You are on page 1of 75

A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall

Monism in the Gospel of Thomas

A Jesus for the East

A PROJECT SUBMITTED TO THE FACULTY OF THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA BY

Jeffrey Douglas Crandall

IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF LIBERAL STUDIES

May 2001

A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall

UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA
This is to certify that I have examined this copy of a master’s project by Jeffrey Douglas Crandall and have found that it is complete and satisfactory in all respects, and that any and all revisions required by the final examining committee have been made.

Name of Faculty Advisor

Signature of Faculty Advisor

Date

Name of Second Faculty Advisory

Signature of Second Faculty Advisor

Date

GRADUATE SCHOOL

A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall

© Jeffrey Douglas Crandall 2001

......... 62 Conclusions .......................................................................................................... 59 Living Without Possessing ......................................................................................................................................................................... 66 SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY FOR PROCESS PAPER. 56 Great Understanding vs....................7 Sections 2 and 3: Themes in Thomas .......8 Theme 1 : Thomas’ Prologue and Not Tasting Death............................................. 64 PROCESS PAPER NOTES ........................................................................................................................................ 23 Theme 12: Thomas’ Christology ................................................................................................................1 The Compleat Scholar Course ............................................................................................................................................................................ 44 APPENDIX A: The Gospel of Thomas and Taoist Monism...................................................................................2 The Curriculum: The Gospel of Thomas Study Guide ............................................................................................................... 20 Themes 8-11 : Asceticism and World-Negation ................................................................ 42 Thomas’ Theology: My Final Thoughts ................................................................................ 32 Theme 13: Apocalyptic and Eschatology ........... 39 Section 6: Monism in Thomas............................................................................................................................ 15 Theme 4 : Thomas Community and the Elect........................ Little Understanding ...................................................................... 18 Theme 6 : Becoming a Child ................................................... 50 The Way of The Kingdom: A Taoist Reading of the Gospel of Thomas Introduction ..............................5 Section 1: The Discovery and Nature of Thomas............... 37 Section 5: Thomas................................................................................................................. 72 ................................................................................................... 16 Theme 5 : Motion and Rest................................................................................................................................. and Gnosticism ............................................................. 19 The me 7 : The Living Father ........................ 50 The Monistic Universe: Moving from Categories to Completion................................................................................A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall Table of Contents PROCESS PAPER Introduction.................................................................... 51 Kingdom/Tao: The Ever Appearing/Disappearing Presence...........................................9 Theme 2 : The Kingdom Sayings .................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... 69 GOSPEL OF THOMAS STUDY GUIDE .. 34 Section 4: Thomas and the New Testament............ 41 Study Guide Appendices....... 10 Theme 3 : Personal Revelation and Salvation........ 42 Process Paper Conclusion. Hellenized Judaism.................................

the GRE. an adult education program at the University of Minnesota. I created the Gospel of Thomas Study Guide as a research and interpretive tool for students in a course I taught in January and February 2001 for the Compleat Scholar. I intend to use it in future courses and seminars. While much of this research.A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall Introduction The following paper describes my final project for the Master of Liberal Studies program at the University of Minnesota.com .jeffcrandall. Now that the study guide is complete.gospelofthomas. I developed both the Gospel of Thomas course and the study guide using the research I had compiled for a future book on the theological and historical implications of the Gospel of Thomas. The Compleat Scholar accepted my course and. 1 Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall | http://www. after meeting with the program director. I realized that I had compiled copious amounts of information that would be useful to anyone wishing to unravel Thomas’ 114 sayings. DonnaMae Gustafson. I decided to create a glossary of terms related to the study of Thomas that students could use as a reference tool. This glossary eventually blossomed into the study guide I prepared for the students. My course on the Gospel of Thomas was scheduled for the winter session and I began teaching test preparation courses in November. This project is divided into two separate sections: a creative project—the Gospel of Thomas Study Guide—and this process paper. While preparing for the Thomas course. which helps to contextualize my creative project and presents some of my research conclusions. I proposed a course on the Gospel of Thomas and submitted a program description. as well as to offer it to other instructors and religious institutions via a web site I am developing for the study of the Gospel of Thomas (www. my final project professor.org). a recently discovered text from early Christianity. I contacted the Compleat Scholar after discussing the possibility of teaching in the program with Dr. Believing that I would be finished with my final project by January 2001. Once I started looking through my notes for terms and definitions. I was asked to teach test preparation courses for the GMAT. and the LSAT.

I thought it would be helpful to present sections on the historical and inter-textual relationships between Thomas and Gnosticism. I also decided to include a section on monistic theology. and Christianity. Even without preparing all of my conclusions in a research paper format. I had to rigorously explore several disciplines.A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall especially the categorization of sayings. all of which pertain to my overall work in the MLS program. In order to complete my research and the study guide. Mysticism. Classical Philosophy. New Testament Studies. In addition to the section on monism. and Psychology. because my own conclusions centered on monism as the predominant theology of the gospel. The following is the course description I wrote with editorial assistance from Claire Walter-Marchetti.com .jeffcrandall. the format of the study guide itself adds the interdisciplinary element of Education to the aforementioned list. Moreover. Judaism. an area not typically explored by Thomas scholars. In short. The intent of the study guide was to provide students with information about the histor ical context in which Thomas was likely written and to familiarize them with theological concepts related to Thomas. In addition to secondary scholarship.” As a part of teaching this seminar. Gnosticism. my research and reading list includes Postmodernism. I had also compiled a great deal of information from secondary publications on Thomas that would help to create a balanced presentation of current scholarship. is original work. I taught a six week course for the Compleat Scholar program called “Radical Thinking in Early Christianity: Discovering the Lost Gospel of Thomas. director of the Compleat Scholar Program: 2 Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall | http://www. Classical Studies. Comparative Religion. Buddhism. The Compleat Scholar Course In the Winter of 2001. Hermeticism. Judaism. I put together a series of lectures and a study guide to assist students reading the Gospel of Thomas. Taoism. therefore. I included some of this secondary material in the study guide. I believe that my study guide reflects the depth of my research and the amount of time I have put into organizing my work.

A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall In the mid-fourth century. the course also focused on several recurring themes in Thomas including. we will explore the history and meaning of this amazing archaeological discovery. and a type of Monism that resembles Buddhism or Taoism. What does the 1945 recovery of this text mean to the history of early Christianity? Formerly. However. asceticism and world-negation.com . I found this task particularly daunting. In addition to examining the relationships between Thomas and other religious texts. Christianity. Because I conceived the class as a survey course on Thomas and Thomas’ relationship to related religious traditions. with recent translations into many languages. the kingdom of the father. personal revelation and salvation. resurrection. Thomas does not present a plot. I found that focusing on particular themes was the easiest way to help Thomas speak across the 3 Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall | http://www. including into Gnostic ism. Hellenized Judaism. Unlike other surviving Christian texts. but they also help to establish Thomas’ theological relationship to the texts and traditions surrounding it. Surprisingly. 1 The primary concern I had in developing this course was to be able to address a breadth of complex theological issues without overwhelming students who are not well versed in New Testament Studies and who have not immersed themselves in Comparative Religion courses. Thomas’ Christology. entirely composed of quotes attributed to Jesus. Thomas rejects these notions and instead focuses on the mystical transformation of each individual—a theme aligning this work more closely with Buddhism than surviving Christian religion. Thomas is now available to people around the world. crucifixion. many scholars now argue that Thomas preserves the most primitive versions of many of Jesus’ sayings. the Gospel of Thomas was lost to the world when someone—presumably a sect of Christian monks—hid an entire library of Christian manuscripts in the Egyptian desert. because Thomas has theological strands reaching in many directions. and Thomas’ eschatology. I believed that it was more important to expose the students to the vibrant religious activity in the ancient Near East than to leave students with the impression that the Thomas is merely a Gnostic variant of orthodox Christianity. Through lecture and discussion. among others. miracles or apocalyptic warnings. And unlike others. In fact. I decided to survey the religio us movements related to Thomas rather than focusing intently in one area. the Gospel of Thomas is a “sayings” gospel. Hermeticism.jeffcrandall. These themes are not only important in Thomas. this subject was hotly debated by only a small group of scholars.

which will be a theme-based course with a short introduction to Thomas and the Taoist texts. I have also been approached about lecturing on Thomas at the Plymouth Congregational Church in Minneapolis. the comparative sections of the course required much more lecturing and explanation on my part. I was invited by the Compleat Scholar to teach another course in the Spring 2002. Because it is clear that I regard Thomas as a tangible. Moreover. especially the session we spent discussing Gnosticism! After teaching the course. consequently. many of whom have a background in modern Christianity. The primary intent of this course will be to explore the relationships between a series of parallel themes in Thomas and two Taoist philosophical texts—the Tao te Ching and the Chuang Tzu . Focusing on specific themes also kept the class close to the text by providing a natural ground for discussion. in addition to the new Compleat Scholar course. the following will be presented as the primary question for the students of the course: “Does Thomas represent a historical.A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall centuries in a familiar enough mode to engage modern students. In contrast.jeffcrandall. 4 Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall | http://www. I am currently developing a course description for a related course on Thomas and Taoism. so I will also use sections of the study guide as handouts for that lecture and in the event I that I am asked to give any more lectures on the Gospel of Thomas .com . but not in classical or New Testament studies. theological link between the monistic religions of the East and the theistic religions of the West?” The “Thomas and Taoism” course will cover a great deal of the research I excised from my Thomas survey course. historical link between what is typically regarded as western and eastern theology.

Thomas’ Jesus preaches salvation to the few rather than the many. I covered the material from “Section 4: Thomas and the New Testament. After introducing the Gospel of Thomas to several friends. I feared that many readers would simply reject Thomas on its face because it does not immediately resonate with the Jesus of their faith. I knew that several scholars believe that Thomas’ Jesus more closely resembles the historical Jesus than the New Testament’s Jesus does. for instance. However.com . Some of these friends regarded Thomas’ Jesus as fraudulent and unbelievable within the context of their own faith. Consequently. which is a concept that does not resonate. after we concluded the course. the depth of Thomas’ relationship to the New Testament gospels. because I believed they would have been more effective if I had introduced them in a different order. In the actual class. however. rather than creating a face-off between Thomas’ Jesus and the New 5 Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall | http://www. I knew something that many of my friends did not. I realized that those most familiar with the Jesus of the New Testament were the ones who found Thomas’ Jesus most alien. this problem is mitigated in John by the close proximity of the synoptic gospels). Their primary complaint about Thomas’ Jesus is that his words are too esoteric and philosophically laden to be understood by the masses. without supplying a context for the study of Thomas. And yet. with the evangelical-centered faith of many Christians.” during the second and third weeks. among other things.A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall The Curriculum: The Gospel of Thomas Study Guide I chose to divide the Gospel of Thomas Companion Study Guide into six sections because the course I taught met for six sessions. The primary intent of the study guide is to give students several windows into what might otherwise remain an obscure and historically implausible presentation of Jesus. It also took me a night and a half to finish my introduction to Thomas. the people to whom their Jesus is supposed to preach (apparently. I rearranged a few sections. In addition.jeffcrandall. because students were very curious about Thomas’ legitimacy as an ancient text and did not realize.

important theological themes. In terms of form. Moreover. I thought it best to present a historical and theological context for the study of Thomas. Thomas is a “sayings gospel. The discovery of Thomas has helped to bolster arguments in support of the existence of the Q Gospel. unlike the New Testament gospels.jeffcrandall. and its relationship to several relevant religious movements. including its discovery. Thomas is decidedly anti-eschatological and apocalyptic only in the context of personal 6 Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall | http://www. both in terms of its form and its theology.” a hypothetical source gospel reconstructed by scholars from similarities between sayings found in Matthew and Luke. Thomas represents an independent theological tradition rather than an amalgamation of known orthodox and heterodox ideas. Thomas also does not merely occupy the border between the orthodox and heterodox texts. Thomas is also theologically unique from the traditions surrounding it.com . Unlike the orthodox and known heterodox varieties of Christianity. its overall theology does not fit well in either the orthodox or heterodox theological tradition. Even though it shares some theological characteristics with the orthodox canonical material and the heterodox Gnostic material. consequently. Moreover. but to present the historical relevance and theological mystery of the Gospel of Thomas itself. the mutual support generated through form criticism and intertextual comparison of these two texts provides strong evidence that these gospels belong to one of the earliest strata of the Christian literary tradition.” a gospel genre composed entirely of wisdom teachings presented without an accompanying narrative. The only similar text in the tradition is the “Q Gospel.A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall Testament’s Jesus. My intent was not to replace the New Testament’s Jesus with Thomas’ Jesus. because Thomas confirms that early Christians used the sayings gospel form. scholarship on its composition. Thomas is the only extant gospel of this kind in the Jesus literary tradition. There are several factors that set Thomas apart from other literature produced by the Jesus movement. Thomas is solely concerned with the “living Jesus” (Thomas Prologue 2 ) and not the crucified or resurrected Jesus.

a list of formal literary 7 Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall | http://www.’ or ‘Look. so that you are seeking the end? For where the beginning is. there it is. such as the discovery of the Greek fragments of Thomas at Oxyrhynchus. the father’s kingdom is spread out upon the earth. Thomas focuses on an intangible kingdom that is right in front of our noses—“the kingdom is inside you and it is outside you” (Thomas 3)—and eternally present—“Have you discovered the beginning. related archaeological discoveries.jeffcrandall. In other words. It will not be said. It is this worldly focus that distinguishes Thomas from the traditions surrounding it—traditions that. Thomas’ kingdom and its Jesus are strongly centered in the mundane.” Thomas’ intra-worldly Jesus. he tells them to change their focus from the social (historical) to the personal (primordial): His followers said to him. The following is a section-by-section explanation of the Gospel of Thomas Study Guide . “When will the kingdom come? “It will not come by watching for it.com . and people do not see it. in one way or another. Judaism. posit a God/Kingdom/Father that is separate from human beings and the world of the living. the Gospel of Thomas is a monistic text surrounded geographically and historically by dualistic religions (i. the end will be” (Thomas 18). The chief concerns of this section were to present a timeline of events related to the study of Thomas.e.. Jesus corrects his followers who are waiting for the end of the present age and the arrival of the kingdom of the Father. In fact.A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall revelation and transformation. in short. Instead. father. earthly world. Egypt. Section 1: The Discovery and Nature of Thomas I developed Section one to orient students to the historical and archaeological issues relevant to the discovery and dating of Thomas. then. here it is. Roman. in Thomas 113. Christianity. and Greek. ‘Look. in which the end times and social transformation has already begun but not yet ended. and Egyptian polytheism). and there is little in the text to distract the reader from this immediacy. and kingdom go well beyond the realized eschatology occasionally found in the New Testament.’ Rather.

” because students were not properly introduced to Thomas’ individual theology before moving onto intertextual comparisons. Jewish. In teaching the course. I also developed an introductory lecture to accompany this section that presented scholarship on the composition and unique formal qualities of Thomas. By 8 Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall | http://www. during the first few centuries C. I believe that the class would have flowed more naturally if we had covered “Themes in Thomas” before “Thomas and the New Testament. which is discernable in spite of the fact that Thomas is a discursive text that places the responsibility of interpretation and synthesis on the reader. I covered “Thomas and the New Testament” before I covered “Themes in Thomas. I have rearranged the study guide to reflect this change of opinion.E.com . Gnostic. My primary intent in these sections was to expose students to sayings clustered around particular themes that help to reveal Thomas’ prevailing theology. I would save the intertextual comparisons for the later weeks and focus on Thomas’ themes in the weeks following my general introduction of the text.” I thought that this organization would be a good strategy because Thomas shares many sayings with the New Testament gospels and I believed that this overlap would create a natural bridge to understanding Thomas’ theology. and the culmination of ancient. mainstream Christianity—the Nicene Creed—which helps to establish theological differences between mainstream Christianity.jeffcrandall. Gnosticism. especially in regard to how Thomas aligns with and distinguishes itself from its Christian. I regard these themes as pointed tools with which students can compare theological concepts that religious texts often present indirectly or symbolically.A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall features that distinguish Thomas from the canonical gospels. and Monist counterparts. In the future. and Thomas. Sections 2 and 3: Themes in Thomas I developed sections two and three to highlight a series of important themes related to the study of Thomas. a laundry list of concepts related to Christian theology present and not present in Thomas. In retrospect.

Theme 1: Thomas’ Prologue and Not Tasting Death The first theme area highlights two separate topics: Thomas’ prologue and sayings related to not tasting death.” That points the way towards Syriac-speaking Syria as the geographical area where Thomas the Twin was of supreme importance. students can get oriented to the theological implications of the text before confronting dissimilar ideas. however. one of the Old Syriac translations of John 14:22 gives that as “Judas Thomas. Judas the Twin. On the one hand. for the purposes of this paper. I have supplied many of my own conclusions. My primary oversight was to overestimate students’ general awareness of New Testament scholarship and their familiarity with the New Testament’s presentation of Jesus. were not as relevant to the actual content study guide itself. while relevant to the compilation of the study guide and to my own research. The ostensible name of the author of the text.” And in John 14:22 when he is called Judas he is identified simply as “Judas (not Iscariot).A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall covering Thomas’ themes first. Four Other Gospels: Thomas. Peter. But this can be specified even more closely because 9 Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall | http://www. My own conclusions. This curious repetition of the term “twin” in both Aramaic and Greek provides some evidence for a second century Syrian provenance for the text. which in Greek is Judas Didymos. 20:24. because these conclusions help to explain why I included each theme in the study guide. can be translated Judas the twin (Aramaic) the twin (Greek). I will identify the themes I highlighted in the study guide and why I chose to highlight them. John Dominic Crossan explains: The most important indication of provenance is the very p eculiar name of its apostolic author. called Didymos.jeffcrandall. Egerton. Secret Mark. and in bilingual redundancy is Judas Thomas-Didymos or some such triad. In his book. In the following section. In John 11:16. Thomas’ prologue provides a wealth of information that many scholars have used to establish Thomas’ date and location of composition.” On the other hand. because the study guide’s purpose was to help students arrive at their own conclusions about the text. this conjunction of Judas Thomas-Didymos never appears in the New Testament.com . Judas Thomas Didymos. 21:2 the name is “Thomas. in Aramaic Judas Thomas.

In the study guide.” Consequently. 10 Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall | http://www. which is centered in the primordial. not tasting death is at least one explicit goal of the text and it is offered as the reward to those who discover the meaning of Thomas’ sayings. Should one consider not tasting death as equivalent with supernatural. Thomas 1 reads. religion. Furthermore.jeffcrandall. I ask students to consider how the reader should regard the concept of not tasting death. that this apostle was known precisely as Judas the Twin (brother of Jesus). because a prevalent theme in the text is the effective hiddenness of that which should be manifest—the kingdom. Thomas’ prologue also establishes two other important features of the gospel—the sayings included are (1) the “hidden sayings” of (2) the “living Jesus. Thomas is most often regarded as a product of a first or second century.” The manner in which these sayings are hidden is an important concept to consider as one interprets these sayings. the features of the text introduced in the prologue are significant factors to consider as one studies this text. and meaning that is established in human society. if not unique. situated on the Euphrates tributary. eternal life (orthodox) or the end of the suffering caused by death and/or the fear of death (similar to monistic concepts found in Buddhism and Taoism). Thomas 1 establishes the reader’s responsibility to interpret the hidden meaning of the sayings. Consequently. ascetical Christian sect from Syria. among the texts of early Christianity. the Daisan. “Whoever discovers the interpretation of these sayings will not taste death. Thomas does not include any explicit references to Jesus’ death or resurrection. This exclusive focus on the “living Jesus” is rare. Moreover.com .A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall it was around Edessa. Thomas’ focus on the living Jesus reflects the overall theology of the text. the prologue accurately states that the sayings in Thomas contain only the words of “living Jesus” and.3 Because the name ascribed to the text offers the most direct evidence of provenance. in fact. Moreover. timeless now of the living rather than in the temporality of culture.

” The kingdom sayings provide a spatial and temporal metaphor that is much easier for one to contemplate than not tasting death. ‘Look.jeffcrandall. the kingdom is presented as a manifest. there it is. and people do not see it.com .g. It will not be said.’ or ‘Look. which posit an apocalyptic. “If your leaders say to you. Thomas 113 does not represent the realized eschatology of Luke. Unlike the New Testament gospels. here it is. the kingdom is in heaven. because Thomas’ kingdom is not related to a socio-historical eschaton. primordial reality that cannot be fully apprehended by the senses or by normal modes of perception and reason. Thomas’ use of kingdom is not equivalent with the New Testament’s general use of the same metaphor. socio-historical eschaton that brings about the kingdom of God. while the metaphor of the kingdom is a common motif in Christianity.’ Rather. which is also called the “kingdom of heaven” and the “kingdom of the father. Thomas focuses almost exclusively on the individual’s change of perception in apprehending a kingdom that is already manifest. Jesus says. I arranged the kingdom sayings in four thematic categories: Where is the kingdom and when will it come? What is the kingdom like? How can one enter the kingdom? and Who may enter the kingdom? Where is the kingdom and when will it come? This question is answered most clearly by Thomas 113: “It will not come by watching for it.A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall Theme 2: The Kingdom Sayings Although not tasting death is the explicit goal of one’s performance of the text. Luke’s occasional references to a realized kingdom (e. the major thematic device used in Thomas to help readers visualize this goal is the kingdom. In Thomas 3.” In Thomas 113. the father’s kingdom is spread out upon the earth. ‘Look. however. To help students come to terms with this important symbol in Thomas..’ 11 Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall | http://www. Luke 17:20-21) might well mirror Thomas’ primordial kingdom rather than the reverse. in fact. Thomas 3 also places the kingdom in the presence of the here and now and yet is careful not to bring the kingdom within the spatio-temporal realm of objects or things.

in the treasure parable. just as we possess the kingdom. however.com . but it is inclusive of both. The buyer went to plowing. such as Thomas 2. which maintains a curiously similar presentation. And it is that owner who uses the treasure to his own benefit. [discovered] the treasure. Therefore. the kingdom is something we currently possess (it is hidden in the field we own). but that the kingdom itself is neither of these things. If they say to you. “The kingdom is like a person who had a treasure hidden in his field but did not know it. and began to lend money at interest to whomever he wished. Rather. Jesus offers a method by which one can know what one already possesses. One of the more telling “What is the kingdom like?” parables is Thomas 109: Jesus said.jeffcrandall. The kingdom is not to be found in a place or a person. this is money). but it is only the owner who digs up the treasure who actually knows what he possesses.’ then the fish will precede you. ‘It is in the sea. He took over the field and sold it. “Let one who seeks not stop seeking until one finds. In both Thomas and Matthew’s version of this parable. What is the kingdom like? This question is answered by several parables that typically describe the kingdom as something very small that has the potential to become large and powerful if it is apprehended and used appropriately.A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall then the birds of heaven will precede you. And [when] he died. it is only after we seek for and find the kingdom that we can use it for our own benefit (in the parable the person lends “money at interest”). but we must work to find it before we can actually take advantage of the particular gifts it brings to us (in the case of treasure. This interpretation of Thomas 109 is consistent with Thomas 113. The son [did] not know (about it).” It is clear from Thomas 3 that the kingdom includes Jesus’ followers (“inside you”) as well as the manifest world (“outside you”).” Thomas’ treasure parable is related to Matthew 13:44. the kingdom is inside you and outside you. he left it to his [son]. Each of the field’s owners already possess the treasure. This method is merely a restatement of the “seek and find” sayings. Thomas’ kingdom is something hidden even in 12 Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall | http://www.” Thus.

an image in place of an image.” They said to him. “Then shall we enter the kingdom as babies?” Jesus said to them. when you make eyes in place of an eye. the woman gradually loses the kingdom. By changing our perception of and relationship to the world. including Thomas 22. and when you make the inner like the outer and the outer like the inner. then you will enter [the kingdom]. but spills it “behind her [along] the road” as she walks home. Even though Jesus never explicitly says it. Moreover. the question Jesus’ followers ask. When she arrives at her house. a woman begins her journey with the kingdom (the meal in the jar) in her possession. The process Jesus outlines in Thomas 22 is the familiar monistic concept of collapsing or resolving difference. In the parable of the jar. and the upper like the lower.jeffcrandall. When we recognize that categories and oppositions are not essential “elements” of the world around us. and take advantage of our participation in the primordial kingdom. appreciate. a reverse version of Thomas 109 is presented in Thomas 97. How can one enter the kingdom? This question is answered by several related sayings. but instead 13 Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall | http://www. which she possessed at the outset and what was once full is now empty and quite useless to her. “she put[s] the jar down and [discovers] that it [is] empty. elaborated on in a way his followers likely would not have anticipated. Moreover. one of the most monistic sayings in Thomas: Jesus saw some babies nursing. a foot in place of foot.” Because of her inattentiveness. the parable of the jar—one of two new parables found in Thomas. He said to his followers. “These nursing babies are like those who enter the kingdom. and when you make male and female into a single one. the process he outlines in Thomas 22 is the process by which one becomes a baby or child again—the very question asked by his followers.” Thomas 22 indicates that there is a definite process by which one prepares oneself to enter the kingdom.com . so that the male will not be male nor the female be female. a hand in place of a hand. rather than simply being ignored by Jesus is. “When you make the two into one. we can fully know. in fact.A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall its apparent presence and bringing it to the foreground takes effort and perseverance.

Ken Wilber refers to this monistic. When we resolve the conflict created in our own reflection upon what is. In Sex. and reflection. which is the one and only reality at that moment. Moreover. we need to delimit the “non-dual” by bringing it into some sort of meaningful existence for us. is “nondual. in order to do this. etc. The dual state occurs when we subsume the “right now” in our ongoing reflection on and categorization of our experiences in the world. immediately—it is one feeling. and the mountain is still the mountain.4 Wilber explains the mechanics of the non-dual state as a matter of experience. It is a singular. In our dual state. because it is the ground of our existence—the “right now” or immediacy of our experience in the world. the stuff of experience we bring into the 14 Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall | http://www. it is the same taste as your Self. but you and the mountain are two sides of one and the same experience. our unmediated existence in the kingdom is equated with infancy. one in here. timeless. we can begin to let go of these provisional realities and become truly open to an authentic experience of life. the real world is given to you once.com . Ecology. it has one taste. participative experience as the non-dual state in which we receive our first taste of the real world. Spirituality . before you slice it up. Since we cannot delimit all of our experiences in the world. it is not severed into seer and seen. our non-dual existence is necessarily reduced and split into parts that are brought to the foreground and that recede to the background. Real experience.jeffcrandall. the more fully we can experience the unmediated kingdom. reality itself. our primary task is to make meaning or sense out of our experiences and. of which the plural is unknown. You can taste the mountain.” In other words. so that our ongoing. conscious reflection. source. it is utterly full in that one taste.A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall functional distinctions created in our own reflection upon what is. perception. we once again make “the two into one. we simultaneously exist in both the dual and the non-dual states. fragment and fragment.” Rather. In fact.) comes to the foreground. does not contain that duality—real experience. He writes: The real world is not given to you twice—one out there. subject and object. it is not out there being refle cted in here—that duality is not present in the immediateness of real experience. In Thomas. In our everyday experie nce of the world. That “twiceness” is exactly the meaning of “duality. participative experience of the primordial kingdom (or Tao. we cannot exist outside of the non-dual state. we dismantle our dualistic. And the more we can let go of provisional realities.” You are still you.

e.A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall realm of meaning remains meaningful only within the dualistic mechanics of meaning. chosen. As Chuang Tzu puts it.E. singular.jeffcrandall. “Understanding stops when it has reached what it does not understand. This is the primordial. In the theme area “Thomas Community: The Elect. but it is important to note that however one looks at Thomas. the meanings we ascribe to the non-dual world cannot be said to exist in any meaningful way outside of that particular system.. non-dual. those who may enter the kingdom are a select group of individuals who are definitely not from the most prestigious classes of society (unless they are willing to give up their social status!). make the inner like the outer and the outer like the inner. Who may enter the kingdom? This question is answered fairly satisfactorily in the sayings related to the preceding question (i.com . In Thomas. not buyers or merchants. unshattered first taste to which Wilber refers. alone. .” the concept of a predestined elect is covered more thoroughly. however.” he is telling them that they need to abandon duality for a state in which all things are of the same stuff. monist. when Jesus tells his disciples that they cannot enter the kingdom until they can “make the two into one. The characteristics of this group are that they are poor. and not female or male. those who can accomplish what Jesus instructs them to do in Thomas 22). Theme 3: Personal Revelation and Salvation The sayings in this area focus on the individual’s role in salvation. salvation is achieved individually rather than socially. Rather than positing God’s dramatic intervention in the affairs of human history—a scenario 15 Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall | http://www. there are a few sayings in Thomas that seem to describe those who may enter the kingdom as a chosen or elect group. from the kingdom they will return to.”5 Consequently. . and the upper like the lower. . which is an important distinction to make between Thomas (as well as the Gnostics) and the emerging Christian orthodoxy during the first centuries C.

While I personally do not believe Thomas presents an articulated hierarchy of initiates.” In Thomas 51. the availability of the kingdom to those who seek it is one of the most consistent messages in Thomas. the kingdom—has already come to pass. Theme 4: Thomas Community and the Elect I included the theme “Thomas Community and the Elect” to provide a counter-position to my own ideas about the origins and uses of the text. the new world (i. and when will the new world come?” He said to them. what is sought—the new world. “When will the rest for the dead take place. the treasure. Jesus completely revises this scenario by shifting the burden of change from the extra-worldly (or merely external) back onto his followers themselves. In fact. Thomas 51 provides a good example of how Thomas’ Jesus subverts the apocalyptic expectations of his followers: His followers said to him. I found Bruce Lincoln’s ideas on the subject interesting.. but you do not know it. for “there is nothing hidden that will not be revealed. In his reply. It is clear from the followers’ question that Jesus’ idea of “rest for the dead” and “the new world” are not visually apparent.com . the kingdom) is in the same state as the treasure in Thomas 109.A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall in which only the Christian “prepared” survive—Thomas shifts the focus entirely to the individual and away from the anticipation of supernatural intervention. it seems that Jesus’ followers will need to use something other than their senses to perceive the “rest for the dead” and “the new world” to which Jesus refers. the things that Jesus’ followers seek have likely been accessible all the time.jeffcrandall. and there is nothing covered that will remain undisclosed” (Thomas 6). In fact. Jesus’ followers present a common first century Judeo-Christian apocalyptic scenario in which a general resurrection of the dead takes place. As in Thomas 113 (“the father’s kingdom is spread across the earth”) and Thomas 109 (the treasure parable). especially if Thomas was a product of an ascetical Christian sect from second century 16 Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall | http://www. Thus. since they do not believe these changes have come to pass. “What you look for has come.e.

Thomas 1 and 2 appear to support a more democratic. For you have come from it.com . it appears that many scholars like him are so interested in finding a home for Thomas that they are willing to stretch the sayings into uncomfortable positions to fit the mold. Nevertheless.jeffcrandall. even if much of the new information does not exactly fit into any known context.” Thomas 49 seems to imply a type of predestination in which only certain people are from the kingdom in the first place and. for you will find the kingdom. I used elements from his article because they help to illustrate how scholars usually erect histories around known contexts rather than opening the historical space for new possibilities. It may be that seen in retrospect those who accomplish the return look as if they were made of the right stuff in the first place. because it echoes the concept of a predestined elect. Instead. which is exactly what many scholars argue.g. we should consider how the text of Thomas treats this subject generally. therefore. the concept of a chosen group merits some individual attention. and you will return there again. it is important to be careful not to rashly apply a potentially foreign concept like predestination to the text. it is undeniably elitist in the sense that the salvation Thomas offers is available only to a select few. The most problematic saying in this group is Thomas 49. “Fortunate are those who are alone and chosen.. ad hoc group). It also illustrates how easily new information can be subsumed within those known historic al contexts. in which Jesus says. it is only those people who will find their way back there again. Even though Lincoln is a careful scholar who understands that his ideas are provisional. 17 Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall | http://www. It is a razor-thin distinction. However.A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall Syria. which is a decidedly dualistic concept that would problematize a monistic reading of Thomas.6 Although Lincoln’s hypothesis is not implausible. yet since Thomas does not generally appear to support the idea that only those who are chosen should be reading and interpreting these sayings (e. No matter how one reads Thomas 49. it is important to distinguish whether Thomas 49 refers to a pre-destined elect or simply to the small group of people who can accomplish the return to the kingdom from which we all have come.

Moreover. the Sabbath. however. “If you do not fast from the world. since observing the “sabbath as a sabbath” appears to be the only Jewish law explicitly advocated in Thomas (although Thomas’ sabbath should not necessarily be taken as equivalent with the Jewish Sabbath). ‘What is the evidence of your father in you?’ say to them. It is widely known that in the first creation story. In Thomas 86. but human beings have no place to lie down and rest.” motion and rest likely refers to the creative activity of the father as described in chapter one of Genesis. The concept of rest. “If they ask you.jeffcrandall.” However.A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall Theme 5: Motion and Rest I included the theme “motion and rest” because this enigmatic theme is repeated several times in Thomas and it connects Thomas with Jewish wisdom speculation on the first chapters of Genesis. Jesus says. the concept of rest presented in Thomas 86 may not be related to the concept of motion and rest articulated by Jesus in Thomas 50. If you do not observe the sabbath as a sabbath. 18 Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall | http://www. Jesus says. ‘It is motion and rest. If the sign of the father in Jesus’ followers is “motion and rest. you will not see the father. Christian. Thomas 27 appears to be in need of further explanation. This may also be why Jesus says in Thomas 27. God creates for six days and rests on the seventh. it may well be that Thomas 27 is directly linked to Thomas 50 in that those who find the kingdom are the ones who directly participate in the father’s creative activity and subsequent rest. In Thomas 50.’” Thomas 50 appears to link Thomas to the first creation story in Genesis. is not unique to Thomas.com . which is precisely what Thomas 50 provides. it has analogs in the Jewish. and Gnostic traditions. “[Foxes have] their dens and birds have their nests. For example.” Because the sabbath represents God’s day of rest after the intense activity of creation. Thomas 86 appears to be directly related to the Q saying found in Matthew 8:20 and Luke 9:58. you will not find the kingdom.

A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall

Theme 6: Becoming a Child The theme of becoming a child is directly related to the possibility of apprehending and entering the kingdom of the father. It is clear that throughout Thomas the place of children is elevated above the status of adults (Thomas 4, 22, 37, 46); nevertheless, the goal of Jesus’ followers, presumably adults, is to somehow overcome their adulthood and become a child again. While some of the references to children in the text are not explicitly related to this theme, such as in Thomas 28 when Jesus refers to people as the “children of humanity,” a few are quite explicit. In Thomas 46, Jesus says, “But I have said that whoever among you becomes a child will know the kingdom and will become greater than John [the Baptist].” Becoming greater than John and, later, more powerful than Adam (Thomas 85) seems like a pretty tall order; however, according to Jesus in Thomas 46, the very act of becoming a child is powerful enough to bring about the knowledge of the kingdom, something neither Adam nor John the Baptist had known. In Thomas 4, Jesus provides a clue that might help to explain this theme. In Thomas 4, Jesus says, “The person in old days would not hesitate to ask a little child seven days old about the place of life, and that person will live.” Admiring the tabula rasa of newborns was not a new concept in Jesus’ time just as it is not a new concept today; however, the significant detail in this saying is the age of the child who, if he is a boy, will be circumcised on the following day according to Jewish custom (Genesis 17:12). The importance of this detail is that the seventh day is the last day the child remains symbolically unsocialized and totally open to an unmediated experience of life. Until he is eight days old, the child’s experience is presumably not mediated by culture, language, meaning, thought, or reflection. The child remains naked, undecided, and receptive in the pre-circumcision moment. In Thomas 37, Jesus says, “When you strip without being ashamed and take your clothes and put them under your feet like little children and trample them, then [you] will see the child of the living one and you will not be afraid.” The idea that by casting off one’s clothes an adult may

19
Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall

|

http://www.jeffcrandall.com

A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall

become a child again provides more details about the importance of the infant’s tabula rasa in Thomas 4, because the prospect of casting off one’s clothes offers this tabula rasa to adults. In Thomas 37, Jesus’ followers symbolically reject that which socially and conceptually constrains them by stripping off their clothing. Without their clothing, they are naked, fearless, unworldly and, as such, they are able to apprehend the child of the living one, who may be construed as Jesus, but it is more likely that it is actually themselves—identical to Jesus, subsumed within “the All” (Thomas 2, 22, 108). It is as if Thomas 37 seeks to reverse the moment in Genesis 3:7 when Adam and Eve’s eyes were opened and “they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.”7 The use of clothing (also in Thomas 21) as the symbol of self-awareness, fear, and worldliness certainly helps to link Thomas to the Genesis creation stories.

Theme 7: The Living Father In the entire Gospel of Thomas, the Coptic term for god is only used twice. In his article “Kingdom of Heaven or Kingdom of God,” Dieter Mueller explains: W. Schrage in his discussion of the two alternatives (Kingdom of God, Kingdom of the Father) . . . pointed out against Fitzmyer that there is not a single instance (sic ) for the use of “Kingdom of God” in the whole Gospel of Thomas (Evangelienzitate , 258). At first sight, the last argument might seem irrefutable, as it is in full agreement with Gnostic theology, where “God” is a word not for the Lord, but for the Demiurge. It is therefore carefully avoided in the Coptic text, and occurs only in log. 30 and 100, where the being referred to as God seems to hold a position inferior to Jesus. Wherever the Kingdom is mentioned, the Coptic version displays a marked preference for the absolute use of this term (log. 3, 22, 27, 46, 49, 82, 107, 109, 113), but occasionally substitutes either “Kingdom of the Father” (log. 57, 76, 96-98, 113) or “Kingdom of Heaven” (log. 20, 54, 114).8 According to Mueller, Thomas’ use of “God” is consistent with Gnostic theology, in which the term is used to denote the creator demiurge and not the ultimate reality of the father. It does appear that Thomas maintains some such distinction, because the Coptic term for “God” is used

20
Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall

|

http://www.jeffcrandall.com

A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall

only in two places, both of which appear to relegate “God” to a lesser status than Jesus. In Thomas 30, Jesus says, “Where there are three deities [gods], they are divine. Where there are two or one, I am with that one.” And in Thomas 100, Jesus says, “Give Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, give God the things that are God’s, and give me what is mine.” In Thomas 100, Jesus appears to be establishing a hierarchy of importance, from Caesar to God to himself. But, of course, the word for God here is not equivalent with the term father, which is used exclusively to represent the ultimate reality in the gospel; therefore, Jesus appears only to be placing himself above the Greek and Jewish systems and not above the father. Consequently, because father is used in a manner that distinguishes it from God or gods, it is important to approach this concept openly. It seems clear from the distinctions made in Thomas 100 that the father should not be conflated with Yahweh without some investigation into the concept. It is also important not to equate without investigation Thomas’ distinction between “God” and “father” with the Gnostic use of these terms. In Gnostic systems, the father is “absolutely transmundane,” separate from our earthly reality, non-interfering, and hidden from us. According to scholar Hans Jonas, this separation is the primary feature of Gnostic thought. In The Gnostic Religion, Jonas writes: The cardinal feature of gnostic thought is the radical dualism that governs the relation of God and world, and correspondingly that of man and world. The deity is absolutely transmundane, its nature alien to that of the universe, which it neither created nor governs and to which it is the complete antithesis: to the divine realm of light, self-contained and remote, the cosmos is opposed as the realm of darkness. The world is the work of lowly powers which though they may immediately be descended from Him do not know the true God and obstruct the knowledge of Him in the cosmos over which they rule.9 A major concern regarding the use of “father” in Thomas is if the father is regarded as “absolutely transmundane” or if the father essentially belongs to or composes the world of creation. If the father is radically separate from the world of creation, Thomas’ theology would be dualistic and, therefore, in this regard, it would more closely resemble Gnostic theology;

21
Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall

|

http://www.jeffcrandall.com

’ then the fish will precede you. If they say to you. Rather. “If your leaders say to you. Jesus speaks of the living one in their presence when his followers say to him. which I equate with the concept of the kingdom. In Thomas 52. the “living one” in Thomas 52 refers to one who is within the kingdom and. and t he “chosen of the living father” (Thomas 50). ‘It is in the sea.” Moreover. This association with the “living” closely connects Jesus and his followers with the father. spatiotemporal reality. even if it cannot easily be reduced into a thing in our reflection upon it. and they all spoke of you. is 22 Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall | http://www. rather. Jesus and his followers are referred to as “living”— “the child of the living one” (Thomas 37). it is trans-conceptual in the monistic sense. “living from the living one. “living spirits” (Thomas 114). gnostic sense. one would presume that. nevertheless.A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall however.” If that “living one” is in their presence in the same manner in which the father’s kingdom is in Thomas 113 (“the father’s kingdom is spread out upon the earth.” then it is in one’s presence. intra-worldly.com . thus. then Thomas’ theology is likely monistic. and people do not see it”).” If the kingdom is “inside you and outside you. Jesus mocks those who reduce the father’s kingdom into a reified. the father is often referred to as the “living father. if the father is mundane. and essentially bound-up in the world of creation.” Jesus may be referring to himself or to the father when he speaks of the “living one” in Thomas 52. at the very least. In Thomas 3. at the very least.’ then the birds of heaven will precede you. the kingdom is inside you and outside you. “Twenty-four prophets have spoken in Israel.jeffcrandall. A few sayings also appear to place the “living father” or. In Thomas. “You have disregarded the living one who is in your presence and have spoken of the dead. In fact. He says. the kingdom of the father. ‘Look.” Jesus replies. in some sayings. it is difficult to distinguish between Jesus’ self-references and his references to the father—a point that may be more revealing than confusing. in the immediate presence of Jesus and his followers. then the “living one” in Thomas 52 is not transmundane in the dualistic. The “living one” or living father. the kingdom is in heaven.

The living father in Thomas appears to be something quite different from both Yahweh and the hidden God of the Gnostics. But one cannot “look to” (Thomas 59) and “live from” (Thomas 111) what is fundamentally absent and hidden. In other words. yet not fully manifest in one’s senses (except. As in other important areas. and whoever is living from the living one will not see death. “The heavens and the earth will roll up in your presence.A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall present.11: Asceticism and World-Negation One of the largest areas of agreement among scholars is the presence of a strict asceticism in Thomas. Themes 8 . Jesus says. one may.com . breathing world—and this activity does not appear to involve a rejection of the world of the living. It is clear. however.” it is likely that father in Thomas should be regarded as a wellspring or source of life and fecundity rather than as a hidden source whose access is facilitated by a world-negating asceticism. because it takes the role of a wellspring or source that does not intervene specifically in human affairs.jeffcrandall.” Living from the living one is clearly an activity in which one engages during life—in the living. perhaps. I am in qualified disagreement. There are simply too many textual clues that place Thomas’ father in the immediacy of the “now” to argue that Thomas’ father resembles the hidden father of the Gnostics. which may be the case in Thomas 19 where the five trees in paradise may correspond to the five senses). that some brand of asceticism is advocated in the text and that the nature of this asceticism is one of the keys to deciphering what Thomas asks of its readers. In Thomas 111. Because Thomas refers to the father as both the “living father” and the “living one. attempt to free oneself from the lowliness of the created world and make the journey back to the light of the true father. one cannot live from a living one that is radically separate. in the Gnostic sense. except perhaps the trappings of human society that block our access to an “authentic” experience of the living one. The majority position is clearly 23 Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall | http://www. when one knows the kingdom.

What Jesus promises is no more noncorporeal than it is nonmental. 24 Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall | http://www. 103). “If the flesh came into being because of the spirit. this is the conclusion drawn by James Hesig in his article. Jesus advises his disciples to protect themselves from those who would invade their dwelling (sayings 21. and safeguard of the senses from the deprivations of habit is an essential ingredient to insight. Thomas is profoundly basic to the traditions of sexual asceticism in eastern Syria just as later it would fit well within the Pachomian monastic movement in Upper Egypt. and power. exercise.” Thomas 29 is a difficult saying to overcome if one takes the position that Thomas does not repudiate the body. if not a measure of its truth: “I shall give you what no eye has seen and no ear heard and no hand has touched and what has never occurred to the human mind” (saying 17). it is a marvel. he does so with some compelling evidence. “If you do not fast as regards the world. The evidence for their conclusions is found in sayings such as Thomas 29. and the created world. it is a marvel of marvels. 35. yet his interpretation comes with the force of theological consistency as well as a handful of powerful counter-examples.jeffcrandall. but if spirit came into being because of the body.” He writes: Setting the senses beyond the mortifying influence of conventional modes of perception does not mean transcending the world but being in the world but not of it. Most scholars in the field believe that Thomas repudiates the body. but rather is asking us to recover our bodies by recovering our senses. as in Gos. “Recovering the Senses: Against the Asceticisms of the Age. Hence. The recovery. Nevertheless.com .” In all this. to use worlds familiar from the Gospel of John. 27.”10 Like many scholars. Yet I marvel at how this great wealth has come to dwell in this poverty. Of course. Crossan regards Thomas’ use of the concept “world” as literally referring to the created world rather than figuratively referring to worldliness.A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall articulated by John Dominic Crossan in his book Four Other Gospels: Shadows on the Contours of the Canon. Thom. It is a heightened experience of mind and body. sexuality. in addition to money. you will not find the Kingdom. He writes: What Thomas demands is not some periodical fasting from food but a permanent fasting from sex. wealth. 11 Hesig’s conclusions fly in the face of the majority of scholarship about Thomas’ asceticism.

It seems highly unlikely that the instructional materials for such a sect would include prohibitions against what one would imagine are amongst the primary activities of that sect. Jesus rebuffs them. when the bridegroom leaves the wedding chamber. Jesus offers no explicit counterinstructions to his followers regarding any specific ascetical practice in the entire text of Thomas. Jesus replies to his followers. or how have I been undone? Rather. to make their argument even more difficult. Jesus’ followers ask him. and if you give to charity. their clarity makes for a much tougher argument for those scholars who wish to lump Thomas in with the ascetical texts of the second century. He says. presumably whether those principles lead his followers to eating or fasting. “Do not lie.com . Moreover. however.jeffcrandall. Jesus’ followers once again bring up the subject of praying and fasting. and if you pray. He says. the importance of this passage is that it contains Jesus’ second explicit denouncement of fasting and praying. praying or getting drunk.. 25 Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall | http://www. and in one sentence replaces these Jewish practices with a version of the golden rule. He tells them to be honest and to live by their own principles. bracketing off the intriguing symbolism of bridegroom and wedding chamber]. you will bring sin upon yourselves. They say to Jesus.A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall In Thomas 6. “Come. “Do you want us to fast? How should we pray? Should we give to charity? What diet should we observe?” These pointed questions are likely aimed at Jewish practices. “What sin have I committed. and do not do what you hate.” For the sake of this argument [i. In Thomas 104. one must also imagine that the members of that ascetical sect periodically fasted and prayed. you will be condemned. And. because all things are disclosed before heaven” (Thomas 6). “If you fast.” It is possible to read both Thomas 6 and 14 as indications that Jesus denounced false religious piety. you will harm your spirits.” And once again.e. Jesus actually warns his followers about the dangers of what might be regarded as ascetical religious activity. even if they did not give to the poor. Because these pronouncements are so explicit. let us pray today and let us fast. then let the people fast and pray. if one is to imagine that Thomas comes from a rigorously ascetical sect from Syria. in Thomas 14. which include dietary restrictions and alms giving.

so that she too may 26 Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall | http://www. “Look.com . “Mary should leave us.” clothing in Thomas 36 also serves as the symbol of worldliness. “Buyers and merchants [will] not enter the places of my father. therefore. Jesus says in Thomas 36. merchants and moneylenders. “Why have you come out to the countryside? To see a reed shaken by the wind? And to see a person dressed in soft clothes. Our lack of concern for the trappings of society is the very source of our freedom from it. of our concern about clothing. I shall guide her to make her male.jeffcrandall. in which Jesus rails against the clothes of the rich. and worldliness do not equate to a world-negating asceticism. 63. Almost as a direct answer to Thomas 78. [like your] rulers and your powerful ones? They are dressed in soft clothes. about what you will wear. our sexuality. 78. it likely means precisely the opposite. and 65. Stripping ourselves of our clothing and. thus determining h ow they relate to one another. Simon Peter says. In Thomas 64. what Jesus does offer are sayings denouncing various forms of worldliness. In fact. being naked in the created world does not mean that we reject our sensuality. Yet.” As was the case with clothing in the sayings related to “Becoming a Child. Most of his attacks in this area are against buyers. Jesus questions a group of people. In Thomas 114. Clothing is an apt symbol because people use clothing to determine social hierarchy. influence. and they cannot understand truth. “Do not worry. Moreover. symbolically (and to some degree. it is that money and the trappings that accompany it are definite disadvantages to anyone who wants to enter the kingdom. for females are not worthy of life. 95. Jesus simply says.A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall Instead of religious asceticism. literally) takes us outside of this hierarchical social system. power. although he appears to reserve special vehemence for those in the mercantile class.” If one thing is clear about this text. from morning to evening and from evening to morning. warnings against money. it is important to make an appropriate distinction between the created world and the worldliness that Jesus denounces in Thomas 64.” And Jesus responds to him. more importantly. in fact. Jesus appears to draw a hard line between those who have money and those who do not. and the beauty of the world around us.” And in Thomas 78.

the act of making Mary male definitely brings to mind the Adam and Eve story. thence came sin. to some degree. before sin. it is quite easy to see that both sayings speak to one and the same practice. like everything else. and . For every female who makes herself male will enter heaven’s kingdom. so that the male will not be male nor the female be female. . based on Thomas 22. and the upper like the lower.” Instead of reading Thomas 114 as contradictory to Thomas 22. Thomas 114 offers the most explicit reference to androgyny in the text (see also Thomas 22). in Thomas 22. John Dominic Crossan writes: The ideal state imagined by the Gospel of Thomas is that of the primordial human being. before split. thus making her male once again. the male and female into a single one. the inner like the outer and the outer like the inner. the male and female need to become a single one. It is as if Jesus is going to put the rib that became Eve back into Adam. the act of collapsing difference. as neither male nor female. In fact. the text makes a more 27 Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall | http://www. etc. both men and women must “make the two into one. Adam as one. before serpent. Consequently. . I agree with Crossan’s assessment of the text. The Gospel of Thomas is about returning to that inaugural moment at the dawn of creation. or looking at it in the larger context of Thomas 22 in which all categories are collapsed. It would seem that. thence came the sexes. And. as asexual. “every female who makes herself male will enter heaven’s kingdom. Jesus glibly plays with Simon Peter’s final misunderstanding of Jesus’ message. while it is true that Mary can only enter the kingdom by becoming male. In Thomas 114. it would seem that Thomas 114 strongly supports Crossan’s argument. In the context of Thomas. sexual abstinence. In The Birth of Christianity .A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall become a living spirit resembling you males. one has the choice of looking upon this collapsing of difference as merely advocating androgyny.” Aside from presenting a bit of difficulty for those of us who do not believe that Thomas is a male -centered text. First came the split.” Now.jeffcrandall. a notable feature of this saying occurs when Jesus says.com . Now. it is clear from the rest of Thomas that simply being male does not qualify one for heaven’s kingdom.”12 On its own. as single and unsplit.. it is just as true that Simon Peter can only enter by becoming female —the real point is that. However.

Thomas 77 and Thomas 61 place Jesus in the company of the father and indicate that Jesus is. In the Eden story. of the father. “I am the one who comes from what is whole. before sin.A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall encompassing statement than returning men and women to their “inaugural moment at the dawn of creation. God fears that his creation will be undermined if Adam becomes like God himself. and now. “See. I am all: From me all has come forth. no one is in strife and no one is in need of anything. I was given from the things of my father. Jesus also says of himself. when God completes his act of creation and rests on the seventh day. in some manner. God also seems to be aware that his creation—which has supplanted a system in Genesis that was already working—is fundamentally flawed. the flaw that is so crucial to the Eden story is not an issue in the first creation story. “I am the light that is over all things. and to me all has reached. Next. an activity that is strikingly familiar to the process of socialization.” Aside from be ing noticeably pantheistic. and live forever. instead. Jesus says of himself. Moreover. God wants to make sure Adam does not find out what this flaw is. God makes rules about what Adam can and cannot do. knowing good and evil. he might reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life. But.com . Lift up the stone. before split. In Genesis 3:20-21. the Garden of Eden story is laden with strife from the outset. I am there. In fact.”13 In fact.” Are humans made in the likeness of God or not? In Genesis’ second creation story. because Jesus speaks of himself as the ultimate—the all. First God forms man out of the earth and not in his likeness. In the Eden story. and you will find me there. and eat.” And in Thomas 77. It is important to 28 Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall | http://www. because there is no hierarchy established between God and humans in that story. God says. before serpent. Thomas 77 rather explicitly equates Jesus and the father. Split a piece of wood. In the first creation story. the man has become like one of us.jeffcrandall. however. we are not created in the likeness of God. we are from dust and to dust we shall return (Genesis 3:19). However. Yet. in Thomas 61. it seems more to the point that Thomas interprets the “Garden of Eden” creation story as the fundamental worldly intrusion upon our pristine existence in the kingdom.

was born in the condition of the first creation story. Thus. we are not created from the dust of the earth. a foot in place of a foot. Instead. like Jesus and his followers. unification is merely the first step. etc. an image in place of an image. in Thomas 22. his authentic condition is masked by his socialized condition in the second creation story. their attempt to fully recognize the ultimate reality is never fulfilled.e. Jesus.jeffcrandall. the goal of Thomas 22 is not to 29 Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall | http://www. This is why Jesus says of Adam in Thomas 85. Adam and Eve’s act of betrayal creates a chasm between God and man. Because Adam is born of a great power. [he would] not [have tasted] death. Adam and Eve never realize that God and man are made of the same stuff. Thomas places us in the center of the first creation story—man. animals. instead of returning us to the androgynous beginnings of Adam. but Adam (and Eve) never fully understand the truth of their existential circumstance before God (the demiurge?) thwarts them. we are made in the likeness of the father. This point is clearly driven home in Thomas 108 in which Jesus says. man and animal. woman and man. but he was not worthy of you. a hand in place of a hand.com .. he. and those who drink from his mouth (i. For had he been worthy. “Adam came from a great power and great wealth. then they must be greater than Adam. then you will enter [the kingdom].” If Adam is not worthy of Jesus’ followers. but a state of authentic living in which differences like male and female are not significant. It is not androgyny that Jesus asks his followers to find. Jesus does not simply stop at unification of the male and female. In Thomas. “Whoever drinks from my mouth will become like me. And it is precisely this world that Thomas seeks to cast off.A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall note that in Thomas Jesus is also made of the same substance as his followers.” Thus.” It is not difficult to draw the line from here—the father. Jesus also tells his followers that they need to “make eyes in place of an eye. and the hidden things will be revealed to that person. Consequently. Thus. the things of the world—living together in harmony. “discovers the interpretation of these sayings”) are one and the same. This is the dualistic world into which we are born and socialized. however. God. woman. I myself shall become that person. The serpent attempts to alert Adam about Adam’s true condition.

“Do not worry. this interpretation gives fasting from the world a much more specific meaning than fasting in general (Thomas 6. In Thomas 27. Nevertheless. Androgyny. 80.” it is not difficult to interpret the “world” Jesus denounces as the delimited world of human social behavior. In Thomas. it appears that Jesus believes the Pharisees and scribes are blocked in such a manner. about what you will wear. every step into the realm of money and power.” Why have the Pharisees not entered the kingdom? Because they will have to give up their social status to do so. “If you do not fast from the world. in Thomas 27. which resides in the first creation story.” Jesus does not want his followers to be preoccupied with the trappings that engage them in the world of social strife. which correlates with our authentic state of being in the kingdom. In Thomas 39. only serves to further impede one’s recognition of the authentic state of being. 14. Moreover. They have not entered. you will not find the kingdom. suffering. which is denounced by Jesus. because every social advantage. 110. Jesus says. and 61). world should not be confused with the created world or life itself. from morning to evening and from evening to morning. and 111) can be explained as confrontations between worldliness (world) and living authentically (kingdom). Therefore. Even though Thomas is clearer about its rejection of worldliness than it is about the rejection of the world itself and does not appear to present sexual androgyny as an ultimate. “The Pharisees and the scribes have taken the keys of knowledge and hidden them.jeffcrandall. fasting from the world is simply another way of saying precisely what Jesus tells his followers in Thomas 36. then. 42.A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall create a featureless background in which all things recede into a wash of nothingness. 56. even though they have seen the truth. nor have they allowed those who want to enter do so. the goal is better articulated as the state of being in which one allows things to be without imposing the weight of meaning upon them. when Jesus says. the gospel does contain a handful of challenging ascetical passages. a theme that is consistent with Thomas’ monistic theology. unlike 30 Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall | http://www. much of the ascetical material in Thomas (Thomas 27. is but a half step toward a much larger goal of the text. The goal of Thomas is the end of death.com . and strife. rather.

Yet not every saying in Thomas fits easily into a limited asceticism that promotes kingdom (the natural or given) over and against world (the artificial. and are born from each other. and it is easy to substitute the term worldliness for “world” in the text. hierarchical. consequently. all three sayings all appear to be deeply related. Thomas’ Jesus is much more concerned with the corrosive effects of power and privilege than he is with basic. However. When flesh and spirit are interpreted as belonging together. Consequently. When one reads the saying in this way. one may interpret flesh and spirit as fundamental categories of being. the use of body. Yet I marvel at how this great wealth has come to dwell in this poverty.jeffcrandall. also appear to present a world-negating motif. world-negating motif. “this poverty” refers to neither flesh or spirit but to an understood target that is not identified in the saying—perhaps the corrupted world from which Thomas offers salvation. but if spirit came into being because of the body. spirit. the rhetorical point of the saying is “marvel” and not the opposition of poverty and wealth. Jesus says. it is a marvel of marvels. therefore. dualistic mindset are typically highlighted. is more difficult to bring into a monistic frame.com . 87. However. flesh.” Oppositions such as flesh and spirit are not foreign to monistic theologies. Thomas 87 and 112. however. and 112. and soul in Thomas 29. and fabricated). “How miserable is the body that depends on a body. in Thomas 29. In Thomas 87. human sensuality. In Thomas 29. Thomas 29 fits nicely within a dualistic. even more surprisingly. In this case. then the monistic potential of the saying opens up. the wealth of the spirit is revealed through the flesh and. While Thomas’ use of “world” is consistent. In fact. “If the flesh came into being because of the spirit. Similarly. sayings that closely echo Thomas 29. it is a marvel. the hidden wealth of the flesh is revealed through the spirit. are revealed together. and how miserable is the soul 31 Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall | http://www. these two parts—flesh and spirit—belong together. the flesh/spirit opposition is equivalent to the poverty/wealth opposition and. their existence as provisional realities or the products of a troubled.A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall later Gnostics. Jesus says.

Consequently. In Thomas 112. it is difficult to discern if Thomas 87 introduces dualistic oppositions and body denying. they are presented as categories. soul appears to be privileged over body. world-negating asceticism into an otherwise monistic theology.com . Damn the soul that depends on the flesh. but it is clear that these sayings have some common root. “Damn the flesh that depends on the soul. but they are made equal in the balanced saying. the flesh/soul juxtaposition is similar to the flesh/spirit distinction in Thomas 29. Another related consideration is the relationship between the natures of Jesus and the father. Thomas 112 can be interpreted similarly to Thomas 29. In Thomas 112. Jesus is “given from the things of [his] father. in Thomas 112. However.A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall that depends on these two.” And again. Therefore. And because these attributes are shared by both Jesus 32 Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall | http://www. although it is brief and enigmatic. nevertheless. but the use of “body” twice in the saying is clearly enigmatic. Theme 12: Thomas’ Christology I decided to introduce the theme of Thomas’ Christology to highlight the characteristics attributed to Jesus in Thomas. one must imagine that the apparent divinity Jesus possesses in Thomas 61 is a characteristic shared by all who can discover the interpretations of his sayings (Thomas 1).” It is difficult to determine which is the core saying. if Jesus and the father are intimately connected. A primary question in this section is whether Jesus’ nature is unique or if he is essentially made of the same stuff as his followers.” but Jesus does not want his followers to regard his position as unique and unattainable (Thomas 108. Jesus says.jeffcrandall. except that the relationship between flesh and soul is not clarified. the saying does not appear to conflict with the monistic thrust of the gospel. soul is not privileged over flesh nor flesh over soul. what are the implications of this connection on Thomas’ theology? In Thomas 61. the oppositions presented in Thomas 87 are difficult to explain in the context of the gospel as a whole. Without more explanation. “whoever drinks from my mouth will become like me”).

it i s important to consider the metaphorical possibilities of the passages that apply larger-than-life attributes to Jesus. in which Jesus “took [his] stand in the midst of the world. In Thomas. This enfleshed Jesus intrudes upon the text by employing the same flesh/spirit distinction of Thomas 29 and 87. in his vision. In Thomas 44. In Thomas 77. it is not difficult to take these sayings as monistic metaphors. It is evident that Jesus is distinguished as a teacher in the text.” he is there. and whoever is far from me is far from the kingdom”) is read in the context of Thomas 77. In fact. when Thomas 82 (“Whoever is near me is near the fire. he has come back through the wall to brin g his followers to the other side. Moreover. this saying has no supporting context in the form of similar sayings. Yet. Thomas 55 (bear the cross) and Thomas 28. and in flesh appeared to them” (cf. John 1). it would be difficult to explain what Jesus means by “son” in Thomas 44 outside of a Christian 33 Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall | http://www. either on earth or in heaven. “Whoever blasphemes against the father will be forgiven. whoever blasphemes against the son will be forgiven.com . Jesus has passed through the mystical wall between our dualistic minds and the monistic ultimate reality and. In fact. it is not difficult to understand that Jesus sees himself as equivalent with the father and the kingdom. he has become that ultimate—the very source and power of life. much like the Buddha.” Thomas 44 not only establishes a dualism of heaven and earth. but whoever blasphemes against the holy spirit will not be forgiven. Thomas 28 recalls the traditional sacrificial Jesus descending from heaven to become flesh. the only sayings that intrude on a monistic presentation of Jesus are Thomas 44 (blasphemes). since Jesus performs no miracles or specific supernatural acts in the text. If you “split a piece of wood. but it brings to the Gospel of Thomas a traditional Trinitarian concept.” you will find him there (Thomas 77). which was described above. Jesus directly articulates his own divinity within the context of a monistic ultimate. Jesus says. so that he may suffer and die for our sins. if you “lift up the stone.A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall and his followers.jeffcrandall. Consequently. This is especially the case in Thomas 77 (“I am the light that is over all things”). but his attributes are much closer to the Buddha’s than they are to the resurrected Christ’s.

its significance in Thomas is that the apocalyptic possibilities of the saying are subverted by its monistic conclusion—“the first and last will become a single one. Theme 13: Apocalyptic and Eschatology I chose to include apocalyptic and eschatological sayings because the general absence of an eschatological perspective in Thomas is indicative of its monistic theology. however. Jesus says: 34 Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall | http://www. “Fortunate is one who stands at the beginning: That one will know the end and will not taste death. the excerpt “first and last” is included in an apocalyptic eschatological scenario. “The person in old days will not hesitate to ask a little child seven days old about the place of life. in Matthew 19:27-30. However. in Thomas 4 Jesus says. For example.jeffcrandall. and that person will live. it is difficult to understand the intent of Thomas 44. For example. in which Jesus says. It may be that Thomas is using the triad of father. son. The absence of this perspective also distinguishes Thomas from the New Testament gospels.A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall theology. For many of the first will be last and will become a single one.” This interpretation of Thomas 4 is supported by the presence of Thomas 18.” It is not at all clear whether this saying is a singular coherent unit or if it is actually the result of the splicing of two unlike sayings.” The theological thrust of both of these sayings is that the conclusion of our search for the kingdom can only accomplished by returning to the primordial beginnings. which often present specific apocalyptic threats and eschatological scenarios. but it would require more information to fully articulate the meaning of this Trinitarian passage in Thomas. In the context of a gospel that advocates sonship for all who drink from Jesus’ mouth (Thomas 108).com . in all three of the canonical parallels to this saying. and holy spirit in a non-traditional manner. It is clearly much easier to imagine that Thomas preserves a handful of sayings consistent with traditional Christian theology that were combined with a much larger body of monistic sayings during the transmission of the text through time.

you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones. the last who will be first are those who sacrifice something of themselves in Jesus’ name. examining the moment and knowing the “one who is in [one’s] presence” are one and the same activity. and Thomas 51 (“What you look for [the new age] has already come”) all subvert eschatological and apocalyptic possibilities by positing a kingdom that is primordially present. but in the coming age they will “receive a hundredfold” and will “inherit eternal life. I tell you. they are the last. there are a handful of other sayings that are nearly as explicit. in this age. In Thomas 91.” Jesus’ followers continually attempt to elevate Jesus above themselves and he continually reminds them that they do not understand his message. In addition. Thomas subverts just the kind of apocalyptic scenario presented above. “Tell us who you are so that we may believe in you. Jesus’ followers say to him. Jesus’ followers never fully grasp Jesus’ non-apocalyptic. In Thomas 91.” the last will take their place at the front of the line. Thomas 113 (“the father’s kingdom is spread across the earth”). but you have not come to know the one who is in your presence. will receive a hundredfold. Throughout the text. when the Son of Man is seated on the throne of his glory. and you do not know how to examine this moment.” At the “renewal of all things.” And Jesus replies dismissively. Once Jesus’ followers understand the moment-at-hand—the primordial now of the kingdom—they will also understand that Jesus. and the last will be first.com . however. Consequently. themselves. It is likely that their confusion is a literary device used in the text to drive home Thomas’ corrective to apocalyptically-minded 35 Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall | http://www. first and last in Matthew has the distinct feel of being an independent passage inserted into another context. the context is explicitly apocalyptic. and the moment are all one and the same. in Matthew. But many who are first will be last. non-eschatological message.jeffcrandall. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields. Thomas 109 (the treasure parable). “You examine the face of heaven and earth. As in Thomas. for my name’s sake. at the renewal of all things. and will inherit eternal life.A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall Truly. In almost every case. judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Presumably in Matthew’s version.

If this is the case. “When the crop ripened. the meaning of the harvest metaphor is far from clear and any eschatological implications are not specified. nevertheless. Of these sayings. perhaps cyclical. 47. the harvest remains a salient metaphor. which would mean that each person is a crop. but they do provide evidence that orthodox material may have been included at some point in the editing of this otherwise unorthodox text. the metaphor of a harvest is once again employed. Consequently. Thomas 18 places Thomas’ kingdom outside of our spatiotemporal existence and instead “put” it in the primordial here-and-now that is always timeless and always present. Thomas presents a few sayings that would appear to warn of an imminent end of things (Thomas 21.com . these eschatological metaphors do not provide enough specificity or weight to disrupt Thomas’ general trend toward a primordial. 79). it is important to note that sayings like Thomas 18 (beginning/end) go further than to place Thomas’ kingdom in the here-and-now as a type of realized eschatological event. not for judgment day. the harvest cannot come at an appointed time. As was the case with asceticism and Christology. 41. however. it is difficult to imagine what this saying might mean outside of an eschatological context. Nevertheless.A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall Jewish and/or Christian groups. Jesus says. Thomas 57 (wheat and weeds) selects between the fit and the unfit in the same manner in which the parable is presented in Matthew 13:24-30. Furthermore. maturity and readiness.” Similarly. 36 Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall | http://www. As with other seemingly dualistic sayings in the text. In Thomas 21. except perhaps that some people will enter the kingdom and some will not. few are specific enough to be called eschatological. monistic kingdom. a few appear much more eschatologically driven. the person came along with a sickle and harvested it. 57. but instead at a different time for each individual. This interpretation possibly stretches the metaphor of the harvest a bit too far. but for natural. in Thomas 57 and 73.jeffcrandall. Outside of the context of the New Testament. instead. although when considered in the context of the New Testament gospels.

dating the text in the fourth century. Early estimates were conservative. which have been 37 Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall | http://www. and selected sayings found both in the New Testament and in Thomas. Thomas also has parallels to material in all four of the canonized gospels.jeffcrandall. In all.com . Thomas preserves many of these parallel sayings in short.A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall Section 4: Thomas and the New Testament I developed section four to highlight the relationship between Thomas and the New Testament gospels. Perhaps not surprisingly. the dating of the text has moved further and further into the past. For this section. but does not significantly contribute to Thomas’ overall theology. This debate over Thomas’ dependence or independence accounts for much of the scholarship devoted to Thomas. I prepared pages on the scholarly reconstruction of the Q Gospel. however. however. This parallel material accounts for a significant number of Thomas’ sayings. Henri-Charles Puech’s realization that Hunt and Grenfell’s Oxyrhynchus Papyri. and non-apocalyptic forms that have led some scholars to consider the possibility that Thomas preserves an oral tradition that is independent of Q and the New Te stament gospels. the work of the Jesus Seminar in regard to Thomas. In fact. nonChristianized. Over the past fifty years. over 50% of Thomas is found in parallel sayings from the New Testament. The following is a breakdown of Thomas’ relationship to the New Testament gospels found in John Dominic Crossan’s book The Birth of Christianity : Discovering What Happened in the Years Immediately After the Execution of Jesus: Out of 132 units in Thomas 28% (37 sayings) parallels with Q 37% (37/101 sayings) of Q parallels with Thomas 12% (16 sayings) parallels with special Matthew 7% (9 sayings) parallels with Specia l Luke 9% (12 sayings) parallels with John 12% (16 sayings) parallels with Mark 9% (11 sayings) parallels with Q-Mark14 It is this multi-faceted relationship that leads some scholars to argue for Thomas’ complete dependence upon the canonized New Testament as a source for its parallel material. Thomas and Q have more parallel sayings than Thomas and any other text in the Jesus tradition.

” I created handouts comparing several parallel sayings. greatly problematized estimates for Thomas’ composition. The existence of these new parables has excited many scholars and lends support to the independence of other sayings in Thomas.. because one first has to create a profile of the historical Jesus before one can make decisions about what he may or may not have said.E.” 16 which would make parts of Thomas contemporaneous with the writings of Paul. however. And in Thomas 98.jeffcrandall. were related to the Coptic Gospel of Thomas. there is a growing number of scholars who argue that at least some of the material in Thomas pre-dates our existing gospels. Regardless. the members of the Jesus Seminar argue that “an earlier edition [of Thomas] may have originated as early as 50-60 C. in fact. the 38 Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall | http://www. In general.E. Jesus tells his followers a parable in which he compares the kingdom to a woman who carries a jar of meal and does not notice that she has spilled the meal along the road until she reaches home. the earliest extant writings of Christianity. In Thomas 97. It is harder to conclude which sayings are.” another text found with Thomas in the Nag Hammadi Library. Jesus compares the kingdom to an assassin who puts “someone powerful to death” after practicing his attack beforehand. Having access to several versions of the same saying allows for deep comparisons and discussions of redactive traits. however.A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall dated to around 180 C.. As a part of the section on “Thomas and the New Testament. Thomas 97 and 98 are unquestionably independent and in a parabolic form that was not repeated in the Jesus tradition outside the New Testament and the “Apocryphon of James. closer to the historical Jesus than the others.com . These early daters believe that Thomas preserves the most primitive versions of several parallel sayings and argue that Thomas presents two new parables (Thomas 97 and 98) that are quite possibly authentic sayings of the historical Jesus. 15 It is now well accepted that the writing of Thomas was finalized somewhere between 100 CE and 200 CE. The intent of these handouts was to explore the trajectory of editing in the parables. The dating debate is far from concluded and it is unlikely that a significant scholarly majority will emerge on this matter in the near future. In fact.

which gives Thomas the appearance of preserving the oldest and most unadulterated versions of a handful of sayings. sayings i n Thomas related to Gnosticism. and a short section comparing Thomas and two potentially related texts from the Nag Hammadi Library. Thomas’ sayings present the spuriousness of the social human condition and our need to restore our “natural” condition or first. there is also a tendency toward additional critical commentary in the New Testament as sayings pass from Mark to Matthew and Luke. Kingdom. Section 5: Thomas. In Thomas’ unraveled exegesis. therefore. the “place” or condition of our return. the process by which we can return to the primordial authenticity of the first creation story is not clearly outlined. allegorical exegesis of the Genesis creation stories that we have to reconstruct in order to successfully interpret the text. 39 Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall | http://www. scholarly commentary on Thomas and Gnosticism. In fact. It seems likely that Thomas presents an unraveled. primordial state of being. which can be quite different from the imagined accounts of the Genesis creation stories we keep in our heads.jeffcrandall. there is no commentary on the meaning of the sayings. In general.com . The ultimate reality cannot be brought into the realm of meaning and. however. remains outside of categorization. Hellenized Judaism. For example. and Gnosticism Section five of the Study Guide contains pages on the creation stories from Genesis. Thomas never fully brings the concept of the ultimate—the kingdom—fully into the discrete realm of meaning. the process by which one can achieve this return remains outside the text. This evasive presentation of kingdom—our authentic state of being in the first creation story—is consistent with other monistic texts. Instead. I included the section on Genesis to refresh students on the actual accounts of creation in Genesis. In Thomas.A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall different texts carry the telltale marks of their respective editors and sayings tend to be edited in the general theological direction of the gospel as a whole. sayings that have eschatological overtones in Matthew and Luke are often merely enigmatic or cast as instructions for personal revelation in Thomas. an overview of Gnosticism.

com . and yet they will insist that the document comes from the same period of historic al theology. because they 40 Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall | http://www.A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall consequently. Richard Valantasis provides a passage representative of the current scholarly trend away from Thomas’ Gnostic proclivities: The scholars who want to identify the theology of Thomas as “gnostic. .jeffcrandall. . The remainder of Section 5 covers Thomas and Gnosticism. the depth of the Gnostic influence on the text is unclear. . 17 It is now widely agreed that Thomas does not articulate a full-blown Gnostic theology. that the Gospel of Thomas does not contain any of the known systems or theologies of the gnostic writers . a deep topic that could really stand to be a course of its own.”18 The pages in the study guide that compare Thomas to other texts in the Nag Hammadi Library are particularly instructive. The majority of scholars appear to agree that even though Thomas was discovered in a library of predominantly Gnostic texts. The section provides a brief overview and definition of Gnosticism. Therefore.” begin with the assumption of its gnostic nature and then proceed to justify that characterization through establishing parallels with the theology and mythology of later and fully developed gnosticism. in itself it stands on the borders between Catholic and Gnostic Christianity. In his book The Gospel of Thomas. however. . Crossan argues that the text is more “concerned with asceticism than gnosticism and while such a document could easily be read within gnosticism or even drawn more and more deeply into its sphere. kingdom appears to be purposefully kept in the background for those readers who can discover the meaning of these hidden sayings of Jesus (Prologue and Thomas 1). . it must remain in the realm of intuition and first-hand experience. however. Almost every one of these scholars acknowledges. The subsequent pages highlight scholarly opinions about Thomas’ relationship to Gnosticism and Jewish wisdom speculation. because it is likely that Thomas passed through Gnostic redactors on its way to its final version. Thomas itself does not show deep affinities with any of the known Gnostic schools.. which is cursory and only suffices to cover a few general themes that recur in the various Gnostic schools. The fact that the Genesis material remains a sub-text of Thomas and is not clearly identified helps to open up the possibility of kingdom to the reader without reifying it.

For the purposes of the course. I believed that more explicit explanation was required. the Hermetic Corpus and several secondary texts on Buddhism.com . I also studied the Bhagavad Gita (Hindu). I have included a short comparative paper. Taoism.jeffcrandall. In preparing this section. I decided to distill this information into a general section on Monism. the Tao te Ching and the Chuang Tzu —the two primary texts of philosophical Taoism. it seems unlikely that Thomas’ theology is Gnostic. because monistic theology is unfamiliar to most students and it is philosophically esoteric. the Dhammapada (Buddhist). but instead that Gnostic redactors added a handful Gnostic concepts and symbols to an existing text that grew out of a more primitive tradition. however. and a cosmic hierarchy that are simply not present in Thomas. Section 6: Monism in Thomas The section on Monism in Thomas grew out of extensive thematic parallels I noted in Thomas and two Taoist philosophical texts. good 41 Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall | http://www. Consequently. because it is important to consider whether pairs such as earth and heaven. I also included a brief section on the dualistic pairs used in Thomas. and Monism.” as an appendix to this paper to highlight my conclusions about Thomas’ relationship to Taoist Monism. well developed asceticism. Instead of using my comparisons with the Taoist texts for the study guide. I decided to include information from articles and books related to monistic mysticism. and James Hesig. In addition. I chose to be more explicit about my conclusions in this area. “The Way of the Kingdom: A Taoist Reading of the Gospel of Thomas . The pages of the study guide entitled “Prominent Features of Monistic Religions” outline a series of attributes consistent in a variety of monistic religious traditions and the section entitled “Prominent Monistic Features in Thomas” details how Thomas exhibits these attributes.A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall highlight the Gnostic texts’ complex Christology. Consequently. the area covering specific monistic sayings contains brief interpretations of selected sayings. John Sahadat. including the work of Ken Wilber.

The glossary I compiled actually served as the genesis of this project and I completed the bulk of it before arranging and compiling the other material in the study guide. I decided to include the appendices on enigmatic symbolism in Thomas and the Greek and Coptic terms at the request of students in my course. however. and early Christianity. and monistic religious texts. Process Paper Conclusion The Gospel of Thomas Study Guide proved to be a powerful tool for instructing students in the nuances of Thomas’ theology and in the variety of themes presented in Gnostic. and symbols used in the guide and to provide supplemental information to assist in the study of Thomas.com . Students were engaged by the material and used the study guide in class as we went over each section. After completing the Compleat Scholar course. I removed some of this material from each section so that the remaining material would be clearer and easier to 42 Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall | http://www. such as the “five trees in paradise. abbreviations. and light and dark. I evaluated the various areas I covered in the course and realized that the study guide was overly complex and that some of the scholarly arguments were unnecessary for students who do not wish to study archaeological and historical context issues. I also developed much of the annotated bibliography in an independent study for Dr.A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall and evil. Jewish.jeffcrandall. Gnosticism. Monism. Consequently. are fundamentally opposed or collapsible within a larger monistic theology. Christian. Study Guide Appendices I included several appendices in the curriculum to help clear up terminology.” and alternate translations of the Greek and Coptic terms used in the two extant versions of Thomas. many of whom were quite interested in particular symbols used in Thomas. Stephen Daniel before completing the additional sections.

the course flowed smoothly and the entire class was engaged.com . I decided to significantly shorten the sections on Gnosticism and Monism when I revised the study guide.A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall follow. nevertheless. clearly engaged the students. therefore. Thomas itself is an obscure gospel. scholarship on Thomas. I regarded the student’s confusion as a sign of fatigue as much as a sign of over-complexity on my part. and the attributes of neighboring religious traditions. I was not certain how to respond to the difficulties some students had understanding Thomas’ theology and the complexity of the ideas presented in the study guide. The monist section. Because the presentation on Gnosticism came during the fifth week of the course and I had already presented large amounts of new information to them. because of their fatigue and confusion. students had a harder time grasping my general overview of Gnosticism than they did other material that seemed more philosophically complex. the introduction. it is difficult to present Thomas’ theology without covering this crucial theology. the themes sections. Moreover. In general. Neverthele ss. because Thomas exhibits so many monistic theological principles.jeffcrandall. it appears that it is purposefully obscure (Prologue and 43 Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall | http://www. I lectured on current New Testament scholarship. I also included some of this information in the study guide. most of the students were also highly interested in the historical and religious implications of the text and. in fact. which I presented during the sixth week of the course. when we remained close to the text of Thomas. However. I significantly shortened this material and presented only the highlights in the revised study guide. Overall. these are important subjects to broach in any serious study of the Gospel of Thomas. therefore. and the Thomas and the New Testament section were the easiest to teach to my Compleat Scholar students. The fact that Thomas was found with so many Gnostic texts and clearly bears the marks of Gnosticism makes it difficult to ignore this major area. After the course. but I felt very rushed covering it (as I did Gnosticism) and. Both Gnosticism and Monism are esoteric philosophical subjects that require a great deal of time and attention to unfold.

I wrote Stevan Davies. His 44 Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall | http://www. there are so many opposing scholarly opinions that a consensus in any area is hard to find. Most scholars also believe that the text was the product of an incipient Gnostic or ascetical sect. I identified it as theologically monistic rather than ascetical. one cannot presume that non-professionals would be able to readily tie all of Thomas’ thematic strings together. I decided to dispose of some of it. traditionally Christian or Gnostic. the Gospel of Thomas Study Guide is a useful research tool that I hope will benefit students and scholars who wish to penetrate the words of this historically important and theologically surprising gospel. in my opinion. I struggled with the possibility of excising this sort of scholarly ambiguity from the study guide and. such as liberal and conservative debates about Thomas’ date of composition.jeffcrandall.com . My compromise was to clarify scholarly debates where I could and to drop a few contentious areas. it struck me as odd that most scholars do not regard Thomas’ theology as monistic. and dualistic. my revised study guide is much more streamlined and focuses more intently on Thomas’ theology and less on historical and archaeological scholarship than my original study guide. world negating. In fact. Thomas’ Theology: My Final Thoughts When I first read the Gospel of Thomas. Overall. Because of my surprise that so many scholars believe Thomas to be an ascetical text. Many scholars have poured over its pages and yet. when I investigated what other scholars were saying about Thomas. Consequently. about the possibility of monism in Thomas.A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall Thomas 1). Thus. few have begun to complete the puzzle Thomas presents the reader. in the end. a prominent scholar in the field. the revised study guide is also more suited for a general audience. If scholars have so many difficulties with this text. I decided to that it was more important to retain the heart of Thomas’ theology and its connections to related religious traditions than to lose students in the intricacies of historical debates and form criticism. As a result. And even if one of these scholars might be “right” about Thomas’ theology. Most scholars regard the gospel as deeply ascetical.

which may also mean that he is unfamiliar with the theology of monistic religions. He is also philosophically opaque. According to most New Testament scholars. even though Thomas’ Jesus does 45 Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall | http://www. Instead. except that the apparent allegorical exegesis of Genesis is more likely the product of Hellenized Jews (e. Thomas’ Jesus is a social revolutionary who wishes to reform Judaism in a manner similar to the Jesus of the New Testament. Thomas’ Jesus focuses on the individual’s role in his own salvation regardless of changes that may occur in the society as a whole.com . Nevertheless. It turns out that Davies’ interpretations of the text have assisted me greatly in my study of Thomas. Nor does Thomas’ Jesus easily merge with the modern portrait of Jesus as a social revolutionary igniting the underclass. his unique divine nature.A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall reply was enlightening. Thus. while the Gnostic -Christians believed the world to be the evil creation of a demiurge who emanated from a transcendent. It is fairly clear that Thomas was used at some point by both Orthodox Christians and Gnostic -Christians and that Thomas bears the marks of these relationships. Clearly. it is clear that the peasant revolutionary is.. Thomas simply does not fit into the frame we have created for either of these religious traditions. and certainly not the miracle -making man of the people we see in the New Testament. it is unclear what role HellenizedJudaism plays in the text. and the coming of a new world. such as Taoism and Buddhism. This lack of familiarity may help to explain why Davies and other New Testament scholars have not come to the conclusion that Thomas’ theology is monistic. inaccessible even to his followers. yet he is unfamiliar with monism. Thomas’ Jesus has helped New Testament scholars assemble our latest portrait of the historical Jesus. both Christians and Gnostic -Christians were intractably dualistic: traditional Christians fixated on Jesus’ resurrection. hidden father.g. he wanted to know what I meant by monism.jeffcrandall. present in Thomas. The difficulty with Thomas’ monism is that it does not fit very nicely into the known history of the Near East during the period in which Thomas was likely written. But Thomas’ Jesus is not motivated by social reform. nor is he an evangelist advocating a worldwide religious crusade. Philo of Alexandria) than any other group. to some degree. however.

109) and when we recognize that we are “all” (Thomas 77). Thomas’ Jesus advocate s a policy of personal resistance. 2. and suffering (Thomas 1. the life philosophy presented in the gospel is also attainable for the few who can personally come to terms its meaning. 72). lawless truth of our primordial human condition. Only when we can fully open ourselves to the unmediated openness of the kingdom can we live outside of strife. opposition. John Dominic Crossan argues that Thomas has at least two strata —one written in the 50s C. then we become whole (Thomas 61. Thomas’ Jesus presents a message that is surprisingly consistent given the seeming randomness of the gospel’s sayings. To Crossan and others who support an early compositional date.A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall not fully resemble an evangelistic.E. he asks us to turn our backs on the false promises of society and to open our minds to the amoral. 106.com . the relegate the apparently ascetical material to a later date in the same manner that 46 Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall | http://www. ascetical material seems foreign to the most consistent profile they have developed for the historical Jesus. Even though Thomas has made a large impact on New Testament studies over the past fifty years. the parts of the gospel that are not closely related to the New Testament are most often regarded as secondary material. While this is an appropriate use for Thomas. 22. Consequently. And like the philosophies of other monistic religions. Rather than overthrowing social hierarchy. 19 While editorial stratification seems likely in the text. Thomas has primarily been used by scholars to bolster arguments for a non-apocalyptic Jesus who is primarily interested in spiritually redeeming an underclass that is oppressed by unfair religious and social hierarchies. Thus far. In The Historical Jesus. Cynic philosopher. it seems that the kind of division proposed by Crossan is motivated by the perception that many of Thomas’ sayings are ascetical. there remains an expansive gulf between the impact Thomas should have on the study of Christian origins and the impact Thomas has really achieved. Rather.jeffcrandall. in Jerusalem under James’ authority and another written in the 60s or 70s in Syria under Thomas’ authority.

may have had monistic tenets that were popular in the first century C.com . In fact. However.E. wisdom speculation and personal salvation are really inseparable from monism). But one also cannot rule out the possibility that monist variants of Judaism existed in the first century C. Consequently. such as Alexandria. it is possible that a great deal of the material in Thomas precedes Jesus and the movement he spawned. there is no reason to believe that the monistic material is separate from the sayings that parallel the New Testament or that these monistic sayings were written in the late-first or second century C. it is not difficult to imagine that wisdom sayings might be attributed to another person at a later date. Jerusalem.E. if Thomas’ primary theology is monistic rather than ascetical. it was likely a place where a variety of cultures lived in close contact. What does seem likely is that some form of monism was combined with Jewish wisdom speculation and a Jesus-inspired religion of personal salvation (although in Thomas’. as in other monistic religions. monistic religions in the Near East at the time. in fact. Although much of this material bears 47 Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall | http://www. But wherever Thomas was written. were exposed to Buddhism or Taoism in a large cultural center.jeffcrandall.E.E. the date and place of composition is very much called into question. If Thomas is truly monistic rather than ascetical. or an unknown pantheistic religion.A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall they relegate the apocalyptic material from the canonized gospels to the period following the fall of Jerusalem to the Romans in the 70s C. which seems to be the case. pre-Socratic Greek philosophy. the compositional date for all of Thomas’ sayings is questionable. or that other local philosophies. The monism that appears to be present in Thomas seems much more consistent with Hellenized Jews than ascetical Syrians. Because there is evidence that this sort of intellectual activity was occurring in Alexandria during the century preceding Jesus. or Edessa.E. Hermeticism can be dated this early). such as Hermeticism (if. Because of the dearth of indigenous. The wisdom material and exegesis of Genesis may well have preceded Jesus rather than followed him. it is also probable that Jews and Christians in the first century C.

in fact. “The father’s kingdom is spread out upon the earth. “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field. In fact.A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall the marks of Hellenized Judaism. the kingdom of God is among you. in Matthew.” This concept of a precious hidden reality that is found by those who search for it is prevalent in Thomas and in several of Jesus’ canonical parables. For all we know. Jesus attacks Jewish notions of a general resurrection by telling his followers that God is the “God not of the dead but the living” (Matthew 22:32). both are consistent with Thomas’ intra-worldly focus. then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. and people do not see it.” Scholars refer to this sort of pronouncement realized eschatology. Both of these passages focus on the here-andnow and. “The kingdom of God is not coming with the things that can be observed. This passage from Luke strongly echoes Thomas 113. here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ For. ‘Look. In this p arable. as such. in which Jesus says. but it is a difficult saying in an apocalyptic text. How can one account for such sayings in texts that fairly consistently present an apocalyptically-minded messiah? There is a strong likelihood that these (and other similar sayings) are monistic sayings embedded in otherwise dualistic. Furthermore. because they focus on individual revelation in the living world rather than social transformation and the world to come. After all. 48 Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall | http://www. Matthew’s treasure parable (Matthew 13:44) alludes to a kingdom that one can individually discover and personally benefit from during one’s life. Jesus may have been a monist philosopher—inspired by a local or Eastern variant of monistic theology—who was misinterpreted as an apocalyptic messiah by many of his own followers who were looking for such a person. because it creates the need for a laborious explanation of a kingdom that is both manifest AND that will arrive at an undisclosed time in the future. which someone found and hid.” Sayings such as these seem improbable for a preacher of apocalyptic doom. in Luke 17:20-21. He also tells his followers that few people find “life” because of rigors of the journey (Matthew 7:13).jeffcrandall. nor will they say. Jesus says. the date and provenance of nearly every saying in Thomas is wide-open.com .

we are unfortunately dependent on a handful of texts whose intent is much more theologically than historically motivated. recognizing monism in Thomas might be a crucial key to developing a framework for Thomas’ historical priority over the New Testament gospels. Evidence of monism in the New Testament clearly provides more legitimacy an early compositional date for Thomas and for the possibility that Thomas may more closely reflect the philosophy of the historical Jesus than any other Christian text. “Independent” testimony from non-Christians. Yet. there is a possibility that Jesus was as Thomas presents him: A monistic sage who embraces life while rejecting social divisions.jeffcrandall. secondhand. a peasant philosopher who believes that we are born into the kingdom with everything we need. What does seem clear from both the New Testament and the apocryphal texts is that there was a great deal of confusion about the core philosophy of Jesus’ message even in the most primitive stages of Christianity. he probably presented a coherent philosophy to his followers that was altered as it was transmitted through time and space. Our understanding of Christian origins is really quite tentative. Consequently.A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall apocalyptically motivated gospels. because the parallel material tends to be monistic in Thomas and dualistic (apocalyptic) in the New Testament. For all that has been written about the historical Jesus and his followers. and not particularly reliable. This confusion may reflect the complex mind of an enigmatic man or it may reflect the goals of the various people who were intrigued by Jesus’ words or his legend. 49 Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall | http://www. the kingdom will eternally provide for us and sustain us. such as Josephus. and a teacher who believes that if we can live without fear and in harmony with the authentic reality of our existence. Whether or not Jesus’ core message was monistic or dualistic is difficult to discern. is scant.com . It seems most likely that if Jesus existed. and constraints. luxuries.

they do make abundantly clear the theological and philosophical diversity of early Christian groups. One liberating feature of The Gospel of Thomas is the absence of a corresponding interpretive tradition. 20 This quote. Consequently. the unavailability of authorial information and a detailed cultural context 50 Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall | http://www. nicely frames the comparative reading I will present through the course of this paper. the 1945 discovery of The Gospel of Thomas and other early Gnostic -Christian manuscripts tremendously weakens the rigidity of their “eastern” and “western” cultural divides. Among other things. Furthermore. Elements of Christian life and thought such as prayer.jeffcrandall. Thomas’ monism suggests the absence of a “personal creator-deity” and promotes. an “intraworldly” mysticism rather than one based on an unchanging transcendent reality. redemption and salvation cannot be transposed into the life and thought of philosophical Taoism without the near dissolution of their original meanings. Philosophical Taoism does not admit of a personal creator-deity who is source of life and object of devotion.A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall Appendix A: The Gospel of Thomas and Taoist Monism The Way of the Kingdom: A Taoist Reading of the Gospel of Thomas The fact that Christianity and Taoism are not the same—are ultimately irreducible to each other—is undeniable. which I excerpted from the recently published Tao of Jesus. these objections should not constitute insurmountable obstacles for this comparative reading. While these archeological discoveries do not erase the timeworn practices of mainstream Christianity. The Gospel of Thomas consistently presents a monistic perspective. redemption. While I generally agree with the authors’ conclusions regarding the cultural differences between Chinese Taoism and Pauline Christianity.com . grace. The Gospel of Thomas does not highlight any of the aforementioned Christian practices—prayer. or salvation. whereas Taoism holds to an ‘intraworldly’ mysticism that aims to see this one and only existing world in a new way. Christian mystical experience presupposes an immutable transcendent reality and a contingent but real world. sin. like Taoism. Certainly. grace. sin. In contrast to the typically dualistic perspectives found in the canonized gospels.

A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall provides significant roadblocks for historians and historically minded Christians. Thus. In this paper.21 This short sayin g. it fits well into Thomas’ consistent focus on singularity and pervasiveness. this project is quite distinct from historical. Judea. even though the Coptic version rearranges and rewords this older material.jeffcrandall. Lift up the stone. when one reads it in the context of the full Coptic manuscript. I will compare the words of Thomas’ Jesus with passages from two important Taoist philosophical traditio ns—the Lao Tzu (Tao-te-ching ) and the Chuang Tzu. sociological or anthropological readings. Split the piece of wood and I am there. although I will primarily focus on the latter. Consequently.E. I say. no matter how trivial. no one reading of any of these ancient texts would suffice. this comparative reading will focus on widespread textual similarities rather than attempt to prove the cultural and historical confluence of ancient China and first century C. believed to be a fragment of a Greek manuscript of The Gospel of Thomas.E. social and cultural contexts can just as readily impede interpretation by constructing arbitrary or politically motivated boundaries. 22 The POxy1 fragment can be interpreted in the following manner: 1) Being with “one” corresponds to being with God and 2) Being with one/God al so corresponds to being in all places and in all things. 350 C. Although this fragment could be interpreted differently. Dated around 200 C. and you will find me there. and where there is only [one]. I will continually interpret Thomas’ Jesus against a Taoist framework to draw out Thomas’ consistently monistic themes. Consequently. instead. I am with that one. Throughout the paper.. this fragment (called POxy1) suggests that the later Coptic translation of Thomas (ca. 51 Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall | http://www.com . The Monistic Universe: Moving from Categories to Completion Where there are [three.) does not implant a monistic worldview into an earlier dualistic framework. was published in 1897.E. despite the abundance or dearth of circumstantial evidence. they are without] God. I consider it a comparative literary reading strongly motivated by personal interests. however.

the Great Clod.. Lao Tzu’s and Chuang Tzu’s liberal use of Tao and other representative metaphors (e. In the second verse. Hold on to the Way of the present— To manage the things of the present. formless! It cannot be named. should not be regarded as a confusion of principles.jeffcrandall. because in philosophical Taoism. Lao Tzu introduces Tao (the Way). the ultimate and one’s participation in it are equivalent. Chuang Tzu describes it as an ultimate break with categorical thinking in which all difference comes to be regarded as sameness. And nothing smaller below it. And to know the ancient beginning. at times. and it belongs completely to the always of the present. however. Boundless. In the Tao-te-ching (Chapter 14). and unnamable. Consequently. . no distinctions need to be made between them. the term appears to represent many aspects and features of Taoist philosophy. Lao Tzu writes: “One”—there is nothing more encompassing above it.23 In this passage. While Tao is never explicitly defined in Taoist texts. formless. In fact. at others. etc.A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall The concept of a pervasive singularity is the cornerstone of philosophical Taoism. cannot be properly considered a thing. Additionally. And returns to the state of no-thing.com . In one of his more complete articulations of Tao. Consequently. He writes: 52 Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall | http://www.) may be motivated by a willfulness to keep Tao just out of reach—familiar enough to provoke contemplation. Lao Tzu establishes the ultimate “One” as an all-encompassing singularity that. .g. . This multiplicity of contexts. it refers to one’s free and natural participation in the ultimate. Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu use the term liberally in various poetic and anecdotal contexts. yet too variable to associate with any one metaphor. it refers to the ultimate itself while. “One” is simultaneously the smallest and the most encompassing reality. the Field of the Broad and Boundless. the Not-Even-Anything Village. besides being boundless. This is called the beginning of the thread of the Way.

their completeness is their impairment.A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall Whether you point to a little stalk or a great pillar. a female disciple who feeds Jesus and allows him to stay with her. have come up on my couch and eaten from my table?” Jesus said to her. This is called the Way. if he is undivided. and the ten thousand things are one with me.e.e. Because 53 Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall | http://www. I was given some of the things of my father. Jesus focuses on the divided and undivided in a manner not unlike Chuang Tzu. the ten thousand things) belong to each other in the absence of reflective thought. but all things (i.” Jesus said to her.”26 In this dialog. become valueless (i. . “I am your disciple. the dualistic coupling of Heaven and earth) inevitably locked in a synergistic relationship with awareness..com . .”25 Not only is difference (i. reflective thought itself alienates human beings from the sameness of Tao.e. . . Consequently. and reflective thought arrive in the world together. he will be filled with darkness. the Way makes them all into one. For Jesus. In fact. of the same stuff).. “Who are you. Chuang Tzu not only argues that all difference should be regarded as sameness. but relegates all to the constant.. So he has no use [for categories].” Salome said. . presumably to share his teaching. Several key passages from Thomas echo this Taoist theme. “I am he who exists from the Undivided. the Undivided is equated with the father. sameness. but all are made into one again. 24 The role of the man of far-reaching vision is to orient his mind such that all things. no matter how unique. the world of human beings in language) as something that comes into being with each of us over and against the sameness of Tao. but he also considers the entire world of difference (i. “Therefore I say. Chuang Tzu argues that difference. He writes. but if he is divided. he will be filled with light. “Heaven and earth were born at the same time I was. Their dividedness is their completeness. one’s perception of the monistic whole is dependent upon one’s ability to conceptually move beyond the world of categorical discriminations.e..jeffcrandall. Only the man of far-reaching vision knows how to make them into one. which again is equated to the One. . Thus. a leper or the beautiful Hsishih. things ribald and shady or things grotesque and strange. as though from the One. A section of their conversation proceeds as follows: Salome said. man. Jesus engages in a dialog with Salome. that you. In Thomas 61. No thing is either complete or impaired.

the Taoist sage’s association with light symbolizes his escape from the limitations of a dualistic perspective.com .e.”27 Because of these oppositions. yet these oppositions always appear to refer to attitudinal choices one makes regarding one’s relationship with the all-encompassing whole (which is always aligned with light).A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall he is given some of the things of his father (i. It is I who am the All. Chuang Tzu refers to this fusion as “the hinge of the Way. and unto me did the All extend. This observation resonates with Chuang Tzu’s description of the “man of far reaching vision.. Jesus explains to his disciples: 54 Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall | http://www. He writes. In Thomas 22. Jesus presents two possible responses: 1) A person may ignore the things of the father and remain divided (i. Jesus says. Thomas maintains a provisional dualism that appears to resolve when one participates in the Undivided. impaired and in the dark) or 2) A person may pursue a reunion with the Undivided and become filled with light.” He writes. Several passages in Thomas suggest that one’s reunion with the Undivided occurs when one readjusts one’s psychological perspective. or the light.”30 Jesus’ description of the psychological adjustments necessary for entrance to the Kingdom is quite similar.jeffcrandall. Therefore the sage does not proceed in such a way. it can respond endlessly. the All. but illuminates all in the light of Heaven. The Taoists maintain a similar provisional dualism by separating Heaven and earth.. “A state in which “this” and “that” no longer find their opposites is called the hinge of the Way. From me did the All come forth. “Where there is recognition of right there must be recognition of wrong. where there is recognition of wrong there must be recognition of right. Thomas is filled with dualistic references similar to these light/dark and divided/Undivided oppositions. In Thomas 77.e.” One’s change of perspective depends on one’s ability to mentally collapse opposites until the “this” and the “that” cannot be found. elements of the Undivided). “It is I who am the light which is above them all.”29 As in Thomas. Chuang Tzu even evokes this same light/dark opposition in a description of the sage’s liberation from dualism.28 In fact. the One. When the hinge is fitted into the socket.

however. one begins to understand that the Kingdom is universally distributed. “fashion . a likeness in place of a likeness. . and it is outside of you. Moreover. as in POxy1 (“Lift up the stone. and a hand in place of a hand. however. and the above like the below. “The Kingdom is inside of you. Consequently. 33 The final lines of Thomas 22 are cryptic. then you will enter the Kingdom. the possibility of one’s entrance into the Kingdom revolves around a necessary conceptual collapse of the “this” and the “that.” it is difficult to construct a plausible context for what he could possibly mean here. the Kingdom cannot be regarded as existing in a particular locale or as being exclusively personal.” Furthermore.com . the mediating system of meaningful relationships is removed) and. and you will realize that it is you who are the sons of the living Father. 31 None of the remaining 113 sayings found in Thomas contradict a reading of this passage that highlights the importance of one’s ability to conceptually collapse opposites before entering the Kingdom. and when you make the inside like the outside and the outside like the inside. When opposites are no longer 55 Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall | http://www. When you come to know yourselves.A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall When you make the two one. merge into the whole without becoming part of a flat and characterless background..”). you dwell in poverty and it is you who are that poverty. so that the male not be male nor the female female. when one’s conceptual metamorphosis is completed. and when you make the male and the female one and the same.” Consequently.e. When Jesus says. But if you will not know yourselves. and you will find me there. and they may suggest a deeper level of understanding beyond the mere collapsing of oppositions. Jesus again points out the necessity of rethinking opposites when he announces in Thomas 3.jeffcrandall. then you will become known. . Chuang Tzu. presents a similar nuance when he asserts that “the hinge of the Way” occurs when the “this” and the “that” “no longer find their opposites. when you fashion eyes in place of an eye. and a likeness in place of a likeness. this phrase suggests that instead of completely collapsing into no-thingness.”32 As in the earlier passage. the “this” and the “that” become freed from their belonging relationship to their opposites (i. and a foot in place of a foot. thus.

however. within this frame. One’s ability to grasp the whole continually slips away at the very moment of thoughtful reflection. dualism collapses. like Taoism. Thomas’ monism. If this is the case. it suggests that the sum total of mutual relationships within the varied yet conceptually indeterminate are equivalent to the whole itself. are more tangible (perhaps to the ir detriment) than an ultimate that transcends the conceptual and yet thoroughly encompasses everything that is (including the conceptual). “Recognize what is in your sight. An understanding of monism is something that is always on the tip of one’s tongue. When Jesus instructs his disciples to “fashion a hand in place of a hand. more traditional conceptions of intervening and transcendent God(s).” he may be referring to one’s potentially undivided and undetermined relationship with the things of the world. Certainly. and a foot in place of a foot. And. the experience itself remains outside of the text. For there is nothing hidden which will not become manifest.com . The monistic whole is something one personally intuits—and even these moments are difficult for the sage to sustain. As crazy as it may seem. yet never quite utterable.jeffcrandall. because of the atextuality of the experience. Kingdom/Tao: the ever appearing/disappearing presence Jesus said. rather.A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall found. even if they are meant to be imageless and unspoken. While the conception of a monistic ultimate is deeply creative. the monistic ultimate also remains outside of the text. which suggests a monistic frame. It is in this sense that Jesus’ Kingdom is simultaneously 56 Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall | http://www. does not deny variation within the material world. this idea can be explained and even understood to some degree. yet it remains truly imageless in its utter comprehensiveness.”34 One of the primary mysteries of monistic philosophies is how such a manifest reality can hide itself right under our noses. these imaginings can only provide entry points and conceptual paths that help to orient one’s mind toward a holistic experience. a variety of distinguishable “things” may remain in play. however. and that which is hidden from you will become plain to you.

visual absence. However. everything and nothing. Thomas’ Jesus focuses on a Kingdom that is fully present.”35 Clearly. Before Heaven and earth existed it was there.A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall hidden and in sight. “It will not come by waiting for it. and yet you cannot call it lofty. yet Tao cannot be received by the student. consequently. and yet you cannot call it old. it is earlier than the earliest time. He tells them that the Kingdom is inside of them and outside of them. As an 57 Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall | http://www. it gave birth to Heaven and to earth. beyond the highest point. In one of his more philosophical descriptions of Tao. abundant and present yet hidden. over here and over there. This is how Jesus expresses the Kingdom to his disciples in Thomas 113: His disciples said to him.e. Therefore. the Kingdom of the Father is spread out upon the earth. It exists beyond the highest point..com .’ Rather. It will not be a matter of saying ‘Here it is’ or ‘There it is. firm from ancient times. You can hand it down but you cannot receive it. He writes: The Way has its reality and its signs but is without action or form. “When will the Kingdom come?” Jesus said. He believes that our minds and spirits are generally darkened by conflict and. a conceptualized reduction of Tao). yet one need not be aware of anything but the mere appearances of the whole in its abundance of parts. Tao is “something” that can be taught (i. 36 Chuang Tzu describes Tao on many levels in this passage. Jesus attempts to free his disciples from their fixation on familiar modes of thinking about the world by continually exposing them to paradoxes. and men do not see it. It is its own source. For the teacher.jeffcrandall. Chuang Tzu describes the interplay between Tao’s many features. timelessness. everywhere and nowhere. yet unseen by most. It gave spirituality to the spirits and to God. The Kingdom is a reality in which one participates every single day. it exists beneath the limit of the six directions. one still cannot see it. even after one gets it. it exists before Heaven and earth. and beneath the limit of the six directions. you can get it but you cannot see it. because it exists nowhere in particular. the student must “get it” on his own. and conceptual transcendence. Tao is uncontextualized. we are unable to conceive of all difference as belonging together in a unified whole. and yet you cannot say it has been there for long. its own root. including its all-encompassing presence.

Tao is also the source of all that is. he. becomes the All. and yet it does not know where the supply comes from. this description resonates with Jesus’ self-description in Thomas 77 in which he proclaims. with the Reservoir of Heaven and the Shaded Light. in particular. it also hides itself in spite of its presence. Pour into it and it is never full. because Jesus belongs to the All. Who can understand discriminations that are not spoken. exhibit the absolute comprehensiveness of these monistic conceptions. he may be called the Reservoir of Heaven. Similarly. It is I who am the All. etc.”37 These two passages.com . From me did the All come forth. and unto me did the All extend. Jesus also assumes the All’s complete significance. Tao is never full. “It is I who am the light which is above them all. because the conceptual distance between his ego and the singularity has been eliminated. dip from it and it never runs dry. This is called the Shaded Light. In Thomas 77. in fact. In an abstract sense. the Way that is not a way? If he can understand this. it gives rise to all form and 58 Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall | http://www.38 In this passage. Chuang Tzu describes this transformation as becoming the “Reservoir of Heaven.A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall unseen and unspeakable reality. When the sage reaches completion. Chuang Tzu describes the sage who moves beyond understanding to completion. He writes: Understanding stops when it has reached what it does not understand.. Each of these descriptions can be read as metaphorical faces of Tao. including the spirituality of the spirits and God and the birth of Heaven and earth. Thus. timeless singularity that eternally fuels the world of difference. it is the ever-present. when one participates in the formless reality of Tao. one becomes Tao.” a source that remains conceptually unaware of itself. and it never runs dry. Chuang Tzu conflates the one who understands unspoken discriminations. there is no longer any difference between the sage and Tao—they have become one. Using the metaphor of the Reservoir of Heaven.jeffcrandall. because he is never full and can never be emptied. The Reservoir in this passage serves as one of the most salient metaphors for Tao. such that it continually ushers forth the world in which we come into being and pass out of being. While Tao itself is formless and devoid of meaning. such that it remains undecided or indiscriminate. Moreover.

Chuang Tzu calls the sage the Shaded Light. Thomas’ Jesus uses descriptive images that are similar to Chuang Tzu’s metaphor of the Shaded Light. Consequently. For me.A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall meaning and. and all that may be and all that may not be. is essentially creative. which makes apparent the things one sees. In Thomas 83. . meditative state. the “circumstantial” evidence suggests that these passages play on this same paradox. 40 59 Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall | http://www. because Tao can never be brought fully into presence despite the fact that its presence is everywhere. this interplay evokes a connection with these texts’ prevalent descriptions of a manifest reality that remains conceptually “unseen. those who discriminate fail to see. but his image will remain concealed by his light. [I say]. but the light in them remains concealed in the image of the light of the Father.” In fact. inevitably renders impossible one’s imagining of its source. . So I say. all that has been and all that has not been. Tao is the source of all that is and all that is not. Clearly. little understanding The Way has never known any boundaries. those who discriminate fail to discriminate. it may refer to one’s inability to bring the source of the light fully into presence.jeffcrandall.com . He will become manifest. those who divide fail to divide. “The images are manifest to man. possibly. the interplay between light and concealment in each of these passages is curious. because the light itself. . All of these possibilities are what Chuang Tzu means by the creativity and completion of Tao. this manifest reality may more accurately be described as a self-effacing reality—a presence that hides itself in its self-presentation. you ask? The sage embraces things. So. one can see the parts that suggest the whole. In this sense. In other words. What does this mean. yet one can only bring the whole (the Father) to an adequate sense of completion through a more intuitive or. Ordinary men discriminate among them and parade their discriminations before others. Great understanding vs. as such. While recognizing that this interpretation is somewhat less than conclusive. the sage never knows the source of life’s creativity.”39 While this saying is very enigmatic. Jesus says.

“Let your mind wander in simplicity. Chuang Tzu often juxtaposes those who divide and discriminate with those who embrace and unite. With everything they meet they become entangled. In this way. He writes: Great understanding is broad and unhurried.. In sleep. . Therefore. Moreover. their great fears are stunned and overwhelming. He argues that we should drop all pretense of wisdom and instead use emptiness as a mirror to reflect all that is.com .” Chuang Tzu evokes the words of Jesus when Jesus proclaims to Salome that the undivided will be filled with light and the divided will be filled with darkness. As in the passage above. In effect. each text argues that our relationship with the ultimate determines our personal power and effectiveness. . He writes. as though sealed with seals—such are the excesses of their old age. . little understanding is cramped and busy. profess wisdom or undertake projects. create schemes.A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall Each of these texts alternate between philosophical discussions of the amoral (i. follow along with things the way they are. indeterminate) ultimate and how our understanding of this ultimate affects our lives and potential. . Each of these practices is imbued with values and compromises one’s ability to seek fulfillment. little words are shrill and quarrelsome. their bodies hustle. When he writes. “those who discriminate fail to see. we will not injure Tao with discriminations. And when their minds draw near death. we should learn to respond genuinely to life—to move and act with spontaneity and freedom.jeffcrandall. instead of being a storehouse of knowledge. Their little fears are mean and trembly. Chuang Tzu would rather have one wander aimlessly amidst the whole while taking in its every aspect and splendor. This opposition between dividers and embracers is articulated most fully in Chuang Tzu’s distinction between great understanding and little understanding. They grow dark. .”42 Chuang Tzu does not trust those who 60 Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall | http://www. valueless. They drown in what they do—you cannot make them turn back. Great words are clear and limpid. men’s spirits go visiting. . Chuang Tzu also suggests that values we create stem from our penchant for self-promotion. Chuang Tzu warns us not to seek fame. blend your spirit with the vastness.41 Instead of positing values and defining the good and the bad. in waking hours.e. nothing can restore them to light. and make no room for personal views—then the world will be governed.

jeffcrandall.”43 This idea of personal power and authority parallels Chuang Tzu’s many descriptions of the authority and natural poise possessed by those of great understanding. because the shortsighted are blind to the indeterminacy of Tao. the idea of personal and universal authority are blended into a singular conception of power.” yet ultimately lead to great understanding. if you can do this day and night without break and make it be spring with everything. he will become troubled. slander. you will become the sons of man. riches. thirst. values can never account for Tao. Thomas’ Jesus also presents astonishment and disturbance as prerequisites for governing the All. Jesus says. one shall “never be at a loss for joy. “When you make the two one. He calls this authority being whole in power.com . When he finds. “Let him who seeks continue seeking until he finds. . consequently. and when you say. Discriminations are for the shortsighted and not for the sage. unworthiness. heat—these are the alternations of the world. and he will rule over the All. move away. According to Chuang Tzu. each of these texts presents the monistic whole as the source of “great fears” that are “stunned and overwhelming. In Thomas. does not love life or hate death. Jesus also describes the power possessed by one who can embrace things and make them one. failure.A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall discriminate.”45 Ruling over the All in this passage again suggests a combination 61 Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall | http://www. worthiness. is one’s ability to find pleasure and richness in all things. In Thomas 2. In Thomas 106. because he views them as people who parade right and wrong around as if they have the key to truth. He writes: Life. hunger. . as in Chuang Tzu.” If one meets life with the power of a complete spirit. ‘Mountain. then. death. cold. Moreover. success. mingling with all and creating the moment within your own mind—this is what I call being whole in power. he will be astonished. preservation. Thomas 106 suggests the possibility of one’s authority over nature. poverty. . Only those of great understanding discover the secret of caring for life and. When he becomes troubled. and forgets about the self. loss. the workings of fate. Jesus says. master them and never be at a loss for joy. If you can harmonize and delight in them. understand that the world is governed by their very ability to let things be. one will be okay. In fact. fame. Chuang Tzu argues that if one can harmonize all things. In Thomas.44 Being whole in power.’ it will move away.

47 Chuang Tzu’s True Man lives in the full presence of Tao and does not relegate Tao to an existence behind the determinations of values and meaning. responding but not storing. he didn’t try to find out where he would end. and divisiveness of those who possess little understanding. because he is not motivated by anxieties about his own transience. welcoming nothing. not overly concerned with matters of life and death. Therefore he can win out over things and not hurt himself. he hands them back again to Tao. He emerged without delight. he forgot about it and handed it back again. This is what I call not using the mind to repel the Way. Consequently. he went briskly. knew nothing of hating death.46 Critical to the idea of personal power is the concept of living without possessing. that is all. He didn’t forget where he began. an image that serves as a positive archetype of primordial being. life is good and the True Man is the master of all things. this archetypal man does not cling to the things he encounters in pathetic attempts to preserve their presence in his life. because he values no aspect of his life more than any other. Chuang Tzu posits the Perfect or True Man. not using man to help out Heaven. 62 Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall | http://www. and that was all. The Perfect Man uses his mind like a mirror— going after nothing.com . Be empty. As an alternative to the conservatism. Instead. the True Man does not need to live defensively or conservatively. And yet. Moreover.A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall of personal and universal authority that corresponds with one’s psychological dissolution into the whole. possessiveness. the True Man has no need to fear the whims of change. Living without possessing Hold on to all you have received from Heaven but do not think you have gotten anything. he does not forget his relationship to the beginning in Tao.jeffcrandall. Chuang Tzu describes a man who is whole in power. he went back in without a fuss. and who finds pleasure in all things. because it more tangibly expresses how one’s understanding of the ultimate can affect one’s practical relationship with the world of things. In this manner. He came briskly. Chuang Tzu writes: The True Man of ancient times knew nothing of loving life. He received something and took pleasure in it. Using this archetype rhetoric ally.

”49 Jesus clearly warns against the excesses of warehousing things to protects us against life. 63 Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall | http://www. then.jeffcrandall. there is only change and flux. pointed tale about a rich man who arrogantly attempted to make his life totally secure. suggests a reading that focuses on a symbolic primordial beginning rather than a temporal one. In this case. that you look for the end? For where the beginning is. Where there is no definitive beginning. we do not experience a loss of self. reap. and fill my storehouse with produce. the reference to death is likely psychological and metaphorical and. from both Taoist and Thomasine perspectives. Furthermore.’ Such were his intentions. the beginning. for the divided. ‘I shall put my money to use so that I may sow. plant. consequently. In other words. he will know the end and will not experience death. “Have you discovered.A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall In Thomas 18. in a parable similar to one found in the synoptic gospels. with the result that I shall lack nothing. In Thomas 63. This warning mirrors (in reverse) Chuang Tzu’s depiction of the True Man who takes what life gives him and then hands back what he does not use. without our egos. Blessed is he who will take his place in the beginning. however. there will the end be. then. He said. there is also no definitive end. Jesus says.”48 Again. Thomas’ Jesus speaks to his disciples about the preposterousness of living too conservatively and rigidly. Jesus follows a similar train of thought when he says. appearing and disappearing within the whole. this passage is cryptic and could be interpreted in very different frames. however. Jesus tells a short.com . participation in the whole is dependent upon our ability to dissolve our selfcentered preoccupations with personal well being and death. emerges out of a natural and quite unconscious trust in the well being of the whole. In this passage. “There was a rich man who had much money. True living. but that same night he died. the one who can become as he was at the beginning will understand that the end is the same as the beginning.

jeffcrandall. these philosophical nuances far outweigh textual differences that naturally arise when one analyzes such apparently disparate traditions. especially when one explores secondary layers of thematic correspondence (e. it seems more difficult to explain many of the surprisingly similar philosophical preoccupations shared among these texts. In fact. homeless sage) not detailed in this paper. I believe that the gospel’s monistic worldview is consistent and apparent. However.g. it is important to make clear that Thomas’ Jesus was not a Taoist. As I have already stated. and that the writers of this gospel were not likely exposed to Taoism in any direct manner. Perhaps these concerns are a natural outgrowth of thinking in a monistic frame. However.and Far East. these choices do appear to be the logical options. they would not need to be either. and the role the wandering. Perhaps they are both correct in their own way and each can account for different levels of correspondence that are not only found in the Thomasine and Taoist traditions. Whether or not the interpretations I have presented make a convincing argument for a Taoist reading of the gospel. In my estimation. this paper is not a comparative historical exercise and it is also not an attempt to promote a worldwide mythology based on “intraworldly” mysticis m. it is also important to allow disparate traditions to express variation. because similar monist ideas were concurrently thriving in the Middle . passages that relate to living as children. Clearly.com . This paper has thus far only explored similarities and has sidelined several areas of divergence between these texts. but also in a myriad of other cultural texts. if a historical 64 Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall | http://www. Yet. yet there are other of thematic correspondence that do not seem necessarily attached to monism. I chose to highlight similarities because of space limitations and my own interests and purposes. While particular ideas found in the gospel may be explained through other local traditions. Egypt and southern Europe..A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall Conclusions The existence of Thomas’ Jesus is a true fascination. Monistic philosophies may also have had proponents in the Near East. the importance of repose. even if one’s goal is to expose large-scale correspondences.

the connection would more likely be with Hinduism or Buddhism. my reading of textual correspondences is not undermined by the suggestion that Jesus was a politically motivated or revolutionary figure. unlike the Taoist sage. Thomas’ Jesus sometimes uses violent and divisive imagery and proclaims that he has come to “cast upon the earth: fire.”50 For this reason. Thomas’ Jesus can still be a good monist. sword.com . Rather. Moreover. Jesus’ political and social objectives are not made clear in Thomas. after all. even if he presents a similar philosophical understanding of the monistic ultimate. But I prefer to think that he is rather good at both. it is important not to confuse Thomas’ Jesus with a Taoist sage. because the gospel simply presents his teachings and does not provide a historical or cultural context. even if he is a lousy Taoist.jeffcrandall. but it seems clear from Thomas that Jesus does not merely represent a serene and wise sage. Nevertheless. it is difficult to know for sure. However. And. my reading is literary and a self-consciously constructed cross-cultural exercise meant to draw out possible themes and interpretations. 65 Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall | http://www.A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall connection does exist between The Gospel of Thomas and other monist traditions. and war.

16. 470. 40.jeffcrandall. Winter 2001. 1993). 9. 2. California: Polebridge Press. Hesig. Sex. 1991). Funk. 10. All sayings from the Gospel of Thomas used in this paper.” Journal of Ecumenical Studies 33:2 (Spring 1996). 267. Crossan. James W. Hans Jonas. “Thomas-Gospel and Thomas-Community.. 43. 4. 1993). “The Recovery of the Senses: Against the Asceticisms of the Age . All quotations from the Hebrew Scripture and the New Testament are from The HarperCollins Study Bible: New Revised Standard Version . 15. Ecology. 1999).” Vigiliae Christianae 27 (1973). Roy W. are from the Marvin Meyer translation. 6. 9. Robert W. Compleat Scholar Course Catalog.” Novum Testamentum XIX. Meeks (New York: HarperCollins Publishers. 14.A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall Notes 1. Idem. 474. The Five Gospels: The Search for the Authentic Words of Jesus (New York: HarperCollins Publishers. Spirituality: The Spirit of Evolution (Boston: Shambhala Publications. Chuang Tzu. Idem. 11. 5. Chuang Tzu: Basic Writings. 1964). 66 Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall | http://www. 1992). Ken Wilber. Burton Watson (New York: Columbia University Press. Idem. 8. Trans.. 228. The Birth of Christianity: Discovering What Happened in the Years Immediately After the Execution of Jesus (New York: HarperCollins Publishers. The Gospel of Thomas: The Hidden Sayings of Jesus (New York: HarperCollins Publishers. John Dominic Crossan. Hoover and the Jesus Seminar. 248-249. Four Other Gospels: Shadows on the Contours of Canon (Sonoma. except where specified. 13. Bruce Lincoln. 3. The Gnostic Religion: The Message of the Alien God and the Beginnings of Christianity (Boston: Beacon Press. Wayne A. 272. John Dominic Crossan. 70-76. 17. University of Minnesota. Dieter Mueller. 22-65. Inc. Sayings are identified within the body of the paper by their standard logion number rather than with a footnote and page number in the Meyer translation. 1995). 7.com . 1992). “Kingdom of Heaven or Kingdom of God. 233. Ed. Marvin Meyer. 12..

Idem. Thomas 113. Te-tao-ching: A New Translation Based on the Recently Discovered Ma-wang-tui Texts. Kabbalah. 489-490. Thomas 77. 26. 66. Christian Apocrypha. 489-490. 1992). Thomas 77. 1997). Chuang Tzu.. Wan-Li Ho.. 77. 1989). 23. 28. 14. 305. Crossan. 22. Funk. 27.. Trans. Thomas 5. Barnstone. 14. 31. 1998). Richard Valantasis. Chapter 14. 18. 77. The Gospel of Thomas (London: Routledge. 19. Idem. 20. Thomas 64.com .. 300. 300. Chuang Tzu. 470.A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall 17. 1984). 36. NJ: Paulist Press. Chapter 25. 35. Idem. Idem. 30. Henricks (New York: Random House. Thomas 22. Funk. 474. 307. The Five Gospels. Chuang Tzu. The Other Bible: Jewish Pseudepigrapha. 304. Dead Sea Scrolls. Idem. 38. 32. 35-36.jeffcrandall. The Tao of Jesus: An Experiment in Inter-Traditional Understanding (Mahwah. 427. Lao Tzu. 37. Idem. Thomas 3. 67 Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall | http://www. 35. Willis Barnstone (New York: HarperCollins Publishers. Lao Tzu. Chuang Tzu. 29. and Chang-Shin Jih. John Dominic Crossan. 21. 25. 34. Joseph A.. Barnstone. The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant (New York: HarperCollins Publishers. Barnstone. 24. 35. 1-2. Four Other Gospels. Gnostic Scriptures. 302.. 305. Ed. Robert G. Loya. Inc. 33.

Barnstone. 301. 39. Idem. 40. Chuang Tzu. 48.. 46. Thomas 18. 70. 68 Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall | http://www.A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall 38.com . Barnstone. 43. 50. Idem. 41. Thomas 16. 94-95. 91. Idem.. Thomas 2. 42. Idem. Chuang Tzu. 32. Chuang Tzu. Barnstone.. 39. Thomas 106.jeffcrandall. Barnstone. 307. Thomas 63. 44. 74. Chuang Tzu. 304. 47.. 300. Idem. 40.. Thomas 83. 45. 49. 306. 301.

A History of God: The 4. “Where was the Gospel of Thomas Written?” Toronto Journal of Theology 8:1.000-Year Quest of Judaism. Marcus. 1999. New York: HarperCollins Publishers. Sonoma.. The Five Gospels: The Search for the Authentic Words of Jesus. Churton. New York: Alfred A. Hoover and the Jesus Seminar. 1991. Berkeley. Armstrong. 1992. 1998. John Dominic. DeConick. Stevan. The Dhammapada (The Path of Truth) . Desjardins. The Gnostics. 663-682. Roy W. and Sayings Gospels. S. History of Mysticism: The Unchanging Testament. Funk. Four Other Gospels: Shadows on the Contours of Canon . and Jarl Fossum. “The Christology and Protology of the Gospel of Thomas. New York: HarperCollins Publishers. Hermetica: the Greek Corpus Hermeticum and the Latin Asclepius in a New English Translation. Gnosticism. The Bhagavad-Gita: Krishna’s Counsel in Time of War . Borg. Trans. “The Rhetoric of Marginality: Apocalypticism. 1995. California: Parallax Press. Balangoda. New York: Columbia University Press.com . with Notes and Introduction . Christianity and Islam. 1964. Michel. Crossan. Karen. Martin. Davies. Volume 1: The Fabrication of Ancient Greece 1785-1985.A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall Selected Bibliography Abhayananda. 1999. “Stripped Before God: A New Interpretation of Logion 37 in the Gospel of Thomas. DeConick. 3d paperback ed. 1992. New Brunswick. Jesus and Buddha: The Parallel Sayings. 1999. Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization. Trans. 1997. John Dominic. Olympia. Copenhaver. 69 Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall | http://www. New York: HarperCollins Publishers. New York: Most Tarcher/Putnam. sixth paperback ed. 123-150. The Birth of Christianity: Discovering What Happened in the Years Immediately After the Execution of Jesus. third revised edition. The Hermetica: The Lost Wisdom of the Pharoahs . Berkeley. Burton Watson. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium. Washington: Atma Books. California: Ulysses Press (Seastone). “The Yoke Saying in the Gospel of Thomas 90. Freke.. Barbara Stoler Miller. Chuang Tzu. Crossan.” Harvard Theological Review 88:4 (1995). Bart D. New York: HarperCollins Publishers. 1993. 121-133.jeffcrandall. 1994. “No Rhyme or Reason: The Hidden Logia of the Gospel of Thomas. New York: Barnes & Noble Books. (1992). Brian P.” Vigiliae Christianae 45 (June 1991). Timothy and Peter Gandy. 1986. Chuang Tzu: Basic Writings. 1995. 1996. William E. California: Polebridge Press. Allen. Knopf. Tobias.” Vigiliae Christianae 44 (Spring 1990). NJ: Rutgers University Press. Marcus.” Harvard Theological Review 90:4 (1997): 411-426. John Dominic .” Journal of Biblical Literature 111:4 (1992). Ehrman.. Borg. New York: Bantam Books. Crossan. New York: Oxford University Press. 280-294. Callahan. Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time: The Historical Jesus & the Heart of Contemporary Faith. Bernal. April D. The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant. 471-94. Ananda Maitreya. April D. 1997. Robert W. Arnal.

Robert J. Wan-Li Ho. William Lovitt. James W. “Scepticism and Mysticism. Sarvepalli and Charles Moore.com . 1992.jeffcrandall. 367-373. Henricks. 1993. Martin. 1993.. Te-tao-ching: A New Translation Based on the Recently Discovered Ma-wang-tui Texts. Gnostic Scriptures. Basic Writings: From Being and Time (1927) to The Task of Thinking (1964). Kenneth V. Harvey. Martin. 1991. Mountain View: Mayfield Publishing. Pheme. 3d ed. Dead Sea Scrolls. Pagels. Heidegger. 479-484. Elaine.A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall Grobel. “Kingdom in the Gospel of Thomas. Wayne A. Lao Tzu. Ed. New York: HarperCollins Publishers. The Gospel of Thomas: The Hidden Sayings of Jesus. 1994. Martin. 1992. Joseph A. New York: Harper & Row Publishers. 1959. 1989. Elaine. Ed. New York: HarperCollins Publishers. A Sourcebook in Indian Philosophy . 1970. 1984. 48-97. Heidegger. The Gnostic Gospels. An Introduction to Metaphysics. Ralph Manheim. Henricks. Dieter. New York: HarperCollins Publishers. Karen. “Kingdom of Heaven or Kingdom of God. 1989. Loya. New York: HarperCollins Publishers. The Gnostic Paul: Gnostic Exegesis of the Pauline Letters . The Gnostic Religion: The Message of the Alien God and the Beginnings of Christianity . Meeks. The Essential Mystics: Selections from the World’s Great Wisdom Traditions. “Thomas-Gospel and Thomas-Community. Trans. Meyer. Trans. The HarperCollins Study Bible: New Revised Standard Version . The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays. Bimal Krishna. Stephen L.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 105:3 (1985). NJ: Paulist Press. 1957. “Diversity in the Gospel of Thomas: Clues for a New Direction?” The Second Century 7 (Spring 1989). Kendrick. Aldous. Boston: Beacon Press. and Chang-Shin Jih. Bruce. The New Testament: A Student’s Introduction . 216-237. 622-640. 1-17. 1999.” Novum Testamentum XIX. 1997. Marvin. The Tao of Jesus: An Experiment in Inter-Traditional Understanding . New York: Harper & Row Publishers. Jonas. Huxley. Mack. Radhakrishnan. Neller. Harris. Willis Barnstone. The Other Bible: Jewish Pseudepigrapha. 1998. Kohn. “The Recovery of the Senses: Against the Asceticisms of the Age . Princeton: Princeton University Press.” Semeia 44 (1988). New York: Vintage Books.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 110:4 (1990). 70-76. Kabbalah. “The Rejected Jesus and the Kingdom Sayings. New York: Random House. The Perennial Philosophy.” Foundations & Facets Forum 5:1 (March 1989).” Vigiliae Christianae 27 (1973). The Lost Gospel: The Book of Q and Christian Origins. King. New York: HarperCollins Publishers. New York: HarperCollins Publishers. “How Gnostic is the Gospel of Thomas?” New Testament Studies 8 (July 1962). Heidegger. Ed. Livia. Perkins. “Eternal Life in Taoist Mysticism. New York: Random House.” Journal of Ecumenical Studies 33:2 (Spring 1996). Pagels. Christian Apocrypha. Philadelphia: Fortress Press. Burton L. 1989.” Foundations & Facets Forum 3:1 (March 1987). Hartford: Yale University Press. Hans. “The Inside is (Not) the Outside. Hesig. Introduction to Te-tao-ching by Lao Tzu. Robert G. Mahwah.79-94. 92-105. David Farrell Krell. Andrew. Miller. 70 Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall | http://www. Lincoln. 250-276. Trans. Matilal. Mueller. Robert G. 1977.

1964. Revised ed. New York: HarperCollins Publishers. 1990. Ecology. Wilber. Klyne R. 1991. John. 292-311. New York: Columbia University Press. Ed.” The Second Century 7 (Spring 1989).” Semeia 44 (1988). 1996. Trans. The Spiritual Heritage of India.com . Introduction to Basic Writings by Chuang Tzu. Gnosis: The Nature & History of Gnosticism. Stroker. Hollywood: Vendata Press. The Kybalion: A Study of the Hermetic Philosophy of Ancient Egypt and Greece. 71 Copyright 2001 Jeff Crandall | http://www. Revised ed. Boston: Shambhala Publications. 95120. Richard. The World’s Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions. London: Routledge. Leaves of Grass . New York: Penguin Books USA. 19-38.A Jesus for the East: Monism in the Gospel of Thomas | Jeff Crandall Robinson. 1995. Boston: Shambhala Publications. Sex. 1980. Rudolph. 31-42. “The Gospel of Thomas: A Secondary Gospel. 1999.” Dialogue & Alliance 11:2 (Fall/Winter 1997). Ekman P. Tam. Smith. James M. The Gospel of Thomas. Ken. Watson. Chicago: Yogi Publication Society. Huston. Snodgrass. Spirituality: The Spirit of Evolution. Walt. “Extracanonical Parables and the Historical Jesus. 1940.C.jeffcrandall. “Another Look at the Theory of Common Core Mysticism.” Journal of Ecumenical Studies 22:2 (Spring 1985). Burton. Valantasis. Whitman. New York: HarperCollins Publishers. Kurt. Three Initiates. Ken. “The Interreligious Study of Mysticism and a Sense of Universality. Swami Prabhavananda. The Nag Hammadi Library in English. William D. Wilber. 1987. A Brief History of Everything. New York: HarperCollins Publishers. Sahadat. Robert McLachlan Wilson. 1979.