September 30, 2005

Saying #110 / C

#110 - Jesus said: He who has found the world and become rich, let him deny (renounce) the world.

Please bear with me as I once again compare a saying from the Gospel of Thomas to a movie ... this time, The Matrix. *

What is meant by "the world" and what is meant by "renunciation"?

To the author of this saying, "the world" is not intrinsically real but is a "corpse", a construct, as it is in The Matrix. It's the interlaced political/economic/social framework in which everyone cannot help but find themselves enmeshed. If someone has the finese to become wealthy in such a framework, it's unlikely they'll care to scrutinize it, much less turn away from it.

For one who is wealthy, what does "renunciation" involve? In the gospel of Matthew (19:21), this means selling one's possessions, giving the money to the poor and following Jesus. In the gospel of Thomas, it seems only to be the realization of the unreality of both the framework and the values that lead them to riches.

This sums up, for me, a difference between the canonical gospels and the gospel of Thomas ... Thomas speaks of gaining knowledge but the canonical gospels speak of the deeds that flow from that knowledge.

And as we all know from watching The Matrix, facing reality and then putting one's knowledge into actual practice, is difficult but rewarding.

* This idea courtesy of Fantastic Planet

September 28, 2005

Verses 27, 28 and 56

I’m sorry I missed the discussion about the scriptures that referred to Light. I’ve been ill, plus I had “hurricane company”. I’m trying to get caught up.

Verses 27, 28 and 56 all seemed to tie in together very well. They spoke to me deeply.

In verse 27 Jesus speaks about fasting from the world and keeping the Sabbath. He warns that neither the Kingdom nor the Father will be found or known unless we hearken to this need in us.

And it IS a need. It’s so easy to get caught up in the day to day routine and dry out spiritually, becoming dull and apathetic. We lose our ability to discern the Presence.

I see Meredith is going on retreat. How appropriate. We NEED those times of retreat, of refreshing away from the concerns and demands of the world. Scheduling in retreat time, whether it is at a center for a week or to the park for the day, is necessary to retain our spiritual vitality. We need those set-apart times to clear our minds and cleanse our hearts. To reconnect with our Beloved.

I like how the Sabbath is mentioned. Many don’t take a regular, weekly break from the routine. They don’t have a time each week set apart to remember God. This does real harm. I like the idea of taking Mini-Sabbaths, as well. Moments stolen throughout the day where we stop for a moment, breathe, remember God and recapture that which so easily slides away. To keep a fire burning requires attention.

That’s why verse 28 ties in so well. Jesus is mourning the state of the world --- all of these people who are FULL of so much stuff --- So full that there is no room for him. It is easy to live our lives half-asleep, being lulled by all of the entertainment and distractions that are thrown at us daily. It takes real determination and perseverance to stay awake and sober. This is a good reminder of how easily we become drunk on things that don’t matter a whit, becoming blinded to the things that do.

Verse 56 just caps it off with its assertion that a life lived half-awake, drunk with meaningless things and blinded by a lack of Light is death. It is a corpse walking. But if we see this and rise to open the door for our Beloved, we become saturated with Light and the darkness flees. True life - abundant and vigorous, devoted to God and blessed beyond measure – is described well in these three verses.

September 25, 2005

Another Set of Sayings - The World

Here's a group to work on when you are through working on 'Light':
(The N.T. has a very special meaning for 'world': it generally refers to the 'fallen world', which the devil offered to Jesus when he was tempted in the wilderness.)

27 Jesus said: If you fast not from the world , you will not find the kingdom; if you keep not the Sabbath as Sabbath, you will not see the Father.
(Leloup directs us to Matthew 5:8-20, which gives us some idea of what this saying may have meant to him.)

28 Jesus said: I stood in the midst of the world, and I appeared to them in flesh. I found them all drunk, I found none among them thirsting; and my soul was afflicted for the sons of men, for they are blind in their heart and they do not see. For empty came they into the world, seeking also to depart empty from the world. But now they are drunk. When they have thrown off their wine, then will they repent.
(Notice the multiple meanings of the metaphor 'drunk' as opposed here to Saying 13. One of Leloup's suggestions is John 6:35.)

56 Jesus said: He who has known the world has found corpse, and he who has found a corpse, the world is not worthy of him.
(which seems almost identical with the next one. Look at John 1:10)
80 Jesus said: He who has known the world has found the body, and he who has found the body, the world is not worthy of him.

110 Jesus said: He who has found the world and become rich, let him deny the world. (Matthew 16:24-26)

September 24, 2005

Thomas and the Light

Got your emails of concern (Larry and Meredith). Thank you but Thomas is not my problem. My issue is the reading strategies. Thomas is not my scripture. So I cannot read it like I would Mark or John or Luke. I need different reading tools. There are passages in Thomas that speak to me deeply and others that excite my intellectual curiosity. I'm okay with reading Thomas and discussing it. But I do so in the same way I read the Epic of Gilgamesh or Patanjali or the Analects. As somebody else's scripture.

So our passages of concern all feature a reference to light. So my opening is light as metaphor. When reading the Tao Te Ching I realized that the metaphor of light/darkness may not mean the same in differing cultures and in differing spiritualities. It was a long time ago and I'm not sure of the passage. But on the face it looked very much like the opening of John's gospel. But it said something very different. For the message was the Tao (the Way -- the do in Bushido and Kendo) transcends light and darkness. But also, darkness was not bad. The metaphor was not light overcoming darkness the way the dawn dispels the night. Darkness was fertile and rich like black soil.

The Thomas passages:

Logoi 11: This starts very much like the canonical Jesus saying about heaven and earth passing away. But it takes us someplace else I have no notion about where. Intellectually I think it may relate to certain Gnostic myths -- that our souls divide upon entering the earth -- one half becomes male and the other female. But I'm uncertain about this or what the implications may be for me or anyone else if this is true.
(11) Jesus said: This heaven shall pass away, and that which above it shall pass away; and they that are dead are not alive and they that live shall not die. In the days when you were eating that which is dead, you were making it alive. When you come in the light, what will you do? On the day when you were one, you became two. But when you have become two, what will you do?

Logoi 24:I feel more on familiar territory here. It sounds like the canonical Jesus and his "you are the light of the world" and also the Quaker approach to the inward Christ. If you have an inward Light but it does not give light to the world it is not really an inward light. Mysticism without consequences for how we live is a false mysticism.
(24) His disciples said: Teach us concerning the place where thou art, for it is necessary for us to seek after it. He said to them: He that hath ears, let him hear. There is a light within a man of light, and it gives light to the whole world. If it does not give light, there is darkness.

Logoi 61: This passage gives me trouble -- again it echoes certain sayings of Jesus but seems to be saying something different. I seems to me to relate more to what James said than Jesus -- if you pray with a wavering mind (two minds) do not expect to receive anything from the Lord. There is a very black/white either/or thing going on here which I don't like -- but that's in the bible too. For me, and I trust for many others here, spirituality is more about grey journeying a path towards light rather than -- you're either pure light or plunged into darkness with nothing in between.
(61) Jesus said: Two shall rest upon a bed; one shall die, the other live. Salome said: Who art thou; O man? And whose son? Thou hast mounted my bed, and eaten from my table. Jesus said to her I am he who is from that which is equal; to me was given of the things of my Father. Salome said I am thy disciple. Jesus said to her Therefore I say, when it is equal it will be filled with light, but when it is divided it will be filled with darkness

Logoi 77: A clear unequivocal witness to the Cosmic Christ. This is Orthodox christology. It is also the christology of -- for example, Teilhard de Chardin. This is then (finally) familiar territory for me. The key question, the same one we brought to John, is this. When Jesus says things like this -- is it because he is the One sent? The incarnation of the One True God? Or is it because he has so deeply connected to God's spirit in meditation, prayer and obedience that he has become transparent and the spirit speaks through him? I tend towards a high christology -- I embrace the traditional doctrine of Incarnation. Others here see Jesus as a mystic and take the other approach. Maybe both are true.
(77) Jesus said: I am the light that is over them all. I am the All; the All has come forth from me, and the All has attained unto me. Cleave a (piece of) wood: I am there. Raise up the stone, an ye shall find me there.

Logoi 83:This is another that escapes me but it it also draws me. It is something maybe I will work with. I take it to mean, that God is accessible only through images (symbols). Light itself is an image/symbol. The symbols in some sense hide the light which they carry to us. There is also a promise that God (the "Father") will reveal himself to us -- and then the images will be hidden in the light (rather than the other way round).
(83) Jesus said: The images are revealed to the man, and the light which is in them is hidden in the image of the light of the Father. He shall be revealed, and his image is hidden by his light.

This is a longish posting. And I am to an extent frustrated with it. I may have a reputation for approaching matters of spirit intellectually but I hope I journey thought the intellect towards the Spirit. Here I'm stuck trying to parse out the grammar. To tease out the implications for me for faith or spirituality or holy obedience will require much more searching than this space allows.

September 23, 2005

Thomas (and an apology)

Sorry for my apparent absence. Its been a hairy week -- but one which has been fruitful. I have begun two evening classes this week -- actually one started last week -- and the one that started last week is actually in another city. I commute Thursday evenings -- get home after 11PM and my alarm goes off at 10 to 5 the next morning. The workload -- especially the paperwork part seems to be escalating at work. And my wife finally found a job -- she started this week -- it is looking very good -- but it is throwing the routines around the place a bit off -- like bedtimes and who gets in the shower first and such.

I have been reading folks postings -- but not from home -- from work --w when I should be doing other things.

For the most part I have enjoyed reading what folks had to say more than Thomas himself. Part of this is my energy levels -- its simply easier to listen to friends talk amongst themselves then to read ancient scriptures of a long dead community when yer living butter tarts coffee and 5 hours of sleep.

The fact is I rely heavily on two reading strategies -- my (hopefully) spirit-led intuitive sense of things and the narrative flow. They are related. Narrative flow triggers a niggle in the intuitive faculties.

Well. No narrative. Not even a vestigial narrative to get my hooks into. And of course -- intuition really starts from healthful place as well.

So. My first impressions of the passages under consideration is -- gaak! Followed shortly thereafter by eh? and er? and um.

My battle plan is to sleep in tomorrow and try again. If you have found my uncharacteristic lack of voice disturbing -- I apologize. I've nearly fallen asleep on the commuter train trying to read a college textbook. And they don't have much narrative flow either.

Saying 24 The Light L

24 His disciples said: Teach us concerning the place where thou art, for it is necessary for us to seek after it. He said to them: He that hath ears, let him hear. There is a light within a man of light, and it gives light to the whole world. If it does not give light, there is darkness.

Light fills the Bible; I mean the word as well as the reality.
Look at Genesis 1, God's first act of creation. This tells us something about the Bible and about the judeo/christian faith. It's about light (and darkness). Fox was just describing the Bible when he said "there's an ocean of light and an ocean of darkness".

Or look at the N.T. at John 1:14. Sounds like a reproduction of Genesis 1.

Thomas, like the whole Bible, puts great emphasis on the metaphor of light. In this verse (22) he's saying that there's light in us and our light fills the whole world, unless it's darkness.

Four metaphors: light and darkness: replacing good and evil. A duality that is supposed to become a unity.

5:14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
5:15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.
5:16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Using a somewhat different metaphor it seems to me that Matthew is saying the very same thing.

Like Matthew and Thomas we each have our own vernacular, our own way of thinking, but joined together, our light comes together into a profound radiance. PTL

September 22, 2005

Thomas 83: Image and Light

83 Jesus said: The images are revealed to the man, and the light which is in them is hidden in the image of the light of the Father. He shall be revealed, and his image is hidden by his light.

Main Point: This verse points out the difference between the way we recognize light and image, or form. We see a form or an image, whether it is a person, a stone, a mountain, or tree, but the light within form is not always so visible to us. We may just see an ordinary stone, or an ordinary person and think nothing more about it. However, it seems that once we recognize the marvel that is in front of us, we recognize the light within the form; in this moment it feels as though this grace has been revealed by God, and indeed is of God. Conversely, we recognize God’s light in the kind words of a friend, in little synchronicities, or in the vast beauty of a sunset, but we do not ever see a singular particular form that can be called God’s image. God’s image is everywhere and nowhere to be found.

New Light: This light within form is always present, but we must be awake to see this light. To me it is as though we first see a shape, or physical qualities that identify for us what we are looking at. And as we take a small journey into the form, we realize what a miracle this form is, but it is not only the form that is so awesome, it is the spirit within that gives it a radiance, a sparkle that literally brings it to life. I believe that it sometimes it takes something bold to happen in our lives to help us awaken, to see this radiance in all things. God’s light is often revealed in moments when we are not expecting it – such as during times of great stress, emotional turmoil, or profound love, but what is uniquely revealed is always the light or grace inherent in the form, not particular form itself.

Implications: One implication that comes readily to mind is that teaching story about helping a bedraggled stranger only to find out later that the stranger was actually a holy person, Jesus perhaps. We cannot always see or know holiness by our customary outward view of a person, which is just a form housing an inward light. We must look with fresh eyes through the outward form, with the same eyes with which God sees. A good question might be, “Who are we beyond our form?”

Problems: The traditional non-inclusive language is noticeable in these phrases relating to God as “Father” and “He.” Actually this doesn’t bother me too much, but it seems to me that this phraseology leads to misconceptions about God as being particular forms, or an image such as a patriarchic figure.

September 20, 2005

Thomas saying #77 / C

77 - Jesus said: I am the light that is over them all. I am the All; the All has come forth from me, and the All has attained unto me. Cleave a (piece of) wood: I am there. Raise up the stone, an ye shall find me there.

I must admit that I'm having a hard time understanding the sayings. I chose this one because I remember hearing it quoted in, of all places, the movie, Stigmata :-).

The story behind the movie is taken, in part, from the book, The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield ... an ancient Aramaic manuscript is found in some Mayan ruins deep in the jungle of Peru, and is suppressed by the Catholic Church. In the movie, Stigmata, the maunscript is found instead in Brazil and is, apparently, the gospel of Thomas. The church tries to suppress its message, which is quoted as ... "The Kingdom of God is inside/within you (and all about you), not in buildings/mansions of wood and stone. (When I am gone) Split a piece of wood and I am there, lift the/a stone and you will find me." ... it was feared everyone would go seriously Gnostic upon its revelation, and leave the church :-). In reality, of course, the Catholic Church hasn't tried to supress the gospel of Thomas, though it hasn't been added to the canon.

Does saying #77 mean what the movie-makers inplied ... that Jesus meant we have no need of a church to be able to "find" him? I take it to not be so specifically anti-institution but instead to be about finding God in all things ...

THE world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs --
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

- God's Grandeur by Gerard Manley Hopkins


Light is very big in Quaker circles; some people used it almost like a synonym for God. Fox considered light as God's revelation to us day by day. He said that we're surrounded by an ocean of light and an ocean of darkness.

Jesus said, of course "I am the light of the world" (John 8:12 KJV). Here are six Thomas sayings about light (although in some of these the light may not be the primary interest):

11 Jesus said: This heaven shall pass away, and that which is above it shall pass away; and they that are dead are not alive and they that live shall not die. In the days when you were eating that which is dead, you were making it alive. When you come in the light, what will you do? On the day when you were one, you became two. But when you have become two, what will you do?

24 His disciples said: Teach us concerning the place where thou art, for it is necessary for us to seek after it. He said to them: He that hath ears, let him hear. There is a light within a man of light, and it gives light to the whole world. If it does not give light, there is darkness.

50 Jesus said: If they say to you: Whence have you come?, tell them: We have come from the light, the place where the light came into being through itself alone. It [stood], and it revealed itself in their image. If they say to you: Who are you?, say: We are his sons, and we are the elect of the living Father. If they ask you: What is the sign of your Father in you?, tell them: It is a movement and a rest.

61 Jesus said: Two shall rest upon a bed; one shall die, the other live.
Salome said: Who art thou; O man? And whose son? Thou hast mounted my bed, and eaten from my table. Jesus said to her I am he who is from that which is equal (I come from the one who is Openness - Leloup); to me was given of the things of my Father. Salome said I am thy disciple. Jesus said to her Therefore I say, when it is equal it will be filled with light, but when it is divided it will be filled with darkness.
(Leloup says: "when the disciples are open,
they're filled with light,
when they're divided,
they are filled with darkness.")

77 Jesus said: I am the light that is over them all. I am the All; the All has come forth from me, and the All has attained unto me. Cleave a (piece of) wood: I am there. Raise up the stone, an ye shall find me there.

83 Jesus said: The images are revealed to the man, and the light which is in them is hidden in the image of the light of the Father. He shall be revealed, and his image is hidden by his light.

September 19, 2005

Report on research

49 of the sayings appear to be comparable to similar verses in one of the four gospels: 2, 9, 14a, 21, 26, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 38, 39, 40, 41, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 52, 54, 58, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 68,69, 71, 72, 73, 76, 78, 79, 86, 89, 90, 93, 94, 95, 96, 102, 103, 104, 107, 109,

I tagged 21 sayings as 'strange', perhaps without strong associations with the other gospels and sort of like riddles (to me at least):
7,8, 11, 13, 15, 18, 19, 28, 42, 43, 53, 60, 74, 81, 84, 87, 88, 92, 98, 101, 108,

I tagged 10 sayings that seem to bear on the kingdom of heaven: 3, 20, 49, 54, 57, 96, 97, 98, 107, 113

The remaining 34 were placed in these categories:

light: 11, 24, 50, 61, 77, 83

the world: 27, 28, 56, 80, 110

flesh and spirit: 14, 29, 53, 112 114

family: 25, 55, 99, 101, 105,

God: 3, 59, 60, 83, 111

two/one male/female 22, 23, 30, 61, 106, 114

Death: 1, 11, 18, 19, 85, 111

the child: 4, 21, 22, 37, 46

I suggest approaching the study initially with these 8 categories in succession.

There will then remain a number of smaller categories, and perhaps afterward we might tackle the 3 large categories. A few sayings were placed in more than one category. (I welcome any questions, correction, objections, or whatever.)

fire: 10, 16, 82

fast and pray: 6, 14, 27, 17, 104,

fire: 16, 82,

eye hath not seen: 17

end and beginning: 18, 51

All: 2, 67, 77,

within: 3, 24, 60, 70, 91,

September 18, 2005

Saying 1 - L

(I've read the comments in the 'discussion' and will try to carry out faithfully your wishes as best I can. Hopefully the next slice of the text will come on on Tuesday.)

And he said: He who shall find the interpretation of the words shall not taste of death.

A lot could be said about this statement. First we can say that it seems to agree completely with John, who said in 8:51: Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death.

The important thing is to try to get some grasp of what he means by death-- not necessarily what we think of when we hear the word. There are many kinds of death, and what do Thomas and John mean with the word, or Paul for that matter?

IMO they aren't referring primarily to physical death, but what Paul called "dead in your sins" (Ephesians 2:1-6). The dichotomy of life/death means being spiritually one or the other.

The N.T. has a great deal to say about life and death, almost always referring to spiritual rather than physical processes. Paul often talked about being dead to sin and alive with Christ. It seems likely that the writer of Thomas knew people who had "found the interpretation of the words" and then had died physically.

Thomas forces us to think of the two realms, the realm of matter and of spirit. Of course Eastern religions have made us aware that the two are not separate, but Thomas, and the N.T. writers as well, seem to have keen sense of the difference.

As we go through life physical death means less to us than the joy of spiritual life.

On Secrets and the Jigsaw Puzzle of Body Life

All of the discussion on the intro to Thomas got me thinking. About secrets and about body-life.

Looking over the comments, it’s interesting to see the differing perspectives. Some of the perspectives I saw were:

*Secrets as describing a two-tiered Christianity, with the “spiritual” Christians more in-the-know than the “carnal” or “nominal” ones.

*Secrets as something always fresh and new as we come to the sayings of Jesus again and again with new eyes given by spiritual growth and deepening experience.

*Secrets as a troubling possible indication of Christianity being a “club” one has to gain entrance into before being initiated into a fuller understanding and knowledge of God.

*Secrets as whispered intimacies given in times of sitting at Jesus’ feet.

*Secrets as an open and available phenomenon that it takes open eyes to see – a remembering or returning from distraction back to God-awareness.

Interesting, isn’t it? In Luke, Jesus talked to the disciples about his use of parables. He told them that they had been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God but that the rest had to hear in parables, unable to hear or see clearly. Why was this, I wonder? Were those close to him special, an initiated few? Or was it that the crowds went home and the few stayed with him, day after day, sitting at his feet?

I think of Peter’s revelation of Jesus that he was praised for in our last study. Did he receive this revelation because he was better or more spiritual in some way then the other disciples? Then I consider the revelations of Paul, of John, of others.

Then, to top if all off, I go to the link David gave us that spoke of the jigsaw puzzle. And things begin to fall into place.

God deals with us and speaks to us in a very individual and custom-made way. The Spirit gives one this gift, another that gift. Spirit throws light on one area to this woman, another area to that man. We then work in love to fit these gifts of light together with humility and an openness to see freshly and a wonderful miracle occurs. Body-life.

From all of this, I have learned these things concerning the intro to Thomas:

*be on guard against spiritual elitism. Watch out for spiritual pride or exclusivity. Read the sayings with humility and teachableness.

*Curb the distractions and hindrances to remembering God, open my eyes to the always-available multitudes of ways the Spirit would shine light on the sayings and on the moment to moment of my days.

*Come to the text with fresh eyes and a willingness to hear a new song, rather than being distracted by what I think I already know. Be willing to come with an open heart that will listen for the new thing the Spirit would share, rather than the “confirmation” of what I already think.

Thank you, dear new friends, for this living example of I Corinthians 12:4-11.

Links are Up

The following links are now available in the sidebar for your perusal. They're below the archives and just before the Scripture Study Helps.

Everything Ever Wanted to Know About the Gospel of Thomas
(but were afraid to ask)

New Testament Gateway -- links to Thomas

A Translation and Commentary on Thomas

Larry's Hypertext Bible Commentary has the Gospel of Thomas has three translations, the Greek and Coptic originals and scholarly commentaries on Thomas

Wikipedia Article on Thomas

Icon of St. Thomas

Further suggestions are welcome and I will try to get them up as I get the moment.

September 17, 2005

The Good Raised Up: The Great Jigsaw Puzzle

I think this is a really amazing reflection piece. It has much to say about
discernment, and I think, about how people who express their faith walks differently can work together in a deep and spiritual way.

The Good Raised Up: The Great Jigsaw Puzzle

Gathering of the Clan

We need a discussion-- about how we should proceed in this study. We have some 114 'sayings', apparently arranged in a haphazard way, frequently with little or no relationship between the one before or the one after. Two problems (pardon me, issues) need to be addressed:

1) How long do we expect to work with Thomas? John seemed too long a time for some, so, to give some order to our group effort we need a rough understanding of how long:

2) Then there is how: in the interests of being orderly and thorough there are (at least) two ways to proceed:
a) go through the book in the order it's written: 1,2,3,etc. to 114.
b) select groups of sayings that seem similar. That would require me or someone to make some judgments about that.

I'm very happy to go either (or any other) way. As for 'how long': one person suggested we look at 10-12 'sayings' once a week; a couple suggested that we could do with less. However many we take at a time needs to be correlated with how long between postings of the text.

I'm glad to respect and adhere to whatever decisions we can make about these two matters, but I need direction.

Once again we need a discussion. (I've always loved the idea of a 'leaderless group'. When that happens, we may see the more complete leadership of the H.S.)

Mystery Gnosticism and Hermeticism

Okay, David is about to put on his lecturer cap. I invite you to ignore this posting. Or make corrections to it where you feel I've got it horrendously wrong.

We are reading the Gospel of Thomas. This gospel was known about but existed only in fragments until the unearthing of a jar of manuscripts in the desert. This collection, which included Thomas, is now known as the Nag Hammadi Library. This library and Thomas itself is generally taken to represent the early teachings of Gnostic Christians.

Now it used to be the case that historians saw Gnosticism, Mystery Religion and Hermeticism as all sort of similar kissing-cousins kind of critters. The study of the Nag Hammadi texts may have changed this idea. I do not know.

Mystery religion (and Gnosticism) is older than Christianity. They claimed to come from either Egypt or Persia. Christianity borrowed concepts from them. You may note the Magi who came to worship baby Jesus were from Persia and after they left Jesus and his family escape into Egypt. Just Luke's way of saying, see our Lord's better than your lord -- nyah nyah naah-naah. Other borrowings include founders who were born from a virgin - or an egg (Mitras) or resurrected (Osiris). We also borrowed glossolalia (tongue speaking) from the Dionysians.

Mystery Religions tended to be very hierarchal. You were initiated into secret mysteries at each level that you were forbidden to reveal to those beneath you. So the modern notion that this is about individual mystical experience instead of arcane head bound teachings is a bit off. The modern analogue is more like the Freemasons than the Buddhists. Now for those of you with a knee-jerk reaction to the word hierarchy, this isn't all that bad. In the ancient world, there was a very strong hierarchy with slaves on the bottom and the Emperor at the top. The mystery religions would have a hierarchy based upon inward initiation rites and not social class -- so a slave could rise high in the mysteries and a noble may remain low in the cult.

Another aspect of these mysteries is the tendency to adopt a Manichean stance. By this I mean -- equating matter with evil and the spirit with good. Some go so far as to teach that the visible world is created by an evil power who uses it to trap souls. Instead, the Christianity that became dominant and ultimately became orthodoxy -- sees the material world as created good by God, yet fallen. And spirits as being either holy (clean, in the bible) or demonic (unclean).

There are also good aspects to these groups. I already mentioned that while they were hierarchal, their hierarchies tended to undermine the oppressive hierarchies of the world around them. They also admitted women, sometimes in greater numbers than men. Women had full participation and may even have held leadership roles. Early Christians may also have admitted women and given them significant leadership roles -- the Bible seems to witness to that. Christianity purged itself of such things a few hundred years before we started burning heretics at the stake.

It is true -- at the heart of Mystery is Mystical experience. But as near as I can figure, it wasn't meditation but group rites and ceremonies that led to that mysticism. And in that respect, is no different, no better or no worse, than say a Catholic Mass or a Quaker Meeting for Worship.

September 16, 2005

Thomas 18

(18) The disciples said to Jesus: Tell us how our end shall be. Jesus said: Have you then discovered the beginning, that you seek after the end? For where the beginning is, there shall the end be. Blessed is he who shall stand in the beginning, and he shall know the end and shall not taste of death.

Main Point: The disciples really want to know what is to happen to them upon their death – the vast unknown at the end of their lives. But Jesus kind of muses with them that this implies they know the beginning, and now just want to know what the ending wil be. But rather than tell them what their end is to be, he tells them that if they know the beginning then they shall also know the end. There is no end, no death when you stand in the beginnig. A riddle?

New Light: This reminds me of Thich Nhat Hahn’s explanation of the horizontal and vertical axis. The horizontal axis is the element of time, of birth and old age and death, of all the minutiae of our lives of this happening and that. But in the vertical axis, time does not exist. On the vertical axis, which is the ultimate dimension, the beginning and the end are one, and consciousness is all. Your little self does not exist, you are you only your wholeness. This is difficult to describe – it takes a change of concept to grasp. In the vertical dimension, which pierces all-time and all coming and going, there is no death.

Implications: There are many instances here and elsewhere in the scriptures where Jesus is promising that one “who knows will not taste death.” It seems that even in this brief sentence, there is much to be interpreted. What is it to “know?” What is it to taste death? What is death? I also wonder, since it is repeated so often, that this teaching is designed to assuage a concern about death, – the most common fear of humans seems to be the prospect of their own death. I wonder if changing the conceptual framework in this way accomplishes this? For me, yes. I really do not fear death. Sure, I would try to save my life if I was drowning or falling, I wear my seat belt and drive carefully. But about death itself, I do not tremble. I envision only a vast peacefulness.

September 15, 2005

Thomas 1

I choose to look at the introduction. I like introductions. The philsophers call introductions "limnal texts" -- they exist to control how we will read the rest of the text.

These are the secret words which the living Jesus spoke, and Didymus Judas Thomas wrote them down.

Didymus and Thomas both mean twin, and the intent seems to be that Judas was the brother (twin?) of Jesus.

(1) And he said: He who shall find the interpretation of the words shall not taste of death.

I notice three things here.

First of all, these are secret sayings of the living Jesus. What it sepaks to is a two tiered Chrsitianity or a two-tiered faith. There are secrets -- and soe peopel get to know them and others don't. Thomas Christians are better than Peter and Paul Christians because they (we) have access to secret information. The implication of this secret teaching of the "living Jesus" is that the public teaching of the rival sect's Jesus belongs to a dead Jesus.

I find this disturbing.

We then launch directly into the saying which reinforces thsi living/dead things with a promise that these special Thomas Christians shall not taste of death.

The third thing I notice is interesting (to me) and sort of undermines the stuff I just talked about. In the canonical gospels the emphasis is eitehr on beliveing or obeying. Believ in Jesus. Or obey him. Those are the emphases.

Here it is finding an interpretation. It doesn't even say the right interpretation. Just an interpretation.

I think Twyla may be right baout these sayings. Its not about what theys ay. Its like teh Buddhist koans. Its what they do you when you wrestle with them.

September 14, 2005

Gospel of Thomas, #10 / C

(10) Jesus said: I have cast fire upon the world, and behold I guard it until it is ablaze.

I chose just one of the sayings. I can't say that I understand what it means but the image of fire is arresting ... it can be positive (gives light, warmth, cleanses) or it can be negative (the destruction of "hell fire"). Below are some thoughts ...

There is a similar passage in Luke (12:49), though the tense is different .... "I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!" .... the NAB interprets the line this way - Jesus' proclamation of the kingdom is a refining and purifying fire. His message that meets with acceptance or rejection will be a source of conflict and dissension even within families.

A not quite as positive image that also comes to mind is that of the fires of Gehenna ... The Valley of Hinnom had a very horrendous history in ancient times. It was used as a place where the pagan worshipers did all sorts of vile and wicked things - including burning children alive as sacrifices to the idols Moloch and Baal ... the Jews turned the Hinnom Valley into the city dump where garbage and anything deemed unclean (including the bodies of executed criminals) was incinerated.

Hearts On Fire ... I prefer to think Jesus' reference was a positive one rather than one of destruction. Maybe it could be best described by a couple of guys on the road to Emmaus ... Then they said to each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he (Jesus) spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?" - Luke 24:32

twyla's take on verses 2 & 3

Ten of these koan-like sayings at once is a little overwhelming to me! Actually, the Gospel of Thomas has been proving a challenge for me to get through. I bought a copy of Leloup’s translation and was quite excited about beginning it. Since then, I have been stuck on the first three verses. (is it verses, or sayings?)

Verse 2 grabbed me right away. It was like shining a spot-light on my life for the last 5 years. Since the day my atheist heart began to imagine that there may, in fact, be a God after all – I’ve been on a quest to know this being. Doing all I knew to do, I immersed myself in church life. The churches I ran into were evangelical, conservative and fundamentalist. I didn’t really know there were other flavors out there until I was heavily invested in the one I was attending. It was a challenge for me to subliminate much of my natural personality and bury my true thoughts about things, but I wanted to “do it right”.

The problem was I met very few fellow believers who were hungry like I was. When I broke from that system 5 years ago, it was a huge adjustment. I had to unlearn a lot, still am. It was hunger for God that brought me to where I am, and the process is described in Verse 2:
Whoever searches
must continue to search
until they find.
When they find,
they will be disturbed;
and being disturbed, they will marvel
and will reign over All.

When my searching led me to a place where I found I needed to re-think all I knew about God, it was extremely disturbing. But shortly into the process, I became invigorated with new life. I was amazed at how expanded my thinking and my heart became. I was amazed at the inclusiveness of God, of the immanence, the presence that saturated me and everything around me. I truly have seen the truth of this verse.

In a similar way, verse 3 speaks to me deeply. The Kingdom is inside you, and it is outside you. I’d begun to experience this very thing – the presence of God both within and all around me, filling creation, making all things sacred. When you know yourself, then you will be known, and you will know that you are the child of the Living Father’ but if you do not know yourself, you will live in vain and you will be vanity. I’ve been on a journey to reclaim my soul, the core of who I am. This getting reacquainted with myself has been wonderful and hard. It seems I spent almost 2 decades wrapping layers of acceptability and normality around me to fit the mold I was told I should fit. I’m afraid I lost sight of who I really was, what I really thought. I was looking to others for approval and to leaders to know what I should think. It grieves me to think of those years spent pretending in so many ways. It really was vanity.

Coming to this place of knowing myself and of knowing God within has been so freeing. It’s as if I’ve become the author of my own identity. I have a sense of internal solidity, an inner ground to stand on. I trust God and the Spirit within me to lead me, to teach me and to transform me. I am following this inner Wisdom, wherein I find the authority, the solidity, the internal coagulation, that allows me to give voice to my soul.

(I’m sorry this post is a bit long…since I’m new, there was some biographical info that I needed to share to say what I wanted to say. I promise I won’t always be so long-winded!)

September 13, 2005

Beginning of Thomas

(I think David has suggested that each of us take one or more of these sayings and share your comments with the rest of us. I have in mind to publish ten more about next Wednesday.)


These are the secret words which the living Jesus spoke, and Didymus Judas Thomas wrote them down.

Didymus and Thomas both mean twin, and the intent seems to be that Judas was the brother (twin?) of Jesus.

(1) And he said: He who shall find the interpretation of the words shall not taste of death.
(Look also at 18, 19, and 85:

(18) The disciples said to Jesus: Tell us how our end shall be. Jesus said: Have you then discovered the beginning, that you seek after the end? For where the beginning is, there shall the end be. Blessed is he who shall stand in the beginning, and he shall know the end and shall not taste of death.

(19) Jesus said: Blessed is he who was before he came into being. If you become my disciples and hear my words, these stones shall minister unto you. For you have five trees in Paradise which do not move in summer or in winter, and their leaves do not fall. He who knows them shall not taste of death.

(85) Jesus said: Adam came into being out of a great power and a great wealth, and yet he was not worthy of you. For if he had been worthy, he would not have tasted of death.

Read also Genesis 3 for the Hebrew understanding of life and death. Then read John 8:51.)

(2) Jesus said: He who seeks, let him not cease seeking until he finds; and when he finds he will be troubled, and if he is troubled, he will be amazed, and he will reign over the All.
(See Matthew 7:7-8)

(3) Jesus said: If those who lead you say unto you: Behold, the Kingdom is in heaven, then the birds of the heaven will be before you. If they say unto you: It is in the sea, then the fish will be before you. But the Kingdom is within you, and it is outside of you. When you know yourselves, then shall you be known, and you shall know that you are the sons of the living Father. But if ye do not know yourselves, then you are in poverty, and you are poverty.
(cf Luke 17:21)
Leloup's translation has the last lines thus:
"if you do not know yourself,
you will live in vain
and you will be vanity.

(4) Jesus said: The man aged in his days will not hesitate ask a little child of seven days about the place of life, and he shall live. For there are many first who shall be last, and they shall become a single one.
(cf Luke 13:30)

(5) Jesus said: Know what is before thy face, and what is hidden from thee shall be revealed unto thee; for there is nothing hidden which shall not be made manifest.
(cf Luke 8:17) Look also at sayings 6 below:

(6) His disciples asked him and said unto him: Wilt thou that we fast? And how shall we pray? Shall we give alms? And what rules shall we observe in eating? Jesus said: Do not lie; and that which you hate, do not do. For all things are revealed before heaven. For there is nothing hidden which shall not be manifest, and there is nothing covered which shall remain without being uncovered.
(cf also Luke 12:2 and Matthew 10:26)

(7) Jesus said: Blessed is the lion which the man shall eat, and the lion become man; and cursed is the man whom the lion shall eat, and the lion become man.
(cf 1 Peter 5:8)

(8) And he said: Man is like a wise fisherman, who cast his net into the sea and drew it up from the sea full of small fish. Among them the wise fisherman found a large good fish. He threw down all the small fish into the sea; he chose the large fish without trouble. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.

Look also at
(76) Jesus said: The kingdom of the Father is like a merchant was who had a load (of goods) and found a pearl. That merchant was wise. He sold the load, and bought for himself the pearl alone. You also, seek after his treasure which does not perish but endures, where moth does not enter to devour, nor does worm destroy.
(cf Matthew 13:45-46)
(9) Jesus said: Behold, the sower went forth, he filled his hand, he cast. Some fell upon the road; the birds came and gathered them. Others fell on the rock, and sent no root down to the earth nor did they sprout any ear up to heaven. And others fell on the thorns; they choked the seed, and the worm ate them. And others fell on the good earth, and brought forth good fruit unto heaven, some sixty -fold and some an hundred and twenty -fold. (Matthew 13:3-9 Mark 4:2-9 Luke 8:4-8)

(10) Jesus said: I have cast fire upon the world, and behold I guard it until it is ablaze. (Acts 2:1-4)

Housekeeping (Gospel of Thomas) II

We have agreed to Thomas but not to process.

I'm going to suggest one. Larry has -- I think -- agreed to postings. So if Larry posts a batch of sayings once a week then we can each choose from that batch the one's to respond to. As Larry says, the sayings are a bit disjointed compared to John -- sort of like the book of Proverbs -- you never know what's coming next. So commenting on the whole batches shouldn't be expected.

I'll try to get the links up this weekend.

I'm realizing that not allowing anonymous postings isn't stopping the spam -- though it has gotten rid of the more offensive ones. I'll keep monitoring and we can move to word verification if it gets uncomfortable.

Another option is I can grant administrator rights to some of you and so others can play nuke to spammer.

September 10, 2005

The World Could Not Contain the Books

September 10, 2005

John must have been looking ahead. He knew that Jesus was alive, and that he was still working. Jesus is still doing "many other things" today. Meanwhile large libraries are full of books by writers trying to understand what Jesus said and did in his days in the flesh.

Now we have Christ in the Spirit, and actually many books have been written about his words and deeds that equal in quality and value this gospel of John. (I know I'm being provocative.)

posted by Larry @ Saturday, September 10, 2005 6 comments

(spammer out)

At 1:17 PM, kwakersaur said...

Not so sure how provoactive you're being Larry.

John leaves this open at least as a possibility when he claims that greater things will be done in Christ's name than Jesus did in the flesh. Having siad this, I do make the distinction between canon and non-canonical; to evaluate something as better than scripture requires us to first answer better for what? and then we use the canonical scriptures as the touchstone to judge it by.

I guess then, what I'm trying to say in too many words, I agree in theory, but don't really know what a candidate for better than scripture might look like.

At 1:38 PM, twyla said...

I'm not sure about canon and non-canonical. I won't pretend to be an expert on history, but I'm distrustful of a group of men deciding this for all time. Especially when, just a little while earlier, a similar group of our "fathers" met to decide whether women have souls or not. Geez. Where there is flesh there is bound to be at least some error.

At 2:36 PM, kwakersaur said...

I'm not sure my notion of "canon" needs inerrancy. A group of men did not meet and decide on the scriptural canon. The judgment of thinking and praying Christians over the course of six centuries confirmed it.

The secular canon is in the same boat. It is entirely possibly that there are better playwrights than Shakespeare. But it remains that any candidates for the position will be judged the standard of Shakespeare. May not be fair but it don't stop being so.

At 3:42 PM, crystal said...

Interesting, Larry. I like the canonical gospel more than Thomas mainly because they give a story of Jesus' life and tell of his actions - the gospel of Thomas is just a collection of sayings that, while of merit, lack context. But this isn't to say one is better than the other ... just my personal bias.

September 08, 2005


We're getting spammed -- some of the stuff is just inconvenient. Some is down-right offensive. I mean seriously -- internet gambling ads posted to a bible study?

It has been suggested (thanks Meredith) that we go to word verification for posting comments. What this means is that you would be shown something like this:

And be asked to copy the letters into a blank field before you could post a comment. It will slow the commenting process down slightly but will mean that until automated spam bots figure out how to read this stuff -- anyone who wants to sell us viagra or internet poker passes will have to actually go to our blog and manually post their comment.

If anyone has a better solution speak now. If anyone has an issue with this plan let me know. It's your scripture study and I'm just the lowly blog-servant.

September 07, 2005

The Beloved Disciple / C

Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them .... When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, "Lord, what about him?" Jesus said to him, "If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!"

I'd always been kind of jelouse of the beloved disciple until I read an article by David Alan Black - The Disciple Whom Jesus Kept on Loving? He says that the translation of that expression, the disciple whom Jesus loved, ... implies, not arrogance (as if he meant "the disciple whom Jesus loved more than the others"), but a profound sense of divine grace ... John uses a tense that emphasizes a process— something like "the disciple whom Jesus kept on loving." The implication is almost, "he kept on loving me despite myself."

The passage above is very interesting. Jesus makes a disctinction between Peter and John (if John is indeed the beloved disciple) as to their future duties and fates. On what was the decidsion based and does it mean anything for us? An article I read recently - John’s Warning to His Church and to Our Church: Beware of Following Peter by Ann Naffziger - says that the writer of John's gospel presents us with a choice ...

John tells us that there are more ways to be a disciple than to follow in Peter’s footsteps. Indeed, he recommends that it is better not to! Instead, we are invited to abide in Jesus as the Beloved Disciple abided in Jesus, and to let ourselves be fed and nurtured by that relationship. And Jesus’ invitation to such discipleship is by no means exclusive; in fact, it is open to all who believe in him.

... if we are being offered a choice, a different version of the Martha/Mary dynamic, this brings up intriguing questions about the best way to be a friend of Jesus.

Postscript by the Beloved Disciple (david's comment)

Peter has been given a commission -- and we may doubt the extent or nature of it is what church dogma and tradition has said but it has clearly been a commission to feed the Shepherd's sheep. And Peter's response, this Peter who denied Jesus three times and was forgiven three times looks back to the Beloved Disciple, the one Jesus loved, the one who did not deny him but rather followed him into the prison, and asked Lord, what about him?

The young and growing faith community has taken Jesus' response to Peter and interpreted it to mean the Beloved Disciple would live until the Parousia -- the return of the Christ to judge to living and the dead and to make all things ready for union with the Almighty the one he called Father. And the author of this gospel or at least the author of this postscript -- assumed by tradition to be this same Beloved Disciple -- asks us not to make that assumption and to not interpret his Lord's words in that way.

This tells us something about how the scriptures mean. It is not the basis of our faith because our faith is older than the scriptures. It is a co-witness to our faith. A co-witness that stands along side our ideas about God and Jesus and faith and religion and calls us to account regarding them.

September 06, 2005

A Postscript by the Beloved Disciple

Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; he was the one who had reclined next to Jesus at the supper and had said, "Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?" When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, "Lord, what about him?"

Jesus said to him, "If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!"

So the rumor spread in the community that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, "If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?" This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true. But there are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.

September 05, 2005

I'm Hyjacking the Blog for Today ...

Most of the religious blogs I visit have been filled lately with posts on Katrina and ways to help those affected ... see Steve's blog, for instance. All good and necessary stuff, but anything I could add would be redundant. Instead, I'm going off on an historical tangent, to ask if, when the going gets tough, those who are "the least" are those who are also left behind, whether it be in New Orleans or on the raft of the Medusa, on the seas off the coast of Africa.

- The Raft of the Medusa by Theodore Gericault

In 1816, after Napolean had been defeated and the monarchy restored to the throne of France by the English, the French were gifted with the port of St. Louis, in Senegal on the African west coast. St. Louis was a vital trading base, and a good place to stop on the way around the Cape of Good Hope. The French government sent a fleet os ships, carrying the new govenor, soldiers and gentry, to St. Louis.

Sadly, the choice of ship's captain, Hugues Duroy de Chaumereys, was a political one, rather than a practical one, and this had much to do with the disaster that followed. Four ships set off for St. Louis ... the captain's ship, the Medusa, carried approximately 400 men, women and children, including Colonel Julien-De'sire' Schmaltz, Commander in Chief and new Governor of Senegal, and M. Richefort, a member of the Philanthropic Society of Cape Verde, an international organization dedicated to exploring the African interior. The crew and passangers were at the mercy of the ineptitude of these three men, as they chose a dangerous course close to the shoreline, outrunning the other ships.

Long story short, the Medusa was soon beached on a sandbar, several miles from shore. The crew tried to lighten the ship and get her off the sandbar while they were at high tide, but to no avail. The captain made the decision to abandon the ship. Unfortunately, there were not enough life boats for everyone, so the govenor decided that those wealthy passengers, the captain and himself, would take the few lifeboats, while the remaining crew and passengers could build and utilize a raft.

The raft, which was to be towed to shore by the lifeboats, was made of the masts and cross-beams of the boat, roughly 65 feet by 23 feet. It had no means of navigation and no oars. When some 150 men boarded it, they sank down in the sea to their waists and each man only had a square three feet on which to stand. A number of people decided to stay aboard the beached ship.

It was not long before the inevitable order was given by the captain to cut loose the raft and leave it at the mercy of the sea, four miles from shore, for the occupants of the lifeboats could not allow those less fortunateto destroy their chances. The situation on the raft deteriorated. As night approached, the men threw overboard many of their provisions in an effort to lighten the raft, and they then fell upon each other, fighting for space. By morning, the raft was 20 men lighter. As each day passed, things became worse ... less rations, more mayhem and desperation ... until finally white men and black, officers and crew, turned against each other, the weak and wounded thrown overboard and even the corpses of those dead consumed by the living. When those on the raft were finally rescued 13 days later by one of the other ships in their fleet, there were only 15 men out of the original 150 surviving.

Afterwards, De Chaumereys was court-martialed, but was found not guilty of desertion. With rumours of hidden gold secreted in the hull of the Medusa dancing in his head, the captain set sail for his wrecked ship. He finally found her but though he searched thoroughly, he found no gold ... only three crazed and starving survivors who'd hung on for the 54 days since he'd abandoned them.

It's been a couple hundred years, but I'm afraid that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

September 02, 2005

See ya

The kwakersaur is heading out to the lake for a long weekend. Chat with you all Tuesday.

September 01, 2005

Follow Me

Im probably going to reveal my ignorance here, but Ive never really understood why this passage is read as Christ appointing Peter as the leader of His followers. In this conversation I see Jesus reassuring Peter and helping him to adjust his focus, as he often needed to do. He asked him to examine his heart to see what was there. He pointed him to those his heart was always going out to, the lambs he was sent to shepherd.

I guess when I read this, I so easily see myself in Peters place. I have need of adjustment so often myself. I need to be reminded to look within, to see where my true devotion lies. I need to be led to examine my affection for Christ, to check my heart to see if I have become shallow in my relationship with him. To see if my love has grown cold or selfish.

I also need the refocusing outward. I need to be reminded to look around me without flinching at the suffering and need that is almost overwhelming. To consider each one I meet as precious, to honor that of God in them. To take the focus off of me, what I need or desire and put it back on those around me whose souls Christ is ever passionately concerned over.

Ultimately, Christs direction is to follow me. To seek to walk the path of love of God and man that he demonstrated. To examine my heart, to take heed where I walk, how I walk, how I love.

John 21:15-19 / C

main point

Perhaps the main point the author wants to make is that Peter has been chosen by Jesus to lead the church.

This passage is also interesting because of the different verbs used here for "love" ... Jesus asks Peter the first two times, "Do you love me," using the verb agapaw (altruistic love). Peter responds, "I love you," using filew (the love of friendship). The third time, however, Jesus himself uses filew, as does Peter.

In a Creighton University Daily Reflection of May 28th, 2004, Robert P. Heaney writes ...
Jesus asks Peter: “Do you love me more than these others do?” Peter has, of course, just a few days earlier protested that he would be the last to abandon Jesus, even if all the others deserted. Dreadfully ashamed because he had denied Jesus three times, he doesn’t even try to answer that part of the question. But he ducks the first part as well. He says “Lord you know that I like you.” Then Jesus rephrases the question, dropping the comparison with the other disciples. He said “Simon, do you love me?” Peter recognizes that if he says “love,” he’d be a fraud. So once again he replies “Yes Lord you know I like you.” And then a third time, Jesus asks Peter “Simon, do you like me?” Perhaps we could reread that as “Simon, do you really even like me?” The Gospel tells us that Peter was upset with that third question. It is easy to see why, once we catch the word change. With his first question Jesus challenged Peter’s claim to superior love, and with the second and third, his claim even to love at all. With three simple questions Jesus strips away all of Peter’s defenses. Only then is Peter really able to receive the love that Jesus genuinely offers. This is manifested, in this passage, when, after each question, uncovering layers of self-delusion, Jesus nevertheless entrusts the care of others to Peter: “Feed my lambs, feed my sheep.” God is willing to work with and through human imperfection.

But in his article, Sloppy Agape, Dr. David Alan Black gives the opinion that these differnces come to nought.

Of more interest to me is the relationship between Jesus and Peter. Jesus questions and rebuilds what seemed damaged beyond repair ... he dealt with Peter's earlier denial the way any of us might have dealt with the betrayal of a love that still lived - he asks, "Do you love me?" And when he gets an affirmative answer, he replies, basically, "Prove it."