Those who set out on the essential task of renewing our understanding and practice of Jesus Christ’s message will find in the Gospel of Thomas a veritable gold mine.
This Gospel consists of 114 Logia or Sayings of Jesus, many of which coincide broadly in content with sayings to be found in the canonical Gospels. Its distinctive overall characteristic is its concern with man’s inner realization, in the spirit of Saint Paul when he speaks of “this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1: 26-27).
The idea of Unity or Unification is ever present. In Logion 22, for instance: “When you make the two into One… you will enter the Kingdom”. Here, the Gospel is speaking of the union of the soul—the system of the psyche—with the Spirit, which is the very ground of our consciousness. To realize this union is to realize Christ (Gal. 4:19); to realize within ourselves the Word—“the true light that enlightens all men” (John 1:9). Jesus said (Logion 70): When you bring it into being within you, what you have will save you. If you do not have that within you, what you do not have will kill you.”
Another leitmotiv is the presence of the Kingdom within us, among us, although “men do not see it” (Logion 113). This, and the “strength” or determination we shall need (Logion 103) if we are to practice the wide-awake vigilance that will enable us to enter there. Likewise, recognition of Christ as God’s manifestation and creative force: “I am the Light… I am the All. The All came forth from me… Split the wood — I am there…” (Logion77). As Saint Paul puts it: “In him (Christ) were created all things in heaven and on earth: everything visible and everything invisible…” (Col. 1:16)
The Gospel of Thomas is thought to have been the first to be written and was in current use among early Christians. In the 4th century it was decided to reduce the number of canonical gospels to four; consequently, that of Thomas was lost until the middle of the last century when it was discovered during excavations. Most scholars now recognize it as being part of the apostolic tradition.
Exclusion of this gospel from the Canon, together with a preference for a literal reading of texts, has doubtless weakened the contemplative approach practiced by early Christians. The great Christian mystics have, moreover, tended to be isolated figures, all too often misunderstood.
Christians need to recover their largely neglected contemplative tradition; and here, the Gospel of Thomas perfectly complements our reading of the Canonical Gospels, since the teachings “in private” of which they speak (Mark 4:34, Matt. 13:11, Luke 8:10) surely have much to do with the Logia of the Gospel of Thomas, many of which are expressed in a form that is intimate, direct and secret.
Logion 1 proclaims: And he said: Whoever discovers the interpretation of these sayings will not taste death. Thus, the Gospel opens with a demand for exegesis, no mean task, since the sayings in it are terse and sometimes cryptic.
To this great undertaking Roberto Pla dedicated much of his last years, with his ground-breaking work: Man, Temple of the Living God—a hidden exegesis of Christ’s religion based on the Gospel of Thomas.
The Gospel of Thomas is viewed in context within the vast wealth of the Old and New Testaments, as well as other extracanonical scriptures. The author weaves a complex and convincing web of interpretation in which, through a deep reading of the texts, he shows that the titles Christ, Son of God or Son of Man, conferred on Jesus as the paradigmatic incarnation of the Spiritual Foundation that permeates the world and is the very ground of our consciousness, also apply to our own human essence, “made” in God’s Image and Likeness.
The mystery of the Son of Man’s presence, “Christ in us”, “hidden from the beginning”, (Enoch 62:7; Col.1: 26-27; Gal. 4:19; Col. 3:3-4))—this we are called on to unveil and fulfil in our life, thus gaining a share in God’s Glory, in his Abundance.
Seen in this light, the Christian life is the process whereby we come to be what we really are (1John 3:1-2, 2 Peter 1:3-4). The Likeness is realized through assimilation of the fruits and the gifts of the spirit (Gal. 5: 22-23; 1Cor.12: 6-12; Prov. 6:2).
Besides helping us to find the Christ hidden within us in references throughout the scriptures, Roberto Pla’s book shows the constant purpose of Jesus’ teachings and his life as being to unite us (Jn 17:21) with the Spiritual Foundation (God, Christ) or Ground of Conciousness which is our very essence, being the Kingdom itself (John 10:10, John 17:11-19) which we have to seek first (Mt. 6:33)
Despite the deep knowledge contained therein, this book is not a work of erudition, but rather, one of reinterpretation and of transformation. Apart from biblical sources, few authors are cited, while the style—which can at times seem confusingly complex—conveys Pla’s spiritual presence.
As I wrote in a foreword, “I see this book as exceptional because its inward reading is able to renew and complete our understanding of the entire Christian message. Such is the scope and consistency of this reading that it makes for a tremendously original book; in my view, a unique one.” That is why we thought it should be published in English.
In addition to the text of the Gospel of Thomas, a few commentaries and an interesting biographical note on Roberto Pla, this website includes several chapters from Man, Temple of the Living God, to give those who are interested a foretaste of the contents of the book, which is available in Amazon.