Gospel of Thomas

IMG_2309I am thinking about The Gospel of Thomas (70). I kind of favor a different translation, that is more about bringing it forth to save you and less about not having it inside of you to kill you. I know I have it inside of me. Elaine Pagels had it translated it like this in her book on The Gnostic Gospel of Thomas:



Jesus said, “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth
will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you
do not bring forth will destroy you.”

But here is the other translation, just for laughs:

(70) Jesus said, “That which you have will save you if you bring it forth from yourselves.
That which you do not have within you will kill you if you do not have it within you.”

The difference between these two versions is crucial. In the first one, what is inside you will kill you, if you don’t let it out. In the second what kills you is you don’t have it inside you to begin with. I am going to study the original in Coptic and see which translation got it right. But regardless of what it actually says, I’ll probably stay with the one Pagels used. Furthermore, it makes me think of yet another story:

I think of the story of Tsar Trojan’s barber. You see, he noticed that all the barbers who cut his hair were never seen again. They were all excited to get the gig, hanging out at the barber bar, bragging to the other barbers. They were going to buy a Cadillac, or put their kids through college. But the celebration was premature. Next day they looked for him to offer congratulations, or maybe get a small loan. Nowhere to be found. After a while they began to dread the approach of the Tsar’s henchmen, and made hasty excuses, or ducked out the backdoor.

But one unlucky barber was distracted thinking his deep thoughts of depth, and his wise thoughts of wisdom. He was a dreamy sort who liked cutting hair, because he had a flair for it, and it didn’t require his attention. His hands just did the work, and he let them. He didn’t notice the approaching henchmen, and hadn’t prepared a plausible excuse. He was hired to cut Tsar Trojan’s hair, as the other barbers had fled.

Though he was a dreamer, the riddle of what happened to the other barbers was a riddle that intrigued him, and he brooded on it, and listened carefully to what was happening, and what people were saying both out loud, and silently. Right away he noticed that Tsar Trojan was sensitive about something. He never took off his battle helmet, which caused the barber to suspect that he was going bald. But once the others had left and he removed the helmet he had a full head of luscious hair, so that couldn’t be it. As he clipped away he saw what it was. Tsar Trojan had goat ears! No wonder he was embarrassed about them. Though the barber was a dreamy sort, he was very sensitive to feelings. So he knew exactly what to do.

After cutting his hair he let the Tsar admire himself in the mirror, and he saw that he was pleased with the job he had done. But there was one question he had. He wanted to know if the barber had noticed anything unusual about the Tsar.

“Oh, yes. I certainly did.”

“And what was that?” asked Tsar Trojan.

“I noticed that your hair is unusually beautiful. I really enjoyed cutting it.”

That is of course what he wanted to hear, and what he didn’t want to hear was that he had goat’s ears. So the next time he needed a haircut he would be sure to ask for this and only this barber. He was rewarded handsomely, and soon grew rich. As he had the prestige of being the royal barber, he was much in demand. His career flourished. He had everything he could want.

Yet, he was troubled. The secret kept him awake at night. He dared not tell a soul. Finally he devised a plan: under the full moon he would walk out to the desolate field down by the river. He would dig a hole. He would whisper the secret into the mud and the dirt, and get it off his chest. So he did just that.

“Tsar Trojan has goat’s ears.”

What a relieve it was to get that off his chest. He went home and slept the untroubled sleep of babes. He awoke feeling free and clean. Refreshed. Washed of his sins. He could really enjoy his riches now. He threw a banquet, and all his barber friends, and others he had met since his rising station in life, attended. They all had a great time, and looked forward to the next party.

Life went on this way for a while, but alas. It couldn’t last.

What happened was that a reed had grown from the mud, and a shepherd had made a flute from the reed. And when he played it, just to while away the time, and amuse himself and the flock, the reed would only play one tune. Would only sing one song. And the lyrics to that song?

“Tsar Trojan has goats ears.”

So the shepherd had rushed back to the town to regale the citizens with his amazing, magical flute playing. And the tune was very catchy, and the citizens, young and old were singing it incessantly.

Now, I don’t remember how this story ends. I heard it on a TV program called The Friendly Giant. If anyone recognized this story, I would really like to know what it is. See how accurate I was.

Anyway, I still remember the story, at least the first part so vividly. And when I read verse 70 of The Gospel of Thomas, it reminded me of the story. The meaning I take away from both of these stories is that you can’t keep your story inside. But be careful the way you do it, because there are ramifications and consequences.



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