The Thomasines - People of the Middle Way

I am still plowing on through Thomasine texts and scholarly writings, really trying to get a feel for the ancient community of Thomasines and where they stood in relation to the other early Christian communities.

I am really convinced the Thomasines stand in a unique position between the Ebionites and Pauline Christians. You have the Ebionites, who were Jews and Jewish converts who kept the law but saw Jesus as either teacher or a messiah figure. You have the Pauline Christians who were mostly gentiles who rejected the law and incorporated some of the pagan and philosophical elements into the Jesus story. You also have the Sethian types who engaged the Jewish scriptures (especially genesis) and Greek philosophy but turn the stories on their head through a radical midrash.

The Thomasines, in my opinion, were proto-gnostic Jewish-Christian mystics. They turned primarily to the first creation story in Genesis...going back to the beginning. In fact this first chapter of Genesis seems essential to understanding the Gospel of Thomas (Steven Davies makes this same point). They were almost a middle ground between the Ebionites and the Pauline/Johannine and Gnostic groups. They kept the Sabbath but rejected circumcision. Fasting was not fasting from food, but rather received a more mystical interpretation...fasting from the world's ways. Any rituals in this community were encouraged to be done only in the spirit of going back to the beginning of the first creation.

I believe this community celebrated the Sabbath, but that they interpreted it mystically as linking us to the first Sabbath in Genesis 1...thus Thomasines saw it too as a day of rest...a day remembering and restoration of all things-of recognition of our being in the image of God. Everything represented going back to that beginning. Jesus was the unique messenger of God, sent by God, speaking often with the voice of God as the prophets did. He gave the message that the first creation never vanished..it has always existed hidden under the second creation story-the spiritual hidden under the material. Divinity is here and now. We are the sons and daughters of God, created in his image and likeness.

My personal opinion is that they really walked between that middle point between Ebionite Judaism (which tried to keep all the law) and Pauline and Gnostic Christianity. My gut feeling is they kept the practice of immersion (mikvah) through the GoT 's recognition of John the Baptist, however like all things, they interpreted it mystically as a type of cleansing and recognition and turning back to the realization that we are children of God able to see the first creation clearly now. I think that the Sabbath meal included bread and wine but was much more akin to how the Didache and Jews saw it...and may have been more of an agape feast with no mention of Jesus death, body and blood and such like later celebrations of the Eucharist.

It was, in my opinion, as if the Thomasines formed a new type of Judaism... One not based on the law but based on the first few chapters of Genesis. They did not reject out of hand the law or the Tanakh/Hebrew scriptures..but rather sought to go to Gods first dealings with humanity and the cosmos which was prior to the law. So reinterpreting some of the Jewish rituals, while rejecting others they embodied a new type of Thomasine Judaism with Jesus as its messenger, they believed.

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