Monday, October 13, 2008

Apocryphote of the Day: 10-13-08

[Judas (Thomas)] said, "Tell me Lord, what is the beginning of the way?"
He said, "Love and goodness."

Dialogue of the Savior 142.5-7 (Syrian Christian encratic text, early second century)

Commentary: Judas Thomas (The Twin in Johannine gospel) is the hero of early Syrian encratic Christianity. Here he asks a question very similar to John 14:5: "Lord we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?" to which Jesus responds, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by me." When we compare these two texts, it is fascinating how the Syrian text frames Thomas' question in a positive sense, while the Johannine author does not. Also, look at the difference in answers. In Syrian Christianity, it is a personal ethics that is the beginning of the spiritual journey (as it is in Jewish Christianity). Not so in Johannine gospel which promotes here salvation through the work of an intermediary figure, Jesus. I have made the argument in the past (in my book VOICES OF THE MYSTICS) that the Johannine gospel is responding to a form of Syrian Christianity (represented by the Gospel of Thomas) which it does not approve. The Dialogue of the Savior is a text coming from the same Christian tradition as the Gospel of Thomas, and reveals a continuation of the conflict between encratic Syrian Christianity and that promoted by the Gospel of John.

Novgorodian icon of the Apostle Thomas, 1350 - 1370 CE


John Shuck said...

I haven't commented in a while. But I do read it! Just want you to know how much I appreciate your blog and your apocryphotes of the day! The quotes and the setting for them you provide is really helpful.

April DeConick said...

Thanks John!

R.Eagle said...

Love and goodness...that's nice! But boy, does it get messy.