Copyright (c) 1997
These are the secret words that the Living Jesus spoke, which Didymus Judas Thomas wrote down. And he said, "Whoever finds the interpretation of these sayings will not experience death."
--Gospel of Thomas (1st or 2nd century A.D.)
Let none read the gospel according to Thomas, for it is the work, not of one of the twelve apostles, but of one of Mani's three wicked disciples.
--St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Cathechesis V (4th century A.D.)
If ever we find something wisely said by the pagans, we should not scorn it with the name of the author . . . but as the apostle says, "Test all things, holding fast what is good."
--Origen, Homily on Exodus (2nd century A.D.)
About this Book
This book brings together the lore involving the apostle Thomas as a long-forgotten, long-suppressed, major figure in one of the many forms of early Christianity. Thomas emerges as the special confidant and closest companion of Jesus, recorder of his master's words, and, in some sense, his twin (blood brother? earthly counterpart? spiritual kinsman?). Jesus appears as an inspired sage imparting spiritual truths to his hearers, not as the Messiah, part of the godhead, presented in Paul's writings and the canonical gospels.
The Thomas traditions take two tracks. On one he is Thomas the Wanderer -- evangelist and founder of churches in the East. Various legends link him with Syria, Mesopotamia, Egypt, India, Pakistan, China, Brazil, and Mexico. I look into possible reasons for these stories.
On the second track, he is Thomas the Knower, teaching in the context of the Gnostic movement. Gnostics ("Knowers") regarded the True God as pure spirit and thought humankind's goal should be reunion with that Oneness, escaping the material prison in which the inferior creator-god has placed it. There is a resemblance to notions of release and enlightenment found among Buddhists and other in the East, and among mystics more generally.
This account is intended for those who are open to thinking about a very early strain of the religion that has given its name to the dominant Western culture, who are interested in the history of religious ideas and institutions, who explore the interactions of East and West, who search for possible bases of ecumenism, or who are open to a new, but very old, form of questing.
Click here to see the table of contents.
Click here to go to the Introduction of the book.
Archive Note: Herbert Christian Merillat died in April of 2010 at the age of 94 (see obituary in The Washington Post.) Mr. Merillat, was an expert in international law; he also wrote two books about the Battle of Guadalcanal, which he had seen firsthand during World War II.
He finished and published this book on Thomas when we was 81 years old -- it was a work of love. We are pleased to continue hosting his work here at the The Gnosis Archive.