Its an old story I have to tell. But the time has come when it must be told. Theres entirely too much faith in the world!
My given name is Judas. That posed a minor difficulty when I became a follower of Jesus of Nazareth, because Jesus already had two other disciples named Judas. He decided to solve the problem by using nicknames. He referred to one of us as Judas Iscariot. He gave an alternate name to the son of James, calling him Thaddeus. And he renamed me Thomas, which means the twin, because I had a twin brother. (We dont need to say any more about my brother.)
By trade, Im a carpenter and a mason, and I can design buildings. As you know, Jesus also was a carpenter before he started preaching. Eventually he ran afoul of the law. The authorities in Jerusalem nailed him to a cross and stabbed him in the side with a lance until he was dead. After the execution, his body was quickly buried, according to our Jewish custom. Naturally, we disciples feared for our own safety, and we went into hiding.
A couple of days later I remember it was on a Sunday a wild rumor began going around. Apparently, the corpse of Jesus had disappeared from his tomb! Where was the body? Who had robbed the grave?
That afternoon most of the disciples met in secret to discuss the situation. I wasnt there, but they told me afterwards what happened. Or what they claim happened.
They said they were in a private meeting room with the doors locked. Suddenly Jesus appeared and said Shalom! He showed them the wounds from his execution, and then he breathed on them. The Father gave me the holy breath of life, he said. I have no further need of it. I pass it on to you. Now you have the power to forgive sins. And then he vanished.
I didnt believe this tall tale. Would you?
At first I thought that the disciples had merely decided to concoct a cover story. If no one could find the body, Jesus must have come back to life! Or perhaps one of them had hired a magician to effect a spirit visitation. At any rate, my friends convinced themselves that the ghost of Jesus had passed through a locked door. Moreover, the ghost had spoken to them, giving them the divine authority that in life he had claimed for himself. Thomas, we saw him! they insisted to me. We did!
I doubted it. In fact, Scripture teaches us that resurrection is impossible. If a man dies, can he live again? I asked the other disciples, quoting the 14th chapter of Job. He can never be roused from this sleep.
Other than those few believers inside their closed room, no one ever encountered a risen Jesus. He didnt make a dramatic reappearance on the streets of Jerusalem, once again healing the sick. He wasnt sighted buying a snack at a food shop. He didnt preach a second Sermon on the Mount. He didnt issue a public proclamation that no one could kill him and therefore he was the Messiah.
I dont believe youve seen Jesus, I told the others. You say you have, but thats not good enough evidence. I need proof. I wont believe it myself unless I personally see the mark of the nails on his hands, and put my finger into the place where the nails were, and my hand inside the lance wound in his side.
One of the disciples, Simon Peter, scoffed at my lack of faith. Blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have believed, he told me.
I replied, Foolish are they who have not really seen, and yet have deceived themselves.
Peter didnt appreciate being called a fool. In fact, all the disciples were offended by my attitude. They ignored my doubts and continued shouting their absurd good news throughout the city, that Jesus was alive.
Relocating to India
I decided I had to find a new group of friends. I knew a merchant who often visted Jerusalem, a man called Abbanes. He invited me to travel with him to his home in the northwestern part of India. Abbanes said that the Parthian king there, Gundaphorus, was erecting many great buildings, and he could use the skills of a carpenter like me.
In due course the merchant presented me to the king, who asked me to build him a palace. The contract specified that it would be completed within two years, and I was paid my expenses in advance. Elated by my good fortune, I set to work planning the great building.
However, a couple of months later I was distracted from my work when, on his next visit, Abbanes brought me a manuscript from my old friends. It was called The Gospel, or Good News, According to John. And Abbanes said the book mentioned me!
Written that You May Believe
That night I opened the book. It was audacious enough to start as if it were Scripture, with the words In the beginning, just like Genesis. But the sentences immediately became mystical and incomprehensible. The word already was. The word was in Gods presence, and what God was, the word was. Whats that supposed to mean?
The book went on to describe John the Baptist, and then the ministry of Jesus. The author summed up the Good News in the 3rd chapter, the 16th verse, which began by referring to Jesus: God so loved the world that he gave his only son.
I object! God has only one son? I thought we were all sons of God! Did not Jesus teach us to address God as our Father? Are we now supposed to consider him to be Gods only son? What does that make the rest of us, sons of apes?
Anyway, the verse continued: ...that everyone who has faith in him may not perish but have eternal life.
Theres that word faith again. Just believe in Jesus, and youll never die. Of course theres no evidence to back up that promise. No one has ever proved that heaven exists, by going there and returning with so much as one golden paving stone. But trust us. All you have to do is believe. Its no longer even necessary to obey Gods law. Merely have faith in his only son, and dont ask any awkward questions.
Faith is not a virtue! Is blindness a virtue? Faith is blind. As others have pointed out, faith is the most wicked invention of religion. When we dont want to know the truth, faith gives us an excuse not to think about it. It poisons our ability to think for ourselves. It leads us into lives dedicated to absurdity. Faith is evil!
In a grumpy mood, I continued through the Gospel of John. I found long speeches attributed to Jesus that I suspect John wrote himself. But I did remember some of the events.
In the 20th chapter, John describes that fateful Sunday when we learned that the body of Jesus had gone missing. He tells of the closed-door meeting and the appearance of the ghost, and he even quotes my statement that I wouldnt believe a word of it unless I could touch the ghosts wounds myself.
But then he veers off into fantasy! According to this book, there was a second meeting the following Sunday. Just like a week earlier, the disciples again got together and locked the doors, but this time I was with them. When the ghost appeared, I supposedly did feel its wounds, and I instantly became a believer, exclaiming My Lord and my God!
I categorically deny that anything like that happened. Its true that when we were followers of the living Jesus I did respectfully address him as my Lord, but I would never address any human being as my God. Thats blasphemy! The story of my conversion is entirely fabricated. I have never seen a ghost, and I have never renounced my original skepticism about the so-called resurrection.
I determined to set the story straight, as much as I could, by writing down what I remembered of the words that the living Jesus spoke.
I call these hidden words, because they conceal mysteries. Of course I had to condense some of the surrounding stories. I dont try to explain why Jesus hated his mother.
But did you know that he originated the parable about the dog in the manger? Its in my logion 102.
Ive entrusted these notes to my friend Abbanes. Hes considering combining them with Jesus quotes from other sources to compile another Gospel. He says he might even call it the Gospel of Thomas.
This will be a true gospel, giving the good news about Jesus. But unlike other gospels, it won't promise eternal life to those who believe Jesus was God or that he died for our sins. It will offer escape from the material world to those who understand his secret teachings. As Jesus said in my logion 2, The one who seeks should not stop seeking until he finds. And when he finds, he will be troubled. And when he is troubled, he will be amazed. And he will rule over the All.
Facing the Consequences
I was so disturbed by the disciples lie, about the ghost and me, that I lost all interest in building the palace for King Gundaphorus. Now the two years are almost passed, and no palace has been built. I dont know what Ill say to Gundaphorus. I cant give him his money back; Ive spent it.
Maybe the Gospel of John can be of some use. Maybe Ill quote something about heaven from the 14th chapter, where Jesus supposedly said, Trust me. There are many dwelling-places in my Fathers house, up in heaven. Im going there to prepare one of those mansions especially for you. Do you think a promise like that might satisfy the king?
Then Jesus went on, And if I go, I shall come again. And you know the route I am taking. According to John, I interrupted him: Lord, we dont even know your destination, so how can we know the route that youre taking? He answered, I am the route. I am the only way. No one reaches the Father except by me. Thats according to the Gospel of John.
Back here in the real world, Ill probably have to move on after King Gundaphorus finds no palace waiting for him, except of course the imaginary one in heaven. So Im planning a route to the Hindu lands south of here.
One More Story
Let me leave you by telling the story behind logion 100, one of the sayings in the forthcoming Gospel of Thomas.
In Jerusalem, we Jews were living under Roman rule, but some of us felt we shouldnt have to pay the Roman tax. The tax protesters claimed the tax was unconstitutional, a violation of our religious law. However, it was dangerous to defy the government. You didnt want a revenue investigator knocking on your door.
So one day Jesus was sitting around with a group of men, and they asked him the loaded question: was it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar?
Jesus retorted, Are you asking me for free advice? I charge a fee for legal opinions. Show me your money!
One of the men pulled a gold coin out of his purse and laid it on the table. Jesus studied it. Whose picture is this? he asked. Caesars, was the reply.
All right then, Jesus said, give Caesar what is Caesars. The men looked at the coin unhappily.
Jesus continued, Give God what is Gods. The men nodded solemnly.
And, Jesus added, gleefully snatching the coin, give me what is mine!
(a retelling of parts of the Gospel of John and the Gospel of Thomas)
Click here for other Bible stories I've retold in the first person.