from their find makes them drunk. They start to see things that are not there or that in their intoxicated heart and mind become exaggerated. This is what happened to the teachings of both the Buddha and Jesus. These two messengers became the message—their images replaced their message. In Thomas 13, Jesus recognises this human weakness. Shamot Sesju has experienced this drunken state, which is why it has taken so long to see through the fog (that is, this existence) with clarity. The sobering process required taking steps back from the enigmatic words in the Gospel of Thomas, to enable a clear view of all its connections, complexities, and mysteries. This is what other commentaries about this gospel have struggled with. They have tended to use existing texts to decipher Thomas. These people either used Biblical references, or various Gnostic texts to analyse Thomas. This is ironic as it is equivalent to putting the cart before the horse. The Gospel of Thomas was meant to be revealed through language that was evolved enough to make the logical links revealed here. These are the threads that already exist within its intricate tapestry. These are the threads that have created 77th Pearl: The Perpetual Tree.
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