Comparing and Contrasting the Thomasine with Judaism/Islam/Christianity

Looking at the three major monotheistic religions, I cannot help but notice certain commone elements between them and Thomasine beliefs.  I also notice some stark differences as well.  The Thomasine faith is based on the teachings of Jesus in the Gospel of Thomas.  Jesus of course came from Jewish faith.  The belief of Jesus became belief in Jesus and Christianity developed along with doctrines such as the divinity of Jesus, the trinity, the sacrificial death and resurrection.   Islam came and sought to reform it and bring it back to its original monotheism.  In this post I hope to look at the three faiths and compare and contrast them in a personal way with my chosen path as a Thomasine.

There are many, many wonderful things about Judaism. One thing that Judaism and I have in common is that we are both strict monotheists.  The belief in one God not many gods and not a trinity of persons is a hallmark of Jewish (and Islamic) faith.  I actually enjoy attending Jewish services.  Currently I am reading three different Jewish books, two non-fiction theology books and one fiction.  I appreciated and still appreciate the humor and compassion when reading rabbi's stories and how they stretch the understanding of the Hebrew scriptures.  However it is that very scripture that troubles me.  The stories of genocide as the Hebrew people were entering the promised land are very troublesome.  Also the views of women and towards gay people in the scripture are troubling as well.  When I read the scriptures that promote the death penalty toward rebellious sons, for working on the Sabbath, and other strange things, I find that I cannot honor the Torah as anything sacred to me.  Some of these archaic views towards women and gltb folk are still held by the Orthodox and some Conservative Jews.  Also while I understand that a person may convert to Judaism, there is still a lot of prejudice against converts that somehow they are not authentically Jewish, not to mention that several Jewish denominations do not recognize the others conversions.  There is a culture and a history within Judaism that it seems one must adopt to fully be "in the tribe" that from what I read many folks undergo great struggle to or are never fully able to integrate with the Jewish people, even less so if one is married to a gentile or unmarried without a family.  This type of tribalism while not official in some segments is still there. So as a Thomasine, I share their love for parts of their scripture.  I share their first two chapters of Genesis.   I share their strong belief in one God, and the value of good deeds and good living. I have been particularly impressed with the reform movement, as they have moved away from a literalistic interpretation of the Tanakh and the Talmud.  They have opened the doors wide for women, for gltb folks, and even engaged in dialogue about mixed marriages between a Jew and Gentile.  I think they have done much of what Jesus was trying to do in that he wanted all people to know that they are children of God and not resort to the tribalism of we are the only chosen people.  I know many reform temples are working hard to integrate Gentiles and welcome converts in their synagogues.

I feel a certain affinity for Islam as I do for Judaism. Islam emphasizes a personal relationship with the one undivided God. They, like Thomasines, believe Jesus is a messenger of God. Prayer is both communal and personal/private.  They too believe that each person is responsible for reading and interpreting the scriptures for themselves. Just as imams are respected and chosen from the most educated, spiritual, and wise from among the community, I support a similar role for those who are the most educated, spiritual, and wise from among he Thomasine community. I call these people hakhams... wise or learned ones. Where traditional Islam and Thomainses part ways is in the majority views on woman, gltb folk, and the certain penalties found for certain sins in Islam. I can relate to so much within Islam. I enjoy middle eastern music and their nasheeds. My heart is utterly in love with Rumi, Hafiz and other Sufis.  My personal prayers look very similar to a Muslims prayers with bowing and kneeling, and I would feel comfortable praying with them. I agree with Islam that Jesus is a messenger of God but not God himself. And yet there is still a strong sexism and homophobia within mainstream Islam that would keep me from joining this beautiful faith.
Now I have to admit - I have a love hate relationship with Christianity.  I was raised culturally Christian.  I had a Christian conversion as a teen.  Having been involved in evangelical and later more mainline Christianity, I have seen, experienced, and been a part of the good, bad, and ugly within Christendom.  Obviously a Thomasine and an orthodox Christian, have a love and respect for Jesus in common.  Some of the words of our respective scriptures are the same.  Mainstream Christianity, like Islam, emphasizes a personal relationship with God.  I at times can appreciate how it tries to be relevant to this culture I live in.  However, I do not believe in the New Testament.  The Gospel of Thomas, does not mention a virgin birth, tons of miracles, demons or a devil, hell, a sacrificial death and resurrection.  While there are mainstream Christians who integrate the Gospel of Thomas into their Christian faith, almost seeing it as a mystical text, I cannot reciprocate.  I had been attending an Episcopal Church for a while.  The priest was perfectly fine with my considering myself a Thomasine and a Gnostic.  However I had to play such mental gymnastics trying to reinterpret the creeds, the trinitarian language, the references to the sacrifice, body and blood...that I was exhausted by the time I left the service every time.  I finally had to step away.  With it, came the realization that I am not a Christian by any orthodox or mainstream Christian standard. 
I am a Thomasine.  Sadly any Thomasine rituals, traditions and such are pretty much gone.  Yet I see parts of these three faiths I mentioned above in the Thomasine faith.  I keep the Sabbath as a time of rest, as in Judaism.  I personally can relate to the emphasis on knowing God and the scriptures personally, and pray in ways that would seem similar to them. I seek our communities to be akin to a mosque... a place of prayer, charity and led by leaders who are recognized for their wisdom and knowledge, as well as their compassion.  I look on Jesus as a messenger and prophet.   I look to Genesis in the Torah as the beginning of our faith..the time of the undivided Adam.  I am inspired by the Psalms and some of the writings of the prophets, as well as the Sufi saints.  I see the beauty in these three faiths and the Thomasine relationship with them..yet we are our own faith.  With the Christians, I consider myself a follower of Jesus with him being a central part of my faith tradition.  At least for me..the Thomasine faith is unique, and is something that has revolutionized my life.


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