Cynthia Bourgeault has described the Gospel of Thomas as a “long-missing puzzle piece whose importance to revealing the full picture of our own spiritual times is becoming more and more obvious …” The contemporary re-emergence of this ancient text has the profound potential for “changing the face of Christianity.”
The Gospel of Thomas was rediscovered among a collection of early Christian sacred scriptures that turned up in the Egyptian desert near Nag Hammadi in 1945. The text consists of 114 “logions” (meaning short sayings), as expressed by Jesus and his followers. About two-thirds of these sayings are also represented in some similar form in the canonical gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). The remaining one-third speak to topics largely omitted in traditional Christian sources, but fundamental to spiritual seekers — including teachings related to conscious attention, present moment awareness, surrender, and coming to a state of “singleness”, which is presented in the Gospel of Thomas as akin to contemporary notions of enlightenment. The message that Jesus communicates and most emphasizes in this gospel is a path for personal transformation.
If you are searching, you must not stop until you find.
When you find, however, you will become troubled.
Your confusion will give way to wonder.
In wonder you will reign over all things.
Your sovereignty will be your rest.
Many Christians are still unaware of this source of Jesus’ teaching, or wary of the unfamiliar style in which his words are conveyed in the short, koan-like sayings. Unlike the familiar gospels there is no theological frame, no narrative, and none of the stories about the life and death of Jesus. Instead the text simply reveals the Jesus teachings themselves as they emerge from an inner circle of students — which includes both female and male disciples.
Due to the short and powerful nature of the Gospel of Thomas sayings, it’s particularly well suited for the practice of Lectio Divina, for either individual or group contemplation and reflection. Reading through each logion with an open mind and heart tends to provide an illuminating perspective on our own personal experiences. Cynthia suggests the way to approach the text is “not by scrambling to some scholarly commentary, but to say, “How does this resonate with my own life? What does this touch off for me?”
In full this gospel offers a potent guidebook to the transformative teachings of Jesus, and as Cynthia asserts, “unlocks the deeper wisdom and beauty of the gospel tradition. That’s why it’s changing the face of Christianity.”
“Come to know the one in the presence before you
And all that is hidden from you will be revealed . . .”
There are a number of translations of the Gospel of Thomas, and consulting more than one version can often surface subtle nuances. Cynthia often recommends Lynn Bauman’s edition for Lectio Divina practice, in light of Lynn’s extensive knowledge of the Near Eastern Wisdom tradition and the unified coherence he brings to this translation.
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