Q. I have a question about the gospel of Thomas found in the Nag Hammadi library that was discovered recently. I need to know if the Gospel of Thomas is a true reckoning of the life of Christ, and also what is the missing word where Jesus blesses Mary?
MICHAEL: We would say it is about 55% accurate and the rest embellished. One thing that would help in understanding this is that throughout most of history writers did not feel an obligation to be factual the way that it is taken for granted now. Today, if you were to do what Thomas did you would be expected to tell people up front that the account is partially fictionalized. Through out most of history, writers have felt that they were the ones writing it, and they got to say whatever they wanted to. There wasn’t the concept of ‘journalism’. Yet modern people look back and expect it to be in alignment with today’s sense of journalistic integrity.
Bear in mind that for most of history many people did not read and write and so there was not considered to be a mass audience. Certainly there was no best seller list and no hope of large financial gain for the most part. So, if you get around 55% accuracy, that is really pretty good for the time. Part of the inaccuracy is just the way that people remember things and when the stories are told and retold they tend to be more distorted. If you have some elders in your family they don’t always remember what actually happened; they may have ‘improved’ the story so many times that they only recall the improved version. And then someone else may hear them tell it who has not been hearing the enhanced story and say ‘no that is not what happened at all; this is what happened - I was there’ and that might be their own enhanced version.
There are very few ancient historical accounts that were recorded like a journal at the time. Not many really had the leisure to sit down and write what today would be called journals. That was something maybe for the rich, but because there wasn’t really the audience for the rich’s words back then that there is today, there was also not a lot of incentive to write about what you could later look back at and can say were historical events. At the time they may not have seemed so important.
To a lot of people, Jesus was roughly the equivalent of a Paris Hilton – a troublemaker - someone just stirring up the gossip, so forth. In your own life you may have noticed that you don’t always know what the important events were until you get beyond those.
You asked about a missing word and that we don’t have an answer to. We suspect that was part of the fictionalized account. Do you have further questions about this?
Channeled by: Shepherd Hoodwin