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Jesus finally restores all things to God," bringing them back into the Father, and into The Mother."


Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas
"But 'unlike' Arnold, the author of this gospel believes that we can awaken from horror to discover God's presence here and now; and when we wake up, the terror recedes, for the divine breath—the spirit—runs after us," and, having extended a hand, lift[s] [us] up to stand on [our] feet."[20] Thus, the Gospel of Truth continues, echoing John's prologue, the"'word' of the Father,...Jesus of the infinite sweetness...goes forth into all things, supporting all things," and finally restores all things to God," bringing them back into the Father, and into The Mother."The Gospel of Truth also says that what we see in Jesus—or God—depends on what we need to see, and what we are capable of seeing. For although the divine is"Ineffable, unimaginable," our understanding is bound by words and images, which can either limit or extend what we perceive. (P.121) So, although God is, of course, neither masculine or feminine, when invoking the image of God the Father, this author also speaks of God The Mother."

"Valentinus, a poet himself, loved the power of biblical images, especially John's. Though orthodox Christians later sought to destroy his teachings, the surviving fragments show that he took the story of the cleansing of the Temple, for example, as a parable showing how, when God shines into our hearts, he shatters and transforms what he finds there to make us fit dwellings for the holy spirit. [15] Another fragment suggests that Valentinus's own spiritual awakening occurred when he received a revelatory dream in which a newborn child appeared and said to him," I am the 'logos'"[16]—in John's language, the divine 'word' revealed in human form.

Let us look at several examples of what Irenaeus calls"evil exegesis," and then consider what he finds objectionable. Irenaeus identifies Valentinus as the author of what he calls the Gospel of Truth, and if this is the same one discovered at Nag Hammadi, we now can see, for the first time, how Valentinus praised the"hidden mystery, Jesus the Christ."[17] Whether written by Valentinus or, more likely, by one of his followers, the Gospel of Truth depicts a world devoid of God as a nightmare, a world like the one Matthew Arnold described nearly two thousand years later:

...the world, which seems
to lie before us like a land of dreams,
so various, so beautiful, so new,
hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light, nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
and we are here as on a darkling plain
swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight
where ignorant armies clash by night.
[18]

The Gospel of Truth, too, pictures human existence, apart from God, as a nightmare, in which people feel as if...they were fleeing, or, without strength they come from having chased after others; or they are...striking blows, or...receiving blows themselves; or they have fallen from high places, or they take off into the air, though they do not even have wings;...or as if people were murdering them, though there is no one pursuing them, or they themselves are killing their neighbors, for they have been stained with their blood. [19]

But 'unlike' Arnold, the author of this gospel believes that we can awaken from horror to discover God's presence here and now; and when we wake up, the terror recedes, for the divine breath—the spirit—runs after us," and, having extended a hand, lift[s] [us] up to stand on [our] feet."[20] Thus, the Gospel of Truth continues, echoing John's prologue, the"'word' of the Father,...Jesus of the infinite sweetness...goes forth into all things, supporting all things," and finally restores all things to God," bringing them back into the Father, and into The Mother."[21]

The Gospel of Truth also says that what we see in Jesus—or God—depends on what we need to see, and what we are capable of seeing. For although the divine is"Ineffable, unimaginable," our understanding is bound by words and images, which can either limit or extend what we perceive. (P.121) So, although God is, of course, neither masculine or feminine, when invoking the image of God the Father, this author also speaks of God The Mother. Moreover, while drawing upon images of Jesus familiar from the gospels of Matthew and Luke (the"good shepherd") [22] and from Paul, who speaks of wisdom's"hidden mystery," [23] as well as from John ("The word of the Father"), this author offers other visions of Jesus as well. Acknowledging that believers commonly see Jesus"nailed to the cross"As an image recalling sacrificial death, this author suggests seeing him instead as"fruit on a tree"—none other than the"tree of knowledge"In Paradise. [24] But instead of destroying those who eat the fruit, as Adam was destroyed, 'this' fruit," Jesus the Christ," conveys 'genuine' knowledge—not intellectual knowledge but the knowing of mutual recognition (a word related to the Greek term 'gnosis')—to those whom God"discovers...in himself, and they discover him in themselves."[25]

This gospel takes its name from the opening line: "The gospel of truth is joy, to those who receive from the Father the grace of knowing him," [26] for it transforms our understanding of God and ourselves. Those who receive this gospel no longer"think of [God] as petty, nor harsh, nor wrathful"—not, that is, as some biblical stories portray him—"but as a being without evil," loving, full of tranquility, gracious, and all-knowing. [27] The Gospel of Truth pictures the holy spirit as God's breath, and envisions the Father first breathing forth the entire universe of living beings ("his children are his fragrant breath"), then drawing all beings back into the embrace of their divine source. [28] Meanwhile, he urges those who"discover God in themselves, and themselves in God"to transform 'gnosis' into action:

Speak the truth to those who seek it,
And speak of understanding to those who have committed sin through error;
Strengthen the feet of those who have stumbled;
Extend your hands to those who are sick;
Feed those who are hungry;
Give rest to those who are weary;
And raise up those who wish to rise.
[29]

Those who care for others and do good"do the will of the Father."

Beyond Belief (The Secret Gospel of Thomas), Chapter 4, p.119-122
Elaine Pagels
Vintage Books, New York, U.S.A
ISBN: 0-375-70316-0


Notes:
For fuller and more technical discussions of the research summarized in this chapter, see Elaine Pagels," Irenaeus, the 'Canon of Truth' and the Gospel of John: 'Making a Difference' Through Hermeneutics and Ritual," in 'Vigiliae Christianae' 56.4 (2002), 339-371; also Pagels," Ritual in the Gospel of Phillip," in Turner and McGuire, 'Nag Hammadi Library After Fifty Years', 280-294;"The Mystery of Marriage in the Gospel of Phillip," in Pearson, 'Future of Early Christianity', 442-452; and 'Johannine Gospel in Gnostic Exegesis'.
[15] Valentinus 2, in Clement of Alexandria, 'Stromateis' 2.14.3-6 (for discussion, see Markschies, 'Valentinus Gnosticus?' 54ff).
[16] Valentinus 7, in Hippolytus, 'Refutation of All Heresies' 6.42.2.
[17] Gospel of Truth 29.9-25, in NHL 43.
[18] Opening lines of"Dover Beach."
[19] Gospel of Truth 29.9-25, in NHL 43.
[20] Ibid., 30.16-21, in NHL 43.
[21] Ibid., 24:5-9, in NHL 41.
[22] Matthew 18:2-4; Luke 15:3-7.
[23] 1 Corinthians 2:7.
[24] Gospel of Truth 18:24-29, in NHL 38.
[25] Ibid., 18.29-34, in NHL 38.
[26] Ibid., 16.31-33, in NHL 37.
[27] Ibid., 42.1-10, in NHL 48.
[28] Ibid., 33.35-34.35, in NHL 44.
[29] Ibid., 32.35-33.30.




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