Laws in the Book of Thomas the Contender

Examine yourself, and learn who you are, in what way you exist, and how you will come to be; it is not fitting that you be ignorant of yourself. – Thomas the Contender, Codex II, 7 [As Pythagoras said, "Know Thyself."]

He who has not known himself has known nothing, but he who has known himself has at the same time already achieved knowledge about the depth of the all. – Thomas the Contender, Codex II, 7

Visible bodies survive by devouring creatures similar to them with the result that the bodies change. That which changes will decay and perish, and has no hope of life from then on, since that body is bestial. So just as the body of the beasts perishes, so also will these formations perish. [This typifies "You are what you eat."] – Thomas the Contender, Codex II, 7

It is in Light that Light exists. – Thomas the Contender, Codex II, 7

Visible light shines on your behalf, not in order that you remain here [on earth], but rather that you might come forth; whenever all the elect abandon bestiality [animal nature], this light will withdraw up to its essence, and its essence will welcome it, since it is a good servant. – Thomas the Contender, Codex II, 7

Everyone who seeks the truth from true wisdom will make himself wings so as to fly, fleeing the lust that scorches the spirits of men; he will make himself wings to flee every visible spirit. – Thomas the Contender, Codex II, 7

This is the doctrine of the perfect: If you desire to become perfect, you shall observe [the laws of Light]; if not, your name is 'Ignorant', since it is impossible for an intelligent man to dwell with a fool, for the intelligent man is perfect in all wisdom. To the fool, however, the good and bad are the same. – Thomas the Contender, Codex II, 7

Some, who although having wings, rush upon the visible things that are far from the truth. For the fire, which guides them, will give them an illusion of truth, will shine on them with a perishable beauty, and it will imprison them in a dark sweetness and captivate them with fragrant pleasure. And it has fettered them with its chains and bound all their limbs with the bitterness of the bondage of lust for those visible things that will decay and change and swerve by impulse. They are attracted downwards; as they are killed, they are assimilated to all the beasts of the perishable realm. – Thomas the Contender, Codex II, 7 [This "fire" is not the high Light, but the Creative Fire, which being rooted and grounded in desire, seduces the body to attend to the "truth of appearances" first. Thus is the human will suborned and eventually corrupted to serve the dubious pleasures of the physical.]

Blessed is the wise man who sought after the truth; when he found it, he rested upon it forever and was unafraid of those who wanted to disturb him. – Thomas the Contender, Codex II, 7

Things visible among men will dissolve – for the vessel of their flesh will dissolve, and when it is brought to naught it will come to be among visible things, among things that are seen; then the fire which they see gives them pain on account of love for the faith they formerly possessed. They will be gathered back to that which is visible. – Thomas the Contender, Codex II, 7 [This "fire" is not the high Light, but the Creative Fire, which being rooted and grounded in desire, seduces the body to attend to the "truth of appearances" first. Thus is the human will suborned and eventually corrupted to serve the dubious pleasures of the physical.]

If you set your hope upon the world, and your god is this life; you are corrupting your soul. – Thomas the Contender, Codex II, 7

The Book of Thomas the Contender is translated from Nag Hammadi Codex II,7. The Nag Hammadi Codices, a set of fifty-two religious and philosophical texts, are so named because a peasant found them near Nag Hammadi, Egypt. Unfortunately, his family burned an unknown number of them as fuel before discovering they were valuable. They languished in the Coptic Museum at Cairo for years until a scholar came searching. See the full history at:
www.nag-hammadi.com/

The Book of Thomas the Contender begins with: "The secret words that the savior spoke to Judas Thomas which I, even I, Mathaias, wrote down, while I was walking, listening to them speak with one another." The Book of Thomas the Contender is translated from Codex II,7. The translator, John D. Turner writes that the text was probably composed in Syria between 150 and 225 A.D. We have used the Turner translation for the following list.

Turner writes: "The tractate stresses the true and divine light of the Savior, who as the emissary of the light descends to illumine the eyes and he minds of those living in a darkened world." The Nag Hammadi Library, page 188. The tractate warns against "fire." This "fire" is not the high Light, but the creative fire, which being rooted and grounded in desire, seduces the body to attend to the "truth of appearances" first. Thus is the human will suborned and eventually corrupted to serve the dubious pleasures of the physical.

References

Turner, John D., Trans. "The Book of Thomas the Contender." The Nag Hammadi Library. Ed. James M. Robinson. San Francisco, Harper & Row, 1981. 188-194.

Peter Kirby has formulated an impressive collection of early Christian documents and links available at: www.earlychristianwritings.com

The text of the Book of Thomas the Contender is online at:
www.earlychristianwritings.com/...
www.gnosis.org/...


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