What did Jesus mean by ‘Passersby’?
What does it mean to be ‘passersby’ as said by Jesus in Gospel of Thomas? Here are some interpretations by respected scholars:
“This saying may also be translated ‘Be wanderers’; compare descriptions in early Christian literature of wandering teachers and missionaries.
“There are many sayings in Thomas (a number of these shared with the canonical Gospels) which specify the kind of behavior and mode of living in the world that is appropriate to those who are truly ‘children of the Father.’ At the heart of this life style is a social radicalism that rejects commonly held values.
We take it to mean that we are not meant to cling to things in this world as being all that there is, but to recognize that we have a deeper purpose. To see the deeper divinity or ‘the Kingdom’ within all. We go through life, seeing things, learning from things, helping and being a force of change BUT without allowing it to become who we are.
As said by Hillel the Elder
“Is not the soul a guest in our body, deserving of our kind hospitality? Today it is here, tomorrow it is gone.” Hillel the Elder :110 BCE – 10 CE
Two Passages that further express the sort of things we can relate to – one from 2000 years ago and one from the last century:
“If your leaders say to you, ‘Look, the (Father’s) kingdom is in the sky,’ then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, ‘It is in the sea,’ then the fish will precede you. Rather, the kingdom is within you and it is outside you.
When you know yourselves, then you will be known, and you will understand that you are children of the living Father. But if you do not know yourselves, then you live in poverty, and you are the poverty.” – Logion Three, Gospel of Thomas
We live in succession, in division, in parts, in particles. Meantime within man is the soul of the whole; the wise silence; the universal beauty, to which every part and particle is equally related; the eternal One. And this deep power in which we exist, and whose beatitude is all accessible to us, is not only self-sufficing and perfect in every hour, but the act of seeing and the thing seen, the seer and the spectacle, the subject and the object, are one.- Emerson in the Over-Soul:
We are people from various walks of life who have found an understanding of God through the Jesus within Gospel of Thomas. Although some people of a more fundamentalist nature would ascribe a late date for Gospel of Thomas, many biblical historians give this writing a date at least as early as the other canonical Gospels. It is also entirely possible that many of these sayings were from the mouth of Jesus unlike so much in the bible that was written by those who never knew him . However, being that it was not a narrative, and lacked some of the key points that the developing Church had wanted to set in concrete as part of it’s foundation Gospel of Thomas was not included. More about that can be read here)
We seek to find the Kingdom that Jesus says is ‘here’ right in front of us. We simply don’t see it. Instead we seek everywhere else – not within us. Not surrounding us.
These ideas are supplemented by various wisdom writings such as those penned by Cynthia Bourgeault, Thomas Merton, The Vedas, the Tanakh and others. We are thinkers, and seekers and have found that the simple teachings found in Gospel of Thomas can open our minds and hearts to the multitude of possibilities we have in discovering the Kingdom of God.
For Further Information:
Mark’s use of the Gospel of Thomas:
Gospel of Thomas – various translations and commentaries:http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/thomas.html
April DeConick – http://aprildeconick.com/gospel-of-thomas/
Why wasn’t Gospel of Thomas included in Canon? If you search this online you will find all sorts of answers, the majority which are incorrect and written by people who have a main interest to keep the canon as is. As said by April DeConick at herwebsite:
Texts included had to have:
- apostolic connections – something Thomas had
- be used in liturgy across the Mediterranean world – which Thomas wasn’t, since it was a distinctive Syrian text with some distribution in Egypt
- predate 150 CE – which Thomas did
- support the theology of the framers of the canon – which Thomas didn’t, since it was anti-marriage and pro-mysticism or “revelatory”
If you don’t mind the odd foul word spouted due to the author’s frustration at the common myths he is rebuking, this link has a lot of good information including a shared stereotypical answer we see in most places today by those trying to downplay the importance of Gospel of Thomas: