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Thomas, Jefferson, and Stewardship

The featured Essay in the current issue of Harper's, Erik Reece's "Jesus Without The Miracles: Thomas Jefferson's Bible and the Gospel of Thomas," would be an arresting read at any time, but in coming at the time of national thanksgiving it packs an even mightier punch. Briefly, Mr Reece, the lapsed son and grandson of Baptist ministers, traces an unexpected connection between the version of the Gospels that Thomas Jefferson knocked off by removing everything miraculous and entitling the result, The Philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth, on the one hand, and the Gospel of Thomas, an non-canonical writing, probably older than the canonical ones, that was unearthed in 1945 at Nag Hammadi in Egypt. These documents are far too concerned with what Jesus said to be called "Christian." Christianity is a carapace built around the figure of Jesus that also obscures him; it stands in the same relation to Jesus as one of Tutankhamen's glorious coffins does to the young king's mummy. Χρίστος - "Christ" - is the Greek translation of "Messiah," something that Jesus did not claim to be. It represents the fabulous constructions of Paul and his followers. Most important doctrines, from the Trinity and the Immaculate Conception through Original Sin and the Resurrection, completely lack the authority of Jesus' word. They are the mainstays of a formidable institution that has served a majority of Westerners well enough while crushing and maiming those who question its authority, which it claims to derive directly from God, in the person of Jesus. I doubt that Jesus would have much good to say about its non-charitable operations.

It is not surprising that the Gospel of Thomas was declared to be heretical in the second century, and that copies of it were ordered to be burned. It is not surprising that the Apostle Thomas's best-known appearance in the canonical gospels, at John 20:24-29, discredits him as lacking faith in Jesus' resurrection; at the time that the Gospel of John was written, the Gospel of Thomas was probably still in circulation and increasingly disputed. These are not surprising because the Gospel of Thomas, like The Philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth, is wanting in miracles.

Continue reading about stewardship at Portico.


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It wouldn't seem to me to be much of a stretch to give a sound Biblical basis to a line from a recent movie, Kingdom of Heaven, where Balian hammers home the point about the supremacy of religious tolerance when he hands over the Holy City to Saladin, he tells his followers

God is in your head and your heart, not in any particular place.
And, we might logically add not in any particular book. It would seem easy to me to use no more than
Luke 12:34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
and one of the last verses of Mathew
Matthew 6:33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
to give Balian's line a Biblical basis.

The only unforgiveable sin Jesus spoke of

Matthew 12:31,32 And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.
was to deny the presence or power of the Holy Spirit. So it would seem to me that the only dispute would be the manner in which I choose to see that power and presence expressed and the mode of my connection to it. But, then what do I know, the RC excommunicated the likes of me a long time ago.

Jesus, the best kept secret of the Gospels and the least known figure of Christianity.

We also have some nice online references for khristos and messiah.

For another take on Erik Reece's "Jesus Without The Miracles: Thomas Jefferson's Bible and the Gospel of Thomas" you might also try Philocrites recent posting The gospels of Thomas. Particularly interesting for me was the link to Emerson's "The Divinity School Address".

Very inspirational. I am frustrated by the right-wing self-proclaimed Christians whose words and actions are the exact opposite of Christ's teachings. Jesus' contempt for materialistic values - the beatitudes - his urge to love one another and not to judge - on and on....

I try to live my life in a way that practices tolerance (NOT easy!), kindness and service - the after-life will take care of itself. God obviously had a purpose for us to live an earthly life, and His Son Jesus lived according to God's will - His life on earth shouldn't be disregarded save for His resurrection.

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