It is a common perception amongst Christians that the Bible is essentially the same text as written by the various authors down through the ages, barring the obvious necessity of translation.
Unfortunately, this is not so. It only takes a fairly cursory amount of research to discover that most of them have been edited by persons unknown and often with an agenda. The letters of Paul are probably the only books we are fairly sure are correct. But that doesn’t apply to the Gospels. It is known that all four were written based on both earlier oral traditions and earlier works. In fact, scholars even know that Matthew and Luke were based on Mark plus at least one earlier work.
One of those suspected earlier works is called The Gospel According To Thomas. Unlike the canonical gospels, Thomas is not a narrative. It’s also not very long. It is a list of things Jesus is known to have said. Many of them are recognisable to someone raised in church, but a few are not, and there are also theological concepts pointedly absent. The Gospel of Thomas and other works that didn’t make the cut in the various efforts of “standardising” the Bible are accepted by fringe groups, such as the Gnostics.
I’d encountered the Gnostics before, but it was only in the last few days that I’ve actually understood their place in history. And it’s a bit contentious. The basic accusation seems to be that those with a vested interest in maintaining a patriarchal religious order in Christianity bent their efforts at marginalising works which challenged that. And it almost succeeded, too. Except that The Gospel Of Thomas did not completely disappear.
In my own spiritual journey, I’m keenly interested in the Jesus behind the Christian Christ. There are strong resonances with Wiccan and Pagan practices – stronger than I had ever expected until very recently.
I am wrestling a bit with the concept of “truth”; the kind of “truth” that says Jesus Did This or Said That. It is difficult to grasp that sometimes that doesn’t matter. Equally hard to quite come to terms with is when people in my Bible Study will not question whether the three chapters in Matthew usually called The Sermon On The Mount actually all happened in one morning. In some ways and in some contexts, it doesn’t matter. But in others, it does.
I’ve found a translation of The Gospel Of Thomas. And it was free! I’ve read it once, though I want to read it again. Still trying to see a Jesus shorn of the church’s later mysogyny and cronyism. It’s tough.