John 14:22, The First Thomas, Part II of II
Yesterday’s post left off with this issue: Who is the Judas Thomas (Judas the Twin) who is listed among the Twelve? So far, John’s Gospel, the Acts of Thomas, and the Gospel of Thomas all make reference to this mysterious person, and he plays the feature role in the last two.
In fact, in the Acts of Thomas, chapter 13, Jesus says Judas is his brother. Thus, in early Syriac tradition, Judas Thomas is a brother to Jesus. This brings to mind Mark 6:3, which, speaking of Jesus, reads, “Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon?” Thus we have Jesus, James, and Judas, all together in the same new religious movement, all of whom are brothers, presumably two of which—we might guess Judas Thomas and Jesus—are twins.
Now we understand why the Gospel of Thomas so strongly affirms the authority of James the Just, the brother of Jesus! It is all a family affair, and this James the Just, you may remember, headed up the first Christian church in Jerusalem after Jesus died. This mysterious “Fifth Gospel” (Thomas) appears to claim the authority of not only two disciples, but the two minor members of a triad of brothers: Jesus, James, and Judas Thomas.
Want more? Let’s look at these two authority figures, James and Judas Thomas:
James, the presumed author of the Epistle of James, apparently espoused a works-based ministry consistent with what we know about the early church in Jerusalem. Assuming this church is the same as the Ebionite church (which appears to be the first established Christian church in Jerusalem), James did not ascribe divinity to Jesus, nor did he believe in the virgin birth—no real surprise, if the brother of Jesus himself was its founder. The Ebionites were, instead, “adoptionists” like Paul and the Gospel of John, believing that Jesus became the Son of God at his baptism, not at birth.
Meanwhile the other brother, Judas Thomas, if the Gospel of Thomas is any indication, did not hold a high Christology either. All throughout this gospel, Jesus is not the Son of God or even the Son of Man. He’s just Jesus. Just the brother.
If this emerging brotherly triad begins to sound like a conspiracy theory, it’s because the facts remain ambiguous, dependent upon tradition. But it does all fall together neatly.