Follow the Leader

The disciples said to Jesus, "We know that you will depart from us. Who is to be our leader?"
Jesus said to them, "Wherever you are, you are to go to James the righteous, for whose sake heaven and earth come into being."
Gospel of Thomas 12

This is one of those sayings that in my opinion say a lot for the Gospel of Thomas being an authentic early text. It reveals something that know about the early church that was later supplanted by Peter's role. We know that James was the leader of the church in Jerusalem and it was he who was reputed to have led the first council in Jerusalem rather than Peter who was claimed by Christians later as head and leader of the church i.e. the first Pope.
So how do we read this? Is this simply a statement of leadership of the fledgling movement? Well yes and no. Keep in mind that the churches of the first century were house churches...meaning they were meetings in peoples homes with many different people serving in different types of ways. The Thomasine communities were one type of community. Others were evolving differently. I believe that in recommending James, Jesus is recognizing James as another who has achieved the very thing Jesus has been talking about...what I call gnosis. It also points out that the Thomasine community was not a free for all kind of New Agey type thing where everyone does or believes what they pleased, but that there was a type of leadership by those who have achieved gnosis...perhaps like a soul friend, or a sheik in Sufism or a dharma teacher in Buddhism. They are there to help the seeker achieve awareness of the things we have been talking about.


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