Authored By :
Published On :
July 17, 1997
Last Updated :
September 24, 2019
Coptic Alphabet, Discovery Of Nag Hammadi Library And Gospel Of Thomas, Doubts Regarding Authenticity Of Gospel Of Thomas, Quote From The Gospel Of Thomas, My Caution In Judging Any Of The Apocryphal Writings, My Opinion Regarding The Apocryphal Writings And the Book Of Enoch, Look To Jesus and Heavenward And Not Inward To Ourselves, Coming In The Clouds Of Heaven, Eastern Religions New Age And Humanism, Satan's Pride And His Fall From Grace, Outward Religiosity Of The Scribes And The Pharisees, Jews' Expectations Of Physical Restored Kingdom Of Israel, Even The Apostles Misunderstood, Not Yet Able To Bear, What Jesus Meant By "The Kingdom Of God Is Within You", Our Treasure In Earthen Vessels, The Jews Lost The Kingdom Due To Unbelief, Parable Of The Wedding Garment, Clothed In Garments Of Salvation And Robes Of Righteousness, Our Fine White Linen
Some time ago, one of my online friends asked me a question regarding certain quotes which are found in the Gospel Of Thomas, also known as the Coptic Gospel of Thomas, being as it is written in the Coptic alphabet. Coptic is an Egyptian language which itself was adopted from the Greek alphabet, with about a half dozen other signs added to it. While the Coptic language is still spoken in the Coptic Orthodox and Coptic Catholic churches of Egypt, it has been replaced by Egyptian Arabic in modern Egypt.
Some of you will no doubt have never heard of the Gospel of Thomas, due to the simple fact that it was not included in the Biblical canon with which most people are familiar. It is in fact a part of a group of ancient texts referred to as the Nag Hammadi Library, or the Gnostic Gospels. These texts were discovered in a buried sealed jar in Egypt in 1945. It has been proposed that they may have been hidden after noted bishop Athanasius of Alexandria -- who was a progenitor of the early Roman Catholic Church -- condemned the use of non- canonical books in his Easter Letter of 367 A.D. This gospel -- which some scholars believe may have originated in Syria sometime during the Second Century -- is a collection of one hundred and fourteen sayings which have been attributed to Jesus. But it should be noted, however, that less than half of these sayings resemble things which were spoken by Jesus in the canonical Gospels. That is, in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
In the Thomas O. Lambdin translation, the Gospel of Thomas begins with the words "These are the secret sayings which the living Jesus spoke and which Didymos Judas Thomas wrote down." Despite this introductory text, and the fact that the gospel bears his name, doubt has been cast on whether or not the Gospel of Thomas was truly written by the Apostle Thomas who is named in the four Gospels. As you will discover in a moment, I have my personal doubts regarding the authenticity of this book as well.
After reading my friend's comment, my mind was immediately filled with a variety of Bible verses which I proceeded to use to answer his inquiry. Realizing that others may have also read the Gospel of Thomas, and that they may likewise have similar questions, I decided to present my response in this current series. Following then is a direct quote from this person's message:
----- Begin Quote -----
I'd really like your comments on "The Gospel of Thomas" especially v3 where Jesus says: "If those who lead you say to you, 'See, the kingdom is in the sky', then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, 'It is in the sea', then the fish will precede you. Rather, the kingdom is inside of you, and it is outside of you. When you come to know yourselves, then you will become known, and you will realize that it is you who are the sons of the Living Father. But if you will not know yourselves, you will dwell in poverty and it is you who are that poverty."
----- End Of Quote -----
While I have had the Gospel of Thomas sitting in my pile of apocryphal writings for a number of years now, due to the tremendous amount of unfinished writing projects I have yet to complete, it was not until recently that I made time to read it in its entirety. As a result, I felt that until I did so, it would be unwise of me to pass full judgment on whether or not I feel it is a Divinely-Inspired work. As I mentioned earlier, there are opposing views regarding the authenticity of this gospel. However, I try to not allow such opinions to influence me, as I wish to read such works with as unbiased an opinion as possible. I am the type of person who likes to form his own opinions on a matter, and not rely too heavily on the evaluations of others; particularly when it involves matters of a religious nature. However, having now read the Gospel of Thomas in its entirety, I feel more confident in expressing my own views regarding it.
As I point out in the article "A Biblical Cafeteria, or the Whole Course?", while I do sense Divine Inspiration in some of the actual Apocrypha -- which, incidentally, was included in the original version of the KJV Bible -- I don't sense the same Divine Spark in the majority of the other apocryphal and pseudepigraphal works that I have read thus far. The only one I have accepted as having any degree of Divine Inspiration is the Book of Enoch. Even though I have quoted from it in some of my other articles, I feel that I should clarify that it is not a one hundred per cent endorsement of the Book. I simply found enough information in the Authorized King James Bible which seems to substantiate the authorship of the Book of Enoch. This gives it a little more credence than some of the other works. Please refer to my article "The Book of Enoch: Truth or Heresy?" for a more in-depth commentary.
But concerning the Gospel of Thomas, after reading the above message from my friend, I must admit that I was disconcerted by the contents of the material he quoted from it. Not only that, but after having now read the Gospel of Thomas in its entirety, I have been left with even more doubt regarding the notion of it being a Divinely-Inspired text. In my opinion, the above quote describes a rather self-centered faith rather than a Christ-centered faith, which is what Jesus and all of the Apostles taught in the Gospels, in the Book of Acts, and in the Epistles. As I continued to ponder that quote, a few verses came to mind which I will now share with you. As you will see, rather than support the purported quote from Jesus in the Gospel of Thomas, they do the exact opposite. To begin with, consider what Jesus said in the following verse:
"And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me."
John 12:32, KJV
In this verse from the Gospel of John, Jesus is referring to His approaching Crucifixion. However, we can also look at it as meaning that we are to look up to Jesus for our Salvation, and not down or inward into ourselves. The answers to life -- particularly to gaining Eternal Life -- will not be found in introspection. That is, in examining ourselves. Rather, the answers will be found in what I prefer to refer to as Heaven- spection. That is, in looking upwards to Jesus. This is made evident by verses such as the following one:
"Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God."
Hebrews 12:2, KJV
King David, who was a man who was plagued with many problems during his lifetime, likewise knew that the answers to life, and his own Salvation, could only come from above. Consider the following two verses:
[A Song of degrees.] I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth."
Psalm 121:1-2, KJV
As you can see, we are again told to lift up our eyes, and not to look downward, or inward at ourselves. We are not told to find ourselves or to know ourselves, as the Gospel of Thomas seems to be saying. Consider also what Jesus said when His disciples inquired of Him regarding the signs that would mark the end of the age:
"And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh."
Luke 21:28, KJV
As you can see, Jesus told them to look up to the heavens for their redemption. Why would the Lord say this? The answer is obviously found in the following set of verses:
"And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory."
Matthew 24:30, KJV
"Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven."
Matthew 26:64, KJV
"And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory."
Mark 13:26, KJV
"And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven."
Mark 14:62, KJV
"And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven."
Acts 1:9-11, KJV
"Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord."
1 Thessalonians 4:17, KJV
"Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen."
Revelation 1:7, KJV
As you may already know, this whole idea of looking inward is a central theme of many Eastern religions, and of New Age thought as well. They all promote the belief that the answers can be found within ourselves. They teach that we humans are the masters of our own fates. They claim that humans beings have a lot more potential than what most people realize. All we have to do is to learn to harness our mental, emotional and spiritual energies they say. In short, they are claiming that we are our own gods. Such false belief systems reek of humanistic thought, which is totally contrary to God's Word.
If you really stop to think about it, this is basically how Satan must have felt as well; and as we all know, it led to his downfall. Because of his own pride and vanity, he took his eyes off of the Lord, and looked inward to himself. He deceived himself into thinking that he deserved more, and that he was better than God. He was not happy with his high position in the Heavenly Hierarchy. He wanted to be God; and that is why the Lord cast him out, as is made evident by the following set of verses:
"How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit."
Isaiah 14:12-15, KJV
"And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven."
Luke 10:18, KJV
"Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out."
John 12:31, KJV
"And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time."
Revelation 12:7-12, KJV
"And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season . . . And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever."
Revelation 20:1-3, 10 KJV
"Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD: though hand join in hand, he shall not be unpunished . . . Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall."
Proverbs 16:5, 18, KJV
To continue, I do not believe, and I am not convinced, that looking inward to ourselves is what the Lord meant when He said that the Kingdom of God is within us. Here is exactly what Jesus said when He was confronted by the unbelieving Pharisees:
". . . The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you."
Luke 17:20-21, KJV
You see, the Scribes, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and even many of the common people were very lacking when it came to their understanding of the true nature of the Kingdom of God. Many of them in fact looked upon the things of the flesh, and the temporal things of this present world. The Gospels make it clear that the religious hierarchy were more interested in observing the Mosaic Law, in performing Temple services, in making loud public prayers, and in wearing their long flowing garments. They were only interested in impressing people with their own outward righteousness and religiosity so that they could receive the praises of men. Does this sound like some sectors of modern organized religion? This is why Jesus said the following to them, and concerning them, and exposed their hypocrisy:
"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity."
Matthew 23:27-28, KJV
"And he said unto them in his doctrine, Beware of the scribes, which love to go in long clothing, and love salutations in the marketplaces, And the chief seats in the synagogues, and the uppermost rooms at feasts: Which devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayers: these shall receive greater damnation."
Mark 12:38-40, KJV
"Woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye love the uppermost seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets."
Luke 11:43, KJV
"Beware of the scribes, which desire to walk in long robes, and love greetings in the markets, and the highest seats in the synagogues, and the chief rooms at feasts; Which devour widows' houses, and for a shew make long prayers: the same shall receive greater damnation."
Luke 20:46-47, KJV
"Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God."
John 12:42-43, KJV
Furthermore, as I point out in a few other articles such as "Who is Moshiach ben David?", similar to many Jews today, the Jewish elders and many of the common people were so blinded to the truth, that they were looking for and expected to see the arrival of an outward, physical kingdom. Their hope and expectations were in a messiah king who would be a descendant of King David. In other words, the Jews were anticipating the arrival of a physical savior and political leader who would deliver them out of the hands of their oppressors. That is, their Roman occupiers.
In fact, as you may know, even the Twelve Apostles themselves misunderstood the true nature of God's coming Kingdom. They too thought that it meant that the nation of Israel would be restored as a kingdom under Jesus' leadership. This becomes very evident by the following verses and event which occurred just prior to the Lord's Ascension to Heaven:
"When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power."
Acts 1:6-7, KJV
I find it interesting that the Lord gave them a roundabout answer. I suspect that Jesus may have done this, because He knew that they were not ready yet to accept an answer which would be contrary to their expectations. During His time on Earth, the Lord realized that there were certain truths which His followers were not yet able to bear, as is demonstrated by the following verse:
"I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now."
John 16:12, KJV
This expectation of a physically restored kingdom of Israel led by a political messiah king is precisely what motivated such radical groups as the Zealots and the Sicarii. As I mentioned a moment ago, today, the Orthodox Jews continue to await the arrival of Moshiach ben David, who they are still convinced will fulfill all of the requirements to be their one true "messiah". They do not expect a Divine Being from Heaven.
However, just like their unbelieving counterparts of old, the sad truth is that until the Jews fully understand what Jesus meant, they will never be able to enter God's Kingdom. That Kingdom is presently invisible, and has been invisible for the past two thousand years; for it resides within those of us who accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. As I explain in a number of other articles, we enter into that Kingdom through inner spiritual rebirth. Furthermore, as I point out in the two-part article entitled "A Treasure in Earthen Vessels: God's Promise of the Spirit", God provides us with a spiritual down payment of the life to come in the form of His precious Holy Spirit which dwells in Believers. So truly, although unseen at this present time, His Kingdom resides in all Bible-believing Christians.
In contrast, and tragically, because of the Jews' unbelief, the Kingdom has in effect been ripped out of their hands, and it has been given to the Gentiles, and to anyone else who embraces Jesus Christ. Jesus made this sad truth very clear when He said the following in the Gospels of Matthew and John:
"And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom [the Jews] shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
Matthew 8:11-12, KJV
"Therefore say I unto you, [to the unbelieving Jews] The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, [from the unbelieving Jews] and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder. And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them."
Matthew 21:43-45, KJV
". . . Jesus saith unto them [the Jews], If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham. But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham. Ye do the deeds of your father. Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God. Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me. Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word. Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it . . . He that is of God heareth God's words: ye therefore hear them not, because YE ARE NOT OF GOD."
John 8:39-44, 47, KJV
So as you can plainly see, those misguided people who believe that they are the heirs of promise, and who think that they are the children of the Kingdom and the children of Abraham -- that is, the unbelieving flesh Jews -- will be cast out. In the very next chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, the Lord emphasizes this same point again in the form of the Parable of the Wedding Garment, as we see by the following group of verses:
". . . The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son, And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come. Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage. But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise: And the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them. But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage. So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests. And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen."
Matthew 22:1-14, KJV
Notice that in the final verses, Jesus uses the same exact descriptive words that He used in the verse from Matthew chapter eight above. And what is the wedding garment which this man failed to wear? It is the righteousness which can only be obtained through faith in the Atoning Sacrifice of Jesus Christ. It is the cloak which covers our sins as I discuss in other articles. Consider the following verses:
"I put on righteousness, and it clothed me: my judgment was as a robe and a diadem."
Job 29:14, KJV
"I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels."
Isaiah 61:10, KJV
"He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels . . . I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see."
Revelation 3:5, 18, KJV
"After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands . . . And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."
Revelation 7:9, 13-14, KJV
"Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God."
Revelation 19:7-9, KJV
Please go to part two for the continuation of this series.
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