Friday, March 14, 2008

The Kingdom of Heaven is Within You

The Missing Scriptures: The Gospel of Thomas


It was from a reference by Joseph Campbell, whom I greatly admire, that I first heard of The Gospel of Thomas. Joseph Campbell's quotation from the lost scripture made me rush out to order the book immediately.

I guess I was fortunate, because it turned out to be Marvin Meyer's translation. It is wonderful.

I can't put words to what this gospel says to me. It rings true in accordance with the writings of sages the world over, East and West, as well as with the generally ignored passage in the New Testament: "The kingdom of heaven is within you."

It is not surprising that Emperor Constantine chose to crucify the Gospel of Thomas - worse, attempted to erase its memory by burning all copies he could find, and killing anyone who spoke of it - along with other scriptures he disliked: it leaves no need for a gatekeeper to heaven - neither emperor, as self-appointed ruler under God, nor church hierarchy - but only a direct communion with truth, through the wisdom of His words. Power seekers do not like to be left out of the loop.

The Gospel of Thomas is a revelation. Were it not for Emperor Constantine's self-anointed appropriation of the position of God's editor in the 4th century CE, we would have a very different, and expanded Bible. The Gospel of Thomas would certainly be one part of that more complete cannon. Only the most rigorously dogmatic can fail to recognize its authenticity.

Alas, such as these are always the ones drawn most to positions of "authority" within hierarchical social institutions, such as academia and the church. Jesus has a blunt retort to such men and women, recorded in the Gospel of Thomas: "The priests are like dogs that lay in the manger, for they do not eat, and they do not let the cattle eat."

"I took my stand in the midst of humanity, and I wept for them, for they came into the world blind, and they seek to leave the world blind." - Jesus, Gospel of Thomas. Who knew the church could be so afraid, even of the words of its root and inspiration? The door is now open, however, for all who "wish to see."

"The kingdom of heaven is spread out upon the earth, and men see it not," Jesus is recorded as saying in the Gospel. If we could begin to realize that, there would be a spiritual and social revolution on earth, and "on earth, as it is in heaven," would not be mere words of piety, but actual visible fact.

Marvin Meyers translation, I later discovered, only through direct comparison to others, is by far the superior in the field, from the translations I have seen.

Do not miss this text. It is one of profound wisdom.


JTR

Writings of J. Todd Ring: The Kingdom of Heaven is Within You

Amazon.co.uk: The Gospel of St Thomas: Marvin W. Meyer:

Writings of J. Todd Ring: Thomas Merton: My Favorite Monk

Writings of J. Todd Ring: The Truth About Christianity: What Jesus Really Said

Writings of J. Todd Ring: Earth 101: Essential Reading

Amazon.com: A History of God: The 4,000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam: Karen Armstrong: Books

Amazon.com: The World's Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions: Huston Smith: Books

Amazon.com: The Power of Myth: Joseph Campbell,Bill Moyers: Books

Amazon.com: Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth: Joseph Campbell (III),Bill Moyers: Movies & TV

Amazon.com: Varieties of Religious Experience: William James: Books

Amazon.com: Mysticism: East and West: Rudolf Otto,Bertha L. Bracey: Books

Powell's Books - The Perennial Philosophy (Perennial Classics) by Aldous Huxley

Powell's Books - The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are by Alan W. Watts

No Boundary: Eastern and Western Approaches to Personal Growth (978-1-57062-743-9) - No Boundary

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4 Comments:

Blogger Ryan said...

Enjoyed the post. The anarchistic aspect of the New Testament (as an artifact & piece of art of the early Christian community) is much overlooked, even in more liberal Christian spheres.

If there was anything ancient Jewish peasants were afraid of, it was the state, whether it be the puppet King Herod or Emperor Claudius.

I'm sure you're familiar with Tolstoy's famous work of virtually the same name as your post. And hey, he didn't even have to go digging in the holy land to find it.

10:24 PM  
Blogger J. Todd Ring said...

Thank you for your thoughtful comment Ryan. I wasn't thinking about anarchistic tendencies in early Christianity when I wrote this piece, but the scriptures certainly have both a libertarian or anarchist flavour - challenging all forms of social authority and regarding all as equals - as well as a socialist flavour: generosity, sharing, mutual responsibility, the booting out of the money changers from the temple, the Good Samaritan, the Sermon on the Mount....the list goes on.

I wasn't aware of Tolstoy's writing on this. If you feel like informing us I'd be much delighted.

7:57 PM  
Blogger Ryan said...

http://www.amazon.ca/Kingdom-God-Within-You/dp/0486451380/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1205733835&sr=8-1

Tolstoy's book is much of what you've mentioned, the anarchist/socialist stream from the gospels. It's interesting because he draws it from a literal interpretation of "turn the other cheek" to mean that violence can never be met with violence.

He also argues that the state is the main purveyor of violence, and that complicity in the state inherently means complicity in murder. Very interesting & extremely radical.

A modern version that I'm quite into is "God & Empire" by John Crossan. The caption reads "Jesus against Rome, then and now." Worth checking out for a modern theological perspective.

1:09 AM  
Blogger J. Todd Ring said...

Thanks again Ryan. Much appreciated.

Liberation theology, as well as the tradition of non-violent civil disobedience, from Thoreau, through Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr. and right into the present, might be of interest to readers as well. Also, from what I hear, Friar de Las Casas. Talk about speaking truth to power. People of good hearts, Google these. There's a powerful force here.

1:26 PM  

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