In 1945, a peasant from the Upper Egyptian town of Nag Hammadi discovered twelve papyrus codices written in the Coptic (Egyptian) language buried in a sealed jar. These writing composed approximately 52 Gnostic treatises, including the best-known “Gospel of Thomas” – the only complete text of the find. These writings are not part of the standard Christian canonical gospels and are referred to as the “apocrypha.” Most were written from the second to the fourth centuries AD, while the “Gospel of Thomas” is thought to have been written during the last half of the first century AD. In the video accompanying this article, it is stated that such a date may indicate that the “Gospel of Thomas” may be the closest we can get to the historical Jesus. “The Nag Hammadi Scriptures: The Revised and Updated Translation of Sacred Gnostic Texts Complete in One Volume,” by Marvin W. Meyer and James M. Robinson, is available in paperback for $15.98 on Amazon.
The word “gnostic” comes from the Greek word “gnosis,” which means “knowledge.” These writings emphasize a belief, which was held by a segment of the Christian community at that time, that salvation could be obtained through adherence to the teachings of Jesus, and the consequent enlightenment and freedom from ties to the material world, rather than through His death and resurrection. These Gnostic gospels were quite threatening to the early Church, as participation in a church was not necessary for the process of salvation through gnosis, and may be a reason why they were eliminated from inclusion in the current version of the Bible. The “Gospel of Thomas,” in particular, is starkly different from the canonical gospels as it does not focus on a biographical approach to the life of Jesus but rather contains what it claims to be the hidden sayings of Jesus, whose understanding would lead to salvation.
An opportunity to study the hidden sayings of Jesus among open-minded individuals is offered by Unity North Atlanta Church. Rev. Gregg Carlson is facilitating an ongoing class examining the “Gospel of Thomas” on the third Monday of each month at 7:30 p.m. in the lobby of the church. The class will allow both deep reflection and lively discussion on the teachings leading to spiritual insight.
Registration for these classes is not required and there is no charge other than a suggested love offering of $3 to $5 per class to cover expenses. Participants are asked to bring a copy of the primary text, “The Gospel of Thomas: Wisdom of the Twin” by Dr. Lynn C. Bauman (available in paperback for $10.86 on Amazon), with them.
Unity North Atlanta Church is located at 4255 Sandy Plains Road in Marietta, Georgia 30066. The church campus is located in the Atlanta suburb of East Cobb. Take I-75 North from Atlanta to Exit 276A – Canton Road (5 Spur) going north. At the first light, turn right onto Sandy Plains Road. Follow Sandy Plains for approximately 6.7 miles. The church is located on the left side of the road. Make a U-turn at the next intersection.
Available related texts on Amazon include: (1) “The Gospel of Thomas: The Hidden Sayings of Jesus” by Marvin W. Meyer and Harold Bloom ($13.98 in hardcover), and, (2) “Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas” by Elaine Pagels ($10.20 in paperback).