You will prepare and submit a term paper on The Gospel of Thomas. Your paper should be a minimum of 1500 words in length. The quotations on the Kingdom of Heaven, in particular, have been a focal point of discussion and argument as to what exactly the author of the text intended, especially in reference to its nature and how exactly one attains it. This paper analyses this Gospel’s allusions to the Kingdom of Heaven and what it entails with regard to the historical, cultural, social, and political atmosphere of the time in which the Gospel was written.
The strongest approach for interpretation of the Gospel of Thomas seems to be the Gnostic approach, with several factors lending credence to this theory. The scriptures seem to indicate that the main characteristic of the Kingdom of Heaven is that it is within us, and all that is required of us is inward reflection and self-knowledge. The emphasis on knowledge is a major selling point for this argument, with the word Gnosis itself being Greek for knowledge. Gnostics held the belief that the realization of knowledge was the path to salvation and deliverance. In what can be viewed as Gnostic tradition, the scriptures are viewed as holding a secret meaning, and only those who attain a deeper understanding have the truth revealed to them and are finally worthy of entering the kingdom (Valantasis, p 79). This attitude of secrecy and mystery is visible from the very first line in which the author states. “These are the secret sayings that the living Jesus spoke and Didymos Judas Thomas recorded”. Gnosticism encouraged mysticism and regarded deep thinking and meditation on texts as important to the path of eventual revelation, a sign that one was worthy of the rewards from the higher powers (Wylen, p 239). One interpretation of these texts could argue strongly for the case that the reigning Gnostic attitude at the time influenced the writer to use the veiled references, parables, and allegories so as to motivate the reader into attempting to perceive more than just the written text. Examples of this approach can be seen in the verses quoted below:
“Jesus said, “If your leaders say to you, ‘Look, the (Father’s) kingdom is in the sky,’ then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, ‘It is in the sea,’ then the fish will precede you. Rather, the kingdom is within you and it is outside you.”(v.3).
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