The Gospel of Thomas, Part 12: The Dissection, Part 3

The Gospel of Thomas is a collection of 114 sayings of Jesus, “The hidden sayings that the living Jesus spoke & Judas Thomas the Twin recorded.” This is the first line of the Gospel of Thomas. The Gospel of Thomas is the second tractate of codex 2 of the Nag Hammadi library, where it’s preserved in Coptic translation. 3 Greek fragments of the Gospel of Thomas also survive (Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 1, 654, & 655), as well as testimonies in early Christian literature, especially Hippolytus of Rome. Most likely the Gospel of Thomas was composed in Greek, probably in Syria, perhaps at Edessa, where Thomas was revered & his bones venerated. A reasonable case can be made for a first-century date for a first edition of the Gospel of Thomas. According to saying 1 of the Gospel of Thomas, “Whoever discovers the interpretation of these sayings will not taste death.” The Gospel of Thomas doesn’t proclaim a gospel of the cross, as do the Gospels Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John & Peter, but rather a gospel of wisdom, & hearers & readers are encouraged to encounter the sayings, interact with them, & discover for themselves their interpretation & meaning. And according to the Gospel of Thomas, that’s how people attain salvation & life. Among the sayings in the Gospel of Thomas, 2 refer to a woman named Mary. In saying 21, the question of a person named Mary (“What are your disciples like?”) prompts Jeus to offer world’s about life, trouble, & the consummation of things in the world. While Mary here may be Mary Magdalene, there is nothing to confirm or deny this as such an ID. In saying 114 Mary comes into conflict with Peter, & this Mary is almost certainly Mary Magdalene. Mary Magdalene &  Peter do have a long & storied history of not liking one another.  In a similar fashion, Mary Magdalene faces the hostility of Peter in the Gospel of Mary & the Pistis Sophia, & in all these Mary, finally, is vindicated. The Gospel of Thomas saying 114 has Jesus declare that Mary can be saved when she becomes male, “for every female who makes herself male will enter heaven’s kingdom.” At first glance it may appear that Peter, not Mary, is the one who is vindicated here. After all, Mary must become male to be saved, & that could suggest Peter was right all along. To be sure, there are a variety of ways in which the female becoming male has interpreted in theory & in practice. For example, in the Acts of Philip, Jesus is made to praise Mary for her courageous, masculine spirit, & he advises her to avoid dressing like a woman & instead to wear male clothing. The best interpretation of the female becoming male what’s heavenly & imperishable. If that’s also the case here, then the transformation of the female into the male impacts all people, women & men, who seek to leave what’s perishable & attain what’s imperishable. Then what’s true for Mary becoming male is true all people, whatever their gender, who participate in femaleness.  The world of perishability is ever come, the dying  cosmos of the mother goddess is transcended, & she, & all human beings who are physical & earthly, can be transformed to the spiritual & heavenly.

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