In the years following Christ crucifixion, there was plenty of discord among the apostles, each wanting to claim supremacy over the other. Saint Paul, who came late to the group, was opposed by some and was only accepted for his raising funds capacity. After all, an infant church needs funds to cover its costs.
Gnostics: too many ideas for a rising church
The great number of ideas and concepts that came out after the death of Christ also hindered the development of the Church. The Old Testament registers many patriarchs and prophets direct contacts with God through dreams and visions. Yahweh was a God that asked to be loved, but should be feared. The encounters with him were seldom easy. Jesus preached the loving God, One that you should not fear to approach, and the number of people striving to talk the God of love increased, As a result, there appeared so many ideas and concepts that it was almost impossible to structure the dogmas of the new church.
The reaction against the Gnostics
From the second century on, the discussions among theologians gave rise to many writings. Irenaeus, a bishop from Lyon, was very active in the second century combating what he called heretics and Gnostics.
The solution for so many diverging ideas came in the fourth century, when Constantine, Emperor of the Roman Empire, embraced Christianity and convened the Council of Nicaea (June, 325) to settle the many issues that raged the church. Then, the Christian bishops chose the dogmas and books to compose the New Testament, the Canonical books.
Several important works were excluded, branded heretical. The worse occurred when in 367, A.C., under the inspiration of Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria and prominent among the church leaders, the church ordered the destruction of these works. Until de twenty century, we knew about the Gnostic ideas exclusively through the refutations found in books approved by the church.
The Gospel of Thomas
The situation changed in 1945, when several of the proscribed books were found in Nag Hammadi, Egypt. The collection included pearls like the Gospel of Thomas with 114 sayings of Jesus, a very spiritual Gospel.
The Gospel of John, written many years after the three synoptic Gospels, probably by a disciple of Saint John, seems to be a refutation of the Gospel of Thomas. It tries to downgrade the Apostle Thomas, branding him as doubting Thomas, a passage that only appears in John’s Gospel.
The fact is that the Gospel of Thomas gives a different view of Jesus and his sayings, much more spiritual than the other Gospels.To strengthen a church, you have to communicate with a large number of persons. The Gospel of Thomas, very spiritual and symbolic, is not easily comprehended; it talks to few individuals of elevated spirituality. It could not help at a time when the preoccupation of the bishops was the consolidation of the Church. They may be justified for not placing some of the spiritual Gospels among the Canonical books. After all, the development of humanity at the time of Jesus was incipient, and very few would understand some of these Gospels. But this is not a good reason for burning these books.
Roberto Lima Netto believes that our objective in life is to be happy, and that Spirituality and Jungian psychology, his main areas of interest, can help us in this search for happiness. He is the author of several books, including “The Little Prince for Grown-ups” and “The Jungian Bible” . His blog is www.HappinessAcademyOnline.org.
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