Secret words which the living Jesus taught
“One of these documents [found at Nag Hammadi] begins with the scribal note in the margin," The Gospel According to Thomas.”And the first sentence of that document says," These are the secret words which the living Jesus taught and which Judas Thomas Didymos wrote down.”And then they start a total of over 110 sayings, each introduced by"Jesus said....”
Now what is typical about these sayings is that in each instance, these sayings want to say that if you want to understand what Jesus said, you have to recognize yourself. You have to know yourself, know who you are. It begins with a saying about the Kingdom of God," if you seek the Kingdom of God in the sky then the birds will precede you. And if you seek it in the sea, then the fish will precede you, but the Kingdom is in you. And if you know yourself then you know the Kingdom of God.” (The Kingdom of the Father, in fact, it always says in the gospel of Thomas. Normally the Kingdom of the Father, not the Kingdom of God.)"But if you don't know yourself, you live in poverty.”And poverty is understood as the ignorance of a life in its physical existence. Knowledge is understood to be the knowledge of one's divine origin, of the fact that one has come from the Kingdom. That we are on this earth only in a sojourn...
What does it mean really to know oneself? To know oneself is to have insight into one's own ultimate divine identity. You can go back to understand this to Greek models, which certainly exist.”Know yourself"Is a very old Greek maxim... that is, you have to know that your own soul is divine, and then you know that you are immortal, whereas the body is the mortal part of human existence. Now this is radicalized in the Gospel of Thomas into saying that everything that is experienced physically and through sense perception, everything in this world that you can perceive in this way is nothing. It is, at best, chaos and, at worst, it doesn't even exist in reality. The only thing that really exists is your divine spirit or your divine soul, which is identical in its quality with God himself. And Jesus is the one who teaches that... When one truly knows oneself, one understands that one is divine, but also one understands that one is mortal. In such a way, you recognize that this mortality is really meaningless, as physical existence is meaningless. And therefore, death is no longer a problem, but death is a solution, because in death finally all this mortality will fall away, and the true self will be liberated to an independent existence that's no longer dependent on physical existence. And on everything that goes with physical existence, sickness and poverty and so on. And so physical existence is often described as poverty. But when you know yourself you are no longer in poverty.”
Helmut Koester, PBS and WGBH/FRONTLINE, 1998
(Helmut Koester: John H. Morison Professor of New Testament Studies and Winn Professor of Ecclesiastical History Harvard Divinity School)
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