Jesus asked his disciples: Make a comparison, what am I like? Simon Peter replied: You are like a righteous messenger. Matthew replied: You are like an intelligent lover of wisdom. Thomas replied: Teacher, I cannot possibly say what you are like. Jesus said to Thomas: I am not your teacher; you have drunk from and become intoxicated from the bubbling water that I poured out. Jesus took Thomas and they withdrew. Jesus said three things to him. When Thomas returned to the other disciples, they asked him: What did Jesus tell you? Thomas replied: If I tell you even one of the sayings that he told me, you would pick up stones and throw them at me, and fire would come out of those stones and burn you up.
11 a.m. Rather than my taking a crack at it, how about if you fine friends lead the way?
Your first question, in reading this one, was whether it was particularly important that the saying specifically mention Simon Peter’s and Matthew’s responses before getting to Thomas. Surely you don’t think that a gospel of sayings, the fruit of a long oral tradition and the material to be used to guide future discussions, could have any extraneous elements in it. Surely they would have been worn off in the many retellings before it was written, don’t you think?
I don’t know. Wouldn’t it depend upon the identity of the author of the written account? But no, come to think of it, I guess not. So why was it important to list those two responses? To show the relative incomprehension of the others? To recall two ways Jesus was seen?
You will remember, James the Just was to be their leader, yet Simon Peter was “the rock upon whom I will found my church.”
If that isn’t a later interpolation.
Interpolation or not, Peter’s influence on the early church can scarcely be disregarded.
And Matthew was the evangelist whose gospel is always placed first, though apparently not the first to have been written.
You are searching for plausible reasons for Peter and Matthew to be specifically cited here. What if they were the only ones to respond before Thomas, and of course no one would venture an opinion after Jesus took Thomas to the side and told him things.
So the significance of this is –?
Examine every part of a saying, or a scripture in general, as oral traditions, too. There are no irrelevancies in oral tradition, because although many seeming irrelevancies are included, it will be found that each illumines some aspect of what is to be told or it would not have been endlessly repeated.
Well, a “righteous messenger” indicates seeing Jesus as perhaps more the conduit of a message than as a phenomenon in himself.
Yes, very good. It misses the extraordinary nature of Jesus. Perhaps takes it for granted, but certainly puts the center of gravity elsewhere.
And “an intelligent lover of wisdom” seems more like a philosopher. Again, not wrong, but sort of missing the most important thing.
But we then see Thomas saying he couldn’t possibly say. I assume that Jesus responds not so much to the statement as to something he sees of Thomas’ state of being.
Both, rather. To say he couldn’t say was a good answer, because of what lay behind it. Had he said the same words, but meaning “Beats me,” neither the meaning nor the result would have been the same.
And Jesus told him three things, which we never learn. Will we ever learn them?
Without answering that question directly, consider this. Why assume you have not already heard those things, perhaps many times. Perhaps as dogma or ritual responses?
That puts a different slant on Jesus saying that there is nothing hidden that will not be revealed.
You could look at it that way. Time tends to uncover secrets, even as it renders the well-known obscure or even forgotten.
And then we come to the completely opaque: Thomas says to his inquiring fellow disciples that if he were to tell them even one of the things Jesus had said, (a) they’d try to stone Thomas, and (b) the stones would emit fire that would burn them up. What sense is to be made of this?
What does it seem to say to you?
Thomas thinks they would either be jealous, or, more likely, would think he was blaspheming. That’s (a).
Does this argue a lack of faith by Thomas in his fellow disciples? Remember, this is not a private letter, nor a journal entry. This was preserved to be part of an on-going oral commentary tradition, presumably for some constructive aim. So why include it?
When you put it that way, all I can think is that the future communities would be on record that Jesus had told Thomas secret things – secret even from the others, that might have been considered scandalous by them and might have tempted them to violence, either thinking themselves justified or losing control.
And what purpose would that serve?
It would increase Thomas’ stature, I suppose.
And you think that would be an appropriate sentiment in a scripture?
No, I don’t. But it would.
It would, but it was not inserted for that purpose. There’s a difference.
Maybe to reassure them that not even the disciples knew everything at the time, and that enlightenment (if we should call it that) is a process rather than one fast leap.
What about (b)?
I don’t have any idea. For this one, we really need you.
Isn’t it to say, in effect, that nature – or supernature, say – would defend Thomas if that were to happen? That the very weapons they intended to use against him would turn against them and destroy them?
Maybe. I can’t say I see the point or the helpfulness of this saying.
The sayings have been building one upon the other, each new one upon all the others together. The overall theme is still: What is the proper place of 3D in your lives. In that context, what does this saying add?
What I missed till now, re-reading it, is something I’d seen earlier and had forgotten. Thomas absorbed something from Jesus’ very presence that changed him and made him eligible to hear these very dangerous truths. Or, let’s say, truths that may be dangerous (and completely futile) to express to the uninitiated.
Exactly so. Jesus said I am not the one who taught you that: You picked it up on your own, as a side-effect of being in my presence. Not mere physical presence, for all of them had had that, and indeed still were having it. Call it, the non-3D-connected energetic presence of Jesus. Thomas, perceiving it, had graduated, one might say.
The point of this Saying, as all of them ultimately, is that humans are far more in potential than they are in actuality – but that situation can be changed, and Jesus had come to show them how.