Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Interpreter of Gnostic Texts: Simcha Jacobovici
03/19/2007 - James SwanIt pains me to explore the content of the Gospel of Thomas, as if it actually contained historical facts (it does not). Simcha Jacobovici thinks it does, and has put forth a story grid to fit the facts from this Gnostic book. For example, on page 98 in The Jesus Family Tomb, Jacobovici creates a story around facts culled from this alleged gospel. He speculates the spiritual and physical journey of Mary Magdalene had been "unusually difficult":
"As recorded in the Gospel of Thomas, Simon and Peter, in sayings 22 and 114, eventually rose and spoke out against Mary Magdalene. Declaring that a woman was not worthy of spirit-life, the two men demanded that Mary be ejected from the congregation. And Jesus replied, with more than a hint of wry humor, 'Behold! I shall guide her as to make her male, that she too may become a living spirit like you men- and...male and female [are made] into a single one, so that the male will not be male and the female will not be female' (Gospel of Thomas, saying 114)."
The Gospel of Thomas can be found here. Let's take a look at the citations offered.
Jesus saw some babies nursing. He said to his disciples, "These nursing babies are like those who enter the (Father's) kingdom." They said to him, "Then shall we enter the (Father's) kingdom as babies?" Jesus said to them, "When you make the two into one, and when you make the inner like the outer and the outer like the inner, and the upper like the lower, and when you make male and female into a single one, so that the male will not be male nor the female be female, when you make eyes in place of an eye, a hand in place of a hand, a foot in place of a foot, an image in place of an image, then you will enter [the kingdom]."
Simon Peter said to them, "Make Mary leave us, for females don't deserve life." Jesus said, "Look, I will guide her to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every female who makes herself male will enter the kingdom of Heaven."
Saying 22 has no correspondence to the story put forth by Jacobovici. There is nothing mentioned about Peter or Mary Magdalene, or any hint of dissention between them. Rather, it expresses a Gnostic teaching about making male and female into a single one. It is put forth as a positive thing, that maleness and femaleness are to be blended together so they cease having particular gender attributes. Some even interpret saying 114 to be teaching the same Gnostic principle rather than a statement of the spiritual superiority of maleness.
In 114, note that it was not Simon and Peter, but Simon Peter. The Gospel of Thomas does not flow as a historical narrative, but rather lists one hundred and fourteen alleged sayings of Jesus. In other words, the idea that Simon and Peter [or Simon Peter] "eventually rose and spoke out against Mary Magdalene" is not an element of a historical narrative, simply because the Gospel of Thomas is not a historical narrative.Nothing eventually happened. Note also how Jacobovici interprets saying 114, "Jesus replied,with more than a hint of wry humor." There is nothing in the text that suggests wry humor put forth by Jesus.
Jacobovici doesn't even mention that saying 114 was probably added to the Gospel of Thomas at a later date. He assumes Thomas actually wrote the Gospel of Thomas on page 109, without a shred of evidence to substantiate it. On the other hand, James Cameron's introduction states of the Biblical Gospels, "There is no historical evidence that any of the authors, if in fact they were individuals, actually heard the words of Jesus from his own lips" (p. ix). So, Thomas wrote the Gospel of Thomas, but Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John never knew Jesus, and probably didn't write the books attributed to them.
The front cover of The Jesus Family Tomb touts the evidence presented could change history. Well, if double standards, poor use of sources, and forced conclusions become standard historical methodology, then indeed, Simcha Jacobovici's book will be a groundbreaking work.