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Saturday, January 22, 2011


Nancy D.

I am reading Jesus of Nazareth and I am wondering why on page 248, there is a reference to a saying from the false apocryphal Gospel of Thomas (108) that does NOT "point in a direction compatible with John's Gospel". Although we can become one with Christ, we are not God. Why quote a false gospel?

Carl E. Olson

Nancy: The quote is correct, and the Ignatius Press paperback is the same as the Doubleday hardback. I'm not sure what the concern is about the Holy Father quoting from the apocryphal "Gospel of Thomas". He is obviously not saying that work is canonical, nor does he say that the entire work is compatible with the Gospel of John; rather, he writes, "A saying from the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas (108) points in a direction compatible with John's Gospel: 'Whoever drinks from my mouth shall become as I am'." This comes at the end of a lengthy section (pp. 238-248) in which Benedict traces the theme/symbol of water throughout the Gospels, starting with OT references and focusing, of course, on baptism. On page 243 he notes that the Apostle John, in speaking of water so often, is "responding to a form of Christianity that, so to speak, wants only the word, but not flesh and blood. Jesus' body and his death ultimately play no role." This is a reference to early gnosticism (or strains of early proto-gnosticism such as Docetism), that denied the value of the material realm, the reality of the sacraments, and the incarnation of Christ. Then, on page 244, he quotes from John 7, including this key verse: "He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, 'Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.'" To cut to the chase, it appears that Benedict may be taking up the view that John's Gospel was written, in part, to directly address the growing gnostic tendencies of his time, tendencies found in part within the "Gospel of Thomas". That view, I think, makes perfect sense; Benedict's concluding remark shows that while the "Gospel of Thomas" does have seeds of truth in it (based as it is on a misuse of truth), it cannot make sense of the much larger picture of the Old Testament and salvation history.

The fact is, Ratzinger/Benedict quotes often from thinkers and writings he disagrees with. It is what a real scholar does. Quoting from them is hardly an endorsement of them; even acknowledging that there is truth within them is not an endorsement, but merely the exercise of fairness and intellectual integrity. Truth is never to be feared, regardless of where it is found.

Nancy D.

Carl, to cut to the chase, there is no way that Pope Benedict would claim that this quote from the false "Gospel of Thomas", "Whoever drinks from my mouth shall become as I am" points in a direction compatible with John's Gospel, for although the believer becomes "one with Christ and participates in His fruitfulness", we do not become Christ. Something has either been added or is missing from this part of the text.

Let us not forget that John's Gospel illuminates the Communion of Love found within The Holy Eucharist and most likely the reason he stayed behind(as referred to at the end of his Gospel) was to give an eyewitness account of The Last Supper.

Carl E. Olson

Nancy: The quote says, "shall become as I am." And who/what is Jesus Christ? The Son of God, by nature. And we are called to become sons of God, by grace:

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, "Abba! Father!" it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Rom. 8:14-17)

... for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (Gal. 3:26-27)

See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. (1 Jn. 3:1)

Put another way, we are invited to share so deeply in the person and life of Jesus that we can repeat these words of St. Paul:

I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

We do not lose our personalities; we are not subsumed into Christ, but are reborn in Christ through baptism (see Rom. 6) and made in His image through the power of the Holy Spirit. This is basic Catholic teaching; I'm at a loss as to why the Holy Father's statement is so upsetting to you. But if what he said is upsetting, this will likely be very upsetting:

The Word became flesh to make us "partakers of the divine nature": "For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God." "For the Son of God became man so that we might become God." "The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods."

No, that's not from the Pope, but from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, quoting three Fathers/Doctors of the Church...

Nancy D.

And who is Jesus Christ? He is our Messiah, The only Son of God, The Second Person of The Blessed Trinity. Althrough it is true that through dying we are restored in Christ and thus we become adopted sons of God, and "partakers of the Divine nature", we are not as I AM, for The Blessed Trinity remains The Blessed Trinity.

"You will be my people, and I will be your God."- The Blessed Trinity

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