Yeshua said, Be passersby.
by Bob Schwartz
Gospel of Thomas 42
We are approaching an annual Jesus event. While it is the birth and infancy focused on at Christmas, the meaning and teachings of the man are inescapable.
Some take on faith that the words and deeds included in the canonical gospels are an accurate record. Others, applying tools of modern critical analysis, conclude that some of the chronicled words and deeds seem historical, while others are likely not.
Whatever and whoever the baby Jesus grew into, no doubt he was a powerful Jewish teacher and spiritual leader. Followers over the next 2,000 years made all kinds of movements out of him. But movements aside, the wisdom cannot be denied, no matter the listener’s choice of faith or lack of faith.
In my view, and in the view of those more expert, the Gospel of Thomas is the closest we can come to those words of wisdom. Discovered in 1945 among the groundbreaking works in the library at Nag Hammadi in Egypt, this Coptic text is a wisdom gospel—all sayings, no narratives. Some of the sayings are close to those that appear in the canonical gospels, while others are unique.
Marvin Meyer writes in The Gnostic Bible:
Jesus in Thomas performs no physical miracles, reveals no fulfillment of prophecy, announces no apocalyptic kingdom about to disrupt the world order, dies for no one’s sins, and does not rise from the dead on Easter Sunday. His value, rather, lies in his enigmatic sayings, which are pregnant with possibility and power. “Whoever discovers what these sayings mean will not taste death,” Jesus promises. That is to say, one who uncovers the interpretive keys to the meaning of these sayings thinks Jesus’ thoughts after him and completes his sayings in new and sagacious ways. Such a one seeks and finds true wisdom and knowledge.
Bart Ehrman writes in The Other Gospels:
The Jesus of this Gospel is not the Jewish messiah that we have seen in other Gospels, not the miracle-working Son of God, not the crucified and resurrected Lord, and not the Son of Man who will return on the clouds of heaven. He is the eternal Jesus whose words bring salvation.
All 114 sayings in the Gospel of Thomas are worth reading and contemplating. One that stands out is the shortest. In fact, the shortest message ever from Jesus—two words that are an adequate platform for a life.
Gospel of Thomas 42
(Or, “Be wanderers,” or, much less likely, “Come into being as you pass away” (Coptic shope etetenerparage). A parallel to this saying appears in an inscription from a mosque at Fatehpur Sikri, India: “Jesus said, ‘This world is a bridge. Pass over it, but do not build your dwelling there.’”
Marvin Meyer, The Gnostic Bible