Editor's Choice

Gospel of Thomas offers the reader Jesus' 'secret teachings' about the Kingdom of God

The Gnostic Gospels
"The Gnostic Gospels is a landmark study of the long-buried roots of Christianity, a work of luminous scholarship and wide popular appeal. First published in 1979 to critical acclaim, winning the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award, The Gnostic Gospels has continued to grow in reputation and influence over the past two decades. It is now widely recognized as one of the most brilliant and accessible histories of early Christian spirituality published in our time.

In 1945 an Egyptian peasant unearthed what proved to be the Gnostic Gospels, thirteen papyrus volumes that expounded a radically different view of the life and teachings of Jesus Christ from that of the New Testament. In this spellbinding book, renowned religious scholar Elaine Pagels elucidates the mysteries and meanings of these sacred texts both in the world of the first Christians and in the context of Christianity today.

With insight and passion, Pagels explores a remarkable range of recently discovered gospels, including the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, to show how a variety of "Christianities" emerged at a time of extraordinary spiritual upheaval. Some Christians questioned the need for clergy and church doctrine, and taught that the divine could be discovered through spiritual search. Many others, like Buddhists and Hindus, sought enlightenment — and access to God — within. Such explorations raised questions: Was the resurrection to be understood symbolically and not literally? Was God to be envisioned only in masculine form, or feminine as well? Was martyrdom a necessary — or worthy — expression of faith? These early Christians dared to ask questions that orthodox Christians later suppressed — and their explorations led to profoundly different visions of Jesus and his message.

Brilliant, provocative, and stunning in its implications, The Gnostic Gospels is a radical, eloquent reconsideration of the origins of the Christian faith."

Web (Retrieved May 11, 2015)

Elaine Pagels is a preeminent figure in the theological community whose scholarship has earned her international respect. The Harrington Spear Paine Professor of Religion at Princeton University, she was awarded the Rockefeller, Guggenheim & MacArthur Fellowships in three consecutive years. As a young researcher at Barnard College, she changed forever the historical landscape of the Christian religion by exploding the myth of the early Christian Church as a unified movement. Her findings were published in the bestselling book, The Gnostic Gospels, an analysis of 52 early Christian manuscripts that were unearthed in Egypt. Known collectively as the Nag Hammadi Library, the manuscripts show the pluralistic nature of the early church & the role of women in the developing movement. As the early church moved toward becoming an orthodox body with a canon, rites & clergy, the Nag Hammadi manuscripts were suppressed & deemed heretical. The Gnostic Gospels won both the Nat'l Book Critic's Circle Award & the Nat'l Book Award & was chosen by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best books of the 20th Century.

Here, as in Luke 17:20, the Kingdom of God is said to be an interior state; "It's within you," Luke says.

Elaine Pagels, The Secret Gospel of Thomas
According to the renowned historian Elaine H. Pagels the Gospel of Thomas "does not tell the story about the life and death of Jesus, but offers the reader his 'secret teachings' about the kingdom of God."

"This book opens with the lines, 'These are the secret words which the living Jesus spoke, and the twin, Didymos Judas Thomas wrote them down.' Then there follows a list of the sayings of Jesus. ... Some of these sayings are familiar. We know them from Matthew and Luke — Jesus said, 'I have come to cast fire on the earth.' Or 'Behold, a sower went out to sow,' and so forth.... Others are as strange and compelling as Zen koans. My favorite of these is saying number 70, which says, 'If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.' The gospel opens as Jesus invites people to see....

The Gospel of Thomas also suggests that Jesus is aware of, and criticizing the views of the Kingdom of God as a time or a place that appear in the other gospels. Here Jesus says," If those who lead you say to you, 'look, the Kingdom is in the sky,' then the birds will get there first. If they say 'it's in the ocean,' then the fish will get there first. But the Kingdom of God is within you and outside of you. Once you come to know yourselves, you will become known. And you will know that it is you who are the children of the living father."

In this gospel, and this is also the case in the Gospel of Luke, the Kingdom of God is not an event that's going to be catastrophically shattering the world as we know it and ushering in a new millennium. Here, as in Luke 17:20, the Kingdom of God is said to be an interior state; 'It's within you,' Luke says. And here it says, 'It's inside you but it's also outside of you.' It's like a state of consciousness. It's hard to describe. But the Kingdom of God here is something that you can enter when you attain gnosis, which means knowledge. But it doesn't mean intellectual knowledge. The Greeks had two words for knowledge. One is intellectual knowledge, like the knowledge of physics or something like that. But this gnosis is personal, like 'I know that person, or do you know so and so.' So this gnosis is self- knowledge; you could call it insight. It's a question of knowing who you really are, not at the ordinary level of your name and your social class or your position. But knowing yourself at a deep level. The secret of gnosis is that when you know yourself at that level you will also come to know God, because you will discover that the divine is within you.

The Jesus of the Gospel of Thomas does appear rather different from the Jesus we encounter in the others. Because the Gospel of Mark, for example, depicts Jesus as an utterly unique being. This is the good news of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God. The Gospel of John says that Jesus isn't even a human being at all, but he's a divine presence who comes down to heaven in human shape.... The Gospel of John says, 'God sent his son into the world to save the world.' If you believe in him, you're saved, if you don't believe in him you're already damned, because you haven't believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

Now, [in the Gospel of Thomas], this Jesus comes to reveal that you and he are, if you like, twins.... And what you discover as you read the Gospel of Thomas, which you're meant to discover, is that you and Jesus at a deep level are identical twins. And that you discover that you are the child of God just as he is. And so that at the end of the gospel Jesus speaks to Thomas and says, 'Whoever drinks from my mouth will become as I am, and I will become that person, and the mysteries will be revealed to him.' Here, Jesus does not take the role of authority and teacher. In the Gospel of Thomas, the disciples say to Jesus, 'Tell us, what do you want us to do? How shall we pray? What shall we eat? How shall we fast?' Now if you look at Matthew and Luke, Jesus answers the questions. He says, 'When you pray, say, 'Our Father who are in Heaven, hallowed be...' When you fast, wash your face, don't make a show of it. When you give alms do it privately and without being showy.' In this gospel, this Jesus does not answer. He says, 'Do not tell lies, and do not do what you hate, for everything is known before heaven.' Now this answer throws you and me upon ourselves.... Here Jesus, in effect, turns one toward oneself, and that is really one of the themes of the Gospel of Thomas, that you must go in a sort of a spiritual quest of your own to discover who you are, and to discover really that you are the child of God just like Jesus."

Elaine H. Pagels, FRONTINE: From Jesus to Christ
Web (Retrieved September 16, 2013)


Barry Smith, Jesus' Twofold Teaching About The Kingdom Of God

"Central to the synoptic gospels is Jesus' proclamation of the Kingdom of God. Jesus' primary mission to his people was to offer them the possibility of eschatological salvation, which, for the most part, he expressed by the term 'Kingdom of God.' (A synonym for the Kingdom of God is the Kingdom of Heaven, found in the Gospel of Matthew.)...

Kingdom of God in the midst of You (Luke 17:20-21)

"Central to the synoptic gospels is Jesus' proclamation of the Kingdom of God. Jesus' primary mission to the Jewish people was to offer them the possibility of participation in final, or eschatological, salvation, which, for the most part, he expressed by the term"Kingdom of God." (A synonym for the Kingdom of God is the Kingdom of Heaven, found in the Gospel of Matthew.) Jesus interpreted his exorcisms and healings as manifestations of the Kingdom of God...

20 Being asked by the Pharisees when the Kingdom of God was coming, he answered them, 'The Kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; 21 nor will they say, 'Lo, here it is!' or 'There!' for behold, the Kingdom of God is in the midst of you.'

Luke contains a saying in which Jesus describes the nature of the appearance of the Kingdom of God; in it he connects the Kingdom with himself. The Pharisees ask Jesus when the Kingdom of God will come in 17:20a. Jesus' response in 17:20b-21 is constructed in antithetical parallelism. The negative member of Jesus' response consists of two coordinating clauses joined by 'nor,' which describe how the Kingdom of God does not come: 'The Kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, nor will they say, 'Look, here it is!' or, 'There it is!' The first way in which the Kingdom does not come is 'with signs to be observed' (meta paratêrêseôs). In the context, the meaning of 'signs to be observed' probably describes empirically observable phenomena associated with the inception of eschatological fulfillment. Jesus' questioners hold the view that the coming of the Kingdom of God will be universally recognizable by its accompanying manifestations, and they want to know when Jesus believes these premonitory manifestations will begin to occur, thereby heralding the Kingdom. (On this interpretation 'come' has a future meaning since it is referring to the future Kingdom of God.) The second way in which the Kingdom of God does not come is in such a way that someone could say 'Look, here it is!' or, 'There it is!' The meaning seems to be the same as 'with signs to be observed.' In other words, Jesus is saying that, contrary to their expectation, the Kingdom of God will not come in such a way as to be universally recognized as such. He rejects the presupposition behind the question, namely that the Kingdom of God will all at once come as a publicly observable event. In other words, the Kingdom will not come all at once, as full-blown, so that no one could deny that it has come. Rather, Jesus' conception of the Kingdom of God is that it begins inconspicuously, so that it is possible to deny that it has come at the earliest stages of its historical development.

The positive member of Jesus' response is the remarkable statement that the Kingdom of God has already come: 'For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst (entos humôn).' Jesus' point is that the Kingdom of God is in the midst of his questioners insofar as he is in their midst, so inseparable is he from the Kingdom. Of course, the Kingdom is in its initial phases and so is still only partially and even ambiguously present. For this reason, the possibility exists to deny that it is present at all, in which case Jesus would be seen as having no salvation-historical significance at all. When it comes to completion, the Kingdom of God will be undeniable, but until then a person will be able to accept or reject Jesus' claim that the Kingdom of God is already present insofar as he is present...

Entering the Kingdom Maimed (Mark 9:43-48 = Matt 18:8-9)

Mark 9:43-48
43 And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. 44 [omitted] 45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. 46 [omitted] 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out; it is better for you to enter the Kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, 48 where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.

Matt 18:8-9
8 And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life maimed or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.

Jesus teaches that a person must remove all impediments in order to to enter the Kingdom of God (eiselthein eis tên basileian tou theou) (Mark 9:47), which is synonymous with to enter into life (eiselthein eis tên zoên) (Mark 9:43, 45), since it is better to do without any so-called advantage than to miss entering the Kingdom of God or into life. (The term "Kingdom of God" is synonymous with "life.") This is expressed metaphorically as being willing to cut off one's hands and one's feet and being willing to remove one's eye, if necessary. The analogy between sin and a part of one's body is that, like the latter, the former may be a cherished part of one's livelihood and identity, which one may be understandably reluctant to thrust aside since the loss of it would be keenly felt. One's bodily parts represent what is closest and most valuable to a person, which must be given up if it impedes entrance into the Kingdom of God or life. The consequence of not being willing to sacrifice anything to enter the Kingdom of God or life is punishment in Gehenna (or eternal fire). The entrance of which Jesus speaks is a future entrance, coincidental with final judgment; in fact, one must pass through final judgment in order to enter the Kingdom of God as future or life."

Crandall University
Religious Studies 2033
The New Testament nd Its Context, Professor Barry Smith
Web (Retrieved September 16, 2013)

Jesus' Twofold Teaching about the Kingdom of God (New Testament Monographs) Barry D. Smith

Jesus' Twofold Teaching about the Kingdom of God
Recent research on Jesus' teaching about the Kingdom of God has in common the assumption that it remains the same throughout the time of his proclamation of it. The data that cannot be harmonized are usually judged to be inauthentic, originating from Christian prophets in the early church.

Smith shows in closely argued detail how essential it is to differentiate two historical contexts for Jesus' teaching about the Kingdom of God. The nature of the Kingdom of God is conditional upon its acceptance and the acceptance of its messenger-which is to say, Jesus' teaching about the Kingdom of God is hypothetical. This is the non-rejection context of Jesus' teaching about the Kingdom of God. But some of Jesus' teaching about the Kingdom of God presupposes a context of the rejection of his message by the majority of Jews and especially the Jewish authorities. In this new context, Jesus teaches that the Kingdom will still come but not in the way first delineated, in the non-rejection context. This can be called the rejection context of Jesus' teaching about the Kingdom of God.

No attempt should be made to assimilate all the data into one historical context. Distinguishing two contexts for Jesus' teaching about the Kingdom of God allows us to appreciate how Jesus modifies his teaching in the light of the rejection of the Kingdom. Without this differentiation of two historical contexts, it is impossible to make sense of Jesus' teaching about the Kingdom of God.

Web (Retrieved September 16, 2013)

Nothing less than the Gospel message of salvation is at stake

"In the Book of Acts the Kingdom of God was still the general formula for the substance of Christian teaching..." (Hastings Dictionary of the Bible, Vol. II, p. 855).

On the lips of Jesus the term Kingdom of God unquestionably summarized the very heart of His Message."The Kingdom of God is the central theme of the teaching of Jesus, and it involves His whole understanding of His own person and work" (Theological Word Book of the Bible, Alan Richardson, p. 119).

"Yet the voluminous discussions of the meaning of the Kingdom of the God, the heart of the Gospel preached by Jesus, and therefore the Christian Gospel, continue to leave the impression that the subject is complex in the extreme, indeed that the truth of the matter is virtually beyond recovery. An enormous amount of scholarly energy has gone into analyzing the biblical and non-biblical evidence in an effort to explain what Jesus taught as His central theme. Can it really be that our New Testament records provide no clear idea of what Christ and the Apostles meant us to understand by the Kingdom of God? Nothing less than the Gospel message of salvation is at stake."

Anthony Buzzard, The Kingdom of God: Present or Future?
Web (May 13, 2013)

The Great Adi Shakti Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi
The Spirit-Paraclete
"Today we are celebrating the opening of the Sahasrara (Kingdom of God). On this day I must say it was a great happening that took place on all the humanity. It was such an achievement, which I never realized before. Now I can see that without Self-Realization it would have been impossible to talk to people.

Then this happened! I thought that how I will talk to people about it because no one would understand Me and it would be a big mistake on My part to say something about Sahasrara because even about Sahasrara (Kingdom of God) nowhere in the scriptures something was described. It was absolutely an ambiguous description I would say where people could not even have thought there is a Realm beyond Sahasrara, and one has to enter that Realm where is the Reality. That time what I saw around Me was darkness and unless and until there are many Lights, people will never realize that how important it is to have Light."

The Messiah-Paraclete-Ruh-Devi
Cabella, Italy—June 9, 1996
Shri Mataji opens the Primordial Sahasrara (May 5th 1970)

The Great Adi Shakti Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi
The Spirit-Paraclete
"Without breaking the Sahasrara we could not have achieved the ascent en masse... To keep Sahasrara open should be very easy if the western brains could understand and be aware of your Mother. When your Mother is the Deity of Sahasrara the only way to be able to keep the Sahasrara open has to be complete surrendering....

The area of the Sahasrara is the realm of God. When the Brahmarandhra opens fully then the heavens open within yourself. The Kundalini, which has risen up and given you Realization, creates the opening by which the Divine starts pouring all its subtleties inside your brain...

All of us can achieve that state of Nirvikalpa... After Nirvikalpa you cannot come down."

The Messiah-Paraclete-Ruh-Devi
Vienna, Austria—May 4, 1985

The Great Adi Shakti Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi
The Spirit-Paraclete
"So one has to understand that evolutionary process is absolutely free, without any effort and you can't pay for your evolution. It is spontaneous. Like you have this Mother Earth and you put the seed in it, then it sprouts by itself. What do you do? Nothing. It is spontaneous and that's what exactly happens to you, that spontaneously you achieve that state of the Spirit....

So science cannot answer many questions and one of them is that why are we on this Earth? What is the purpose of our life? What is the goal of our life? What is our identity? This question is not asked and, if asked, they cannot answer. They cannot answer this simple question," Why are we on this Earth?"But one has to know that we are on this Earth to become the Spirit, to enter into the Kingdom of God. This is our purpose. That's why we are here and then to be the instruments of that Divine Power, which is All-Pervading."

The Messiah-Paraclete-Ruh-Devi
Philadelphia, USA—October 15, 1993

The Spirit-Paraclete
"The whole Christianity is doomed because they started running after shadows. This Mr. Saint Paul, I don't know how he came into Bible. Now, you are a theologist. You tell Me, John. How did he enter? I mean, anybody who says he saw Christ, is he supposed to enter into the Bible? How did he? I mean, his saying and his words and his letters are regarded as the letters from the Bible, after Christ. Before Christ is all right, but after Christ. What is the validity? I don't understand. What is the credibility of this person entering into that as an authority? How? When nobody challenged him. He was a man who was killing so many people before. Then, suddenly he becomes something and he starts saying, 'I'm doing Christ's work,' and this and that and writes letter to Corinthians and all these people and all that. And why these letters that he writes becomes a Bible? Can you imagine? What did he do in his own lifetime? Half of it he spent in killing and half of it is he was an imposter. I am happy that it has come to your notice. But one can ask, 'Why? Why is he there?'"

The Messiah-Paraclete-Ruh-Devi
London, UK—June 7, 1993

The Great Adi Shakti Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi
The Spirit-Paraclete
"You cannot force on the organization of God anything. He is on His own, His organization is on His own. Only thing you can do is to enter into His Kingdom and become a part and parcel of that blissful domain.

You would never like to change it either. It is so wonderful. It is so protective, it's so loving, is so gentle, so kind, so compassionate, that you would hate to change that organization, but we do! We try to organize God.

For people who think that is the ultimate you have to seek, it's all arranged to enter into the Kingdom of God. The time has come. This is the Day of Resurrection. These are the days of Resurrection."

The Messiah-Paraclete-Ruh-Devi
Hamstead, UK—July 22, 1982

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