Tue. May 21st, 2024


by Rogier Fentener van Vlissingen


November 24th we had a workshop with best-selling author Gary Renard ( at the Al-Iman Community Center. Gary was presenting his 3rd book in his Disappearance of the Universe trilogy. In this same time period, Gary also released the full text of Pursah’s Gospel of Thomas (PGoTh) via his website (, so that people can either study it there, or print it out, and even use it as an insert in a book (it can be printed dual-sided on a single letter-size page). A flower arrangement of lilies that someone brought to the workshop, survived and became part of the Peace December celebrations. Lilies are a symbol of forgiveness, and thus a beautiful reflection of the thoughts behind Peace December.

I am no muslim, but the name Islam always speaks to me—the surrender of my will to God’s Will—which I would understand to be the Oneness of God, and to love my brother like myself. I’ve studied many muslim sages over the years, and done some reading of the Koran, and I was always fascinated by the notion that Mohammed clearly had a different reading of Jesus than Christianity did. One more clue that there were always different ways of looking at Jesus. With modern scholarship more and more of the early history has been unraveled, and the closer we get to the time of Jesus, the more we understand that there were almost as many ways of looking at him as there were people, and certainly the apostles did not have a very homogenous outlook either.

A bit of history is in order here… Thomas was one of the apostles, one of the original disciples of Jesus who is only summarily mentioned in the New Testament, but he apparently was the first to collect a written record of the teachings of Jesus, and his collection is known as the Thomas Gospel, and it is nothing more than a collection of sayings: Jesus said this, Jesus said that. No elaborate stories and no theology. After the crucifixion, Thomas first traveled to Syria, where apparently he wrote down these sayings. Thomas later traveled to India, where he died in Kerala, and was part of the genesis of Nestorian Christianity. Later writers of Gospel accounts quoted from Thomas, but only Mark, Luke, Matthew and John were eventually included in the New Testament by Bishop Athanasius in the year 367 CE, in a letter that defined the table of contents of the New Testament from that time forward. At the Council of Nicea in 325 CE it was through the force of the Emperor Constantine that all the many “Christianities” were temporarily consolidated into one. During that time period any literature that did not conform to the emerging orthodoxy was destroyed.

Fortunately, some monk at Nag Hammadi in Egypt stuffed some of the manuscripts (dated ca 340 CE) by his monastery in sealed earthenware casks, and buried them in the sand, were they survived to be rediscovered after World War II (1945). By the 1950’s translations of the Thomas Gospel began to appear, first in Holland, where one Professor Gilles Quispel had acquired the manuscript in 1951. The Nag Hammadi text was in the Coptic language. Since the late 19th century, we had fragments of an older Greek manuscript of the Thomas Gospel from ca. 140 CE., hence there was some hope that a larger manuscript might be found. Interestingly, just when all these discoveries happened and research was starting, the predominant tradition of Biblical scholarship had been Protestant, but in 1965 Catholic Bible scholarship was also allowed by the Second Vatican Council. There was a surge of renewed interst in the early history of Christianity.

Since then, scholars have come to the conclusion that the Thomas Gospel is older than the New Testament gospels, for the simple reason that the New Testament Gospels quoted from the Thomas sayings. They also generally thought that the original text of ca. 50 CE must have been smaller than the text of the Nag Hammadi version, which appears to contradict itself at times. Various theories have been offered of how the text was modified during those first few centuries before 340 CE.

In the spring of 2003, three new books appeared on the market on the same day, which all did their bit to popularize the Thomas Gospel. Elaine Pagels published her Beyond Belief, which was a scholarly reflection, inspired by her own personal crisis of faith. Dave Brown published the Da Vinci Code, an adventure story where the Thomas Gospel plays a cameo role, and which is made exciting by his adolescent challenging of the authority of the church. The third book was Gary Renard’s The Disappearance of the Universe: Straight Talk About Illusions, Past Lives,  Religion, Sex, Politics, and the Miracles of Forgiveness, which discussed twenty two sayings from the Thomas Gospel.

In Gary Renard’s books an abbreviated version of the Thomas Gospel is presented, containing 70 sayings, instead of the 114 from Nag Hammadi, and the resulting collection is remarkably coherent. Gary’s teachers in his books are two ascended masters, who present themselves as reincarnations of the apostles Thomas and Thaddeus, and give him this text of 70 sayings. The result, Pursah’s Gospel of Thomas, is a selection of sayings which Pursah represented as authentic (see Gary’s 2nd book, Your Immortal Reality).

Another interesting factoid about the Thomas Gospel is that Thomas Jefferson in an interesting way also “discovered” it – namely when he sat down and composed the book that is now known as The Jefferson Bible, he cut out the actual sayings of Jesus from the New Testament, and clearly he left out the surrounding stories and editorials for the most part, so that his selection focuses on what Jesus said, filtered only by Jefferson’s own common sense. Because the gospel writers were in turn quoting the Thomas gospel (and one other source, named “Q”), Jefferson’s selection bears a great deal of similarity to the Thomas Gospel. In retrospect this is really quite amazing, now that we have the actual Thomas Gospel itself.

What is interesting to the modern reader is that the Gospel of Thomas, reflects Jesus without (Christian) theology, and he sounds different than he does in later, Christian literature. After all, Christianity was invented after his death. In short, the Thomas Gospel, with Pursah’s selection being my favorite version, give you the closest thing to reading Jesus as he must have sounded originally. Gary’s books give the text new relevance through their connection to the modern spiritual teachings of A Course in Miracles. In 2008, I published my own book about it: Closing the Circle, Pursah’s Gospel of Thomas and A Course in Miracles.


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