John's Gospel

The Way It Happened

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.

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2 Comments

  1. Totally agree with you, Lee, that Didymus Judas Thomas was a brother of Jesus, possibly his twin (Toma/Tau’ma meaning “twin” in Aramaic/Syriac, and Didymus also meaning “twin” in Greek). I wanted to blurt this out yesterday in the comments, but didn’t want to spoil it for other readers. :)

    So was the author of the Gospel of John (or subsequent Greek speaking copyists/redactors) just confused, not understanding the Aramaic meaning of Thomas? Or was he hammering home a “secret” family identity of this Judas by effectively calling him “twin Judas twin”?

    Twin also has connotations of a “spiritual twin” in that this Judas (whether a sibling of Jesus or not) had attained a spiritual understanding close (if not equal) to that of Jesus the master. Note that enlightenment means “filled with light” — it could be that this Judas, like Jesus, had attained/discovered/seen his divine image, that being a body of light (an angelic light being) — literally an entity (oneself!) who is in the form/image of the “glory” of God. This, according to scholar April DeConick, was the goal of the earliest Christians (see “Holy Misogyny, p. 20 – she is currently writing a book due out next year that will also cover this topic and other so-called gnostic influences in earliest Christianity). Perhaps these “gnostic” (inner/hiddenn wisdom) teachings go back to Jesus himself, his more advanced teachings meant for more spiritually advanced disciples (James, Judas Thomas, Mary?) — guidance for finding one’s true original immortal self/divine image by seeking within. (The Kingdom is both inside and outside of you.) Note that in the Hebrew rituals of closing the Sabbath, one holds one fingernails to a candle to see the light reflected there — to remind one that as children of Adam, we had/have clothing (or skin) of light, the image of God, that is now hidden within us. Certainly as a Jew, Jesus believed and taught this — perhaps from his own mystical experience of seeing his own image/true self. These advanced teachings seem lost/absent from today’s mainstream Christianity as the “masses” experience it. Perhaps they were never lost, just rejected as heretical (ironic!) because they were not comprehended by the masses (and “proto-orthodox” leaders), and were forced underground, to be studied, practiced and revered by a few.

    Also, there was a Judah/Jude who took over leadership of the Jerusalem Jesus movement (it wasn’t a “church” yet) after James was murdered and led the escape from Jerusalem during the war/destruction of the city from 66-70AD. This was likely also the same Judas/Judah/Jude who was a brother of Jesus and James, their most likely successor as leader of the group (which may have been referred to by others as Ebionites, “the poor ones”).

    I recently discovered your blog and website, really enjoying it. Thanks for your insights, Lee.

  2. Lee Harmon

    fascinating contributions, WP! Do please continue to share your thoughts, whether you agree with me or not!

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